Posted by: bluesyemre | May 5, 2021

Faculty Report threats and hate mail after appearing in ‘Campus Reform’ articles

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ILLUSTRATION BY THE CHRONICLE

A year and a half ago, Isaac Kamola, a political scientist at Connecticut’s Trinity College, heard about a friend who received such severe threats after appearing in a Campus Reform article that she needed security to escort her on and off campus. He was familiar with the conservative news site and its mission to expose “liberal bias and abuse” in higher education, and he decided to study it.

Kamola and the research assistants he hired reviewed more than 1,500 articles the site published in 2020 and identified about 338 faculty members who appeared in them. The researchers then worked with the American Association of University Professors to survey the faculty members. The findings were published on Tuesday.

The information the researchers collected paints a bleak picture of the consequences of appearing in a Campus Reform article, including threats of violence and decisions to self-censor out of fear. https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/XEQAk/3/

Forty percent of the faculty members who responded to the survey said they received threatening messages after the articles ran. The messages came over email, by phone, in letters, and on social media from people threatening them with physical harm or death. About 10 percent of the survey’s 213 respondents said that while they didn’t receive threats, they did receive other types of “unwanted, hateful, or harassing” messages.

“They’re not telling trolls to go out there and harass these faculty members,” Kamola said of Campus Reform. “However, they’re creating the conditions in which that’s possible. And they’re not bearing the responsibility.”

Campus Reform spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the vice president for the Campus Leadership Program at the Leadership Institute, which operates the site.

More than 64 percent of the faculty members who identified as “gay, lesbian, queer, (or ‘other’ sexual orientation)” on the survey reported receiving threats of harm, while only 35.8 percent of those who identified as straight reported threats. Four out of five respondents who identified as transgender experienced threats that the AAUP report said were “particularly abusive.”

Of the 199 respondents who included their race on the survey, 14.6 percent were African American, the report said. Black and African American professors make up only 6 percent of full-time faculty, according to the association’s statistics, meaning they were overrepresented in Campus Reform articles.

Professors from what the AAUP report called “prestigious research universities” were also overrepresented. “Campus Reform’s overwhelming focus on the most prestigious universities suggests that an apparent goal of the website’s coverage is to delegitimize not just higher education generally,” the report’s authors wrote, “but specifically those institutions that make the largest share of contributions to research production in the United States.”

Most survey respondents were also tenured. The report said that could be because tenured professors are more likely to engage the kinds of topics that attract Campus Reform’s attention.

What are those topics? Race is the biggest, the survey found. More than 40 percent of the faculty members said the Campus Reform coverage about them concerned race, while 23.7 percent said it was about the election or politics. For 7.7 percent , the topic was public health; 4.8 percent said it was gender; and 2.9 said it was the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The report’s authors also noted that it’s not predominantly comments the professors made in class that attracted coverage. In fact, their classroom comments accounted for only 9 percent of the cases, and their research for just 8 percent. Meanwhile, 78 percent of the survey’s respondents said that the Campus Reform story on them was about something they’d said in a public forum, such as on Twitter, in a letter to the editor, or in a public presentation.

“This finding — with more than three-quarters of instances unconnected to campuses — stands in sharp contrast to Campus Reform’s stated mission to ‘expose liberal bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses,’” the report’s authors wrote. “Rather than identifying evidence of rampant anticonservative bias on campus or in the classroom, Campus Reform instead regularly points to the contents of faculty members’ social-media accounts.”

The coverage is having an effect on the work and communications of some of the professors who appeared in it. About a quarter of the respondents said they had curtailed their social-media presence after appearing in an article. Roughly six percent said they’d made changes to their teaching, and 3 percent made changes to their research.

Nell GluckmanNell Gluckman is a senior reporter who writes about research, ethics, funding issues, affirmative action, and other higher-education topics. You can follow her on Twitter @nellgluckman, or email her at nell.gluckman@chronicle.com.

https://www.chronicle.com/article/faculty-report-threats-and-hate-mail-after-appearing-in-campus-reform-articles?


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