Students petition for window commemorating eugenicist to be removed from college hall

The petition surpassed 600 signatures in under a day

An online petition on website demanding the removal of a stained-glass window in Gonville & Caius College commemorating biologist, statistician, and Eugenicist Ronald Fisher surpassed its original target of 200 signatures within a matter of hours.

The petition’s description states that the panel, located in the college hall, is “pointed out to school tour groups, prospective applicants and visitors as markers and emblems of Caius’ glorious academic history” and yet “makes no mention of Fisher’s significant contributions to the Eugenist movement” nor is it accompanied by “a college programme to educate students about Fisher’s racism”.

The description goes on to state that, by having the panel in hall, “Caius students and Fellows eat, converse and celebrate in space that also acts as a commemoration of our racist history.”

Fisher was a member of the Eugenics Society (UK) at the University of Cambridge from 1910, and the petition goes into some detail on Fisher’s works, including “The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection” which “devotes three chapters to his endorsements of colonialism, white supremacy and eugenics.” It also notes his academic contributions to statistics, but remarks: “Teach evolution and statistics. But don’t teach them in a vacuum. Not publicly acknowledging the racism of Fisher is ahistorical. Honouring him is immoral. ”

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in Britain following the death of George Floyd, many monuments up and down the country which commemorate those involved in the historical oppression of black people and systemic racism in Britain have sparked renewed outrage, with calls for them to be removed. Protestors took matters into their own hands in the case of Bristol’s statue of slave-trader Edward Colston, which was pulled down on Sunday.

One of the Caius students involved in the petition told The Tab Cambridge that the college has been aware of the controversy surrounding the panel for some time and that numerous committees internal to GUSU (the college’s JCR) have brought up the panel with college as part of wider discussions in the past. But, despite these agitations, no action has been taken yet.

It is as of yet uncertain as to whether this petition will bring about the change that the Caius students who have set it up are hoping for, but meetings between the college and those involved have been organised in the wake of the petition.

The petition can be found here

Gonville & Caius College has been contacted for comment.

Feature Image Credit: Marathon, User:Schutz (Creative Commons Licence)