by Katie Bowden and Marta Szczerba , Cherwell,, Fri 08 May 2009
Derek Walcott has been targeted this week by a vicious and systematic smear campaign against his candidacy for Oxford's Professor of Poetry. Authors, academics and journalists internationally have received anonymous letters alluding to Walcott's history of sexual harassment.
The accusations refer to incidents while Walcott held professorial posts at Boston and Harvard Universities.
Between 50 and 100 anonymous envelopes were sent to female fellows and female heads of colleges and departments in Oxford. These contained photocopied pages from The Lecherous Professor, a book recounting allegations made by a student at Harvard against the Nobel Prize-winning poet. The book, written by Linda Weiner and Billie Wright, examines incidents of sexual harassment on college campuses. In the photocopied six-page extract, it describes how Walcott, then a lecturer at Harvard, made inappropriate proposals to a student during a discussion of her work.
The hand-written envelopes were mailed from Mount Pleasant in London.
Ankhi Mukherjee, a fellow of Wadham college and senior lecturer at the faculty of English described how she received her package on April 29.
"I was one of the first people to receive it," she said. "I don't think this is what should we be looking for as Professor of Poetry. I'm very much against these statements. We should be reading him and we should not meet him."