FSU Professor Under Fire for Teaching
By SCOTT GOLD Tallahassee Bureau
April 30, 1999
Copyright 1999, Sun-Sentinel Co. and South Florida Interactive,
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
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
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
"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
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
"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."