Susan Crockford, whose Polar Bear Science we have repeatedly recommended in this newsletter and who famously showed that contrary to Al Gore et al polar bears are not vanishing, just got dumped as an (unpaid) Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia after 15 distinguished years including unanimous renewal in 2016. Her crime? Ah well, you’re not allowed to know. Not the charge, court or verdict. But if you’re an aspiring academic, well, we wouldn’t go expressing any doubts about a man-made climate crisis. Nice professorship. Pity if something were to… happen to it.
As indeed it might. We already noted the sorry fate of University of Alberta VP Jacqui Tam over a single billboard whose factual accuracy wasn’t even in question. And James Cook University is yet again appealing its crushing court defeat over the firing of dissident physicist Peter Ridd, which it disingenuously insisted was unrelated to his skepticism about the impact of climate change on coral reefs.
Ridd will probably win in the end, including costs, and not be broken financially or psychologically. Not least because of generous private donations for his battle against government-funded James Cook which you can make here. But remember that Ridd is 58, has already had a rewarding academic life including over a quarter-century at JCU, meaning he has less to lose and also more profile to fight back, including a long publication list including classics like Input Admittance of a Horizontal Antenna Over a Two Layered Lossy Halfspace (unaccountably not available on Amazon). What lesson would any young person seeking to start an academic career draw from this Goliath-v-David battle?
The message to keep your head down or else is increasingly no longer even tacit. Michael Mann and others recently demanded that all universities declare a climate emergency. And for once he and his coauthors have a point. It’s just not the one they think.
The emergency in question is growing hostility in academia to free thought and inquiry. It has been a concern since Allan Bloom’s 1987 The Closing of the American Mind if not before, especially in the “social sciences” formerly known as humanities. And it has been increasingly manifest on issues from national security to right-to-life to Israel. But now it’s infesting the supposedly more resistant hard sciences.
Writing about the Susan Crockford case in the National Post, Donna Laframboise noted that University of Victoria spokesman Paul Marck didn’t exactly live up to his job title. He refused to say why she wasn’t renewed. He wouldn’t say how many people are on the Appointment Reappointment Promotion and Tenure panel, let alone who they are or how many voted to reappoint her. He wouldn’t even say what safeguards are in place against dumping vulnerable adjuncts for expressing unpopular opinions, claiming that to reveal “information about internal processes” would violate provincial privacy law. But as Crockford herself points out, the university was very keen on her, from her ground-breaking PhD at U Vic to her participation in a Nature documentary about dogs to her research on polar bears, until… until… well, what?
In May 2017 they suddenly dumped her from their speaker’s bureau, having previously promoted and even paid for her public lectures on polar bears. When she asked why they made that decision, her department chair responded opaquely “While I respect issues of academic freedom, your talks at schools have generated concern among parents regarding balance that have been shared with various levels of the university.”
Balance here being a word meaning imbalance. The trigger appears to have been Crockford’s mention, in a public lecture Q&A session, that to her horror public school teachers seemed uniformly to believe there were at most a few thousand polar bears left in the world, perhaps only a few hundred. So she was the one person challenging this completely uninformed consensus and in the name of balance she got sacked?
If there was some other possible cause for the decision we would welcome information about it. Have her books been found to be ignorant or illogical? Have her ground-breaking insights into evolution been refuted? Did she commit some form of misconduct, personal or professional? If not we can only assume that the People’s Commissar for Climate Correctness sent her to the basement of Lubyanka never to return.
“I didn’t know it then,” she says, “but this was the beginning of the end of my academic career.” Indeed. And not only hers. Mann et al are unapologetically seeking state-sponsored across-the-board ideological conformity with no place to hide. Their demands include “Mainstreaming ecological and climate action across all disciplines. Universities would ensure that all students, regardless of the discipline and level of study, understand specific climate impacts and possible remedial action in their line of work. This would be reflected in curricula, university rankings, graduate attributes, as well as in staff performance measurements, including those of high executives.” In short, you can’t even stay silent any more. If you want a successful career, you must actively endorse state orthodoxy. And it no longer occurs to the radicals that there’s anything creepy about this vision.
On the plus side, Crockford vows not to be silenced. But she and those like her will need all our help if universities are not to turn from places of free inquiry to inquiry-free places.
Doesn’t surprise me that universities carry out their existence without tears to truth or reality today. It was so when I attended 50 years ago. They are even less concerned about free speech today. Sad because we still find them.