Tuesday, April 13, 1999
Professor Is Drubbed for His Laudatory
Foreword to Book by Ex-Klan Leader Duke
By ALISON SCHNEIDER
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
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
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:
on Race and Intelligence Create a Furor," 11/1/96
Copyright 1999, The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Posted with permission on www.ferris.edu/ISAR. This article may
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