To challenge a tutor is brave act

March 9, 2007

Students who challenge senior academics have to be pretty brave.

They are easy targets for intimidation, so I was shocked to find The Times Higher coming down so firmly on the side of the overdog in your report on the student petition challenging David Coleman ("Bid to oust don is 'witch-hunt', March 2).

To call the student initiative a "witch-hunt" seems blatant exaggeration. I have read the petition and they do not demand Coleman's outright dismissal, as you say they do. They are asking Oxford University to make Coleman desist from using his university title when representing Migration Watch in the media and to review the compatibility of his university and his Migration Watch activities, especially in the light of his longstanding support for eugenics education.

Eugenics is a highly charged term in the context of the immigration debate, associated with ideas of racial purity, the superiority of the white race, "race suicide" and so on. Coleman says he deplores aspects of eugenics not regularly practised by the medical profession today, so his kind of eugenics is obviously different. But one would have thought he would welcome any opportunity to make clear just how different it is.

A responsible press would have raised these questions long ago - and certainly not have pilloried those who have the guts to raise them.

Bob Hughes.
Oxford Brookes University

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