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UCL inquiry launched into historical ties to eugenics

We literally have a lecture theatre named after Francis Galton himself


After pressure from students and staff, UCL has decided to run an inquiry into the university's links with eugenics.

The inquiry is to be led by an independent chair, Professor Iyiola Solanke of the University of Leeds and will focus on UCL's past and present role in the field of eugenics, and whether or not the university currently financially benefits from anything linked to the study of eugenics.

The inquiry will also ask whether university buildings should still be named after eugenicists such as Francis Galton and Karl Pearson after calls from the UCL Students' Union to "decolonise" education.

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UCL's Geography building is named after notable eugenicist Karl Pearson

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur said: “UCL has decided to hold this inquiry to ensure that the university’s historical links to eugenics is properly examined."

He explained: "It is clear that this issue causes significant concern among many members of our community. We both hear and recognise the sensitivities around eugenics – particularly surrounding the work of Francis Galton – and we look forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations."

The scrutiny leading to the inquiry began with the revelations earlier this year that UCL had played host to a number of conferences on eugenics and intelligence. The conferences were run by honorary senior lecturer James Thompson and speakers included white supremacists and an individual who had previously written in defence of child rape.

The news that Toby Young, who at the time had just been appointed as director of the new Office for Students, was in attendance at the most recent conference led to him stepping down from his position.

However, the university has much deeper links to eugenics, that can be traced back more than 100 years, as Francis Galton, the Victorian scientist often called the father of eugenics, left an endowment to UCL to fund the UK's first official professorial "Chair of Eugenics". He also left his personal collection and archive to UCL.

Last year's SUUCL BAME Officer Ayo Olatunji also drew attention to the presence of prominent eugenicists at UCL in his blog, Why Does My University Uphold White Supremacy, published in late 2017.

The inquiry began on Friday 23rd November and is due to finish in July 2019.