Luke Chafer, Glasgow Guardian, February 18, 2021
A highly controversial seminar to be led by Gregory Clark, a visiting professor at London School of Economics, to be delivered for the Adam Smith Business School has been postponed amid pressure from student groups.
In an email sent out to all those that signed up the organisers stated that postponement was due to a “high degree of interest beyond that which could be accommodated in a seminar”. This high degree of interest was in spite of the evident lack of promotion for the event by the Adam Smith Business School on their social media channels and the unusual ticket system where you had to email them directly to receive the event link, leading some to suspect people were registering to protest the online event. Some students were advocating for people to register and not attend in order to take up all available slots in order to limit the audience of the professor.
The talk that was scheduled to be to be delivered was titled: “For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A lineage of 400,000 individuals 1750-2020 shows genetics determines most social outcomes”. In his book of a similar title, For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: Genetics, Demography and Social Outcomes, he argues that socio-economic status is genetically inherited through the “genetic transmission of … some mysterious mix of drive and ability”. He also theorised that “200 years from now the descendants of enslaved African-Americans will still be underrepresented”. Some have asserted his statistical analysis on which these conclusions are based is highly questionable, with a lack of reference to inherited wealth and social status asserting correlation between surnames and wealth as causation.
This week saw an announcement from Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, stating universities face fines for suppressing free speech on campuses. Speculation has led some to believe that being the reason why the event was not cancelled, and instead postponed, despite these new fines not applying to Scottish universities. An Adam Smith Business School spokesperson said: “The Adam Smith Business School decided to postpone a seminar with economist Professor Gregory Clark last week. We noted a high degree of interest beyond that which could be accommodated in a seminar. We plan to reformulate the event as a workshop to focus on different perspectives and analyses of what is a novel historical dataset.”