A lecturer of the University of Cambridge has been promoted to a professor after she received abusive messages and death threats for tweeting “White Lives Don’t Matter”.
Dr Priyamvada Gopal, 51, who teaches in the Faculty of English at Churchill College, took to Twitter on Tuesday evening, June 23, to write: “I’ll say it again. White Lives Don’t Matter. As white lives.”
The message was met with outrage with people calling her out, hurled racist abuse at her, and issued death threats. Twitter later deleted the tweet for “violating Twitter rules“.
A petition titled “Fire Cambridge Professor for Racism” was also launched on the petition site change.org on Wednesday demanding that Dr Gopal be fired by the university for the controversial tweet.
Dr Gopal later shared some of the hate speech she had received, including from a man sending her a picture of a noose and writing: “We are coming for you you n***er loving piece of shit.”
On Wednesday night, June 24, Dr Gopal announced that the university promoted her to a full Professorship.
“I would also like to make clear I stand by my tweets, now deleted by Twitter, not me. They were very clearly speaking to a structure and ideology, not about people.
“My Tweet said whiteness is not special, not a criterion for making lives matter. I stand by that.”
The University of Cambridge then spoke out in support of the lecturer and defended rights of academic to express lawful opinions.
The Russel Group University defended the lecturer and deplored the attacks she has faced since her tweet. A statement released by the university read,
“The University defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions, which others might find controversial.
“[It] deplores in the strongest terms abuse and personal attacks. These attacks are totally unacceptable and must cease.”
The Cambridge branch of the University and College Union (UCU), also showed their solidarity with Dr Gopal.
The union wrote,
“Solidarity with Priyamvada Gopal – being targeted with vile sexist and racist abuse for speaking up against white supremacists.
“We are proud to be your colleagues both on the picket line and off it. BlackLivesMatterSolidarity.”
Many colleagues and students have since expressed solidarity with Dr Gopal following the incident, with even popular comedian Nish Kumar wading in to call her “one of the best and brightest around“.
However, the university’s defence of Dr Gopal has been labelled by some as inconsistent and politically biased.