Cases of Academic Censorship Related to Group Identity Politics
For background, see the
- Report: “2020 College Free Speech Rankings: What’s the Climate for Free Speech on America’s College Campuses?” features the opinions of the roughly 20,000 students surveyed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, College Pulse, and RealClearEducation.
- free speech policy statement produced by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago, 2015
Case File Directory
"On Sept. 7, Taylor taught the Columbian Exchange to his “Emergence of a Global Society” class. As it has in earlier years, Taylor’s instruction focused on early global trade, including trade in silver and potatoes. As part of the class, he also covered the more pernicious aspects of early trade, such as slavery, the abuse of indigenous populations, and the spreading of disease. On his final slide was a discussion prompt: “Do the positives justify the negatives?” A lively discussion ensued. One student said slavery could never be justified. According to Taylor, he clarified that no one is justifying slavery and asked students to consider global trade as a whole, including lives lost to disease and lives saved from famine.
Three days later, the Instagram account “sjuradicals” posted slides stating that Taylor “forced students to formulate a pros and cons list concerning the topic of slavery” and alleged he “poses a dangerous threat to the education of our student body.” The final item urged readers to direct a form letter to the university in order to “bring meaningful justice to this heinous crime committed by Professor Taylor.” The post also mentions Taylor’s service in the Marine Corps and the New York Police Department. Later that day, history department chair Nerina Rustomji informed Taylor by phone that he was removed from teaching."
"A joke about political correctness doesn’t have administrators at Syracuse University laughing. Instead, they are investigating a professor for discrimination and inappropriate conduct, and banned him from having any contact with students. Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education formally called on Syracuse to drop its investigation and immediately reinstate the professor.
Jon Zubieta, a chemistry professor of 30 years, included “Wuhan Flu or Chinese Communist Party Virus” on the section of his syllabus explaining university regulations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Aug. 25, the syllabus began circulating online, and the university sprang into action: issuing a statement on the “offensive” language, banning him from the classroom, and launching an investigation. Syracuse informed Zubieta he was to have no further contact with students until the investigation is complete."
"When the news began circulating on social media, many couldn’t believe it was true––that the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California would remove a longtime professor from a class because a Mandarin word he used correctly in a lesson sounded sort of like a racial slur. One skeptic warned that the “ridiculous sounding story” seemed like a “fabricated Reddit meme.” Another was suspicious that it so neatly fit a narrative of “wacky campus leftists repressing free speech.”
"Assistant philosophy professor Rebecca Tuvel’s piece “In Defence of Transracialism” (the idea that people can identify as a different race) last year led to its journal Hypatia apologising for publishing it, resignations from the publication, and an open letter calling for the article’s retraction signed by over 800 academics. Also last year, a case for colonialism and its return in the Third World Quarterly journal caused such a controversy that a petition for its retraction started by three academics collected over 7,000 signatures, nearly half the journal’s editorial board resigned, and Bruce Gilley, the author of the piece himself, asked for it to be withdrawn, saying he’d received death threats. The piece was retracted, due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” to the journal’s editor, according to the publisher. Last December, over 50 Oxford academics signed an open letter criticising and refusing to engage with their fellow professor Nigel Biggar’s “Ethics and Empire” project that suggested people should take “pride” in aspects of their imperialist past. Other examples the journal’s founders provide include the so-called no-platforming (protesting against speakers, or calling for them to be uninvited) of figures mainly deemed transphobic, racist or fascist coming to speak at universities. The most extreme case they point to was a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, Allison Stanger, who went to hospital with concussion after an altercation with students protesting her debate with Charles Murray, a political scientist accused of espousing eugenicist and white nationalist arguments." (https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/11/do-academics-need-pseudonyms-protect-their-freedom)