Princeton digs leave MIT smarting
Lecturer delivers talk after Ivy League school slaps at Cambridge institution
A Princeton University program director ripped MIT for the university’s “chilling” decision to cancel an academic lecture that proved to be a stunning success.
The smackdown between elite colleges was streamed live Thursday where thousands followed along.
MIT recently nixed Dorian Abbot’s lecture on climate and planets after the university received major pressure following the University of Chicago professor’s comments on diversity, equity and inclusion. After the news of the prestigious lecture cancellation, Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions jumped on the opportunity and invited Abbot to speak. The program has had scientific lectures in the past, but the program typically focuses on American constitutional law and western political thought.
The program director addressed the elephant in the room right off the bat.
“We are not a scientific institute, however, we believe that one of the enduring principles in our tradition of civic life and civic liberty is free speech and academic freedom,” Director Robert P. George told the thousands of people on Zoom. “And that is why we are hosting Dr. Abbot’s lecture.”
Abbot was supposed to present the prestigious John Carlson Lecture at MIT this month, but then the Cambridge university canceled it, citing “current distractions.” Abbot in an op-ed had argued that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus violate the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.
The Princeton director noted that the op-ed was on a topic “entirely unrelated to his research,” and added that Abbot was denied the prestigious lecture “because of his political views.”
“We at the Madison Program consider this disinvitation by MIT to be chilling to academic freedom and free speech,” George said.
“We consider that all of us in academic life, all of us in intellectual life, all of us as Americans have a stake in academic freedom everywhere, in civil liberty, in freedom of speech everywhere,” he added.
Abbot’s Princeton lecture generated major interest across the country, and 3,000 people were in the Zoom meeting when the professor started giving his 30-minute talk on “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets.” He explored his research on which planets could have liquid water on their surfaces.
Abbot thanked George for organizing the lecture.
“It’s a great opportunity, and I hope everyone can have some fun and learn about some science, which is the point of doing science, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s the ultimate goal.”
Some at MIT are working to bring the professor back at some future date.