We’re beginning to see more and more, that Higher Education is becoming no more than an echo chamber for those whose agenda is Social Justice, or whatever is perceived to be Social Justice, to them of course, without consideration the person(s) or the circumstances of those that are condemned for their views or their associations. Of course, this started at the student level where protests and disruptions – even violent disruptions – would occur on campus because a few decided that an invited speakers’ views were so abhorrent to a small mob, that those views may not be heard, by anyone. These are the institutions which in the past have always welcomed reasoned discussion, even debate, because it was believed that even those views that may be disagreeable to some, would allow students to better understand the wider world. Not any longer.
Now, unless the views expressed are those of that same mob, they are unwelcome and administrations at multiple colleges and universities around the country, discourage to the point of disallowing any speakers on campus that may, by their mere presence, cause a disturbance. This has become so common that it hardly rates thirty seconds on the news, unless of course there’s some sort of violent confrontation and even then, they’ve become a one day story, with no one actually questioning how we came to this point in history where differing viewpoints became so toxic.
It’s no longer restricted to student-held events. Now it looks like the mob is beginning to come for academics as well. I was recently in an online discussion/debate concerning one that lost a post doctoral fellowship based on his associations. That’s right, he went to a conference or two, spoke with people whose research is not recognized as being woke enough for the mob, and even though his credentials were impeccable, a decision was made that he should not in fact, be allowed to continue his research under this fellowship. Yes, he was fired. Now, I have to assume that when he was chosen for said fellowship that his published research was reviewed by at least a few peers in his field. I would also assume, and I know what using that verb means, that the number of applicants for that fellowship was greater than one. That his associations became the basis for his removal, is unconscionable.
Even more recently, a Professor of Law at Harvard University, was removed from his position (not fired, at least not yet) for becoming part of a defense team for Harvey Weinstein. Yes, that Harvey Weinstein, that accused rapist and sexual assaulter. to me, that was even more shocking. Isn’t t the basis of our criminal justice system that the accused is allowed a defense? Well, I guess not in America in 2019. Again, it was the mob that petitioned Harvard, made the most noise, that caused a respected academic, to be shamed for the temerity to believe that everyone has the right to a defense.
I remember when O.J. Simpson was accused, and placed on trial for murder. It was the only show on television and in newspapers daily. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knew he was guilty. There was no way, based on the evidence that he would ever be acquitted of two brutal murders. His legal team, which included Alan Dershowitz, one of the best legal minds in the country, and also a Professor at Harvard at the time (now Professor Emeritus) outsmarted the prosecution on the evidence and the witnesses. Simpson, was acquitted. No one I knew at the time, or even today, thought that would ever have been possible. That’s the way our system works. It was interesting, even at the time, that Dershowitz wasn’t hounded for his becoming part of the defense team. Twenty five years later, just an accusation is a conviction and anyone daring to defend that person in a court of law must be driven out.
I wonder right now, how many academics tenured or not, are willing to stand up to these witch hunts not only within the academy, but beyond as well? I see few. I doesn’t mean there aren’t those that will stand up against their own administrations, but that makes for lousy copy doesn’t it? If none of this seems to be particularly distressing, it should be. What begins in one place (academia) eventually bleeds out into the private sector and if it’s allowed to occur there, how long before not being “woke” enough comes to everyone’s workspace?