Posted on April 22, 2024

‘Race Researcher’ Dropped by Cambridge College After Backlash

Elizabeth Haigh, Daily Mail, April 19, 2024

A fellow at the University of Cambridge who has sparked backlash with his comments on race has been dropped by Emmanuel College where he was a research associate.

Nathan Cofnas, an early career research fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy, is understood to have had his relationship with the college ended following an investigation into his conduct.

Mr Cofnas came under fire in February after he published a blog post which claimed the number of black professors at Harvard would ‘approach zero’ in a meritocracy, and that ‘Blacks would disappear from almost all high-profile positions outside of sports and entertainment.’

He also dismissed equality between people of different ethnicities as a ‘thesis’ that is ‘based on lies’.

The college’s decision followed the philosopher stepping down from all student-facing duties, which included teaching and marking examinations, amid strengthening backlash from students and staff.

Mr Cofnas, who describes himself as a ‘race-realist’, is understood to have been informed of the college’s decision by letter on April 5, which stated his posts were in violation of its diversity and inclusion policies.

According to Varsity, the letter stated: ‘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.’

It added: ‘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,’

It was not the first time his comments had caused outrage, after MailOnline revealed in 2022 that the Faculty of Philosophy knew of a 2019 paper authored by Mr Cofnas in which he argued that people of different ethnicities have different levels of IQ.

Students at the university have previously launched a petition against the researcher’s continued employment and organised protests following his blog posts.

Last month, the first black man to ever be appointed to the head of a Cambridge College, Lord Simon Woolley, principal of Homerton College, held an event with students and the master of Emmanuel Doug Chalmers to discuss their concerns.

Lord Woolley, who was previously appointed by then-Prime Minister Theresa May to head the UK Government’s Race Disparity Unit, told the assembled students that free speech must be protected, but this did not extend to ‘abhorrent racism’.

He added: ‘If this [Cofnas’ comments] is not gross misconduct […] I don’t know what is.’

Emmanuel’s Master Mr Chalmers had initially backed Mr Cofnas’ right to freedom of speech, but the college soon launched an investigation, alongside other probes by the University and the Leverhulme Trust, which provided him with a research grant.

Fellows and students alike have criticised Mr Cofnas’ continued employment. Dr Bronwen Everill, Director of the University’s centre of African studies, previously said his employment is ‘like having a flat earther on the physics faculty – it’s embarrassing’.

In a statement, the Trust said it had launched an ‘urgent’ investigation, continuing: ‘The grant provided was not for research into the relationship between race and IQ.

‘The views expressed in the blog are in no way those of the Leverhulme Trust. We are very clear that racism of any and all forms is abhorrent.’

Since receiving news of the decision, Cofnas’ social media shows he has had support from an Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, and that he attended the conservatism conference in Brussels featuring Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman.

The conference was shut down by the mayor of Brussels, leading police to attend the event. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo later overturned the decision, branding it ‘unconstitutional’, and the second day of the conference went ahead as planned.

Mr Cofnas wrote in a post on X: ‘At the National Conservatism conference in Brussels. The socialist mayor stationed police in front of the building and they won’t let anyone inside.’

Answering a user’s question if he had spoken to police at the scene, Mr Cofnas said: ‘I’m in enough trouble in the UK – better not to get arrested in Belgium.’

It is unclear if the ‘trouble’ referred to is related to Emmanuel’s decision to drop him as a research associate.

The Faculty of Philosophy, which currently still employs him as a research fellow, previously told MailOnline Mr Cofnas’ words ‘do not represent the views of the Faculty’ and that ‘there is no place for racism at the University of Cambridge’.

Professor Angela Breitenbach, Chair of the Faculty, said: ‘The views expressed in these blogs do not represent the views of the Faculty of Philosophy.

‘The Faculty strives to be a leader in defending equality and fostering inclusion. There is no place for racism at the University of Cambridge.’

Emmanuel College and Nathan Cofnas have been contacted for comment.