'Toe the line:' Professor leaves academia as DEI corrupts STEM

In an exclusive interview with Campus Reform, the professor says he was 'biting [his] tongue as much as [he] could' before making the decision to finally leave.

DEI is 'not translating into real careers and jobs. The universities don’t want to track any of that because they don’t really care once you leave and stop paying tuition,' he says.

Dr. Matthew Wielicki is leaving behind his career in academia because of “the rising tide of illiberalism in the name of [diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)].”

Wielicki is a UCLA-trained geochemist who recently announced on Twitter that he will be leaving his tenure-track appointment at the University of Alabama because of the degree to which DEI and identity politics hampers free inquiry in the academy, especially in STEM. 

His January 23 announcement comes as more stories of racial-gender intersectionality in STEM hit the national news cycle, such as feminist chemistry classes or DEI in mathematics conferences.

In an exclusive interview with Campus Reform, Wielicki said his professorship was characterized by “biting [his] tongue as much as [he] could” before making the decision to finally leave. 

The extreme emphasis of race on campuses only “alienates the students,” according to Wielicki. 

“What you end up seeing is that students tend to collaborate less. They kind of isolate in their tribes [and] there’s much less interaction because people walk on eggshells and don’t want to stir the pot.”

[RELATED: SUNY to require DEI and social justice courses in fall 2023]

But, as Wielicki describes, universities are not supposed to be institutions of conformity. 

“What this type of ideology is doing, is…reducing the collaboration that used to exist in universities. The original kind of Platonic idea [of the universities were] these big halls with people arguing back and forth [with an] open exchange of ideas….[W]ords were never considered violence. [T]here was just this open exchange of ideas,” he said.

Decreasing collaboration in STEM, Wielicki contends, will have significant consequences for scientific innovation in the future.

“Much of how science advances comes from our academic institutions…particularly in the fundamental sciences,” but “the more we isolate” as a result of race-centered practices, “the less we’re going to advance science.”

But the universities are not solely to blame. As Wielicki notes, the universities are motivated by federal funding to support DEI initiatives, especially via grant-funded scientific research.

State funding for public colleges and universities has diminished in recent years, according to the National Education Association. As a result, top-tier research institutions are increasingly dependent on federal funding, typically in the form of grants.

With DEI statements being a required step in the grant writing process for both federal and non-profit research funding, “you’re essentially required to toe the line and state your ideological values as they want them stated in order for you to even be considered as part of the grant,” Wielicki argues.

This is problematic for professors, as gaining tenure in STEM fields depends upon obtaining large grants. 

As Wielicki sees it, DEI initiatives are also detrimental to underrepresented students. 

[RELATED: ‘To abolish Whiteness is to abolish White people’ lecture goes viral]

In candid conversations with his students, Wielicki notes that “minority students feel like they’re being kind of looked at as [if] they didn’t have to work as hard to get to where they’re at.”

He further notes that the increased diversity among the student population is “not translating into real careers and jobs. The universities don’t want to track any of that because they don’t really care once you leave and stop paying tuition. Once you’re out the door, they don’t really care.”

The University of Alabama responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment saying that their institution is “committed to academic freedom, free speech, and open scientific inquiry for all members of [their] campus,” but they declined to comment on “specific faculty employment decisions or outcomes.”

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.