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Science journal retracts professor’s article which criticizes diversity hiring

A “prestigious” scientific journal has retracted a professor’s article which criticized hiring based on diversity, leading to apologies from both the journal and the professor’s university.

Tomas Hudlicky of Ontario’s Brock University wrote the piece “‘Organic synthesis — Where now?’ A Reflection on the Current State of Affairs” 30 years ago, but it was just published last week by the Angewandte Chemie, “one of the world’s prime chemistry journals,” according to the CBC.

While his article deals with a lot of technical stuff, Hudlicky also criticizes the “preferential” hiring of women and minorities.

“In a social equilibrium, preferential treatment of one group leads to disadvantages for another,” Hudlicky writes. “The rise and emphasis on hiring practices that suggest or even mandate equality in terms of absolute numbers of people in specific subgroups is counter-productive if it results in discrimination against the most meritorious candidates.”

Angewandte Chemie withdrew the article “amid a backlash” after its publication. Editor-in-Chief Neville Compton said Hudlicky’s views “do not reflect our values of fairness, trustworthiness and social awareness,” and added aside from “spread[ing] trusted knowledge,” his journal also must “stand against discrimination, injustices and inequity.”

Compton said publishing the article was a “clear mistake” and two Angewandte Chemie editors were suspended. In addition, 16 members of the journal’s international advisory board who criticized the piece submitted their resignations.

From the story:

[Hudlicky] told New York-based Retraction Watch that he was subject to a frightening witch-hunt.

“We are sliding back to Calvinism and burning at stakes. This is absurd,” he said. “I expressed my opinions and my words were totally taken out of context.”

However, the university had no compunction in condemning the article once it became aware of its publication on Friday.

In a statement on Sunday, the school’s provost said the paper included “highly objectionable statements” that contrasted the promotion of equity and diversity with the promotion of academic merit.

“These statements are hurtful and alienating to members of diverse communities and historically marginalized groups who have, too often, seen their qualifications and abilities called into question,” said Greg Finn, also a vice-president.

Finn said the school was considering unspecified further steps.

A medical physicist claimed Hudlicky’s piece is “a hair’s breadth away from saying anyone who isn’t a white man is only there because they’re ‘diversity hires’.”

Read the article.

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