Debate: Is STEM Systemically Racist?

by Adam Smith Society


Thu, Nov 2, 2023

8 PM – 9:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

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Wong Auditorium (E51-115)

2 Amherst St, Cambridge, MA 02142, United States

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With the support of the MIT Free Speech Alliance, on November 2, the Adam Smith Society is hosting an Oxford Union-style debate on the following proposition: “Resolved, that STEM is systemically racist.”

Chad Womack, Vice President of National STEM Programs at the United Negro College Fund, and Jaret Riddick, Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, are arguing in favor of the proposition. Luana Maroja, Professor of Biology at Williams College, and Erec Smith, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College and President of Free Black Thought, are arguing against the proposition. Nadine Strossen, professor emerita at New York Law School and former president of the ACLU, is serving as moderator. The debate begins at 8:00 pm ET in Wong Auditorium (E51-115). Light refreshments will be served beginning at 7:00 pm in the adjoining foyer.

For those unable to attend in person, the debate will be livestreamed on the MIT Free Speech Alliance's YouTube channel. Please do not register to attend the event if you plan on watching the livestream.

Neither the Adam Smith Society nor the MIT Free Speech Alliance takes an official position on the debate proposition. Rather, our goal is to provide a model of vigorous yet civil discussion for both the MIT community and the wider public. We hope that you will join us in this endeavor.

Note: Those without a SloanGroups account can register for the debate by selecting the "Register" option and creating a first-time user guest account.

Food Provided (Light Refreshments)


Wong Auditorium (E51-115)

2 Amherst St, Cambridge, MA 02142, United States


Jaret Riddick's profile photo

Jaret Riddick

Dr. Jaret C. Riddick is a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). Prior to joining CSET, he was the Principal Director for Autonomy in the Office of the Under Secretary for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)), serving as the Senior DOD official for coordination, strategy, and transition of Autonomy research and development. Prior to OUSD(R&E), Jaret served in executive leadership roles in the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), where he established a 200-acre robotics research collaboration campus and led ARL Senior leadership efforts to establish the research competencies of the Laboratory. He has also served in leadership roles in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, and the former Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. He holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University.

Chad Womack's profile photo

Chad Womack

Dr. Chad Womack serves as the Vice President of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF where he manages a portfolio of STEM programs that include the Annual Silicon Valley HBCU Tech Innovation Summit, STEM Scholars Program, HBCU CS/Tech Pathways Initiative, TechVentures and the Ernest E. Just Life Science Initiative. Dr. Womack is also the Founding Managing Director of the Applied Research Institute for Mathematics and Computational Sciences (or ARI) established as a collaborative platform to support and network HBCU faculty conducting research in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, Data Science, and other areas. Dr. Womack’s scientific background and training includes CSO of 3gen Vaccines – a nanobiotechnology company, and several postdoctoral research fellowships at the National Institutes of Health and the Harvard AIDS Institute. Dr. Womack earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Morehouse School of Medicine and is a proud graduate of Morehouse College

Luana Maroja's profile photo

Luana Maroja

Dr. Luana S. Maroja is an evolutionary biologist and professor at Williams College.  She got her undergraduate and master's degree from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and her PhD from Cornell University.  Her research focuses on population genetics and speciation on a variety of organisms, including small mammals, crickets, butterflies, and plants.  She and has done extensive field work in Brazil, Panama, and the USA.  Maroja was born and raised during dictatorship in Brazil and was shocked to find support for restrictions in speech among USA college students. She is thrilled to see an increase in civil conversation around controversial topics.

Erec Smith's profile photo

Erec Smith

Dr. Erec Smith is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania. Although he has eclectic scholarly interests, Smith’s primary work focuses on the rhetorics of anti-racist activism, theory, and pedagogy. He is a co-founder of Free Black Thought, a website dedicated to highlighting viewpoint diversity within the African American population. Smith’s recent writings include several op-eds as well as his books, A Critique of Anti-Racism in Rhetoric and Composition: The Semblance of Empowerment (2020) and The Lure of Disempowerment: Reclaiming Agency in the Age of CRT (2022). Lastly, Smith is a research fellow for the Cato Institute focusing on politics and society.

Nadine Strossen's profile photo

Nadine Strossen

Nadine Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita at New York Law School and past President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), is a Senior Fellow with FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Education) and a leading expert and frequent speaker/media commentator on constitutional law and civil liberties, who has testified before Congress on multiple occasions. She serves on the advisory boards of the ACLU, Academic Freedom Alliance, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), Heterodox Academy, National Coalition Against Censorship, and the University of Austin.

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