“Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?” “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” and “What’s Wrong With Muslims?” Those titles may read like some of Reddit’s worst hits. But they’re real articles written by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist and reader in management at the London School of Economics and Political Science -- and current guest scholar at Northwestern University.
Kanazawa has quietly been on campus in Evanston, Ill., for a semester already. But many Northwestern students who were unaware of his presence until recently say they don’t want him there anymore.
“Kanazawa's fraud research and studies reflects modern eugenics, and Northwestern should be ashamed of approving his application to conduct research in Evanston,” reads a petition started by one Northwestern undergraduate that’s gathered more than 4,000 signatures in a few days. “If Northwestern is serious about its mission to help create and sustain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all Northwestern community members including students, faculty, staff and alumni, Kanazawa's approved request should be overturned, and denied.”
The petition asks that the psychology department revamp its screening process for visiting scholars -- and it already unanimously agreed to do so, according to a statement by Jonathan Holloway, provost and professor of history and African American studies. Describing the program's old vetting process for visiting scholars as “weak,” Holloway said that “the department was unaware of Kanazawa’s controversial views or his flawed scholarship.”
He added, “I applaud this change, and I expect this same level of basic rigor to be applied in every department at the university.”
But Holloway said that Kanazawa will remain on campus until the end of his appointment, at the end of the academic year.
While the university “is firmly committed to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Holloway said, at a “comprehensive research university, there will unfortunately be occasions when offensive ideas emerge and when people advance arguments that run afoul of well-established, peer-reviewed research findings.”
In meantime, he said, Kanazawa’s “scholarship presents ideas that are antithetical to values that Northwestern holds dear.”
Holloway said that Kanazawa is a visiting scholar on sabbatical with less than year left at Northwestern, and that he isn’t teaching, “collecting research data, or getting paid.” And like “all guest research scholars, he is entitled to express his personal views, including on his personal web pages, as long as he does not represent such opinions as the views of the university.”
To that point, he said that Kanazawa “has made clear that his opinions are his own.” Holloway added, “I believe that personally held views, no matter how odious, cannot be a reason to undermine the vital principle of intellectual freedom that all academic institutions serve to protect.”
The statement is similar to one the London School of Economics released when Kanazawa published his essay on black women’s attractiveness in 2011, in Psychology Today. "The views expressed by this academic are his own and do not in any way represent those of [the school] as an institution," it said at the time. “The important principle of academic freedom means that authors have the right to publish their views -- but it also means the freedom to disagree.”
The school did say it was investigating the matter. It eventually prohibited Kanazawa from publishing in any non-peer-reviewed journal for a year. But he remained a faculty member.
Psychology Today removed the blog post, in which Kanazawa wrote that the “race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races."
To the extent black woman are devalued by society, many scholars say that racism is at play, not hormones. Kanazawa has made other controversial assertions, such as that intelligent people are more likely to be gay and that feminism is "evil."
Kanazawa did not respond to a request for comment. Multiple members of the psychology department did not respond to requests for comment, or referred questions to their chair, who also did not respond to a request for comment.
Via email, Bob Rowley, university spokesperson, underscored that Kanazawa is not a visiting professor, but “a guest scholar spending time here on his sabbatical. He has a desk and access to the library. He is not teaching, he is not doing research and he is not being paid. He asked to come and we agreed.”
Rowley said the department’s old vetting procedure for guest scholars did not require a faculty discussion or vote. Now, a personnel committee will review candidates on a preliminary basis, followed by a full department faculty review and vote.
CBS 2 Chicago reported that professors said in an internal departmental email that they were “blindsided” by Kanazawa’s views and that “one faculty member (Mike Bailey) agreed to host Kanazawa …” and got two others “who were unaware of Kanazawa's history, to co-sign and support an application.”
If Bailey’s name rings a bell, it may be because he allowed a guest sex lecturer to use a vibrator on a naked woman during an after-class presentation in a course in human sexuality in 2011.
Bailey did not respond to a request for comment.
Some scholars have defended Bailey's presentation as protected by academic freedom. But dozens of Kanazawa's peers have called even his academic work "bad science."