Self-censorship is ruining academia as the majority of college professors fear speaking freely, a university professor resigning over diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives told Fox News.
“We’re literally moving away from the foundations of academia,” Matthew Wielicki told Fox News. “If professors have any hesitancy in their speech, if students are hesitant to ask questions, if there is a decrease in dialogue because of a fear of retribution—that’s the fundamental principles that universities were founded on.”
More than half of the nearly 1,500 college faculty members polled in a Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) survey published in December were afraid of losing their jobs or reputations because of their words being used against them, even if unfairly. About a third said they don’t feel they can freely express their opinions.
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“I definitely experienced that,” Wielicki said.
The earth science professor announced his resignation from the University of Alabama in January, citing the “obsession” over the school’s push for equity in science. He tweeted that “the rise of illiberalism in the name of DEI is the antithesis of the principles that universities were founded on.”
“I think when I started speaking out, it came very clear to me that saying what I said was very taboo,” Wielicki told Fox News. “People called me a racist straight away when I didn’t actually talk much about race at all.”
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He said the increasingly oppressive atmosphere on campuses leaves professors feeling like they can’t ask questions or discuss controversial subjects with students.
“If you’re a young faculty member and you’ve busted your butt to get to that position, you’re not going to want to rock the boat,” Wielicki said.
Wielicki was most shocked by the FIRE survey’s finding that, depending on the scenario, up to 36% of faculty endorsed their colleges formally investigating professors for controversial statements.
“Nobody really wants to discuss the issues, but they’re more than happy to throw around some slander about you or call you names,” he said.
Fear of speaking freely isn’t isolated to conservative professors, the survey found, with 40% of liberal faculty also fearing retribution if they said something unfavorable.
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“I think everybody walks on eggshells,” Wielicki said.
“If there’s one thing we’ve seen, it’s that it doesn’t really matter if you’re in the tribe or not,” he added. “If you say something wrong, that’s enough to get you essentially ostracized and kicked out.”
To watch the full interview with Wielicki, click here.