I am distressed at this news: the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has suspended Chancellor Jim Watson over his comments about race.
I disagree with Watson passionately, and he is completely wrong in his opinions about Africa and women and who knows what else…but he has the right to say it, just as we have the right to disagree vehemently and volubly with him. This does the CSHL no good: it’s a declaration that their director must be an inoffensive, mealy-mouthed mumbler who never challenges (even stupidly).
Maybe that’s what they want — someone diplomatic, who’ll woo donors and visitors with soft words — and I can understand that desire. It’s a sign, though, that CSHL will not be administered by anyone willing to assert controversy, and that’s too bad.
I know, his personal opinions were repellent. But what concerns me is that future leaders of the institution will also not be able to be forceful and loud and aggressive, as Watson has always been, in favor of causes I care about. You have to be able to tolerate the tenure of assholes in order to have the possibility of heroes.