The University of New Mexico has formally censured Associate Professor of Psychology Geoffrey Miller for misrepresenting to his department chair and colleagues the motivation for a tweet he published this past June. The tweet, which questioned the willpower of overweight Ph.D. applicants to complete a dissertation, was widely disseminated. Miller quickly removed the tweet, posted an apology and then closed his Twitter account.
Miller at first claimed his tweet was part of a research project, but investigations by the Institutional Review Board at New York University where he was a visiting professor, and the IRB at UNM where he is a tenured professor, concluded that was not correct.
UNM President Robert G. Frank emphatically stated at the time, and reiterates that, “Dr. Miller’s tweet in no way reflects the admissions policy of UNM.” The university is sensitive to the impact of the tweet and the subsequent media coverage on potential applicants to UNM and is very aware of the potential for harm.
A formal censure by a university is a severe penalty as it places restrictions on the regular activities of the faculty member. It specifies limitations and requires specific actions to be taken.
As part of the censure, Miller will be required to:
- Not serve on any committee involving the admission of graduate students to the Psychology Department for the duration of his time as a faculty member at UNM.
- Work with the faculty co-advisors of the Psychology Department’s Diversity Organization to develop a plan for sensitivity training as it pertains to obesity. The plan must be approved by a co-advisor or by the chair of the department.
- Be assigned a faculty mentor for three years with whom he will meet on a regular basis to discuss potential problems.
- Have his work monitored by the chair of the Psychology Department.
- Apologize to the department and his colleagues for his behavior.
The censure was imposed after methodical review because it was determined Miller violated the following UNM Faculty Handbook policies regarding integrity and honesty:
A20 - Vision, Mission, Values
CO5 – Rights and Responsibilities at the University of New Mexico
Section B, Appendix V of the American Association of University Professors Committee B’s 1987 Statement on Professional Ethics
UNM Psychology Department Chair Jane Ellen Smith also investigated Miller’s dealings with students and colleagues. She found no evidence Miller had discriminated against people who are overweight. In light of the concern raised by Miller’s tweet, Smith is bringing an obesity stigma expert to UNM to help educate the community on this important issue.
Miller can appeal the censure, beginning with the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Miller will be returning to UNM this fall.