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Ambiguity in Academia: How It’s Happening on the FSU Homefront

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Academic integrity is taken very seriously in the collegiate world, especially here at FSU. Breaches of this policy are often met with lingering repercussions, forever bound to a student’s academic record. Moreover, many professors will pursue action against an offender to the highest punishable degree possible. So, why did Eric Stewart, a criminology professor here at FSU, allegedly do just that within his own scholarly research?  

Eric Stewart’s research work primarily examines social issues such as critical race theory, youth violence and outcomes, and the impact of crime. Six of his published studies have been retracted following allegations of falsified data for motivated outcomes. These allegations have followed Stewart as far back as a 2006 publication that raised suspicions of data manipulation.

An article published in December of 2022 condemns the university’s lack of action following the news of Stewart’s latest breach of merit. Nearly five months after the article’s publication, Stewart has since abandoned his professorial occupation at Florida State earlier this month following the accusation that he manipulated findings to make racism appear more prevalent than his original numbers reported.

The first person who called the public’s attention to Stewart’s possible deception was a previous colleague who worked alongside him on the research for one of the falsified projects. Justin Pickett, a criminology professor at the University of Albany, publicly stated in 2011 that the research findings did not feature a great enough statistical significance to draw a relationship between race and extended length of criminal sentences. 

Pickett’s complaint was looked into following four other allegations against other studies published by Stewart. Two of the three people on the committee tasked with looking into the issue had worked on other studies with the professor. The committee concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to identify fraudulent actions and that Stewart was to retract the study.  

With Florida State being a top research university in the nation, it seems surprising to me that 1) Stewart was not punished after the first offense, 2) professor-published research is not fact-checked on an effective level, and 3) his continued employment was allowed considering the tarnish his alleged dishonesty will have on the esteemed research reputation of the school.

Not only do Stewart’s actions raise awareness of the likely prevalent issue of research manipulation, but also raise questions regarding the integrity of upper-level institutions and how they will act in these ethically-complex situations. It appears that FSU has not yet made an official statement on Stewart.

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Paige McGuinn is a second year student at FSU studying Communication/Media Studies and Business. She loves writing about current events, pop culture and trends. With a passion for female empowerment, she is so excited to be a part of the Her Campus community!