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UNM prof: Obese need not apply

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Dear obese PhD (sic) applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation,” UNM associate professor Geoffrey Miller wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The tweet has since been deleted, and Miller apologized also via Twitter, calling his own words “idiotic, impulsive and badly judged,” according to the Atlantic Wire, an online news site. He told UNM’s psychology department chair that the tweet and others were part of a research project he’s conducting, according to the university. However, he did not elaborate on what the project entails, according to UNM.

The professor, who is on leave from UNM and teaching at New York University, has since made his account private. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

“The University of New Mexico administration and faculty were surprised by Dr. Geoffrey Miller’s tweet. We are deeply concerned about the impact of the statement, which in no way reflects the policies or admission standards of UNM. We are investigating every aspect of this incident and will take appropriate action,” according to the school’s statement.

Miller, who earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University, is a psychology professor and researcher who has taught at UNM since 2001. His research papers, many of which focus on evolutionary psychology, have been published in numerous journals and have been covered in local and national media. For example, Miller conducted a study that correlated lap dancers’ fertility with bigger tips, which got noticeable attention.

Miller has been a visiting professor at NYU for a year. He was scheduled to return in August but has asked UNM to allow him to stay another year, a spokeswoman said.

On his UNM webpage, Miller says he has worked with at least seven doctoral students at UNM and might accept a new Ph.D. student for the fall semester.

Jane Ellen Smith, the psychology department head, said in a video distributed by UNM that she had gotten numerous emails from people concerned about Miller’s statement.

“. . . And when I discovered what it was about I was really surprised. I have to say, the idea that the psychology department here at the University of New Mexico or any department would be discriminating against people because of their size or shape is just outlandish,” Smith said. “It’s nothing we would ever do.”

Smith said she has been in contact with Miller, who told her the tweet, and other provocative tweets, were part of his research project.

“He’s a social psychologist, does work in the evolutionary area and claims that he’s been sending out a number of provocative tweets over a number of months to measure people’s reaction to that, and we’ll be investigating that,” Smith said.

For example, in four tweets featuring the hashtag “diversity is our weakness,” Miller said the world would have fewer conflicts if everyone spoke the same language. Another tweet reads: “If everybody gave up religion for just 10 years as an experiment, our species would be happier.”