Prominent racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi responded to the layoffs at his antiracism center at Boston University, acknowledging there were “missteps” made in the first three years.
Semafor first reported last week that the Center for Antiracist Research, founded in 2020, was laying off over a dozen full-time staff members and transitioning to a fellowship model.
Since then, several reports detailed accusations of mismanagement at the center, and former staff members told BU’s student newspaper this week “that a mismanagement of funds, high turnover rate and general disorganization have plagued the Center since its inception.” The university has since expanded an inquiry into the center.
In a statement, Kendi denied that the layoffs were due to “financial stress,” but to “put in place a new structure” to support the center’s work in the long run.
“Like many startups, we experienced rapid changes, and yes, we made missteps,” Kendi said. “My team and I have been learning from our missteps and working to build a stronger organization for the future.”
Kendi said he welcomed the university’s inquiry, which will probe the center’s management culture and how it handles grant funds.
Kendi, who wrote the 2019 book How to be an Anti-Racist, became a best-selling author and nationally known figure as protests over racism gripped the country in 2020.
The center’s offices have focused on researching antiracist policies, tracking data related to racial disparities in America, and analyzing racial justice advocacy efforts.