Cambridge Economics supervisor criticised for racist and sexist views

Nicholas Tufnell & Laurence Tidy (Deputy News Editors, Easter 2011-12) 21 June 2012

Exclusive: Students have raised concerns about articles written by Martin Sewell, supervisor in Economics and research associate in Land Economy.

Though Sewell clearly and frequently references the work of other academics, some of his statements have been considered as contentious, offensive or explicitly racist.

For example, when writing on the significance of race in conjunction with crime, Sewell states, without reference to academic sources:

"The most likely reason for the high incidence of black crime is blacks' lower intelligence and greater impulsivity, which themselves are probably biological in origin".

On eugenics, again without clear sources to his statement, Sewell affirms: ‘Hitler gave eugenics a bad name', although he does back up this argument by explaining that ‘The modern objectives are actually highly desirable: eugenics can help eliminate genetic diseases, reduce personality disorders and increase intelligence via human biotechnology. Time to reconsider.'

The content can be freely read by anyone, inside or outside the university, on his website. Sewell has written on varying topics, including gender, race, intelligence, climate change and politics.

Following complaints, the Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) spoke to The Cambridge Student: "Obviously, an individual who expresses such deeply racist views, such deeply sexist views and who explicitly endorses national socialism cannot remain as a supervisor for Cambridge students: Cambridge is a diverse, multicultural community which stands against – and, indeed, refutes -everything he stands for.

CUSU added: "However, this raises further worrying issues regarding how the University could employ such an individual – the University must give its community concrete assurances that its recruitment procedures will become sufficiently robust to prevent such an unacceptable individual from being employed in future."

The University's Press Office was unable to comment when contacted.

TCS phoned Sewell, who claimed that "It all boils down to political correctness". Asked via email whether his website content might contradict his educative role at the University, Sewell responded: "Publishing novel material that is largely the result of synthesizing peer-reviewed scientific research is inherently educative. That communicating certain realities about the world in which we live may be construed as ‘offensive and controversial' is a result of the politically correct climate of the West that we currently live in."

He concluded: "Political correctness is anti-scientific (and unjust), so opposing it by failing to conform provides a good example of keeping ideology out of science."

Martin Sewell graduated from Bristol University with a BSc with Honours in Mathematics, and received his Masters in Computing Science from Birkbeck College, University of London. After spending 8 years at UCL studying for a PHD regarding financial time series analysis and intelligent systems, Sewell came to Cambridge in March 2009 as a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Land Economy.

From January this year Sewell has provided undergraduate supervisions to 27 students for the Economics Tripos, at Homerton, Newnham, Queens' and St Edmund's Colleges.

Nicholas Tufnell & Laurence Tidy – Deputy News Editors



‘Our article, "Cambridge Economics supervisor criticised for racist and sexist views' (21 June), reported students' concerns about the views of Economics supervisor Martin Sewell. We quoted the Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) as having commented, in reference to Mr Sewell, that ‘ who explicitly endorses national socialism cannot remain as a supervisor for Cambridge students'. Mr Sewell has asked us to make clear that he does not explicitly endorse National Socialism. CUSU has told TCS that it stands by its original comments, and that it formed its view based on the content of Mr Sewell's website. CUSU has pointed out that as Mr Sewell's website is publicly available, anyone is free to examine its content and make up their own mind'



Further to our article, “Cambridge Economics supervisor criticised for “racist" and “ sexist" views’ (21 June) Mr Sewell made a complaint through the Press Complaints Commission. Part of the complaint was upheld and the judgement on the case can be found here: