Chronicle of Higher Ed
Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Professor Is Drubbed for His Laudatory Foreword to Book by Ex-Klan Leader Duke


A professor at Florida State University thought the glowing foreword he wrote to David Duke's new book on race would slip by unnoticed. But defending the controversial views of a former Ku Klux Klan leader has left the psychology professor busy defending himself.

Nearly 300 students and faculty members gathered last week to discuss Glayde Whitney's support for My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding (Free Speech Books), Mr. Duke's account of his political career and his evolving views on race. Mr. Whitney declined to show up, saying he thought his presence would turn the town meeting into little more than a "degradation ceremony."

That's something that Mr. Whitney has had more than his fill of, he said. Local newspapers defended the professor's First Amendment rights but took him to task for using his "science to support a narrow and hateful political agenda," dismissing his foreword as "racially noxious."

In his book, Mr. Duke, who is a Republican candidate for U.S. Congressman from Louisiana, says that the belief that different races are genetically equal is the modern-day equivalent of the ancient belief that the earth was flat. He advocates a separate nation for black people and argues that Jews have led the Western world to the brink of a racial apocalypse.

Although Mr. Whitney, who has been teaching at Florida State for almost 30 years, doesn't embrace all of Mr. Duke's ideas, he wrote in the foreword that the congressional candidate's book "is a painstakingly documented, academically excellent work of socio-biological-political history that has the potential to raise tremendous controversy and change the very course of history."

"The book is not anti-black. It's not white supremacist," Mr. Whitney said in an interview. "It's factual information. If people paid attention to it, it would be better for all races. There's a lot of data that people have ignored because of a fear of being called racist."

The university was quick to defend Mr. Whitney's First Amendment rights, but administrators were equally eager to dissociate Florida State from his views. "Although I think it was bad judgment that Professor Whitney chose to do this, and I disagree with many of his statements, these are days when the notion of academic freedom means something," said Donald Foss, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "He has a right to do this."

Not everyone agrees. At the campus forum, William R. Jones, a professor emeritus of black studies, complained that Mr. Whitney's views on the intellectual disparity between races creates a "hostile learning environment," something the principle of academic freedom should not be used to protect, he said.

"I'm arguing against an absolutist interpretation of academic freedom," Mr. Jones said in an interview. "It was set up to protect the pursuit of controversial issues. It was not set up to protect views that the discipline has identified as scientifically invalid" -- such as the idea that most black people are intellectually weaker than white people.

The university needs "to do a rotten-apple-in-the-basket" search to weed out the vestiges of racism on campus, Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Whitney thinks the charges that he's creating a hostile learning environment are "absurd." He said: "If discussing the truth or a scientific theory is a hostile environment, then what's the world come to? I have not said anything that is out of line with the best of modern scientific data. It's out of line with the modern media, but it's good science."

Many of his colleagues think otherwise. "I disagree with his explanations and find them to be way beyond the evidence that he's cited," said Mr. Foss, the dean of arts and sciences.

Professors in the psychology department agreed. Robert J. Contreras, the department chairman, was quick to issue a statement distancing his colleagues from Mr. Whitney's controversial conclusions. "Let it be known that Glayde's views are his alone and do not represent my views or those of the department," the statement said. "The department stands firmly with the values and moral standards of the university, committed to nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, and to racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity."

"It's been a hard time for our department," Mr. Contreras said in an interview. "Glayde has a lot of colleagues who like him and support him in general, but, quite frankly, he's upset a lot of people. A lot of people were hurt by this."

Background story from The Chronicle:

"Professor's Comments on Race and Intelligence Create a Furor," 11/1/96

Copyright 1999, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Posted with permission on This article may not be posted, published, or distributed without permission from The Chronicle.