Billed as ‘the nation’s largest online collection of racial inequity data’
Anti-racism proponent and Boston University Professor Ibram Kendi is embarking on a new project — a collaboration of his anti-racism activism and data.
The university announced the “Racial Data Lab” in a December news release. The lab, a joint project of the Center for Antiracist Research and the computing and data science department, “will put BU at the center of the emerging field of racial data science,” university officials said.
The announcement comes five months after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave Kendi’s center a “no strings attached” $10 million donation. Kendi and his associates would not say if that donation is funding the new project.
“The new Racial Data Lab’s first project will be the Racial Data Tracker (RDT), which [Professor Azer] Bestavros and Kendi say is aimed at developing and maintaining the nation’s largest online collection of racial inequity data and will be accessible and available to the public,” the release said.
Kendi’s team would did not provide any details on the project.
Previous reports have alleged that Kendi has fallen short on prior academic projects. A September 2020 report from the Washington Free Beacon said that Kendi never delivered a promised “racial reporting guidebook” for which he received a $50,000 grant while at American University. Nor did a fall 2019 symposium on “racial reporting” ever happen.
His partner in the endeavor, Professor Bestavros, also did not provide any information on the emerging project, its funding or its timeline.
“Your questions are not about my work or my research,” Bestavros said in a January 7 email to The College Fix. “If you [sic] questions about these, I am happy to answer them.”
The Fix asked Bestavros if he had any concerns about Kendi’s ability to deliver promised research. The Fix also asked the data science professor about the timeline and metrics for the projects, Kendi’s accomplishments at the school so far, and if Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s $10 million donation to the center would be used for this research.
The Fix also asked Bestavros about the Free Beacon report.
Bestavros did not respond to a follow-up email on January 7 asking him how much money the school planned to spend on the racial data lab and what he and Kendi hoped to accomplish through it.
University won’t share any information on results, plans
Kendi does not publicly list his professor email and his personal website does not list an email address. Tami Nguyen, a media representative for Kendi, did not respond to three emailed requests for comment in the past several weeks seeking information on the allegations in the Free Beacon article as well as what research Kendi has produced so far.
The Fix also asked if the money for the data science collaboration would come from Dorsey’s donation.
Colin Riley, the media relations director for Boston University also did not respond to three emailed requests for comment in the past few weeks, seeking the same information.
The Fix contacted Jessica Simes, the associate director of research at the center, twice via email in the past week, but received no response. Simes was asked if any of Dorsey’s donation would be used towards Kendi and Bestavros’ new data lab.
Additionally, The Fix asked Simes for an update on an August announcement from the anti-racism center seeking project proposals.
The anti-racism center highlights its work on a “COVID Racial Data Tracker.” However, that work has mostly been done by volunteers through The Atlantic.
“The Covid Tracking Project is a volunteer organization launched at the Atlantic; data collection is done by a network of volunteers,” a spokesperson told the Free Beacon.
The Fix reached out to Lisa Stark at American University, a spokesperson for the university, to ask what sort of work the anti-racism center accomplished while Kendi was at the school. Stark responded by sending The Fix a statement that the university released when Kendi left the school in June.
“As founding Director of the ARPC (Antiracist Research and Policy Center), Prof. Kendi brought rigorous scholarship to the Center’s goal of seeking ways to unearth and remove the entrenched policies and ideas that effectuate racial injustice and finding solutions to bring about justice and equity,” the June statement read.
She cited The Atlantic’s COVID project as an example of an accomplishment of the antiracism professor. The center also hosted “the annual Antiracist Book Festival.”
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