A geophysicist has slammed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for caving to cancel culture after his upcoming science lecture was axed due to outrage from a “Twitter mob” who opposed his views on diversity.
Dorian Abbot, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, wrote in an op-ed on Bari Weiss’ Substack Tuesday that MIT contacted him last week to say his Carlson Lecture was being canceled to “avoid controversy.”
Abbot accused MIT of “quickly” relenting to a Twitter campaign led by MIT students and recent alumni that demanded he be uninvited from the annual public lecture because he’d recently argued academic evaluations should be based on merit.
He argued the Twitter mob came after him following a Newsweek op-ed he wrote in August in which he and Stanford University professor Ivan Marinovic argued that current diversity efforts – or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — at universities violated equal treatment.
Instead, they proposed a framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality where “university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.”
Abbot said his detractors took to Twitter after he was chosen to give his lecture on climate and the potential for life on other planets at MIT, which he described as “a major honor in my field.”
“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,” he said.
“The fact that such stories have become an everyday feature of American life should do nothing to diminish how shocking they are, and how damaging they are to a free society.
“The fact that MIT, one of the greatest universities in the world, caved in so quickly will only encourage others to deploy this same tactic.”
Abbot said he was also previously targeted by graduate students in his own department after he started advocating last year for “academic freedom and merit-based evaluations.”
Those students had tried to get his teachings restricted but were overruled by University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer who issued a statement in support of free speech for faculty, Abbot said.
An MIT spokesperson told the Post in a statement that the lecture, which is hosted by the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, wasn’t being held this year “at the discretion of the department.”
They added that Abbot was invited to present his scientific work on MIT’s campus to students and faculty.
“Prof. Abbot embraced this offer, and the department has been working with him on setting a date,” the spokesperson said.
EAPS Department Head, Prof. Robert van der Hilst, added that the lecture wasn’t just a scientific talk for scientists because it included a public outreach component.
“We felt that with the current distractions we would not be in a position to hold an effective outreach event,” van der Hilst said in a statement.
“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.”