Sam Abrams, who teaches politics at Sarah Lawrence College, says he would be considered a political moderate just about anywhere.
Except on his own college campus, where he reports being put in the same classification as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Adding fuel to the fire, he wrote in a New York Times op-ed that students should be exposed to other viewpoints because college teachers and administrators overwhelmingly lean to the left, prompting a backlash that included vandalizing his office.
Samantha Harris at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education pointed out
Abrams long has advocated for tolerance of other political perspectives.
“I’m not a Trump supporter and I never will be,” Abrams said in a college publication.
“I told them, ‘Look, this isn’t a pro-Trump anything. I want you to see what he’s like, how he controls an audience. More important, I want you to see who’s in the audience and what they’re reacting to,'” he said.
FIRE said Abrams “wanted to give his undergrads something he believes most college students these days aren’t getting – what he likes to call ‘viewpoint diversity.’ He wanted them to see ‘what the world looks like that’s not pro–Bernie Sanders.'”
The professor also wrote: “To get to the truth we have to have disagreement, and we’re not doing that now. The role of education is to elevate us, not necessarily to have solutions but to know how to think, to know how to have discourse, and to know how to debate. That’s why I’m so preoccupied with making sure students get a rounded experience.”
He wrote in the New York Times op-ed that he surveyed 900 administrators and found that “liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one.”
FIRE noted it was the same op-ed piece that drew wide attention to his research about the leftward ideological shift in academia over the last quarter century.
“Using previously unstudied survey data, he found the shift was especially pronounced in New England, where liberal faculty members now outnumber conservatives 28-to-1, up from 5-to-1 in 1989.”
Abrams expressed concern about “the increasing ideological homogeneity of college faculty and administrators.”
He worried that his college’s Office of Student Affairs “was organizing many overtly progressive events … without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative.”
The result was predictable.
“By the evening of the day his op-ed was published, his door had been plastered with signs saying things like ‘QUIT’ and ‘Go teach somewhere else you racist a–hat (maybe Charlottesville?).’ Personal items that Abrams had posted on his door, including a photo of his newborn son, had been stolen,” FIRE reported.
The college president, Cristle Judd, sent a campuswide email saying the school was committed to diversity and inclusive excellence.
She declined at the time to raise the issue of the vandalism.
But the campus intolerance surged.
“According to the Twitter feed of Sarah Lawrence’s student newspaper, the Student Senate held an ’emergency meeting’ about the op-ed at which senators called on the administration to condemn it more forcefully and to ‘give additional funding to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion so that students feel affirmed,'” FIRE said.
That prompted another email from Judd but still no mention of the vandalism.
Then came “vulgar and potentially defamatory allegations about Abrams on a campus ‘free speech board,'” FIRE said.
“At this point, the president finally did come to Abrams’ defense, writing in yet another campuswide email that the postings were unacceptable and were being investigated.”
FIRE noted that in such situations it “is all too common” that administrators don’t condemn the professor or the protesters, but instead leave the professor “twisting in the wind for engaging in precisely the kind of independent thinking and intellectual risk-taking the college claims to value.”
Finally, Judd defended Abram’s free-speech rights and said there ouwld be “consequences” for the vandalism.
“Hopefully this marks the close of this matter. However, because FIRE knows that colleges and universities too often try to do in private things they cannot do in public, we will be watching closely to ensure that Professor Abrams is not penalized in any way for his expression of dissenting views,” the report said.
The In the article about Abrams in the college publication, the professor said he believes he was viewed as “the token raging conservative” when he came to the campus, but that’s not who he is.
“In most places I’d be considered a moderate, but in the campus context I might as well have been Ted Cruz,” he said.
His warnings have included, “The academy has always leaned to the left, but we’re not leaning now, we’re full-blown tilted.”
He later repeated the theme.
“When students are shielded from divergent viewpoints and counterarguments on the issues that are more salient to them, the students understandably become confused and angered by others who see the world differently. This diminishes our national discourse and frays our civic bonds.”