Poet Derek Walcott announced on Tuesday that he has withdrawn his bid to become the next professor of poetry at Oxford University. His decision follows an anonymous letter campaign that alerted Oxford academics of sexual harassment allegations brought against Walcott in 1982.
Earlier this month, an estimated one hundred Oxford faculty members received packages from an unnamed sender containing pages from a book detailing harassment charges made by a Harvard poetry student. The student is said to have received a "C" grade in Walcott’s class after resisting his advances, allegations that were authenticated by the university, which changed the student’s grade to "Pass" and reprimanded Walcott. The poet has never made a statement illuminating his side of the situation, and, Walcott told the Evening Standard, "That will continue to be the case."
"I am disappointed that such low tactics have been used in this election, and I do not want to get into a race for a post where it causes embarrassment to those who have chosen to support me for the role or to myself," said Walcott, whose nominators included Robert Conquest, Alan Hollinghurst, Hermione Lee, and Marina Warner. "While I was happy to be put forward for the post, if it has degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination, I do not want to be part of it."
The remaining candidates for professorship are Ruth Padel of Great Britain and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra of India. An electorate comprised of Oxford faculty and graduates of the university will vote on Saturday.