CUCU executive committee statement opposing ‘race science’ in the University

Cambridge UCU unequivocally condemns all racism within our university and in the world at large. We are particularly dismayed to see how Dr Nathan Cofnas, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Emmanuel College and the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Cambridge, promotes a discredited, ‘scientific’, ‘biological’ understanding of ‘race’ and associated abhorrent ideas regarding the assessments of groups and their social positions. This is not only a form of race pseudo-science, but also of eugenics, which have both caused unspeakable harm in the world and should be actively fought under any circumstances. It is for these reasons that there is an awareness within the scientific community about the ways in which fascist and white supremacist groups appropriate and misuse scientific research and language in the way Cofnas has done.

Cofnas has a history of publishing work which addresses the supposed ‘genetic evidence’ for IQ differences between ethnic groups. Indeed, Cofnas’ CV is a solid indication of his beliefs and scholarly commitments. It is therefore deeply concerning that neither the Leverhulme Trust, nor any of the bodies of the University of Cambridge, caught this at the time of his appointment. It is moreover deeply concerning that racist pseudoscience is being legitimised through association with the University of Cambridge. Cambridge UCU firmly believes that there is no place for racism in our university and in academia more broadly, whether it has the appearance of science or not.

We are concerned to see how Cofnas legitimises his appalling recent blog post and broader agenda as constituting ‘free speech’ within the laws and regulations of UK higher education. We call on the University of Cambridge and the UK government to assess how its free speech regulations are being used to platform pseudo-scientific racism and eugenicist visions of society.

One of Cofnas’s racist claims is that if Harvard were a meritocracy, there would be almost no black professors. This is particularly tasteless in the Cambridge context, because Cambridge has a disgraceful record on racial pay and promotion gaps which we have demanded be closed as part of the national Four Fights campaign. We once again call on the University of Cambridge to urgently address the racial pay and promotion gap, as well as to do more to make Cambridge an equal opportunities employer.

We welcome the Leverhulme Trust’s investigation into Cofnas’s racist blog post. We urge both the University of Cambridge and Emmanuel College to open their own investigations into whether Cofnas’s work contravenes the Equality Act. We hope to see the University of Cambridge enact its proclaimed commitments to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Cambridge UCU executive committee, 17 February 2024