Campus Free Speech

A First Aid Kit for Professors under Threat

What should you do if the mob tries to cancel you?


Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Donald Downs, Robert George and I provide some advice for professors who find themselves at the center of a storm over something that they said. Most professors have no idea how to react when controversy erupts and activists are demanding that something be done. Too often they wind up digging a hole that only makes things worse. Organizations like the Academic Freedom Alliance and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education can often help, but there are things professors should do even before help can arrive.

Here's a taste from the piece:

Don't lose faith in yourself or abandon your convictions. You have every right to think for yourself and speak your mind. Don't rush to apologize if you have done nothing wrong and so have nothing truly to apologize for. Those who have appointed themselves as the thought and language police know that they can make you feel psychological/emotional pressure to do so, but apologizing will not help, and will almost certainly make things worse. So don't yield to the temptation in the futile hope that a quick apology will quiet the storm.

In a similar vein, think clearly about the situation and what you said. Apply reason, not impulse and emotion, to the very best of your ability. A clearheaded attitude is essential for proper assessment of the situation and will impress — and give confidence to — potential allies and supporters.

So take a few deep breaths, and don't react precipitously. Realize that you are not alone, that good advice and help are at hand. Be patient, and realize that you will attain justice if you take appropriate steps.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. Alas, the main article is behind a paywall. However, the most obvious thing to start doing immediately if you are attacked by a mob for your reasonable free speech (and not supported by your administration) is: start looking for another job.

    1. Linking to a paywalled article from this blog ought to be considered spam. Hopefully, Mr. Wittington will correct it.

  2. As with all buf you stand up for yourself they will move on to the weakest victom.

    Don’t get confused… its not about what you said, it’s about power. Appeasing them with an apology only encourages these tactics.

  3. but there are things professors should do even before help can arrive

    1. think carefully about whether the administration at your institution has your back, and will robustly protect you against unfair accusations

    2. if you think “yes” – then cravenly confess your sins and apologise, full sackcloth and ashes mode; you are obviously too dumb to get another job

    3. if you think “no” – continue with the rest of the article

  4. Take a breath and don’t respond to the bait is really good advice. Everyone is looking for an excuse to make you the bad guy, the best thing you can do is refuse to give them what they want and let them reveal themselves as in the wrong through their behavior.

  5. How best to react when charged with heresy at one of our post-K12 child care churches?

    1. Redirect the witch hunt at someone more suspicious.
    2. Quickly move on to snack and nap time.
    3. Nail some papers to the door.

  6. Realize that speech and actions may have consequences and others have as much right to tell you how much of an asshole you are.

    1. Sure, they have a right to tell you how much of an ass hole you are, but they don’t stop there. They go on to demand that you lose your job, something they don’t really have a right to demand.

      1. Of course they do – especially since public college/university profs are state employees.

      2. I mean why wouldn’t they have a right to demand it? Can’t I demand anything I want to demand? Isn’t this America? Do you not understand what the word ‘demand’ means? Isn’t this a goddamn free speech blog?

        1. “I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!”

          1. Every other form of speech is encouraged and defended here…

    2. Because there’s no justice like mob justice.

  7. Are these three clingers equally bothered by the unhandy fates of professors who become victims of dogma and politics at conservative-controlled, superstition-steeped, nonsense-teaching, academic freedom-denying campuses?

    Or are they just three more cherry-picking, ankle-nipping, hypocritical, disaffected culture war casualties?

    1. (Why does that “official” YouTube presentation omit the credit for Wayne Perkins’ guitar solo? That is poor form.)

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