Wednesday, July 28, 2021

cancel culture takes down another one

Professor Dave Porter was fired from his job—tenure revoked (tenure is something of a joke these days; it stopped guaranteeing job security years ago) and no investigation made—after a single student complained about a survey he'd conducted. Read more here. And watch this video (recommended to watch at 1.75X speed because the prof speaks so slowly):


John Mac said...

Pretty shocking (read the article, didn't watch the video). I want to believe at some point there is going to be a backlash against the cancel culture (cancel the cancellers?) but I fear it may not come in my lifetime...

Charles said...

Why do I get the feeling that we are not getting the whole story here? Why would current students be fearful of attending his class? Why would other faculty members fear that he would come to their homes and "get in their face"? Also, the student who complained about the survey had previously filed a Title IX complaint, so whatever is going on has apparently been going on for a while. To say that he was fired "after a single student complained about a survey he conducted" is technically true, since that does seem to be the order of events, but it also implies causality, and not just causality but the idea that the complaint about the survey was the sole cause of his termination.

I'm not saying that Professor Porter is necessarily guilty and should have indeed been fired. The truth is that I know nothing about this situation except the information provided in that very one-sided post. We only get Porter's side of the story here, and that's not enough. It's easy to read this and say, "Cancel culture strikes again!" And maybe that's true. If there was indeed no investigation, no due process at all, that would indeed be something to be concerned about. But Porter himself states that this came at the end of a 10-week suspension, so this process clearly went on for a while. And it is in Porter's best interests to present himself in the best possible light, so I have to wonder what he might have left out. Still, I can pass no other judgment than to say I don't have enough to go on right now.

Normally, I probably wouldn't comment on this, but I do sort of have a dog in this race, so to speak. At my institution (which I will not mention for the sake of the search engines, even though it wouldn't be too hard to figure out if one really wanted to), as you may know, we have had issues between professors and students, issues that have led to professors being forced to resign. These issues are never cut-and-dried; it is rare that either party is completely right or completely wrong. There have been cases where one party is clearly in the wrong, though, and in those cases it is almost always the professor. I'm speaking only from my own experience here and not saying that this necessarily applies universally, as there are cultural differences, etc. But it does make me wary of flat-out ignoring student complaints (especially when we don't even know what those complaints were!) and simply taking the word of the professor--even if my knee-jerk reaction would be to do so.

Even in those cases that have happened here, cases that I watched play out in real time, I never felt like I knew enough about the situation to pass judgment on either party. Thankfully, I was not in a position where I had to. I will apply the same approach here, passing judgment neither for Professor Porter nor against him.

Kevin Kim said...


Undoubtedly the article is one-sided, given the political leanings of the website, but instances like this have happened before, in which a cowardly administration takes the easy route and cans the prof as opposed to thoroughly investigating claims and respecting tenure. I take it to be fact that no investigation was done-- why would the professor lie about that? It's an open question as to what the administration spent weeks doing; my inner cynic is inclined to say "dithering."

This sort of case lines up neatly with other instances of cancel culture, so I'm inclined to side with the professor. In American academe these days, there's a real urge to squelch intellectual diversity. Thinking nowadays occurs only along a very narrow band, and that gets called "diverse."