UCL students organize a protest demanding answers over the eugenics conference

UCL students organize a protest demanding answers over the eugenics conference

Hundreds of students gathered chanting “Decolonise UCL” outside of the Provost’s office

On 15th January, close to one hundred protesters converged at the entrance of the UCL Provost Michael Arthur’s office chanting “Decolonise UCL!”. This protest comes in the wake of revelations that honorary UCL Senior Lecturer in Psychology, James Thompson, has held a conference at UCL for the past four years featuring research on the alleged links between genetics and racial disparities in intelligence. This research and alleged controversial links of some of those, who have presented and attended the conference have led to many, among them the protesters, labelling the conference a eugenics conference.

Protest organiser and Student Union UCL Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) Students’ Officer, Ayo Olatunji, has demanded answers from the Provost. Addressing the crowd, Olatunji said:

“It is very important we understand the insidious nature of what is happening on our campus, of what was birthed on our campus, we can make no more allowances. We are not in a position to do that, eugenics and whiteness has spread itself throughout society, white supremacy has spread itself throughout society as an oppressive body and an oppressive force. We need an explanation from UCL. On top of that, we need them to put their money where their mouth is. We need to see investment into our education system, our curriculums on campus, we need to see the integration of POC academics, and we need to see critical thought on this disgusting pseudoscience.”

Referring to Eugenics roots at UCL, Olatunji called for an institute be created for the critical study of eugenics as a pervasive force in society. Linking the University’s culpability in having the conference held on its premises and its inadequate response to being symptomatic of a broader issue, Olatunji went on to allege the University overburdens and withholds promotions from academics who are People of Colour (POC). This protest forms part of a broader ‘Decolonise UCL’ campaign aimed at dismantling Colonialism’s legacy at UCL.  

The University has not directly addressed the protest or allegations of discrimination against its staff, however on Monday released the following statement:

“Following the controversy over the London Conference on Intelligence, UCL has set up an inquiry team led by the head of UCL’s Division of Psychology & Language Sciences with three other senior academics. They will investigate the Conferences, the way in which they ostensibly breached external booking procedures and the circumstances in which the organiser was awarded an honorary senior lectureship. The inquiry is already underway, and the panel aims to complete its investigations as soon as possible.”

(Featured image: Julian Coleman)

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