MIT Cancels Lecture By UChicago Professor Who Criticized Diversity Programs

When I went to college at the University of Chicago, we often viewed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as our peer institution on the hard sciences. After all, both schools were composed of socially awkward, clueless geeks. That sense of nerd affinity was lost this week in a controversy over the cancelling of a lecture by Dorian Abbot, an associate professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, after complaints that he has criticized Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs. The cancelling of the event raises many of the concerns that we have previously discussed over the growing intolerance of dissenting views on our campuses — and the retaliation against faculty who challenge a new orthodoxy in our ranks.

Abbot was scheduled to give the John Carlson Lecture in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT on October 21. He received repeated messages from the school that the lecture was going forward even after some objected due to his criticism of DEI policies.

UChicago has always been an island of free speech despite the rising tide of censorship, speech codes, and investigations. It reaffirmed that position with regard to Abbot who faced demands for his termination or punishment for opposing DEI measures and suggesting an alternative. Once again, many faculty and students focused on silencing him rather than responding to his arguments.

Last year, Abbot objected that DEI measures were elevating the race or gender of candidates above their qualifications. He called for the school to reaffirm the long-standing position that academic slots would be filled by the best candidate without consideration to race, gender, or status. The response from  “58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments” was a letter calling for Abbot to be punished for expressing his views.

Then, to make matters worse in the eyes of the critics, Abbot did not recede into the darkness but continued to state his opinions. In August, Abbot co-authored a column in Newsweek headlined “The Diversity Problem on Campus.” He and his co-author Ivan Marinovic, an associate professor of accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business, wrote “DEI violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment. It entails treating people as members of a group rather than as individuals, repeating the mistake that made possible the atrocities of the 20th century.”

The two professors instead advocated for an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness and Equality, which would treat applicants “as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.”

That was the final straw.  The anti-free speech movement on our campuses seeks to marginalize and silence those with opposing views. They make examples of those who fail to yield and remain silent by taking away conference invitations, publication opportunities, and the other critical elements to a full academic life.

Once the lecture was announced, the same pattern emerged as critics hammered MIT for inviting an academic who holds opposing views. Suddenly the lecture was cancelled and MIT Department Chair Rob van der Hilst reportedly went silent.

The site College Fix detailed academics and fellow scientists calling for Abbot to be canceled or demanding that MIT never again invite an academic with such opposing views.  For example, Caroline Morley (@AstroCaroline), Assistant Prof at UT Austin, expressed disgust and told MIT that next time “consider inviting someone who doesn’t hold deeply problematic views on equity in the sciences.” These are intellectuals who are appalled that a professor could still be invited to discuss an entirely separate topic if he holds an opposing view on academic appointments.

The academic flash mob pattern is now all too familiar. Few professors are willing to risk such isolation and shunning. These campaigns take everything of value from an academic if they stand up and express dissenting thoughts. That is why MIT betrayed not just its principles of free speech but academic freedom in cancelling this event. If we allow this mob mentality to take hold, what are we as intellectuals. You do not have to agree with Professor Abbot to oppose such cancellation campaigns.

As free speech advocates, we often support those with whom we disagree. In the past, I have defended extremist views on academic freedom grounds like those of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who has defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis also writes for the site “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”) I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements.

What occurred at MIT this month is a chilling reminder that even a premier institution will yield to anti-free speech campaigns. The problem is that few department heads or administrators want to risk their own careers in standing between a mob and a controversial speaker. The result is cringing obedience to a rising orthodoxy on our campuses.

 

149 thoughts on “MIT Cancels Lecture By UChicago Professor Who Criticized Diversity Programs”

  1. Anonymous,

    When it comes to SM, Oscar Wilde said it best:

    “I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about it’s use. It is hitting below the intellect.”

    Ignore him.

  2. An example of America’s version of “Lysenkoism”, where the sciences take a back seat to ideology. In another 20 years when the 1st Amendment is interpreted according to CRT, Professor Abbott will go to jail for “hate speech”.

    antonio

    1. Punishing academics for voicing informed non-PC opinions is not just wrong, it’s anti-American, and disgusting. University administrations that allow this militate against the very idea of a university and are beneath contempt.

  3. Anonymous asks:

    “Sussman’s lawyers have filed their initial response — https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21079891-sussman-bill-of-particulars
    Given that JT wrote at least a couple of columns about the indictment, will he address the response?”

    I suspect not. Turley has a peculiar inclination of ignoring infringements of certain people’s freedom of speech which he should voice his full-throated objection.

    For example:

    1. He did not comment upon the fact that a Michigan district court judge found that Giuliani and Sidney Powell, among others, had perpetuated a fraud on the court by alleging bogus election conspiracy theories and referred them for disciplinary proceedings. This court finding is hugely embarrassing to Fox since it had championed these adjudged liars and broadcasted their bogus conspiracy theories.

    2. He had no reaction to the Republican House members booting Liz Cheney from her leadership position for exercising her freedom of speech in condemning Trump’s Big Lie. As someone who constantly argues against punishing people for exercising their freedom of speech, his ignoring Cheney’s cancellation is inexplicable.

    3. He made no attempt to analyze the Smartmatic and Dominion pleadings filed in their defamation lawsuit against his company Fox. Instead, he merely quoted their court pleadings verbatim and made no analytical commentary whatsoever- pro or con- about the merits of the allegations. In addition, he buried his mention of this Fox lawsuit in an article headlined, “Project Veritas sues CNN in Latest Media Defamation Lawsuit” as if the million dollar lawsuit against CNN was a bigger story than the *billion* dollar lawsuit against Fox! A rather transparent and pathetic attempt to bury his mention of the lawsuit against his boss.

    4. He has yet to comment on the fact that noted law Professor John Eastman has been forced to retire from his law school on account of his discredited legal memorandum which he wrote in an attempt to justify Pence assuming a power he did not have to delay the counting of the Electoral votes as Trump demanded. Turley has defended Eastman in the past, but for some reason, he has not come to Eastman’s defense to denounce his losing his professorship on account of his controversial opinion. Why?

    5. It has been reported that Fox has banned any further appearances of Giuliani and company on any of its programs. Certainly, I have seen neither hide nor hair of any Trump lawyers spewing the Big Lie for months on Fox. They DO, however, continue to appear on networks further to the Right of Fox. Turley NEVER fails to condemn controversial speakers being banned by Little Brother! Why then his hypocritical silence when it comes to his employer?

    6. Finally, there is an effort now underway to have John Eastman investigated by the California Bar for ethical violations for speaking at the 1/6 rally and his representation of Trump to overturn the results of the election. This letter signed by many is dated October 4th:
    https://statesuniteddemocracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/10.4.21-FINAL-Eastman-Cover-Letter-Memorandum.pdf

    We can forgive Turley if he has not yet fashioned a reaction, but can there be any question that his failure to come to Eastman’s defense would be a slap in the face to Trumpists who undoubtedly believe that Eastman is being persecuted for his beliefs? And would it not yet be an additional example of Turley ignoring a colleague who is being thrown to the wolves for his controversial views? To date, Turley has seen fit to inform his followers about a MIT professor who merely lost a speaking engagement on account of his intolerable views rather than publicly voicing his outrage about a fellow law professor who has lost his job for the same reason and now even stands to lose his license to practice law and make a living!

    In all these examples, could the simple explanation be that Turley does not wish to shed any more light on the controversy over Trump’s false claim about the election being stolen and those lawyers who defended it? Could it be that Turley realizes that there is no plausible defense?

    1. When all else fails, fall back on the Four Ds: Deny, Deflect, Dissemble, Democrat. It’s not working anymore. The schtick is getting old.

      1. Epstein says:

        “When all else fails, fall back on the Four Ds: Deny, Deflect, Dissemble, Democrat. It’s not working anymore. The schtick is getting old.”

        We shall see who gets the last laugh about Trumpism.

    2. In all the paragraphs written, I didn’t notice one section of interest regarding Sussman’s case. Sussman’s alleged crimes don’t count for you expect Turley to come forth and make your Sussman argument for you.

      For you, it’s not about Sussman. It’s about Turley or Trump. You have been primed and provided hit points by the left-wing media, but they haven’t gotten around to Sussman yet, so I guess we will have to wait. Turley offers original ideas. You do not.

  4. America is screwed

    “Merrick Garland has declared a war on parents,” Asra Nomani of Parents Defending Education (PDE) tweeted Tuesday. “His daughter is married to the cofounder of @PanoramaEd which is under fire for its multimillion contracts with school boards. At @DefendingEd, parents sent us tips. We raised the alarm. Now Garland is trying to silence parents.”

    Fox News

  5. If medical school applicants, law school applicants and flight school applicants, three seemingly important professions, can get extra points based on race then why don’t my Jewish brothers get extra consideration when “applying” to the NBA and NFL? How about at next years NFL Combines we take 10 seconds off the run times of all Jewish/Irish/Italian guys in the 440. How about we add 5 inches to the amount height reached when jumping by Jewish/Irish/Italian guys trying out for the NBA.

    Isn’t it time that we had a Polish quarterback in the Superbowl? What, sports is too important?????

    1. Hullbobby says:

      “How about we add 5 inches to the amount height reached when jumping by Jewish/Irish/Italian guys trying out for the NBA.”

      I don’t know if you have noticed, but conventional stereotypical beauty and svelteness is no longer de rigueur to join a cheerleading squad.

    2. Midgets are not fairly represented in the NBA because of rampant ableism.

      Garland and Wray must get on it immediately.

    1. hullbobby says:

      “My Kingdom to the first person who can show me a comment by Jeff Silberman that doesn’t mention Trump. Man is that fool tedious!”

      When you Trumpists finally admit that Trump is a chronic and habitual liar, I’ll stop reminding you of his past and present lies which you refuse to denounce. Shaming is the penalty for *continued* lying.

      1. Someone might take you seriously when you list Trump’s most significant lies while in office.Until then one will be forced to regard you as a ranting crazy person.

          1. When lying Trumpists think I’m crazy, that is the best evidence that I never been more sane.

            You will not silence me; only Turley may do so. And if he does cancel me from this forum, I will not complain that he had not the freedom to do so. He may cancel any one of us who do not meet his vague and arbitrary line of civility. We are perfectly free to find another blog on which to pontificate.

              1. Oky1 says:

                “Start a website, let’s see if You can get more then three people show up.”

                You really think I could get as many as 3?

                1. Can you sell yourself, not to me, but to this current society or do most people see you as sort a weird freak?

                  I’m remembering people like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy ,etc., they could sell themselves.

                  Who are you?

                  Don’t tell me, show Prof Turley’s blog readers who you are.

                  1. Oky1 asks:

                    “I’m remembering people like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy ,etc., they could sell themselves. Who are you?
                    Don’t tell me, show Prof Turley’s blog readers who you are.”

                    Bundy and Gacy could sell themselves? As what? Prolific serial killers?

                    I am ashamed to admit that I have not killed anyone. Yet. I’m sorry if that is not much of a sales pitch….

            1. “You will not silence me”

              Why would you believe people want to silence you? Why would they? What have you said that is unique? You complain about Trump in virtually every post. That is expected as your baseline, so a repetition of it doesn’t change anything.

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