“Race-realist” fellow Nathan Cofnas has claimed in a podcast that the University was aware of his “controversial interests” before they decided to hire him.

Pressure is mounting against the research fellow, following statements from the Leverhulme Trust, Emmanuel College, and a petition among students.

The University's pro-vice-chancellor for education has told Varsity that he has spoken to a number of students who are "understandably hurt and upset" by Cofnas' views. 

Cofnas told far-right political science researcher Richard Hanania that “getting a job, especially for me, requires a certain amount of miracle.”

“Everybody was aware that I had some controversial interests, this was all disclosed and they were willing to judge me by other things,” he said.

“The controversial interest for people who don’t know is racial differences in intelligence,” Hanania told listeners.

Cofnas’ controversial blog posts sparked outrage after Varsity revealed that he argued in favour of a “hereditarian revolution” and the “preservation of racial distinctions”.

Writing on X, the History faculty director of undergraduate studies, Nicholas Guyatt, said: “[It is] genuinely jaw-dropping that nineteenth-century race theory is back in town.”

A petition for Cofnas’ employment to be terminated was launched last week and has amassed over 120 signatures.

The petition claims: “Cofnas should never have been granted his fellowship in the first place; he has only proved repeatedly in the mere two years since that he does not by any stretch of the imagination deserve to keep it.”

Cofnas claimed the number of black professors at Harvard would “approach zero” in a meritocracy.

In his interview with Hanania, Cofnas asked: “In America, can you imagine a situation where we actually stop discriminating against whites and asians in university admissions and major corporations?”

“Blacks would be gone from these places,” he alleged.

He also claimed that “a huge part of the black middle class is sustained by government jobs and affirmative action.”

Cofnas revealed he was “not able to get into a single Philosophy PhD programme in the United States.”

Hanania said it was “unthinkable” that Cofnas would be offered a fellowship in the US “at this point in the history of American University”.

Cofnas was hired by Cambridge’s Philosophy Faculty in 2022 after he wrote a controversial journal article claiming there are “intelligence differences” among racial groups.

According to his CV, Cofnas has supervised students at St John’s, St Catherine’s and Wolfson Colleges.

The Leverhulme Trust, which awarded Cofnas a grant for his research, have confirmed they have launched an “urgent investigation” into the Philosophy fellow.

The trust has disavowed Cofnas’s blog, stating that the views he expressed are “in no way those of the Leverhulme Trust″ and the trust is “very clear that racism of any and all forms is abhorrent.”

Doug Chalmers, master of Emmanuel College, where Cofnas is a research affiliate, wrote to students: “The College is committed to providing an environment that is free from all discrimination and affirms the right of all members to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Chalmers also acknowledged Cofnas’ “academic right, as enshrined by law, to write about his views” and the College’s “commitment to freedom of thought and expression”.

The Emma JCR released a statement condemning Cofnas’ views, saying they were “horrified to learn of Nathan Cofnas’ two-year research associate affiliation with Emmanuel College”.

They affirmed the JCR “will always stand against racist views held by anyone in the college, or the wider academic community”.

The Emma master and acting senior tutor, Corinna Russell, wrote to students a second time, saying: “Nobody is free to do their best work while false narratives of this kind continue to call into question a scholar’s right to be part of this community.”

They said it was “demonstrably untrue” that “the admission and progression of Black scholars in Cambridge is attributable to an agenda that privileges racialised groups on grounds of ethnicity rather than potential”.

“No aspect of our Admissions policy is determined by quotas or targets regarding ethnicity,” they said.

“If you are offered a place to study at Emmanuel, it is because we believe that you deserve to be part of this community, based on rigorous scrutiny of the evidence for your academic ability and potential,” they added.

Professor Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education, told Varsity: “Freedom of speech within the law is a right that sits at the heart of the University of Cambridge. We encourage our community to challenge ideas they disagree with and engage in rigorous debate.

“While we encourage freedom of speech, it is important to be clear that the voice of one academic does not reflect the views of the whole University community. I’ve spoken with many staff and students across the University over recent days, who all vehemently disagree with and challenge the academic validity of the arguments presented.”

“I have been speaking to a number of our students who are understandably hurt and upset by these views and feel that they undermine their presence at Cambridge. I want to emphasise that everyone at Cambridge has earned their place on merit and no-one at this University should be made to feel like this,” he said.

Nathan Cofnas told Varsity: “There is widespread discrimination in academia against people with conservative or right-wing views. In this environment, it ‘requires a certain amount of miracle’ for me to get a job.”

“I said that, when I applied to Cambridge, people were ‘aware that I had some controversial interests’ and ‘judge[d] me by other things’. You interpret this as meaning that they were ‘sympathetic to [my] views’. I did not say they were ‘sympathetic’ to my views on this topic,” he said.

“Speaking about America (which is different from the UK), affirmative action means discrimination against whites and Asians. It is an empirical fact that, at some US institutions, many underrepresented minorities would not have been selected under a colourblind system,” he continued.

“University policy protects lawful speech. The views I expressed have nothing to do with my work in the Faculty of Philosophy or Emmanuel College, or with the Leverhulme Trust,” Cofnas concluded.


Mountain View

‘Race realist’ fellow argues for ‘preservation of racial distinctions’

Emmanuel College told Varsity: “The College appoints up to 100 College Research Associates. They are post-doc researchers who have been academically selected by, and are already employed in, departments, faculties and research centres within the University.”

“College Research Associates are not employed by the College and are not Fellows or students of the College. The College provides no financial support towards their research and does not administer their research or provide any research facilities. Our aim is to offer a social and extra-curricular connection to the College. In practice, this involves access to College social facilities, along with two dinners each year which are held for this group,” the College said.

“No College Research Associate is employed by the College. The academic appointment held by a College Research associate within the University is a matter for the relevant faculty and research funder,” they concluded.