I was disappointed to learn that St Edmund’s College, Cambridge has decided to capitulate to a mob of woke student activists and terminate the fellowship of Dr Noah Carl, a social scientist. This follows two investigations carried out by St Edmund’s, one into the process that led to Carl’s appointment, the other into a series of allegations made by left-wing students. The students repeated the charges set out in an ‘open letter’ to the college last December signed by over 200 academics – some of them in fields like ‘gender studies’ and ‘critical race studies’ – in which Carl was accused of producing work that is ‘ethically suspect’ and ‘methodologically flawed’.
Noah Carl’s crime, in case you haven’t guessed, is being a conservative. Academics who are right-of-centre are becoming increasingly rare, as Carl himself documented in a report for the Adam Smith Institute in 2017. He found that less than 12 per cent of academics employed by British universities vote for right-wing or conservative parties, falling to less than ten per cent in the social sciences and less than five per cent in the humanities and arts. The authors of the ‘open letter’ claimed Carl was guilty of ‘racist pseudoscience’ for making links between ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’, but failed to provide any evidence to substantiate these allegations. A counter-petition defending the young scholar, endorsed by such eminent professors as Peter Singer, Jonathan Haidt and Cass Sunstein, attracted over 1,200 signatures.
I looked into the charges last December when I wrote about the ‘open letter’ for The Spectator, but couldn’t find any papers or articles written by Carl in which he’d made any such links. All I could find was an essay in a periodical called Evolutionary Psychological Science in which he had defended the right of scholars to carry out research into taboo topics like race, genes and IQ, but there were no examples of him actually doing that. The closest he’s come was a 2016 paper entitled ‘Net opposition to immigrants of different nationalities correlates strongly with their arrest rates in the UK’ in which he references IQ, but makes no mention of biology. And the reason he brings up IQ in that article is because he discusses a YouGov poll in which respondents were asked to rank 14 characteristics in order of importance when considering whether or not an economic migrant should be allowed into the UK and IQ is one of those characteristics.
What the charges against Dr Carl boil down to is that he has made findings that are at odds with sacred Left-wing beliefs, such as thinking uncontrolled immigration is an unqualified good; so, like the 17.4 million people who voted Leave in 2016, he must be ‘far Right’.
The master of St Edmund’s College, Matthew Bullock, posted a statement on the college website last night detailing the outcome of the investigations. The first investigation – into the appointments process – concluded that everything was above board. In deciding which of the applicants to award the research fellowship to, the college based its decision on the examples of Dr Carl’s work submitted by him, as well as the PhD he was awarded by Oxford. ‘The separate matters giving rise to the concerns about Dr Carl only came to light after the recruitment process was concluded,’ wrote the Master.
The second investigation concerned those ‘separate matters’, i.e. other papers and articles written by Dr Carl, and decided these ‘did not comply with established criteria for research ethics and integrity’. What this work was and what criteria it failed to comply with isn’t revealed in the Master’s statement. Dr Carl’s other sin, according to this second group of investigators, was to have collaborated with ‘a number of individuals who were known to hold extremist views’. Again, no details are provided.
These look awfully like trumped-up charges. Why is Noah Carl’s other work – work done before he took up his fellowship at St Edmund’s and which wasn’t the basis on which he was awarded the fellowship – relevant in considering whether he should keep his job? And does the college apply the same test to other fellows or just those who are right-of-centre? More importantly, how does the college define ‘extremist views’?
One of the signatories of the ‘open letter’ was Dr Priyamvada Gopal, an outspoken supporter of Jeremy Corbyn who said a project on empire by Nigel Biggar, an Oxford professor, had 'white supremacist underpinnings' (he also wrote an article for the Times calling for a balanced reappraisal of Britain’s colonial past). She also accused Professor Mary Beard of ‘casual racism’. By any definition, these are ‘extremist views’, yet the St Edmund’s fellow who signed the letter wasn't reprimanded for collaborating with Dr Gopal.
Needless to say, Matthew Bullock’s statement contains a grovelling apology to the students who demanded Carl’s head. ‘I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and offence,’ he writes. ‘Diversity and inclusivity are fundamental values of the College and we abhor racism and religious hatred.’ As usual, it’s not enough to give in to the mob’s demands; you must also prostrate yourself at their feet and plead for their forgiveness. God forbid a figure in authority should fail to comply with the diktats of the equality, diversity and inclusion zealots. Like his counterparts at other Cambridge colleges, the Master of St Edmund’s values every type of diversity except the one that matters most at a seat of learning – viewpoint diversity. To paraphrase the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, ‘diversity’ means a roomful of people who look different but all think the same.
I’m afraid this is yet another nail in the coffin of my alma mater. What was once a protected space for great free thinkers like Erasmus, Darwin and Keynes is now a citadel of politically correct conformity. We saw this in March when the Divinity Faculty decided to rescind its offer of a visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson on the grounds that he’d been photographed standing next to a man wearing an ‘Islamophobic’ T-shirt, and we saw it again this week when Cambridge announced it was going to carry out an investigation into the university’s historical links with slavery. What’s next, I wonder? Renaming Churchill College on the grounds that Britain’s greatest ever Prime Minister was a ‘war criminal’?
If anyone reading this is a Cambridge alumnus thinking of making a donation, please think again. All Cantabrigians who value freedom of speech should withhold their support until the university rediscovers its original purpose.