University of Portsmouth students call for James Watson halls to be renamed after DNA scientist's racist remarksÂ

STUDENTS living in halls named after the co-founder of DNA have called for the block to be renamed after James Watson's '˜disgusting' views on race led to him being stripped of honours.

Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 2:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 7:36 pm
An exterior view of James Watson Hall, from Exchange Road. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161279-11)

In a new documentary Dr Watson, a founder of DNA's double helix structure, said there is a '˜difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests' because of genetics.

He added his views have not changed '˜at all' since 2007 when he was said he was '˜inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa' '“ claiming tests had shown people on the continent's intelligence was '˜not really' the same as '˜ours'.

The 90-year-old Nobel Prize-winner has been stripped of honours he was given by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York as a result of his comments.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An exterior view of James Watson Hall, from Exchange Road. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161279-11)

Now undergraduates at the University of Portsmouth living in the James Watson Hall, in White Swan Road, off Guildhall Walk, have told The News the building must be renamed '“ branding his views '˜racist' and '˜absurd'. 

Student Ekoka Camara, 23, who studies sociology and psychology, said: '˜They need to change the name because if they keep it it's like they're complicit.

'˜As a black man it's a shame I'm living in a building named after a man who views black people like that.

'˜Clearly him being stripped of his titles shows it doesn't matter who you are, racism just won't be tolerated. That's a very good message to send to people.' 

Dr James Watson, the American molecular biologist best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953, with Francis Crick, stands next to a portrait of his former colleague during the official opening of the Francis Crick Institute in central London. Picture: Nick Ansell

Dr Watson issued a written apology in 2007 after his initial comments. 

In them he said while he wished the races were equal, '˜people who have to deal with black employees find this not true'.

International relations student and halls resident Katie Maxted, 21, said: '˜Obviously the building has been named after him for years. But if he's been saying these things for years, why is the university still supporting him?' 

Lexi Smith, 18, who studies criminology and criminal justice, added: '˜You can't apologise and keep doing the same thing over and over again '“ it means nothing.' 

University of Portsmouth student and James Watson Hall resident Ekoka Camara. Picture: Byron Melton

In 2014 Dr Watson became the first living Nobel Prize winner to sell his medal, after a backlash from the scientific community because of his comments on race. 

He had intended to use the 4.1m US dollars raised in the sale for scientific research, but the buyer Alisher Usmanov returned the medal to the scientist. 

Creative media technologies student Elliott Johns described Dr Watson's comments as '˜ridiculous' but said renaming the halls off Guildhall Walk would be a step too far. 

Speaking outside the halls, the 19-year-old said: '˜They gave the hall this name because of this man's incredible contribution to genetics and DNA and that's what they want to honour. They haven't given it that name because he's racist.

University of Portsmouth student and James Watson Hall resident Katie Maxted. Picture: Byron Melton

'˜If you dig too deep into a lot of people, they've done stuff that may not be socially acceptable today.'

The University of Portsmouth and Unite Students, which owns and runs the block built in 2003, have condemned Dr Watson's remarks and confirmed they are consulting staff and students on the issue. 

A spokesman for the University of Portsmouth said Dr Watson's work on DNA '˜launched modern biology and holds an important place in scientific discovery'.

He added: '˜The University of Portsmouth regards James Watson's comments on race as unacceptable and abhorrent.

'˜The university is committed to a working, learning and social environment based on dignity and respect, where difference is valued and celebrated.'

Unite Students said in a statement: '˜We strongly disagree with the recently reported views of Dr James Watson, which we find wholly unacceptable.

University of Portsmouth student and James Watson Hall resident Lexi Smith. Picture: Byron Melton

'˜We will continue to support the University of Portsmouth as they consult with their students and staff on this issue.

'˜We remain focused on providing a welcoming, vibrant and diverse home for students across the city.'

University of Portsmouth student and James Watson Hall resident Elliott Johns. Picture: Byron Melton