Bugs, biscuits, trench foot: from the front line of the uni protests

On the grass in front of UCL’s main building, on Sunday night, there were about 30 tents and the portico was plastered in handwritten signs: ‘Students: You’re in debt so UCL can fund a genocide!’ Some protestors sat on chairs, eating biscuits. Others stood at the front gate chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’. ‘Do you want a tent, bro?’ asked one protestor. I explained that I was a reporter and was immediately whisked away to talk to a spokesman. ‘Spectator, Spectator … yeah, I think that’s left-wing. All good.’ A girl who had come along for the day received a keffiyeh tutorial and as night began to fall,

UCL’s bizarre eugenics apology

Covid aside, how should we sum up the last twelve months? The Year of the Abject Apology fits rather neatly. The past year has witnessed cringing confessions by all sorts of institutions to prior complicity in slavery, colonialism or exploitation in some form or another.  University College London is the latest institution to apologise, saying sorry because scientist and polymath Francis Galton, the ‘father of eugenics’, researched the subject while at UCL in the nineteenth century. Galton also left the university money in 1911, to found a professorship in eugenics. This whole episode in UCL’s history would normally have been decently buried. Teaching of eugenics has long ceased at UCL; Galton’s chair was sensibly transmuted into a chair of