The Jay Bergman Debacle: An Extended Study in Academic Cancel Culture

Peter Wood

Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) Professor of History Jay Bergman has joined the growing ranks of faculty members who have gotten themselves crosswise with the guardians of political orthodoxy in American higher education. Professor Bergman has been roundly condemned by his department and other faculty at his university for public criticisms of the New York Times’ “1619 Project.”

The National Association of Scholars (NAS), which I serve as president, has taken an active interest in many cases in which faculty members have been subject to unjust treatment as a consequence of their exercising their academic and intellectual freedom. We typically write to university deans and presidents to promote fair-minded resolutions, but we sometimes turn to public statements to rouse broader attention. In Bergman’s case, I am moving directly to the public statements. That’s partly because the matter is already very public and partly because Professor Bergman is one of our own, a long-standing member of the NAS Board of Directors. Those who have attacked him have also cast unfriendly glances at NAS. Hence, we reply.

When critics complain that American higher education has become intolerant of those who reject the prevailing campus orthodoxies, university defenders often respond by saying that these claims are unfounded or exaggerated, and that campuses are generally hospitable to the expression of conflicting views. In that light, it may be helpful to have a case documented in some detail. NAS can assure readers that Bergman’s case is far from unusual. Although he has come under harsh attack by fellow CCSU faculty members, others such as his college president, Zulma Toro, and the interim president of Connecticut State University, Jane Gates, have told reporters that while they “strongly disagree…” with many of Bergman’s “…highly objectionable…” statements, they were not “contemplating any discipline for Bergman.”

Bergman is the author of several scholarly works, including his recent study, published by Oxford University Press, The French Revolutionary Tradition in Russian and Soviet Politics, Political Thought, and Culture. He is also the author of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov and a biography of the Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich. Professor Bergman, then, is not one who can easily be dismissed as a gadfly or an unserious thinker—yet that is exactly how his opponents are attempting to paint him.

Precipitating Events

Professor Bergman sent a letter by email, individually, to all of the superintendents of public schools in Connecticut, strongly urging them not to use the New York Times’ 1619 Project in their school districts. A copy of the five-page letter, this one dated January 27, 2021, is here. Copies of this letter were sent in January and February to superintendents of 188 public school districts and the heads of 60 private schools.

Bergman received scant reply. As of February 22, he had received two positive replies. The text of one of them, from the headmaster of a private school, said in its entirety, “Thanks for reaching out. No worries on this end! Please see Black History 1619-2019 great antidote to the 1619 project - we are on the same page with you.”

Sometime in April, another of the letter’s recipients—Daniel P. Sullivan III, superintendent of the Putnam School District—contacted the NBC TV affiliate in Hartford and presented Bergman’s letter. Perhaps more than one superintendent came forward, but that isn’t clear. The TV station interviewed Bergman off camera and included some of his remarks in a four-minute report that was aired on May 4. Superintendent Sullivan was interviewed on camera, as was Southern Connecticut State University Professor Frank Harris III. The video recording of the four-minute television report is here. The next day, the station aired a follow-up report, which is here.

What Raised the Controversy?

The New York Times published “The 1619 Project” as a special issue of its Sunday Magazine on August 18, 2019. It consisted of 100 pages comprising ten major articles and a variety of sidebars, poems, photographs, biographical summaries, and editorial comments. The principal architect and lead contributor was the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Her lead essay bore the long title, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans fought to make them true.

Hannah-Jones supported the assertions in this title with a personal narrative that wove in additional assertions about American history that are in some instances false, and in other cases strained or misleading. Almost immediately, prominent American historians, including Gordon Wood, James McPherson, and James Oakes, began to point out egregious errors in Hannah-Jones’ article in particular. They urged the New York Times to make corrections. Other prominent American historians, including Sean Wilentz, soon began to raise further objections. The Times brushed aside both the published essays criticizing the 1619 Project and the letters to the editor sent by the historians. Almost six months after the publication of the 1619 Project, another historian, Professor Leslie M. Harris, came forward to say that she had served as a fact-checker for the Times in advance of the publication and had warned the editors about several errors in the project. The newspaper declined to take her counsel at the time, but after Harris presented her story on Politico, March 6, 2020, the Times inserted a small concession in one of Hannah-Jones’ sentences. The newspaper now asserted that only “some of” the American colonists rebelled against Britain out of a desire to maintain slavery against the threat of a British-imposed abolition. This left standing the wholly false idea that Britain had threatened such an abolition, and the unsupported assertion that any American colonists had rebelled in response to that nonexistent threat.

At some point in the ensuing months of 2020, the New York Times began to make other changes in the digital version of the 1619 Project. These were stealth corrections, made, contrary to standard journalistic practice, without any public acknowledgement of the original errors or the new text. The historian Phillip Magness noticed in September 2020 what had happened when he saw assertions by Hannah-Jones to the effect that the 1619 Project did not say various things that it plainly had. Magness then compared the new digital version to the original print version and discovered the stealth corrections.

By autumn 2020, a substantial body of factual criticism of the 1619 Project had accumulated. Essays by prominent historians had been published on the World Socialist Web Site; Sean Wilentz had published a major essay in The Atlantic; and Phillip Magness had published a book, The 1619 Project: A Critique. In November 2020, I published another book, 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project. These and many dozens of shorter essays examining particular bits of the 1619 Project amount to a considerable public record of the project’s flaws.

Yet while the 1619 Project was subject to potentially devastating criticism from scholars who had taken the trouble to examine its premises and claims, the New York Times, Hannah-Jones, and others were strenuously repeating and amplifying those premises and claims. These efforts included numerous public appearances by Hannah-Jones and a substantial follow-up article by her in the Times Magazine (titled “What is Owed”), a lavishly produced television advertisement, many full-page or double-page advertisements in the Times, and, most importantly, a full-scale effort to market the 1619 Project as “curriculums, guides, and activities for students.”

The use of the 1619 Project as a tool to revise history instruction for American school students was not an afterthought. The original publication concluded with an announcement from the Pulitzer Center that it had partnered with the New York Times to turn the 1619 Project into a curriculum “to challenge historical narratives, redefine national memory and build a better world.” Not long after that, the Pulitzer Center announced that it had signed up many thousands of teachers and numerous school districts to teach this “curriculum.” The Pulitzer Center since has been silent on how many teachers and schools it has recruited, but it does say that the program is now to be found in all fifty states.

A national controversy has ensued. In the eyes of a great many Americans, the 1619 Project is not a legitimate basis for history lessons in K-12 education. It is a work marred by numerous factual errors and a profoundly misleading account of the American past. In addition to its outright false claims about matters of fact, it sets forth a narrative that suppresses key ideas and developments in the nation’s history or “reframes” these ideas and developments according to a forced interpretation that runs counter to actual events. The authors of the 1619 Project fully intend it to upset established readings of the nation’s history and replace those readings with the bold claim that the imposition and maintenance of “slavocracy” provide the most accurate account of our past.

The demolition of old structures and the creation of new ones is always an exciting prospect, and it has touched the imaginations of many teachers who also see in the 1619 Project the opportunity to right the historical injustice of slavery itself. For the critics, however, the 1619 Project is a turn away from historical accuracy and toward fantasy. Moreover, the 1619 Project purveys a deep animus against America. By what it teaches and by what it suppresses, it invites children to suspect their country of bad motives from the earliest days of European colonization to the present. Learning to hate your county does not right any historical injustice, but it may well set the stage for new injustices to come.

Bergman Responds

Professor Bergman took it upon himself to write the superintendents and headmasters of Connecticut schools concerning the 1619 Project. As an historian, he assumed the responsibility to review the claims made in the project and to summarize its errors succinctly. His writing and sending the letter was an act of community service—which is strongly encouraged for faculty members of Central Connecticut State University. His purpose in sending the letter was to alert officials in responsible positions to resist inducements to welcome the 1619 Project into their classrooms. Bergman proceeded to do this by citing some of the flaws in the curriculum and by calling into question the supposed authority of the project’s authors. This was perfectly consonant with his own authority as a member of the faculty of a public university and as a concerned citizen of the state of Connecticut.

Cancel Culture

Bergman’s letter went unnoticed by his faculty colleagues for several months, but after the Hartford NBC affiliate researched the story and aired its report on May 4, CCSU faculty members took notice, and some took strong exception.

On May 5, Professor Kristine Larson in the astronomy and geological sciences departments posted to a university listserv (and copied to the university president) a terse note that read as follows:

Once again the good name of our University has been dragged through the mud through the actions of one of our own: https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/investigations/strong-words-on-slavery-concerns-raised-after-email-blast-by-ct-professor/2479664/

Dr. Bergman has been publicly spouting his offensive personal politics for years, always hiding behind the protective curtain of a private citizen’s rights under the First Amendment.

Enough.

This time he crossed the line, by:

Using his CCSU email to distribute his latest diatribe, and 2) Signing said email as “Professor of History / Central Connecticut State University.”

He is clearly intending for the recipient to believe he is acting in his role as a Professor of History employed by CCSU (he lists his role on the Board of the NAS second to his CCSU affiliation).

While I understand that the CSU and CCSU administrations might have their hands tied in this matter (and I heartily thank them both for their response letters to the Putnam School Superintendent), we faculty do not.

I am therefore formally requesting that the Faculty Senate Steering Committee craft an article of Censure (or its equivalent based on its bylaws) against Professor Bergman. At the very least, I ask that as individuals we vociferously and unequivocally condemn his actions.

He does not speak for us – he should stop misleading others into believing that he does.

While I cannot deny that he remains an employee of this institution, from this moment forward, I personally will stop considering him to be a colleague. He has abused that privilege for far too long.

Curiously, Professor Larson’s indignation does not mention any substantive disagreement with Professor Bergman’s letter. Her objections concern his “publicly spouting his offensive personal politics” and his use of his CCSU title in his signature. She is concerned that others might be misled into thinking that Bergman speaks for CSU faculty members in general. That seems highly unlikely to me, given CCSU’s faculty’s reputation for an ardent embrace of progressive political positions.

But it does bring us to the heart of the matter. Bergman is some kind of “conservative” in an environment in which expression of conservative views is regarded by many of his colleagues as offensive and shameful.

I don’t have space to quote all of the emails and statements that align with Larson’s, but I will provide a representative sample.

Aram Ayalon, a professor of education, gets directly to the “racist” accusation that probably lies unsaid in some of the more cautiously worded denunciations:

I call on the university to issue a statement condemning Mr. Bergman’s racist letter and emphasizing that the fact that he is a faculty member at CCSU doesn’t mean the rest of us support this.

Since Mr. Bergman is Jewish just like me, he probably knows that, recently, the Spanish government issued reparation (and an offer of citizenship) for the descendants of the 1492 expelled Jews from the Iberian peninsula (the confiscated money was used to sponsor Columbus voyages to the “New World). Furthermore, the German government issued reparations to Holocaust victim’s families (still going on 75 years later), it’s time for the US government to pay reparation for slavery victims’ descendants who still suffer from the results of slavery and subsequent atrocities against African Americans.

Once again, not a word in refutation of anything Bergman’s letter actually said, nor a trace of evidence in support of the 1619 Project.

Sadu Nanjundiah, a professor of physics and engineering physics, ventures even further from the topic of Bergman’s letter:

I support the actions suggested by others on our faculty on Mr. Bergman.

On another matter, over the years, he has made scurrilous and ill-informed attacks on people who have been critical of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

He claims to be a board member of the group, “National Association of Scholars”, that espouses his right-wing, factually challenged beliefs on several issues of History and Science (such as Global Warming…see https://www.desmogblog.com/wpcontent/uploads/files/bottling.nonsense.pdf and https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/National_Association_of_Scholars].

He recently opined in the Middletown (CT) newspaper [see] on the “perception and reality” of racism in the U.S following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. [see: Fri 4/9/2021 : Perception, reality of racism in America at odds Jay Bergman, April 9, 2021 https://www.middletownpress.com/opinion/article/Opinion-Perception-reality-of-racism-in-America-16088884.php ]

I should acknowledge Professor Nanjundiah’s obloquy about the NAS, regardless of how irrelevant it is to his attack on Bergman. NAS has been working for many years on the problem of non-reproducibility in the natural sciences, and, yes, global warming is one of the fields which is troubled by studies that somehow pass peer review but that other scientists cannot substantiate. Professor Bergman indeed sits on the board of an organization that does this kind of research. We are proud of our position, which has been gaining recognition across the sciences, including climate science. To see how Nanjundiah’s comments on this bear on Bergman’s letter to the superintendents of Connecticut public schools, however, you must possess the ability to connect some very distant dots.

Larson, Ayalon, and Nanjundiah posted their views as individual faculty members, but some of the objections took the form of joint statements. For example, the nine members—Nanjundiah among them—of the Executive Committee of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—in effect the faculty union—declared:

We, the undersigned members of the CCSU-AAUP Executive Committee deplore racism and stand for racial justice.  In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, CSU-AAUP released a statement declaring that as educators we strive to “defeat systemic racism; better understand the dangers and risks borne most heavily by our Black students and colleagues; and where diversity and inclusion are not just words, but a way of living and working together towards a more understanding, peaceful, and just world.” Those words were true last summer, and they remain true today.  

CCSU-AAUP repudiates Jay Bergman’s attempt to politically influence public school policy across the state. His dishonest and offensive attempt to undermine and discredit the NY Times’ 1619 Project was not an exchange of criticism and ideas, it was an attempt to bully superintendents. And it was cynically justified to the press as “community engagement.” Yes, it is true that Dr. Bergman has a First Amendment right, and it is also true that CCSU-AAUP members have the right to criticize and condemn his actions. And we do.

It is important we remind our members what our contract says in terms of Professional Rights and Responsibilities, and Academic Freedom. Article 4.1.1.1 reads, in part: 

As members of their community, faculty have the rights and obligations of all citizens. They measure the urgency of these obligations in light of their responsibilities to their subjects, their students, their profession, and their institution. When they speak or act as private persons, they avoid creating the impression that they speak or act for their university. [emphasis added] 

Article  4.2.1 says in part:  

As persons of learning and educational leaders, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence, they should exercise appropriate restraint, show respect for the opinions of others, and make every effort, where appropriate, to indicate that they do not speak for Connecticut State University. 

Bergman’s crass attempt to influence public policy showed little respect for Connecticut’s communities, and it was devoid of any restraint. His actions have injured our state’s communities of color as he has disrespected our students, his profession, and our university.  

CCSU-AAUP does not believe that this is about academic freedom, and we do not believe that he should be censored or disciplined. Instead, we reject his racist emails, and we hope he will confront his own issues and join the CCSU community in the fight for racial justice.

We may note once again that the thunder is unaccompanied by any rain of substantive disagreement with Bergman’s letter or substantive support for the 1619 Project or its progeny, the 1619 Curriculum. The key sentence asserts that Bergman’s letter is a “dishonest and offensive attempt to undermine and discredit the NY Times’ 1619 Project.” It “was not an exchange of criticism and ideas, [but] an attempt to bully superintendents.” Bergman’s letter is linked at the beginning of this essay, and for convenience, here it is again.

If it is in any way “dishonest,” it would be helpful to know where that dishonesty appears. “Offensive” is in the eye of the beholder. If it is offensive to point out the mendacity of the 1619 Project, those who are offended might be advised to come to grips with the reality that, sometimes, people vigorously disagree with an idea and express themselves forcefully. It is the duty of scholars to respond substantively, not with personal attacks, even if their feelings have been hurt.

As for the letter being an attempt to “bully superintendents,” the text of the letter refutes this charge entirely. Bergman set out to persuade the superintendents. His language is direct and forceful, a common means of persuasion. He threatens no one, nor could he, as he is a lone professor up against a multi-million-dollar campaign run by the New York Times and the Pulitzer Center, which has the enthusiastic support of most of the educational establishment. David is not usually thought of as someone who bullied Goliath, but the members of the CCSU-AAUP Executive Committee see poor Goliath shaking in terror from Professor Bergman’s pebbles of fact. In truth, those pebbles of fact are deadly to the 1619 Project, and the terror that ought to grip the superintendents is the prospect that they have been enlisted in a large-scale educational fraud.

The denunciations of Professor Bergman succeeded in stirring up more of the same, always without any indication that the writers had read his letter or had much if any acquaintance with the 1619 Project. Sociology professor Jessica Greenbaum, for example, added her two cents: “I fully support a censure or some other public denouncement. Bergman’s actions were outrageous and offensive.”

Political science professor Jerold Duquette has more adjectives to contribute to the auto-da-fé:

Jay Bergman’s letter to school superintendents is largely a recitation of talking points assembled for use by the members of the fake scholarly group with which Berman has been affiliated for many years. It is filled with half-truths and abuses of context that would be embarrassing in an undergraduate essay. His characterization of Nikole Hannah-Jones, with whom I have had the pleasure of speaking personally about her work, was particularly scurrilous. The faculty senate should absolutely condemn the intellectually feeble, dishonest, and defamatory content of Bergman’s email.

Condemning the content of this embarrassing rant is not a partisan act. Bergman’s partisan motives here are obvious, but incidental. Many of his claims and arguments, however, are objectively wrong and offensive, and as such require the public disavowal of honest scholars regardless of political leanings. There is nothing wrong with honest debate and criticism about any piece of scholarship or journalism, but Bergman’s criticisms are neither honest nor critical. They are petty, foolish, and transparently dishonest, and for these reasons deserve the condemnation of his colleagues.

While we can take some comfort that Bergman’s letter has been met with appropriate scorn and disapproval by its recipients, it is important to understand that these intellectually weak expressions of racism and ignorance are designed not as real arguments on the merits, but as propaganda for the care and feeding of racial resentment in the electorate. Bergman will now play the martyr crusading against the liberal academic cabal and his plight will be added to the right-wing media play list. Nonetheless, we have to stand up for honest scholarship and public debate, which means we have to publicly reject Bergman’s latest scholarly malpractice.

To be clear, Bergman deserves public censure by his colleagues for this latest display of dishonesty and incompetence, not for the act of emailing school superintendents from his CCSU account. The content of his outreach requires public repudiation, but his chosen method of outreach was not, in my opinion, inappropriate.

Fake, scurrilous, feeble, dishonest, and defamatory. Racist and ignorant. All this without a single example of Bergman’s apparently atrocious abuse of intellectual authority, a single refutation of any of his points, or a single substantive point in favor of the 1619 Project.

Professor Duquette’s screed, however, won favor with mathematics professor Jeffrey McGowan, though he hedges a bit:

While I’m no expert on this, I tend to think Jerold [Duquette] is right about Jay’s use of CCSU email account. If he’s commenting as a historian, then use of the account would seem to be legit. If I were commenting on the math in an article somewhere, I would feel justified in using my campus email. Jerold is also right that his comments are "intellectually feeble, dishonest, and defamatory” and while I as a mathematician am not qualified to censure Jay for this, many on the faculty certainly are.

The readiness of CCSU faculty members who seek to condemn Professor Bergman to branch out in unexpected directions is sometimes startling. Criminology professor Reginald Simmons, for example, summons mortgage lending practices as among Bergman’s crimes of omission:

Professor Berman’s [sic] email reflects a lack of awareness of how the legacy of slavery has contributed to racial disparities that exist today. He fails to mention policies such as “red-lining”, a multi-decade policy sanctioned by the Federal Housing Authority that prohibited home-ownership for many African-Americans. This practice, coupled with covenants that prevented the sale of homes to African-American families, denied the greatest builder of wealth to generations of African-American families. These government-sanctioned policies have directly contributed to the considerable wealth gap that exists today. He also fails to mention how the GI Bill, which supported the college education and home ownership of veterans of WWII, was not extended to WWII African-American veterans who risked their lives for our country. He has the nerve to attack Affirmative Action. The policies I mentioned served as de-facto affirmative action that benefited my fellow White Americans for decades. In essence, this “historian” doesn’t know his American history.

I fully support a censure. This is an embarrassment to our institution and risks damaging our reputation and ability to attract students. I am sympathetic to his colleagues in the History department.

Relevance, your honor? Professor Bergman was not writing about racial disparities or the legacy of slavery. He was criticizing a particular curriculum that, as he showed, misstates both.

But other CCSU faculty members walk through the door Professor Simmons opened. Professor Drew Harris in the Management and Organization Department elaborates:

Let me add to the range of discriminating policies (or application of policies) that have badly damaged the earning and wealth accumulation potential for the African American community – mass incarceration, amplified by the so-called “War on Drugs.” When you add to these injustices the effect of compounding growth from a miniscule base of wealth (or zero base, resulting in zero growth), the economic deck is heavily stacked against the African-American community. Programs such as Affirmative Action or Reparations can be viewed as temporary, formal privileges that attempt to ameliorate some of the damages wrought by centuries of formal (law-based) and informal (culture-based) privileges arrayed against the African-American community. The combination of economic analysis, sociology and history tell a very different story that that attributed to Professor Berman [sic] (I hesitate to assume completely accurate reporting and I have not sought nor seen source documents).

Props to Professor Harris for admitting that, when it comes to Professor Bergman’s crimes, he knows not whereof he speaks. So, he “hesitates.”

These statements and more like them were circulated within the university—Bergman compiled them and sent them to me. I share them with the public here as a textbook example of what cyber-mobbing in a contemporary university looks like. Bergman is tenured, and to that extent protected, from the reprisals of his unhappy colleagues. But he is not protected from what we have learned to call a “hostile work environment.” I have more reports than I can count from faculty members at other universities here in the U.S., in Canada, and in Britain of how this works. It is difficult to carry on with your work surrounded by people who hate you and who openly despise what you value. Standing up to that takes character.

Note that the nine examples I have cited are all from faculty members outside Bergman’s own department. He is a professor of history, but he stands accused of bad things by members of the departments of astronomy, geology, education, physics and engineering physics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, mathematics, criminology, marketing, and management and organization. The history department, however, was not to be left out. The interim department chair called a Zoom meeting and solicited a letter from the other members of the department. Dated May 5, it was signed by the chair and five others:

Mary Ann Mahony, Professor of History and Director, Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Center;

Leah S. Glaser, Professor of (American) History;

Louise Blakeney Williams, Professor of History;

Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History;

Gloria Emeagwali, Professor of History and African Studies.

Their letter is too long to quote in full, but it can be found here. Its principal points are that the undersigned professors disagree with Bergman’s views; that the 1619 Project offers a “challenging thesis” that they expect to examine more fully; that they especially object to the “vitriolic statements” Bergman made about Nikole Hannah-Jones; that Bergman misunderstands the nature of “affirmative action,” which is “about creating a level playing field, not preferring one race over another”; that Bergman “cherry picks” his data; that Bergman ludicrously errs in suggesting that one of the aims of the 1619 Project is to put money in the pockets of African Americans (NB: Nikole Hannah-Jones says this emphatically and at length in her follow-on article, “What Is Owed,” published in the New York Times Magazine, June 24, 2020); and that Bergman “tucks the protests against racism safely away in the past, as if nothing needs to be confronted now.” The letter concludes:

Our comments here have in no way fully addressed all of the inaccuracies with the email Dr. Bergman sent to the superintendent. His opinions about the schools’ curriculum, if he wanted to express them, should have been delivered as a citizen, not as a professor of history opining in an area in which he lacks expertise. We do not concur with or support his statements.

To the history department’s credit, there is more of an argument here than anywhere else among the flailing comments of CCSU faculty members. It is a false argument, to the extent that key statements on Hannah-Jones, affirmative action, cherry-picked data, and reparations are misstated or inaccurate, but I will leave it to Professor Bergman to answer his immediate colleagues. I note that the letter does not call in the CCSU administration or anyone else to “do” anything about Professor Bergman. The declaration is more or less an act of foot-stomping. It says, “We disagree,” which is of course their right.

What Does This All Mean?

This is necessarily a long account of what some may say is a small matter. Professor Bergman stands to fight another day. His university administration has so far not laid a glove on him. What we have is a collection of faculty members at a state university who are indignant that one of their own has broken ranks to address an important public policy issue on which they hold opposing views.

The most striking things about these statements are their nastiness and their emptiness. Bergman is accused of racism, explicitly by some, implicitly by others. This is a gross ad hominem attack, based on less than nothing. Bergman is a strong proponent of racial equality—he just happens to be living at a time when progressive opinion has swung against racial equality and in favor of racial “equity,” which is another way of saying racial division and race-based favoritism.

Bergman is also accused of misusing the university email system and his own title. This is mere pettiness on the part of people who can’t figure out how he is supposed to have done anything seriously wrong—because he hadn’t.

The emptiness of the accusations—their lack of any specific indictment naming a single fact he got wrong or attempting to refute any part of the argument of his letter—is an astonishing display of the arrogance and intellectual incompetence of the contemporary left. The declarations generally come down to, “We disagree with his political or social outlook; therefore we disparage him. Take note: Professor Bergman is a bad person, and we will henceforth shun him.”

Citizens of Connecticut, take note. This is what your taxes pay for at Central Connecticut State University. Of course, it is not confined to CCSU, or to Connecticut. This sort of back-arched hissy denunciation is widespread in contemporary academe. Think about what this means for the untenured junior professor or the adjunct teacher. Think about what it means for the students. Coercive groupthink is hard to see, except in these rare cases where some brave professor decides to stand against it. Then we get the opportunity to see how the campus cancel culture in its professorial manifestation really works. Open-minded debate on matters like the “1619 Project” is virtually impossible. Anyone who dares criticize it—or a hundred other ideas favored by the progressive left—is not answered with thoughtful examination of his points or substantive criticism. He is answered with moral swooning, name-calling, and digressions into miscellaneous irrelevancies. That’s where we are.

What should we do? One thing would be for people in Connecticut to write a lot more Bergman-like letters to school superintendents and headmasters. For starters, you may find template letters to this effect here. There are vastly more sensible parents and grandparents in the state than there are faculty members eager to advance their agenda of perpetual racial resentment. The same applies to every other state.


Peter Wood is President of the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Verygoodjeeves, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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