|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] not bending the rules
The Views That Made Me Persona Non Grata at MIT
I believe academic hiring should be based on merit and that hurt
feelings are no reason to ban opinions.
By Dorian Abbot
Oct. 29, 2021 2:02 pm ET
The campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
Mass., June 2.
PHOTO: ADAM GLANZMAN/BLOOMBERG NEWS
I am a professor at the University of Chicago. I was recently invited to
give an honorary lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The lecture was canceled because I have openly advocated moral and
philosophical views that are unpopular on university campuses.
Here are those views:
I believe that every human being should be treated as an individual
worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means
evaluating people for positions based on their individual qualities, not
on membership in favored or disfavored groups. It also means allowing
them to present their ideas and perspectives freely, even when we
disagree with them.
I care for all of my students equally. None of them are overrepresented
or underrepresented to me: They represent themselves. Their grades are
based on a process that I define at the beginning of the quarter. That
process treats each student fairly and equally. I hold office hours for
students who would like extra help so that everyone has the opportunity
to improve his or her grade through hard work and discipline.
Similarly, I believe that admissions and faculty hiring at universities
are best focused on academic merit, with the goal of producing
intellectual excellence. We should not penalize hard-working students
and faculty applicants simply because they have been classified as
belonging to the wrong group. It is true that not everyone has had the
same educational opportunities. The solution is improving K-12
education, not introducing discrimination at late stages.
I believe we are obliged to reduce bias where it exists, where we can.
That includes honest reflection on whether we are treating everyone
equally. But you cannot infer bias based only on the ratios of different
groups after a selection. A multitude of factors, including interest and
culture, influence these ratios. I disagree with the idea that there is
a right ratio of groups to aim for. Instead, the goal should be fair
selection processes that give every candidate an equal opportunity.
I run a large course on the politically charged topic of climate change.
But I refuse to indoctrinate students. The course presents the basic
scientific evidence and encourages students to think for themselves
about the best solutions to the problem. I correct my students when they
make scientifically unsound arguments, but I encourage the full range of
political perspectives as students work out their preferred societal
response. These practices reflect an understanding that the pursuit of
truth is the highest purpose of a university and an acknowledgment that
I myself could be wrong.
More broadly, the university has a duty to encourage students and
faculty to offer their opinions and insight on the widest possible range
of topics. That is best done in a respectful atmosphere, but
disagreement with an argument is no excuse to prevent a person from
speaking or writing. It is normal to feel discomfort when someone
contends against your strongly held beliefs. But in a truth-seeking
atmosphere, you must master this discomfort and either confront opposing
arguments rationally or accept their validity.
It is true that someone will occasionally say something that hurts your
feelings. But hurt feelings are no reason to ban certain topics. We are
all responsible for our own feelings. We cannot control things that are
external to us, such as the comments of others, but we can control how
we respond to them. The ancient Stoics developed practices to discipline
emotions and pursue rational thought. These techniques have been refined
in modern times in logotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Instead of cultivating grievances and encouraging resentment, schools
and universities can teach these practices and promote the principle
that no one can truly harm us but ourselves. That principle allows for
the expression of hurt feelings that does not involve restrictions on
speech. This will have the added benefit of preparing students for a
world in which anything can hurt their feelings—if they let it.
Mr. Abbot is an associate professor of geophysical sciences at the
University of Chicago.
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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