Students accuse Edinburgh lecturer of spouting ‘racist and sexist’ comments
Anthropology lecturer Neil Thin denies these claims
Edinburgh University students have accused Neil Thin, a senior Social Anthropology lecturer at Edinburgh University, of “racist and sexist” tweets and comments.
Several students took to the BlackED Instagram, an anti-racism campaign group based at Edinburgh Uni, and EdiFess, a Facebook confessions page, to accuse Thin of “problematic” comments on his twitter and in his teaching.
Neil Thin has denied these claims and told The Edinburgh Tab: “There are some specific distortive and very untrue claims on the social media sites about my teaching and feedback.
“Regarding the selection of tweets which are variously described as ‘triggering’,’offensive’, ‘bigoted’, ‘racist’, ‘misogynistic’, and ‘transphobic’, you can see for yourselves that not a single one of them appears to give any plausible grounds for drawing those conclusions.
“Anyone who knows me would verify that none of those is anywhere close to an accurate or fair label or for my political views.”
Accusations by the BlackED movement
Thin’s tweets have recently been “exposed” by BlackED – an anti-racism campaign group based at Edinburgh Uni.
They highlighted his bio of “civilisation is for everyone” as “exhibit A” in a post with the caption: “What these tweets have shows us is that there is a good number of ignorant staff members that need anti-racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, and ableist training.”
On top of this, the page a compilation of tweets they believe to be problematic in a highlight titled “Neil Thin” – including those they believe to be racist, sexist, and transphobic.
The tweets show him defending JK Rowling (who has been accused of transphobia) as well as accusing the uni of “stoking hatred of white people”.
One tweet in response to NASA making an announcement read: “The ‘man’ in it is actually non-binary?”
Another tweet said: “Generalised POC are portrayed here as victims needing reparation. The usual ‘systematic racism’ banner waved, as if t0 excuse the lack of any actual attempt to understand the cause of health disparities. No recognition that poor ‘White’ people are disadvantaged.”
Another tweet said: “I do face micro-aggressions from so-called ‘anti-racists’ who enjoy stoking inter-ethnic antipathies and suspicions, and who have zero interest in a post-racial society.”
The page also asked for former and current students of Thin to come forward with their stories.
Several current and former students accused Thin of “outright racist and micro-aggressive comments” in lectures as well as marking down work that focuses on the experiences of women and people of colour.
One even described him as a “men’s rights activist” claiming he added these comments to an essay: “This is too woman focused, what about men? men are hardly ever the topic of academic discovery, feminism is overdone”
One former student complained of a lecture hall environment in which “all the PoC students separately sit in one corner” and debates were held “on sensitive topics like decolonisation from such a skewed western narrative” with “zero sensitivity and respect to personal experiences of minority groups”.
In response to these testimonies, BlackED committed themselves to campaigning in favour of anti-discrimination training for all staff as well as the full decolonisation of the Edinburgh Uni curriculum.
They said: “We would like to thank the brave students that came forward with their testimonies and highlighted that there is a greater need for decolonising the curriculum now more than ever.
“We plan to take these testimonies to the University and encourage better anti-discrimination training and a decolonised curriculum at our University.”
Complaints on EdiFess
Neil Thin is also facing accusations from students via EdiFess.
A post on Edifess said: “How can we ever trust Edinburgh University and their false promises of tackling racism, sexism, and creating a safe space on campus when they hire Social Anthropology lecturers who publicly spout racist and sexist comments all over their social medias ???
“From advocating that anti-racism work is ‘divisive’, believing in reverse racism, to shamefully using the Sarah Everard case to say the streets have never been safer for women. We cannot allow this bigotry in our university spaces, and something needs to be done.”
It then contained a screenshot of the following tweet where Neil Thin describes Kimberlé Crenshaw, the Critical Race Theorist who first created the term “intersectionality”, as a “toxic CRT fraud”.
In what world is endless complaining about 'whiteness' anything but a)simplistic and b) racist?
Let's keep calling out these toxic CRT frauds for what they really are. If they wanted a postracial society, or to help humans live better together, would they talk like this? https://t.co/n3EyNbXuQ7
— Neil Thin (@NeilThin) March 15, 2021
Responses from students on EdiFess
Comments on the post included “noooo why is this my lecturer” and “FFS he was my favourite lecturer this year”.
Others defended Thin with one commenter saying “Imagine publicly shaming someone in an attempt to ruin someones career because you disagree with someone’s rightful opinion”.
Someone else also wrote: “Idk I think it’s hard to go off what people say on twitter because you’ve only got 280 characters so misunderstanding are easy”.
One commenter criticised some of Thin’s other tweets – including this one that described using lived experiences in academic debates as “patronising, hypocritical, and untruthful”.
"Lived experience" is no substitute for truth and reason.
The idea that we should hear people's subjective views is just common decency. But if we sanctify and privilege the subjective views of people in victim categories, isn't that patronising, hypocritical, and untruthful? https://t.co/FCbQZVQ99T
— Neil Thin (@NeilThin) April 4, 2021
Someone else wrote another Edifess in response to defend Thin’s comments.
It said: “I know nothing about the lecturer but that tweet isn’t problematic, but rather he is sharing his own opinion. Which is a) vital for academics To have a right to challenge ideas and opinions and that’s the first thing any one should do is try to challenge an idea, because that leads to a rigorous analysis of ideas b) trying to cancel people because they don’t necessarily agree with your politics (and I think we all agree racial equality is not politics It’s a must, but how to Achieve that is politics) is immature”.
In a statement given to The Edinburgh Tab, Neil Thin said: “I have been lecturing here for 34 years without ever previously coming under this kind of attack. It’s not that I’ve suddenly adopted unpopular opinions or started expressing myself in more offensive ways.
“What has changed, dramatically, is the tendency for some students with certain kinds of political views to seek to impose them on everyone else, and to try to censor anyone who questions them by claiming that they are vulnerable and easily ‘triggered’, and need to be shielded from viewpoint diversity in ‘safe spaces’.
“Personally I think it would be better for everyone if the students concerned had approached me directly or through a colleague before mounting what is effect a very sudden, vitriolic, and potentially catastrophic character assassination. Common sense and decency should have told them that it is fundamentally dishonourable to defame someone in this way.
“The tweets [these accounts] have selected, as well as my other tweets in general, were all clearly intended as constructive contributions to public debate on morally important issues of public interest.
“What I seem to be being accused of is not having views that ‘align’ with the views of the complainers. I see it as very important for the quality of university discourse, and for the social climate, for us all to try to discuss difficult issues in open-minded ways.”
A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh told The Edinburgh Tab: “The University is committed to upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom and facilitating an environment where all are able to inquire, study, and debate.
“It is inevitable – and often desirable – that in such an environment, different ideas within our community will contradict or conflict with others. However, a challenging environment need not be a hostile one. The most effective way to foster a free and frank exchange of views is on the basis of mutual respect.
“This applies even where some may find those ideas offensive or immoral, and a commitment to freedom of expression includes facilitating debate that others wish to restrict or obstruct.
“The University is also deeply committed to tackling racism and has taken important steps to strengthen our commitment to addressing contemporary and historic inequalities with respect to race. The Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee, led by Professor Rowena Arshad, is taking forward an ambitious agenda and undertaking a range of activity which aims to institutionalise racial equality and address structural racism.
“Clearly, if individuals have concerns about anyone’s behaviour then they can raise these through the University’s formal complaints channels which are there to ensure any issues raised are dealt with fairly for all concerned.
“Details on how to make a complaint to the University are available here.”