For immediate release...
HUNDREDS OF PHYSICISTS AND OTHER SCHOLARS DEMAND REINSTATEMENT OF PHYSICIST FIRED FOR WRITING BOOK
More than 750 scientists and other scholars in a wide range of fields have condemned the American Institute of Physics for firing Physics Today magazine staff editor Jeff Schmidt over his book, Disciplined Minds (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers). Among the protesters signing letters delivered on 14 January 2002 are two Nobel Prize winning scientists and more than 500 physicists -- the largest number of physicists ever to speak out on a freedom-of-expression issue in the United States.
The protesters have written a flurry of letters demanding that the magazine reinstate Schmidt, who was fired after 19 years on the job a few days after officials at Physics Today and the American Institute of Physics, which publishes the magazine, saw his book. Disciplined Minds is about the politics of professional work, and uses the education and employment of physicists to illustrate its points. The origin of job dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is employers' insistence on exclusive control over the political aspects of the work, and the subordination of the vision of those who actually do it.
The details of the case are explained in an appeal to scientists by three professors of physics and in a statement by two former Physics Today staff members. (See the appeal appended below.) The appeal resulted in a protest letter signed by more than 540 individuals, mainly physicists. About 100 individuals, mainly physicists and former Physics Today staff members, drafted other letters blasting the magazine for its repressive behavior and likewise demanding Schmidt's reinstatement. Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky helped to solicit signatures on another protest letter, which has been signed by about 150 scholars and others at institutions across the country, in a wide variety of fields outside of the sciences.
Ironically, the American Institute of Physics is governed by the American Physical Society and other physics organizations that often speak out publicly when dissident physicists outside the United States are punished for expressing their views.
All of the group and individual letters, along with the names and affiliations of the more than 750 signers, are posted on the Web at http://disciplined-minds.com.
The protests forced the American Institute of Physics to break its silence and issue a very revealing public statement, which is posted on the Web at http://disciplined-minds.com -- along with a response by physicists Talat Rahman of Kansas State University, George F. Reiter of the University of Houston, Michael A. Lee of Kent State University, and Denis G. Rancourt of the University of Ottawa.
The protesters include scientists from 34 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States, Yugoslavia -- and, in a turn of the table on free-expression, Cuba.
Dear fellow scientist,
As you may have heard, Physics Today magazine recently gave a very punishing review to a book written by physicist Jeff Schmidt: The magazine fired him.
Jeff was a staff editor at Physics Today for 19 years -- until his supervisors saw Disciplined Minds, a thought-provoking critique of workplace hierarchy and the politically subordinate role of salaried professionals. The book uses physicists and physics graduate school to help illustrate points about professionals and professional training in general.
Within days of learning about his irreverent book, the higher-ups at Physics Today dismissed Jeff summarily, apparently using the book as an opportunity to retaliate against him for his workplace activism and to ignore his widely praised work for the magazine. Details of Jeff's firing are given in the attached statement by two former Physics Today staff members.
Please join us in protesting Jeff's dismissal, by adding your name to the attached letter. We will send the letter to Marc H. Brodsky, Executive Director and CEO of the American Institute of Physics, which publishes Physics Today, and we will also post it on the Web.
To add your name to the letter, please send an e-mail message to SpeechRights@aol.com. Include your name and an affiliation, such as your department and institution. Please ask others to add their names, too.
You can also write directly to Marc Brodsky, at email@example.com. If you do, please send a copy of your letter to SpeechRights@aol.com so that it can be posted on the Web.
Your support will make a big difference.
Fellow of the American Physical Society
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Physics
Kansas State University
George F. Reiter
Professor of Physics
University of Houston
Michael A. Lee
Professor of Physics
Kent State University
14 January 2002