The Cherwell Affair

In winter of 2016, an Oxford student newspaper printed an online 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.” Those and additional untruths were supplied again to an article from fall 2017, over a year after I’d already left Oxford. Needless to say, the unkind things that were written about me are false.

At the time, I was advised not to take legal action to have the article retracted, because doing so would be time-consuming and costly. However, due to its continued online prominence (it is still one of the first results returned from a Google search of my name), I have felt compelled to address the issue briefly 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 article 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 do not apologize for my faith—I obey Christ. It is false that I mistreated anyone—I was not threatening, abusive, or aggressive. If that description accurately characterizes anyone, it is true of those who mobbed me and later mocked God.

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