Bret Stephens launches a foolish Twitter warRoundup
tags: Twitter, free speech, academic freedom, harassment, public engagement
David M. Perry is a journalist and historian. He's the senior academic adviser to the History Department at the University of Minnesota.
The New York Times building has bedbugs and once Twitter found out, the hilarity flowed. One of the kinder comments came from George Washington University public affairs professor David Karpf, who tweeted, "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens."
Writing to a provost about the actions of an academic on Twitter, which Stephens said he did because "managers should be aware" how "their people...interact in the world," is the big deal. Karpf is tenured, but untenured and part-time professors have lost jobs due to right-wing criticism of their social media posts. Just last week, Kirkwood Community College replaced an English professor due to posts in support for antifascist movements. As usual, people like Stephens and his colleagues who have been preaching about campus speech for years were silent.
The slide of the professoriate into the gig economy remains one of the biggest threats to free speech on college campuses today. It's hard to fire a tenured professor except in extreme cases. It's easy to let adjuncts go the moment there's any kind of ruckus, even one created in bad faith.
When it comes to student speech, as I wrote just last week, it's largely not conservatives who are experiencing disproportionate or targeted discrimination. Just Tuesday morning, the Harvard Crimson reported that on Friday, United States immigration officers deported a 17-year-old Palestinian incoming freshman named Ismail B. Ajjawi. His crime -- according to Ajjawi, he was forced to unlock his phone and laptop, and an official found that he was friends with people who posted, "political points of view that oppose the US." Harvard officials told the paper that they are working with the student to resolve the matter. A customs official said Ajjawi wasn't deported, merely "not allowed entry" because they deemed him "inadmissible."
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