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Boston University announced Wednesday that it would conduct an “inquiry” into Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research amid complaints about its culture.
The inquiry will be a broader version of a previous “examination,” looking at the center’s grant management practices, a spokesperson for Boston University told The Boston Globe.
The inquiry also comes shortly after layoffs at the center. Kendi recently laid off about 20 employees, more than half the center’s staff, the university confirmed last week.
Kendi, a prominent critical race theory scholar, has become an influential voice on “antiracism” over the last several years, especially after his book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” became a New York Times bestseller in 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
He has drawn criticism for promoting the theory that all racial disparities are due to racism. Kendi has also faced criticism for his book “Antiracist Baby,” a children’s picture book that introduces children to the concept of antiracism.
The Center for Antiracist Research was established in June 2020, just days after Floyd’s death, when Kendi was hired as a history professor at Boston University. Since then, the center has raised tens of millions of dollars from donors.
The center managed to accomplish certain projects, such as teaming up with The Boston Globe to launch a digital publication called The Emancipator. However, many other projects have gone uncompleted, such as a Racial Data Tracker, which would be “the nation’s largest online database of racial inequity data in the United States.”
The center “was just being mismanaged on a really fundamental level,” Phillipe Copeland, a Boston University professor who worked at the center, told the Globe.
Copeland skewered the center in a Facebook post on Sunday, saying the layoffs amount to “employment violence and trauma.”
“Boston University needs to explain how one of its premier Centers ended up in this situation and how mass layoffs are ‘antiracist.’ This act of employment violence and trauma is not just about individual leaders. It’s about the cultures and systems that allow it to occur,” Copeland wrote on Sunday.
“I don’t know where the money is,” said Saida Grundy, another Boston University professor who worked at the center.
Kendi reportedly did not delegate authority, which slowed the center’s operations.
He was also on leave from the center during the last several months, and when he returned last week, he reportedly laid off about 20 staffers over Zoom, according to one of the professors at the center.
Kendi “takes strong exception to the allegations made in recent complaints and media reports,” the Boston University spokesperson said.
The center’s scholars have also produced very little research, and the two research papers they have put out have been co-authored with other academics, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found.
Global health professor Elaine Nsoesie, who leads the Racial Data Tracker project at the center, co-authored a January paper that concluded that areas with more black residents had more “dilapidated buildings.”
Management and organizations professor Sanaz Mobasseri, another scholar at the center, co-authored a paper that stated, “We treat White men as the dominant group and Black people as the archetypal subordinate group in U.S. society.”
How long Boston University’s probe into the center will take is unclear.