• Monday, May 20, 2024

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Cambridge college severs ties with fellow over race remarks

Nathan Cofnas faced backlash for suggesting that in a merit-based system, black representation would be limited outside of sports and entertainment. (Photo credit: X/@nathancofnas)

Vivek MishraBy: Vivek Mishra

Cambridge’s Emmanuel College has severed ties with a philosophy fellow after his remarks on race and meritocracy sparked controversy.

Nathan Cofnas faced backlash for suggesting that in a merit-based system, black representation would be limited outside of sports and entertainment.

This led to his research affiliation with the college being terminated. The college also cited his views as incompatible with its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

He had said that in a merit-based system, there would be minimal representation of black individuals outside of sports and entertainment. His blog post also questioned the existence of racial equality.

He wrote that “blacks would disappear from almost all high-profile positions outside of sports and entertainment” and dismissed racial equality as “based on lies”, reported The Telegraph.

In a blog post, he had written: “In a meritocracy, Harvard faculty would be recruited from the best of the best students, which means the number of black professors would approach 0 per cent.”

Following deliberation, Emmanuel’s Faculty of Philosophy communicated to Cofnas their decision to sever ties, citing his views as contradictory to the college’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“The Committee first considered the meaning of the blog and concluded that it amounted to, or could reasonably be construed as amounting to, a rejection of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI and EDI) policies,” the letter sent by Emmanuel College reads, as reported by the University of Cambridge’s student newspaper, Varsity.

“The Committee concluded that the core mission of the college was to achieve educational excellence and that diversity and inclusion were inseparable from that. The ideas promoted by the blog therefore represented a challenge to the College’s core values and mission,” according to the letter.

Doug Chalmers, the college master, previously defended Cofnas’s right to express his views but emphasised the institution’s dedication to freedom of thought.

When the blog posts emerged in February, Doug Chalmers, the college master told students that “we retain our commitment to freedom of thought and expression” and accepted Mr Cofnas’s “academic right, as enshrined by law, to write about his views”.

“When it comes to controversial topics, even the world’s most renowned universities can no longer be relied upon to stand by their commitment to defend freedom of thought and discussion,” he had said.

However, Lord Woolley, the principal of Cambridge’s Homerton College, told students: “I see it for what it is. Abhorrent racism, masquerading as pseudo-intellect… There is no place for bigots in institutions like this.”

Cofnas had faced criticism previously for his writings on racial IQ disparities, prompting protests and a petition calling for his dismissal.

Prof Bhaskar Vira, Cambridge’s pro-vice-chancellor for education, said in February that “everyone at Cambridge has earned their place on merit”, in response to the row, reported The Telegraph.

Emmanuel College, established in 1584, boasts notable figures such as the novelist Hugh Walpole, the mathematician John Wallis and John Harvard, one of the founders of Harvard College.

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