BU audit finds no issue with management of grant funds at Center for Antiracist Research

An internal review by Boston University into its Center for Antiracist Research has uncovered no financial mismanagement, according to the school.

"One key step that’s finished, an internal audit, found no issues with how CAR’s finances were handled, showing that its expenditures were appropriately charged to their respective grant and gift accounts," a Boston University spokesperson confirmed to WBUR on Tuesday, following a report published in BU Today, a university publication.

BU officials declined to comment further or share a copy of the internal audit.

The finding comes six weeks after the Center’s director, author and scholar Ibram X. Kendi, laid off 19 employees, or roughly half the center’s staff, in order to restructure the center to a fellowship model.

Complaints in the wake of those layoffs prompted Boston University to launch an examination into the Center's financial management and workplace culture.

The internal audit examined the handling of finances at the Center from its founding in June 2020 to September 2023, according to BU Today.

A “chief question” the layoffs raised, according to the article, related to grant management and why a center that had raised more than $50 million had not completed more research. The university clarified to BU Today that $30 million of that sum is endowed and that only $1.2 million can be spent in a given year, while restrictions and limitations are placed on how the remaining $20 million can be used.

The university is continuing to look into other aspects of the Center, including its workplace climate and culture. It has hired a consulting firm, Korn Ferry, to lead that effort, including talking to faculty and staff who once worked at the Center.

At the time of the layoffs, several former staff members spoke publicly about a difficult work environment and high staff turnover. The Center had promised to deliver multiple projects, including the creation of a racial disparities database and an anti-racist graduate degree program. A media publication, the Emancipator, lives on.

Kendi, a prominent best-selling author and anti-racism activist, was recruited by BU to head the center in June 2020. He defended the September layoffs as part of a necessary restructuring to maintain the long-term sustainability of the center, including plans to house a residential fellowship program for anti-racism scholars.

In a Tuesday statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Kendi said the staff reductions were “necessary” and “extremely difficult yet crucial” to maintain the Center’s longevity. The new model will move away from certain research projects and programs in favor of the fellowship model and The Emancipator.

“The initial structure simply wasn’t financially sustainable,” Kendi wrote on X. “It is unfortunate that individuals near and far spread a false narrative about a Black leader taking or mismanaging funds,” he wrote, adding “I am glad this is behind us so we can get back to work.”

Editor's Note: Boston University owns WBUR's broadcast license. WBUR is editorially independent.


Headshot of Emily Piper-Vallillo

Emily Piper-Vallillo Education Reporting Fellow
Emily Piper-Vallillo is an Education Reporting Fellow for WBUR.



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