Students marched through college buildings during a peaceful protest over the appointment of Dr Noah CarlJess Ma

On 1st February, three students at St Edmund’s received an email from a senior member of the college claiming they had breached college disciplinary procedures during a peaceful protest over the widely-condemned appointment of Noah Carl. All three were BME students.

Two of the students were told that members of the college had “found [their] behaviour to be threatening and intimidating.”

The email exchanges between the three students and senior member involved have been circulated in a 62-page dossier sent to all fellows at the college and seen by Varsity, with the names of the individuals redacted.


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In the staff member’s first email, all three students were invited to a meeting later that day, 1st February, to “outline [their] view of the situation and find a resolution”, which none of the students decided to attend. Two of them offered to meet with staff members who had expressed distress.

After four days, on 5th February, the students were told that, following consultation with the college’s dean of discipline, no further action would be taken if the college received written apologies, and “no repeat of the disruptive behaviour”.

The three students were asked to write “to [...] members of staff [...] to apologise for the distress caused to them”, to avoid any action being taken.

Then two students responded with outrage for being singled out. After this, the college did not pursue further action.

In the email exchange, the senior member of the college said that the three students’ names “were cited in the reports of alarm and/or recorded by the card system as seeking entry to the tutorial corridor, that was at that time closed.”

The college did not respond to a request for comment about whether it has a policy against using its card system to determine students’ whereabouts.

“You may consider that you were exercising a legitimate right to protest, but members of College staff are entitled to a safe working environment”

In a subsequent email, the staff member told one of the students: “Accounts state that you were seen on CCTV climbing the stairs at the head of the group and that you were subsequently reported by a witness on the corridor as being at the front of the group that was shouting and banging on doors. Individuals who were working in the corridor found the behaviour to be threatening and intimidating.

“You may consider that you were exercising a legitimate right to protest, but members of College staff are entitled to a safe working environment and they have reported that their safety and wellbeing was compromised by the incident.”

In a statement from St Edmund’s College, a spokesperson said: “During an otherwise peaceful protest, demonstrators gained unauthorised access to the main administration corridor of the College where staff had been led to believe they could work safely and unimpeded. Unfortunately, this led to a situation where grown men, not all of whom were members of the College, trapped mostly female staff members in their offices.”

However, photographs from the protest show that the number of men and women present was roughly equal.

Protesters gathered outside the collegeJess Ma
Students marching through the college's tutorial corridorJess Ma

The spokesperson added: “This was followed by repeated banging and kicking on their doors and shouting in an intimidating and aggressive manner. These tactics caused considerable alarm and distress to our staff.

“The College believes in the rights of its members to hold peaceful protests. However, it will not tolerate aggressive and intimidating behaviour towards its staff, or any member of its community.”

It described the three students contacted as “primarily responsible”, and said that they were “easily identifiable to the College.”

At least four St Edmund’s students wrote to the college expressing their concern.

The dossier circulated around the college also included a list of members of the college and academics who were involved in the appointment of Noah Carl to the Toby Jackman Newton Trust research fellowship in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

In full How the appointment panels were constituted

The initial coordinating panel, which finalised the longlist and shortlist of candidates consisted of: Master (Chair), Senior Tutor, Ms Dobson, Dr Paul.

On the interview panel: Master (Chair), Senior Tutor, Dr Paul, Dr McCosker, Dr Jongkind, Dr Oosterhoff, Dr Kessler.

Once the appointment was confirmed, a Nomination Committee met on 26th April and decided to recommend Dr Carl for a fellowship. Those present included: Master (Chair), Senior Tutor, Dean, Dr Jongkind, Dr Gordon, Professor White. Members who were absent with apologies: Dr Brett, Professor Guthrie, Dr Harter, Professor Herrtage, Dr Morrison

Click to show

In late January, around 45 Cambridge students peacefully protested the appointment of Dr Noah Carl to a prestigious research fellowship at St Edmund’s.

In December, over 280 academics signed an open letter condemning the appointment of Dr Carl for his past research on links between race, criminality and IQ. In the letter, they described his work as “ethically suspect and methodologically flawed”, and called on the University of Cambridge to “immediately conduct an investigation” into the appointment process to the Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship. An investigation into Dr Carl’s appointment is currently ongoing.

“I implore you to take a step back and reflect on what it means to ask a student of colour whose humanity and dignity is attacked to apologize for creating disquiet in corridors”

When responding to the senior member’s request for written apologies, the first student wrote: “I find it deeply offensive that I am being asked to apologise in writing for peacefully protesting against college’s racist and degrading treatment of me. Do you have any measure of what it means to be told that your intelligence is determined by your skin colour? That my skin colour is related to a tendency to crime?”

They added: “I implore you to take a step back and reflect on what it means to ask a student of colour whose humanity and dignity is attacked to apologize for creating disquiet in corridors. How entitled it is of you to ask this of me?”

They said that they would continue to engage in peaceful protests over the appointment of Noah Carl, and that if they received any further emails they would take it “to be a significant breakdown of relationship” between them and the college, and would seek disaffiliation.

The second student replied saying that the appointment of Noah Carl and the college’s response so far “undermines my humanity and dignity continuously.”

They said they would not apologise. “I have thought about the nature of apology and that if it does not come from a place of sincerity and honesty, it is a farce.

“My personal morality [...] does not allow me to compromise my integrity and apologise for protesting racism and its institutional endorsement just because the college has misrepresented a peaceful protest as intimidating and singled me out for disciplinary action.”

The third student apologised for any distress caused.


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At this point, the staff member informed them that they would not pursue further action.

They told the first student on 8th February they had noted the student’s wish not to be contacted in future, but said, “if you would like to meet with me, I will be happy to see you.”

In an email to the second student dated 9th February, they said: “I am sorry that you feel singled out and I asked you to a meeting to try to reach an understanding,” and added, “I appreciate that you feel unable to come and will therefore leave the matter there.”