Prof bucks ‘cancel culture’ trend, says purging of Trump officials is ‘misguided’

University of Pennsylvania education professor Jonathan Zimmerman wrote an op-ed asserting that academia’s purging of Trump supporters is “misguided.”

He compared the censoring of conservative academics to retaliations against communists in the 1950s.

University of Pennsylvania professor Jonathan Zimmerman wrote an op-ed explaining why higher education’s purging of Trump supporters is “misguided.”

In his opinion editorial for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Zimmerman — who teaches in Penn’s Graduate School of Education — compared the censorship of Trump supporters to efforts during the Cold War to stop the hiring of communist faculty.

“Students and faculty are demanding that universities sever ties with anyone who worked in the Trump administration or backed President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” he wrote. “And the rationale is the same one that was used against Communists and so-called fellow travelers during the Cold War: They don’t believe in democracy, so they don’t belong at a university devoted to it.”

[RELATED: Princeton president says 'false ideas' are 'inconsistent' with university's values...then spreads false idea about Trump]

This approach, however, “perverts the democratic ideal, all in the guise of preserving it.” Zimmerman said that the true threat to democracy is not “evil Trumpers,” but “our quest to root out the enemies of democracy, which never ends well for the university.”

Among other examples, Zimmerman referred to a student petition at Harvard University, which requested that Trump administration alumni receive preemptive bans from campus under a new “system of accountability” for their enablement of the Trump agenda.

As Campus Reform previously reported, the authors alleged that the Trump officials’ supposed opposition to “free and honest inquiry in the unfettered pursuit of truth, the right to vote, a free and independent press, checks and balances, the peaceful transfer of power, and the rule of law” serves as grounds to limit their influence at Harvard.

[RELATED: Harvard students want Trump admin officials barred from campus as part of public ‘system of accountability’]

Zimmerman continued to argue that “if you believe in academic freedom, you believe in it for everyone — or you don’t believe in it at all.”

“Campaigns against Trump supporters aim to impose a new orthodoxy, all in the guise of protecting our freedoms,” he explained. “Just like the Red-hunters of yesteryear, our present-day political gatekeepers dress up their quest for miscreants in the language of democracy.”

Zimmerman spoke of a “historical hubris” that convinces contemporary academics that they “have got the whole darned thing figured out.” Such a hubris — academics' “own timeless conceit that we’re infallible” — is indeed a much larger threat to democracy than support of President Trump.

Zimmerman told Campus Reform that while he did not receive backlash from students or colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, "I did get a few angry emails from people at other institutions, who assumed that I'm a Trump supporter!” 

“I'm actually a liberal Democrat, and I am every bit as distressed and outraged by Trump as my correspondents are. But I don't think the campus should be restricted to people who agree with us. That's what ‘liberal’ means, at least to me.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft