MIT, Dorian Abbott & Free Speech

MIT, Dorian Abbott & Free Speech

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Petition to
President, MIT MIT President L. Rafael Reif and

Why this petition matters

MIT President Rafael Reif recently wrote in an open letter: 

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental value of the Institute [MIT]. ...I believe that, as an institution of higher learning, we must ensure that different points of view - even views that some or all of us may reject - are allowed to be heard and debated at MIT. Open dialogue is how we make each other wiser and smarter.” 

Each year, MIT hosts the prestigious John Carlson Lecture, which “communicates exciting new results in climate science to the general public.” Professor Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago was honored to be invited to deliver the 2021 lecture on “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets.”

Yet, MIT cancelled Professor Abbot and his public lecture because of opposition to Professor Abbot's views unrelated to his lecture, thus denying thousands of high school students and others from benefiting from Professor Abbot’s scientific insights and knowledge. This chilling suppression of free speech blatantly violated MIT’s claimed principles. 

If we are to believe that freedom of expression is a “fundamental value” at MIT, MIT needs to:

  1. Clearly and publicly state, without qualification, that cancelling Professor Abbot’s Carlson Lecture was counter to MIT’s values of free speech and expression.
  2. Re-schedule Professor Abbot’s Carlson Lecture for the general public as soon as possible.
  3. Formally adopt the University of Chicago of Principles, as have 87 other colleges and universities, to affirm MIT’s commitment to free speech and expression.   
  4. Annually re-affirm in writing to faculty, administrators, staff, and students MIT's commitment to freedom of speech and expression and open inquiry, its importance for any educational and research enterprise, and especially MIT, which aspires to the highest standards of academic excellence. 
2,364 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!