Systemic Racism in STEM to be Debated at MIT November 2

Systemic Racism in STEM to be Debated at MIT November 2

October 23, 2023, Cambridge, MA. The MIT Free Speech Alliance (MFSA) and the MIT Sloan School Chapter of the Adam Smith Society will be hosting an Oxford Union-style debate on the proposition, “Resolved that STEM is systemically racist,” at MIT's Wong Auditorium at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, November 2. The event will also be livestreamed at

This is the second in an ongoing debate series organized by the MIT Free Speech Alliance designed to model what a vigorous but civil debate on a contentious issue looks like. (The spring debate recording has thus far gotten over 28,000 views.)  MFSA does not take an official position on this controversial issue, or any issue selected for debate. What we and our cosponsors have in common is that we insist that controversial issues be openly and civilly discussed rather than having one side or the other canceled or shouted down. (See below for a complete list of co-sponsors.) 

Nadine Strossen, past president of the ACLU, now a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, has agreed to reprise her role as moderator, having also moderated our spring debate on academic DEI programs.

The Affirmative team will consist of  Dr. Chad Womack, Vice President of National STEM Programs at the United Negro College Fund and guest editor of a series of special issues in Nature on racism in science, and Dr. Jaret Riddick, Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, formerly serving as Principal Director for Autonomy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at the Pentagon. 

The Negative team will consist of Dr. Luana Maroja, Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Program at Williams College, and Dr. Erec Smith, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania and President and Co-founder of Free Black Thought.

"We're thrilled to present a debate on this compelling topic with such a varied and accomplished group of scholars and practitioners, especially at a STEM institution like MIT," said MFSA President Wayne Stargardt '74. "This debate will provide attendees not only with exposure to meaningful, constructive discourse and disagreement, but also exposure to a range of opinions on this issue that will strengthen their intellectual foundations, regardless of whose argument they find most compelling."

Advance registration is encouraged for the November 2 debate, and can be completed at the MIT Sloan Groups event portal. MFSA will simultaneously livestream the debate on our YouTube channel

Host: the MIT chapter of the Adam Smith Society

Co-Host: The MIT Free Speech Alliance


Contact: Peter Bonilla, Executive Director, MIT Free Speech Alliance,, 215-531-2171.

The MIT Free Speech Alliance (MFSA) has over 1,000 members. Founded by MIT alumni in October 2021 following the cancellation of Dorian Abbot’s Carlson Lecture. MFSA is a member of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, together with sister organizations at Cornell, Harvard, 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.

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