Bust of Koestler still on view at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity

Sunday Herald - - INSIDE STORY -

A BRONZE bust of the al­leged se­rial rapist Arthur Koestler is still on show at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity – nearly 20 years af­ter it was re­moved from public view.

The sculp­ture of the feted nov­el­ist, who was ex­posed for bru­tal at­tacks on women af­ter his death, was with­drawn from the public con­course of the psy­chol­ogy build­ing af­ter com­plaints from fe­male stu­dents, but it was dis­creetly placed in the Univer­sity’s psy­chol­ogy li­brary.

Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity should se­ri­ously con­sider whether it is ap­pro­pri­ate for this bust to still be in public sight.”

Koestler’s rep­u­ta­tion as a nov­el­ist and jour­nal­ist was soured in 1998 af­ter a bi­og­ra­phy of him claimed he had raped and beaten a num­ber of women, in­clud­ing the wife of for­mer Labour leader Michael Foot.

Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, which ben­e­fits from a higher education post that the late writer funded with a be­quest, got caught up in the con­tro­versy.

Af­ter Koestler died in 1983 a trust fund was used to es­tab­lish a chair of “para­psy­chol­ogy” – the study of para­nor­mal sub­jects such as clair­voy­ance, telepa­thy and telekine­sis – at a Bri­tish univer­sity, cash that was se­cured by Ed­in­burgh.

When news of the rape al­le­ga­tions broke, re­ports emerged of fe­male stu­dents com­plain­ing about feel­ing “un­easy” about a bust of Koestler in the public con­course.

Some women’s groups had re­port­edly threat­ened to de­face the bust and a spokesman for the said in late 1998 it had been re­moved for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

At the time Scot­tish Women’s Aid was quoted as say­ing: “This is a man known to be se­ri­ally abu­sive and vi­o­lent to­wards women but the mes­sage was be­ing put out that it was okay to glo­rify him.”

How­ever, the bust never left the univer­sity. A univer­sity source told the Sunday Her­ald it had been moved to the psy­chol­ogy li­brary, which is ac­ces­si­ble to any­one with a pass.

The univer­sity web­site de­scribes the nov­el­ist as a “pro­lific au­thor” who “con­tin­ues to at­tract con­tro­versy and in­ter­est from nu­mer­ous dif­fer­ent an­gles”. His al­leged rape is not men­tioned on the web page.

Loth­ian MSP Ali­son John­stone said: “While Koestler avoided prose­cu­tion for his al­leged crimes, that does not ab­solve the univer­sity from tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion. The bust should be re­moved and never put on dis­play again.”

Asked why the bust was still on dis­play in a lo­ca­tion where staff and stu­dents can see it, a univer­sity spokesper­son said: “We are not aware of any con­cerns hav­ing been raised about the cur­rent lo­ca­tion of the bust. How­ever, it is due to be re­moved from the psy­chol­ogy li­brary.”

Pressed on why the bust was be­ing re­moved, he said: “Sorry, we can’t of­fer any­thing fur­ther at this stage.”

Asked why it had not dropped the Koestler name from the chair post the spokesper­son added: “We would al­ways re­spond to any con­cerns that might be raised in re­la­tion to the ti­tles of chairs.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.