A UC Berkeley climate researcher has resigned after his request to host a fellow scientist from the University of Chicago was denied. The Chicago professor was targeted by ‘woke’ students due to his views on diversity admissions.
The threat of climate change is less acute than the threat of woke academics hearing a speech by a professor whose views on diversity admissions to US campuses they despise. This seems to be the conclusion from the unfolding controversy surrounding Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist who holds tenure at the University of Chicago.
Abbot was scheduled to deliver a lecture on climate change and exoplanets at MIT, but it was cancelled earlier this month due to pressure from students, who disagree with his political views. The professor is a vocal critic of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) effort in US academia, which he sees as detrimental to scientific pursuit. Abbot’s opponents have been organizing public pressure campaigns to ostracize him, and have succeeded in stopping him from speaking at the Massachusetts university.
I’m glad @DorianAbbot is standing up to the storm again. Not for anything new, but because of a talk opportunity (remember his criticism of DEI efforts). Not just from undergrads, but grad students, postdocs, and alumni. They don’t want him to speak, even on science. A thread. pic.twitter.com/dhaLrbrvXr
— Jeremy (@JeremyPhilosoph) September 26, 2021
Abbot has his supporters in academia, and one of them is David M. Romps, head of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) at UC Berkeley. In a Twitter thread on Monday, he explained how his intention to have the Chicago researcher deliver his prepared MIT speech at the California university resulted in him submitting his resignation.
By having Abbot talk about “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets,” as his lecture at the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science was titled, UC Berkeley would “reaffirm that BASC is a purely scientific organization, not a political one,” Romps said.
The prestigious annual John Carlson Lecture at MIT, for which Abbot was booked, is meant for the general public rather than professional scientists. BASC hosted Abbot as speaker in 2014, before he came forward with his views on DEI. Romps’ proposal was apparently not viewed favorably by his faculty.
More broadly, such exclusion signals that some opinions — even well-intentioned ones — are forbidden, thereby increasing self-censorship, degrading public discourse, and contributing to our nation’s political balkanization.
— David Romps (@romps) October 18, 2021
“In the ensuing discussion among the BASC faculty, it became unclear to me whether we could invite that scientist ever again, let alone now,” he said. Romps believes that excluding people from climate research based on their political views is detrimental to the stated mission of BASC.
“I hold BASC and its faculty — my friends and colleagues — in the highest regard, and so it has been a great honor to serve as BASC’s director these past five years. But it was never my intention to lead an organization that is political or even ambiguously so,” he said, explaining his decision to step down.
Abbot became a target for what he calls an “outrage mob” last year, after he released a series of YouTube videos arguing his opposition to DEI. At the time, people unhappy with his views said they “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups” at his department. Critics demanded that the university take several measures against Abbot, which boiled down to allowing students and postdocs to boycott him without repercussions.
The professor eventually took down the videos but has not changed his position, which he outlined in an August opinion piece published in Newsweek. He believes DEI stifles colleges’ ability to enroll students based on their merits and unfairly punishes individuals for belonging to groups that are supposedly overrepresented at campuses, like white people or males.
In this Op-Ed we argue that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs are unethical and detract from a university’s principal mission. We propose an alternative framework: Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE).https://t.co/VjTabW9mgm
— Dorian Schuyler Abbot (@DorianAbbot) August 12, 2021
The result is both detrimental to the primary goal of universities – which is to seek truth and generate knowledge – and inherently unjust to people, who are being discriminated against. Ultimately, graduates who are supposed to benefit from DEI suffer too, since their degrees lose value in the eyes of the public, he wrote.
A better approach, Abbot believes, would be getting rid of legacy and athletic admission advantages, making the evaluation of applicants more robust and unbiased, and spending university resources on talent support programs in underprivileged communities.
“American universities are diverse not because of DEI, but because they have been extremely competitive at attracting talent from all over the world,” he concluded his piece. “Ninety years ago Germany had the best universities in the world. Then an ideological regime obsessed with race came to power and drove many of the best scholars out, gutting the faculties and leading to sustained decay that German universities never fully recovered from.”
He said the Nazi example was a warning to American academia. Though the article seemingly didn’t give his detractors on US campuses much pause for thought, not everyone has been discouraged by their continued pressure. His canceled MIT lecture is now scheduled to be shown on a Zoom call hosted by the James Madison Program at Princeton University.