How Covid-19 Killed Academic Tenure

Academic tenure has long been controversial and imperfect—and now, in one fell swoop, it is dead, killed by progressives under the guise of Covid-19 safety. The manner of its killing tells us much about progressives’ respect for individual rights. 

Defenders of tenure for university professors once claimed that it offered necessary protection against the combined forces of corporate funding and political correctness, a multi-headed hydra which if unchecked would prevent academics from conducting honest research into topics of their choosing.

Others argued that tenure was mainly harmful, making it costly to dismiss university faculty members who collected large salaries without fulfilling their teaching and research duties. In practice, as organizations such as the National Association of Scholars and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education warned, tenure repeatedly showed itself incapable of protecting those who needed it most. Dissident intellectuals often found themselves on the wrong side of disciplinary committees, dismissed from their positions for alleged harassment and/or vaguely defined “misconduct.” Many of these academics’ troubles began because they were ideological outliers in a punitively progressivist milieu.  

Guilty!

Until now, however, there was at least a semblance of due process. Though they were often targeted unfairly, persecuted academics were at least notified well in advance of proceedings against them; allowed to attempt a fact-based self-defense; examined by a committee convened for the specific purpose of hearing the evidence; given the opportunity to hire a lawyer or enlist the assistance of their faculty association/union; and if terminated given written notice of their particular transgressions. Inadequate and biased as it often was, some formal fact-finding procedure was observed.

In the time of Covid, however, mass firings are in preparation at universities across North America without even a pretense of case-by-case consideration or rational weighing of evidence—tenure be damned. 

The mere evocation of “safety” is now enough to authorize firings without investigation on grounds not covered by any faculty member’s Collective Agreement and notably without public protest from faculty associations, bodies which once existed solely to protect the working conditions and rights of faculty members. Outside of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, this is an unprecedented situation so far being greeted with stunning silence from the professoriate. 

Under the new Covid dispensation, professors are simply notified that, if they do not produce proof of vaccination by a certain (arbitrarily chosen) date, a disciplinary process will be commenced with an end-point of termination. 

The University of Waterloo, a large research university in southern Ontario, is one among many universities that began sending out the equivalent of pink slips on the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving (Oct. 11 this year), informing what it called “non-compliant” employees that the deadline to provide proof of vaccination is October 17, 2021.  

The letter, sent to me by a University of Waterloo employee, states that unless “alternative work options” (left conveniently vague) can be found, employees who do not provide the required proof of vaccination will be placed on a 42-day “unpaid suspension,” presumably in order to think over the prospect of the total wreckage of a once-secure and remunerative career. Then, “[i]f the individual remains non-compliant 14 days before the end of the 42-day suspension, they will receive a letter indicating that their pay and benefits will cease as at the end of the suspension.” No appeal procedure is mentioned.

Following up on this dire statement, the letter informs employees that “the vaccination form is quick and easy to complete”—as if mere cumbersome documentation were hindering compliance—and that “personal information will be kept confidential in compliance with statutory privacy requirements and will only be shared with individuals for the purpose of program administration.” It’s presumably a relief to know that, having been coerced to take an experimental medication in order to keep one’s position, the violation takes place under cover of confidentiality. The obvious fact that hundreds of people on campus will easily guess why “non-compliant” employees are being suspended—thus violating the privacy promised—is not acknowledged.   

No science-based rationale is offered for the extraordinary statement of compulsion. The extremely low infection-fatality rate for Covid-19, particularly for healthy individuals under 65 (the super-majority of those studying and teaching on campus) is never mentioned. The now well-documented failure of vaccines to protect against infection and transmission is also left unmentioned; alas, the evidence reveals that vaccinated individuals are just as likely as the unvaccinated to transmit Covid-19, even in conditions where all are vaccinated. The unseemly haste reeks of a political desire to purge the non-conforming. 

No attempt is made in the letter to explain why provisions in the Universal Declaration on Bio-Ethics and Human Rights are flagrantly violated by the measure. The Universal Declaration makes clear that medical treatments must never be coerced, must always be informed and entirely voluntary (not carried out under conditions of duress) and that the good of society or of science must never take precedence over the individual human right to choose. 

No provisions are made in the letter for individuals with natural immunity, which scientific evidence shows to be at least as effective as, and likely far more effective than, vaccination. The humane alternative of enabling the unvaccinated to carry on their duties off campus—as had been done for well over a year before the advent of the vaccines—is gestured toward, but not in any way guaranteed. 

Accommodation is offered only “for unique cases where individuals cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or protected human rights grounds,” but it is not made clear how such accommodation decisions will be made or why university administrators are qualified to make them. One of the main grounds for a human rights accommodation would be an exemption for a sincerely-held religious belief, and it is far from self-evident that a group of secular leftists—with many avowed Marxists—can discern or appreciate the sincerity of any such beliefs.

No velvet glove needed any more.

In a final paragraph full of unintended irony, the letter informs the non-compliant that “If you are struggling with your mental health during these changing times, reach out for support […],” providing the names of various university agencies, none of which, of course, will provide any actual support in resisting the vaccination mandate, and none of which, given the demonizing tenor of communications regarding non-compliance, will likely even be able to express genuine empathy for an employee about to be terminated. If the termination of your employment leads to suicidal despair or health-damaging stress, you’re on your own. 

This is the new university: fully collectivist and tyrannically indifferent to individual rights of conscience or choice. Over the past 30 years, the progressivists infiltrated and took over the academy. Their ruthless determination, always under cover of benign rhetoric about "inclusion" and "safety," should always have been evident; now its vaunting brutality is unmistakable.

Our Black Marxist Murder Spree

Only rarely do present circumstances so align themselves as to reveal the future with clarity. We are in such a period right now, and to those willing to open their eyes to it, the future staring back at them is bleak indeed.

I worked as a police officer in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, and people of my generation may recall with dread the crime wave of the late ‘80s and early '90s, when Los Angeles saw an average of three times the number of murders as have occurred in recent years. In 1992, the Los Angeles Police Department handled 1,092 homicides. Compare this figure with 2020’s total of 349 and you get an idea of how much safer the city became in 28 years, thanks largely to the efforts of the men and women of the LAPD. But even the 349 figure was a significant increase from 2019, when 253 people were killed in L.A. Will we soon look on 2020 as the good old days? All available evidence says yes.

I’ve been writing about the coming crime wave since 2014, when Michael Brown’s death in a Ferguson, Mo., police shooting gave rise to the widely circulated lie – still believed in some quarters – that he had been killed while trying to surrender. Brown’s death and the rioting the followed led to what Heather Mac Donald described as the Ferguson Effect, in which police officers shrink from proactive crime-fighting measures for fear of becoming involved in a controversial incident. The Ferguson Effect lives on, more destructively than ever.

Ferguson, Mo., 2014.

This fact is welcomed, even celebrated, by the Black Lives Matter organization and their myriad acolytes. BLM, formed in 2013 after the death of Trayvon Martin, became the leading voice in opposition to what had been the traditional responses to crime, i.e., arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration.

BLM’s influence has only grown in the years since, most especially after last year’s death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, and today it is the puppet master of the far left. The news media, academia, and the entertainment industry unquestioningly, even gleefully parrot its calumnies, most prominent among which is the claim that the American criminal justice system is irredeemably racist and must be torn out root and branch in order to achieve some utopian vision of “social justice.”

It is important to note that the appending of any modifier to the word “justice” inverts, even perverts, its very meaning, and in no arena has actual justice been more perverted than in “social justice,” which at it core subordinates the interests of crime victims and the law-abiding to those of the criminals who prey upon them, revealing the enduring truth in the Old Testament wisdom that those who are kind to the cruel will be cruel to the kind. How else to explain the unhinged reaction among American elites to the April 21 police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio?

Police body camera footage clearly showed Bryant, 16, was armed with a knife and in the very act of trying to stab a girl at the time she was shot. Of course we are saddened by the sight of someone being killed, most especially someone so young, but how depraved must one be to sympathize more with Bryant than with the girl she was attacking? Yet we heard voices from across the American left, from politicians to media figures to professional athletes, denouncing the officer and calling for his arrest. Had that officer not arrived and acted when and as he did, the city of Columbus and the country overall most likely would have recorded another instance of a young black person dying at the hands of another, the type of incident that happens thousands of times every year yet results in no protests, no outrage, and no indignant commentary in the newspapers or on television.

The silence among our elites to this carnage is deafening. Last year brought an alarming rise in homicides across the country, with killings up by an average of 37 percent in America’s 57 largest cities. Some cities were hit harder than others: in New York City the increase was 39 percent, in Chicago it was 55 percent, and in Milwaukee murders nearly doubled over the previous year. All told, there were 7,101 homicides in these 57 cities, the great majority of whose victims were blacks or Latinos who fell to killers of their own ethnicity.

The Washington Post reports 1,021 people in the United States were shot and killed by the police in 2020, and even if one accepts the phantasmagoric proposition that not a single one of these killings was justified, one is still left with problems so different in scale as to question the motives of those who focus on the smaller number and not the larger.

And yet that is what Black Lives Matter and their cult of followers do. Certainly an injustice was done to George Floyd, whose death has been addressed to the extent the legal system is able, but is his death more lamentable than those of the 81 other people murdered in Minneapolis last year? What of the 261 victims in St. Louis, the 437 in New York, and the 769 in Chicago? Were their lives so meanly regarded as to be insignificant to those who lecture their fellow citizens on the value of black lives?

They will not answer this question, and they will impugn the motives of anyone who dares put it forward, for to question them is obstruct the revolution they make no secret of advocating. BLM is merely the latest iteration of Marxist radicals to win the adulation of our political, academic, and media elites, the latest band of misfits to wield “Critical Theory” as a hammer and chisel (hammer and sickle?) against the pillars of Western civilization, among the foundational of which is the rule of law.

Chronicle of deaths foretold.

In his 2017 book The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, my friend Michael Walsh tells of the grim harvest brought by these purveyors of Critical Theory. “Look about your daily lives here in early twenty-first-century America and Western Europe,” he writes, “and see the shabbiness, hear the coarseness of speech and dialogue, witness the lowered standards not only of personal behavior but also of cultural norms, savor the shrunken horizons of the future.”

As it has in the past, America will one day repudiate the visions espoused by the neo-Marxists, but until it does, how many murdered corpses will litter our shrunken horizons?

'Climate Change' Marxists, Come Out of the Closet

Putting aside the fact that the entire “climate change” discussion is based on a long-disproven set of data abandoned even by its author, that it is physically impossible to create the electrical systems and capacity demanded by the Warming hypothesis, and that no uncorrupted global temperature data set supports “climate change,” we are left with the fact that a great many policymakers and voters in the West believe in it.

Policymakers must be expected by voters to get serious, or to acknowledge that the entire argument is, as the U.N. has stated, just a process to destroy capitalism, the most anti-poverty, wealth-creation system ever created.

That "climate change" policies will annihilate the middle class that is responsible for all progress since the Industrial Revolution is a given – and an unacknowledged goal of Progressives. The refusal to acknowledge this by the establishment is childish. If they believe in Marxism, why hide it? Tell the people the goal, why it is a beneficial goal and how to achieve it. Tell them the results of previous attempts at implementing Marxism, as well, of course.

Look who's back.

Can a policy framework be created to address function rather than form, what is seen by those who insist the Warming Emperor has clothes, but who disagree on the cut (oil or gas), the color (drilling or fracking) and the pattern (fossil, hydro or nuclear) of those clothes to meet their commitments?

The signatories to the Paris Accords believe emissions must be reduced in order to “save the planet,” and that they will meet the goals to which they agreed. Why, otherwise, would they have signed up? Are the signatories incentivized to make the changes for which they volunteered? Given their dismal performance to-date, the answer is, “No.”

People complain about President Trump having pulled-out of the Paris Accords, but remain silent about the view of the U.N.: “America Is Already Cutting So Much Carbon It Doesn’t Need The Paris Climate Accord.” As shown below, we already are reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) output faster than any signatory country. Being a Paris signatory seems primary, meeting one’s goal, secondary. These priorities are backward.

Is the point being a signatory… or reducing greenhouse gases?

In a flight of fancy in which we pretend that, yes, we can correct the global climate that has been set awry by too many American SUVs, why not formulate a policy with teeth to deal with GHG? Can we use positive and negative incentives to alter behavior in the way demanded by those who believe they are more powerful than the sun?

Yes, we can.

Let us suppose a nation “A” that has met and exceeded its GHG commitment to the Paris Accords, and a nation “B” that has not. What incentives can be used to resolve the discrepancy between commitment and performance?

A suggestion: If nation “A” has met 105% of commitment, and nation “B,” 88%, a metric to create a “Paris Transfer Payment,” or “PTP,” could be created. Nation “B” would pay annually to nation “A” a PTP on its failure of 12%, and another 5% to reward the success of “A,” for a total of 17% of this base metric, thus incentivizing both nations to continue to work toward GHG reduction. (Alternately, the 12% “stick” could be paid to a fund to help the non-industrialized world progress without despoiling the environment, but the 5% “carrot” still paid to the above-goal country.)

A sensible metric could be a percentage of GDP of each country. If we were to use, for example, 0.01% of GDP of the smaller economy as this metric, the PTP could be calculated with complete transparency. In this instance, country “B” (88% of commitment; GDP $500B), would pay a PTP to country “A” (105% of commitment; GDP $1,500B) of 17 times 0.01% of its GDP, or $850M, as a “stick,” and “A” would gain that PTP as a “carrot” for acting in the best interests of the global community of nations. This example is illustrated in Table 1.

Table One.

Those nations not having set a target for GHG reduction would have the applicable percent calculated by averaging their per-capita GHG output against the goals of nations of similar size. China and India (without which any global GHG reduction is chimerical), would be compared to countries above 200 million population (United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil), and have their GHG reduction goals set for them, and the PTP applied by the WTO via tariffs.

A nation’s choice of hydro, fracking, nuclear, oil, gas, coal, solar, wind would be theirs. The results are what matters. Form will not reduce the ocean’s rise; function will.

European nations keep telling America how backward we are; obviously they can use IP we – not they – invented, and manufacturing and distribution and energy exploitation systems we – not they – created to achieve the results we – not they – have achieved.

(This same calculation can be used in reverse to warm the planet if, as most uncorrupted temperature data sets now show, the globe is cooling. A “snowball earth” is far more of an existential threat than more food and a slightly-warmer climate.)

Who turned off the "warming"?

If meeting the Paris commitment is the goal of the signatories, how could this type of transparent, goal-oriented arrangement be rejected? A payment transfer system from those not meeting their commitments to the community of nations, to those who are is a win-win for the future and for countries taking the "climate change" issue seriously.

If nations agree to implement a carrot-and-stick PTP, we will know they are serious. If they are serious, and if they are correct in their anti-sun worship, we all will be better off.  If they don’t agree to an agreement with teeth, we will know they are not serious, and can be ignored.