A top Florida State University professor appears to have left his job suddenly following years of accusations that he faked data on race and the criminal justice system.
Dr. Eric Stewart, Ph.D., has abruptly disappeared from his position after his peers accused him of committing academic fraud in studies to make racism appear much more prevalent in the criminal justice system than it actually is, The Florida Standard reported.
Stewart, who is black, was an associate professor at FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology.
Six of the professor’s studies from 2006 to 2015 have now been retracted, a stain on FSU’s prestigious criminology department. Five of those studies dealt with race.
Stewart was first accused of falsifying data in 2019 by Justin Pickett, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany. Stewart and Pickett co-authored one of the now-retracted studies published in 2011.
This particular retracted study claimed to find that as black and Hispanic populations grew, so did the public’s desire for harsher, discriminatory criminal sentences for them. However, the original data showed that there was no relationship between growing black and Hispanic populations and the public’s desire for harsher sentences.
Pickett found that if anything, the conclusion was the opposite.
Also, the sample size increased from 500 to more than 1,000 people, and the number of counties polled slipped from 326 to 91. The data had “mathematical impossibilities,” Pickett said.
“Scientific fraud occurs all too frequently — approximately 1 in 50 scientists admit to fabricating or falsifying data — and I believe it is the most likely explanation for the data irregularities in the five retracted articles,” Pickett wrote in an analysis for Econ Journal Watch.
When Pickett pointed out the issues with the study to Stewart, he refused to give Pickett a copy of the original data for four months, Pickett said.
Two of the other studies examined whether white people who live in areas where lynchings occurred were more likely to view black people as criminals and favor harsher criminal punishments.
Initially, FSU did not react with much of a response to the bombshell allegations that Stewart committed academic fraud repeatedly.
The university opened a small inquiry that concluded there was no need for a full-scale investigation. However, when the sixth study was challenged in 2020, FSU finally launched an investigation.
The investigation has not officially concluded, but as of March, Stewart is no longer employed at FSU, where his salary was nearly $190,000.
Stewart told FSU administrators in an email that Pickett “essentially lynched me and my academic character.”
In texts to colleagues that were made public, Stewart complained about feeling targeted.
“For some reason, data thugs are after me. It seems very personal,” Stewart said in one of the texts. “All of the blame is being directed at me.”
The university has not yet made a public statement about Stewart’s apparent departure.
The errors in Stewart’s studies were found just before parents and other critics began sounding the alarm about Critical Race Theory content in colleges and public schools.