By Jeff Spross (ThinkProgress.org)
Over 1,000 Harvard students delivered a petition to Harvard University’s JFK School on Saturday, demanding an investigation into how and why the school approved a 2009 doctoral thesis arguing that Hispanics have lower IQs. The thesis was written by Jason Richwine, a co-author of a paperby the conservative Heritage Foundation that argued immigration reform would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion. The discovery of Richwine’s paper by the Washington Post sparked a firestorm around the Heritage study, and several days later Richwine resigned from the think tank.
Now Harvard students want to know how a thesis built on those views and assumptions was able to make it through the approval process in the first place. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,’’ the petition read. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”
Several days ago, 24 student groups at Harvard wrote a letter condeming the university’s approval of Richwine’s dissertation, saying it “debases” all their degrees.
Richwine himself hit back at the students on Friday, suggesting their demands were an attack on free speech and academic inquiry. David Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy School, defended the committee that accepted Richwine’s thesis as “highly respected and discerning.” George Borjas, one of the members of that committee, characterized Richwine’s work as “sound.” Borjas himselfpreviously lent his pen to arguments against immigration on economic grounds.
Meanwhile, recently completed research failed to find an identifiable racial gap in IQ, and the entire assumption that race is a stable and reliable biological category suffers from its own problems. Even using IQ as a measure of intelligence often fails to acknowledge that what we mean by “intelligence” is itself dependent on historical and social context, and buffeted by a wide array of structural forces.
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