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A familiar reek of misogyny and mistrust

Poets have always done invective nicely, but the row over the appointment of an Oxford professor offered a new target

Begin on Oxford High Street, early on Saturday morning. On the steps of the Examination Schools three proctors’ officers or “bulldogs”, in the traditional black bowler hats, stand guard over the sleepy thoroughfare; for at ten o’clock the building opens for an election whose campaign has been turbulent.

“You here to break up fights?” I ask, cheekily. They nod. “Got razor blades in your hat brims?” “Madam, you go too far!” I adjourn to the coffee shop to wait: as a graduate I have a vote, but also a train to catch. At last the doors open and we four or five early birds troop in. Cue the magnificent red-robed figure of Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger Ainsworth, flanked by two proctors in crow-black. “The business before…

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