On the 1st of February, Cambridge’s oldest college, Peterhouse, established in 1284, elected its first female Master, Bridget Kendall. On top of this, Kendall is also LGBT* which students at Peterhouse believe will improve their reputation as being too staunchly conservative.
In his statement to the press, the LGBT* representative at Peterhouse, Julian Sutcliffe, said that Kendall’s election was “an historic moment for a college that will hopefully mark a change from Peterhouse’s reputation as the most conservative college.”
Kendall has worked for the BBC for over 30 years and served as a diplomatic correspondent. Between 1989 and 1995 she was the BBC Moscow correspondent where she reported widely on the tensions within the Soviet Communist Party, as well as the internal conflicts in Georgia, Chechnya and Tajikistan. She later became the BBC correspondent in Washington D.C. in 1994 and is currently the host of the radio talk show The Forum on BBC World Service.
In her statement about her recent appointment on the Peterhouse website, Kendall says “I feel very privileged to have been chosen by the Fellows of Peterhouse to be their next Master. This is an exceptional College with a distinguished history and record of academic excellence. It represents all that is best about Cambridge University.”
Out of the 31 colleges at Cambridge, nine women currently hold positions as “Head of House”. While the newly elected women’s officer at Peterhouse, Stevie Hertz, is thrilled at the prospect of another woman joining the ranks, she nonetheless admits that the college and university still have to make significant improvements to gender inequalities. She says: “We can do better with access, we can do better with the cost of living and we can do better as a gendered institution,” she said. “It is still an inherently masculine space but steps like this, where we are actively showing that we care about gender, are heading in the right direction.”
The outgoing Master of Cambridge’s Peterhouse, Adrian Dixon said: “This is a great day in the evolving history of Peterhouse. Bridget will bring to the College her exceptional skills in communication and knowledge of international affairs. She also provides an outstanding role model for students and young academics alike.”
While staff and students have expressed that Dixon will be missed in the future, there is an overwhelming excitement particularly expressed by LGBT* representatives as well as women’s officers across campus at the prospect of working together with Kendall.
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