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‘Telegraph’ forced to apologise for lying front page story attacking black Cambridge student

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Harvey Day
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Telegraph issues correction after black Cambridge student 'decolonisation' story

The Telegraph has been forced to issue a correction after ‘inciting the trolling’ of a black female Cambridge University student at the centre of a ‘decolonisation’ row.

In yesterday’s paper, it was falsely claimed that Cambridge University Student Union’s women’s officer Lola Olufemi was trying to ‘force Cambridge to drop white authors’ from its curriculum - along with an enormous photo of her splashed across the front page.

The story went on to say: “Cambridge University’s English Literature professors will be forced to replace white authors with black writers” and that “adding new BME texts and topics is likely to lead to authors being downgraded or dropped altogether, since there are no plans to lengthen courses to accommodate an expansion of reading materials.”

In fact, Olufemi had simply sent a petition, signed by more than 150 people, calling for the English Literature curriculum to include more ‘post-colonial’ and ‘BME authors’. 

Journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed‏ commented on Twitter: “Something very concerning about way Telegraph put only this young woman’s pic and not a more complex story on front page. As if to incite trolling.”

So now the paper has backed down and admitted the story was wrong. 

In a correction today, The Telegraph said: “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.”

In response to the correction, Olufemi said on Facebook: “It’s almost as if they made the story up to present a racialised image of me and other BME students as ungrateful aggressors.

“Peak intellectual dishonesty but grab your magnifying glass to read this xx.”

On Twitter, Olufemi had received a predictable amount of ‘snowflake’ condescension as well some really nasty racist abuse after the Telegraph article.

But there was also a tidal wave of support for her - including from the University itself.

In a statement, the University said: “There is no set curriculum as tutors individually lead the studies of their group of students and recommend their reading lists - those reading lists can include any author.

“We condemn the related harassment directed towards our students on social media as a result of the recent coverage.”

She was also backed up by the Cambridge University Student Union president Daisy Eyre, who said: “Press have behaved at their worst - willfully turning something positive into a scandal and victimising a truly inspiring person.”

Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Roger Mosey added: “Just to say that Lola Olufemi was a fine student during her time at Selwyn and made an excellent contribution to the college and University.”

And Samira Ahmed came back to Twitter to bash the newspaper again this morning: “Tiny Telegraph correction for a massive lie on the front page that incited trolling and threats against a young black woman. Utterly shameful.”

Better luck next time, right-wing media! 

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Harvey Day

Digital writer for Shortlist.com / @harveyday94 / harvey.day@shortlist.com

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