Calls have been made for University College Cork to cut its ties with well-known scientist and former Nobel Prize Winner, Dr James Watson. This comes in light of comments repeated by Watson, 90, in which is claimed that there is a correlation between race and intelligence.
In 2007 Dr Watson, who helped discover the structure of DNA, said that in reference to the prospects of Africa that “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really.” In 2016 when UCC decided to name a building after the 90 year-old they were questioned over their decision but stood firm on the reasons for doing so. However, in a recent documentary with an American network, Watson unashamedly reiterated his views by saying, “there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.” As a direct result fresh calls have been made to UCC administrators to now sever their ties with Dr Watson in light of these comments.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner a few weeks ago, Professor John McInerney of the Department of Physics in UCC said “every trace of this vile and loathsome individual should be scrubbed from this university and any other institution which he may have contaminated with his actual or virtual presence, even temporarily, over the years. This extirpation should be as quick and public as possible so that he is still alive to witness it.”
On the other hand people of a different opinion may feel like such an action is over-the-top given Dr Watson’s incredibly important contribution to science and such remarks don’t discredit his work. However, this sentiment is certainly not felt by the Chair of the Equality Committee, Professor Nuala Finnegan, who has had a petition filtered to all students to back the revocation of the building’s name. In a letter addressed to the Deputy President, Prof Finnegan said, “it is our view that the naming decision does constitute a significant impairment to the University’s reputation. Given the symbolic and practical significance of honorific processes, we would like to strongly urge the group to present a recommendation for revocation.” She went on to argue that the comments made by Dr Watson do not reflect the values that UCC stands for, these being equality, respect, dignity and integrity.
It seems that the Naming of Assets Working Group will have a key role to play in this matter. New revisions to the protocols for naming assets in UCC have been highlighted by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion unit (EDI), which outlines that, “the University reserves the right to revoke a naming decision if it constitutes a significant and continuing impairment to the University’s reputation or if the agreed-upon philanthropic contributions are significantly reduced. The authority to revoke a naming decision rests with UMTO upon recommendation of the Naming of Assets Working Group.” A meeting is set to take place in the next week or so where this issue will be discussed.