A Disinvitation at MIT

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Dorian Abbot is a professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago. He was invited to deliver the annual John Carlson Lecture in the department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After the lecture was announced, however, activists organized to pressure the department to cancel it, and the department has now done so.

This is not the first time that activists have sought to pressure universities to penalize Abbot for his speech. After he criticized some diversity initiatives, there were calls for his home institution to sanction him. The University of Chicago quite properly rejected those demands, stating simply that

the University does not limit the comments of faculty members, mandate apologies, or impose other disciplinary consequences for such comments, unless there has been a violation of University policy or the law. Faculty are free to agree or disagree with any policy or approach of the University, its departments, schools or divisions without being subject to discipline, reprimand or other form of punishment.

Abbot has continued to express his views about how universities should approach diversity issues, and activists have demanded that he be blackballed for his extramural speech. They are free to express their displeasure and disagreement with Abbot, but universities should refuse to surrender to their demands that he be barred from speaking at a university campus on topics relating to his scientific expertise because his political and social views are unpopular with some segments of the campus community.

The Academic Freedom Alliance has issued a statement condemning MIT’s cowardice in this instance. The letter can be found here.

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