Reed College Assistant Professor of English and humanities Lucía Martínez Valdivia writes in The Washington Post of the extremism from the “social justice” movement on campuses, and how too many faculty just stay silent., Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses.

Her story begins with the history of a months-long continuous disruption of classes objecting to the required first-year humanities course, among other reasons because it included the teaching of Aristotle and Plato:

Three times a week, students sat in the lecture space holding signs — many too obscene to be printed here — condemning the course and its faculty as white supremacists, as anti-black, as not open to dialogue and criticism , on the grounds that we continue to teach, among many other things, Aristotle and Plato.

In the interest of supporting dissent and the free exchange of ideas, the faculty and administration allowed this. Those who felt able to do so lectured surrounded by those signs for the better part of a year. I lectured, but dealt with physical anxiety — lack of sleep, nausea, loss of appetite, inability to focus — in the weeks leading up to my lecture…. The signs intimidated faculty into silence, just as intended, and these silenced professors’ lectures were quietly replaced by talks from people willing and able to carry on teaching in the face of these demonstrations.

I think obscuring these acts of silencing was a mistake that resulted in an escalation of the protesters’ tactics.

Prof. Valdivia then laments how the silence of the professoriate only makes things worse:

If I, like so many colleagues nationwide, am afraid to say what I think, am I not complicit in the problem?

At Reed and nationwide, we have largely stayed silent, probably hoping that this extremist moment in campus politics eventually peters out. But it is wishful thinking to imagine that the conversation will change on its own.

So why are faculty so silent?

I suspect there are a number of things going on. Most fundamental is fear of the most extreme campus activists, and of being singled out like happened to Bret Weinstein (formerly) of Evergreen State.

And thus begins the vicious cycle of extremism and silence, which breeds more extremism and more silence.

It’s not a uniform experience at all campuses, but it doesn’t take very many Brett Weinsteins in the news to get the message across that there is a tall price to be paid. And that for faculty, being the squeaky wheel gets you attacked. And for most faculty, the risk/reward ration says not to be the squeaky wheel.


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