Four Reasons Why Alumni Are Still Angry

 Four Reasons MIT Alumni Are Still Angry About the Abbot Cancellation

Almost two years later, MIT alumni who heard how  MIT cancelled Dr. Abbot’s appearance at the Carlson Lecture are still angry. Here are four reasons why.

Reason #1 – Canceling Dr. Abbot was wrong

MIT is the best STEM university in the world, and it has been the recognized leader in STEM research and education. The scientific method depends on free speech and academic freedom – the freedom to propose alternative theories and viewpoints and to challenge and examine those proposed alternatives. MIT graduates know and respect this.


No STEM university should ever suppress the speech of scientists for any reason, whether over a direct criticism of the scientific work or for some other motivation. MIT should especially not have cancelled the appearance of a visiting scientist based on the opposition from a small, disgruntled group of graduate students who objected to the scientist’s personal views on an unrelated subject. 

Reason #2 – MIT never admitted it was wrong and never apologized

MIT has never acknowledged that cancelling Dr. Abbot was wrong, either wrong in principle, or even as a bad public relations decision. Even after the faculty Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Expression condemned the cancellation of invited speakers in principle (without referring specifically to Dr. Abbot), no one in the MIT administration or faculty has publicly acknowledged that cancelling Dr. Abbot was a mistake.  MIT has not apologized, either to  Dr. Abbot or to the MIT community for this mistake.

Reason #3 – MIT and the MIT Alumni Association gaslighted the alumni over the Abbot Cancellation

Rather than admit that a scientist’s presentation was cancelled at the behest of disgruntled graduate students who objected to the scientist’s personal views, MIT chose to gaslight the MIT community with narratives made up after the decision to cancel Dr.  Abbot.


 At various times MIT stated their rationales were:

  • The Carlson Lecture is traditionally held off campus, so it really wasn't an MIT speaker cancellation
  • The presentation was not cancelled, but merely moved to another time and place
  • Prof. Abbot would insult underrepresented minority high school students, or discourage their interest in STEM
  • Prof. Abbot was an unsuitable role model for high school students.
  • Security concerns at the venue
  • Covid exposure at the event
  • False statements attributed to Dr. Abbot


The president of the MIT Alumni Association repeated these misrepresentations when she addressed the online town halls held for the alumni after the Cancellation. The misrepresentation was obvious gaslighting. One thing MIT graduates universally dislike is being treated like they are idiots.

Reason #4 – It could happen again

Because MIT never admitted it made a mistake, no one has been held accountable for staining MIT’s reputation. While both the MIT President and the MIT Provost involved in this episode have been replaced, many of the other senior administrators, academic deans and faculty members involved in making this decision and promoting the disinformation campaign are still in place, unchastened. MIT has never repudiated the de facto policy it established with the Abbot Cancellation -- that a minority group of graduate students can define what is acceptable for MIT and impose their values on the Institute. There is no reason to believe that MIT learned the lesson that it should not suppress speech some people don’t like.