What Did Abbot Do

What Did Dr. Abbot Do That Was So Offensive?

In 2020 Prof. Abbot made YouTube videos advocating to treat people as individuals and hiring them on that basis rather than on group identity. Then on August 12, 2021, Abbott published an op-ed in Newsweek advocating Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) in place of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for faculty hiring and promotion. It was this article in particular that gained Prof. Abbot national attention and notoriety. What did he say in this article that created such a negative reaction?

The editorial is not that long, but here is the bullet point summary of what he said.

  • The words diversity, equity and inclusion have been hijacked and twisted to denote concepts they didn’t mean twenty years ago. DEI now stands for discrimination rather than absence of discrimination; assurances of outcomes since any disparity in outcomes can only be caused by systemic injustice, regardless of ability and effort; and adherence to a selected viewpoint rather than tolerance of heterodoxy.
  • DEI as now practiced compromises a university’s core mission to produce and disseminate knowledge.
  • DEI undermines the perceived value of a university degree for all graduates, and especially for the graduates who benefit from DEI favoritism.
  • American universities are already incredibly diverse – on the dimensions of viewpoint, nationality, socio-economic background, race and ethnicity – but not necessarily on the dimensions and to the extent advocated by DEI. DEI is not really about the traditional meaning of diversity.
  • Universities should instead use a framework called Merit, Fairness and Equality (MFE) for admissions, hiring and promotion. All other forms of selective favoritism, including legacy and athletic admissions, should be eliminated. Selective universities should engage in outreach to and investment in the public education system to increase the qualified pool of traditionally underrepresented groups.

MFSA takes no position on any controversial issue, scientific or otherwise. It is the position of MFSA that all such issues, including the justification for current DEI policies, should be open to civil debate and discourse which focuses on the underlying rationale and evidence bearing on the issue.

It is ironic that Prof. Abbot was vilified, and had his MIT lecture cancelled, because he expressed opinions that are now, two year later, the law of the land. The US Supreme Court decision in the summer of 2023 outlawed the use of racial preferences, the cornerstone of DEI and a target for Prof. Abbot's article, in college undergraduate admissions. Following that principle, identity group preferences will be illegal for faculty hiring and promotion, and for graduate school admissions. Surveys continue to show the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Prof. Abbot. It is unfortunate that the MIT administration did not respect that this issue remains contentious in America and that it deserves more discussion, not the suppression of one viewpoint.