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New ‘Network of Concerned Academics’ rallies against the ‘right-wing’


Conservatives are using ‘vast resources’ to bring ‘provocateurs’ to campus, group says

A coalition of higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students has formed to combat what they say is an “anti-education movement” that is “wide, deep, and coordinated” and led by the “right-wing.”

The Network of Concerned Academics claims that the Trump administration has “manufactured a media crisis around issues of free speech.” They state that the current political climate is “dominated by anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance” and poses an “unprecedented threat” to institutions of higher learning.

In a handbook on its website titled “A Guide to Campus Provocateurs,” the organization instructs faculty, staff and students in how to “most effectively respond to right-wing assaults on campus life and campus politics.”

“Since Trump’s election conservative and right-wing organizations and individuals have increased their recruiting efforts. Their goal is to make bigotry unchallengeable. Their goal is to make it harder for people to fight against social inequalities and structural forms of marginalization,” the guide states.

Conservatives “are using their vast resources to bring to campuses speaker-provocateurs who spew hateful ideas that demean others, in order to inflame campuses,” it continues.

The document appears to contain several instances of editors’ markups that were not deleted prior to publication. On one page giving students advice about “challenging” controversial speakers, a paragraph is appended with the note: “I DON’T THINK WE SHOULD SAY ANYTHING ABOUT BOYCOTTING THE SPEAKER, I DELETED IT.”

Another paragraph that suggests students “consider denying [conservative speakers]” their “platform” is appended with the order: “DROP THIS.”

According to an announcement from the site’s founders, the website was originally supposed to feature a section called “Right-Wing Watch,” which would have highlighted “individuals, organizations, and other sponsors who are organizing and funding the attack on the academy.” Since the site’s founding, that section has been changed to “Intimidation Watch.”

Nobody at the organization responded to The College Fix’s repeated requests for comment. Among its queries, The Fix specifically inquired about the Network’s opinion on recent left-wing incidents of purging, harassment, and censorship of educators and speakers like Bret Weinstein, Charles Murray, and Nicholas and Erika Christakis.

The website lists the Ford Foundation and the American Association of University Professors Foundation as donors. The professors’ foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Asked about the funding of the organization, Ford Foundation spokeswoman Nicole Okai told The Fix via email that the project “was not supported with a foundation program grant, but was rather a small-dollar travel grant administered through our IIE Global Travel Learning Fund.”

On its site, the Network claims that “conservative pundits obsess over liberal intolerance for free speech on campuses as a central threat to democracy” but that “the majority of highly-publicized right-wing speeches shut down or disrupted by protest revolve around the same speakers (e.g., Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Milo Yiannopoulos).”

The group cites an article written by Georgetown Free Speech Project director Sanford Ungar, but in the article to which the Network links, Ungar writes that other conservatives such as Gavin McInnes, Dave Rubin, Christina Hoff Sommers and Heather Mac Donald have all been shouted down and disrupted.

The Network states that “cases involving faculty disciplined for their criticism of Trump make up a larger majority of free speech threats,” though it does not cite any specific cases. The group may have been referring to several instances cited by Ungar. In one, an adjunct professor was removed from his position after he called for Trump to be hanged and Republicans to be executed.

In another, a professor had to cancel several public appearances due to death threats after she publicly lambasted President Trump. It does not appear that the professor was disciplined for her remarks.

Ungar also found that a professor at Trinity College was “sharply criticized” after he delivered “online comments perceived as calls for violence.” This is an apparent reference to Johnny Williams, who, following the attempted shooting murder of several Republican lawmakers, urged first responders to “let [white people] fucking die.”

After his comments advocating the death of white people, Williams was briefly suspended from his position at Trinity College before being re-appointed.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with a comment from a Ford Foundation spokeswoman.

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About the Author
Sarah George -- Georgetown University