Faculty Essays

Faculty Essays on Free Speech, Nov/Dec 2021

In the wake of the Dorian Abbot cancellation, the November/December 2021 issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter revolved around the issue of free speech. Several essays by faculty individuals or group were written in response to Abbot's cancellation.

A brief letter by 77 faculty condemns Abbot's cancellation and asks MIT to declare its commitment to viewpoint diversity and freedom of speech.

"Improving MIT's Written Commitment to Freedom of Expression" by Alex Byrne and Bernhardt Trout urges MIT to adopt the Chicago Principles. MIT did in 2022 adopt its own statement of those Principles after the work of the faculty Ad Hoc Working Group on Freedom of Expression. 

"My Soviet Past: Why We Need to be Vigilant About Academic Freedom" by Areg Danagoulian, raised in Soviet Armenia, criticizes cancel culture for stifling scientific advancement and achieving the same result as open censorship. Notably, Danagoulian is not right-wing, nor does he support Abbot's stance on DEI.

"Is MIT Losing Control of its Own Destiny?" by Eduardo Kausel and John Williams argues that MIT achieved intellectual brilliance because of its free inquiry, and that current attempts to cancel heterodox thinkers destroy the principles that made MIT great.

In something of a rebuttal, Professor of Philosophy and Women & Gender Studies Sally Haslanger argues in Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression that experts in normative matters should decide on the limits to speech, and that certain kinds of speech should not be rewarded or supported because expertise on matters of public concern is what universities stand for.

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