We should all be used to the temptation of the “send” button by now, but for some reason it keeps sucking people in with its spell. The latest ironic case was Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor visiting NYU, who on Sunday tweeted a thought he immediately regretted, about willpower of all things: “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.” After fellow tweeters, including NYU colleague Jay Rosen, called Miller out for being inappropriate (Wired writer Steve Silberman compared it to eugenics), he’s since deleted it and offered his “sincere apologies to all for that idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged tweet.”
The professor, who is visiting as an instructor at NYU’s Stern School of Business from his permanent position at the University of New Mexico, also claims that, “obviously my previous tweet does not represent the selection policies of any university, or my own selection criteria.” But it’s not obvious. Miller has sat on admissions committees before, his CV states. Now he’s expressed this apparently serious, if better-left-private, non-academic criteria for accepting or rejecting people. And his peers are calling foul.
Whatever consequences Miller might face, if any, will stem from that split-second action of pressing “send” on his fateful 140 characters. It makes the public breakdown of another, former NYU instructor in Williamsburg over the weekend, seem deliberate by comparison.