When Academic Freedom Becomes Censorship and Make-Believe

March 2, 2021

There was a time when schooling existed to teach kids what was true and how to think critically. Now, thinking and truth are punished, especially on college campuses. Education student Owen Stevens learned that the hard way when State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo suspended him from required field teaching programs. What was his crime? Saying things on Instagram like, "A man is a man, a woman is a woman. A man is not a woman and a woman is not a man." Or, "I do not recognize the gender that they claim to be if they are not biologically that gender."

According to documents obtained by The Daily Wire, Stevens will remain suspended until he completes a conservative-shaming ritual, also known as a "remediation plan," which would require him to delete his Instagram videos, tone down his social media presence, and attend school-sanctioned diversity training. It's unclear how a state university can force someone to recant things said in a public forum without violating his right to free speech. Nor is it clear how to say anything more "toned down" than an airtight logical tautology. The only thing clear in this remediation plan is that the diversity the school seeks isn't ideological. And remember, this is in a School of Education. Their litmus test for allowing teachers to instruct the next generation is simple: deny reality and submit to the Left.

When Stevens refused to comply, the graduate school's dean wrote to Stevens, "based on your continued public stance and social media presence, you do not consistently demonstrate behaviors required by the Conceptual Framework of the School of Education." What "conceptual framework" of education censors basic scientific fact? Apparently one that has grossly reinterpreted its provision that teachers must foster "a diverse campus community marked by mutual respect for the unique talents and contributions of each individual." On paper, this is innocent, boilerplate lip-service to free academic inquiry. In New York, it now justifies woke administrators dangling students over a cliff until they affirm blatant falsehoods. Perhaps the Dean will suspend himself for not respecting the contributions of Mr. Stevens.

But it's not just one censorious dean. Stevens was also informed that his refusal to deny basic biological facts violated New York State's Dignity for All Students Act. He has received threats from fellow students. The university's president blasted an email to the entire student body condemning Stevens's insistence that there are only two genders, and lamenting that the school's options for punishing him were limited. All because Stevens believes something everyone has known throughout history.

Sadly, Stevens's experience is not unique. The National Association of Scholars has reported 128 incidents since 1975 where graduate students and faculty in the U.S. and Canada were "canceled" for unwelcome political views. Of these, 73 incidents -- or 57 percent -- happened in 2020. The intolerant cancel mob will gun for just about anyone, but conservatives are its favorite targets.

A new report found one in three conservative academics and graduate students have been disciplined or threatened with discipline for their political views. Unsurprisingly, seven in 10 conservatives self-censor in their teaching, research, or academic discussions. And only nine percent of Trump-supporting academics feel comfortable sharing their political views with a colleague. The hostility they perceive is not imagined. Only 41 percent of American academics would sit down to lunch with a colleague who voted for Trump. And only 28 percent would lunch with a colleague who, like Stevens, affirmed the existence of only two genders.

The stifling Leftist censorship in America's major universities is shocking. But we know the truth, and we cannot afford to be silent.