MIT cuts ties with Walter Lewin

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  • #1
nsaspook
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http://tech.mit.edu/V134/N60/walterlewin.html
MIT is cutting ties with retired professor Walter Lewin after determining that the physicist, whose lectures had made him a beloved teacher and minor Internet star, had sexually harassed at least one student online.

The woman was taking one of Lewin’s classes on edX, the online learning platform started by Harvard and MIT.
...
MIT is also removing Lewin’s lecture videos and other course materials from edX and MIT OpenCourseWare indefinitely, “in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior.”
Removing his physics lecture videos! Who thinks that punishing others with this is the right response?
 
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  • #2
drizzle
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???
 
  • #3
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You know what, forget everything I wrote. I think it it is a right response after reading their point of view. That is assuming they are not lying about their reasons.
 
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  • #4
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Lewin is victim
 
  • #5
SteamKing
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A little taste of the Cultural Revolution comes to the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge.

IDK if Lewin is a victim, since the nature of the alleged harassment and the details turned up in MIT's investigation have not been linked to here on this forum.

I do agree with some of the commenters on the MIT Tech link that pulling all of Prof. Lewin's videos is not directly punishing him, but punishing those students who used the videos to learn physics.
 
  • #6
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Not sure if this is the complete series, but Lewin's lectures are still available here.
 
  • #7
wow, i wasnt even through watching his physics 2 video lectures on ocw.
 
  • #8
nsaspook
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  • #9
Usually, when things become no longer usable, they are dumped away. Excuses ? Plenty!
 
  • #10
Astronuc
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Ostensibly, there is credible evidence of misconduct. A complaint was filed, and there should be evidence, as in an email or other electronic record that investigators would have to confirm in order for MIT to take action. If one engages in harassment, there are consequences for such behavior.

Many institutions have clauses in employment/business contracts related to ethical and moral behavior, and violations of such clauses can mean termination of employment/benefits/relationship.
 
  • #11
SteamKing
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I don't think anyone is saying that the administration at MIT doesn't have the right to discipline current or former members of its faculty, but pulling the instructional videos, which by all accounts did not themselves harass the complainant, seems a little excessive.

This is not the first time a scientist has gotten into hot water for his views or conduct. Should we disavow the use of all transistor based electronics because one of its inventors held some rather controversial views? Should we throw out genomic science because one of the discoverers of the DNA molecule made some disparaging social commentary?

If we follow the MIT model here, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle becomes the ????, because he worked on the Nazi's atomic bomb project.
 
  • #12
...because he worked on the Nazi's atomic bomb project.
:approve: :nb) True analogy!
 
  • #13
Astronuc
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I don't think anyone is saying that the administration at MIT doesn't have the right to discipline current or former members of its faculty, but pulling the instructional videos, which by all accounts did not themselves harass the complainant, seems a little excessive.
That's up to MIT with which he had an affiliation.

If we follow the MIT model here, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle becomes the ????, because he worked on the Nazi's atomic bomb project.
Not while he was employed at or under contract with a US university. That was a matter for the US and British governments to decide, as was the case for many German scientists following the extraordinary event that was WWII.
 
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  • #14
Evo
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  • #15
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I don't think anyone is saying that the administration at MIT doesn't have the right to discipline current or former members of its faculty, but pulling the instructional videos, which by all accounts did not themselves harass the complainant, seems a little excessive.
You know SteamKing, you made me change my mind. I do now think it is actually excessive. Here is a quote of my own post I deleted myself:
Some humans (not me) believe that when someone behaves in one way, all of their previous work is represented by their last unacceptable action performed in life.

Therefore, a delete follows on all of their previous wonderful work. A lot of hate comments will arise on the internet on places out of MIT and Harvard control, hating on both institutions because stupid little humans will believe that said professor last actions represent both institutions. So to quickly avoid that and prove they do not condemn such actions, they delete what is in their control.

At least that's how I reason about it. I think that such response is appropriate to defend both institutions from stupid little hating cyber-humans despite the fact that I don't believe that the last action of a human represents all of their previous work even though I DO strongly believe his last action is unacceptable.
But all in all, yes, I now think it was excessive.
 
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  • #16
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They probably figure that they can record different lectures by someone who they don't have sexual harrassment evidence against, and they'll be up in a few months. The way some of you are reacting, you'd think MIT erased physics from existence.
 
  • #17
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Dammnn I loved that guy. Sure he was eccentric, but also such a genius when it came to teaching. Sad..
 
  • #18
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Lewin is eccentric but a very good teacher. I'm curious to know what exactly he has done to that woman.
 
  • #19
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This is not the first time a scientist has gotten into hot water for his views or conduct. Should we disavow the use of all transistor based electronics because one of its inventors held some rather controversial views? Should we throw out genomic science because one of the discoverers of the DNA molecule made some disparaging social commentary?

If we follow the MIT model here, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle becomes the ????, because he worked on the Nazi's atomic bomb project.
It's not the same. On one hand you have discoveries which are objective facts and have by themselves nothing to do with the discoverer, and on the other you have lectures that have everything to do with the person who made them. MIT removing his lectures from their website just shows that they do not wish him to represent them. Sure, it's gonna be unpractical for allot of people, but letting the videos stay might send the wrong message..

MIT chooses to be uncompromising when it comes to morals, even at a loss to them, and I personally respect them for that.
 
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  • #20
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Sure, it's gonna be unpractical for allot of people, but letting the videos stay might send the wrong message..
http://media.abovetopsecret.com/thumbs/5e8181e518f2d0d8.jpg [Broken]
 
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  • #21
Vanadium 50
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I don't think anyone is saying that the administration at MIT doesn't have the right to discipline current or former members of its faculty
I would argue that MIT has the right to discipline current members of its faculty - including emeriti. I would also argue they do not have the right to discipline former members of its faculty. When they are gone, they are gone.

As far as taking down the videos, either you have a zero tolerance policy, or you don't.
 
  • #22
jtbell
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I do agree with some of the commenters on the MIT Tech link that pulling all of Prof. Lewin's videos is not directly punishing him, but punishing those students who used the videos to learn physics.
If they leave the videos up, then students might continue to contact Lewin for help or questions, just not through MIT. That could lead to further occurrences of what is supposed to have happened. Taking the videos down helps prevent future cases of harassment, and protects MIT from the consequences of it.
 
  • #23
Zondrina
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Wow, I wish I knew what Lewin did to the girl. They didn't mention any serious legal action being taken against Lewin directly, so it can't have been that bad, right?

As for the videos, those should not have been taken down imo. Those videos are a valuable source of free knowledge to everyone. The knowledge Lewin provided to millions has nothing to do with a single girl who feels as if she was targeted. The case should have been dealt with discretely if it really was that serious and the videos should have been left intact.

Alas, MIT has the ability to control what information they disseminate, so if they feel as if it was appropriate, there's not much anyone can do besides upload his videos elsewhere.
 
  • #24
russ_watters
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I don't think anyone is saying that the administration at MIT doesn't have the right to discipline current or former members of its faculty, but pulling the instructional videos, which by all accounts did not themselves harass the complainant, seems a little excessive.

This is not the first time a scientist has gotten into hot water for his views or conduct. Should we disavow the use of all transistor based electronics because one of its inventors held some rather controversial views? Should we throw out genomic science because one of the discoverers of the DNA molecule made some disparaging social commentary?

If we follow the MIT model here, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle becomes the ????, because he worked on the Nazi's atomic bomb project.
No, that's not a "true analogy". MIT isn't erasing scientific knowledge from humanity (they don't have that power!), it is erasing lectures teaching it. There is a big, big difference.

While I feel for people who are learning from these lectures, ethically what you guys are suggesting is equivalent to placing celebrities above the law for the sake of their fans. Heck, since nobody said it, I'm not sure if people actually recognize that pulling his videos punishes him?
 
  • #25
russ_watters
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I don't think it's right, what he does academically has nothing to do with his private life.
Huh? He was harassing a student in his class. This has nothing to do with his private life!
 

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