Eric Stewart, 51, now a former College of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty member at the said university in Tallahassee, was known for proving that racism is systemic in America's law enforcement and American society. However, his "extreme negligence and incompetence" in research has caused almost "catastrophic" damage to FSU's standing. And now he is out of work.
According to the decision signed by FSU Provost James J. Clark dated July 13, due to Stewart's actions, "decades of research" once believed "to be at the forefront of" criminology has "been shown to contain numerous erroneous and false narratives." Worse, the problematic data management, false results, and numerous publication retractions have negatively affected the discipline on a national level.
The university's senior administrative officer further said that the highly publicized saga had also affected the recruitment of faculty and students and caused the university's researchers to worry about their chances of getting papers into top journals. "The damage to the standing of the University and, in particular, the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and its faculty approaches the catastrophic and may be unalterable," Clark added.
The misconduct allegations started in 2019, when Justin Pickett, one of the study's co-authors suggested in emails to the university that the professor had "falsified data and findings." Pickett grew suspicious of Stewart following an email from a "John Smith," outlining problems with five of the professor's papers. A 27-page article that Pickett posted to a preprint server later that year detailed his concerns about one of the studies, as we reported back in April. All of the five papers, along with a sixth, have since been retracted. (Related: Black Florida professor making $190k a year leaves lucrative position following accusations he faked data in racism studies.)
FSU criminology professor Eric Stewart
FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice (Credits: The New York Post)
According to Google Scholar, Stewart and his work were cited over 8,500 times by other researchers. Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that six of his articles that had been published in top academic journals such as Criminology and Law and Society Review between 2003 and 2019 have now been fully retracted due to flawed data.
Stewart, who was a vice president and fellow at the American Society of Criminology, included "fraudulent" information in his study, in which he claimed that the history of lynchings made whites perceive blacks are criminals and that the issue was more prevalent among those who are politically conservative. In his studies, he also concluded that whites wanted longer sentences for Latinos and blacks. He said: "that this effect will be greater among whites… where socioeconomic disadvantage and political conservatism are greater."
A 2018 study, now also retracted, suggested that because white Americans perceive Latinos and blacks as "criminal threats," that perception could lead to "state-sponsored social control." Moreover, he said via a 2015 now-retracted study that Americans desired harsher sentences for Latinos because their numbers were increasing and they were becoming more successful economically. Stewart concluded that "Latino population growth and perceived Latino criminal and economic threat significantly predict punitive Latino sentiment." Stewart's research also delved into the relationship between incarceration and divorce, street violence, the impact of tough neighborhoods on adolescents, whether street gardens reduce crime, and how race impacts student discipline in schools.
The letter that announced Stewart's termination concluded: "In review of all the information available to me [Clark] on this case, including your response provided to the Peer Panel, and the Peer Panelists' recommendations, I found no information that would warrant a change in the proposed action. I do not see how you can teach our students to be ethical researchers or how the results of future research projects conducted by you could be deemed trustworthy. Therefore, I am proceeding with a termination."
Clark gave him a chance to appeal the decision in accordance with Article 20 of the FSU BOT/UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The terminated criminology professor used to sit on a supreme pedestal at FSU, but his reign just ended. He called the decision "arbitrary and capricious" in a long response (with an appendix) to the school earlier this year.
The researcher vehemently defended himself against his critics, telling his colleagues in an email that "Pickett has essentially lynched me and my academic character, thereby severely impacting my career, credibility, and professional advancement" – a particularly stinging charge, given that Stewart is Black. Retraction Watch also wrote that on another occasion, Stewart claimed that the "baseless allegations" against him "serve as a means of harassment, as well as waste time and resources."
Stewart reportedly received an annual salary from the public university amounting to $190,000. He served on the school's diversity, promotion, and tenure committees and even as a member of FSU's Academic Honor Policy Hearing Committee where he presided over decisions regarding students accused of academic dishonesty and cheating.
As per his resume, he has been granted over $3.5 million from organizations including taxpayer-funded entities such as the National Science Foundation which is part of the federal government, and the National Institute of Justice, which is operated by the Justice Department and Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice. An arm of the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, funneled $3.2 million into research on how African Americans transition into adulthood, the research which Stewart supervised from 2007-2012 as co-principal investigator.
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