Conflicts of interest

April 7, 2011

The Toepfer affair at the University of Oxford ("Tainted money?", 10 March) raises important questions about the way universities handle complaints about allegedly tainted donations and also about the "greywashing" of the Holocaust.

The four-person Oxford-Cambridge subcommittee set up to consider my concerns about the Alfred Toepfer Foundation of Hamburg was neither a fair nor a credible body. Two of its members were the respective heads of fundraising at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The only historian involved, Richard J. Evans (the author of your article), should have disqualified himself because he was a former Hanseatic scholar and thus the recipient of a Toepfer grant.

Evans' claim that I approved of his participation in the subcommittee is disproved by corres-pondence with one of Oxford's legal officers; with Michael Earl, the institution's pro vice-chancellor at the time; and with Sir Ivor Roberts, then chairman of the Oxford Committee to Review Donations. Because of my disapproval of the procedure, I declined to meet with the subcommittee and did not submit my formal memorandum until after it had disbanded.

Evans is also wrong in reporting that my objective was the discontinuation of the Hanseatic scholarships. In fact, I requested a "truth and reconciliation" process on the South African model, a key feature of which would have been an apology for Toepfer's misdeeds.

Conflicts of interest can affect the judgement of even the most respected people, such as Evans. In "Tainted money?", he seems to lack the authority he showed in his evidence to the David Irving-Deborah Lipstadt libel case. He even makes the mistake of stating that Hans-Joachim Riecke was convicted at Nuremberg.

His article contains so many distortions that they cannot adequately be covered in a single letter. Therefore, I will be considering Evans' case in a forthcoming article in Standpoint magazine, in which my original article on Toepfer was published.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, Oxford

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy