Cancel Culture Backfire: Princeton U. Picks Up Lecture Axed by MIT After Prof Targeted by Woke Mob

Professor Dorian Abbot
University of Chicago

A woke mob’s cancel culture attack on professor Dorian Abbot has backfired spectacularly. Princeton University has reportedly decided to host a remote lecture by Abbot, which thousands of students have already signed up for, that was canceled by MIT after the professor was targeted for supporting “merit-based evaluations.”

Abbot’s lecture was picked up by Princeton after MIT dropped the lecture in response to a woke mob, according to a report by the Daily Mail. Princeton has had to expand the Zoom quota for the lecture as thousands of students have registered for it.

“I am a professor who just had a prestigious public science lecture at MIT cancelled because of an outrage mob on Twitter. My crime? Arguing for academic evaluations based on academic merit,” professor Dorian Abbot wrote in Bari Weiss’ Substack newsletter last week.

Abbot, who is a geophysicist lecturer at the University of Chicago, was initially invited by MIT to give the prestigious John Carlson Lecture in recognition of his research on climate change.

The professor explained that in the past year, he has been targeted by a woke mob after deciding he could “no longer remain silent in good conscience” in the wake of “the street violence of the summer of 2020, some of which I witnessed personally in Chicago, and the justifications and dishonesty that accompanied it.”

“In the fall of 2020 I started advocating openly for academic freedom and merit-based evaluations,” Abbot said, adding that he argued for “the importance of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect.”

Protestors carry placards during a demonstration called by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign calling for the removal of the statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes outside Oriel College, at the University of Oxford on June 9, 2020. - Following the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 6, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign has called for a protest action outside Oriel College, University of Oxford where a statue of imperialist Cecil John Rhodes is mounted on the wall. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Princeton Campus (Kah-Wai Lin/Flickr)

As a result, the professor said he was “immediately targeted for cancellation,” primarily by a group of graduate students in his department.

Abbot said the students wrote a letter claiming he had threatened the “safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department,” and send it to his department chair.

“The letter demanded that my teaching and research be restricted in a way that would cripple my ability to function as a scientist,” the professor said.

Then in August, Abbot and one of his colleagues wrote an op-ed in Newsweek, arguing that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) on campus “violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment,” and “treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.”

The professor said they proposed an alternative framework called “Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE),” in which applicants are “treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.”

After that, Abbot said his attackers have tried to isolate him and intimidate everyone else into silence, adding that on September 30, “the department chair at MIT called to tell me that they would be cancelling the Carlson lecture this year in order to avoid controversy.”

“A small group of ideologues mounted a Twitter campaign to cancel a distinguished science lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because they disagreed with some of the political positions the speaker had taken,” Abbot lamented. “And they were successful within eight days.”

The professor added that “the fact that such stories have become an everyday feature of American life should do nothing to diminish how shocking they are, and how damaging they are to a free society.”

“I view this episode as an example as well as a striking illustration of the threat woke ideology poses to our culture, our institutions and to our freedoms,” he said. “I have consistently maintained that woke ideology is essentially totalitarian in nature: it attempts to corral the entirety of human existence into one narrow ideological viewpoint and to silence anyone who disagrees.”

Now, Abbot will give his lecture at Princeton University.

Last week, Princeton professor Robert P. George tweeted “MIT disgraced itself by yielding to pressure to cancel [the class],” but that he was nonetheless pleased to announce that Abbot’s lecture on extrasolar planets would be hosted at Princeton on October 21 — the same day it was supposed to be given at MIT.

The next day, George announced in a follow-up tweet that the lecture had reached its Zoom limit, adding, “We’ve requested an expansion of the limit to accommodate more people. We’re delighted.”

“I’m delighted to report that we’ve expanded the Zoom quota for Dr. Dorian Abbot’s Princeton lecture — the one shockingly and shamefully canceled by MIT — and literally thousands of people have registered,” George added on Sunday.

Similarly, UCLA is facing a lawsuit from one of its professors, Gordon Klein, who was placed on leave last year in response to a student campaign that has called for his termination after he rejected a request to grade black students more leniently in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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