Racist View Puts FSU, Professor in Spotlight
By WAYNE WASHINGTON
© St. Petersburg Times
March 25, 1999
TAMPA -- For years, psychology professor
Glayde Whitney's beliefs that blacks are genetically inferior
to whites have frustrated his colleagues and infuriated students
at Florida State University.
But the university, wary of hindering Whitney's
academic freedom, seethed in silence.
Now, the FSU professor has written a glowing
foreword to David Duke's new autobiography, and school officials
are speaking out. But rather than calling for Whitney's head,
they are defending his right to hold views that his own colleagues
"It seems to be within his rights to take this
position," said FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte. "I disagree with
this position. These kinds of disagreements are common on college
campuses and represent the very essence of what universities are
Whitney has not responded to requests for comment
on his views or on his decision to write the foreword to Duke's
book, My Awakening.
Still, his decision to align himself with the
former Ku Klux Klan leader did not surprise Na'im Akbar, an FSU
research associate in clinical psychology who also teaches a course
called the Psychology of the African American.
For years, Akbar said, black and Hispanic students
who have taken Whitney's class have complained that he presents
only one side of the debate on genetics and race -- his own.
"They are concerned that he raises those issues
without presenting the balancing information," Akbar said. "He's
presenting just the negative viewpoint."
Akbar said he forwarded those complaints to Psychology
Department chairman Robert Contreras.
Contreras said he has spoken to Whitney about
his own concerns but did not push the matter further because he
was concerned about violating Whitney's rights.
Whitney attempts in his foreword to place Duke
on par with historical luminaries such as Voltaire, Socrates,
Thomas Aquinas, Galileo and Isaac Newton.
Duke's contribution? He has the courage, Whitney
writes, to acknowledge that the races are not equal and that Jews
are orchestrating a conspiracy with blacks to preserve their perceived
superiority over non-Jewish whites.
Contreras said Whitney's foreword is a painful
object lesson on free speech.
"I wish he hadn't done it," he said. "A lot of
people are hurt by it. It's not good for the department."
A larger question, however, is what Whitney's
views mean for students, particularly black students. Can a teacher
fairly grade students he believes are more prone to violence and
inherently less intelligent? Does he have the same expectations
for black students as he does for white students?
FSU officials are struggling to answer those
"I do worry about that," D'Alemberte said. "But
the university has to come up with something more creative than
saying you can't say those things. I think that is constitutionally
Word of Whitney's views and writings are slowly
spreading across FSU. Ewan Michel, president of the school's Black
Student Union, said minority students won't like what they hear.
"It makes me feel uncomfortable being at this
university and being a minority," said Michel. "It's no telling
how many other teachers feel that way about black students. I
would like to see the university get rid of this guy."
Whitney, 59, joined FSU in 1970 after getting
zoology and psychology degrees from the University of Minnesota
and serving as a postdoctoral fellow in behavioral genetics at
the University of Colorado.
His makes $56,026 a year, and his specific area
of expertise is the genetic taste preferences of mice. His list
of professional affiliations and awards is extensive, but many
in behavioral genetics are not impressed with Whitney's switch
from mice to men.
Several walked out in protest during a conference
of the Behavior Genetics Association in 1995 when Whitney, then
president of the organization, said America's murder rates are
tied to race and genetics.
"Like it or not," he said, "it is a reasonable
scientific hypothesis that some, perhaps much, of the race difference
in murder rate is caused by genetic differences in contributory
variables such as low intelligence, lack of empathy, aggressive
acting out and impulsive lack of foresight."
Norman Henderson, president of the Behavior Genetics
Association, said many in the organization wanted to oust Whitney
after he made that speech.
But the organization, like FSU, decided Whitney's
right of free speech would be hindered.
Barry Mehler, director of the Institute for the
Study of Academic Racism, said firing Whitney would only make
him a martyr. Universities, however, can and should rebuke professors
with such views, he said.
"Institutions can say while we respect his freedom
of speech, he does not speak for this university. We do not agree
with what he is saying. We believe what he is saying is wrong,"
Akbar is willing to go further than that.
"The man is a racist," he said. "I personally
don't appreciate people using academic garb to shield their racism.
And that's what he's doing."