The Stanford Daily:
Letter comes amid controversy over statements from Hoover made about COVID-19 by Scott Atlas, Hoover Fellow & Advisor to President Trump
Over 100 Stanford faculty have signed an open letter calling for the Faculty Senate to discuss the relationship between the Hoover Institution and Stanford.
Initiated by comparative literature professor David Palumbo-Liu, the letter comes in light of recent controversial comments about COVID-19 made by members of the Hoover Institution — most notably by senior fellow Scott Atlas — but also addresses long-standing concerns held by some Stanford faculty. For example, the letter notes that Hoover senior fellow Richard Epstein, a “legal scholar with no expertise at all in epidemiology,” published an article on the Hoover Institution’s website in mid-March claiming that U.S. coronavirus deaths should only reach about 500 cases.
The Hoover Institution did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment on the matter.
Hoover senior fellow and comparative literature and German studies professor Russell A. Berman said that a diversity of viewpoints, of which more heterodox ones sometimes come from the Hoover Institution, is valued at Stanford among both students and faculty alike. He said he agreed that people should listen to science but noted that science is experimental and must face multiple alternatives in the experimental process.
The letter also contends that the Hoover Institution’s mission statement reveals a “narrow focus and predetermined point of view” of the think tank. Hoover’s mission statement states, “Ours is a system where the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social or economic action, except where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves.”
Palumbo-Liu said that in cases where statements such as Atlas’ are put out under Stanford’s name, “people wonder if [the Hoover Institution] is really a research institution if it’s guided to reach the same conclusion over and over again. When the information is clearly not true, when you state a mis-fact, it is troublesome.”
In August, Atlas was named a senior advisor to President Trump and appointed as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. A former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford Medical Center, Atlas has no background in epidemiology. His statements on coronavirus have drawn widespread criticism among the scientific community and prompted an earlier open letter by 105 Stanford physicians and researchers denouncing his views.
The information put out by the Hoover Institution is “not research, it’s propaganda, and that’s the opposite of what a university is, and it’s liberal education, diversity, and argumentation,” Palumbo-Liu said.