Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), The Targeting of Scholars for Ideological Reasons from 2015 to Present:
Scholars have long been targeted for sanction by ideological adversaries. However, some worrying trends are emerging. The current research reveals that since 2015 targeting incidents are on the rise and are increasingly coming from within academia itself — from other scholars and especially from undergraduate students. These targeting incidents take a multitude of forms, including demands for an investigation, demotion, censorship, suspension, and even termination.
This research documents the ways and reasons that scholars have faced calls for sanction; how scholars and institutional administrators have responded to different forms of targeting; and what (if any) sanctions scholars have ultimately faced in response to these targeting incidents, from 2015 to the present (up to and including July 31, 2021).
The key findings of this report include:
- Over the past five and a half years, a total of 426 targeting incidents have occurred. Almost three-quarters of them (314 out of 426; 74%) have resulted in some form of sanction.
- The number of targeting incidents has risen dramatically, from 24 in 2015 to 113 in 2020. As of mid-2021, 61 targeting incidents have already occurred.
- Scholars were targeted most often for speech involving race (e.g., racial inequality, historic racism, racial slurs, BLM, DEI).
[W]hen it came to the political motivations of those who targeted the scholars, the majority of targeting incidents came from the left of the scholar (62%), compared to slightly more than one in three that came from the right of the scholar (34%). However, 2020 amplified this difference. From 2015 to 2019, the number of targeting incidents from the left of the scholar steadily increased from 17 in 2015 to 38 in 2019. In 2020, there were 88 targeting incidents that came from the left of the scholar, more than double the previous year. This uptick does not appear to be abating, as halfway through 2021 we have recorded 43 targeting incidents from the left of the scholar.
During the same time period the number of targeting incidents that came from the right of the scholar was less than those from the left in 2015 (seven incidents) and 2016 (14 incidents) but then spiked to a high of 39 in 2017. This was the only year in which the number of targeting incidents from the right of the scholar exceeded the number from the left of the scholar. In 2018, the number of targeting incidents from the right of the scholar fell to 22, and in 2020 there were 23 targeting incidents from the right of the scholar. However, there have already been 18 targeting incidents from the right of the scholar in 2021, a pace that is similar to 2017.
Inside Higher Ed, FIRE Launches New Database Tracking Attacks on Faculty Speech: