One has to wonder when the prevalence of irrationality and hyper-sensitivity among those involved in academia will shore up and return to the virtues of intellectual rigour and basic human communication without having to fear being fired or expelled for saying the "wrong" thing.
A recent example of the overt hyper-sensitivity inside the walls of the Academy occurred at Missouri University (MU), where Joel Poor (a marketing professor) was relieved of his duties as an educator for jokingly remarking that he would "get his mask on" after one of his virtual students said they were from Wuhan, China—the location of the coronavirus outbreak.
The brunt of the backlash the professor received was not that his comment was perhaps rude or tone-deaf, but that it was "racist" and "xenophobic." It doesn’t matter that there is no evidence to support the suggestion that "let me get my mask on" is racist or xenophobic—not in the slightest. However, it's possible the comment could be interpreted as insensitive considering the current climate surrounding the pandemic, but for someone to say that it is racist or xenophobic is operating on a much-too-latent definition of those terms. As a result, the professor lost his job.
As someone who is submerged in the world of academia, both as a graduate student and as an instructor, it is worrisome that virtually anything someone says could be interpreted in a way that could jeopardize their position as a member of the faculty or student body—a position they may have had to work many years to achieve. This appears to boil down to the emergence of a kind of cultural relativism, where essentially anything can be rationalized by left-leaning social justice warriors in an effort to prevent those who disagree with them from holding prominent positions in prestigious institutions.
And this is not an uncommon result for professors or students who are accused of "problematic" or "oppressive" speech, or even thinking about having opposing views. Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, printed in her syllabus that any student who verbalized opposition to abortion or Black Lives Matter in her class could be removed from the classroom. But because she is on the "right" side of the cultural debate, she did not lose her job. Her only penalty is that she was given First Amendment training materials to review, according to the report, despite overt discrimination against conservative students and their values. If a right-leaning professor had suggested that no student was allowed to utter support for abortion or Black Lives Matter, it would almost certainly be grounds for dismissal.
In early June, a UCLA professor received backlash for refusing to give black students an exemption on the final exam to go protest the death of George Floyd. Over 21,000 students, at the time of this writing, have signed a petition to get the professor fired for his so-called "extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist" comments. What could the professor have possibly said that would warrant these accusations?
The professor said: "Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota. Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we've been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half?"
"Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they're racist even if they are not. My TA is from Minneapolis, so if you don't know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a 'no-harm' outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the 'color of their skin.' Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK's admonition? Thanks, G. Klein."
It is clear that those on the left want to create special provisions for non-white students inside and outside the classroom. New York University recently saw two black students suggest that the dorms on campus be segregated by race. The students qualified their desire to see this through by saying that "NYU is a predominantly white institution, making it very difficult for Black students to connect or find community, especially when incidents involving racism occur," adding that "it is not about exclusion, but rather creating a space where Black students can feel included."
It really doesn't matter what rationale these students use to justify their position—to separate people by race is, by definition, segregation. And for them to say that the institution is predominantly white is not some geographical quagmire. The vast majority of the US is white, which means that many institutions are going to be comprised of a higher percentage of white people than other races. This is to be expected. The proposal, thankfully, was not accepted by NYU.
These are, however, not isolated incidents. Black medical students at Stanford University demanded that the institution hand over $25 million for 'social justice,' laying out a comprehensive list of demands they wanted to see fulfilled by the university. Among the absurd demands was that Stanford "commit to a 100 percent job placement rate for Black postdocs following completion of their last stage of training at Stanford University and ensure this achievement through new infrastructure and resources in the aforementioned offices."
The promotion of one set of ideologies while barring opposing views does not augur well for the longevity of an institution that prides itself on diversity of thought and intellectual rigour. It is hard to fathom that those institutions that once stood for open discourse and intellectual rigour are now in the business of actively squashing and stifling free thought and equal treatment.