Nathan Cofnas: Cambridge College Drops 'Race Researcher' Over Backlash
  • The research into Cambridge University’s historical links to slavery sparked significant backlash, with critics labeling the researcher as a “woke activist.”
  • The controversy highlighted tensions within academic institutions regarding the exploration of sensitive historical topics and the implications of critical race theory in academic research.
  • The backlash led to accusations of bullying and censorship, with some scholars questioning the motivation and methodology of the project.
  • The incident underscores the challenges universities face in addressing their historical legacies and the role of scholarship in reinforcing or challenging race-based thinking.

Nathan Cofnas: Cambridge College Drops ‘Race Researcher’ Over Backlash, The controversy surrounding Nathan Cofnas, a research associate at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, and his views on race has led to significant backlash and ultimately his dismissal from the college. Cofnas, who identifies as a ‘race-realist,’ published a blog post in February that claimed the number of black professors at Harvard would ‘approach zero’ in a meritocracy and dismissed equality between people of different ethnicities as a ‘thesis’ based on lies. This post, along with his previous work, including a 2019 paper arguing that people of different ethnicities have different levels of IQ, sparked outrage among students and staff.

Nathan Cofnas: Cambridge College Drops 'Race Researcher' Over Backlash
Nathan Cofnas: Cambridge College Drops ‘Race Researcher’ Over Backlash

In response to the backlash, Cofnas stepped down from all student-facing duties, including teaching and marking examinations, but the college decided to end his relationship with the institution entirely. The college’s decision was based on an investigation into his conduct, which concluded that his posts violated its diversity and inclusion policies. This decision followed a series of events, including a meeting with students and the college’s master, Emmanuel Doug Chalmers, to discuss their concerns. Lord Simon Woolley, the first black man to head a Cambridge College, emphasized the importance of protecting free speech but also stated that it does not extend to ‘abhorrent racism’.

The incident at Emmanuel College is part of a broader pattern of controversy and dismissal of researchers and academics at Cambridge University and other institutions over their views on race and ethnicity. For instance, Noah Carl, a researcher at St Edmund’s College, was dismissed after evidence of his collaboration with far-right extremists was uncovered. This led to protests from students and staff, who argued that his writings on race and intelligence helped legitimize racist stereotypes. The college’s investigation into Carl’s work found that his publications did not comply with established criteria for research ethics and integrity, and there was a risk that his appointment could lead to the college being used to promote views that could incite racial or religious hatred.

These cases highlight the ongoing challenges universities face in balancing academic freedom with the need to uphold values of diversity, inclusion, and equality. The dismissal of Cofnas and Carl underscores the importance of institutions taking a stand against racist and discriminatory views, even when they are presented within the context of academic research.

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