The Corner

Education

College Officials Find New Ways to Silence Unwanted Professors

Classroom on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., September 20, 2018. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

We often hear about instances where college officials have taken steps to silence professors who have said things that campus snowflakes dislike. Sadly, we don’t hear about many other such instances, due to the tactics that they have adopted to ensure that the dirty work is kept hidden.

In today’s Martin Center article, retired professor Stephen Baskerville writes about a new paper he has written for the Center focusing on those tactics. In that paper, he writes, “I explore how non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) and mandatory arbitration (MA) provide a veil of legally enforced secrecy, shielding administrations from negative publicity, professional censure, and legitimate oversight, as they cleanse their faculty of ideologically heterodox professors.”

Using those methods, administrators can get rid of faculty they don’t want around, and keep everything silent because the hapless profs are prevented from ever discussing what happened to them. In consequence, both academic freedom and shared governance are undermined.

Baskerville also reveals that it isn’t just overtly leftist schools that use those tactics, but supposedly conservative, Christian ones. He explains, “Ironically, NDAs appear less likely to be used by liberal than conservative institutions, notably Evangelical Christian colleges, to disguise their capitulation to leftist pressure. Fearing controversy and avoiding public debate, these institutions make ‘routine use of non-disclosure agreements that stop current and former staff and board members from discussing sensitive matters.’”

In short, school officials have figured out how to crush faculty members they no longer want around and at the same time make them give up their freedom to speak about their treatment. Just what you’d expect from the kinds of academic “leaders” we now have.

Baskerville concludes, “The most debilitating feature of NDAs and MA is the admission of intellectual inadequacy by institutions of learning. When self-interest is at stake, high-minded pretenses about debating ideas and ‘critical thinking’ give way to functionaries quietly stabbing scholars in the back and stopping the mouths of critics with legal threats. This behavior by university leaders confirms how our colleges have become havens for ‘people who don’t really belong in academia but…abuse it for their own selfish purposes.’”

If you find this troubling, read his paper.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.