Cambridge University PhD student Indiana Seresin has ditched her academic programme after a non-black lecturer was permitted to read the N-word aloud in the premises of the 800-year-old institute of higher education.
While claiming that she as a white student “benefitted from the structural racism” there, she asserted in the online statement that it had been “imperative to leave” due to an accumulation “of racist episodes” while she was studying there.
To illustrate her conclusions, the 26-year-old, who had been working on her doctorate thesis in contemporary literature, recalled a particular incident during a seminar, where a lecturer repeatedly read out the N-word when speaking to attending students.
I recently left my PhD program bc of the racism of the dept and university, and I'm sharing my withdrawal statement bc I don’t think these issues should be kept secret https://t.co/GkAnSgPPAx— Indiana Seresin (@indianaseresin) 24 июня 2019 г.
Ms. Seresin went on to bring up a similar incident with a black friend of hers, who, on hearing the politically incorrect word uttered by the same professor, wrote to the lecturer explaining that the word caused her to be uncomfortable; the academic is said to have responded, telling her patronisingly that she perhaps didn’t quite understand the context.
Seresin noted that the situation hadn’t, to her regret, struck a nerve with all the rest of students and academics, as it became obvious during “multiple meetings” with the head of the English faculty as well as the Teaching Forum. The woman went on to say that not only had they turned a deaf ear to their arguments, but showed “hostility,” adding her views on how quitting was a privilege.
“Many of those present seemed simply unable to comprehend the difference between a black writer reclaiming the n-word and a non-black Cambridge lecturer or student saying it aloud in class,” Seresin stated resolutely.
She claimed that she could tolerate it no longer when Ghanaian scholar Akosua Adomako Ampofo was given the floor to lecture on the way the anti-blackness approach makes itself obvious in academia, but the department head called her talk controversial and provocative as he moderated the gathering.
“This method of veiling racism through a performance of faux humility and bumbling foolishness, which is something of a tradition among the British elite classes, served to undermine the simple and important point Prof. Ampofo was making,” the doctorate student claimed, stressing that academia “takes one step forward only to take two steps back”.
Netizens have shared mixed feelings on Twitter, with one saying the only issue in the “tale of woe” is that the woman is white, suggesting it is a kind of racist of her to drop out of the programme:
Maybe there's a reason. The only issue in this tale of woe was the colour of the orator's skin. Is that what I am reading? Would have been fine if he/she were black. Sounds like racism to me. https://t.co/zv8XofNmxw— DionysusIX (@DionysusIX) 2 июля 2019 г.
Another wondered she had taken the education grant “in the first place”, given her complaints about having been beneficiary of “structural racism:”
Cambridge University student quits PhD, which she was studying with aid of taxpayer-funded grant, saying she was beneficiary of “structural racism”. If she couldn’t reconcile that with her conscience, shouldn’t she have not taken the grant in first place? https://t.co/wjO8B8veIf— Toby Young (@toadmeister) 2 июля 2019 г.
Scepticism aside, there was also applause, with a Texas Tech University representative even formally inviting Seresin to join them:
That was brilliant, and brave, and absolutely stunning. I would like to formally invite you to finish your PhD in the Literature, Social Justice, and Environment Program at Texas Tech University. We are not Cambridge, but we welcome your decolonizing work.— Sara L Spurgeon (@SaraLSpurgeon1) 25 июня 2019 г.
There was also a response to the offer, not from Ms Seresin, though:
Are you going to make the same offer to every PhD student who has chosen to leave because of the racism they witness? or only the white ones? If you are a genuine ally this offer will be made available to all, and I will be happy to put the word out to the black community— Dr Addy Adelaine (@AddyAdelaine) 25 июня 2019 г.