FSU Professor Under Fire for Teaching Racist Views

By SCOTT GOLD Tallahassee Bureau
April 30, 1999
Copyright 1999, Sun-Sentinel Co. and South Florida Interactive, Inc.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- State senators are preparing to launch a formal nvestigation to determine whether Florida State University professor Glayde Whitney, who says blacks are genetically inferior to whites, has shared those views with students in publicly funded classrooms.

The decision, confirmed on Thursday by Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami, means the Legislature will wade into the delicate issue of academic freedom.

FSU administrators, even after Whitney wrote a glowing tribute to former KKK grand wizard David Duke this year, have shied away from taking formal action against the tenured psychology professor. But the public interest may outweigh academic rights under some circumstances, Jones said.

"Should such a divisive viewpoint be promulgated with the use of tax dollars?" Jones said. "Does freedom of speech permit you to set forth such philosophies through the use of tax dollars? That's where we're heading."

Jones said a Senate committee also will investigate whether Florida's public universities should receive grant money from private organizations that are considered racist. A portion of Whitney's research is financed by the Pioneer Fund. The private trust fund in New York has supported controversial research for 20 years -- much of it designed to show that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.

The Senate committee, assisted by constitutional scholars, will report back to the Legislature next spring, Jones said.

Senate President Toni Jennings must approve the creation of the committee. She could not be reached for comment.

FSU President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte says legislators could be walking on shaky ground, even though he concedes they have "just as much First Amendment right as Glayde Whitney has."

"At the point that governmental powers are being used, we start getting into some pretty dangerous territory," D'Alemberte said. "You run the risk that you are going to make a martyr out of someone who doesn't deserve martyrdom."

Today, the final day of the legislative session, senators are expected to sign a separate resolution "condemning the racism and bigotry espoused" by Whitney. Whitney "promulgates dogma that supports white supremacy and anti-Semitism and undermines the efforts of the Florida Senate to advance equal opportunity for all," the resolution reads. "The Florida Senate ... repudiates his views."

Whitney, 59, has taught at FSU for 30 years. For much of that time, he has conducted research designed to prove that blacks are "overrepresented among the intellectually disabled." He also has argued that blacks are more likely to commit murder and other crimes because they are less intelligent. Other scientists have tossed aside his work as "junk science." They say his research fails to take into account environmental conditions -- from a lack of prenatal care to poor schools -- that explain the gap in test scores between blacks and whites.

Whitney's work went largely unnoticed until he agreed to write the foreword to a new book by Duke. The foreword sparked an uproar on campus, where some students and professors have called for Whitney's firing. But D'Alemberte has stood firm.

"It's awful having to defend his right to free speech when I find his views so obnoxious," said D'Alemberte, who has never met Whitney. "But that's the situation."

Senators are no longer sure academic freedom protects Whitney.

"There is no doubt that a university is a place for the healthy exchange of ideas. Mr. Whitney's ideas are unhealthy," said Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pembroke Pines. "They are racist and they contaminate a very fine educational institution."

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