UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science David Romps announced his resignation from his position as director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center, or BASC, on Oct. 18.
In a series of tweets, Romps explained his decision to resign, alleging that BASC faculty rejected his request to invite Dorian Abbot, associate professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, to speak at Berkeley because of Abbot’s social and political beliefs.
“I was hoping we could agree that BASC does not consider an individual’s political or social opinions when selecting speakers for its events, except for cases in which the opinions give a reasonable expectation that members of our community would be treated with disrespect,” Romps said in a Twitter thread. “Unfortunately, it is unclear when or if we might reach agreement on this point.”
Romps feels limiting speakers due to their social and political beliefs reduces opportunities for learning and collaboration at the BASC.
Abbot, whose talk would have covered the climate and potential for life on extrasolar planets, was initially scheduled to speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his lecture was canceled following controversy over Abbot’s beliefs regarding using “academic merit” as the primary determinant of college admissions, hiring and promotions in scientific fields, Abbot said.
“I have never experienced anything like this and I never would have imagined that it could happen in America,” Abbot said in an email.
Abbot believes this is not a “left-right political issue,” but rather about “free society vs. authoritarianism.” Abbot further called upon “all Americans of good will” to join together in opposing censorship.
Abbot instead delivered the lecture at Princeton University on Thursday through the James Madison Program, where he said almost 10,000 people signed up to attend via Zoom.
“I hold BASC and its faculty — my friends and colleagues — in the highest regard, and so it has been a great honor to serve as BASC’s director these past five years,” Romps said in a tweet. “But it was never my intention to lead an organization that is political or even ambiguously so.”