Selma G., a grad student at MIT, highlights the odious behavior of Richard Stallman:
There are so many things wrong with what Richard Stallman said I hardly know where to begin. First, he didn’t even give the typical, whiney, ‘he’s accused but not convicted’ defense. No, Stallman went much further than that. Instead, Stallman said “Let’s assume that Marvin Minsky had sex with an underage girl who was a victim of child sex trafficking”…
The reference reports the claim that Minsky had sex with one of Epstein’s harem…Let’s presume that was true (I see no reason to disbelieve it).
…and then he says that an enslaved child could, somehow, be “entirely willing”. Let’s also note that he called a group of child sex trafficking victims a ‘harem’, a terrible word choice.
We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that
she presented herself to him as entirely willing.
This is someone who is respected far and wide by the technology community.
This is someone who is a Visiting Scientist at MIT.
MIT claims it never wanted to elevate Epstein’s reputation by allowing him to donate. But, here they are, not only elevating but funding and endorsing a person like Richard Stallman as a visiting scientist.
What’s more, somehow Richard Stallman decided it was appropriate to email his opinion to an almost department-wide mailing list (“csail-related”) which had undergraduate students on it. In an email further down the thread, he also said,
“I think it is morally absurd to define “rape” in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”
in response to a student who said “Giuffre [the victim who testified] was 17 at the time, this makes it __rape__ [sic] in the virgin islands” .
This is inexcusable behavior in any circumstance, but even more so in an academic setting. The picture above is the door to Stallman’s office. Imagine being a female computer science student at MIT and having to see that. Think Stallman values your mind when you come for office hours?
Selma has more examples of unprofessionally sexist behavior from Stallman in her post, but it is a long shot that MIT will fire him. Stallman, for those of you unaware is one of the founders of the free software movement. That movement is largely responsible for the software that runs the majority of the backbone of the internet. It is not an exaggeration to state that the philosophy behind the movement has a deep influence on technology, politics and economics. Stallman is considered a genius by many.
And he should be fired immediately. Doing otherwise proves several things about MIT.
First, and most obvious, it proves that MIT doesn’t value women. No organization that keeps men who have “hot ladies” on the door to their office values women. An organization who keeps men that make excuses for child sex trafficking is so far form valuing women that it cannot see the concept with the Hubble telescope.
Second, it shows that MIT doesn’t understand how scientific and engineering progress actually works. Stallman might actually be a genius. But no discovery was ever made entirely by one person. No significant software was ever developed entirely alone. Most significant works are collaborations, and thus that are arguably not have been invariably built on the works of people who came before. The Free software ethos is one of explicit collaboration. It will survive quite easily without Stallman. It will in fact be stronger, because women who have been driven form it by the presence of people like Stallman will be free to contribute their own intelligence and genius to it.
This should be an easy decision. Stallman is making excuses for terrible actions done to the most vulnerable among us on top of a history of casual and completely unprofessional sexism. He is a detriment to the organization and keeping him on states clearly that MIT cares not one wit about women or science, only celebrity and the old boys club.