UC Berkeley Physicist Resigns Over Cancelled Guest Speaker

The head of the University of California Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC), David Romps, resigned publicly on Monday, citing concerns that the institution discriminates against scientists based on their political opinions.

Romps stated on Twitter, “Excluding people because of their political and social views diminishes the pool of scientists with which members of BASC can interact and reduces the opportunities for learning and collaboration.”

He also said, “I hold BASC and its faculty — my friends and colleagues — in the highest regard, and so it has been a great honor to serve as BASC’s director these past five years. But it was never my intention to lead an organization that is political or even ambiguously so. Following that he posted, “More broadly, such exclusion signals that some opinions — even well-intentioned ones — are forbidden, thereby increasing self-censorship, degrading public discourse, and contributing to our nation’s political balkanization.”

To underline that the notion that BASC is a strictly scientific organization, not a political one, Romps requested BASC to invite Dorian Abbot, who was disinvited from a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to speak at the University of California, Berkeley.

Romps claimed, “It became unclear to me whether we could invite that scientist ever again, let alone now.” However, Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor at the University, said no final decision on Abbot’s invitation had been made. The administration regrets that Romps departed before the institution had thoroughly evaluated whether or not to invite Abbot.

Mogulof told the Daily Caller, “This university believes that diversity of perspective is absolutely essential to our academic mission and public character.”

Abbot, an associate professor in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, had spoken out against riots in Chicago after Floyd’s death last year.

In August, he wrote an op-ed critical of MIT’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program. He claimed the institution “treats persons as merely [a] means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being” and that it violates the ethical and legal tenet of equal treatment. MIT then withdrew Abbot’s offer to deliver the Carlson Lecture, which Abbot described as “a major honor in my field,” after graduate students condemned his YouTube channel as jeopardizing the “safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department.”

While Abbot could not speak at Berkeley or MIT, Princeton announced a virtual lecture featuring Abbot that is expected to draw thousands of attendees.

Robert P. George of Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions tweeted, “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. It’s October 21st (the day it had been scheduled at MIT) at 4:30 Eastern time.”

 

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