Dear faculty,

We are living in turbulent times, with intractable partisanship on all sides of the political spectrum. Institutions of higher learning, once bastions of intellectual liberty, are increasingly viewed as places where free speech is a thing of the past. As an administration, we stand firmly behind your academic freedom to teach and research the subjects of your choice. We strongly encourage scholarly activities that interrogate the structural legacies of domination and oppression in politics and society, both domestically and globally. Collectively we must strive to integrate a fundamental reorientation of race, equity, and inclusion into everything we do.

So long as you do not talk about genocide in a way that offends the pro-genocide members of the college board of trustees.

Look, we get it—as academics, your role is to inspire your students to learn and engage in the wider world. You have the responsibility to illuminate critical ideas and why they matter. Except, of course, for ideas such as “genocide is bad” or “slavery is not okay” or “torture is totally not okay” or “ending apartheid was definitely the way to go.”

We need to maintain an environment of fairness, collegiality, and blind deference to the state-appointed men and women who somehow have unlimited leverage over our professional lives. We must engage all sides of every issue, even if one of those sides is totally cool with acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

The last thing we want is to make anyone in positions of authority reflect on their privilege, let alone confront their willingness to extinguish an entire social category they are incapable and unwilling to bend to their will. Because, to be fair, genocide requires a heavy lift. It is a massive project involving elite consensus, military capacity, territorial control, and the cooperation of multiple actors at the local level. Members of the board of trustees should not be made to feel uncomfortable about their grand genocidal ambitions.

Don’t get us wrong. Unfettered academic freedom requires full independence from political pressure. This is why tenure exists; to protect faculty that voice potentially unpopular or politically controversial ideas.

With that said, we cannot allow perceptions of radical liberal bias and political correctness run amok to contaminate things by questioning why the members of the board of trustees fantasize about hitting that perfect, rare sweet spot of caustic ideology and paranoid insecurity that breaks through basic guardrails of humanity and manifests into full-blown genocide. We have to draw the line somewhere.

Look, we know what you’re thinking. Once we start allowing the trustees to dictate what we can and cannot teach in the classroom and what we can and cannot study, it becomes a slippery slope. One day we’re asking you to ignore the causes and consequences of mass categorical violence; the next day, there is actual systematic and widespread extermination of entire groups. But either way, by protesting genocide, we become nothing more than caricatures of coastal, cancel-culturing, liberal Marxist elites. So we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Think of it this way: we let it slide when you released departmental statements speaking out against the riots of January 6, even though it would have been prudent to elevate and legitimize QAnon’s perspective. We looked the other way when the history department hired someone critical of Confederate monuments. We allow the women and gender studies program to exist.

Faculty must maintain strict political neutrality at all times. Otherwise, we just risk becoming yet another frontline in the culture wars. We cannot pose yet another existential threat to the prevailing political order by discussing historical facts.

We know what you’re going to say: Neutrality bolsters the oppressor. But social change comes slowly. It’s not like we’re preventing you from saying the Earth isn’t flat.

Actually, just to be on the safe side, you should also avoid that topic because the only thing worse than teaching things that aren’t real is giving the impression that we’re biased. That would upset the delicate balance between the academic administration and the board of trustees, and also aggravate the members of the state legislature, who preside over the steady, decades-long decline in funding for our college while also indulging anti-intellectual conspiracy theories for short-term political gain.

We ask you only to consider the costs of not allowing the trustee members to bend the college’s mission toward their genocidal aims. Think about what “rocking the genocide boat” might mean. Some of you still have to go up for full professor. Some have ambitions to be deans or even provosts. Think about your already meager research budget shrinking even more. Think about the availability of funds for conference travel. Think about having to compete in the current academic job market after not having published anything since 1986. Is it worth sabotaging your career trajectories just to call out potential genocidaires of the future? No.

In the end, we will be better off as an institution if our views on mass categorical violence align seamlessly with those who put their fascist ideologies before academic freedom. We’re asking you only to respect the diversity of beliefs held by our college community and the rights of members of the board of trustees to stand by their pro-genocide convictions without being offended.

We’re all in this together,
Your College President, Provost, and Deans