Cambridge “race realist” fired for rejecting EDI

Emmanuel College Cambridge has terminated the position of a research associate on the grounds that his published views amount to “a rejection of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI and EDI) policies”. 

Dr. Nathan Cofnas is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is also a research associate at Emmanuel College. Cofnas is a philosopher of biology, whose research has been published by a number of major pre-reviewed journals. He also produces a “newsletter” on substack. 

On 5th February, Cofnas posted an article titled “A guide for the Hereditarian Revolution”. In this article, Cofnas argues that the only way for “conservatives” to defeat “wokeism” is for them to ensure that elites adopt “race realism”: the view that some demographic groups are, on average, genetically predisposed to be more intelligent. Cofnas claims that if the Harvard admissions process “judged applicants only by academic qualifications, blacks would make up 0.7% of Harvard students”. He also claims that “in a meritocracy” the number of black professors at Harvard “would approach 0%”. 

In response to the article, a petition was set up, demanding that Cofnas be fired from all positions at the University of Cambridge. The university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Bhaskar Vira, issued a response stating that “freedom of speech within the law is a right that sits at the heart of the University of Cambridge”. The Master of Emmanuel College, Doug Chalmers, responded that Cofnas had an “academic right, as enshrined by law, to write about his views”.  

In face of continuing pressure, Emmanuel College, the university, and the Leverhulme trust all initiated inquiries into Cofnas’ position. As reported in an article by Peter Singer, Emmanuel College has now decided that it will “terminate its relationship” with Cofnas. In justifying its decision, Emmanuel College referred to the views of a Committee which had considered Cofnas’ position: 

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 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. 

This amounts to a statement that, at Emmanuel College, freedom of speech does not include the freedom to criticise Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion policies. Those who criticise EDI may be fired. This is an extraordinary declaration. Nathan Cofnas has views that will be abhorred by many, but his rejection of EDI is not grounds for dismissal.  

The university inquiry is still ongoing. Should it reach the same conclusion as the Emmanuel College inquiry, it would amount to a public declaration that the University of Cambridge will not support academic freedom.