All posts filed under: Education

Pursuit of Injustice: Further Adventures Under Title IX

A specter is haunting American colleges and universities, the specter of Title IX. Originally the portion of the Civil Rights Act concerned with gender equity on campus, the previously laudable Title IX was twisted beyond recognition by the infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” Letter and the new regime of federal compliance it created. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued the DCL with the intent of reducing sexual harassment and assault, but instead it ushered in ivory tower McCarthyism. Last year, I endured a Title IX investigation (detailed in a previous article for Quillette) over trumped-up allegations made by a colleague seeking to settle a decades-old score. I was acquitted, but the ensuing investigation led to an entirely new set of administrative charges originating from a different office on my campus, the University of Utah. This article tells the story of how a Title IX case metastasized into a protracted and expensive ordeal. So, how did the Dear Colleague Letter turn universities into star chambers? It lowered the burden of proof for a guilty finding …

Academic Freedom Under Threat in Sweden

“You will include Judith Butler in your course.” That was announced to Erik Ringmar, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Lund University, after the September meeting of the department’s board of directors. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading the queer studies feminist Butler. It’s just that the course Ringmar teaches is primarily about the reaction to modernity at the turn of the last century, with a focus on fascism. During earlier semesters it included a part about postmodernism, and within it Butler, but it was removed because it didn’t fit in with the rest of the course. “There is not a course committee in the world which can force me to teach Judith Butler unless I want to,” Ringmar wrote on his blog. This has led to strong protests from student activists, the board, the director of studies and the dean. Of course, this is no great catastrophe in and of itself. It’s just a literature list, after all. But it is part of a much larger process by which academic …

Intersectionality and Popper’s Paradox

Conservative rationalist Karl Popper wrote in The Open Society and Its Enemies that “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.” In a society that tolerates intolerant forces, these forces will eventually take advantage of the situation and bring about the downfall of the entire society. The philosophical foundation of this belief can trace its roots to Plato’s ideas of the republic or Machiavelli’s paradox of ruling by love or fear, and a practical example of this in action is jihadists taking advantage of human rights laws. Nothing should be absolute and without reasonable boundaries, not even freedom. In light of this, there are three observable, identifiable ways in which this latest fad of intersectionality is taking advantage of and destroying the rational enlightenment roots of Western academia from within. The approaches are, namely, infiltration, subversion, and coercion. *** On the face of it, infiltration at first sounds conspiratorial and even counterintuitive. There is, of course, no grand conspiracy or a cabal with a smoke-filled headquarters in the Swiss Alps led by a bald, …

Get On the Bus or Get Under It: Shouting Down Free Speech at Rutgers

The quiet suburb of New Brunswick, New Jersey, felt more like East Berlin, or Belfast, when I visited on the evening of October 2nd. The student center of Rutgers University had been transformed into a loose approximation of Checkpoint Charlie. After passing through the obligatory picket line (“Are you one of the speakers?” a student protester asked me suspiciously), visitors were screened by a gauntlet of police officers and security guards, who inspected our bags for weapons before allowing us into the building’s auditorium. The occasion for this atmosphere of impending confrontation was a panel discussion – “Identity Politics: The New Racialism on Campus?” – sponsored by the left-libertarian British political website Spiked. As part of its “Unsafe Spaces” American tour, Spiked has convened a series of panels at American colleges this fall to discuss questions of identity politics, free speech, and viewpoint diversity on campus. If panels of writers and tweedy intellectuals don’t strike terror into your heart, then you aren’t an administrator at American University, the Washington, D.C. college scheduled to host the first …

Postmodern Creationism in Academia: Why Evergreen Matters

In the aftermath of the persecution of biology professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College, we need to pause and look back. With the Higher Superstition exposé by Gross and Levitt in 1994, many of us assumed that the postmodern fashion would begin to fade. This prediction was wrong. This has prompted me to reflect on a similar suppression of academic freedom that passed virtually unnoticed years ago, when world-renowned Hopi language scholar, Ekkehart Malotki, was censored and vilified by the same inquisitorial thinking proliferating once more on American campuses. In a recent overview of the influence of relativist and radical social-constructionist theories in academia, specifically in fields devoted to the study of indigenous languages and cultures, I called attention to a resulting crisis of scholarship and teaching. This crisis has deepened in these fields with the promotion of a pernicious version of creationism. But the current opposition to the scientific theories of human origin and migration, often ascribed to Native Americans, in reality finds its most forceful proponents in and around North American universities, among professors …

China: Zero Tolerance for Academic Freedom

Universities will be closely scrutinised, professors will be evaluated and the Party will punish those lacking ideological firmness. Such is the program released by Xi Jinping’s government to coincide with the Communist Party congress, where Xi is seeking to reinforce his authority as a world leader. Efforts to control universities and disregard academic freedom are also taking place abroad. In early September, Reuters and The Guardian exposed efforts by Chinese authorities to partially restrict access to the American Political Science Review from within China. The Review, one of the most reputable journals in its field, is published by the prestigious Cambridge University Press (CUP). Ultimately the publishing house resisted the Chinese pressure, but the news has sparked upset, coming just a few weeks after another controversy that shook the foundations of academia. The “China Quarterly” affair In August, China scholars from around the world learnt that Beijing had demanded that Cambridge University Press withdraw 315 articles and book reviews from China Quarterly, produced by University of London’s respected School of Oriental and African Studies and published by …

Academic Article Withdrawn Following “Serious and Credible” Threats of Violence

Editor’s note: the following article has been updated to include details obtained via a police report from Portland State’s Campus Public Safety Office regarding a voicemail threat sent to Associate Professor Gilley on September 14.  An academic journal that published a controversial article making a case for Western colonialism has withdrawn the piece after its editor received “serious and credible threats” of violence. “These threats are linked to the publication of this essay,” Taylor and Francis, the publisher of the Third World Quarterly (TWQ), wrote in a statement in place of where the article was formerly available. “As the publisher, we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.” The article’s formal withdrawal concludes a month-long controversy that saw its author, Portland State associate professor of political science Bruce Gilley, at the center of an international firestorm culminating in threats of violence against both him and the journal’s editor-in-chief, Shahid Qadir. First published …