Jason Richwine, author of the thesis.

Jason Richwine, author of the thesis.

Harvard University students are taking the John F. Kennedy School of Government to task for approving a troubling 2009 doctoral thesis.

The “IQ and Immigration Policy” thesis was authored by Jason Richwine – a former doctoral candidate at the Kennedy School – and uses a comparison of IQ scores to argue Hispanics have an inherently inferior intelligence. Richwine also claims the United States should use IQ scores to determine citizenship.

“Today’s immigrants are not as intelligent on average as white natives,’’ Richwine wrote. “The IQ difference between the two groups is large enough to have substantial negative effects on the economy and on American society.”

Richwine landed a post-doctoral gig with the Heritage Foundation, where he used data from that thesis to argue against immigration reform. This grabbed the attention of the Washington Post, leading to a firestorm of controversy.

Harvard students are upset this thesis was approved and Richwine was granted a degree. More than 1,200 students signed a petition demanding an investigation and delivered it to president Drew Faust and the dean of the Kennedy School of Government, David Ellwood.

The petition reads:

“Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community. However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”

Students also claim Harvard’s decision to approve Richwine’s thesis “debases their degrees.” More than 24 students signed a letter to the Kennedy School of Government that read in part:

“We are deeply concerned with the academic integrity and the reputation of Harvard Kennedy School and the University as a whole. It has been recently made public by the Washington Post and the New York Times that in 2009 the Kennedy School accepted a dissertation written by Jason Richwine which claims that “Immigrants living in the US today do not have the same level of cognitive ability as natives” (Richwine Dissertation, 26). Richwine goes on to state that “the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against” (Richwine Dissertation, 66) and argues for an immigration policy based on IQ. Central to his claim is the idea that certain groups are genetically predisposed to be more intelligent than others. In his troubling worldview Asians are generally at the top, with whites in the middle, Hispanics follow, and African Americans at the bottom (Richwine Dissetation, 74). To justify his assertions he cites largely discredited sources such as J. Philippe Rushton whose work enshrines the idea that there are geneticallyrooted differences in cognitive ability between racial groups.

We condemn in unequivocal terms these racist claims as unfit for Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard University as a whole. Granting permission for such a dissertation to be published debases all of our degrees and hurts the University’s reputation.”

Ellwood has responded to the students’ concerns. He writes in a statement:

“I most certainly understand that this issue, as reported, troubles many people.  In response I offer three thoughts.  First, the views and conclusions of any graduate of this school are theirs alone, and do not represent the views of Harvard or the Kennedy School.  Second, all Ph.D. dissertations are reviewed by a committee of scholars.  In this case, the committee consisted of three highly respected and discerning faculty members who come from diverse intellectual traditions.   Finally and most importantly, it is vital that an active and open debate of ideas occur in Universities and beyond them.  Scholars and others who disagree with particular ideas or methods or who are unhappy with conclusions can and must openly engage in reasoned discussion and criticism, after looking fully and carefully at the work.  It is through ongoing vigorous give and take that good ideas will ultimately emerge and weaker ones can be displaced.”

Despite the controversy and an abrupt subsequent resignation from the Heritage Foundation, Richwine stands by his thesis.

“I stand behind everything in the thesis,’’ he said. “It’s a very good, very solid work of scholarship. I think if people actually read it, they will see that it is firmly grounded in the mainstream, psychological research.”

“One of the many mischaracterizations of my dissertation is that I support an ethnicity-based immigration policy,” he said. “I do not. I endorse treating everyone as individuals. That’s clear throughout the text.”

He also thinks students are misguided for attempting to censor his scholarship.

“I wonder what thoughts they would seek to ban in the future,” he said. “This is a really worrisome idea here, that the students want to dictate what scholarship will be allowed at Harvard University.”

Chime in Clutchettes. Should Richwine’s thesis have been approved?

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter