Harvard Cancels British Romanticism Scholar Due to Her Views on Gender Issues

Harvard University is under fire this week after canceling a talk by philosopher Devin Buckley on British Romanticism.  That is usually not a protest-inspiring subject. The Lyrical Ballads of  William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge do not usually trigger riotous reactions. However, Harvard decided to cancel this talk not because of Dr. Buckley’s world-renowned expertise but because of her political views and associations. She is a member of the Women’s Liberation Front, a feminist organization that has opposed transgender policies as inimical to women’s rights. That was enough for Harvard, which shattered any pretense of free speech and viewpoint diversity on its campus. Wordsworth once wrote that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” In this case, powerful feelings proved the end to good poetry.

Media reports quote Buckley as saying that she was cancelled after the objections from English department coordinator Erin Saladin. Even though her speech had nothing to do with gender or feminism issues, Saladin reportedly objected to her board membership on the organization.

The National Review published an email from Saladin that raised a “difficult note” after looking up Buckley and discovering her association with what Saladin called “a trans-exclusionary radical feminist organization.” She added “I also found at least one piece of her writing online that explicitly denies the possibility of trans identity. I can’t ask for funding to invite a speaker who takes the public stance that trans people are dangerous or deceptive.” She called out other faculty by name who might not want to sign off on funding when “it could look pretty bad for them and the department.”

Dr. Buckley noted that Saladin never even bothered to quote from her writings to show the hateful content.

There has been a global campaign against feminists who challenge transgender policies as undermining or even reversing the gains of the feminist movement. They are called trans-exclusionary radical feminists or Terfs by critics. Some have even been prosecuted in other countries like Australia for hate speech due to their political beliefs.

Terfs are being attacked in the media in articles that tend to include anyone who opposes transgender laws. The labeling creates a chilling effect for those who might want to speak out against aspects of these laws or policies. For some feminists, gender self-identification creates dangerous situations for women and negates core elements of feminist values. For others, this opposition is a denial of their identification and characterizes them as dangerous or potentially criminal.

In the end, none of that matters. How Buckley views gender or how others view her views on gender should not be a barrier to her speaking on British Romanticism. (Indeed, Harvard should welcome opposing views on gender identity.) Nevertheless, she has experienced the increasingly common “shunning” and cancellation of academics who hold dissenting views on campuses.

Dr. Buckley objected that “Harvard has let me know that I cannot be a scholar of British Romanticism because I do not believe there are male women. For my part, I’d rather be damned with the Romantics and Plato than go to woke heaven with Erin and the Harvard faculty.”

What is disturbing is not just the objections of staff like Saladin but the silence of faculty at Harvard in the face of such intolerance and orthodoxy. These faculty members and administrators have destroyed the guarantees of free thought and expression on our campuses. The lesson has not been lost on students. The Knight Foundation released a study showing that sixty-five (65) percent agreed that people on campus today are prevented from speaking freely. The poll is additional evidence of the failure of administrators and faculty to maintain campuses as forums for free thought and intellectual engagement.

What is most notable about these controversies is how only conservative, libertarian or minority viewpoints seem to result in cancellation or termination. When liberal faculty make racist or violent statements, they are rarely sanctioned.

As a free speech advocate, I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. Indeed, University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis has defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence.

Even when faculty engage in such hateful acts on campus, however, there is a notable difference in how universities respond depending on the viewpoint. At the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.  Another previously case involved  Fresno State University Public Health Professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher who recruited students to destroy pro-life messages written on the sidewalks and wrongly told the pro-life students that they had no free speech rights in the matter. He was not sanctioned.

However, Dr. Buckley cannot be allowed to speak on British Romanticism at Harvard.

John Keats once wrote, “if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.” Harvard decided it was best not to come at all.


91 thoughts on “Harvard Cancels British Romanticism Scholar Due to Her Views on Gender Issues”

  1. The grim reality is that transgenderism is the path to sterilization and castration. Any action that leads to more children identifying as transgender than ever before, increases the risk they will become sterilized, as well as the risk of suicide, which seems like an obvious result of castration.

    Sex reassignment, bottom surgery, transgender affirmation…it’s all euphemisms for castration. Children like to play pretend, and getting attention is positive reinforcement. Children have an instinctive need for affirmation, acceptance, and attention. The transgender craze often showers children with praise when they claim they are transgender. These kids are not intellectually mature enough to grasp that the end result is castration, or what that means. There are many people who bitterly regret transgender drugs and surgery. The promise of a female reproductive tract is a false one. The surgery uses skin that was never designed to be in an internal cavity. The surgery creates a permanent wound, that frequently gets infected and when it does, it smells. That wound will require specialized daily care forever. If any of them survive to old age, they will require specialized nursing to take care of this artificial body cavity.

    Transgenderism isn’t affirming who they really are; it’s rejecting who they really are.

    Gender dysphoria, body integrity disorder (where someone thinks they are suppose to be an amputee), racial imposter syndrome (Rachel Dolezal), clinical lycanthropy (a belief they turn into a wolf or other animal), delusions of grandeur, erotomania (the belief that a celebrity or famous person loves you), people who believe they are the reincarnation of a famous historical figure (never a milkmaid or servant). There are many mental health issues which lead the sufferer to feel disconnected to the reality of their body or life. They deserve compassion. Punishing anyone who does not agree with their delusions is not appropriate.

  2. Jonathan: There are actually two stories about Harvard this week. You covered the first about Harvard disinviting Devin Buckley from giving a talk about British Romanticism. Buckely is active in the anti-trans movement that thinks men “acting” as women can pose a threat to the traditional concepts of gender. When informed of her disinvitation Buckely said: “This is yet another instance of an elite university punishing (and misrepresenting) someone who questions fashionable far left dogma”. So the growing recognition of the rights of trans individuals is just “far left dogma”. A quick Google search indicates this story got very little traction with only you and the far-right media taking up Buckley’s cause, e.g., Washington Times, The College Fix, Newsmax, etc.. The Buckley dustup is part of the “culture wars” agenda to stigmatize the LGBTQ community especially transgender individuals. The right and the GOP hope that anti-LGBTQ voters will help them sweep the November elections and in 2024. Maybe the best approach would have been to let Buckley give her talk and then confront her with questions about her ant-trans views during the discussion period.

    The second story about Harvard you completely missed. This week Harvard has straightforwardly confronted its past. In what is called an “unflinching” report Harvard has created a $100 million fund to address the legacy of the university’s ties to slavery. The report found Harvard had deep involvement with slavery beginning with Harvard’s founding in the 17th Century. Harvard’s presidents, faculty and staff owned slaves. Harvard’s wealth profited from slavery through loans to Caribbean slave planters. One of the owners of one such plantations was brutal Issac Royall. Harvard Law School honored Royall by naming a chair after him. This was not discovered until 2008. After student protests the law school removed the Royall family seal from the school’s official crest symbols. This week the “Royall Chair” was retired. Finally. I suspect the Buckley case will hardly register as a blip in the history of Harvard and its come lately attempts deal with its embarrassing past and wrestle with trans gender issues going forward.

    1. Does anyone have the right to force everyone else to agree with how they view themselves internally? Is it a human right to force speech or opinions upon others?

      Can a woman declare herself 20 forever, and claim it is a violation of her rights when others refer to her chronological age or appearance?

      Transgender people have the right to dress, speak, act, and refer to themselves and others however they like. Free speech. Everyone else has the same right. Free speech.

    2. 100 million out of 46 billion set aside to address their shameful history of taking money from slaveholders. While nice, I do not see how this changes the limitations Harvard imposes on free speech with which some at Harvard don’t agree.

  3. Do not confuse gender with performative behavior.

    Someone can dress up however they like. They can get plastic surgery to look like Peter Pan, a celebrity, or the opposite gender. Those are performative behaviors. It does not change your chromosomes.

    You cannot force 7.5 billion people on Earth to agree with your internal view of yourself. It’s unhealthy to try. March to your own tune and allow everyone else the freedom to have their own opinions.

    What is remarkable about Democrats is that they demand the right to voice their opinions at home, online, in public, to your children in school, at a protest, at a disruptive protest at the Capitol or the Supreme Court, in your children’s programing, in the magazines you read, in the movies and tv shows you watch, but they demand the right to prevent other opinions from being voiced or heard.

    The same people who threaten violence unless an invited speaker gets disinvited or removed would demand the right to invite whomever they want, and to say whatever they please. They understand might makes right, and right now, the totalitarian Left has the might.

Comments are closed.