When Cancel Culture Comes for You: A Toolkit for Responding
In recent years we have seen a sharp rise in public denunciations of professors. These calls to condemn, censure, or even fire professors, while couched in the language of accountability, should not be confused with demands for those in power to take responsibility for their actions. Denouncements are categorically different -- they are predicated on the censure of someone’s purported views or positions. Such calls are antithetical to open inquiry and viewpoint diversity.
We offer some suggestions for how the different parties concerned -- faculty who are targeted, colleagues of those under attack, and administrators being pressured by denouncers to take swift action -- can navigate attempts to silence and condemn someone.
Often, public denouncements have resulted in serious personal and professional consequences, including termination and employment status changes. To be clear, we recognize that changes in employment are not always retaliatory. Such decisions are almost always confidential, and those on the outside rarely have full information about the reasons for changing employment statuses. Even the parties directly involved, including the employee and employer, are rarely able to speak publicly on the matter. Hence what we present here are suggestions in the service of protecting academic freedom and furthering free inquiry.
Your generosity supports our non-partisan efforts to advance the principles of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement to improve higher education and academic research.