Tampa Tribune

3/30/99 -- 10:52 PM

Professor Defends Theories Others View as Racist

By DAVID PEDREIRA of The Tampa Tribune


TALLAHASSEE -- A university professor under attack for his genetic theories speaks out on race and academic freedom.

As students rallied against him and a peer charged him with "bogus science," professor Glayde Whitney sat behind a lime-green door in a musty research building.

The theories Whitney creates in laboratories and disseminates in journals are suddenly drawing public notice. He is trying to keep the controversy at bay.

"People are running around calling me nasty names," Whitney told The Tampa Tribune on Tuesday. "I'm not into publicity or controversy, and I find this whole thing disturbing."

Others find Whitney disturbing. The tenured Florida State University professor has written, among other things, that blacks are less intelligent than whites and more inclined to murder.

Recently, he wrote the foreword to David Duke's autobiography, lauding the former Ku Klux Klan leader for an "academically excellent" work that could "change the very course of history."

Looking wary and a bit disheveled, Whitney said Tuesday he regretted writing the foreword, although he agrees with several parts of Duke's book.

In "My Awakening," Duke uses genetic science to push for the resegregation of schools -- arguing it is better to group children "in line with their natural abilities."

Whitney, who has taught at FSU since 1970, also said he lectures his students on genetic theories suggesting the races are fundamentally different. He said he treats all his students the same, regardless of their skin color.

"I believe in equal treatment for equal people," Whitney said.

While he spoke, a few dozen students rallied outside Westcott Hall at the heart of the campus. They are demanding an investigation into how Whitney's research is funded and whether he grades blacks the same as whites.

University leaders are grappling with the growing unrest. It has put them in the uncomfortable position of weighing academic freedom against charges of racism.

Richard Mashburn, FSU's assistant vice president for student affairs, said Whitney had "torpedoed from within" the university's mantra that all people are welcome, regardless of race or creed.

Even one of Whitney's colleagues publicly scourged him.

"His work is not science, it's bogus science and lousy science," a professor of sociology, James Fendrich, said Tuesday. "I encourage him to get out of his rat labs and come out on a beautiful day like today and meet some real people."

IN FACT, Whitney was meeting real people Tuesday afternoon.

Two of the professor's students emerged from his small office in a nook of the Kellogg Research Building.

Whitney came out soon after and agreed to talk, saying he avoided answering the telephone because he has received threats.

One recent caller, he said, stated: "You are the inferior, racist. You should be lined up and shot."

Short of stature, with a salt-and-pepper beard, the University of Minnesota graduate doesn't appear to be an earth-shaker.

Until he speaks.

Whitney, who is doing genetic research on the ability of mice to taste, did not back down on his belief that blacks are less intelligent, more aggressive and more likely to have high testosterone levels -- factors, he says, that make them predisposed to murder.

"The question isn't whether there is a difference [among blacks and whites], the question is why," Whitney said. "The answer for some is genetics."

Asked whether blacks and whites should have children together, Whitney paused and said: "It might be OK, it might not."

WHITNEY SAID he has no problem with minorities attending his class. About 20 percent of FSU's 30,000 students are registered as minorities.

All psychology majors are required to take a class Whitney teaches. The professor said he gives his students multiple-choice exams to ensure no one can claim he grades students based on race.

"As far as I know, my minority students do as well as anyone else," Whitney said.

Whitney's bosses are backing his rights as a professor even as they criticize his inflammatory beliefs.

Robert J. Contreras, chairman of FSU's psychology department, said he pored over teacher evaluations written by Whitney's students and found nothing awry.

"I've never had any complaints about his grading," Contreras said. "But I have been concerned what students get out of his course."

Whitney, who earns $56,026 a year, said he believes FSU will stand by his freedom to teach, even though President Sandy D'Alemberte has said he finds "nothing agreeable" with the professor's writings.

Protesters said they don't want to interfere with academic freedom, but they questioned whether the university should be lending a hand.

"I don't think any public funding should go to his research," said junior Robyn Faucy, 22. "We'll never be united as a campus or a country if we have people trying to prove we are genetically different."

Whitney has no plans to stop.

"This is a political thing," he said. "I think you ought to be able to espouse just about anything in the classroom."

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