The MIT Free Speech Alliance was founded in fall 2021 in response to the cancellation of Prof. Dorian Abbot. Prof. Abbot was invited to MIT to give the John Carlson Lecture on the topic of the habitability of planets outside the Solar System. He had attracted enemies who targeted him for his stance on affirmative action and DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) programs in universities. Because of his views on this topic, completely unrelated to his Carlson Lecture topic, his invitation was rescinded two weeks before his scheduled presenation. This cancellation outraged MIT faculty and alumni, and resulted in widespread criticism in the press for MIT's intolerance and its putting politics ahead of science.
A few MIT alumni organized the zoom meeting that led to the creation of the MIT Free Speech Alliance. The Alliance is composed of alumni spanning the decades, as well as students and faculty. MFSA membership has grown to over 1,000, mainly alumni, and continues to attract members. MFSA hopes to turn back the tide of cancel culture at MIT that has resulted to widespead self-censorship on campus. After performing research, surveying and receiving input from MIT members, including MFSA, MIT's faculty developed and adopted the Statement on Freedom of Expression in late 2022, a declaration on the right to free speech comparable to the Chicago Principles many other universities have adopted.
In spring 2023, MFSA also hosted a famous DEI debate at MIT. This event was unprecedented in its open and polite discussion of the diversity-equity-inclusion movement and race-based college admissions -- the topic over which Prof. Abbot had been cancelled just a year and a half earlier.
MFSA is not resting. Now entering our third year, we remain vigilant on the battlefields as we expand our initiatives and offerings. From conferences and guest speakers to debates and open letters, MFSA is MIT's frontline for the advocacy of free speech on a university deserving of open inquiry in all forms.