Tomas Hudlicky of Brock University. (Brock University)

Tomas Hudlicky of Brock University. (Brock University)

Canadian professor hits back at critics of ‘diversity’ essay in top science journal

Tomas Hudlicky, 69, of Brock University, says he stands by his views, which he argues were misinterpreted

A Canadian professor who sparked a backlash by using a prestigious international scientific journal to question the impact of diversity hiring on the quality of scientific research has hit back at his detractors, saying he was the victim of a social media tempest.

In a lengthy statement, Tomas Hudlicky, 69, of Brock University, says he stands by his views, which he argues were misinterpreted.

“Social media rage led to the intimidation of the executive staff of a major journal, attacked me personally (and) induced Brock University into issuing a strong moral condemnation of my views and my values with threats of taking further action against me,” Hudlicky says. “It rapidly became a full-fledged storm.”

Hudlicky’s seven-page opinion essay published in June in Germany-based Angewandte Chemie, which bills itself as one of the world’s prime chemistry journals, surveyed recent trends in organic synthesis. In it, he decried “preferential” treatment given to women and minorities.

Publication of his essay sparked a furious backlash. In an open letter, the school’s now former vice-president academic condemned what he called the “highly objectionable” and “hurtful” statements and apologized publicly, as did the publication, which withdrew the piece.

ALSO READ: Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

Angewandte also suspended two senior editors. Directors, including Canadian academics, resigned from its board. Accepting the paper, the journal said, had been a “clear mistake.”

Hudlicky has his supporters, who decry what they see as an attack on freedom of expression. The Canadian Association of University Teachers and Brock University Faculty Association defended him, while Derek Pyne, a professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., said he was suspended for a year for supporting criticism of Brock.

“It is tragic to see that, in several Western democratic societies, open discourse and debate can apparently be easily superseded by censorship, persecution and condemnation, propagated by social media,” Hudlicky says.

“The appearance and pursuit in recent years of certain new and politically correct ideologies has led to the establishment of a society in which any opposition or any dissenting opinion regarding the new norms are silenced and punished rather than discussed. This is a very dangerous trend.”

Hudlicky, a Tier 1 Canada research chair in chemistry, says Brock has damaged his professional standing. He says he has filed a grievance against the school in which he demands retraction of the critical letter along with a public apology.

“The university has nothing further to add to this discussion,” Kevin Cavanagh, a Brock executive director, said on Monday.

Angewandte Chemie did not respond to a request for comment.

Given the peer-reviewed essay generated “apparent misunderstandings and misinterpretations,” Hudlicky has edited and republished the document on his website.

“I stand by the views I wished to express in the essay, some of which are common knowledge, while others were duly cited from primary and secondary sources,” he says. “Those who condemned the essay and slandered me should have read the content more carefully, and not jumped to politically motivated conclusions.”

Among other things, Hudlicky argues hiring should be based on merit, not on a candidate’s identification with a particular group. He does say he could have been clearer and more diplomatic, and should have shown the “positive influence” of diversity on the field of synthesis.

“I do not oppose diversity in the workforce and did not oppose it in the essay,” he says. “I opposed preferential treatment of any group over another.”

Hudlicky acknowledges what he calls harmful “structural inequalities and systemic bias,” but says the best way to diversify university faculties is to hire the best candidates, who can train and mentor a diverse and inclusive group of next-generation scientists and scholars.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Diversity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media/FILE)
Vehicle found abandoned after fleeing Kelowna RCMP, avoiding spike belt

Police believed at the time vehicle was tied to alleged shooting in West Kelowna

West Kelowna RCMP are investigating reports of gunfire in the 1700-block of Ross Road. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating reports of gunfire

West Kelowna RCMP said the incident occurred on Jan. 14

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

Harvest Meats is recalling a brand of Polish sausages, shown in a handout photo, due to undercooking that may make them unsafe to eat. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recall affects customers in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Saskatchewan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Food Inspection Agency Mandatory Credit
Harvest Meats recalls sausages over undercooking

Customers are advised to throw away or return the product

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Real estate sales in the South Okanagan grew by more than any other part of the province in 2020. (Marissa Tiel - Black Press)
South Okanagan fastest growing real estate market in B.C.

There was over $1 billion in residential sales in 2020

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary South Okanagan long-term care facility administrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

Penticton’s 7-Eleven is closed due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, the company announced Jan. 15, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton 7-Eleven closed after employee tests positive for COVID-19

The store will re-open “on or before” Jan. 23

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

With a second case of COVID-19 confirmed at South Canoe Elementary, parents were advised Thursday, Jan. 14, that the school could be closed for a week or so. (Contributed)
Closure considered after four cases of COVID-19 identified at Salmon Arm school

South Canoe Elementary principal grateful for concern and support shown by public

Most Read