A majority of four-year college and university academics fear being fired and canceled for saying the “wrong” thing, according to a new national survey.
Conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the study found that 52 percent of college faculty members are “worried about losing their jobs or reputation because someone misunderstands something they have said or done, takes it out of context, or posts something from their past online.”
The number grows to 72 percent when factoring in only conservative faculty members but drops to 40 percent when factoring in only liberal faculty members.
According to FIRE, self-censorship is worse now than during the Second Red Scare, i.e., during McCarthyism.
“At the end of the Second Red Scare in 1955, 9% of social scientists said they toned down their writing for fear of causing controversy. Today, one in four faculty say they’re very or extremely likely to self-censor in academic publications, and over one in three do so during interviews or lectures,” a press release from the group reads.
College faculty members are more likely to self-censor today than during the McCarthy era.
Read the chilling findings in FIRE’s new report: https://t.co/vM82hPatvG
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) February 28, 2023
Only eight percent of surveyed faculty members claimed that they don’t self-censor in any context, be it in academic papers or on social media.
Conversely, 25 percent of members admitted that’d be “very or extremely likely to self-censor” in academic papers. Another 45 percent said they’d be likely to self-censor on social media.
Here’s where things take an interesting turn.
Whereas a whopping 34 percent of faculty members “said they often feel they can not express their opinions on a subject because of how students, colleagues, or the administration would respond,” only a fifth of students who were surveyed separately said the same.
Similarly, “On average, 81% of faculty supported allowing four different hypothetical controversial speakers on campus, compared to 48% of the students who were asked about the same speakers,” according to FIRE.
Students appear to be far more censorious than their professors, and it shows. Recently, for example, an art teacher was axed from Hamline University after she displayed an image of the Prophet Muhammad in class and it offended a Muslim student.
“I’m 23 years old, I’ve never seen a picture of a prophet. Never in my whole life. It hurts, it breaks my heart to stand here to tell people and beg people to understand me. To feel what I feel,” Aram Wedatalla, president of the Muslim Student Association at Hamline University, had complained at a press conference.
Yes, a press conference. In response to simply being offended, she held a press conference sponsored by the discredited Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Allegedly in response to her complaints, the school reportedly axed the teacher.
“Officials told Dr. López Prater that her services next semester were no longer needed. In emails to students and faculty, they said that the incident was clearly Islamophobic. Hamline’s president, Fayneese S. Miller, co-signed an email that said respect for the Muslim students ‘should have superseded academic freedom,’” according to The New York Times.
@HamlineU leadership are apparently insane and dishonest, doubling down on idiocy.
At this pace, they’ll soon be removing the word “Ham” from their school name to please #CAIR and @MSAnational in case it reminds them of Pork products. https://t.co/4siCgi6hhR
— M. Zuhdi Jasser زهدي جاسر (@DrZuhdiJasser) January 13, 2023
There is some good news, though.
A notable 61 percent majority of surveyed faculty members said that “a university professor should be free to express any of their ideas or convictions on any subject.”
A smaller 52 percent said a professor’s speech should only be censored “where words are certain to incite physical violence.”
But it gets better.
“More than half of faculty (55%) said students shouting down a speaker is never acceptable. Four-in-five said this about students blocking entry into a campus speech and 92% said this about students using violence to stop a campus speech,” according to FIRE.
So it appears that college faculty members are more friendly to free speech than had previously been thought. It’s students, in fact, who are most against it.
“We’re finally seeing the extent to which faculty have lost their peace of mind. When professors across the political spectrum become terrified of losing their jobs for exercising their rights, true academic inquiry and diversity of thought become nearly impossible,” FIRE research fellow Nathan Honeycutt said in a statement.
But there’s one slight catch: YOUNG and/or FEMALE faculty members. The results of FIRE’s survey show that they tend to be more likely to agree with their student counterparts.
“One in five faculty members under the age of 35 report some level of acceptance of students using violence to stop a controversial campus speaker, and 19% of female faculty believe that it’s acceptable to limit potentially ‘hateful’ speech even when that speech isn’t intended to be hateful,” FIRE notes.
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