These academics were well-known by their schools for their extreme views and advocacy in classrooms. They are part of an academia that now runs largely from the left to the far left.
I have previously opposed efforts to censor academics or students based on their controversial viewpoints. What is ironic is that many of the figures who have led past cancel campaigns are now the subject of the same calls after supporting Hamas’ attack.
The greater concern should be that Rickford is not the exception but the rule for many faculties in a shift to the far left. Many schools have purged Republicans, conservatives and libertarians over the last two decades. In that sense, Rickford is the norm, part of academia’s radical chic.
Rickford made news in Ithaca when he worked a crowd with his joy over the Hamas attack. In the wake of clear atrocities, Rickford was ecstatic: “Hamas has punctured the illusion of invincibility. … Nothing will be the same again … It was exhilarating. It was exhilarating, it was energizing. And if they weren’t exhilarated by this challenge to the monopoly of violence, by this shifting of the balance of power, then they would not be human. I was exhilarated.”
A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Rickford has long been a favorite of some media, including the Washington Post which has run his columns. Citing struggles from Black Lives Matter to the Palestinian cause in one Post column, Rickford insisted that Blacks need to reclaim the radical image of Martin Luther King and realize that true solutions will not be found through the government but “from the unruly and subversive elements that lie below.”
Cornell was enthusiastic in adding him to its faculty ranks as it has other militant far-left faculty. At the same time, it has gradually eliminated the conservative voices that Rickford has denounced.
Even Cornell’s director of “diversity and inclusion” at the School of Management called the massacre an act of “resistance” in an Instagram post and told those traumatized by the terrorism to “F–k your fake outrage at Palestine.”
Recently, the Harvard Crimson found that the university had effectively eliminated conservatives from most departments. One survey revealed that more than three-quarters of Harvard Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty respondents identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 2.5% identified as “conservative,” and only 0.4% as “very conservative.”
A study by Georgetown University’s Kevin Tobia and MIT’s Eric Martinez found that only 9% of law school professors identify as conservative at the top 50 law schools. A 2017 study found that 15% of faculties were conservative, and another study found that 33 out of 65 departments lacked a single conservative faculty member.
Keep in mind that, according to Gallup, “37% of Americans described their political views as moderate, 36% as conservative” in 2022. Only a quarter identified as liberal (25%) — yet that segment of our society occupies the vast majority of university faculty positions.
Nevertheless, Rickford and others on campuses have been widely cited as describing such bias and the dominance of liberal values as a myth.
Academics like Asheesh Kapur Siddique, an assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have written columns that the dominance of the left on campuses is a pure myth, as is the “alleged lack of ideological diversity on American college campuses.”
In reality, Siddique insisted, the “modern American university is a right-wing institution” and the “right’s dominance of academia and its reign over universities is destroying higher education, and the only way to save the American university is for students and professors to take back control of campuses.”
At the same time, Rickman and others have railed against whites on campuses — racist attacks that would never be tolerated if directed at other groups. Rickman has said that only a “sliver” of whites actually want equality. He insists that, for most whites, “deep in their heart, they despise your blackness more than anything else.” He called for an “antiracist movement to defeat capitalism altogether and it’s not going to happen at the ballot box.”
Many academic leaders seem desperate to prove they are part of that “sliver” of the enlightened, by hiring far-left advocates like Rickman. They nod in agreement or remain silent in the face of racist, inflammatory rhetoric.
For many professors, the risk is simply too great when they could be the next target of a cancel campaign. Now, those same long-silent academic voices are being raised in shock at Rickman’s latest rhetoric. Yet, in fairness to Rickman, he has hardly been subtle or restrained; he simply directed his hate-spewed rhetoric against others in the past.
After years of calling upon donors to respond to this academic echo chamber, a few are finally waking up after the rationalizations of Hamas’ terror attack. That response is a couple decades late, given the support of universities and colleges for years as they adopted increasingly intolerant and orthodox environments.
The solution, again, is not greater censorship but greater diversity on faculties. Donors and alumni need to demand a reversal of the elimination of conservative, libertarian, and dissenting voices on faculties.
Such reforms will occur only after they recognize that Rickford has long been the ideal, not the aberration, in academia.