2023 Academic DEI Debate

Debate: Should Academic DEI Programs be Abolished?

Our debate on academic DEI issues was held in MIT’s Wong Auditorium on April 4, 2023. The debate was co-hosted with MIT Sloan’s chapter of the Adam Smith Society and featured two teams arguing the resolution, Resolved, that academic DEI programs should be abolished. Arguing in support of the resolution were Pat Kambhampati and Heather Mac Donald, with Karith Foster and Pamela Denise Long arguing against. The debate was moderated by Nadine Strossen former national president of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

More than 200 people attended the debate in person, and more than 800 others tuned in to watch the debate livestream. The evening proceeded smoothly, with none of the disruptions and heckling seen at other campuses. While there were no disruptions, there was plenty of room for disagreement, and the MIT community provided a model for how even a highly contentious topic can be debated in a civil manner. We thank everyone from the MIT student, faculty, and alumni communities, as well as the members of the MIT administration, who attended. 

 The MFSA Media Mention page lists media articles about the debate, from before and after it. 

 Pictures from the debate itself are available at https://rasmusen.org/special/mfsa/2023.04.04_Pictures.docx . Screenshots can also be taken from the video, which is now viewable at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elG_zyZya5g. For news articles on the debate, see the links at MFSA's media mention page around the date April 4, 2023.  

A list of select quotes from what each speaker said during the debate is available. A complete transcript is also available,  in Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4. 

The video of the debate can  be watched on the YouTube channel of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance  as well as here. More information about the debate and its participants can be read below. One week after the debate, the You-Tube video has had over 10,000 views, and it has currently received over 35,000 views along with national attention. 

About the Debate

University diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices are among the most debated and contentious issues in higher education today. Universities have invested significant resources in DEI programs and staffing in recent years, and while these efforts enjoy significant levels of support, they have also faced mounting criticism – including from policymakers who want to ban such programs entirely. Whether DEI programs in higher education should be abolished is hardly an idle question — it’s one being actively debated around the country, with significant implications for the future of higher education.

In this heightened climate, it’s more important than ever that spaces be created for DEI issues to be debated from all sides, and for constructive, meaningful debate on the topic, to be modeled for other institutions. 

MIT’s chapter of the Adam Smith Society, working with the MIT Free Speech Alliance as co-host, thus arranged an Oxford Union-style debate around the following resolution:

Resolved, that academic DEI programs should be abolished. 

Debating in support of the resolution are Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of numerous books, including the forthcoming When Race Trumps Merit; and Pat Kambhampati, professor of chemistry at McGill University whose writings on campus DEI issues have appeared in the National Post, among other publications.

Arguing against the resolution are Pamela Denise Long, CEO of Youthcentrix Therapy Services and a contributor to Newsweek magazine; and Karith Foster, founder of INVERSITY Solutions and a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging specialist. 

Moderating the debate is Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law Emerita, past president of the American Civil Liberties Union, and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship, among other publications.

A complete list of the debates co-sponsors is below, after the pictures of the speakers. 

Debate Participants

Heather Mac Donald
Thomas W. Smith Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Patanjali (Pat) Kambhampati
Professor, Department of Chemistry, McGill University

Pamela Denise Long
CEO, Youthcentrix

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Consultant

Karith Foster

Founder, INVERSITY Solutions

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Specialist

Moderator: Nadine Strossen

Professor of Law Emerita,

New York Law School

Past President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008)