The University of Arizona has accepted years of funding from a foundation infamous for promoting research linking race and intelligence — even after other universities and organizations, including white nationalist groups, stopped receiving support from the group, records show.
A University of Arizona psychology professor used some of the Pioneer Fund's grant money to pay for recent travel to a conference in London that has included eugenics-themed presentations, according to documents The Associated Press obtained through a public records request. The eugenics movement has included theories about the controlled breeding of humans to "improve" the gene pool.
The Pioneer Fund was created by textile heir Wickliffe Draper in 1937 to — in the words of its original charter — advocate for "race betterment." The organization has promoted eugenics and financially supported "race scientists" who maintain that blacks are intellectually and genetically inferior to whites.
The private, tax-exempt foundation in Maryland gave nearly $7.8 million to 48 organizations or individuals from 1998 to 2016, including nearly $3 million to at least 22 universities in the U.S. and abroad. But the University of Arizona was the only U.S. university getting any money from the group from 2011 to 2016, tax records show.
The University of Arizona received a total of $458,000 from the Pioneer Fund from 2003 to 2016. The foundation reported a contribution to the school in every year but 2013 over that span. Specifically, the funds were applied for and received by Professor Aurelio Jose Figueredo, who directs a graduate program for the study of human behavior and evolutionary psychology. More recent tax filings aren't publicly available, but Figueredo's curriculum vitae says he received a $30,000 grant from the fund for the 2017-2018 academic year as well.
Faculty members are generally responsible for selecting the sources of their funding, and the university can't engage in "viewpoint discrimination" in accepting grant money, university spokesman Chris Sigurdson said Friday.
"Professors seek research funds from a variety of sources," he said. "The university does not typically restrict the source of outside funds, but focuses on protecting open, free, and competent academic inquiry."
Figueredo said the Pioneer Fund's history wasn't a factor in his decision to apply for its funding. He has disavowed eugenics in one of his papers and says he doesn't believe in the concept of racial inferiority.
"The stuff that I've written and the stuff that I've researched does not lend itself to that kind of use," he said. "I have done perfectly legitimate research that, by the way, has nothing whatsoever to do with race differences."
Figueredo said "a whole bunch of people" at the university have approved his receipt of the grant money.
"People have been signing off on this for years, and nobody has indicated that there is a problem," he said.
Andrew Winston, a psychology professor who teaches a class on scientific racism at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said he believes it's morally unacceptable for the University of Arizona to accept the foundation's money. While the school must uphold academic freedom, it also has an obligation to promote "human rights, equality and diversity," he said.
"The scientific racism supported by the Pioneer Fund is used by racial extremists around the world," he said in an email.
Figueredo has used Pioneer Fund money for travel to the London Conference on Intelligence, a gathering that has included eugenics-themed presentations. Recent conferences were held at the University College London, which said in January that it didn't endorse the gatherings and would investigate the content of presentations.
Figueredo said the London conference "is not about eugenics," included plenty of peer-reviewed published research and can't be characterized "by a few presentations."
Figueredo also has served on the editorial advisory board of Mankind Quarterly. The journal has often published material arguing that blacks are genetically inferior and expressing support for "racial hierarchy," said Bill Tucker, a retired Rutgers University psychology professor and author of a book titled "The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund."
"It promotes a scientific justification for racial separation," he said.
Figueredo said he has reviewed papers for Mankind Quarterly but nothing on racially charged topics.
In 2009, Figueredo co-authored a paper with the Pioneer Fund's president at the time, J. Philippe Rushton. Rushton died in 2012, but in a paper 10 years earlier, he rejected claims that the foundation promoted a racist political agenda.
Other educational institutions that have benefited from the Pioneer Fund included the University of Delaware, the University of Texas in Austin, Florida State University, Drexel University, Baylor University, the University of Minnesota, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Missouri, the University of Illinois and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Non-academic groups receiving funds include nonprofits operated by white nationalists, such as Jared Taylor's Virginia-based New Century Foundation. Those groups were awarded more than $300,000 in foundation grants over the past two decades.
But in recent years, Figueredo appeared to be the only scientific researcher still accepting the money: His grants accounted for all $90,000 in contributions listed on the foundation's IRS filings from 2014 and 2016. Pioneer Fund president Richard Lynn and treasurer Edward Miller didn't respond to emailed interview requests this week.
Georgia State University law professor Paul Lombardo, author of a 2002 paper titled "'The American Breed': Nazi Eugenics and the Origins of the Pioneer Fund," said most of the scientists who have received support from the foundation are either retired or dead.
"I would have thought they had been out of business by now," Lombardo said. "I would have expected the money to run out."
Figueredo said he hasn't decided whether he will reapply for more Pioneer Fund money at the end of this year.
"If I thought I was doing harm, I would stop instantly," he said. "But I sincerely do not believe that I have done anyone any harm."