Originally published on The Word of Damocles. Reposted with permission.
The resistance to woke ideology and tactics continues to gain momentum. Two different professors at two different universities have been attacked and canceled by the woke mob for the same offense – standing up for equality. To their great credit, they’re fighting back.
In Los Angeles, Management professor Gordon Klein received an email from a “non-black” student containing an odd request – that, in the upcoming exam, black students be graded more leniently than everyone else.
We are writing to express our tremendous concern about the impact that this final exam and project will have on the mental and physical health of our Black classmates,” the student wrote. The unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper and the violent conduct of the [University of California Police Department] have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community. As we approach finals week, we recognize that these conditions place Black students at an unfair academic disadvantage due to traumatic circumstances out of their control.
How any of that, particularly Amy Cooper’s neurotic behavior, can possibly be construed as placing “Black students at an unfair academic disadvantage” is anyone’s guess. I suppose the writer considered the matter self-evident.
Klein responded, telling the student that all those taking the exam would be graded according to uniform standards. Naturally, that ignited a firestorm of indignation.
Within two days, a petition calling for Klein’s firing garnered 20,000 signatures, the university suspended him from his teaching duties and police were guarding his house. He was also subjected to the type of astonishingly offensive and semi-literate anti-Semitic messages that are becoming de rigueur with the extremist Left.
Alas for the woke, the university soon decided that Klein had done nothing wrong and could not be disciplined. But the Dean of the School of Management, Antonio Bernardo wasn’t having it. Apparently on his own initiative, he re-suspended Klein and banned him from campus.
That decision was reversed by the university, again recognizing that Klein had committed no offense.
So, all’s well that ends well, right?
Not quite. It seems that Klein earned the majority of his income, not from teaching at UCLA, but from consulting on management issues with law firms and corporations some of which ceased doing business with him. After all, who wants to associate with a “racist.” Due to that loss of income, Klein is suing the university.
Meanwhile, at the University of Chicago, professor of geophysical sciences, Dorian Abbot found himself attacked and canceled for, in his words,
I recorded some short YouTube videos in which I argued for the importance of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity when they apply for a position as well as allowing them to express their opinions openly, even if you disagree with them.
On U.S. college campuses, such an anathema could not long go uncondemned and Abbot was duly targeted by the woke mob. Fortunately, the University of Chicago is one of the few academic institutions that seems to still place value on free speech and diversity of ideas. The president of UC quashed the uprising and the situation calmed … for a time.
But then Abbot and other colleagues penned an op-ed for Newsweek essentially recommitting the same crime. For admission to college, they proposed,
an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.
What a concept. Needless to say, the mob attacked again, but, having been earlier thwarted by UC, changed tactics.
They argued on Twitter that I should not be invited to give science seminars at other universities and coordinated replacement speakers. This is an effective and increasingly common way to ratchet up the cost of dissenting because disseminating new work to colleagues is an important part of the scientific endeavor.
It worked. Honored to deliver the prestigious Carlson Lecture at MIT, Abbot was summarily disinvited and MIT canceled this year’s lecture altogether rather that court the outrage of the mob.
Back in the 60s, leftists were alert for what they called “consciousness-raising” events. The slaying of four students at Kent State University by national guard troops was such an event because, to the leftists, it demonstrated the lengths to which the power structure would go to stifle dissent over its Viet Nam War policies, and those previously lacking “consciousness” would take notice. What then was “consciousness” is now “woke-ness,” but today it’s the woke who are the oppressors. Reading the articles by Klein and Abbot, it’s impossible to ignore their “raised consciousness” at the hands of, ironically, the leftist woke. Here’s Abbot’s description of his attitude before his cancelation:
I mostly just wanted to do my science and not have anyone yell at me, and I thought that if I kept my mouth shut the problem would eventually go away. I knew that speaking out would likely bring serious reputational and professional consequences. And for a number of years I just didn’t think it was worth it.
And here it is afterward:
I view this episode as an example as well as a striking illustration of the threat woke ideology poses to our culture, our institutions and to our freedoms. I have consistently maintained that woke ideology is essentially totalitarian in nature: it attempts to corral the entirety of human existence into one narrow ideological viewpoint and to silence anyone who disagrees. I believe that these features ultimately derive from the ideology’s abandonment of the principle of the inherent dignity of each human being. It is only possible to instrumentalize the individual in order to engineer group-based outcomes within a philosophical framework that has rejected this principle. Similarly, it is easy to justify silencing a dissenter if your ideology denies her individual dignity. Clearly, wokeism has not reached a terrible nadir of destruction yet, but the lesson of history is that we need to name and confront totalitarianisms before they cause disaster, while it is still possible to do so.
What a difference a few months can make.
The more the woke cancel the innocent (do they cancel anyone else?), the more they sow the seeds of the destruction of their disgraceful ideology. Two professors, with a lot to lose, have stood up to the mob. The more cancelations there are, the more resistance the mob will encounter. Expect more Gordon Kleins and Dorian Abbots in the future.