Credit: Florida State University

Florida State University professor sacked for ‘falsifying data’ to prove systematic racism

A criminology professor at Florida State University lost his job after falsifying data to prove the existence of “systematic racism” in American police and society, it has emerged.

Professor Eric Stewart’s data was called into question, with university authorities saying it was marred by “extreme negligence.”

Stewart’s now retracted research dated as far back as 2008, with his data used in one particular study which claimed a legacy of lynchings had contributed to white people viewing their black counterparts as criminals, and that conservatives were more likely to do so.

A letter to Stewart terminating his employment, from college authorities, said, “You demonstrated extreme negligence in basic data management, resulting in an unprecedented number of articles retracted, numerous other articles now in question, with the presence of no backup of the data for the publications in question.”

The college’s provost, James Clark went as far as to say that Stewart’s research had caused near “catastrophic damage” in the letter, published in July.

As reported by The New York Post, Clark said the decision to sack Stewart was made after a panel reviewed the claims against him. Clark has claimed it has been proven that much of the data included in the studies was false.

“Because of your actions, as you were fully responsible for the integrity of the results generated in your data analyses, decades of research that were once thought to be at the forefront of the Criminology discipline, have been shown to contain numerous erroneous and false narratives,” Clark said.

Mr Stewart had held the position since 2007. The New York Post also said it had verified claims that the professor had been in receipt of at least $3.5 million of grants from taxpayer organisations and entities.

His termination from the role followed four years of scepticism over various research he had conducted, which sparked a lengthy investigation.

“The damage to the standing of the university and, in particular, the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and its faculty approaches the catastrophic and may be unalterable,” Clark, who is also Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs,  added.

It is reported in The Tallahassee Democrat that the former professor at FSU is alleged of making racism seem more common than it truly is, through his statistics, and surveys which “altered sample sizes” in five co-authored papers where Stewart was in charge of data and analyses.

Stewart, has denied any fraud took place, and has put the situation down to “analysis errors that included coding mistakes and transcription errors,” as per withdrawal letters he wrote to the journals where the studies had been published.

After an Intent to Terminate Letter was sent to Stewart in March, and he was placed on leave, he blasted the investigation and termination process as “arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory in nature.”

However, Stewart’s dismissal from the prestigious role has been supported by the dean of FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who told The Tallahassee Democrat:

“Academic integrity is of the utmost importance to the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Florida State University, and I wholeheartedly support this decision.”

The incident marks a serious fall from grace for Stewart, who was honoured as a fellow of the American Society of Criminology in 2017. He was among four faculty members from Florida State University to be given the prestigious accolade, which “recognises scholars who have made significant contributions to the discipline, contributed to career development of other criminologists or participated in organisational activities within the society.”

The highly distinguished criminologist was praised for his body of work over a period of 20 years, which dealt with criminal justice, corrections and crime, and the intersections of race, ethnicity, communities, and social control. In the same year, he was also selected by the Florida Education Fund as the 2017 Outstanding Mentor Award for his work with a Doctoral fellowship programme.

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