East Lansing, MI – Physicist Stephen Hsu has been forced out of his role as vice president of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University (MSU) after he promoted 2019 study that found there to be no racial bias in incidents of officer-involved shootings.
“The [Graduate Employees Union] alleged that I am a racist because I interviewed MSU Psychology professor Joe Cesario, who studies police shootings,” Hsu wrote in a blog post on Saturday. “But Cesario’s work…is essential to understanding deadly force and how to improve policing.”
Critics took particular exception to a line Hsu quoted from the study when discussing it in his blog.
“We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot,” the study concluded, according to The College Fix.
On June 3, the Wall Street Journal published and opinion piece titled, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism,” which cited Cesario’s study, The College Fix reported.
The MSU communications team subsequently highlighted the Wall Street Journal’s mention of Cesario in its newsletter on June 9.
One day later, the GEU blasted Hsu for allegedly sharing research that did not align with public statements issued by MSU, The College Fix reported.
“It is the union’s position that an administrator sharing such views is in opposition to MSU’s statements released supporting the protests and their root cause and aim,” GEU Vice President Acacia Ackles told the news outlet.
Hsu said he soon found himself being attacked on social media.
“This started as a twitter mob attack, with very serious claims: that I am a Racist, Sexist, Eugenicist, etc.,” the professor wrote in a blog post on Saturday.
According to The College Fix, Hsu also came under attack for blogging over the years about research involving genetic differences among different races.
The GEU circulated a petition titled “Fire Stephen Hsu,” which included an open letter “demanding” that he be fired from his position as senior vice president of Research and Innovation.
“The concerns expressed by the Graduate Employees Union and other individuals familiar with Hsu indicates an individual that cannot uphold our University Mission or our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” the open letter read. “Given this discordance with university values, Stephen Hsu should not be privileged with the power and responsibility of recruiting and funding scholars, overseeing ethical conduct, or coordinating graduate study.”
Over 800 people signed the petition calling for Hsu’s ouster.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 supporters signed a counter-petition backing the longtime professor.
Hsu wrote about his supporters’ effort in his blog.
“Over just a few days, 1700+ individuals from around the world signed the support petition… Among the signatories are hundreds of professors from MSU and around the world, and an even larger number of PhD degree holders,” he said.
In the counter-petition, Hsu’s supporters noted that they are concerned about “the risk of principles of academic freedom, scientific integrity, and fair play currently posed at Michigan State University (MSU) because of baseless allegations against a respected colleague, Dr. Stephen Hsu.”
His supporters denounced the allegations of sexism and racism made against him, calling them “unequivocally false.”
They further declared that “the purported evidence supporting these charges ranges from innuendo and rumor to outright lies.”
“We highlight that there is zero concrete evidence that Hsu has performed his duties as VP in an unfair or biased manner,” the petition read. “Therefore, removing Hsu from his post as VP would be to capitulate to rumor and character assassination.”
Hsu’s supporters called on MSU President Samuel Stanley to “show the leadership required to guide this great institution of higher learning through a difficult situation during this pivotal moment in history.”
“The power is in your hands to reaffirm free inquiry and free expression as the core values of the academic institutions and show how they align with the other values to which we are all committed and have spent time and energy promoting,” they wrote.
“The voices demanding Hsu’s removal are exactly wrong in pitting diversity and inclusion against free inquiry and freedom of speech. Instead, true diversity flourishes best under conditions of free inquiry, because such a philosophy demands that everyone have a seat at the table and that views be evaluated on the basis of cogency of the supporting reasoning and strength and internal consistency of the accumulated evidence rather than the identity, power, number, or vociferousness of the people expressing them,” Hsu’s supporters told Stanley.
“Free inquiry is the most democratic and most inclusive method of engaging with the world,” they declared.
They further argued that removing Hsu from his vice president position would only serve to “incentivize the exclusion and ostracism of minority positions.”
“It would also set a dangerous precedent, inconsistent with the fundamental principles of modern enlightened higher education,” his supporters added.
On June 19, Stanley asked Hsu to resign from his position, the professor wrote in his blog.
“I do not agree with his decision, as serious issues of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Inquiry are at stake,” Hsu said. “I fear for the reputation of Michigan State University.”
He explained that he consented to Stanley’s request because he serves “at the pleasure of the President,” and said that he will remain at MSU as a tenured faculty member.
His critics posted a triumphant update on their petition website, thanking everyone who demanded Hsu be fired.
“We sincerely thank all of you who had the courage to speak out and took the time to engage with this important work,” they said. “The reception we received was beyond our imaginings. It is clear this is a deep pain that has been bubbling under the surface at our institution for many years, and we are not done engaging with and trying to heal that damage.”
Stanley also released a statement in the wake of Hsu’s resignation.
“I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward,” he said.
Although the university president claimed that he fully supports faculty members’ “academic freedom to address the most difficult and controversial issues,” he noted that “senior administrators” should not speak out about anything that potentially goes against the views of the university itself.
“When senior administrators at MSU choose to speak out on any issue, they are viewed as speaking for the university as a whole,” Stanley wrote. “Their statements should not leave any room for doubt about their, or our, commitment to the success of faculty, staff and students.”