Dorian Abbot, a professor of geology at the University of Chicago, was troubled when a colleague in his department gave an internal seminar that included the idiotic and unethical quote, “If you are just hiring the best people, you are part of the problem.” The setting being a university, Abbot set out to provoke some enlightened discussion on this assertion, creating a video slide show including graphics like the one above.
His primary messages in the presentation were, he wrote, that “we need to think through the consequences of diversity efforts on campus lest they harm promising scientists of all demographics; adjusting departmental demographics at elite universities doesn’t solve any problems, but may make some worse, and that ” the current academic climate is making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions.
Yes, “The Horror.” Such opinions obviously meant that the professor was evil and a danger to everyone on campus.
The professor writes,
On Saturday, 11/14/20, friends started telling me that there were a large number of people on Twitter misrepresenting what I was arguing, saying untrue things about me, and even demanding that I be fired.One friend noted that there were a number of tweets using the logic: “I don’t feel safe when you object to my premises, therefore you cannot object to my premises on campus.” I found this very upsetting because it confirmed my fear that certain people are exploiting the language of personal trauma to silence anyone with dissenting opinions on these issues. I responded on Sunday, 11/15/20, with a video explaining the moral reason for my objection to ideologies that emphasize group membership instead of fundamental respect for the dignity of the individual. My argument is that these ideologies tend to lead to dehumanizing the other, as well as antagonistic and violent behavior. I gave the specific example of the Holodomor in Ukraine to illustrate this, although I explicitly noted that we are nowhere near that level here, and it was just an illustration of where this kind of thinking can lead if left unchecked. I then recorded a final video where I explained that I view these videos as an intellectual “freedom of navigation” operation. I do not require anyone else to agree with any of my viewpoints,but I felt the need to put them out in public, especially after a group of people started going after me on Twitter, in order to show that it is possible to stand up to pressure like that and assert your views on a controversial topic.
Following his response, a statement denouncing Abbot garnered 162 signatures, mostly from graduate students, declaring hat “The contents of Professor Dorian Abbot’s videos threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department and serve to undermine Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives driven by the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Coordination Team (EDICT).” The statement demanded that since he could not be fired as a tenured professor, Abbot must be subjected to numerous punishments as “protection” for students who now feel “unsafe” around anyone who disagrees with the current orthodoxy of that group membership is a superior credential to competence, demonstrated ability, experience, and achievement.
University of Chicago’s president, Robert Zimmer, issued this unequivocal statement;
From time to time, faculty members at the University share opinions and scholarship that provoke spirited debate and disagreement, and in some cases offend members of the University community.
As articulated in the Chicago Principles, the University of Chicago is deeply committed to the values of academic freedom and the free expression of ideas, and these values have been consistent throughout our history. We believe universities have an important role as places where novel and even controversial ideas can be proposed, tested and debated. For this reason, the University does not limit the comments of faculty members, mandate apologies, or impose other disciplinary consequences for such comments, unless there has been a violation of University policy or the law. Faculty are free to agree or disagree with any policy or approach of the University, its departments, schools or divisions without being subject to discipline, reprimand or other form of punishment.
That said, no individual member of the faculty speaks for the University as a whole on any subject, including on issues of diversity. In turn, the University will continue to defend vigorously any faculty member’s right to publish and discuss his or her ideas.
The University is committed to creating an inclusive environment where diversity is not only represented but individuals are empowered to fully participate in the exchange of ideas and perspectives. As University leaders we recognize that there is more work to be done and are strengthening initiatives to attract faculty, students and staff of diverse backgrounds.
The frightening thing is that this response is not the one most professors on American campuses have received and are receiving when the torches and pitchforks come out after they dare to challenge the One Truth.