Lancaster Uni are reviewing David Starkey’s grad status in light of racist comments

‘The petition is very simple: David Starkey is a racist and should not be honoured by Lancaster University’

Lancaster Uni are reviewing David Starkey’s grad status following a petition created by students of the university. The petition asks for the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University (Professor Andy Schofield) to revoke historian and television presenter David Starkey’s honorary degree in light of his racist comments. The petition was created less than 24 hours ago and already has more than 200 signatures and been shared by the Student Union BME PTO elect.

In a statement from Lancaster University they said: “Dr David Starkey’s comments are abhorrent and contrary to the values that Lancaster University holds. We understand and share the outrage that these comments have provoked and have initiated a review of his status as an honorary graduate.”

The demands of the petition are in response to Starkey’s recent racist comments. Speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement in July 2020, David Starkey said: “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain would there?”

But it also highlights previous racist comments Starkey has made which date back to 2011 and 2012. In 2011, on BBC Newsnight, he said that the London riots occurred because “the whites have become black.” And in 2012, he said that members of the Rochdale sex grooming gang had values which were “entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab or wherever it is.”

In 2004, David Starkey was awarded an honorary degree by Lancaster University. The petition comes at a particularly important time for the university after previously being accused of being performative and passive in its response to the Black Lives Matter protests which have been taking place in recent weeks.

The petition was made by Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, Lancaster student and Labour City Councillor. O’Dwyer-Henry has commented on both his motivation behind making the petition and recent statement made by the university: “The petition is very simple: David Starkey is a racist and should not be honoured by Lancaster University.

“But whilst an important move symbolically, revoking the honorary degree alone is not a substitute for the structural changes needed to dismantle systemic racism in our University.

“In recent years, Lancaster University has not been doing enough to tackle racism. Four years ago, the previous vice-chancellor promised to sign the University up to the Race Equality Charter, but we’re still waiting for it to happen. And in not releasing racial pay gap figures, the University continues to mask the true extent of racial inequality at Lancaster. That’s all to say nothing of University management’s failure to take action to decolonise the curriculum.

“Hopefully the new vice-chancellor will adopt a more proactive approach to addressing racism than his predecessors. Today’s announcement of a review into David Starkey’s honorary graduate status is encouraging, and I trust that the outcome of the review will be the immediate revocation of his honorary degree.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘The university plays lip service to diversity’: Lancs students on the uni’s BLM response

Issues I have with your understanding of racism: sincerely, a tired black Lancaster student

‘You have to be anti-racist’: Lancaster BLM protesters on why they’re protesting