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MIT Wants Faculty to Embrace Free Speech

MIT Wants Faculty to Embrace Free Speech

“Free expression is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of a diverse and inclusive community.”

This is a reaction to a speaker who was disinvited. It’s a very good sign.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

MIT Asks Its Faculty to Endorse Free Speech

Administrators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to restore the academic liberty that made the school a world leader and a crown jewel of American science. Let’s hope that MIT faculty are ready to turn the page on the school’s shameful 2021 cancellation of a geophysicist with politically incorrect views.

On October 6, 2021 this column noted the school’s cancellation of its prestigious Carlson Lecture, which was scheduled to be delivered by Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago. Fortunately the indispensable Princeton professor Robert George immediately agreed to host the lecture instead. But the damage was done at MIT, which had just violated its own stated policies, not to mention the bedrock principles that have enabled it to give birth to world-changing innovations…

The hopeful news is that after last year’s canceled lecture, many members of the MIT community were not about to give up on free expression. A working group created by the school’s leadership has recently released a report on the subject and is asking faculty to endorse some very sensible ideas:

Free expression is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of a diverse and inclusive community. We cannot have a truly free community of expression if some perspectives can be heard and others cannot. Diversity of thought is an essential ingredient of academic excellence.
Free expression promotes creativity by affirming the ability to exchange ideas without constraints. It not only facilitates individual autonomy and self-fulfillment, it provides for participation in collective decision-making and is essential to the search for truth and justice.
Free expression is enhanced by the doctrine of academic freedom, which protects both intramural and extramural expression without institutional censorship or discipline. Academic freedom promotes scholarly rigor and the testing of ideas by protecting research, publication, and teaching from interference…

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Comments

“…necessary, though not sufficient” there’s a piece of precision that stifles entire barking packs of shallow pseudo-objectors.

The most important part of this is that lots of other places copy MIT, just because it’s MIT.

There is hope.

Filed under: Pleading with the Red Guard to abandon its intolerance after years of tacit approval.

The Red Guard never negotiate with the Enemy. The Red Guard never retreat. The Red Guard never surrenders its power.

The administration pretends the tenured Red Guard harbor a higher morality; a better, higher, natural liberal consciousness.

    henrybowman in reply to Tiki. | September 29, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    The administration is undergoing a change of the guard at this very moment. L. Rafael Reif, whose presidency saw not only the cancellation of the Abbott speech, but a very public donations scandal involving Jeffrey Epstein (donations which Reif approved over his signature but later disclaimed responsibility for), is being replaced by a new president yet to be confirmed. Alumni are watching carefully.

      Is it possible for alumni to force tenured professors to behave in a way contrary to their belief system? Is it possible to return to classical liberalism?

      The short term goal is to allow dissenting voices a platform. Seems like a reasonable request.

The alumni have organized a “working group” of their own: the MIT Free Speech Alliance. Members send their Institute donations to the Alliance instead, which releases them to the school depending on their demonstrated commitment to compliance with free-speech principles.

    Close, but no cigar: donors may send their, well, donations to a donor-directed fund–not the same as the MIT Free Speech Alliance, aka MFSA. We love our own donors: the Stanton Foundation, for example, made a substantial gift to get us up and running.

    What happened initially was that the Abbott scandal evoked a massive immune response on the parts of alumni. The administration seems not to have thought out the consequences of their actions very well. And yes, there is a significant administration change going on right now. Reif is stepping down; not sure whether or to what extent his mishandling of the Abbott affair, among other real boners, are the motivations. And I’m not sure who or what we’ll be getting to replace him.

    Which is sort of too bad: Reif has finally gotten the memo that he’s been severely misbehaving and has changed course. For example, he offered a number of authoritarian opinions in the name of MIT rather than in his own name. The implication was that he spoke as the voice of Tech, with the weight that that sort of thing carries. But he had never actually bothered to find out whether what he was saying actually did represent a majority of the “stakeholders,” which includes alumni.

    Very shortly after SCOTUS handed down Dobbs, Reif sent out a missive saying that he had received quite a few emails, all of which expressed great sorrow, etc. over the decision.* But having gotten his ears boxed more than once, wrote that he recognized that the decision concerned an issue about which people on both sides have strong opinions and that it would be wrong for him to offer his own. And now, having gone though the learning curve, he’s leaving.

    Marty Schmidt, former provost–also complicit in the Abbott affair–left some months back. While he left to become president of RPI, the timing is certainly suspicious.

    There’s still a lot to do. One of the bigger names in the humanities department is Sally Haslanger.** She wrote that “[r]eason reflects a bias towards men, or the “masculine”, which feminism ought to challenge. A rational stance is itself a stance of oppression.” I’m not making this up. How we got an administration that tolerated–even enabled and abetted this kind of…stuff–is beyond me. But it has to stop, and it has to stop ~now.~ Hence MFSA.

    * It remains totally unclear why students would write to a university president about a SCOTUS decision. Maybe they wanted more safe spaces and rooms to pet kittens. Dunno.

    ** In a widely circulated faculty newsletter from last fall, well, you can read it yourself:

    https://fnl.mit.edu/november-december-2021/academic-freedom-and-freedom-of-expression/

    To sum it up, we need experts to tell us what it’s OK to discuss and what we shouldn’t trouble our meager minds understanding. How lucky of us. Needless to say, Sally will be among those finding the experts.

      Dimsdale in reply to coyote. | October 2, 2022 at 10:15 pm

      I wonder how Haslanger reconciles “[r]eason reflects a bias towards men, or the “masculine”, which feminism ought to challenge. A rational stance is itself a stance of oppression” with self declared “women” crushing real women in what used to be women’s sports?

      Or if she(?) dares….

Oh, piffle. This isn’t an improvement, it’s a smokescreen. Anything done in the name of “diversity” is both irrelevant and worthless.

“MIT Asks Its Faculty to Endorse Free Speech”

Um… “Embrace free speech.” “What we call “free speech.” “Declare you embrace it this way.” “Because we told you to.”

Not clear on the concept, I’d say.