The last 30 years have witnessed radical changes in academia. The politics and ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE) have gradually come to influence or even dominate what can be talked about, researched and taught at institutions of higher education. The size of the problem has manifested itself recently in the formation of large networks of scientists committed to upholding the principles of free speech and independent research: the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA, USA), Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF, UK), Academic Rights Watch (ARW, Sweden) and Netzwerk Wissenschaftsfreiheit (Germany)—to name just a few.
There can be no doubt that discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, religion or political beliefs should not be tolerated. This is true, in particular, for academic research and education where individuals applying for an educational programme or an academic position should be assessed purely on the basis of their academic merits and achievements. One would therefore expect policies emphasizing DIE not only to embrace scientific standards in academia, but to promote adherence to them. Surprisingly, however, this is far from always the case. In recent years, such policies have increasingly led to quite the opposite result, namely a situation in which, for example, allegiance to a “group identity” is increasingly considered relevant when evaluating an individual’s suitability for academic study or research—quite in contrast to the famous dictum of civil rights leader Martin Luther King that we all deserve to be judged not by skin colour, but by content of character.
This unfortunate development, which contradicts the very spirit of research and higher education, has been accompanied by an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech—another cornerstone of professional scholarly activity without which universities as we know them will slowly but surely suffocate. Whereas the principles of DIE suggest prima facie fundamental tolerance towards all viewpoints, DIE has increasingly placed science in general under suspicion of being an instrument of the allegedly ubiquitous power struggle between the (multiple) sexes and various races. The criteria by which the allegedly prevailing discrimination by gender or race is deemed tangible (or even systemic) are often founded more on subjective sensibilities than on any sound, empirically evidence-based arguments. Inevitably, any proponent of DIE politics must at least in part resort to biased research or censorship as their arguments are, through their renouncement of empiricism, in consequence less and less accessible to rational thought.
The DIE principles have now been incorporated in universities’ policies and fundamental values all over the world, practically forcing researchers and teachers to avoid subjects and suppress results that could be seen to violate these policies. Any criticism risks being seen as compelling evidence of non-compliance with those very policies. The effect is a culture of silence in which academics are increasingly reluctant to speak out against DIE policies for fear of possible consequences.
To accomplish their educational missions, universities and research institutes need to be politically neutral and adhere strictly to established scientific standards. The current undermining of these fundamental precepts is not a problem that will eventually fix itself. Rather, we strongly believe that coordinated action is now urgently needed to counter the excesses of identity politics in academia and that such action needs to involve people across the political spectrum.
Our purpose with the publication of the book Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and the Threat to Academic Freedom, which we have worked as editors, was to pull together some of the most remarkable cases in a single book, with original or republished materials, so that the reader can see we are dealing with a ubiquitous trend and not just isolated complaints. The essays contained here show personal experiences and observations, illustrating the abuse of power, censorship and witch-hunts at many universities and research centres around the world.
This book contains 26 chapters by 25 co-authors and one research team from 11 different countries. The great majority of the authors describe their personal experiences working in academia, while a few others touch on the sociological problems of science and academia in general. They are not scientific demonstrations of a given hypothesis, since ideologies or their refutations cannot be demonstrated; they present, rather, a panorama of the absurdities and human suffering to which these developments in our western society have given rise. This book is divided into five thematic blocks or sections, although this division is not strict and many of the chapters also touch on topics handled in other blocks:
We know there are many more people who have expressed similar ideas, and many others who would like to voice their opinion but for the greater part do not dare to do so, for fear of possible recrimination or jeopardizing their careers. We hope these chapters help all of us to realize that we are not alone in our observations, and to encourage other lecturers and researchers to express their reservations about the machinations of DIE lobbyists within academia. Fear of retaliation is not an option in a world in which silence lends consent to the monster’s growth, promoting the potential for totalitarian state systems comparable to Orwellian dystopias. We believe there is a clear and present threat to academic freedom and that we should use the legal instruments still available to us to protect it, or live to regret it and be silenced.
In the end, we will not solve the problem only by documenting the state of affairs, but doing so will serve: 1) to manifest that in our academia there are also people, apart from social justice warriors, who observe and think and will not be coerced by them; 2) to create awareness of and resistance to ill-conceived DIE policies based on radical versions of identity politics which have little, if anything, to do with academic values and scholarly integrity. We believe that university and research institutes must be politically neutral and should adhere strictly to established scientific methods.
We would like to emphasize that our intention is not to promote one ideological stream of thought over another. Although woke ideologies originate primarily in left-wing politics, we are not making a stand for any position on the political spectrum. In fact, we would argue that we need to remedy the politicization of academia and encourage the supremacy of an enlightened, evidence-based and rational discourse that is not afraid to discuss any dimension of thought. A political agenda that prevents this will eventually have the opposite effect it intends; the key to anti-discriminatory society is an open discussion of all the factors that may or may not contribute to discrimination. To silence any such debate is to eliminate the path to insight into factors benefiting or detracting from social justice.
As the acronym indicates, the present-day version of “DIE” ideology will not be eternal. We hope that this book will be a useful contribution, together with other similar works, that may inspire a new epoch of changes within the academic world.
Part I, chapter 7: “#metametoo: harassment campaigns in academia and the way universities are dealing with them”, by Andrei Yafaev (Professor of pure mathematics, Department of Mathematics, University College London, UK):
“[…] #metametoo movement, which is a practice of eavesdropping and spying on a male academic in social situations (completely unrelated to work and outside of the working environment), interacting with a female colleague and subsequently reporting it to the male’s employer as ’sexual harassment’ (often distorting or completely misrepresenting the nature of the interaction)—without checking with the female colleague beforehand or even despite her clear and explicit objections to that course of action.”
“An ideology/system of thought labelled WOKE has progressively and insidiously taken hold in academia over the last decade and has now become the dominant doctrine, its tenets widely accepted like articles of faith. Academics are terrified of speaking out against it.”
“In the USSR, anyone aspiring to a serious career in administration needed to join the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, actively participate in a few Party meetings, write a few denunciations and so on. Something very similar is happening now at UK universities. One way to build a career in administration (I am not claiming that it is the only way) is to indicate one’s adherence to the Woke Party, write a few bogus reports on suspected dissidents and then become an important manager.”
Part II, chapter 11: “Science in Japan versus the West: lessons to be drawn?”, by Étienne Forest and Tomonori Agoh (physicists, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan; The Graduate University for Advanced Studies Hayama, Kanagawa, Japan).
“Attempts in the West to ‘decolonize’ science, which imply that modern science is a tool of oppression, should be fought aggressively. They are part of political movements of a racist neo-Marxist West which equates ‘whiteness’ with the original sin.”
“[…] Asians have accepted western science and the scientific method on practical grounds. But they do not blindly embrace the philosophical ideas that motivate Westerners to extend this universality to the legal and political aspects of their polities.”
“We believe that Japan will reject western postmodernism, wokism, radical feminism, critical race theory, etc. because these are religious beliefs and do not in any way improve harmony or technology.”
“[…] our ‘science decolonizers’, our ‘feminist glaciologists’ and the rest of the postmodernist cabal are in a fundamental way western. They want to replace one religion with another.”
“The West cannot survive without its Shisô and so an apocalyptic fight to the finish is perhaps necessary. And if not, God willing, a tolerant Islam might be your only ‘bright future’!”
Part III, chapter 13: “Science goes to DIE at UC-Berkeley and the Rest of the West”, by Janice Fiamengo (Philologist, Professor Emeritus Univ. Ottawa, Canada):
“A close look at the instructions about diversity statements shows that, in addition to excluding white men from applicant pools, diversity statements have the added purpose of purging non-left-wing individuals, including women and people of colour, from college campuses.”
“[…]designated groups, valuable not for their potential as scientists but for adding a much-needed black or brown or female or gender nonconforming face to the lab.”
“A friend of mine has informed me that two tiers are being created in astronomy departments, one for the regular academics, mostly men, who pursue astronomy research, and the other for social justice warriors who spend their time conducting bias surveys and giving talks about diversity.“
Part IV, chapter 16: “Why discussing gender and STEM is so dangerous?”, by Alexander Strumia (Physicist, Fauglia, Italy):
“After the Higgs discovery the dust settled, and the result was a nightmare; no new physics while the discovery potential of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) was almost over.
CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire; in English: European Organization for Nuclear Research) was in a doubly difficult position, as it had reached at the same time the bottom of its scientific interest (scientists started being attracted by other fields) and the peak of its mediatic visibility (that started attracting people with extra-scientific interests). Instead of attempting a Rubbia-style scientific innovation, CERN started discussing a far-future, huger 100-km collider that needs huger money and thus good public relations.
This happened while many western leftists moved to identity politics, with its cancel culture and systemic victimization narratives. CERN got a ‘diversity office’, its director attended Bilderberg, Davos, G7 meetings, ‘progressive’ causes started impacting science.”
“I wrote a scientific paper with my data on gender and physics, and submitted it to the preprint bulletin arXiv in 2018. Usually, arXiv accepts preprints in one day, but mine was rejected, on the grounds that it had not been published. My paper is now published on Quantitative Science Studies, a bibliometric scientific journal. This shows that a normal scientific debate remains possible, at least outside physics. I resubmitted my published paper to arXiv, and it was rejected again with the reason that it ‘is on a topic not covered by arXiv or that the intended audience for your work is not a community we currently serve’. I wonder if arXiv now serves a political community, as arXiv accepted politically correct but scientifically incorrect preprints on the same topic, including a heated reply to my paper.”
“A part of the scientific community capitulated to a political ideology that rejects free speech and the scientific method.”
“Free speech about this topic is not free because gender is one of the Trojan horses of identity politics that is damaging science and society.”
“According to the P4J (Particles for Justice Group) approach, we should first decide what is ethical (equal outcomes among groups, according to identity politics) and next, based on this decision, judge what is true (group differences are reprehensible and cannot exist).”
“So we now have academic mobs that use political methods rather than reason and scholarship to impose an ideology that cannot stand liberal scrutiny and condemns all other views as ‘systemic XXXism’. In the anglosphere, about 1/3 of PhD students support cancelling dissenters and discriminating based on political ideas.”
Part V, chapter 26: “Feminine Culture in Academia: The Threat to Academic Freedom Coming from Soft Values”, by Erik J. Olsson (Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Lund University, Sweden. Co-founder and Chairman of ‘Academic Rights Watch’):
“A feminine culture will also have problems with freedom of expression. Severe research criticism is perceived as aggressive, unfriendly and uncooperative and there is a tendency to not invite, or cancel already invited, speakers perceived to exhibit these masculine traits. On the other hand, we should expect a feminine culture to promote collegial governance viewed as a venue for negotiation and compromise regarding the more important decisions that have to be taken for an academic unit.”
“Moreover, we can foresee a general shift of focus away from a search for knowledge and truth to factors that promote quality of life for academic personnel. These factors involve securing a safe employment with a decent salary to provide for one’s family, a pleasant work environment with good human relations and also working 9 to 5 rather than long hours. Thus, we should expect brilliant people wanting to work hard to achieve ambitious academic goals to be relatively unappreciated and struggle in a feminine culture and, in extreme cases, become the targets of administrative sanctions and investigations.”
“Interestingly, a presentation of the contents of this article was censored at a research seminar, for exactly the reasons that would confirm my main thesis. The article was presented under the title “Academic freedom—what it means, how we protect it” at the Institute of Astrophysics at the Canary Islands (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, IAC) in Tenerife, Spain, 18th November 2021. A video of the talk was published on the IAC’s Youtube channel shortly thereafter. However, only two hours after being published, the video was taken off Youtube by the Seminar Committee (Comisión de Seminarios) for violating the institute’s equalty policies, supporting my thesis about the repressive potential of an excessive focus on soft values.”
Complete book: López-Corredoira, M., Todd, T.,&Olsson, E. J., Eds., 2022, Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and the Threat to Academic Freedom, Imprint Academic, Exeter (UK)