Geoffrey Miller, an Evolutionary Psychology Professor at New York University and the University of New Mexico, got himself into hot water on Sunday when he tweeted this:
Sure, that’s offensive — and it’s also aggressive, since the tweet is addressed directly to obese people. But worse for his employers, it’s also possibly litigious, since Professor Miller sat on an Admissions Committee at the University of New Mexico.
After Mr. Miller received blowback for his comment, he tweeted out these two apologies later on Sunday night:
It seems that Mr. Miller realized he had made a big, career-threatening mistake. Unfortunately for Miller, the hashtag in his original tweet—“#Truth”—made it abundantly clear that he believes what he said, despite his protestations otherwise. Nor are his denials as “obvious” as he claims.
But Mr. Miller didn’t stop there. First, he deleted his original tweet and locked his Twitter account. Next, and somewhat incredulously, he claimed that his offensive tweet was sent as part of a research project.
Here’s the statement from the University of New Mexico, which doesn’t exactly stand behind their man:
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.
Here are a couple of questions:
- 1. What type of research project makes you send out a fat-shaming and possibly litigious tweet from your personal account?
- 2. If it was a research project, why did he apologize for his comments instead of explaining them right away?
The University of New Mexico’s statement appears to suggest that this tenured professor’s days may be numbered. As for NYU, their stance is less admirable, if not downright shameful, telling The New York Observer:
“What Geoffrey Miller, a University of New Mexico professor who is a visiting professor at NYU, said on Sunday on his personal Twitter account was regrettable. Professor Miller apologized for the Tweet and deleted it. NYU considers the matter closed.”
That’s a rather flip approach for such a damaging comment. As one person in my Twitter network said:
It will be interesting to follow how UNM handles this case. In the meantime, one thing is clear: If Professor Miller lacks the willpower to avoid assaulting entire groups of people, he lacks the willpower to retain his title of “Professor.”
UPDATE: July 5, 2013
According to The Daily Mail, The University of New Mexico has now confirmed that Mr. Miller’s tweet was not sent as part of a research project, as he had claimed. The article reports that “UNM officials say the school is conducting a disciplinary investigation.” As I originally suspected, it appears as if Mr. Miller doubled down on his bullying text with a lie. Both seem to be appropriate causes for his dismissal.