AFA Sends Follow-Up Letter to MIT on Speaker Disinvitation

Oct 18, 2021 | Press Release

AFA Sends Follow-Up Letter to MIT on Speaker Disinvitation

Letter responds to MIT provost’s note to faculty defending disinvitation of Prof. Dorian Abbot

PRINCETON, NJ – Today, the Academic Freedom Alliance sent a second letter to the provost at MIT regarding the disinvitation of University of Chicago professor Dorian Abbot to deliver a prestigious annual lecture on climate science. After receiving backlash from the AFA and others for rescinding Abbot’s invitation to the John Carlson Lecture, MIT provost Martin A. Schmidt sent a letter to faculty defending the decision. 

“Unfortunately, the Institute has not taken positive steps to rectify the situation, and we find ourselves quite discouraged by your recent letter to the faculty regarding this matter,” wrote Keith E. Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee, in the AFA’s most recent letter.  “I write now not to repeat the points that we made in our earlier letter, but to respond to the new issues raised by your letter to the faculty.”

“You suggest that the faculty will need ‘to reflect together on how we collectively balance and apply the values of our community,’” Whittington continued. “I have no idea what values you think a university should be balancing in these circumstances. A respected scientist, scholar and colleague was invited to speak on the university campus. His speech was cancelled because some individuals found some of his ideas objectionable. There is only one singular and paramount imperative here – to allow a willing speaker to speak to a willing audience on a university campus.”

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The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. The Academic Freedom Alliance itself takes no position on the merits of the substantive content of faculty speech or writing.

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No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.