The Daily Telegraph has found itself in the centre of a racial row after it published a front page story this week falsely claiming a student at Cambridge University was “forcing” the English faculty to drop white authors in favour of black ones.
The press regulator Ipso has so far received 42 complaints for the story, which the paper corrected the following day.
The paper’s page two correction, which appeared on Thursday (26 October), stated: “An Oct 25 article incorrectly stated that under proposals by academic staff in response to an open letter from students on ‘decolonising’ its English Faculty, Cambridge University will be forced to replace white authors with black writers.
“The proposals were in fact recommendations. Neither they nor the open letter called for the University to replace white authors with black ones and there are no plans to do so.”
The story reported on an open letter written by Lola Olufemi, who is the women’s officer at Cambridge University student union, titled “Decolonising the English Faculty”. The letter was signed by over 100 students, the Telegraph reported.
The letter said: “For too long, teaching English at Cambridge has encouraged a ‘traditional’ and ‘canonical’ approach that elevates white male authors at the expense of all others.
“What we can no longer ignore, however, is the fact that the curriculum, taken as a whole, risks perpetuating institutional racism.”
The student at the heart of the story has accused the paper of inciting hatred after she was “flooded” with racist and sexist abuse following the publication of the story.
“This is a trend we see over and over again, hypervisible black and brown student activists on the left are subjected to the intellectual dishonesty of mainstream media,” Olufemi told the Guardian. “Our attempts to make progressive change are misconstrued, taken out of context and reframed to make us into targets of racialised and gendered harassment.”