Many professors who have expressed their views about race and politics this year have found themselves targets of both the left and right. Nothing is too abstrusely academic, it seems, to seed an attack campaign fueled by websites that surveil social media to find gotcha-worthy gems. The Professor Watch List, for one, created last year by the conservative group Turning Point USA, is helping drive a new level of scrutiny of professors who, it says, “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Some sites even send out alerts to subscribers. The latest casualties:
• Sarah E. Bond, professor of classics at the University of Iowa, wrote an academic piece challenging white supremacists’ use of marble antiquities, which had originally been painted colors, to suggest a classical ideal (the white nationalist group Identity Evropa uses Greek figures to promote its brand). After critical columns in Campus Reform and National Review, she was barraged with threats and calls for her dismissal.
• A Texas A M philosophy professor, Tommy Curry, has received death threats after a column in The American Conservative drew on a 2012 podcast in which Dr. Curry made an academic argument about violence against blacks by whites versus violence against whites by blacks. The column was headlined “When Is It O.K. to Kill Whites?”
• Trinity College in Hartford put Johnny Eric Williams on leave after he shared a provocative post from the website Medium arguing that bigots in peril should be left to die and referencing another post calling Steve Scalise, the Republican representative shot during baseball practice, a bigot. He then posted his own Facebook messages with a hashtag based on the post’s anti-white headline: “Let Them [expletive] Die.” The threats were so virulent the campus closed for a day, and Dr. Williams and his family fled the state.
After an investigation, Trinity’s president, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, concluded in July that his posts had been misconstrued by conservative media, and she blamed Campus Report for “distortions and an ensuing harassment that has become troublingly common.” But she added: “I do not condone the hashtag he chose to use.” Dr. Williams will remain on leave through the fall term.
• In the heat of a pro-Muslim rally, as a group of counterdemonstrators dispersed, a Syracuse University professor, Dana Cloud, tweeted for others to join and “finish them off.” The facile energy of social media transformed the personal outburst into a national issue. The tweets — shared by the conservative star Ann Coulter — led to calls to fire Dr. Cloud.
• Students at Evergreen State College want Bret Weinstein fired for objecting to a change in the traditional “Day of Absence,” in which blacks avoid campus to show their value; whites were to leave instead. The professor also challenged faculty hiring that assessed candidates’ contributions to diversity. Protests shut the college for several days.
• Colleges may say they uphold free speech, but teachers without tenure are vulnerable. After defending on Fox News a blacks-only Memorial Day event (“Boo hoo hoo. You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited”), Lisa Durden was let go as an adjunct at Essex County College in Newark. Judy Morelock, a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, has lost her job after a student challenged her teaching on the impact of slavery, and wrote about their charged conflict on Facebook. Kevin Allred, who was to teach this fall at Montclair State University in New Jersey, was fired after tweeting that he wished “someone would just shoot” the president, lighting up conservative social media with death threats against him.