Holloway: Kanazawa’s views ‘antithetical’ to Northwestern


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Provost Jonathan Holloway said on Thursday that a visiting scholar’s controversial views “cannot be a reason to undermine the vital principle of intellectual freedom.” More than 3,600 people have signed a petition asking the University to ban the scholar.

Alan Perez, Campus Editor

Provost Jonathan Holloway signaled on Thursday that a visiting professor with controversial views on race will complete his year-long scholarly visit despite a demand by concerned students for his removal.

Holloway said in an email to the Northwestern community that while Satoshi Kanazawa’s “scholarship presents ideas that are antithetical to values that Northwestern University holds dear,” he is allowed to express his personal views as long as they are not represented as those of the University. Kanazawa’s research on the relationships between intelligence, race, health and gender — including a blog post titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women” — has provoked criticism.

“Kanazawa has made clear that his opinions are his own,” Holloway wrote. “As a member of the Northwestern community, 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 defense of Kanazawa’s presence comes as the University faces mounting public backlash. More than 3,600 people have signed a petition — started by Weinberg junior Deborah Shoola— to ban Kanazawa from continuing his year-long sabbatical in Northwestern’s psychology department.

But Prof. Richard Zinbarg, the department’s chair, said in an interview last month that he would consider Kanazawa’s removal only if he contributes to the “creation of a hostile work environment.”

Still, his presence has made faculty uneasy, prompting a department vote to denounce his research on race and an apology from Zinbarg for approving Kanazawa’s request.

Students shared the petition on social media and criticized some of his research as racist, work that includes a blog titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” for Psychology Today, which was later deleted.

While his work on race — including a 2012 study that attempted to explain an apparent race difference in intelligence — has garnered pushback, he has also authored controversial work on gender and religion, with articles titled “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?” and “What’s Wrong with Muslims?”

Multiple attempts to reach Kanazawa for comment have been unsuccessful.

The psychology department has now modified its vetting process to better scrutinize visiting scholars, a move Holloway applauded.

“I expect this same level of basic rigor to be applied in every department at the University,” he said.

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