A professor who is due to join the staff of the University of Cambridge in January 2019 has been accused of airing homophobic views.
In 2015, a blog attributed to Aron Wall - who will join the university's department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics - criticised the US Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in all US states.
The post, entitled Reflections on Gay Marriage, warns readers about the social implications of allowing people in same-sex relationships to marry their partners. From the outset, the blog is explicitly clear that its purpose is to make an argument against gay people being allowed to marry. It says:
Those who seek to normalise gay relationships should start by taking a long and hard look at previous cultures in which it was culturally tolerated for many generations, and ask whether they would really want to live in a society like those.
After asserting that only a “small minority of gay couples follow all the rules of traditional sexual morality”, the blog makes some bold claims about the behaviour of the LGBT+ community.
It is far better that they should live in a committed exclusive relationship, than that they should live the notoriously promiscuous, reckless, and obscene lifestyle characteristic of the cultural venues of the gay community.
It rounds off by stating that, if they want to get married, gay people must first learn about “real love” and be taught the “rules” of marriage.
Real love is willing to lay down specific boundaries, the boundaries which are necessary for genuine love to thrive.
You simply can't extend an institution like democracy or marriage to a new group of people without first giving them a crash course in what the necessary working rules for that institution are.
In a move that will reassure very few LGBT+ people, a short disclaimer was included. It reads:
Also, if any people in gay relationships are reading this, I don't hate you; I want only good things to happen to you. It's just we don't agree on which things are in fact good.
Undivided Looking, the blog page where this post is published, is referenced on Wall’s staff profile at Stanford University, where he is currently working as a research scientist. This profile also confirms his 2019 move to the University of Cambridge.
indy100 contacted Stanford University to ask why they are linking to a blog which explicitly opposes same-sex marriage and makes offensive and derogatory generalisations. They said:
This is his personal web site reflecting his personal views. It is not a university site and does not represent the university.
The surfacing of this blog and the anti-gay views it expresses coincides with the unveiling of new research which suggests that LGBT+ people are still fearful of pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) found that almost three quarters of LGBT+ people said they had never considered a career in engineering-related fields, compared to 60 per cent of heterosexual respondents. More than a quarter of LGBT+ respondents opted against having a career in STEM due to worries they would be discriminated against.
Responding to a comment request from indy100, the University of Cambridge did not confirm whether they were aware of this blog prior to Wall's appointment, or if he had been spoken to regarding its content. But a university spokesperson said:
While we do not comment on individual employment issues, all employees are subject to university policies and procedures from their first day in post, and are expected to uphold our values.
These include showing mutual respect and consideration to all other members of our community
Cambridge also included a response from Wall himself. It reads:
As a lecturer, I take my responsibility to share knowledge, encourage innovation and challenge, and foster new learning very seriously. I know well that this can only happen in an environment where people show one another mutual respect and can work and study without fear of discrimination.
I am privileged to join such a community and have never, nor will I ever in future, allow my personal views to adversely affect my working or teaching interactions.
I am committed to upholding a culture where all members are valued and views respected.
But Dr Alfredo Carpineti, chair of charitable trust Pride in STEM, is critical of Cambridge for appointing Wall. He said:
This appointment is extremely disheartening. We've already seen people defending this as a matter of 'private opinion'. He chose to share his view on a public forum [his blog], so they are no longer private. As a member of staff, he will sit on committees, supervise PhD students, teach, mark exams, and write recommendation letters.
What will the university do to guarantee that LGBT+ people that come in contact with Wall in their academic career are not discriminated against?
David Smith, professor of chemistry at the University of York, agrees that the appointment sends the wrong message.
Imagine being a young scientist, possibly struggling with personal problems related to your sexuality, and having Dr Wall as your personal tutor. Many LGBT+ scientists sadly still hide their sexuality because they are unsure of the response - in this case, they would have genuine cause to worry whether they would be fully supported.
Attitudes such as these wipe away much of the good practice being developed within the scientific community to deliver inclusive and supportive learning and research environments
On 5 July, LGBT+ people in STEM will participate in the first LGBTSTEM Day, a new and important component of the global push to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM. This day of recognition will help raise awareness and increase support of LGBT+ people in STEM.