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VIDEO: Hate Spaces — How the New Antisemitism threatens Jewish Students on American Campuses

Two of my four granddaughters are undergraduates at an elite university in Illinois.  Another granddaughter is in her sophomore year at American University.  The environments on their campuses, despite significant Jewish enrollment have become increasingly hostile towards Israel and Jewish students.  Whether it is the aggressive Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement or the hate filled Israel Apartheid Weeks with their Islamist pro-Palestinian vitriolic speakers, faux apartheid walls, swastika plastered campus vandalism or mock eviction notices tacked on dorm room doors: threats to Jewish students have exploded with undisguised venomous hatred.  Hatred is typically expressed by “delegitimizing, demonizing“and applying inappropriate “double standards” to the Jewish nation of Israel.

students-for-justice-in-palestine

Incredulously, this aggressive campaign is backed by student affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood in America; Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the misnamed Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters.  There are 163 active SJP chapters on campuses across this country. The funds supporting this anti-Semitic campaign are raised by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) revealed in Congressional testimony as an affiliate of Hamas. Hamas is a US State Department designated foreign terrorist organization.  Equally bizarre is that many college administrations rationalize their failure to protect Jewish students, under the guise that anti-Israel bias and hostile campaigns are protected by academic freedom and free speech. Meanwhile Jewish students find themselves besieged, with little or no Jewish community support to counter the biased and sometimes hateful professoriate and the left/Muslim alliance on campuses across the country.

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To say that it makes the environment for Jewish students on campus uncomfortable is an understatement. With increasing intimidation threatening violence against Jewish students, it has reached historic proportions of intolerance and antisemitism.

That is why the latest documentary by the team at Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Hate Spaces: The Politics of Intolerance on American Campuses is a must see for those who care about America and the importance of universities in a democracy.   This is not the first time at this rodeo for Dr. Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser producers of J Street Challenge, Forgotten Refugees and Losing Our Sons, about two fathers who lost sons to jihad in America.  Back in 2004 they produced Columbia Unbecoming about Middle East faculty intimidation of Jewish students at one of our family’s alma maters.

So what caused them to produce this latest documentary?

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Avi Goldwasser

Here’s what Avi Goldwasser said:

We’ve been observing the increased hostility toward Jewish students on campus for the past decade. As you may recall, we produced a film called Columbia Unbecoming in 2004 which documented the intimidation by professors of Jewish students who supported Israel. We thought that the film would be a wakeup call for the Jewish community and the people of New York. Sadly, despite getting significant attention, the power structure in the universities prevailed and the hostility continued.

Today, the situation is much worse and more pervasive.   While many anti-Jewish incidents and the BDS campaign are reported by the media, few are willing to connect the dots and report on the underlying ideology and extremist organizations that are inciting the hostility.

We hope that this film will provide such an understanding that good and decent people will be mobilized to address this outrageous scandal that has marginalized Jews.  All we ask is that Jewish students be treated equally and be provided the same protections afforded other minority students.

Power rules our campuses, and those who speak truth to power are punished.  We want to reach people in leadership positions both civic and political leaders to bring change. We also want to energize the public to demand that our leaders in the community and on campus live up to their stated values. What is happening on campus is contrary to American values, and to values of decency. ‘That is not who we are’.

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Dr. Charles  Jacobs

Here’s what Dr. Charles Jacobs said:

The situation on campus reflects an enormous failure on the part of Jewish community leadership.    At base is the leadership’s failure to acknowledge the new antisemitism, the seemingly unlikely alliance of leftists and Islamists. More specifically, Jewish leaders seem not to comprehend or to ignore the structural factors on the campus that make defense of Israel (and its supporters) extraordinarily difficult, namely the overwhelmingly radical anti-Israel professoriate, the significant influence of the Middle East Studies departments with their Arabist view, the various ethnic and gender studies departments united in hate under the banner of intersectonality , and the well-funded anti-Israel radical student groups.

In the face of this enormous institutionalized power arrayed against Jewish students, the Jewish establishment, misunderstanding the assault as an academic debate over facts and history —  gave to Jewish students only reasons and facts with which to fight. Jewish students were handed “Myths and Facts,” the hasbara bible, to “correct” the “myths” that somehow found their way onto the campus.  Jewish leadership failed to understand that we cannot win by fighting power with facts.     This is clearly a failed strategy and it must be rethought and changed. The film is dedicated to this proposition.

As depicted in Hate Spaces, much of the campus intolerance is driven by the new Antisemitism, hatred of Israel based on lies and myths often organized as part of  the  international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement   It is modeled on the South African Boycott movement of the 1980’s.  A number of national academic faculty associations have passed resolutions supporting BDS. Liberal church groups and international charities have pushed resolutions to divest securities of companies doing business in Israel, and especially against products produced in ‘occupied territories’ and even left wing Jewish groups like Jewish Voices for Peace.

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Anti-Israel Anti-Semitic Incidents on College Campuses 2010-2015.

APT has graphically documented this plague of  hate and intimidation on college campuses, including vital data from the AMCHA Initiative in  Jew hatred incidents on college campuses across the US.

Here were some the observations about the scandalous situation on campus depicted in Hate Spaces by noted commentators:

Alan Dershowitz, Emeritus Professor, Harvard Law School

There is an incredible double standard on college campuses.   If you say anything critical of Islam or Islamic extremists you’re subject to being considered a bigot violating university rules. But you can say anything you want about the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor, Jerusalem Post

The more that people attach themselves to ideologies that reject reason, that reject objective reality, that reject facts, that reject history, the more likely you’re going to see very aggressive anti-Semitism.

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal “World View Columnist”

It’s very difficult to deal with the blizzard of lies, I mean, because you can always invent some kind of fiction and that requires enormous efforts to essentially prove the negative: that, in fact, did not happen. I think many of the people who are now joining SJP out of a totally misguided idealism are the useful idiots of the twenty-first century.

Melanie Philips, Daily Mail columnist.

Prejudice and bigotry are all about lies. Antisemitism, Jew-hatred  is based on a set of deranged lies and libels about the Jewish people.

William Jacobson, clinical practice Professor Cornell Law School and creator of the Legal Insurrection blog

You will never hear protests about how Hamas treats people in Gaza. You won’t hear about the brutal repression of Palestinians by the Palestinian authority. There is never a concern expressed by these groups on campus about Palestinians unless it can be used against Israel.

What the battle nowadays is about on campuses, it’s not giving pro-Israel students any special rights, it’s simply treating them with the same protections for their speech as are afforded to anti-Israel groups.

Richard Landes former Boston University Professor 

It’s post-imperialist, or post-colonialists’, thought that feeds a whole dimension of the critique of Israel. A lot of intellectuals are playing out this sort of colonial guilt thing and using Israel as their sacrificial lamb.   They sacrifice Israel to what is, in fact, the most ferocious imperialist, colonialist force. The Israelis are now being told, “You have to make concessions as a way of achieving some kind of absolution for the West’s sins against the world.”

So, who is behind this?

Hate Spaces reveals that a Muslim Brotherhood connected organization; American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is behind aggressive Jew hatred fomented by Students for Justice on college campuses.

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The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt by school teacher Hassan al Banna in 1928 in an attempt to replace the Ottoman Caliphate with a system based on Sharia law hateful to unbelievers, especially Jews and Christians.  Banna was a Hitler devotee and both he and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Haj Amin al Husseini,   Hitler’s House guest during WWII, supported extermination of European Jews.

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Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, V.P Research, Foundation  for Defense of Democracies.

The documentary depicts the April 2016 testimony given by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Threats to Israel. Dr Schanzer is Vice President for Research at the Washington, DC – based foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former specialist on terrorism finance at the US Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control.  Schanzer  laid out  the connections between  AMP, SJP, the Muslim Brotherhood Charity, the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Association for Palestine that figured in the 2008  Federal Dallas trial and conviction of the Muslim charity’s  leaders .  The Chicago-based AMP was founded by Hamas supporter University of California law professor Hatem Bazian in 2004. The purpose was to launch the international BDS campaign on American college campuses sponsoring the Israeli Apartheid weeks with hate-filled propaganda coinciding with the period celebrating Israel Independence.  AMP funds these projects.  Beginning in 2011, SJP began a campaign targeting Jewish students directly by tacking ‘eviction notices’ on college dorm rooms.  According to information available AMP has spent over $100,000 on the various MSA, BDS and SJP eviction notices agit-propaganda campaigns in 2014, alone.

Schanzer presented evidence on the 2008 Federal Dallas trial in Houston, Texas that resulted in the conviction of five leaders of a Muslim charity, the Holy Land Foundation, who funneled in excess of $12.7 million to designated foreign terrorist group, Hamas.  The trial revealed a 1991 plan, obtained by the FBI, prepared by Muslim Brotherhood operatives to infiltrate our government and media to eventually overthrow our Constitution to be replaced by Sharia, Islamic law. Schanzer noted three former members of the Holy Land Foundation who are now employees of AMP.  The extensive fund rising for the Holy Land Foundation and Hamas was facilitated by the Islamic Association for Palestine. There were several unindicted co-conspirators designated in the trial proceedings among them the Islamic Society of North America, Council of American Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim Student Association.

Watch this trailer of Hate Spaces and can arrange for showings in your community to inform both prospective students and   their parents about the New Antisemitism powering intolerance on American Campuses.

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A Modest Proposal For Ending Campus Microaggressions

While college students have been touring Europe, saving rainforests, or interning at high-powered government offices, college faculty and administrators have been preparing for the upcoming school year and the biggest problem that afflicts our institutions of higher learning: microaggressions.

Many people are unaware of microaggressions, but they lurk around every corner, in every classroom, dorm room, locker room, library cubicle, coffee shop, cafeteria, and under every tree and shrub on our bucolic campuses.

The journal that reports on everything important on our campuses, the Chronicle of Higher Education, explains microaggressions. This summer, it featured two lead articles on the problem.

The first, an essay, “Microaggression and Changing Moral Cultures” by sociology professors Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, offers a good definition: “Microaggressions are remarks perceived as sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive to a marginalized social group.” And, “even though the offenses are minor and sometimes unintentional, repeatedly experiencing them causes members of minority groups great harm, which must be redressed.”

A fellow University of Virginia sociologist, Donald Black, elaborates: moral cultures are products of social conditions, and “acts of social dominance — such as belittling someone with insults,” are “more offensive in places or relationships where people are relatively equal. Likewise, acts of cultural intolerance. . . .” (The full disquisition is here.)

The Groundbreaking Discovery of Microaggressions

Chronicle reporter Peter Schmidt, in the companion investigative piece, reveals that microaggressions were discovered back in 1970 by Charles M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard’s medical school.

Those who still have images of the Confederate flag or Playboy centerfolds in their subconscious need special workshops, led by sociology and psychology professors.

In those days, the scourge was limited to “the subtle slights and insults that black people regularly experience at the hands of people who do not see themselves as racist.”

Thirty-seven years later, “a detailed taxonomy” of microaggressions was published in the American Psychologist, with the lead author of the research team and crack scientist Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia Teachers College. In 2010, came the definitive Microaggressions in Everyday Life.

Sue explains that solutions are not as simple as, say, taking down Confederate flags and Playboy centerfolds from faculty office doors. Those who still have images of the Confederate flag or Playboy centerfolds in their subconscious need special workshops, led by sociology and psychology professors.

Most academics, being the placid creatures that they are, go along, accepting such directives as the price they have to pay for being able to work in cut-offs and Birkenstocks. But there are resisters, such as Eugene Volokh, a University of California-Los Angeles law professor, who defiantly writes, “I am going to keep on microaggressing.” No doubt Volokh has a bomb shelter filled with freeze-dried food staples and adorned with a Confederate flag.

The Solution: More Sociology Professors

Perhaps the professor needs a little explaining? Here is something from the Chronicle:

We can better understand complaints about microaggression and the reactions to them if we understand that each side of the debate draws from a different moral culture. Those calling attention to microaggressions have rejected the morality dominant among middle-class Americans during the 20th century — what sociologists and historians have sometimes called a dignity culture, which abhors private vengeance and encourages people to. . . . (This message would best be delivered to Volokh with a trickling water fountain and soft Indian zither music in the background.)

With professors across the land trained in conflict resolution and peace studies, we have hope. Consider the sociology professors’ thoughtful conclusion:

“Surely each side would benefit from a better understanding of the other. Debates might be more fruitful, and relationships on campus more collegial, if we more carefully considered the moral concerns of those who disagree with us. That does not mean the conflict engendered by this moral divide won’t or shouldn’t go on.”
I like that. There can never be too many discussions, meetings, roundtables, training sessions, reports, memos, marches, peace circles, teach-ins, sing-alongs, and group hugs at our institutions of higher learning.

Passing the Microaggression Baton to a New Generation

Here is what is happening in the new frontier of ending hurtful things: Students are reporting microaggressions through such places as the student-initiated Microaggression Project. Others use Facebook. Binghamton University, Brown University, Wellesley College, and Yale University lead the way. Thanks to being properly educated about the “Red Scare,” students are not burdened by misgivings.

Even sweet grandmas need re-education.

Some institutions have followed students’ lead and now have an “institutionalized recognition of microaggression.” Ithaca College has passed a bill “calling for a campuswide online system through which students could anonymously report microaggressions.”

At Fordham University, students describe microaggressions they have suffered in a mug-shot digital photo project. One plaint, about being asked, “So . . . you’re Chinese, right?” made me weep with guilt. Microaggressions can also happen far off campus. They occur when a female student is asked by a female relative if she has met “any nice boys.” Perhaps committees could prepare a brochure for freshpersons to take with them to protect them from such microaggressions from Grandma as the turkey is passed around? Even sweet grandmas need re-education.

There is one safeguard I wished I’d had when I was working as a graduate teaching assistant and being bombarded with microaggressions from freshmen who said they needed “at least a B” to keep their HOPE scholarships: A union contract. The Wisconsin graduate student union contract, for example, protects against microaggressions.

But in that most advanced state, California, the entire university system has issued guidelines to faculty, warning that such statements as “America is a melting pot” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” could be considered microaggressions.

Here, close to where I live and work in a safe space called the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, the local college responds to students’ needs with unequaled dedication. Last December, way-stations in the library assisted students assaulted with the trauma of final exams. One table offered coloring books and crayons, another jigsaw puzzles, another Legos. A bulletin board was set up for sharing tips. One heart-felt Post-It note read simply, “Cry!”

Colleges Target Microaggressions

According to a top-secret memo leaked to me, it appears that Hamilton College committees have put the same diligence into coming up with ways to combat microaggressions.

Imagine what would happen were a student to encounter a menu with fried chicken and watermelon!
The Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion has been toiling away for nigh a year now. The members have presented the initial findings in five areas of needed improvement. They are:

  1. Campus climate: a sense of belonging, with historically marginalized communities not only being tolerated but appreciated. The latter objective will be met with “social belonging/activities over the weekend” and “access to familiar comforts (foods, cultural events, services such as barbers, etc.).”
  2. Bias and microaggressions: eliminating “unconscious bias / ‘isms’” “insensitivity / misunderstandings / misconceptions,” and “anonymous acts of bias/discrimination, especially on the internet and social media sites.”
  3. Student training and education: Diversity programs will also be conducted outside of the classroom.
  4. Faculty and staff training: Mandatory trainings will be conducted at faculty orientations and will include instruction on how to value others. In performance reviews, staff will be evaluated negatively for failing to intervene or missing opportunities to “educate others.”
  5. Diversity issues in the curriculum: Faculty will be required to offer a more diverse curriculum in their classes.

Additionally, diversity trainings, such as “Difficult Dialogues,” Safe Zone Trainings by the Rainbow Alliance, an MLK Winter Book Read, a Division of Student Life training on microaggressions, a training session on acceptable theme party costumes, a transgender issues workshop, and a Ferguson Teach-In, will take place.

Recommendations include recruiting more “staff of color,” collaboration with human resources, Staff Assembly Council, and other campus offices, mandatory bystander student training, diversity training (in addition to current online sexual harassment and Title IX training), redesigning use of common social spaces, and encouraging student groups to involve faculty and staff in their events.

The Price of Comfort Is Eternal Vigilance

I would like to commend this committee for such a visionary, far-reaching list. Who would have thought of “unconscious bias / isms,” sins of omission, and food microaggressions? However, I must warn the good members: unconscious biases deep within the hearts and minds of cafeteria workers could sabotage such efforts. We know from news reports last year the harm done to students when fried chicken and collard greens were served during Martin Luther King Jr. week!

Imagine what would happen were a student to encounter a menu with fried chicken and watermelon! And while faculty certainly have the maturity and cultural awareness to enjoy their margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, our young fragile flowers might think we are stereotyping them with a taco night on May 5.

Let us not allow our students to be traumatized and scarred for life by… Any of the myriad ways microaggressions take place.
The times demand strong action. Let us not allow our students to be traumatized and scarred for life by stereotypical food, looks, refusals to make eye contact, prolonged eye contact, inappropriate conversation starters, smiling too much, or smiling too little—or any of the myriad ways microaggressions take place.

We must put in safety measures on every campus. Let the best and brightest STEM minds come together—as they once did during Sputnik—to come up with a national solution. I challenge fellow American professors to come up with a device that will measure hostilities, unconscious biases, and repressed hatreds, within not only our professoriate, but also the youth, the hope of the future. Stopping microaggressions is too important a matter to be left to chance. Bystanders may not be able to spot them soon enough. The objects of microaggression might be too lost in thought or their iPhones to notice a microaggressive stare or question.

Great scientific minds have come up with such devices for other species, such as our quadruped companions, lest they be tempted by squirrels or cats to run from the safety of yards. If we can make devices that these wear, why not one for our students and faculty? These devices could measure biorhythms, such things as heart rates, pupil dilations, and body temperature. We already, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education and the Gates Foundation, have devices that measure “social and emotional learning” and assess for such things as “grit” and “perseverance.” In fact, the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, which used to test for such irrelevant things as historical knowledge, is now testing for “grit.”

So, whenever a hateful or angry thought would come into consciousness a gentle little tingle would remind the offender, “Do not hate. Do not microaggress.” It would quickly end a hostile stare with a head jerk that would also conveniently alert the object of the microaggressive act that the subject needs further re-education. These devices could even be designed as fashion accessories, as gender-neutral brass chains or with colorful fair-trade beads.

Junior and contingent faculty would benefit immensely from being zapped. No doubt energetic convulsions shaking instructors at the lectern would bring forth healing peals of laughter from students. Humor does so much to ease anxiety. There would be no more concerns about “student engagement,” no worries about students nodding off or web-surfing. Not when lectures are so electrifying.

And we must not forget the “workers.” That lady behind the cafeteria counter would certainly benefit from a gentle shock to remind her that, if watermelon is to be served, it should be in a nice vinaigrette with a little bit of mint.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Federalist.

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Can Millennials [And Academia] Take a Joke? by Clark Conner

Millennials can be a hypersensitive bunch, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the academy. American institutions of higher learning have become veritable minefields of trigger warnings, safe zones, and speech codes.

It appears we can add another line item to the growing list of things too radical for college students: humor. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently joined an expanding group of high-profile figures in denouncing higher education’s culture of hyper-sensitivity.

In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd, Seinfeld discussed why comics are reluctant to take their act on campus:

COWHERD: Does the climate worry you now? I’ve talked to Chris Rock and Larry the Cable Guy; they don’t even want to do college campuses anymore.

SEINFELD: I hear that all the time. I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, “Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.” I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, “Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.” You know what my daughter says? She says, “That’s sexist.”

COWHERD: That’s amazing.

SEINFELD: They just want to use these words: “That’s racist”; “That’s sexist”; “That’s prejudice.” They don’t know what they’re talking about.

It took roughly 24 hours for Seinfeld’s point to prove itself. The day after the Huffington Post ran an article on Seinfeld’s comments, an open letter appeared on the site addressed to Mr. Seinfeld from a “College Student.”

The letter touches on a myriad of topics, including racism, sexism, offending the “right” people, and (for reasons unknown) “the underlying culture of violence and male domination that inhabits high school football,” but its overarching spirit is summed up in the author’s ironic introduction:

Recently, I’ve heard about your reluctance to perform on college campuses because of how “politically correct” college students are… As a college student that loves and appreciates offensive, provocative comedy, I’m disheartened by these comments.

So, a college student was “disheartened” by Jerry Seinfeld’s observation that college students are too sensitive. Let that sink in.

Seinfeld isn’t the only comedian to denounce the current sensitivity epidemic on campus. In a discussion with Frank Rich, Chris Rock espoused the same views as Seinfeld:

RICH: What do you make of the attempt to bar Bill Maher from speaking at Berkeley for his riff on Muslims?

ROCK: Well, I love Bill, but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

RICH: In their political views?

ROCK: Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, too, shared his experience with a college intern who conflated his dislike of Mexican food with racism.

The experiences of Seinfeld, Rock, and Leno obviously can’t be projected on the whole of entertainment media, but their willingness to criticize the don’t-offend-me culture indicates a growing sense that American campuses are becoming hostile to humor. 

And their criticisms aren’t unfounded: the uptrend in campus outrage over even mildly provocative humor is inescapable. Ask Robert Klein Engler, formerly of Roosevelt University, who received his walking papers after telling his class a joke he overheard as a way of stimulating conversation about an Arizona immigration bill.

“There was a sociological study done in Arizona,” Engler said to the students, “and they discovered that 60 percent of the people in Arizona approved of the immigration law and 40 percent said, ‘no habla ingles.’”

That caused a student, Cristina Solis, to file a written complaint with the university, which in turn opened a harassment investigation against the professor.

According to reporting from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Engler was summoned by university officials to discuss the harassment charges, but they wouldn’t disclose the nature of accusation, nor the identity of the accuser. Engler agreed to cooperate with the university’s investigation, but only if the accusations were put in writing.

Roosevelt wouldn’t do so, and also refused Engler the right to be accompanied by his attorney at investigation meetings. Stripped of due process, Engler chose not to participate in the sham investigation, which resulted in Roosevelt University terminating his employment.

What’s worse, Ms. Solis voiced her approval with the university’s decision to terminate Engler. In a quote to the student newspaper preserved on Minding the Campus she proclaimed:

If that [Mr. Engler’s firing] is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it’s for the best. It’s just something you don’t say in a classroom, not coming from a professor, and especially not at a school like Roosevelt University, which is based on social justice.

What a dangerous precedent this is, that a lone student infatuated with the idea of social justice can spearhead a movement to fire a professor over a throw-away joke.

Teresa Buchanan, formerly an associate professor at Louisiana State University, also knows what it means to offend the wrong people.

Buchanan was known by her students as a “gunslinger” who sometimes incorporated profanity or sexually charged jokes in class. For example, Reason reports that one of her zingers came in the form of advice to female students that their boyfriends would stop helping them with coursework “after the sex gets stale.”

After the Fall 2013 semester, Buchanan was informed by the university that she was being placed under suspension pending an investigation for “sexual harassment” and promoting a “hostile learning environment.”

The investigation dragged on, and 15 months later a faculty committee upheld the university’s accusation of sexual harassment. The committee, however, decided that termination was not the solution, but rather that LSU should ask that Buchanan tone down her language.

This suggestion was ignored by university president F. King Alexander. Buchanan was fired on June 19, 2015.

Not only are American academics under fire for using semi-edgy humor, British academics, too, are learning the hard way to leave the one-liners at home.

The saga of Sir Tim Hunt illustrates how even the most prestigious careers can be derailed by pitchfork-wielding mobs feigning outrage over innocuous comments.

Hunt, a Nobel laureate, found himself to be the object of scorn, stemming from a joke he made while presenting to the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea:

It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists.

Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?

Now, seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

This comment was first reported by Connie St. Louis, a journalism professor at University College London (UCL) who was present for Hunt’s speech. She claimed his comments induced a “stony silence” on the crowd.

In reaction, an armada of social media warriors descended on Hunt, resulting in his resignation from multiple honorary positions, including at UCL. Although Hunt incessantly apologized for his “transgression,” his opponents continued to besmirch his character and career.

In making the comments public, however, St. Louis only mentioned some of Hunt’s remarks. She omitted the part where Hunt clearly stated he was joking and praised the role of women scientists.

A few weeks later, a report from a European Commission official recalled a different version of events. Unlike St. Louis, the report included Hunt’s entire statement and claimed that Hunt’s joke was received by laughter, not the agitation asserted by St. Louis.

Despite the EC report vindicating Hunt and dispelling the charges of sexism, the damage is done. Hunt’s top-shelf academic career is now in shambles after being sullied by a throng of raging speech oppressors.

A joke was all it took.

Anything Peaceful

Anything Peaceful is FEE’s new online ideas marketplace, hosting original and aggregate content from across the Web.

EDITORS NOTE: A version of this post first appeared at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

professor black board

The Hidden Costs of Tenure by Jonathon Anomaly

Conversations I’ve had with non-academics about university employment practices usually evoke surprise and skepticism. Most people have a hard time understanding the point of a system that makes it so difficult to dismiss faculty members who are not especially good at their job.

The recent motion in Wisconsin to remove state laws that protect teacher tenure has re-ignited the debate over providing special protections to teachers—protections that don’t apply to journalists, gardeners, or bloggers who are occasionally fired for expressing unpopular views.

In some ways, regulations that determine how university professors are hired and fired in the United States are analogous to the restrictive labor laws in Spain and Greece. By raising the cost of firing bad workers, they increase the relative cost of hiring good ones.

The consequence is persistent unemployment and low productivity in Greece and Spain. The consequences of our tenure system are the proliferation of poor teaching and arcane research in university departments that are immunized from market forces.

Those who pursue a career as a university professor are mostly incentivized to produce specialized work aimed at impressing people who may end up on their promotion committee rather than a wider audience.

In the sciences, this may be a good thing, since one’s peers are likely doing narrow but important work that uncovers the basic structure of the universe. But in the humanities and social sciences, it often leads to the pursuit of bizarre research that is inscrutable to outsiders and of little value even to scholars in related fields.

Another hidden effect of the tenure system is that it often sifts out the very people it is supposed to protect: those with unusual or unpopular ideas. The original justification for tenure was to protect teachers and scholars who hold unpopular views by making it difficult to fire them. But when tenure is the main game in town, the stakes associated with hiring a new faculty member are high, making departments risk-averse. Thus, in order to be considered for tenure-track jobs, candidates have strong reasons to conceal unpopular political beliefs and to pursue relatively conservative lines of research.

By “conservative” I do not mean politically conservative. Quite the opposite.

If most people in a department where you’ve applied are progressives, it is not likely that your allegiance to any non-progressive views will help your cause. Tenured faculty members who make those decisions are often unwilling to take a chance on somebody with eccentric or politically unpopular views, since when a tenure-track position is filled, the candidate who fills it will probably be a colleague for life.

This is not only unfair; it is contrary to the mission of most universities. Research by Professor Jonathan Haidt suggests that political bias negatively impacts the quality of research by stifling open debate. But it’s one of the unintended results of tenure.

Tenure can, of course, protect people with unpopular views. Consider Edward Wilson and Arthur Jensen, eminent scholars at Harvard and Berkeley who have argued, among other things, that different groups of human beings exhibit average differences in genetically-mediated characteristics, including general intelligence and impulse control. Tenure protected their careers, although it didn’t protect them from death threats and intimidation.

On the other hand, it is likely that many more controversial scholars will never be hired in the first place because those on the hiring committee are hostile to their ideas.

Tenure also makes it much harder to terminate faculty members. It was never supposed to be a guarantee that one will never be fired. According to the American Association of University Professors, tenure can be revoked if members of a department can demonstrate that a colleague exhibits incompetence, or engages in academic fraud or seriously immoral behavior.

But even when these things can be shown, it is often easier for faculty and administration to ignore the problem than to mount a costly battle to fire a colleague.

This is one reason many tenure-track jobs are being replaced with adjunct positions, which is a temporary fix for a deeper problem. In the long run, it is likely that the quality of student education and faculty research would increase under a system that offered faculty a greater diversity of contracts, reflecting a faculty member’s ongoing accomplishments, experience, and contributions to the university.

In effect, tenure is a barrier to entry in the academic job market that makes it difficult to replace poorly performing faculty with better alternatives. We should applaud rather than protest the recent decision of the Wisconsin legislature to force the University of Wisconsin to experiment with new ways of conducting the business of hiring and firing faculty.

This post first appeared at the John William Pope Center. 

Jonathan Anomaly