Education & Family

LSE investigates lecturer's blog over race row

Students at LSE
Image caption The LSE has recently faced criticism over its dealings with Col Gaddafi's regime

The London School of Economics is investigating a blog post by one of its lecturers, which sparked anger by discussing "why black women are less physically attractive".

Satoshi Kanazawa cited the findings of a University of North Carolina survey in which he said interviewers rated the "physical attractiveness" of subjects.

The post was removed from Psychology Today as critics accused him of causing offence and demanded his sacking.

The LSE said his views were his own.

Dr Kanazawa, a reader in the management department at the LSE, could not be reached for comment.

He is on sabbatical, but normally lectures on evolutionary psychology and management science.

Although the posting was removed, cached versions are available elsewhere on the internet.

According to those, the blog said that in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), black women were, on average, rated to be less attractive than women of other races, while black men were not rated less attractive than men of other races.

Dr Kanazawa suggested, but then rejected, that this may be because of higher body mass index or increased genetic mutations, but said that it might be because of higher testosterone levels.

He did not detail the social or ethnic backgrounds of the interviewers, or the criteria on which they had based their judgements of "physical attractiveness".

Online criticism

The Add Health survey he cited is carried out by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina.

The centre's website says that Add Health has followed a sample of adolescent students over more than a decade, questioning them on social, economic, psychological and physical well-being.

Psychology Today did not respond to requests for comment from the BBC, but its editor-in-chief, Kaja Perina, told the US radio station NPR that its bloggers were "credential[ed] social scientists and for this reason they are invited to post to the site on topics of their choosing".

"We in turn reserve the right to remove posts for any number of reasons. Because the post was not commissioned or solicited by PT, there was no editorial intent to address questions of race and physical attractiveness."

Other postings critical of the academic have since appeared on the Psychology Today website, including some by other academics.

Dr Mikhail Lyubansky, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, said the posting failed to consider possible "anti-black bias" in the perceptions of the respondents and interviewers.

"Without this kind of methodological analysis, Kanazawa's entire premise - that there is such a thing as a single objective standard of attractiveness - is fatally (and tragically) flawed," he wrote.

'Academic freedom'

The London School of Economics said the views expressed by Dr Kanazawa were "his own and do not in any way represent those of LSE as an institution".

"The important principle of academic freedom means that authors have the right to publish their views - but it also gives others the freedom to disagree. We are conducting internal investigations into this matter," the university said in a statement.

The University of London students' union called for Dr Kanazawa's dismissal.

Community and Welfare Officer-elect Lukas Slothuus said: "Students stand united against his disgraceful conclusions and will not let this negatively impact good campus relations."

And Sherelle Davids, anti-racism officer-elect of the LSE Students' Union, said: "As a black woman I feel his conclusions are a direct attack on black women everywhere who are not included in social ideas of beauty."

Dr Kanazawa's previous controversial postings include blog entries entitled "Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?" and "What's wrong with Muslims?".

The London School of Economics faced criticism earlier this year for its dealings with the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Its director, Sir Howard Davies, resigned, saying he had made "errors of judgement" in advising the LSE to accept the donation from a foundation run by Col Gaddafi's son Saif, and visiting Libya to advise a government body about financial reforms, for which the university was paid $50,000.

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