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After lecture is canceled, free speech debate roils science academia

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  • After lecture is canceled, free speech debate roils science academia


    After lecture is canceled, free speech debate roils science academia
    Some academics are pushing back against what they see as personal politics that overshadows scientific work. Others stress that actions have consequences.

    Oct. 19, 2021, 6:41 PM EDT / Updated Oct. 19, 2021, 9:27 PM EDT
    By Denise Chow

    A prominent climate physicist has resigned from one of his roles at the University of California, Berkeley, after he said faculty members would not agree to invite a guest lecturer to the school who had come under fire for his political views.

    The lecturer, Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist, has been criticized for opposing affirmative action programs and other initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at colleges and universities. He has been the subject of boycotts and opposition from left-leaning students and at academic faculty meetings.

    In a statement on Twitter, the physicist, David Romps, said Monday that he is stepping down as director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center, or BASC, “at the end of this calendar year or when a replacement is ready, whichever is sooner.” Romps will remain a professor in the school’s department of earth and planetary sciences, a university spokesperson said.

    The incident has added to the debate about when, if ever, it is appropriate to suppress speech on college campuses.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology this month rescinded a lecture invitation to Abbot, a geophysicist and associate professor at the University of Chicago, amid public backlash over an op-ed he co-wrote in Newsweek that argued in favor of a “Merit, Fairness, and Equality” framework on campuses as an alternative to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which he said sought “to increase the representation of some groups through discrimination against members of other groups.” Last year, Abbot also denounced the riots that erupted in Chicago after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He addressed those comments in a post published Oct. 5 on Substack.

    Abbot was scheduled to deliver the prestigious Carlson Lecture at MIT’s department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences about his research on climate science and the potential for alien planets to support life.

    Romps, who did not respond to a request for comment, said his request to the faculty followed the MIT cancellation.

    Romps said he asked faculty members whether the school could invite Abbot “to speak to us in the coming months to hear the science talk he had prepared and, by extending the invitation now, reaffirm that BASC is a purely scientific organization, not a political one,” he wrote on Twitter.

    He said that discussions remained unresolved and that his colleagues’ unwillingness to include guest lecturers who have divergent political beliefs goes against the school’s mission...

  • #2
    U-Chicago Science Professor Under Assault For Criticizing ‘No White Men’ Hiring Rules

    Abbot was in shock after he faced strident backlash from his students and colleagues. The science department's response shows the university's supposed commitment to free speech to be a sham.

    January 4, 2021 By Evita Duffy

    University Staff: Don’t Hire Any White People or Men

    Last year, Abbot served on a committee for a competitive postdoctoral fellowship, and on the hiring committee for the Geophysical Sciences department. Abbot reported in his videos that both of these committees made selection decisions based on sex and race. According to Abbot, a few common phrases he heard in these meetings were the following:
    [B]We need more X diversity in our department, not more Chinese…because Z is a white male, he has no right to discuss certain issues…[and] [w]e should hire Y primarily because he or she will help us with our problem with X diversity.

    Abbot also disclosed to the “Thinker” that when he was on the department’s hiring committee, he and the other committee members were told that the dean of the division would not consider a faculty candidate, regardless of ability, unless the person was a woman or an underrepresented minority.

    Abbot provided the following quotation from an email he received while on the hiring committee: “…the only hires that will be considered are for women and/or under-represented groups. I know we cannot legally say that for an advertisement, but it may affect how things play out if we move forward with interviews…”

    This wasn’t an isolated incident. According to Abbot, Assistant Professor Graham Slater, who is a member of the EDI departmental committee, gave a seminar to the department, which included the following quotation: “If you are just hiring the best people, you’re part of the problem.”...

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