You’ve guessed this already, haven’t you – she’s a Guardian columnist

A Cambridge academic has gone on strike after claiming that a porter’s refusal to call her “doctor” is racist.

Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a fellow specialising in postcolonial literature, is refusing to teach students at King’s College after experiencing what she described as “consistently racist aggression and profiling” from the college’s porters.

The lecturer announced her decision after an altercation with a porter on Monday.

She described on Twitter how she told him: “Please address me as Dr Gopal”, to which the porter responded: “I don’t care who you are.”

A certian standing upon dignity there. The thing is, it’s the wrong dignity for this country:

Dr Gopal, who is from India,


Dr Gopal’s remarks quickly sparked a backlash, with fellow academics saying that her demand to be addressed as “Dr” was unreasonable.

Dr Chris Kavanagh, an anthropologist at Oxford University, said it is “not that common in the UK to refer in everyday situations to academics as ‘Dr’”, adding: “Almost no one refers to me as Dr Kavanagh but that doesn’t mean they are anti-Irish.”

To insist that the habits and courtesies of your native land be imposed upon a foreign one would be, err, colonialist, wouldn’t it?

34 thoughts on “You’ve guessed this already, haven’t you – she’s a Guardian columnist”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    They actually miss the point. I assume because no one at that Rag went to Oxbridge. A porter at a busy college probably sees a hundred people go through the doors in any given shift. Some times more, some times less. He should be able to recognise the college’s students at a smaller college. He has to card the rest of the obvious students.

    A fair few of those who are not students will be junior teaching staff who come and go. Some get paid per seminar. Some come from other colleges. Some are visiting. Some are on contracts.

    How is a porter expected to remember them all? The shorter answer is that he doesn’t. He calls them all Sir or Ma’am. So what is her real complaint:

    She described on Twitter how she told him: “Please address me as Dr Gopal”, to which the porter responded: “I don’t care who you are.”

    She seriously expects the porter to remember the name of every pissant little lecturer who comes through the door? Good for the college defending them. The arrogance of the b!tch.

    Yes, she has made an observation. I was certainly “Sir”ed by porters in ways that made it perfectly clear respect was not intended. And yes, I entirely deserved it. Well, mostly deserved it. But we each have our roles to play in life. Even if the reality is something else. This is the way the game is played, not a plot to show evil intentions. Cambridge should have taught her this by now.

  2. Her native land is the home of caste.

    She is hardly a one to be lecturing anyone about respect and good manners.

    Send her packing back to the sub-continent. Her poor manners will not be noticed there.

  3. I’ve always had a certain fondness for the Germans who insist on being called Doctor Doctor – proving that they have no sense of humour (or at least didn’t have the same jokes as when I grew up).

  4. She described on Twitter how she told him: “Please address me as Dr Gopal”, to which the porter responded: “I don’t care who you are.”

    As with all such Twitter Tales, I guarantee that this account has been very heavily edited to present the writer in the best possible light. It’s like those stories where someone says “suddenly this bloke attacked me for no reason” and you don’t get to hear what led up to it.

    She’s a professor of Postcolonialist Studies, which makes Political Economy sound like a respected and venerable academic discipline. Pure Grievance Studies. Why is the West destroying itself with this stuff?

    Anyway, this is the foundation of Modern Feminism – the petty personal peeves and ambitions of the 1% dressed up as Great Social Causes.

  5. I bet it’s policy to refer to all gentlemen as “Sir” and all ladies as “madam”, since a porter can’t be expected to remember everyone’s title du jour. Given that many academics (like our protagonist here) can be complete title-snowflakes, can you imagine the hoo-ha if a porter referred to a mere Dr. as “Professor” in front of a real one who’s touchy about it?

    The pragmatic solution is “Sir” and “Madam”.

    Does she also get mad in shops when shop assistants call her “Madam” and not “Doctor”? They’re as likely to know as a porter at a random college they tutor at a couple of times a week.

    And why is is always non-science Dr’s who get touchy about titles? (don’t answer that).

  6. There’s a story that the Sandhurst RSM used to address each new batch of Officer Cadets.

    I will call you “Sir” and you will call me “Sir”. The difference being that you will mean it.

  7. So she’s not content with a career based on whining about imaginary racism?

    What this is really about is an entitled snob getting upset because the workers aren’t giving her nuff respect.

    I’d wager that, of all the things she hates about Britain (ie everything but the money), the lack of deference from the commoners is her biggest peeve. It often is with privileged people from stratified societies.

  8. Isp

    I have seen this phenomenon in action.
    When I worked at a large German firm, my boss was having a heated argument with someone on the phone…

    “Now look here Frau Doctor….(pause while the other party speaks ) … Sorry Frau Doctor Doctor…”

    Needless to say he lost his thread and thus the argument, not helped by us falling around larffing.

    There is also the Kenneth Williams line in Round the Horne

    “Ha ! Mr Horne, you think that I’m a complete madam !”
    “Thats a misprint, it should read ‘madman'”
    “Ooh yes, I thought it was a bit bold…”

  9. Her surname indicates that her origin is a lower caste, the cowherds so, as she despises colonists, why not figuratively return her to her own culture and address her as Doctor Cowherd(er).

    More seriously, employers are fvcking spineless. She ought to be sacked for absence from work without good reason, making sure that due process is followed of course to avoid the compo claims.

  10. If they despise the place so much why don’t they go somewhere else which meets their exacting standards.

    More people from the sub-continent live here right now than the total of Brits who lived in India during the entire Raj.

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    When will people learn that respect is not an entitlement it is earned. You want someone to show you respect and use your title, get to know them, treat them as fellow human beings and show them some respect and not some skivvy to be sneered at.

    All it needs is a few pleasant good morning’s, the use of please and thank you and perhaps the odd open question about their day or family or something inane. Its remarkable how people then warm to you and remember who you are and then they might use you’re preferred title.

    But I suppose being polite was one of the first casualties of the left’s war on society .

  12. Strike? Bullshit. She is not a group of employees.

    A Guardian writer who doen’t know what words mean.

    A Guardian editor who doesn’t know what words mean.

  13. Why would a university porter be expected to show deference to a university professor? It’s a service industry. There’s no difference in the ranking.

  14. BiND: “But I suppose being polite was one of the first casualties of the left’s war on society .”

    I occasionally pop into McDonalds for a breakfast on my way into work. The number of people who simply bark their order at the counter staff without the courtesy of a ‘please’, or ‘hello’, then take it without so much as an acknowledgement, much less a ‘thank you’ really irks me.

  15. Dr Primadonna Gopal is trying it on. According to the Tel there was a college do on at Kings and non-members were not being admitted. She isn’t a member so she wasn’t admitted. She was addressed as Madam as a courtesy, not to imply that she is a little madam.

    It would be absurd to ask college porters to guess whether everyone walking through the gate has a doctorate. Or to pay any heed to claims of a doctorate that might be made by a stranger. I can confidently claim never to have been addressed as “Dr” in any Cambridge College. A porter who knew me might address me as (as might be) “Dr Mee” but never as “Dr”.

    Mind you, she is a member of the Faculty of English. It’s long past time that that effing embarrassment was abolished.

    How she would have loved it in the old days when I would receive official letters beginning “Dear Mee”.

  16. My tutor used to look down on people with doctorates, as not having been good enough to get a fellowship with just an undergraduate degree. He used to say it was the way of testing people they weren’t sure about.

  17. @ RichardT
    One of my contemporaries told me that he got his doctorate “the easy way” by stringing together chunks of the papers that he had already published. Last time I saw him he was a Professor but he may be an Emeritus Professor by now.

  18. I knew of a German academic whose title was Herr Professor Dr. Dr. Dr.

    Meanwhile, at Leeds University, the gruff porter addressed everyone, male or female as “luv”…..

  19. Under Socialism we will all be equal but until that happens address me as “Dr”, you worthless peasant.

  20. That US senator thing is really wierd in particular, the US military have it very much ingrained into their culture that you always but always address your superiors as Sir/Ma’m, she’s essentially told him to address her as an inferior.

  21. It amuses me no end when I have to address Yanks who are female and lawyers or accountants with an appended Esq.

    One day I will append a Cretin to it all (when I’m about to retire).

  22. The Pedant-General

    Re Sandhurst RSM. The standard form of address by NCO instructors to cadets was “Mr [surname] Sir”.

    The late King Hussein of Jordan was the reigning monarch when he went to Sandhurst. For a year, he was addressed as “Mr King-of-Jordan Sir”

  23. decnine,

    As one of Her Majesty’s more junior commissioned officers (in rank if not in years) I’ve come to appreciate the difference in how I’m addressed, and what a relief it is when you move on from “sir”.

    “Oh, dear, sir… that didn’t go very well, did it? Would you like a few minutes, sir, so you can work out how to get yourself out of that one?” (as AS/Lt Lynch wished the Earth would open up and swallow him, rather than have to hear the Marine CSgt call him ‘sir’ with that tone of voice again… )

    Compare and contrast to when you’ve been working with an experienced CPO for a while, to the point where it’s “Alreet, boss, what’re we doing this weekend?” rather than “Good morning, sir” – you’re now getting respect instead of formality.

    As far as doctorates go, a good friend with a PhD (a good one too, serious good work on the limits of autonomy possible with a particular type of unmanned underwater vehicle) joked that he was only ever “Doctor…” when his Mum was talking about him or when he was trying to book a restaurant table. Like many here, I’ve found that those who get a strop on about exact formalities of address, are self-identifying as having little worth hearing…

  24. My mum always addresses letters to me using Dr.

    In South Africa, titles were important, especially to Afrikaners who would refer to my wife as Mevrou Doctor on account of my PhD. Back in 1984, being able to put Dr before your name got you a landline in a couple of weeks rather than six months.

    In Australia, I rarely use my title as I work in industry not academia although a PhD was ‘desirable’ for my position. One of my young engineers once observed that “you’ve done enough research in your career to warrant a PhD” and was most surprised when I told him “I’ve already got one”. I’m now the external examiner for his PhD.

  25. Bloke no Longer in Austria


    My sister said the self same thing: She was in a McD in a godforsaken seaside town and the lady behind the counter was actually taken aback “Customers never say please or thank you in here…”

  26. Sir Godber and Lady Mary, both Progressives and Liberals, treated the Head Porter of Porterhouse rather badly, I believe. Tom Sharpe knew them, alright.

    In my experience the more strident the égalité, fraternité the more viscous the class bigotry and snobbery.

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    In my experience the more strident the égalité, fraternité the more viscous the class bigotry and snobbery.

    Well they can certainly be thick. And perhaps good manners are about making social relations move along smoothly.

    As cliches go, I think this is not unreasonable. I certainly know a few women who combine the social graces of Hyacinth Bucket with the politics of Millie Tant.

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