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Professor who savaged Trump in commencement address mad at ACLU for not defending her

But academic freedom ‘not a shield or sanctuary to duck from predictable criticism’

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the Princeton professor of African American studies and author of a bestselling book on Black Lives Matter, is still mad that people consider her words spoken at a college commencement worthy of news coverage.

And now she’s shaming left-leaning organizations for not joining her crusade against media coverage.

Taylor writes in a New York Times op-ed today that free speech groups have defended politically incorrect speech against progressive attacks but not her (literal) speech at Hampshire College, where the modest “junior faculty member” called President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” – a clip played by Fox News over a few days:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the PEN organization [which defends authors’ rights] have gone out of their way to defend the rights of provocative speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to speak on campuses, but have been virtually silent on cases involving leftist or progressive faculty members who face suspension for provocative comments.

She blames media outlets that cover higher education for taking interest in her words, as well as those of her academic peers who publicly defended the exclusion of whites from a Black Lives Matter event, suggested mortally wounded whites be denied emergency medical treatment and winked at violence against whites in their classrooms.

MORE: The College Fix reports on higher ed – and we’re not going to stop

Taylor’s hypocrisy-focused column doesn’t go as far as Cornell historian Russell Rickford, who argues that reporting on controversial statements by professors is a neo-McCarthyite “technique of repression.”

But it earned an unintentional rebuke from the University of Pennsylvania law school dean, Ted Ruger, who defended one of his own faculty members for her speech by telling others to use their speech to criticize it.

Ruger’s op-ed in The Daily Pennsylvanian is ostensibly a response to the violence at the “Unite the Right” protest Saturday against Charlottesville’s removal of a Confederate statue, which ended with an alleged Nazi sympathizer charged with second-degree murder for driving a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one.

He said the Charlottesville violence is “substantively distinct” from his community’s outrage over a recent op-ed defending “bourgeois” cultural values, co-written by Penn Law Prof. Amy Wax – but both have “generated widespread discussion both internally and externally about our core values as a university and a nation.”

Ruger tells those who are offended by the unnamed Wax (though the Daily puts her name in the article URL) to use their own speech to disagree and make clear they do not share her views on “relative cultural worth.”

In a passage that could be aimed squarely at Princeton’s Taylor and all other professors who suggest they have a right not to be criticized when their words go viral, Ruger writes:

The right to speak, crucial to academic freedom, is just that — a right to make one’s opinion heard. It is a secure platform, not a shield or sanctuary to duck from the predictable criticism that may follow from others exercising their own expressive rights.

Read Taylor’s op-ed and Ruger’s op-ed.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.