Boston University Opens ‘Inquiry’ Into Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracism Center

Ibram X. Kendi (Getty Images)
September 21, 2023

Boston University on Wednesday announced an "inquiry" into its Antiracist Research Center, run by celebrity scholar Ibram X. Kendi, hours after the Washington Free Beacon reported that the think tank has hardly produced any research.

The announcement also came after Kendi laid off much of the center's staff last week and amid complaints that Boston University described as "focused on the center’s culture and its grant management practices." The investigation will expand on a previous "examination" of the center's culture and spending, the University said.

"We are expanding our inquiry to include the Center’s management culture and the faculty and staff’s experience with it," university said. "Boston University and Dr. Kendi believe strongly in the Center’s mission, and … he takes strong exception to the allegations made in recent complaints and media reports."

Kendi, an African American studies professor and bestselling author, founded the Center for Antiracist Research in June 2020, at the height of the racial justice movement in the wake of George Floyd's death, with a stated ambition to "solve" racism. Last week, the center fired an undisclosed number of the center's employees. Semafor put the number at 15 to 20. The Daily Free Press reported it was 20 to 30.

The layoffs "were initiated by Dr. Kendi" as the center "evolves" toward a nine-month fellowship model and were not due to financial difficulties, Boston University said.

Kendi's center has raised tens of millions of dollars, including $10 million from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and $140,000 from George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. But the Free Beacon reported on Wednesday that the think tank has hardly produced any research. A previous "antiracism" research center that Kendi ran at American University was similarly unproductive, the Free Beacon reported at the time.

Current and former employees of Kendi's Boston University center told the Boston Globe of a "dysfunctional work environment that made it difficult to achieve the center’s lofty goals." "Multiple former staff members allege that a mismanagement of funds, high turnover rate and general disorganization have plagued the Center since its inception," reported the Free Press.

Boston University social work professor Phillipe Copeland, who served as the director of the think tank's "narrative" office until June, in Facebook posts this week decried the firings as "employment violence."

"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 said on Facebook. "And too often rewards it. Antiracism is not a branding exercise, PR campaign or path to self-promotion. It is a life and death matter."

"It does damage to this area of work because there are already people out there that are trying to discredit antiracism," Copeland added to the Free Press. "To have such a high-profile person be associated with leading an organization that fails so spectacularly, that has a ripple effect."

Kendi became a wealthy man for his "antiracism" work. In addition to his blockbuster books, Kendi received a $625,000 "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 2021 and charged $20,000 per speaking engagement.

Published under: Ibram X. Kendi