Source: Donna M. Hughes
“She and I talk openly in one another’s homes, but we know we can’t talk to anyone else.”
This is not a historic quote from the days of Stalinist suppression in the Soviet Union. It is message I recently received from a graduate faculty professor in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field referring to the secrecy with which she talks to her friend who works in university student services.
Today on college campuses, faculty are afraid to speak about a number of issues for fear of being verbally mobbed and denounced by angry students and faculty colleagues.
I know. Faculty, students, and administrators at the University of Rhode Island have recently denounced me for daring to write in 4W.pub, a feminist public forum, that humans cannot change their sex and children are not born the wrong bodies. I wrote that the belief that people can change their biological sex is a fantasy.
Now, such commonsensical statements are deemed so offensive that I must be condemned by publicly issued university statements.
I am not alone in this experience. After my public denunciation was publicized a psychology professor, at another university wrote, “I am reaching out… it is happening to me at my university. Last week, I was denounced… by an entire academic department! I have found no one within the university who is willing to publicly support me — particularly administration.”
From inside my own academic institution, the University of Rhode Island (URI), I heard, “I could put myself in hot water… merely by sending this email.” In the last week, I’ve received dozens of messages like this from faculty and graduate students at universities across the country.
What is going on in universities today that faculty are afraid to speak, except to whisper in private or send emails pleading for confidentiality? We have reached a postmodern era where facts are irrelevant and only identity and feelings matter. If you dissent from the new regime of ideas, you will be verbally set upon by a mob of enraged students, faculty, and “diversity and inclusion” administrators. There will be calls for you to be “disappeared” from campus.
In some corners of campus, there is no respect for truth anymore; misquoting and distorting what I wrote is perfectly acceptable. A repeated claim in the denouncements and in the media is that I am anti-transgender. If you read the essay, you will see that I am not. What I am doing is speaking up for young people who are being harmed and their bodies mutilated and sterilized in the name of “gender identity” or transgenderism. Young people suffering feelings of confusion become immersed in social media forums where they are told that the solution to their problems is to change their sex. As I made clear in the essay, I support everyone to freely choose their gender expression, i.e., how masculine or feminine they want to appear. I only criticize the false claim that you can change your biological sex.
Sadly, after I was publicly denounced, I’ve heard from graduate students in many disciplines who tell me they must keep silent about their views on a number of topics, not just gender identity, if they want to graduate and get a job. One wrote: “I am a student in a MSW (Master of Social Work) program… Please don’t share this email with anyone. I would literally be thrown out of the MSW program for my thoughts.” Another graduate student wrote: “I’m currently trying to work out how to write my thesis without risking a potentially career damaging backlash from members of my department.”
The fear that exists in universities is growing. Those faculty and students, who care about truth, are increasingly self-censoring to avoid being ostracized and condemned or made unable to finish graduate degrees.
I regularly receive messages from people who compared URI’s attempt to cancel my free speech to communist suppression: “I grew up in a totalitarian regime… I am watching with shock and horror to see what is happening in the US with the cancel culture, identity politics, and the suppression of opinions that don’t fit with the current progressive dogma.”
Universities must reverse course or parents are not going to pay money to send their children there. They are going to see what a professor of philosophy wrote to me, I “am greatly saddened at the demise of the university as place to pursue knowledge.”
So, what am I doing? I’m fighting back. I’ve advocated for the rights of victims all my adult life. I won’t stop now.
Fortunately, I saw the curtain of censorship and retaliation descending on campus in time to react. So, I secured a civil rights attorney who specializes in campus free speech and I became a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance. Together we will stand up for free speech and truth.