(New York, NY) — An upcoming talk by University of Chicago professor Dorian Abbot has reportedly been cancelled by the chair of the department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Abbot had been invited to give the department’s annual Carlson Lecture, a prestigious talk which aims to educate the public on new results in climate science. The cancellation appears to be in response to demands from faculty and students that Abbott be disinvited over objections to past remarks critical of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts on university campuses. 

“There must be a high bar when it comes to disinviting a scholar from a public academic talk; that’s cardinal to the functions and purpose of a university,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “It is understandable that many people have objected to Abbot’s statements on issues of diversity and inclusion—and they should be free to debate, to criticize, to push back, or to protest them. But cancelling his scientific talk altogether because of complaints over his stated political views is a direct blow against principles of academic freedom that universities ought to uphold.

“Universities and academics should not be afraid to stand up to such patently censorious demands. MIT should act swiftly to reverse this mistaken decision, or risk setting an alarming precedent that likely violates its own standards of academic freedom and scientific inquiry.”

PEN America publishes the Campus Free Speech Guide, outlining basic principles for how educational institutions can protect free speech while also promoting equity.