The Cherwell Affair

In February 2016, an Oxford student newspaper printed an article about me, alleging that I’d been involved in a campus “incident” in which I had, among other things, supposedly made “verbally abusive, homophobic, sexist, and ableist” comments. One person quoted in the article (who to my knowledge did not personally witness the events in question) went so far as to accuse me of having committed a “hate crime.” A couple of months later, that same account was reprinted in another online Oxford venue, Versa, which recycled the same falsehoods from the Cherwell–that Versa entry (like the Cherwell article on which it was based) was showing on the first page of Google results until very recently. Those and additional untruths from the Cherwell and Versa articles were supplied again by her in a later Cherwell article from September 2017, over a year after I’d already left Oxford to return home to the States.

At the time in 2016, I was advised not to take legal action to have the original Cherwell article retracted, because doing so potentially would be time-consuming and costly. However, due to its continued online prominence, I have felt compelled to address the issue here, just to emphasize that I did not treat anyone wrongly as was reported, and that I am not the sort of man who would.

The allegations made in the articles were baseless and malicious—I did not “threaten” or “disturb” my fellow Christ Church students. Two separate eyewitness statements were supplied to the college authorities, independently establishing that I did not conduct myself in the way I was falsely reported to have behaved. I have included an anonymized copy of one of those statements below. I have never been shown the second statement, but I do know that the Oxford authorities received it, and that it corroborates what the first says.

Student Statement

Perhaps more importantly, here also is a statement that I received from the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, on 30 August 2016, which sympathized with my situation, but advised me not to take legal action to have the article redacted, since my research and teaching record speaks for itself.

Christ Church Statement

It is true that I am not ashamed of my faith—I obey Christ. It is false that I mistreated anyone—I was not threatening, abusive, or aggressive, and it simply is untrue that, as one of my student accusers alleged, it had been “impossible to reason with” me. If that description accurately characterizes anyone, it is true of those who mobbed me the day of the “incident,” lied in the Cherwell, tried to publicly humiliate and ostracize me over college email, intimated into silence their fellow collegians who wanted to speak out about what they had seen really happen, and then staged a self-aggrandizing photo-op that mocked God.

The lie that I’m an aggressive maniac plays on unjust stereotypes that some in academia hold against Christians—no doubt the students who supplied comment to the article did so intending to exploit those prejudices. I only hope that my work won’t be discounted by the philosophical community just because of false rumor. I care deeply about my work and teaching in philosophy, so I hope that saying something about the Cherwell articles will dispel anything untrue that has been said about my time in Oxford, and that it will give everyone who is willing the opportunity to move on in a spirit of honesty and peace.