A Cambridge college has terminated the fellowship of Noah Carl, who left Oxford last summer in the wake of controversy over his associations with the far-right.
The decision is the outcome of a formal investigation launched by St. Edmund’s college at the end of November last year, after Cambridge students protested Carl’s appointment to the college’s prestigious Toby Jackman Newton Trust Fellowship.
Carl’s involvement with race science was revealed in January 2018, and brought to the attention of St. Edmund’s in November when hundreds of academics signed a letter denouncing Dr. Carl’s research as “ethically suspect and methodologically flawed.”
Much of the work for which Dr Carl has been criticised was conducted during his time at Nuffield, and was brought to the attention of Nuffield College in a number of student complaints.
The investigation by St. Edmund’s found that “in the course of pursuing this problematic work, Dr Carl had collaborated with a number of individuals who were known to hold extremist views.
“There was a serious risk that Dr Carl’s appointment could lead, directly or indirectly, to the College being used as a platform to promote views that could incite racial or religious hatred, and bring the College into disrepute.
“In addition, the panel also noted that the way in which Dr Carl has conducted himself with regard to his publications and the ideas he has expressed have had a detrimental effect on the atmosphere within the College with feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger and disbelief that the College could be associated with such views.”
One St. Edmund’s student involved with the campaign against Carl’s appointment told Cherwell: “Students have persistently protested, in imaginative ways, at Friday formals, outside council meetings, in the lawns, in the Kings Parade. The credit should go to the resilient spirit of the student body at St Edmunds, and to various student groups across Cambridge who stood with them in solidarity.
A separate investigation found that the College had not acted improperly in appointing Dr Carl to the fellowship, as the recruitment process prevented the College from considering information apart from that submitted as part of the application. The investigation did, however, recommend unspecified changes to the recruitment procedure.
The student who spoke to Cherwell criticised the result of the second investigation: “I think the results of the investigation into the appointment procedure still defies belief. How can a ‘working’ system hire a ‘racist’?
“The fact that Noah Carl has published all these papers proves that his free speech is intact. Whether this garbage should be awarded with Fellowship and recognition is a different story.”
The investigations were launched in November, after students brought Noah Carl’s involvement with OpenPsych and the London Conference on Intelligence, both linked to the far-right, to the attention of the College.
Carl is the second most prolific contributor to OpenPsych, a non-peer reviewed online journal linked to the Conference that focuses on issues of race, criminality and intelligence, and has links to the far-right. Carl’s articles for OpenPsych include two on the connection between terrorism and Muslim population size using data from an Islamophobic conspiracy website.
Cherwell revealed in January that Carl had been the subject of numerous complaints while at Nuffield, although no formal action was taken.
Students reportedly complained about Dr. Carl’s involvement with the London Conference on Intelligence, a secretive conference on racial eugenics which is linked to American white nationalists. According to one student, the Warden of Nuffield dismissed their complaints on the grounds of free speech.
Students have since held regular protests at St. Edmund’s in an attempt to force the College to reconsider Carl’s appointment.
In response to the findings of the investigation, the Master of St. Edmund’s released a statement of apology: “In light of these findings, on behalf of the Governing Body and myself, I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and offence felt by all members of the Combination Room.
“Diversity and inclusivity are fundamental values of the College and we abhor racism and religious hatred. There are lessons we must learn about how we demonstrate the importance of these values and we will take action to repair the damage that has been caused to our College community.
“The priority now is for all members of College to address the harm caused by this matter and to work constructively together to heal the divisions and restore relationships.”
The statement stressed that the decision was taken without regard for public pressure, and in accordance with principles of “natural justice”. The statement explained: “Dr Carl was given full opportunity to answer the criticisms made of his work and he did so in two sets of written submissions and in meetings with both Sir Patrick Elias and with the Special Investigation Panel.”
The statement also stressed that the decision to expel Dr Carl did not amount to a limit on academic freedom: “The panel found that Dr Carl had put a body of work into the public domain that did not comply with established criteria for research ethics and integrity.
“In any event, it considered that the poor scholarship of this problematic body of Dr Carl’s work, among other things, meant that it fell outside any protection that might otherwise be claimed for academic freedom of speech.”
The statement continued: “The College supports research which may be controversial or sensitive provided the work conforms to accepted standards of research ethics and integrity and is undertaken with appropriately rigorous methodology.
“The outcome is that some aspects of Dr Carl’s work do not fulfil the criteria we expected for academic scholarship. Those findings made Dr Carl’s position as a Research Fellow at St Edmund’s untenable.
“We appointed Dr Carl based on his academic achievements at the University of Oxford, and on the commendations which supported his application. It is regrettable that such an appointment has been compromised by Dr Carl’s other activities of which we were completely unaware when electing him to the Fellowship.”