MIT Axed Lecture by Geophysicist Because He Said Academic Evaluations Should Be Based on Merit Not Racial ‘Equity’
Rachel Bunyan and Ariel Zilber, Daily Mail, April 22, 2021
Thousands of people have registered for a remote lecture by a geophysicist at Princeton University after the MIT canceled it due to pressure from ‘woke’ students because the professor argued that academic evaluations should be based on merit, not racial ‘equity’.
University of Chicago professor Dorian Abbot was denied the opportunity to give the prestigious Carlson Lecture, which is devoted to ‘new results in climate science’ and hosted by MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
But Princeton University decided to host Abbot’s lecture via Zoom on October 21 – the day it was scheduled to be given at the MIT.
Princeton professor Robert P. George, who has publicly backed Abbot since his lecture was ‘shockingly and shamefully canceled’, said the university has since had to expand the Zoom quota for the lecture as thousands of people have registered.
Professor George said: ‘I’m delighted to report that we’ve expanded the Zoom quota for Dr Dorian Abbot’s Princeton lecture – the one shockingly and shamefully canceled by MIT – and literally thousands of people have registered.’
It comes after Professor Abbot wrote on October 5 on Bari Weiss’ Substack newsletter: ‘I am a professor who just had a prestigious public science lecture at MIT cancelled because of an outrage mob on Twitter.
‘My crime? Arguing for academic evaluations based on academic merit.’ Many progressives now argue that equity – equality of outcomes – is more important that equality – giving everyone the same opportunity.
Abbot wrote that he has been a target of ‘woke’ students since last year when he posted several videos on YouTube denouncing the rioting in Chicago that erupted in the wake of the police-involved killing of George Floyd.
The professor writes that he was normally averse to speaking out about politics, ‘but the street violence of the summer of 2020, some of which I witnessed personally in Chicago, and the justifications and dishonesty that accompanied it, convinced me that I could no longer remain silent in good conscience.’
Abbot posted clips on YouTube in which he ‘argued for the importance ‘of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect’ and ‘giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity when they apply for a position as well as allowing them to express their opinions openly, even if you disagree with them.’
According to Abbot, this did not sit well with a group of graduate students at the University of Chicago’s Department of the Geophysical Sciences, where he worked.
Abbot writes that he was ‘immediately targeted for cancellation.’ One grad student organized a letter that was posted to the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program listserv, which makes it easier for an organization to send an email to a group of people.
The Ford Foundation Fellowship Program is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that touts as its mission its commitment to ‘creativity and free expression.’
The program also claims a nonprofit status that enables it to claim tax advantages from the Internal Revenue Service on condition that it does not engage in ‘political and legislative (lobbying) activities.’
The letter that was organized by the students alleged that Abbot ‘threatened the ‘safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department’.’
A copy of the letter was included in Abbott’s op-ed. The students’ named as been redacted, but their pronouns were included at the end of their signatures.
They demanded that Abbot’s teaching and research ‘be restricted in a way that would cripple my ability to function as a scientist,’ the professor writes.
But the letter failed as UC President Robert Zimmer released a statement avowing the school’s support for the right of faculty to enjoy free expression.
In August, things took a turn when Abbot co-wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek in which he argued that the ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) initiative embraced on many college campuses nationwide ‘violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.’
DEI, according to Abbot and co-author Professor Ivan Marinovic, ‘treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.’
Abbot and Marinovic instead proposed ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’
The two academics believe that MFE would ‘mean an end to legacy and athletic admission advantages, which significantly favor white applicants.’
In response to the Newsweek op-ed, critics on Twitter demanded that Abbot be denied a chance to offer science seminars and that other speakers be picked in his place.
The online campaign against Abbot escalated last month as students lobbied MIT to disinvite him from delivering the Carlson Lecture, a ‘major honor in my field,’ according to the professor.
Abbot, who was invited to give the lecture in January of last year, writes that a ‘Twitter mob’ started demanding that MIT disinvite him from giving the lecture.
‘It worked. And quickly,’ according to Abbot.
He writes that the chair of the EAPS at MIT called him on Thursday to inform him that they would be cancelling the annual lecture ‘in order to avoid controversy.’
Abbot laments the fact that ‘a small group of ideologues mounted a Twitter campaign to cancel a distinguished science lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because they disagreed with some of the political positions the speaker had taken.
‘And they were successful within eight days.’
‘I view this episode as an example as well as a striking illustration of the threat woke ideology poses to our culture, our institutions and to our freedoms,’ Abbot writes.
‘I have consistently maintained that woke ideology is essentially totalitarian in nature: it attempts to corral the entirety of human existence into one narrow ideological viewpoint and to silence anyone who disagrees.’
Abbot will deliver the lecture he had planned to give at MIT via Zoom on October 21 at 4:30pm – the same date and time that was originally scheduled for the talk on the campus at Cambridge.
An MIT spokesperson told DailyMail.com: ‘This public outreach lecture will not be held this year at the discretion of the department.
‘At the same time, Prof. Abbot was invited by the department to present his scientific work on MIT’s campus to students and faculty.
‘This was conveyed by the department head in a conversation with Prof. Abbot last week.
‘Prof. Abbot embraced this offer, and the department has been working with him on setting a date.’
The head of EAPS, Professor Robert van der Hilst, told DailyMail.com: ‘The Carlson Lecture isn’t a scientific talk for fellow scientists. It has a very specific format and public outreach component, seeking to build public understanding of climate science and to inspire and engage with area high school students.
‘We felt that with the current distractions we would not be in a position to hold an effective outreach event.
‘I made this decision at my discretion, after consulting with faculty and students in the department, and knowing that some might mistake it as an affront on academic freedom – a characterization I do not agree with.’