Fake news? Lecturer calls Telegraph article about Galton Must Fall ‘entirely misinformed’

The Galton Must Fall Campaign doesn’t seem to exist


On Tuesday, the Telegraph published an article criticising UCL students for the ‘Galton Must Fall’ campaign, which seeks to erase the legacy of Victorian polymath Sir Francis Galton, as an example of “cultural vandalism”. There’s just one thing- the campaign doesn’t exist!

The article, written by education editor Camilla Turner, claims that the Galton Must Fall campaign was launched by UCL students as a call for renaming of UCL rooms that honour Galton and therefore remove its “poisonous legacy”.

Although The Tab has been unable to identify all the sources used in this article, it seems that the campaign, “Galton Must Fall” as featured in the Telegraph doesn’t exist at UCL at present.

A leading scientist based at UCL, Galton invented the statistical concept of correlation and founded psychometrics, as well as devising the first weather map and inventing a method for classifying fingerprints. However, Galton is most widely-known as the “founding father of eugenics”, a area of study seeking to improve the genetic composition of the human race, in the hopes of creating a superior human race through selective breeding.

His theories on racial superiority and improvement were later adopted by the Nazis and unsurprisingly, his legacy has been highly controversial.

A former UCL lecturer sent The Tab screenshots of the exchange of emails and messages from social media they had had with Camilla Turner who had contacted him prior to publishing the article.

The messages [pictured below] describe a review proposed by the Provost in 2014 for determining UCL’s association with Galton. However, they do not provide evidence for the existence of a GaltonMustFall campaign or that students were in anyway involved in the 2014 review.

Following the publication of the article last Tuesday, the source got in touch with The Telegraph and journalist Camilla Turner to express his frustration at the difference in the information that they had provided and what was included in the published article. The source calls the article “so uninformed and uninforming it is ridiculous” and claims that they “shall be reporting you to the appropriate authority for telling lies”.

 

Following some research, The Tab learnt that on 8th February 2016, two UCL history undergraduates published a post titled ‘Must Galton Fall?‘ on the UCL History blog site. They wrote: “Following in the footsteps of the much-contested #RhodesMustFall campaign at Oxford, UCL students are now asking themselves: must Galton fall?

“In an attempt to ‘decolonise’ UCL, some students are questioning the pertinence of having a lecture theatre named after Galton.

“His endorsement of selective breeding can arguably be construed as paving the way for the ideology of racial hygiene in Nazi Germany.

“His pivotal role in the eugenic movement, though firmly rooted in the broader assumptions of his age, shocks many of our contemporaries. Whether or not Galton must fall, we are in no position to judge.”

One of the students who wrote the blog told The Tab: “The article on the telegraph seems to be exaggerating the magnitude of the so-called ‘campaign’. As far as I’m aware, there are no specific campaigns and what exists is the campaign to challenge the whiteness of the curriculum”.

The whiteness of the curriculum campaign is a movement that questions the implicit pro-white and colonising emphasis in the syllabi of British universities. Although questions have been raised as to Galton’s legacy within this framework, it has not led to a full campaign.

Galton posing for a photograph in the 1850s

However, they make no explicit mention of a campaign named ‘Galton Must Fall’ and nothing more recent than this blog post has been published that indicates UCL’s position on Galton.

Two days before The Telegraph’s article, the Times Higher Education website published an article titled: ‘‘Father of eugenics’ should not be erased from academic history’. Here, two academics Dr Niall McCrae, a lecturer in nursing at King’s, and Roger Watson, professor of nursing at the University of Hull, argue:

“The lecture theatre named after Galton at UCL, his laboratory and bust, honour his seminal achievements. It would be intellectual and cultural vandalism to remove his name, but sadly this is part of a broader trend in universities.”

However, nowhere is there any reference to a student-led or run movement called UCL ‘Galton Must Fall’ campaign.

The Telegraph and journalist, Camilla Turner have been approached for comment.

You can check out the article here.

If you were contacted by the Telegraph or Camilla Turner for this article then please get in touch via our Facebook page or by email at londoneditor@thetab.com.