David Hills on the SSB vote on the Ernst Mayr Award

[Ernst Mayr with painting of Ernst Mayr.]
Ernst Mayr with painting of Ernst Mayr. Source: Achiever Interview with Ernst Mayr, Ph.D. Academy of Achievement.

The Society for Systematic Biology (SSB) has just announced the vote on the fate of the Ernst Mayr Award. SSB members can vote with a deadline of June 23rd, 2022 (they should each have received an email with the link).

For previous comments on the SSB Ernst Mayr Award, please see:

David Hillis has given a good summary of the case against renaming the award, and given permission for me to post it here. See below the fold.

David Hillis wrote (originally on Facebook, June 9, 2022):

If you are a member of the Society of Systematic Biologists, you can vote on the election of new officers and on a proposed amendment to the society’s constitution. The ballot is now open (check your e-mail if you are a member of SSB). I strongly OPPOSE the proposed constitutional amendment, which would change the Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology to the Outstanding Student Presentation Award in Systematic Biology, for the following reasons:
  1. Ernst Mayr was a life-long champion of diversity and inclusion. He stood up against racism at a time when many others would not. Removing his name from this award would be a slap in the face of the many members who have fought to make SSB inclusive, vibrant, and diverse.
  2. Ernst Mayr funded the award, and was the major benefactor of the society’s endowment, which is now used to support many of the society’s beneficial activities. He deserves recognition for his life-long support of systematics and the society, as well as his many significant contributions to broader society.
  3. Ernst Mayr was one of the founders of the society, and was among the most well-respected and accomplished systematists in history. Removing his name from the award will imply to many that he did something wrong, which is the opposite of the truth. This is unfair to the legacy of Ernst Mayr, who should be an inspiration to all.
  4. Changing the name to a generic award cheapens the award and is unfair to graduate students we wish to honor and recognize. A generic award certainly does not carry the prestige of the Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology.
No one is claiming that Mayr was anything except a hero of diversity and inclusion, and an outstanding founder and accomplished benefactor of the society. Removing the names of people like Mayr from awards sends exactly the wrong message to students and members of the society.

For these reasons, please vote AGAINST the constitutional amendment.

You can read more about the proposed change here: