Cambridge University Under Fire For Appointing White Head To Slavery Probe

3 May 2019, 12:21

A specially commissioned Advisory Group has been asked to recommend appropriate ways to publicly acknowledge past links to slavery and to address its impact.
A specially commissioned Advisory Group has been asked to recommend appropriate ways to publicly acknowledge past links to slavery and to address its impact. Picture: PA

Cambridge University has come in for criticism from the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission over appointing a white academic to oversee its study into historic links with slavery.

Cambridge announced on Monday that it would hold a two-year investigation into the university's contribution to the slave trade, led by Professor Martin Millet. 

A spokesperson said the university was making a bid to "acknowledge its role during that dark phase of human history."

But, Mr Phillips, former chairman of the equalities watchdog, said it was "bizarre" that the university had not given the job to a black academic.

Mr Phillips was speaking during a radio interview when he said: "It is bizarre that, if they are trying to send a signal about what they are like, they couldn't find a black academic to lead this.

"That would have sent a great signal to the world that Cambridge understands that black folks are not just great entertainers or sportspeople, but that we can also be brainy."

Mr Phillips also said it was "bizarre" that an expert on Roman archaeology had been put in charge of the probe.

A University of Cambridge spokesman responded:  "The panel represents a diverse range of experience - with five out of eight members from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background.

"The investigation will also be drawing on the wide views of the BAME academic community. The role of the chair is to facilitate, not direct, the investigation and ensure all views are brought to the fore."

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