David Romps was one of the leading climate scientists at the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) at the University of California, Berkeley. Notice I said “was.” I can only mention Romps’ time at Berkeley in the past tense because he has resigned his post over cancel culture run rampant at the very university where the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s began.
Romps had invited Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago to speak at Berkeley, but other department faculty rejected the request. The reason? Abbot was critical of the rioting in Chicago following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in 2020, and he spoke out on other issues that academia frowns upon.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology disinvited Abbot to deliver a prestigious lecture on “new results in climate science.” After the MIT cancellation, Romps offered Abbot a chance to speak at Berkeley, but the BASC put the kibosh on Abbot. So Romps turned in his resignation, effective the end of this year (or when a replacement is ready).
Romps took to Twitter to explain his decision in a lengthy thread:
I am resigning as Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) @BerkeleyAtmo. To reduce the odds of being mischaracterized, I want to explain my decision here.
— David Romps (@romps) October 18, 2021
He goes on to tell the story of what went down at Berkeley — without mentioning Abbot by name — and he expresses his disappointment that Berkeley allowed political considerations to outweigh the merit of what Abbot had to say about climate.
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.
You see, Abbot’s political concerns have nothing to do with climate. He was upset over the violence that ensued after the George Floyd killing, among other issues.
Abbot took to Substack to tell his own story. For most of his career, he considered himself apolitical, even taking tests to prove it. The events of 2020 changed things for him. He began to speak out on the violence and issues of academic freedom.
In the fall of 2020, I started advocating openly for academic freedom and merit-based evaluations. I recorded some short YouTube videos in which I argued for the importance of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity when they apply for a position as well as allowing them to express their opinions openly, even if you disagree with them.
As a result, I was immediately targeted for cancellation, primarily by a group of graduate students in my department.
An op-ed he co-wrote this summer put an even bigger target on his back for cancellation. He also writes, “The fact that such stories have become an everyday feature of American life should do nothing to diminish how shocking they are, and how damaging they are to a free society.”
What makes the Berkeley cancellation so galling is the fact that Berkeley was the flashpoint for 60s activism when students successfully protested for free speech and grabbed the attention of both Berkeley’s administrators and the nation as a whole. To see Berkeley tamping down on free speech is beyond disappointing.
But the big picture issue here is that cancel culture has grown so rampant that climate scientists can become victims because of their opinions that have nothing to do with the climate debate. And that’s saying a lot about the reach of cancel culture these days.