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We welcome the outcome of the inquiry’s work into UCL’s historic links to research, teaching and financial gains from eugenics, and the range of recommendations made by the commission members. The tireless efforts and activism by UCL staff, students and student officers at the Union for years prior to, and in the wake of secret eugenics conferences, was formative to the establishment of this commission. 

It is often said that ‘those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it’ and this report is an important first step in UCL acknowledging, understanding and learning from its past and taking responsibility for creating an atmosphere resistant to eugenics both at our University and beyond. 

The range of recommendations are practical, targeted and aim to establish a culture of care and respect to the communities historically discriminated by this harmful and destructive ideology perpetuated in the name of ‘science’, and demonstrate UCL’s commitment to make-amends for its failings of the past.

By embedding essential learning about the histories and afterlives of eugenics, race, and ‘the Empire’ into its curriculum, UCL students will graduate as globally engaged citizens; aware of how scientific theories are shaped by ideology and its subsequent effects on our society. 

The testimonies from student expert witnesses and others heard throughout the inquiry made clear that eugenic ideas of superiority and inferiority currently exist within our education. These ideas, inherent in our institution, consistently withhold BAME, women, disabled and working-class students from participating and belonging, blocking them from achieving their full potential. 

When black, disabled and working-class students no longer feel unwelcome and inferior, UCL will have created a community where all of its students can thrive. We’ll begin the process to truly celebrate what makes us “London’s Global University” when UCL devotes resources to decolonise its institutional structures, teaching, and curricula, improve its accessibility, and openly address where eugenic ideas have penetrated its learning environment.

UCL must ensure these histories and struggles are not erased but addressed and remedied. We await the next steps, including further studies into the histories and afterlives of eugenics, and hope UCL takes this report and its recommendations seriously. We look forward to working in partnership with UCL to implement these recommendations, continue to hold UCL to account, and create an inclusive environment for our members. 

ENDS
 

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Students’ Union UCL is a student-driven charity and the recognised representative body for all 44,000 students at UCL, one of the world’s leading universities.

  • The Union offers a range of services and support for students, including advocacy, advice and representation; facilities, services and spaces; and one of the largest student activities programmes in the UK.

  • If quoting from the above, all quotes should be attributed to ‘Students’ Union UCL Spokesperson’

  • The Students’ Union was represented by the following panel members:

    • Black & Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer: SandyOgundele (2019 - 20), Samira Abdalla (2018-19)

    • Women’s Officer: Nilisha Vashist (2019-20); Abeni Olayinka (2018-19)

    • Disabled Students’ Officer (unpaid): Zohar Mendzelevski-Steinberg (invited to join in October 2019)

    • Welfare and International officer: Aatikah Malik (2019-2020)