Updated September 15, 2020—This list, originally published in June 2020, will be updated periodically. The National Association of Scholars counts 99 academic cancellations in the United States and Canada. If you know of additional professors, administrators, or students who have been canceled, please let us know at [email protected].
According to Dictionary.com, cancel culture “refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.” This new form of mob rule has dominated virtually every sector of American life for the last several years: politics, journalism, music & entertainment, sports, business, and of particular interest to the National Association of Scholars, higher education.
Academic administrators, students, and even professors risk “cancellation” when expressing viewpoints deemed unacceptable by the progressive ideologues ruling our colleges and universities. These allegedly abhorrent views need not be outside the Overton window—most aren’t—to anger the progressive mob. Indeed, radical academics and bureaucrats have shifted the window steadily leftward, such that those who espouse ideas considered uncontroversial even a few years ago are anathematized.
These intolerable sentiments allegedly offend progressive orthodoxy by “perpetuating” one of the myriad “isms” or “phobias” seen as cardinal sins by the modern left, including but not limited to racism, sexism/misogyny, ableism, sizeism, nationalism, climate change denialism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, fatphobia and islamophobia. In fact, academics are now expected to devote themselves to the “work” of being “anti-” all of the above (e.g. recent rhetoric surrounding “doing antiracist work”).
Academic cancellation usually goes something like this: 1) a professor, administrator, or student says or writes something considered heretical by progressives; 2) outcry ensues among the faculty and student body, who demand institutional discipline; 3) administrators cave to the mob and punish the “culprit.” In most cases, it really is that simple.
For untenured professors and administrators, this discipline may take the form of suspension or firing, but always with a large dose of public humiliation. Tenured faculty have more protections, but schools often make their jobs harder through burdensome investigations and never-ending “sensitivity” and “implicit bias” trainings. Canceled students may have their professional careers ruined before they’ve begun.
After punishment, victims of cancel culture rarely have the opportunity to fight back. Many are at-will employees and therefore lack the ability to pursue legal recourse. Even if they could, colleges and universities can almost always out-lawyer any individual with their internal or external legal teams paid out of hefty hedge funds sometimes called “endowments.” Sadly, the fate of most “cancelees” is banishment from their academic communities, leaving them either to disappear or to join fellow dissidents in the heterodox corners of the academic and professional world.
Consider the recent experience of Professor Gordon Klein, a lecturer in accounting at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. He declined to accommodate demands to award lenient grades to his African-American students in the wake of George Floyd’s death. His email response was as follows:
Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota. Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half? Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not. My TA is from Minneapolis, so if you don’t know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a “no-harm” outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the “color of their skin.” Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition? Thanks, G. Klein
Abrupt? Perhaps. Racist? Of course not. And yet, Professor Klein has been “canceled” for his “woefully racist response”: he has been suspended, his classes have been assigned to other professors, and he is in police protection after receiving multiple death threats. Klein later stated that he was used as the “sacrificial lamb” to placate “those who threaten to riot.” And so, the cycle continues.
The National Association of Scholars believes that cancel culture within higher education has reached an extraordinary level. Indeed, many colleges and universities have become progressive seminaries. With every new societal crisis—COVID-19 and racialist protests/riots being two recent examples—comes a fresh wave of academic cancellations. The threat to academic freedom is obvious: when those within academia are unable to contradict progressive orthodoxy, the disinterested pursuit of truth is lost. Reasoned scholarship is traded in for the cheap, vapid substitute of political activism. And in the long run, higher education itself dies.
In an effort to cancel the cancel culture, NAS will track these incidents in higher education and record them in a downloadable archive. It’s our hope that this resource will help bring to light the widespread malfeasance of academic administrators in our colleges and universities for the sake of tangible accountability. Those who violate academic freedom must be called out, publicly exposed, and permanently marked for their misbehavior. Ideally, violators’ sullied reputations will then limit their ability to inflict further damage. This is not to form a counter-mob in opposition to the current one, but rather to hold the guilty parties responsible in the court of public opinion. Let the punishment fit the crime.
We need your help compiling a complete list of cases. If you know of academic cancellations not on our list, please email us at [email protected].
Below, we list the cases in reverse chronological order by approximate date of cancellation. Download the chart for more detailed information:
Professor Shank repeatedly said the N-word in a class, claiming he was using it in "the pedagogical sense" by giving examples of how the word was used in years past.
Professor Gafni responded to a student who requested that faculty refrain from using the term "Wuhan virus" to refer to COVID-19. Gafni told the student they were making a political issue out of the virus, questioned the student body's concern for "sensitivity" and political correctness, and mentioned the fact that he has a Chinese wife as evidence that he is not racist.
Professor Patton repeatedly said the Mandarin word "nei ge" in class, which means "that" in English and sounds somewhat similar to the N-word. He said it to illustrate "the usage of a Chinese filler word for 'that,' comparing it to the usage of 'like,' 'um,' and other American filler words."
On a course syllabus, Professor Zubieta referred to COVID-19 as both the "Wuhan flu" and the "Chinese Communist Party Virus."
Professor Poor asked students in his Marketing 3000 class where they are from. One student said he is from Wuhan, China. Poor said jokingly, “Let me get my mask on, OK? Hold on."
Professor Spiegel posted an original song on YouTube called "Little Hitler," in which he sings about how "there's a brutal killer in all of us." The song is meant to convey the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Vinci, Peterson, and Peterson attended a "Back the Blue" rally in Saratoga Springs, New York, expressing their support for the police.
Professor Mass wrote a post on his popular blog, the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, titled "Seattle: A City in Fear Can Be Restored," which compared the current unrest of Seattle to Nazi Germany, specifically mentioning the Kristallnacht. He is also accused of "enabling climate denial and misogyny" in past posts.
Professor Wang published an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association titled "Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: Evolution of Race and Ethnicity Considerations for the Cardiology Workforce in the United States of America From 1969 to 2019." In this essay, Wang questions the merits and effectiveness of racial preferences in medical school admissions.
Professor Mustian posted a veiled threat on Facebook directed toward white K-12 teachers who post "pro-police anti-Black rhetoric" on social media. The post read, in part, “This is a new day, folks. People are getting fired for being racist on social media…if your first thought is to delete me because of this post, chances are I already have some screenshots." This was then shared on the Young America's Foundation website, leading many to complain to Winthrop administration.
Dean Caltabiano led a virtual forum "to address student concerns regarding diversity and inclusion amid the protests and growing nationwide unrest regarding the murder of George Floyd and many others at the hands of police." Students determined he lacked "sensitivity and understanding” and was “unprepared to lead this forum and lacked the empathy to fully comprehend the experiences of his students of color.”
Professor Klein, who is white, said in a Faculty Senate meeting that she would "assassinate" Jendayi Saada, the Assistant Dean of the University of La Verne Law School, who is black. Klein allegedly intended this as a rhetorical remark, in the sense of character assassination rather than literal assassination. The comment was perceived as racist.
Professor Poelvoorde refused to complete two "diversity and antibias" training modules required of all Converse College faculty. The National Association of Scholars published his open letter written to the college's leadership.
Professor Jackson helps run the Journal of Schenkerian Studies (JSS), a UNT-based academic journal dedicated to the life and work of influential music theorist Heinrich Schenker. Philip Ewell of CUNY's Hunter College delivered a plenary address in which he argued that Schenker was a racist and helped enshrine "institutional racism" in the field of music theory. Jackson responded in the most recent issue of JSS, critiquing Ewell's analysis.
Professor Mead's article "Poverty and Culture" was published in the journal Societyin July 2020. The essay is based on his 2019 book Burdens of Freedom: Cultural Difference and American Power. In both the book and article, Mead argues that certain groups of people are better prepared to thrive in America's individualist culture than others.
Professor Pyne posted a statement Facebook in which he criticized the Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association, claiming that it is opposed to academic freedom.
Professor Hulbert has made multiple statements deemed controversial on topics such as Black Lives Matter, immigration, and globalism.
After the killing of George Floyd, Chedester co-hosted a virtual "Campus Conversation" over Zoom to discuss "systemic racism" and police brutality. On his wall was seen the Thin Blue Line Flag, a flag that has historically expressed support for the police but that some view as racist and white supremacist.
Professor Pinker has come under fire for a series of statements he made on Twitter and in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, all of which are perceived to be racist. Some of these statements contradict the idea that there exists "systemic racism" in policing.
Dailyda used a photograph of President Trump as a Zoom background. He also made statements in a GroupMe group chat and a Facebook post that some deemed offensive and "intolerant."
In response to a news story of a plain-clothes police officer arresting a violent protestor in New York City, Goldberg posted a tweet which read, in part, "This is kidnapping. F*ck every cop. Every single one."
Professor Simon participated in a virtual town hall meeting held over Zoom, in which MMC presented its plans to implement an "anti-racist" institutional framework. She allegedly fell asleep during the presentation.
Professor Boudreau delivered a class lecture on a 1993 lawsuit between Central Michigan University and a basketball coach the school had fired at the time. Boudreau quoted the remarks that led to the coach's firing, which included two instances of the N-word.
Grenell, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Acting Director of National Intelligence, made various statements during his time in the Trump administration perceived as offensive.
Professor Hubbard allegedly asked a Vietnamese-American student to "anglicize" her legal name because it sounds like an "insult in English."
Professor Kengor is accused of spreading "anti-Blackness," racism, and white nationalism through his writing for Grove City College's Institute for Faith and Freedom.
Professor Uhlig Tweeted two statements on the topic of race, including saying the the Black Lives Matter movement has "torpedoed itself, with its full-fledged support of #defundthepolice." A 2017 blog post by Uhlig has also resurfaced, which includes his views on Colin Kaepernick.
Hsu has been criticized for various blog posts, interviews, and podcasts on the topics of race and sex from 2008-2020. One such podcast is with Stefan Molyneux, a figure Hsu claims was not controversial at the time but now is.
San Marco published an opinion column in LifeZette titled "Why institutional racism is a myth." In it, she argues against the existence of "institutional racism," primarily relying on crime statistics to make her case.
Moloney was asked to resign after sending an email to MIT's Roman Catholic community, in which he expressed doubt that the killing of George Floyd was racially motivated. He also criticized Floyd's character.
Professor Hudlický's essay "Organic synthesis — Where now?" was published by the prestigious German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. In it, Hudlický expresses reservations about preferential hiring on the basis of race and sex in his field.
Professor Jacobson posted two articles criticizing the Black Lives Matter Movement on his blog, Legal Insurrection.
Professor Adams tweeted that he was living in a "slave state" due to COVID-19 restrictions. He also referred to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper as "Massa." Adams later tweeted remarks perceived as sexist.
Professor Brooks allegedly called a group of Black Lives Matter protesters "monkeys."
Professor Collum tweeted in support of the Buffalo Police Department officers who were suspended without pay after a physical altercation with an elderly man at a racialist protest.
A group of Duhé's former students at Loyola University New Orleans claim that Duhé's remarks about an African American student's hairstyle were racist. She also recently tweeted in support of the police during Black Lives Matter protests.
Dean Neal-Boylan sent an email to the Solomont School of Nursing in response to the recent racialist tensions around the country. In the email, she wrote "BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE'S LIFE MATTERS." The second half of this sentence was seen as racist among fellow administrators, faculty, and students.
Professor Negy is under investigation for "displaying bias and unfair treatment in the classroom." However, the investigation began merely one day after Negy tweeted two statements on the topic of race. One contained the phrase "black privilege."
Professor Klein faced student demands via email to award lenient grades to African-American students in the wake of George Floyd's death. Klein declined.
Dr. Peris read a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" aloud in class. The excerpt contained the N-word. He also showed a documentary about lynching.
Professor Senjo tweeted several statements supporting the police's role in combatting Black Lives Matter protests, including at least two that were perceived as threats.
Professor Block is under fire for numerous statements on topics including slavery and the "gender pay gap."
Professor McConnell said the N-word while reading aloud from historical source material in class. The quote he read was allegedly by Patrick Henry.
Dr. Herring wrote an op-ed published by Against the Grain in which he referred to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus" and quoted a friend who called it the "Kung Flu."
Professor Tieso drew the ire of his employer and students after posting allegedly racist tweets criticizing former President Obama and Senator Kamala Harris.
Professor Salseda said the N-word during a guest lecture while reading aloud the lyrics from a N.W.A. song.
Professor Lowrey is a self-described "gender-critical feminist," that is, she does not view biological sex as irrelevant to womens' issues as some segments of the LGBTQ movement do. She expressed these views in one of her classes.
Professor Winegard led a seminar called “The Evolution of Human Diversity,” in which he discussed the theory of human population variation from a Darwinian perspective.
Dr. Wright published several articles from 2018-20 critiquing contemporary notions of transgenderism and "gender identity," arguing that biological sex is not a social construct and that gender dysphoria is harmful to children.
MacDonald posted on Facebook doubting the historical veracity of the Holodomor, a widely recognized genocide against the Ukranian people by the Soviet Union in 1932-33.
Professor Thompson, who is also a Vice President of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), wrote an essay in the AMS' Notices in which she expressed reservations about the use of "diversity" statements in faculty hiring.
Provost Richards sent an email to students and faculty, part of which read “With ‘access and excellence’ as our mantra, we are working hard to more effectively link our capital investments to our academic mission and priorities.” The use of the word "mantra" taken as offensive toward Buddhists and Hindus, who "hold this term ... as a highly spiritual and religious experience, not to be used in the way Mark Richards did with nonchalance."
Hecht wrote an op-ed published by the Vancouver Sun titled "Can Social Trust and Diversity Co-Exist?" In it, he questions the merits of high ethnic diversity within a single country, encouraging Canada to emulate other nations such as Denmark, which he views as having low ethnic diversity and high "social cohesion."
The University of British Columbia's First Nations House of Learning hosted an event titled "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: An Epidemic Crossing the Medicine Line." At this event, Kurtzke asked keynote speaker Marion Buller why she focused on cases of missing women, when, he claims, the majority of missing indigenous persons cases are men. He also asked why she focused on missing indigenous people and not missing Canadians in general.
Professor Duchesne frequently writes for a blog he co-founded called the Council of European Canadians. The views he expresses there and elsewhere are seen as white nationalist and racist. He has also appeared on a podcast with right-wing commentator Faith Goldy.
Professor Sheck said the N-word while quoting from James Baldwin.
Crockford runs a popular blog, polarbearscience.com, in which she presents zoological research arguing that polar bears are not in fact threatened by global warming. She believes that her dismissal from the University of Victoria is a result of environmentalists taking umbrage with the website.
Professor Wickham-Crowley said the n-word while reading aloud from a course textbook. He is also accused of invoking "harmful stereotypes about Black and Latinx people" and dismissing "students’ attempts to discuss representation and intersectionality."
Professor Abrams wrote an op-ed published by The New York Times titled "Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators." In it, he criticizes his school's Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement for sponsoring “a politically lopsided event” intended to bolster progressive sentiments on campus.
Professor Tapia called campus security after seeing Assistant Professor Caitlin Cherry in an area restricted to faculty only. Tapia did not know that Cherry was a faculty member and thought she was a student due to her "youthful appearance." Cherry is black and Tapia is a fair-skinned Latino.
Professor Clifton was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the University of Winnipeg Club's "Hot Lunch Speakers Series" called “What’s in a School’s Name? The Names Given to Residential Schools.” His past research on the topic was seen as controversial.
Professor Adamo said the N-word while quoting from James Baldwin.
In a satirical blog post, Professor Langbert wrote "If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex. The Democrats have discovered that 15-year- olds play spin-the-bottle, and they have jumped on a series of supposed spin-the-bottle crimes during Kavanaugh's minority, which they characterize as rape, although no one complained or reported any crime for 40 years." This was perceived as promoting sexual assault and "rape culture."
Professor Gerrard and a small group of Williams faculty circulated the "Chicago Statement," a free speech policy statement written by Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago.
Professor Zwier said the word "negro" when discussing a 1967 court case. The case surrounds an incident in which that word was used.
In response to the removal of a statue of John A. MacDonald, Canada's first prime minister, from Victoria, British Columbia's city hall, Professor Stevenson posted a series of Tweets criticizing aboriginal Canadians.
Professor Wax published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she argues that all cultures are not equally equipped to thrive in an advanced economy. She also criticized affirmative action in a podcast.
Professor Triffin said the N-word while singing along to a song in class.
Professor Porter developed a survey to gauge views on academic freedom and hostile environments while teaching a course on industrial and organizational psychology.
In a Facebook post, Professor Laberge expressed his "disgust for homosexuals," calling homosexuality a "primitive reaction" that degrades male sexuality.
Professor Meriwether refused to refer to a male student by his preferred, feminine pronouns, instead calling him "sir." Meriwether cited his personal religious beliefs as an evangelical Christian.
Professor Mehta, a tenured professor and self-described "free speech advocate," expressed allegedly controversial views both in the classroom and on social media on topics such as decolonization, immigration, and gender politics. He also called multiculturalism "a scam."
While serving as a teaching assistant in a first-year Communications Studies class, Shepherd showed a video to students featuring a debate between Jordan Peterson and Nicholas Matte on the subject of gender-neutral pronouns.
Professor Gilley's article "The Case for Colonialism" was published in the journal Third World Quarterly. In it, he argues that “Anticolonialism ravaged countries as nationalist elites mobilized illiterate populations with appeals to destroy the market economies, pluralistic and constitutional polities, and rational policy processes of European colonizers.”
Professor Fulton Brown, an acclaimed medievalist, was the subject of years-long criticism from fellow medieval scholar Dorothy Kim of Vassar College. On her blog In the Middle, Professor Kim published a post titled "Teaching Medieval Studies in a Time of White Supremacy," in which she argues that medieval European history has been "weaponized" by contemporary white supremacists. Fulton Brown responded in her own blog, Fencing Bear at Prayer, with her own article "How to Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist." Members and friends of the International Piers PlowmanSociety viewed Fulton Brown's response as racist in tone and content.
The Novia Scotia Young Progressive Conservatives posted criticism of the Dalhousie Student Union on Facebook, citing their refusal to participate in Canada 150 celebrations. Khan responded with a post of her own, saying "At this point, f*** you all ... I stand by the motion I put forward. I stand by Indigenous students. ... Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide?"
Professor Durden appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss issues relating to Black Lives Matter. She supported the actions of BLM, including black-only events, stirring controversy within her institution.
The Evergreen State College has a longstanding tradition called the "Day of Absence," in which minority students and faculty would voluntarily refrain from coming to campus in order to demonstrate the weight of their absence, and therefore of their worth in the college. In 2017, the college announced that the tradition would be reversed, such that white students and professors would be asked to attend an off-campus program on racism, while minorities would stay on campus for their own program. Professor Weinstein objected, claiming that the school was in effect telling white people to "go away."
In 2005, Professor Gouws was asked to teach a "Men in Literature" course, which he did periodically until 2015, when a student complained about the focus on men. Anne Herzog, Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Professional Studies, asked that he revise the course, and Gouws attempted to stand his ground.
Potter wrote an op-ed published by Maclean's, in which he attempts to connect a massive snowstorm in Quebec to what he describes as the province's "mass breakdown in the social order."
Dr. Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury by the local chapter of the American Enterprise Institute. Some of his past research is seen as controversial, so students disrputed the event with a protest. This protest turned into a violent mob when Murray and Stanger attempted to leave. A student pulled Stanger's hair and twisted her neck, after which she went to the hospital and wore a neck brace.
Professor Karega posted several statements on Facebook perceived as anti-semitic and anti-Israel. These include posts claiming that ISIS is run by the CIA and Mossad and that Israel orchestrated the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
Professor Peterson released a Youtube video titled “Professor against political correctness: Part I,” in which he critiqued Canadian laws protecting various forms of gender expression. He also expressed doubt about the concept of the "gender spectrum" in general.
In a Facebook post, Professor Hall suggested links between Israel and 9/11. He also expressed skepticism regarding certain events of the Holocaust.
Professor Tracy got in hot water after school officials discovered some of his articles on Memory Hole Blog, including pieces that questioned the reported details of the Sandy Hook shooting.
Professor Persinger distributed a survey to his introductory psychology course in which he asked students to sign off on the use of certain explitives in class, including "f*ck," "p*ssy," and "f*g." He claims that the use of these words is one of his pedagogical "techniques," as they provoke a particular reaction in those who say and hear them.
During a class discussion about race, Professor Quenette attempted to provide an example of her "white privilege" by saying the following: “As a white woman I just never have seen the racism. … It’s not like I see ‘n*gger’ spray painted on walls.”
Erika Christakis sent an email to Yale undergraduates discussing the university's recent decision to issue guidance on which Halloween costumes are "appropriate" for students to wear. She expressed that free expression should remain unhindered, and that students should be responsible for "dressing yourselves."
Sharing a Facebook article about rainbow flags, Professor Coupland wrote "It's the queers they should be hanging, not the flag ...."
Cheryl Abbate, a Marquette teaching assistant, taught a "Theory of Ethics" undergraduate course. In that class she allegedly shut down a discussion about gay marriage for fearing of offending gay students in the class. Professor McAdams criticized this decision on his blog, Marquette Warrior.
Professor Regnerus published an article in Social Science Research titled "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study." It was alleged that Regnerus' study and findings are hateful towards LGBT groups.
Professor Khoury is alleged to have misreported income received during sabbaticals. He claims that his dismissal was also due to his Republican political views, Lebanese heritage, and and advocacy for hiring minority professors.
Professor Enstrom was terminated from his 34-year research professor position at UCLA because his colleagues retaliated against him for publishing peer-reviewed research findings that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) does not cause premature deaths in California, and for identifying legal violations by UCLA and UC faculty members and a CARB employee.
Professor Thernstrom's views of slavery and Jim Crow laws expressed in class were seen as "racially insensitive" by some of his students.
Professor Wilson published a now-classic book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, in which he suggests that many social tendencies may be attributable to natural selection. This was perceived as supporting scientific racism and genetic determinism.
John David is the Communications & Administrative Associate at the National Association of Scholars.