James Watson's Lewis Thomas Prize
We recently became aware of news articles in the Sunday Times (October 14, 2007) detailing recent comments made by Dr. James Watson. To quote the Sunday Times directly: He (Watson) says that he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really", and I (C. Hunt-Grubbe) know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". Dr. Watson has a long history of sexist and homophobic remarks and these most recent comments are simply too outrageous to be ignored. Encouraging the participation of minorities, including women and African Americans, in science should be a top priority at a research institution such as ours. Furthermore, giving Dr. Watson not only a platform from which to speak but also a prestigious prize is a form of validation of his sexist, racist and homophobic comments. We respectfully ask that in light of these recent comments, Dr. Watson not speak at the Rockefeller University on October 31st and further that he not receive the 2007 Lewis Thomas Prize. While our institution should encourage free speech and exchange of ideas, as has been done with past controversial speakers including the last years Lewis Thomas Prize recipient Richard Dawkins and author Michael Crichton, inviting Dr. Watson to speak is not within the realm of taste and would reflect poorly on our institution as we would be implicitly endorsing his recent and past remarks. Dr. Watson has the right to free speech, but we also have the right to voice our opposition to his presence on our campus.