Tracking "Cancel Culture" in Higher Education

John David

Updated July 2, 2020—This list, originally published in June 2020, will be updated periodically. If you know of additional professors, administrators, or students who have been “canceled,” please let us know at [email protected]. Jump to list.

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 “cancelation” 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 cancelation 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 cancelations. 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 cancelations not on our list, please email us at [email protected].

Below, we list cancelations in reverse chronological order:

Download an Excel chart of the cases.

Download a PDF chart of the cases.

06/20/20 - Matthew Hubbard - Professor of Mathematics

Professor Hubbard allegedly asked a Vietnamese-American student to "anglicize" her legal name because it sounds like an "insult in English."

06/17/20 - Walter Block - Loyola University New Orleans

Professor Block is under fire for numerous statements on topics including slavery and the "gender pay gap."

6/16/20 - Daniel Patrick Moloney - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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.

6/8/20 - Harald Uhlig - University of Chicago

Professor Uhlig Tweeted two statements on the topic of race, including saying 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.

6/7/20 - Sonya Duhé - Arizona State University

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.

6/7/20 - Stuart H. Hulbert - San Diego State University

Professor Hulbert has made multiple statements deemed controversial regarding topics such as Black Lives Matter, immigration, and globalism.

6/4/20 - Tomáš Hudlický - Brock University

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.

6/4/20 - David Collum - Cornell University

Professor Collum tweeted in support of the Buffalo Police Department officers who were suspended without pay after an altercation with an elderly man on 6/4/20.

6/4/20 - Douglas Brooks - Miami University

Professor Brooks allegedly called a group of Black Lives Matter protesters "monkeys."

6/3/20 - Charles Negy - University of Central Florida

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."

6/3/20 - William A. Jacobson - Cornell University

Professor Jacobson posted two articles criticizing the Black Lives Matter Movement on his blog, Legal Insurrection.

6/2/20 - Gordon Klein - University of California, Los Angeles

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.

6/2/20 - W. Ajax Peris - University of California, Los Angeles

Professor 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.

6/1/20 - Scott Senjo - Weber State University

Professor Senjo Tweeted several statements supporting the police's role in combatting Black Lives Matter protests, including at least two that may be perceived as threats.

5/29/20 - Mike Adams - University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Professor Adams Tweeted on 5/29/20 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 on 6/2/20 perceived as sexist.

5/27/20 - Michael McConnell - Stanford Law School

Professor McConnell said the N-word while reading aloud from historical source material in class. The quote he read was allegedly by Patrick Henry.

4/28/20 - Rose Salseda - Stanford University

Professor Salseda said the N-word during a guest lecture while reading aloud the lyrics from a NWA song.

3/24/20 - Kathleen Lowery - University of Alberta

Professor Lowery is a self-described "gender-critical feminist," that is, she does not view biological sex as irrelevant to women's issues as some segments of the LGBTQ movement do. She expressed these views in one of her classes, provoking the ire of her school.

2020 - Nicholas Meriwether - Shawnee State University

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.

11/20/19 - Dougal MacDonald - University of Alberta

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.

10/28/19 - Susan Crockford - University of Victoria

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 at the website.

9/7/19 - Mark Hecht - Mount Royal University

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."

5/18/19 - Ricardo Duchesne - University of New Brunswick

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.

09/2018 - Steven Gerrard - Williams College

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.

02/2018 - David B. Porter - Berea College

Professor Porter developed a survey to gauge views on academic freedom and hostile environments while teaching a course on industrial and organizational psychology.

8/15/20 - Garth Stevenson - Brock University

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.

7/18/18 - John Tieso - The Catholic University of America

Professor Tieso drew the ire of his employer and students after posting allagedly racist Tweets criticizing former President Obama and Senator Kamala Harris.

7/17/18 - Derek Pyne - Thompson Rivers University

Professor Pyne conducted research on the popularity of disreputable academic journals among academics trying to advance their careers. He claimed that administrators and faculty at his own instutition had many articles in some of these journals.

1/15/18 - Jean Laberge - Cégep du Vieux Montréal

In a Facebook post, Professor Laberge expressed his "disgust for homosexuals," calling homosexuality a "primitive reaction" that degrades male sexuality.

1/5/18 - Rick Mehta - Acadia University

Professor Mehta, a tenured professor and self-described "free speech advocate," expressed allegedly controversial views both in the classroom and on social media pertaining to topics such as decolonization, immigration, and gender politics. He also called multiculturalism "a scam."

11/1/17 - Lindsay Shepherd - Wilfrid Laurier University

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.

8/9/17 - Amy Wax - University of Pennsylvania

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.

6/6/17 - Lisa Durden - Essex County College

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.

3/20/17 - Andrew Potter - McGill University

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."

10/4/16 - Anthony Hall - University of Lethbridge

In a Facebook Post, Professor Hall suggested links between Israel and 9/11, and also expressed skepticism regarding certain events of the Holocaust.

9/27/16 - Jordan Peterson - University of Toronto

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.

1/4/16 - Michael Persinger - Laurentian University

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.

7/21/15 - Rick Coupland - St. Lawrence College

Sharing a Facebook article about rainbow flags, Professor Coupland wrote "It's the queers they should be hanging, not the flag ...."

2012 - Mark Regnerus - University of Texas at Austin

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 is alleged that Regnerus' study and findings are hateful towards LGBT groups.

2012 - Joseph Khoury - University of California, Riverside

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 advocacy for hiring minority professors.

2010 - James Enstrom - University of California, Los Angeles

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.

2008-2020 - Stephen Hsu - Michigan State University

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.

1/14/05 - Lawrence H. Summers - Harvard University

In a talk delivered at an economics conference, President Summers allegedly suggested that there may be more male scientists than female at elite universities due to "innate" differences between the two sexes.

1988 - Stephan Thernstrom - Harvard University

Professor Thernstrom's views of slavery and Jim Crow laws expressed in class were seen as "racially insensitive" by some of his students.

1975 - Edward O. Wilson - Harvard University

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.

Image: Michael Höfner, Public Domain

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