I was disappointed to learn that the Faculty Senate of Stanford University on November 19, 2020 adopted a resolution criticizing my work for the United States government. We all wish to guide our nation through this pandemic with the best advice and knowledge that we can bring to bear. It is for this reason that I accepted the request of the President of the United States to serve as an advisor since August of this year. I have been honored to serve our country during these difficult months for our nation and the world.
I am a health policy scholar, medical scientist and doctor. I have always used science and factual evidence to help generate the best possible policies to save lives. My views in favor of the careful protection of our nation’s most vulnerable while safely re-opening society are far from contrary to science. These views are held by some of the world's top epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford itself, as well as by thousands of medical and public health scientists from around the world. I have also repeatedly recommended mitigation measures, including social distancing and mask-wearing when one cannot distance. Media reports to the contrary are simply false.
It should be no surprise that scientists and doctors may disagree over the best response to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. But in responding to COVID-19, we cannot sacrifice the free exchange of ideas, the essential process to discover the scientific truths allowing us to fight the disease. America and its universities must allow differing views without intimidation or rebuke if it hopes to successfully develop responses to such crises and to solve the public health threats of the future.
I wish to correct the misinterpretation of my social media posts that allegedly endangered citizens and public officials. I have made it clear that this was not my understanding or intent. I would never urge or support violence. This manufactured controversy only distracts from what should be our shared goal: to save lives and reduce the harms from this pandemic. My intent was never to divide us, nor to do any harm.
Unfortunately, the Stanford Faculty Senate has chosen to use its institutional voice to take sides in the debates over the complex scientific and medical questions raised by the pandemic. I fear that this precedent could further embroil the University into politics and raises the threat that the University will criticize other faculty who disagree with Stanford’s institutional views on these or other issues.
- Scott W. Atlas, MD