April 28th, 2017

Safety vs. speech at Cornell

Professor William Jacobson teaches law at Cornell, and also runs the blog Legal Insurrection for which I sometimes write. Anyone who is a conservative on campus these days needs to be a profile in courage, and Professor Jacobson most definitely is. Recently he championed and defended another professor at Cornell who was under attack from graduate students in an incident Professor Jacobson described yesterday at length in this post at LI.

It’s complex, but here’s a summary version:

For the past year or so there has been a divisive and ugly unionization drive by some graduate students, backed by the political power of the American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers. Democratic politicians in the state came out in support of grad student unionization…

For his efforts [against grad student unionization at Cornell, chemistry professor David B. Collum] became the focus of union ire, singled out by the national union and pro-union students… in a horrendous hit piece in the form of a letter to the editor of the Cornell Sun written by seven grad students, at least several of whom were involved in the union organizing…

It’s Alinsky Rules in action, freeze and isolate the target and cut him off from support. And the way you do that on the modern campus is to accuse someone of one of the “isms” or “phobias.” And worst, to claim the person is a rape apologist or misogynist.

All of those charges were lodged against Dave in the Sun based mostly on selected tweets he had made and it just hung out there from the Thursday April 20 publication through the weekend.

Jacobson suspected that Collum’s words had been twisted and/or taken out of their proper context, and he set about to show just how that happened in a letter he wrote to the editors of the same university paper:

In publishing that letter, The Sun gave a platform to a smear campaign against Prof. Collum in a manner that did not allow Prof. Collum to respond or provide for a verification of the context of the supposed evidence. I have researched several of the key tweets and quotes attributed to Prof. Collum in the letter, and it is clear that the way in which they are presented in the letter is misleading at best, and, in some cases, presents a false portrayal.

Read the whole thing in full to understand the details; it’s well worth reading. Job well done, Professor Jacobson.

This is another example of what university life has become—a witch hunt for the shrinking number of those who oppose the left, and a no-holds-barred campaign to destroy them, all in the name of self-righteous groupthink.

In addition, I became curious about the original letter to the editor from the seven graduate students. What were the charges, and what did the students want to have happen? Here’s an excerpt from their letter entitled “On a professor’s misconduct”:

Professors who supervise grads have unparalleled influence over their future careers, which can create an environment in which grads feel they do not dare to lodge complaints.

As a graduate student at Cornell, I am extremely troubled — in fact, disgusted — by the conduct of Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department David Collum. For years, Collum has publicly shared extremely sexist, bigoted and misogynistic statements.

Note that all the accusations involve speech, “mere speech.” There’s not even an allegation of an act (sexist, bigoted, misogynist, or otherwise) having been committed. Of course, we’ve learned from Professor Jacobson’s letter that even Collum’s speech was not as the grad students had indicated. But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Professor Collum had written every single thing these students alleged, and had written it in exactly the way and manner they alleged as well.

In other words, let’s discuss a hypothetical in which the graduate students’ charges are actually true about some member of the Cornell faculty. If that were the case, what would the charges be, and what would the remedies be? Their letter continues:

These statements make me wonder how he can supervise female and/or LGBTQ students without creating what the law and Cornell’s policy call a “hostile work environment.”

So the letter goes from alleging offensive speech on Twitter to an assumption of the person creating a hostile work environment, even though the allegations appear to have zero to do with that person’s actual treatment of anyone or that person’s actual behavior (or even that person’s speech) at work. These students don’t seem to require offending acts, or even offending speech at work, to be offended and frightened by that person’s presence and interactions. It’s enough for them to know (or to believe) that a person they are interacting with might harbor a non-PC thought, such as the following:

[Collum] has made posts indicating that he sees allowing young people to identify as their preferred gender as child abuse. He then supported that claim by referencing the American College of Pediatrics (a fringe group founded to push anti-LGBTQ beliefs).

But that’s a matter of real, bona fide disagreement, and although a non-leftist position it’s fairly mainstream. And yet these seven are terribly outraged/frightened that a professor might hold that opinion, and they believe such an opinion would disqualify that professor from being allowed to advise students or to chair a department (those are the remedies they are seeking in this instance).

The following quote from their letter is the heart of the matter:

Cornell advertises itself as a “caring” institution, where grad students are supposed to feel — and be! — safe.

That’s the most extraordinary statement of all. That’s what’s it’s come down to these days: many students at Cornell and elsewhere (even ones old enough to be graduate students) believe that students and graduate students are supposed to feel safe there—not just safe from crimes like assault or robbery, but safe from exposure to people with ideas that might disagree with theirs, ideas that they feel are bigoted. These students actually have come to think that this intellectual and emotional safety is the function of a college; their statement to that effect seems to be sincere and non-ironic. .

The seven graduate students’ goal, expressed in the last sentence of their letter, is that a professor who has issued words such as the ones they cited should not be advising students nor be a department chairman. And yet the alleged crimes are pure thoughtcrime.

To take the thought experiment a step further: in the brave new world world these seven students envision, I wonder what they think should happen to people they label bigots (that is, people who think making a gender re-assignment to children is a form of child abuse). Should bigots be allowed to have jobs at all? Or, like lepers in ancient times, should they walk around with bells around their necks to warn others of their sickly and dangerous approach? Should they be kept in the equivalent of leper colonies? Or maybe work camps? How about re-education camps?

Then we’d all feel safe.

15 Responses to “Safety vs. speech at Cornell”

  1. arfldgr Says:

    NEOI wonder what they think should happen to people they label bigots (that is, people who think making a gender re-assignment to children is a form of child abuse). Should bigots be allowed to have jobs at all? etc etc etc

    no you dont… you just dont want to give voice ot the answer you know is in their hearts and has always been…

    its all laid out in various old papers no one reads
    Der magyarische Kampf
    [“Neue Rheinische Zeitung” Nr. 194 vom 13. Januar 1849]

    Neo, your talking as what to do with what they call the Völkerruinen… (the other group to do things with is the Völkerabfälle)

    they answer lots of stuff..
    what will happen to families, children, the failed, economy, nations, and all.. ALL laid out in the 1840s.. never changes.. lots of labels change and so on, but the goals are ALWAYS THE SAME

    IF the revolution is the left and liberalism, socialism, communism, and feminism, then the others with the mislabels are the counter-revolution…

    and we know what happens to them..

    always become fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution.

    You wont find exterminate, they are higher literary writers and would never use that term, the term is extirpate
    Extirpate (Ausrotten) – root out and destroy completely.

    Extermination is Ausrottung…

    and they were very clear on it, you only had to read the work of Margaret Sangers people and the others who wrote for her bith control review.. specificlaly Ernst Rudin..

    the problme was that good people didnt think that these words were being used literally the same way we thought gender was being used as an alternative to sex and that we never thought to restricvt it to sex in the legal books – as it then broadened into its other meanings… giving us the result

    but when a serial killer says i am going to kill you its different than when you come home late and your mom says i could kill you for ruining dinner…

    this is how you play the good for the bad..

    even now, we all talk about “getting rid of the criminals” but do we really mean, load them up and dissolve them in vats of acid and render for industry? or the legal system and so on
    [this is NOT to give excuses]

    oh, and if you dont think the more hard core leftist dont know what i am trying to teach, well, here is an example of kids that know more than most:

    Aus-Rotten was an American anarcho-punk band active from 1991 to 2001 formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Part of the DIY underground, its members practiced and promoted a philosophy of anarchism and far-left sociopolitics. The band included lead vocalist Dave Trenga, vocalist/guitarist Eric Good, bassist Corey Lyons, and drummer Matt Garabedian. Spitboy singer Adrienne Droogas would often join the band in their later material.

    then there was Steppenwolf.. 🙂

    basically there is no room for aspergers, and gays, and austistics, and crazies, and gangs, and those who want culture, jews (now whites too), and so on..

    its always been one answer..
    for engels and marx answering bruans, jewish question with on the jewish question where he points out, that certain groups and such would never make it, and would ruin it.

    so bye bye
    methods are irrelvant.. ovens or feminisms demographic suicide, dont matter.. all that matters is that the good people dont get it.. wont get it… and will not respond till its so far past they cant do anything.

    for every woman that has no kids, another has to have 5
    and ALL their poliices are about not being fertile
    while their followers like most, dont really believe, or are ignorant of, and more… its ALWAYS that way..

    i wonder how many 100 year periods of this we have to go through before someone says, hey, experience, thats good…

    after all, isnt that the point of “never forget”?
    looks like we forgot all of it and are waiting for them to tell you

  2. Ray Says:

    As I have pointed out before, college has simply become an extension of day care. What do you want to bet that all of the whiners are liberal arts majors and not chemistry majors? I’m an electrical engineer and when I was a grad student I was too busy studying and doing homework to complain about feeling unsafe. You had to maintain a 3.0 (B) average to stay in grad school.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    I’m aware you have a problem detecting sarcasm and tone.

    This is a case where you completely missed my sarcasm and tone. Read the last two paragraphs (the last one is a single sentence). They are sarcastic. My reference to re-education camps and work camps should make it very clear that I understand what the goals of the far left are.

  4. A_Nonny_Mouse Says:

    Thanks, artfldgr.

    The problem is, of course, that one individual doesn’t
    keep all-of-human-history in his head.

    We rely on books and teachers and historians; we rely on the great idea of Western Civ that “The Search For Truth” is one of the highest values in our culture.

    However- Obviously- Tragically- Our cultural institutions have been corrupted, and the Search For Truth has been tossed aside in favor of “Stories that Support The Ruling Class’ Quest For Power”.

    I have no idea how to fix this. Societies/ cultures are like other organisms; they go through growth cycles of growth and flowering, then they set fruit and die. Fifty years ago, we were the glory of all history. Now our culture is in a period of decline and decay. I assume we’re going to have to endure
    yet another Great Darkness, and pray it doesn’t last
    a thousand years.

    (I also pray that there will indeed be a ‘Remnant’ to build something of value on the ashes of The West; but I’m pretty sure I won’t be around to see it. I think this culture-crash will last a good two hundred years. Sorry for the gloom-and-doom, but … I just don’t see any way to end the downhill slide we’re on.)

  5. David Foster Says:

    A substantial part of America’s higher education establishment has sunk to the level at which they should be addressed in Oliver Cromwell’s words to the Rump Parliament in 1653:

    “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

  6. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    I wonder if the phrase “academic freedom,” which was so frequently and passionately invoked by universities not very long ago to defend the right of professors to think independently, is ever heard at all on any campus anywhere nowadays.

  7. Kae Arby Says:


    I presume you mean like what happened to Justine Sacco?

  8. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The problem is, of course, that one individual doesn’t
    keep all-of-human-history in his head.

    That depends on the nature of the individual. A god class spirit or entity that exceeds the power factor for a Type 3 civilization, can easily hold the past, present, and future knowledge of humanity in one unit.

    I have no idea how to fix this.

    Fixing humanity is the wrong problem. More over, it’s impossible for a civilization that hasn’t even reached Type 1 yet.

  9. Eric Says:

    Reminder, again: Ivy League ROTC advocates, most notably at Columbia, won by competing head to head in the activist game versus elite campus SJW leftists.

    The only way to counter activists is with counter-activism. Otherwise, any half competent group of activists can rack up social political points when they’re practically unopposed in the arena.

  10. F Says:


    There was some counter-activism on the Berkeley campus, in response to the Antifa activism. It appears to have had a little success, in that Ann Coulter was re-invited after being dis-invited, but then the College Republicans dropped their support for her.

    One of the problems, in my estimation, is that the dustups on the Berkeley campus were becoming Antifa against bikers and other right-wing groups that came in from outside. Effectively, the campus was becoming the battleground for two groups from off campus.

    Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Insofar as someone was willing to stand up to Antifa, I think it was good: the anarchists need to know they do not have free rein. But the radicals still managed to get what they wanted — Coulter did not speak.

    Perhaps the counter-activism needed to be in the courts and in public opinion, not on the streets with rocks and sticks. I’m not saying you suggested the latter, only pointing out that counter-activism, much as it is needed, should not play into the hands of Antifa and the anarchists, which I think this did.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    While we are being destracted with stuff that is made artificially important by behavior intended to do so, we are missing something very important in terms of safety and the future

    Russia, China, and even Iran are fielding war robots, drones, and more… Russia putting out its first fully robotic nuclear hardened Tank.

    In such a future, the legacy we gave away in manufacturing is king, without it, they could turn out inferior equipment like the sherman tank, and undo anything superior like the tiger II due to the sheer numbers

    wasnt there a thing with the brits being overrun by spears and natives? and wasnt that the idea in korea? wave attacks…

    yes, the reawakening of the evil monsters from the past as they always do, and in this case antifa – Willi munsenbergs lovely projects, continued after his death in east Germany, and now awake again pretending that they are the anti fascists of Wiemar, making the opposition only one possible thing…

    we retooled for WWII
    we would have to rebuild with snowflakes leading the way

    everything we have discussed or cared about becomes irrelevant the minute its wiped from the table. in other words, they are the luxury that comes from being secure in some way, and irrelevant if security is not present as its just wasting time till its swept off the world, as Engels calls for (only the last one that actually sweeps everything off counts to them – failures are not failures they are just not the right one, but the next one will be)

  12. JuliB Says:

    I follow a wonderful blog called AskAManager. Many of her commenters are SJWs and spout their foolish theories as objective fact. The blogger is sympathetic to them, but tries to keep side arguments from derailing the topic being discussed. But sometimes seeing them swarm like angry stinging ants makes me close the browser window.

    These people scare me. I don’t think we’ve considered how bad things will get in society when these lunatics get into power. Sure, we’ve go some of them here already, but I see it getting more widespread. We lack good soundbytes / propaganda to counter what they say.

    Being a brainy chick motivated by facts and reasoning, I’ve long held that presentation of facts dispassionately would sway peoples’ opinions. I no longer think that. History tends to dispute that as well. True – we need to maintain and share the underpinnings, philosophy, etc of our beliefs to those who care, but that isn’t enough.
    Aside to Biq Maq – on a not too distant article, you questioned my shock at the elite tech guy circle wanting control people. (I believe it had to do with liberatarianism and how they are cherry-picking just the “benefits” that would be good for them.)

    I think I wasn’t as clear as I should have been in describing my surprise. It wasn’t so much that they had these (IMO) ugly controlling opinions, it was how matter-of-fact they were about it. No clue that they could be wrong about how people should live their lives, no clue that perhaps monetary coercision (tax policies) was wrong, no clue that the words they uttered could be deemed as morally offensive to others, and so forth.

    These are the ‘Anointed Ones’ as described by Sowell, but they have their support from the SJW harpies.

  13. J.J. Says:

    JuliB: “Being a brainy chick motivated by facts and reasoning, I’ve long held that presentation of facts dispassionately would sway peoples’ opinions. I no longer think that. History tends to dispute that as well.”

    Unfortunately, you are spot on with this observation. Reason does not make a dent in people’s minds if they are driven primarily by feelings. Which it seems the majority of people are. There is one feeling that seems to drive SJWs more than any other and that is a desire for equality or fairness. In fact that desire is one felt by most people. I don’t recall at what point I recognized that life wasn’t fair and all people equal – maybe while paying high school football or competing in high school ski meets. Losing is a character building experience. Especially if it motivates you to redouble your efforts to improve your abilities.

    Winning can also be character building, especially after many losses, because you know how hard it is to win and how hard it is to repeat.

    IMO, many valuable life lessons ( teamwork, grace under pressure, how to bear losses, how to be gracious as a winner, sportsmanship, that all people are not equally talented, and life isn’t fair.) are learned on the playing fields of our youth. It’s my understanding that these experiences are no longer as valued by the schools and parents as they were when I was growing up. When that is true and the teachers keep reinforcing the idea that there can be equality of results, it leads young minds astray.

  14. Barry Meislin Says:

    It’s not too difficult to understand.

    Universities must be made havens (safe places) for those who insist on their right to engage in character assassination of those with whom they don’t agree.

    (Or shout them down. Or beat them up.)

    After all, what’s a university for (these days)?

    File under: Conservative-rein

  15. Ymar Sakar Says:

    These people scare me. I don’t think we’ve considered how bad things will get in society when these lunatics get into power. Sure, we’ve go some of them here already, but I see it getting more widespread. We lack good soundbytes / propaganda to counter what they say.

    I don’t know if you are a so called Christian or just a cultural Christian, but 1st AD Jew vs Christian vs Roman conflicts were much more difficult than talking to people online where they cannot physically harm you. You can feel that some of them want to , but they lack the ability to do so.

    Anyone who is a student of power, propaganda, the art of war, and spiritual warfare has “considered” the consequences potentially. It is the people who refused to Wake Up, that think it is all new now.

    Being a brainy chick motivated by facts and reasoning, I’ve long held that presentation of facts dispassionately would sway peoples’ opinions. I no longer think that.

    All as I had predicted. There was no reason for me to waste effort convincing people here and elsewhere that I was right. They would arrive at the conclusion sooner or later, when the Left inflicts enough pain on them. If what I wrote years before was true about the evil of the Left, then it didn’t matter whether people believed me or thought I was crazy. The Left was something they couldn’t ignore.

    Ignoring one Ymar online is easy. Ignoring millions of people who elect a Hero King to the US Throne, and a faction of demon possessed Demoncrats, that is something they won’t be able to ignore.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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