First of-Its-Kind Debate on a U.S. Campus of Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Occurs Peacefully at MIT

First of-Its-Kind Debate on a U.S. Campus of Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Occurs Peacefully at MIT

On Tuesday, April 4, the resolution “Academic DEI programs should be abolished” was debated on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Heather Mac Donald and Pat Kambhampati argued the affirmative position; Pamela Denise Long and Karith Foster, the negative. Nadine Strossen, past president of the American Civil Liberties Union, moderated.  More than 250 people attended the debate live at MIT, with an additional 800+ watching the livestream. 

The debate was hosted by the MIT Chapter of the Adam Smith Society, cohosted by the MIT Free Speech Alliance (MFSA), and cosponsored by fifteen other organizations (listed on MFSA's  debate webpage). It was livestreamed  as well, and the recording  will continue to be available at the Alumni Free Speech Alliance's YouTube channel. The objective was to show students and the MIT community that Diversity-Equity-Inclusion issues  could be debated openly and fairly on a college campus — how to listen as well as how to talk — and that by listening, both sides can benefit. The debate proceeded under debating rules similar to the style of the Oxford Union.  The sponsors believe it is the first debate on DEI issues to be held on at an American campus. (Note that the celebrated 2022 Oxford Union debate featuring James Lindsay was on a different topic: "This House believes woke culture has gone too far.”)

The MIT Free Speech Alliance and Adam Smith Society do not take official position  for or against the debate proposition but consider it essential that topics such as DEI be openly debated, especially considering the issue’s increasing prominence not just in higher education, but on the national political stage. Peter Bonilla, Executive Director of the MIT Free Speech Alliance, said, “We were very happy with how the debate went. It showed how even a highly contentious topic can be discussed in a civil and rational manner,  and it showed that MIT is well equipped to host just such a debate, as we’ve always believed. We thank the students, faculty, alumni, and members of the administration who attended.

Tuesday’s debate came as MIT has shown increased attention to free expression and the discussion of difficult issues.  Under President Sally Kornbluth’s new leadership (she arrived in January 2023), MIT started a lecture series called “Dialogues Across Differences.” John Tomasi, President of Heterodox Academy, spoke  at the series’ inaugural event on March 24. 

   Elsewhere is a page of quotes from what each speaker said during the debate. A complete transcript is available in Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4. 

Further details such as photos and bios of the speakers are available at  Pictures from the debate itself are available at . Screenshots can also be taken from the video, which is now viewable at For news articles on the debate, see the list at

The MIT Free Speech Alliance is a nonpartisan organization with over 1,000 members founded by MIT alumni in October 2021 following the cancellation of the prestigious Carlson Lecture. MFSA is a member of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, together with sister organizations at Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Virginia,  among other institutions. MFSA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and is independent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 Contact: Peter Bonilla, Executive Director,,  215-531-2171.