Dr. Matthew M. Wielicki, a geological sciences professor at the University of Alabama, announced his impending resignation in a Twitter thread on January 23. Wielicki explained that, while his out-of-state move is mostly motivated by a desire to be closer to family, the growing influence of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices on campus convinced him to abandon his career in academia altogether.
The thread gained widespread Twitter attention. Although there was an almost immediate outpouring of support for his decision, followed by appearances and coverage on national media networks, Wielicki says that some of his UA colleagues have publicly insulted him and insinuated that he is a racist.
Reactions to his comments have been mixed. Prior to criticizing DEI, Wielicki openly expressed his skepticism of climate alarmism, a view that often draws negative comments on social media and claims that he is a pseudoscientist. However, Wielicki believes questioning the status quo is an essential part of being a scientist, a perspective which has earned him many supporters and a Twitter following of nearly sixty thousand including members of Congress, celebrities and media personalities.
The following is a transcript of a Capstone Free Press interview with Wielicki.
McArdle: You’ve consistently made clear that your primary reason for leaving Alabama for Colorado is to be closer to family, but was your decision to also leave academia influenced only by DEI, climate alarmism, etc.?
Wielicki: The decision was influenced by the rise of illiberalism in academia. DEI and climate are two of the forbidden fruits in academia, especially in an earth science department. Universities have taken an ideological stance on these subjects and voicing valid and supported concerns about these topics is met with anger, slander, and even punishment. This is antithetical to an academic environment that should foster the exchange of ideas and the critical analysis of certain programs. This made giving up on my dream that much easier.
McArdle: How might other like-minded professors struggle with continuing on in academia with DEI growing more and more influential in modern universities?
Wielicki: Great question. They shouldn’t speak up as I did lest they be called racist by other UA faculty on social media and even linked to anti-Semitic writings that appear on campus. Hopefully, by me speaking up, they won’t have to and a civil discussion can be had, but I doubt it in the current climate.
McArdle: Was there ever a specific point at which you thought DEI was going too far? How did it first seep into your work?
Wielicki: There was never a single thing that broke the camel’s back. It is the slow progression of more and more decisions being framed through the lean of DEI rather than one big push. Its always been in my profession as many universities (though not UA as I recall) require DEI statements for application to a position. It has dramatically increased in STEM as noted by a recent National Association of Scholars study.
McArdle: The University of Alabama’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion states their goals to be:
– Recruit, retain and graduate more diverse students.
– Recruit, retain and promote a more diverse faculty and staff.
– Build a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.
– Develop a more culturally conscious campus community
In what ways do you believe they’ve correctly implemented and accomplished these goals, and in what ways have they been misguided or failed?
Wielicki: They have increased the number of underrepresented students in STEM majors, however, they don’t track the student’s success post-graduation and the NSF shows that these students are not progressing into the workforce successfully. I have seen no increase in our faculty diversity. DEI alienates students from non-underrepresented groups as they feel they are not on an equal playing field, it also alienates students in underrepresented groups that feel their peers don’t respect their efforts as much. Asian students are in limbo as they don’t fit into the underrepresented group, particularly in STEM, so they become essentially white-adjacent for DEI in STEM. This causes folks to self-isolate or stick with their tribe, which doesn’t help develop a more culturally conscious campus community.
McArdle: You’ve previously likened your experience leaving behind your upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church to your experiences with questioning the status quo on climate change. Have you had the same negative experiences related to your skepticism of DEI – either from individuals here at UA or academia in general?
Wielicki: I have been called out publicly by UA faculty on social media and essentially called a racist.
McArdle: Do you consider DEI culture as an innocent misunderstanding of the message of equality civil rights activists have long advocated for, or do you see it as a totally separate mission?
Wielicki: I won’t pretend to know what their mission is, but what I do think is that these are well-intentioned programs and inclusivity is a noble cause. However, we have to accept that sometimes the most well-intentioned programs have negative outcomes.
McArdle: You have a pretty large social media following, so that clearly comes with some pushback from people online calling you a “pseudoscientist” for disagreeing with climate alarmists. What gives you the courage to continue to challenge the status quo, and what advice would you give to people who are also skeptical of climate alarmism, DEI, or modern societal trends in general?
Wielicki: As humans, it is easy to focus on the negative. I play golf, not well, and I never really remember a good shot. But if I hit a stone-cold shank, I think about that for the next four holes. That’s how humans operate, and things like the media take advantage of that. Try to remove your feelings from your objective critical analysis of a problem. If you do that, most folks would find that the human condition has dramatically improved and continues to improve. We will face challenges with the environment in the future, but by no metric can the current state of climate be called an emergency.
McArdle: Finally, were you ever worried about being so public about leaving and the reasons for doing so? Did you expect it to get this much attention? What are your plans for the future?
Wielicki: I was worried before I knew I was leaving but not after. No one can hurt me now, but I never expected it to go viral. We don’t have jobs lined up in Colorado yet, so if anyone out there is hiring, let me know.