MIT Cancels Geophysicist's Lecture After Activists' Outrage Over His Views on Diversity

Massachusetts Institute of Technology canceled a lecture by geophysicist Dorian Abbot amid criticism of his views on campus diversity efforts.

Abbot, who is an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, received criticism from MIT academics over his views following a Newsweek opinion piece published in August.

In the opinion piece, Abbot and professor Ivan Marinovic criticized diversity, equity and inclusion standards as "treating people as members of a group rather than as individuals, repeating the mistake that made possible the atrocities of the 20th century."

"It treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being," they wrote in the opinion piece.

His position over college diversity efforts sparked pushback from many academics on social media who said his rhetoric harms people of color in colleges and academia, some criticizing him for saying Nazi Germany also "drove scholars out" as "an ideological regime obsessed with race."

"By the way, many of us from the same privileged groups that Dorian Abbot imagines he is defending are disgusted by his comments," wrote @henrifdrake. "We do not live in a meritocracy– DEI efforts are justified, necessary, and long overdue."

"Imagine being a student/employee of color in an environment where someone like this is rewarded w/ one of the most prestigious platforms to speak," wrote @jeeminhrhim.

He was set to speak at the Carlson Lecture, which "communicates exciting new results in climate science to the general public," according to the MIT Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences website.

On Sunday, he tweeted the lecture had been canceled.

"EAPS at MIT is a great department full of excellent scientists who I admire and respect. The department chair ultimately made the decision to cancel my Carlson Lecture, not them. The chair is a good person, but made a bad decision under pressure in this case," he wrote in a tweet."

He added, "I forgive the activists who led the campaign against me. Please do not attack them personally. They are fish swimming in a sea of moral confusion. Some of the responsibility for their behavior rests on their elders, who have not helped them form properly."

EAPS at MIT is a great department full of excellent scientists who I admire and respect. The department chair ultimately made the decision to cancel my Carlson Lecture, not them. The chair is a good person, but made a bad decision under pressure in this case.

— Dorian Schuyler Abbot (@DorianAbbot) October 2, 2021

In a statement to Newsweek, MIT confirmed that the address would not be held this year at the discretion of EAPS, but that the university is later planning to allow Abbot to share his work with colleagues.

"Prof. Abbot was invited by the department to present his scientific work on MIT's campus to students and faculty, and has been working with colleagues at MIT to plan a date," the statement said.

Abbot wrote in a statement to Newsweek, "I want to continue my scientific relationships with the excellent scientists at EAPS at MIT. Hopefully, we can all learn from this experience how important it is to protect academic freedom and to keep science free of politics and ideology. This starts with making admission and appointment decisions solely on the basis of academic merit and extends to refusing to allow small groups of activists to censor viewpoints they disagree with."

MIT
Geophysicist Dorian Abbot, who has received backlash for his views on campus diversity efforts, said an address he was set to give at MIT was cancelled. Here MIT is seen in March 2020. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images