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DEI scholars at prestigious university won't debate merits of DEI

Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most renowned universities in the world, will soon host a debate about whether diversity, equity, and inclusion belongs in higher education. Yet not a single DEI scholar at MIT will participate in the debate.

According to an event promotion, the Adam Smith Society at MIT and the MIT Free Speech Alliance are scheduled to host an "Oxford Union-style" debate about whether "academic DEI programs should be abolished." Event organizers invited almost 100 MIT scholars, many of whom are directly involved with DEI, to participate. None of them accepted the invitation except for one unnamed professor who still cannot attend the event due to a traveling conflict, the College Fix claimed.

Instead, MIT will bring in pro-DEI voices from outside the school. Pamela Denise Long, a freelance writer and an adjunct professor at Southern Illinois University, and Karith Foster, founder of INVERSITY Solutions, will speak on behalf of the merits of DEI at the debate. The scholars speaking against DEI at the debate — Heather Mac Donald, a Manhattan Institute fellow, and Patanjali "Pat" Kambhampati, a chemistry professor at McGill University — are likewise unaffiliated with MIT.

Though, according to the College Fix, none of the DEI scholars at MIT have explained their reasons for declining to debate, MIT's institute community and equity officer, John Dozier, did indicate in a recent interview that the debate topic oversimplifies the issue of DEI and that such a debate might involve language that some might find offensive.

"We declined based on the framing, but it fueled our thinking about how to set the right conditions for a discussion — avoiding simplified versions of issues and concentrating on a format that will broaden attendees’ perspectives rather than on having one side 'win,'" Dozier said.

Dozier claimed that the debate created "an utterly false binary" between DEI and "merit, fairness, and equality" and that society still has not struck the right balance between "what we have a right to say, and what we should say to each other as decent human beings living together in a community."

The event is scheduled to be held on campus on April 4 at 7:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed. Nadine Strossen, a professor emerita at New York Law School and former president of the ACLU, will moderate.

MIT is a private school that offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Actual tuition for the 2023-2024 academic year is just shy of $60,000. However, according to its website, "MIT subsidizes the total cost of tuition for every student," reducing the average annual tuition cost for students to about $20,000.

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