Ministers have slammed ‘silly’ King’s College London while its alumni have suggested withdrawing funding after the university apologised for causing ‘harm’ by sending staff a photo of Prince Philip opening one of its libraries.
Left-wingers reacted angrily to an email bulletin they received after the Duke of Edinburgh’s death in April which featured an image of him opening the Maughan Library with the Queen back in 2002.
The complaints against the late duke – who was made Life Governor of the institution in 1995 – refer to his ‘history of racist and sexist comments’.
Following weeks of simmering tensions, Joleen Clarke, the associate director at King’s College libraries, sent out an extraordinary apology for the ‘harm’ caused by including the photo in her email.
But King’s College’s apology has since caused its own backlash, including among free speech campaigners and MPs.
Yesterday Foreign Office minister James Cleverly retweeted the reports of the apology, adding: ‘This is just getting silly now.’
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary and himself a King’s College alumni, tweeted: ‘This is beyond silly. As an alumni myself, I’m embarrassed about this.
‘HRH was an amazing public servant & this reaction by the University, to a very fair message, is beyond parody.’
On social media, alumni have also suggested suspending their donations in protest at the university’s decision to apologise.
Anna Robinson said she agreed with Mr Lewis and would now cancel a monthly donation to the institution, branding the apology ‘utter nonsense’.
Another graduate, known only as DP, said: ‘Being an alumnus and a donor I am beginning to wonder whether I should be giving money to the college when people like this are in positions of power.’
Left-wingers working at King’s College London reacted angrily to an email bulletin they received after the Duke’s death in April, featuring a photograph of him opening the university’s Maughan Library with the Queen in 2002
The apology by King’s College has since caused its own wave of backlash, including from free speech campaigners and MPs
Tory MP Sir John Hayes added that the college had found itself ‘at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to inhibiting free speech’.
‘We need to flush out people in our universities who are determined with an almost Maoist zeal to close minds in places which ought to be bastions of free and open debate.’
In Ms Clarke’s apologetic response last week, she suggested that the picture had been ‘included as a historical reference point following his death,’ but this was not in any way ‘intended to commemorate him’.
‘Through feedback and subsequent conversations, we have come to realise the harm that this caused members of our community, because of his history of racist and sexist comments.
‘We are sorry to have caused this harm.’
Following the duke’s death, aged 99, the university’s interim principal, Professor Evelyn Welch, issued a public statement praising his ‘long and valued association with King’s’.
But internally there was outrage from the university’s Anti-Racism Community of Practice over Ms Clarke’s email, which accompanied the photo with the explanation: ‘As the nation marks the death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, we thought you might like to see this photo of the Duke at the official opening of the Maughan Library in 2002, which some colleagues will remember.’
The college’s head of partnership and liaison, Vanessa Farrier (pictured)
Those angered by the message include the college’s head of partnership and liaison, Vanessa Farrier, who was appointed in a new role last June to ‘decolonise’ the library’s collection following Black Lives Matter protests.
The university’s anti-racism group complained of ‘harm’ caused by the email because the Prince had made a number of racist and sexist comments during his lifetime.
He infamously referred to ‘slitty eyes’ during a 1986 trip to China, and in 1961 he complained that ‘British women can’t cook’.
A source claimed Ms Clarke had been ‘made to account for herself in a kangaroo court’ by colleagues, despite having played an active role in the university’s anti-racism programme.
Rubbishing accusations that the Duke was racist, Royal expert Hugo Vickers said: ‘Prince Philip and the Queen have spent their whole lives in service helping the Commonwealth.
‘He may have said things at certain times to get a rise out of people, but he was the least racist person. In fact, he was very engaged in questions of equality and multi-racial societies going back to the 1950s.
‘I don’t think these people at King’s College know what they are talking about, frankly.’
Free speech campaigners and MPs last night condemned the apology, labelling it the latest example of a ‘cancel culture’ by woke activists on university campuses. Royal experts insisted it was wrong to accuse the Prince of being racist or sexist. pictured, the Duke with the Queen
Dr Rakib Ehsan, an academic researcher who has focused discrimination and social relations among ethnic minorities said: ‘King’s College London apologising to its staff – grown adults – who have supposedly suffered ‘harm’ after being sent an image of Prince Philip.
‘Being oversensitive and itching to be outraged are dominant features of the modern-Left intelligentsia. A pathetic state of affairs.’
Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, added: ‘The irony is that if it wasn’t for people like Prince Philip putting their lives on the line to defend liberty and democracy, university lecturers wouldn’t now enjoy the freedom to attack people like him.
‘When a war hero dies, shouldn’t these republican firebrands just say ‘Thank you for your service’, and save the political point-scoring for another day?’
King’s College London said: ‘As we previously highlighted in an official university statement, Prince Philip had a long and valued association with King’s.’