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UCC Denounces Disgraced Scientist Following Racist Remarks

UCC announced on Friday (15th February) that they are to cut ties with Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. James Watson following racially insensitive comments he made in a recent documentary. In doing this, they have begun the process to re-name the Watson building, which was named after Dr. Watson in 2016.

The controversy surrounding Dr. Watson began in 2007, when in a Sunday Times interview he was quoted as saying he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” as he believed that “All our {First world countries} social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really”. These comments returned to the public light in recent weeks following a documentary aired on the American network PBS. In the documentary, entitled ‘American Masters: Decoding Watson’, Dr. Watson appeared to show no remorse about his previous comments and instead endorsed his original 2007 quote. When confronted about this belief in the documentary, he replied by saying “Anyone who doubts this should try having a black employee”.

In a statement on their decision to cut ties with Dr. Watson, UCC said itrejects the deplorable comments by Dr. James D. Watson, expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the documentary, “American Masters: Decoding Watson””. The statement also said the comments aired were “utterly incompatible with the mission and values of UCC”.

Later in the statement, it notes that “UCC acknowledges Dr. Watson’s scientific contribution, in particular his research on DNA. However, his most recent statements, which invalidate the apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007, are irreconcilable with UCC’s core values of respect, diversity, and equality”.

This change comes following a backlash from UCC staff and students, which was lead by Dr. Stephen Jackson from the School of Microbiology. Dr. Jackson sent an email on the 14th of January directing UCC’s attention to the documentary and noting that other universities had already stripped Dr. Watson of his titles. Following this email, a petition was started by UCC staff and students, urging UCC to re-name the Watson building. This petition reached 1,102 signatures and was submitted to the University Naming of Assets Committee on the 6th of February.

Speaking to the Express, Dr. Jackson said he would link to thank those in power who took his original email asking UCC to consider rescinding Dr. Watson’s honours and started to take action upon it. “Racism is reprehensible, but it is somewhat understandable, but not forgivable, in ignorant people” Dr. Jackson noted, “But for educated people, however, it’s just unforgivable”.

UCC is not the first university to have stripped Dr. Watson of honours following his comments in 2019. In January of this year, Cold Springs Harbour in America, the school which held the laboratory where Dr. Watson conducted a lot of his research, cut all ties with the scientist and has taken away some of his past honors.