As mentioned in this column, I wrote to the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, enclosing my article from this newspaper which laid out the charges against the Oxford University Faculty member and employee who revelled in attacking Hindus for being Hindus.
Dear Vice Chancellor,
You may recall I hosted the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Gala Anniversary Dinner at Oxford Town Hall a couple of years ago and you were our guest of honour. I am also a former Visiting Fellow at Corpus and a graduate of St Anne’s College with which I remain in close contact.
I am writing to complain about a senior member of the University. My newspaper column attached explains the point.
I do hope the University will take action. As detailed in my column, I am also writing to the police, Home Office and the British and Indian High Commissions regarding the visa of the individual concerned.
I am cc’ing the Proctors, and request they consider action against this member. Please do let me know if there is a formal process.
I received a reply that the Head of History is the relevant person. So I wrote to him and he replied:
Dear Mr Patel,
Thank you for your recent email to the Vice-Chancellor.
We are aware of the issue relating to these online comments. We have strong policies in place to protect our students and staff against all forms of harassment, including online harassment, and we always investigate thoroughly complaints that our harassment or equality policies have been breached.
The University is thoroughly committed to creating an environment where people of all backgrounds, including our Hindu students and staff, can feel welcome, valued and respected.
To which I replied…
Dear John, if I may, (and please do call me Alpesh),
I believe we would have met when I was a Visiting Fellow at Corpus in 2001/2 – you would have been tutor for admissions? I dined at regularly at High Table and hosted Vikram Seth at a fund-raiser with Sir Tim. Tim and I were on the UK-India Roundtable, ironically in light of these events being raised in the Indian Parliament yesterday, to advise the Prime Ministers of both countries on building closer tie between UK and India.
Thank you for the reply. I do look forward to hearing the outcome of the investigation and whether University policies have been breached. Do you have a timeline please?
As you can imagine as an alumnus I would be very concerned if the outcome were there was no breach in light of the messages posted by the staff member. If you need expert witnesses to do let me know as I work with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and can ask them to assist.
As you may know the matter has now been raised in the Indian Parliament and the Indian Foreign Minister said he will be raising it with the UK Government – I suspect when the PM visits India next month and I am due to be on that trip in my Government capacity.
If the University feels the policies have not been breached by the staff member, and that is consistent with a welcoming environment, then I would be happy to discuss how those policies may need further changes to ensure they are consistent with outcomes the University is trying to achieve. I would also be happy to showcase the feelings among the community which have led this matter to reach the Indian Parliament.
I think it is key, reputationally, the University is not at fault. But the University would be seen at fault, if the staff member were not seen at fault. It would place a kind of vicarious liability on the University, and I know that is not Oxford. I know it as an institution is welcoming regardless of faith or no faith.
I am a proud member of the University and as I wrote in my newspaper column, it is the near term reputation and applications to the University I care about. I do not fear for my faith, it has survived millennia. Oxford has survived. But in the near term, the policies may not fit its goals of outreach which I have been proud to fund via my College, St Anne’s.
It is not offence that I object to. It is the incitement to hatred.
If it would help, I am happy to provide more insight into how those social media posts are perceived. I have several Parliamentarians who have reached out to me on this as well as several news outlets.
I would be most grateful if you have an indication of when the University will decide if its policies have been breached.
No reply has come from the University in the past fortnight.
Will keep you posted. This does not go away quietly. We have not come this far, to only come this far.
Will keep you posted.