Dr. Geoffrey Miller of University of New Mexico tweeted the incendiary comment above on June 2nd around 2:30pm EST. Miller, an associate professor at UNM who is currently a visiting professor at New York University Stern School of Business, was quick to delete the tweet but not after it had already been transmitted and retweeted by some high impact social media scientists.
No more than six hours later did Miller issue his two-tweet apology. Many Twitter users found the apology to be too little, too late.
@matingmind It did reflect who you are. Your twitter feed proves it even further.
— Amanda Levitt (@FatBodyPolitics) June 3, 2013
— Hillary Kwiatek (@hillarykwiatek) June 3, 2013
@matingmind you’re a coward, a bigot, and a liar.
— Your Real Name (@mazzie) June 3, 2013
To make matters worse, the original deleted tweet did reflect Miller’s true views, values, and standards (e.g. believing obese people wouldn’t have the willpower to propose/write/defend a dissertation). And as a professor who has sat on graduate committees (based on page 17 of his CV), it would be foolish to believe he didn’t use superficial traits such as weight or size of a person as selection criteria. Worst of all, Miller sat on the UNM Admissions Committee from 2007-2008 (CV page 21), which implies Miller’s potential rejections to those who he didn’t see “fit”.
Other Twitter academics have noted the very possible lawsuit for discrimination against Miller and UNM. Cognitive neuroscientist Chris Chambers (@chrisdc77) has publicly shown his letter written to UNM’s psychology department chair. Some have even discovered Miller’s thoughts on the benefits of modern day eugenics via his personal blog posts (it ends with the sentence How can we help [the Chinese] and how can they help us create a brave new world [through eugenics]?). As someone who surveyed strippers for two months (presumably funded), and has dedicated most of his life to writing glorified self-help books on sex, it’s not hard to see why he just down-right doesn’t think fat people can exist on this planet. Then again, if I don’t find something attractive, I don’t call for a eugenics call-to-arms in order to eliminate said unattractiveness. Let alone, tweet a highly insensitive statement that can ultimately end my career as a public academic.
As my Twitter buddy and fellow cognitive neuroscientist Bradley Voytek said, I hope he — and everyone involved — learned his lesson. As Miller’s CV proclaims, he’s been working as a Ph.D scientist since he got his degree from Stanford in 1994. That’s almost two decades of work, all rattled by 138-characters. Lesson learned.
Update: 9pm EST, 6/3/2013
University of New Mexico has issued a statement regarding Miller’s fat-shaming tweet. Their response:
The University of New Mexico administration and faculty were surprised by Dr. Geoffrey Miller’s tweet. We are deeply concerned about the impact of the statement, which in no way reflects the policies or admission standards of UNM. We are investigating every aspect of this incident and will take appropriate action.
When UNM’s Department chair learned of the tweet, she contacted Professor Miller, who is currently on unpaid leave from UNM while at NYU. He told her that his comment on Twitter was part of a research project. We are looking into the validity of this assertion, and will take appropriate measures. As members of the UNM community, we are all responsible for demonstrating good judgment when using social media or other communications vehicles.
Of course, this implies that Miller’s project went through the same process as all other science research projects — including the very important institutional review board, which reviews all projects under the banner of an institution and awards those which are positive for the institution and also ethically sound.
I’m not exactly too sure if fat-shaming falls under the grounds of an ethically sound project, but then again… Milgram’s shock experiment exists.
This post uses some links presented in NYMag.com’s article on the same event.
This is an ongoing event, so this post may update when updates occur.