For those who think that the Ontario government’s initiative to compel universities to protect free speech is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, it’s worth considering the travails of Dr. Lisa Littman as a result of her research on rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) in adolescents and young adults which sparked a vicious backlash from some of the more militant members of the transgender community and resulted in Brown University and the journal which published her work, PLOS-ONE, trying to throw her under the bus of “progressive” public opinion.
Crucially, there is no suggestion that her work is flawed (it may or it may not be, but that’s not why her university and publisher have undermined her), she has simply published peer-reviewed research that gored some sacred cows of transgender activists. Think of the message this sends to other researchers – you say anything controversial, it doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong, you’re on your own. This is how conformity happens.
Happily, Dr. Littman’s colleagues in the medical and scientific community seem to be committed to disproving that message, and have fought back, calling for both Brown University and PLOS-ONE to support her research. Their response is gaining steam, having now resulted in a petition signed by over 3700 colleagues and prompting responses from numerous heavy-hitters in the American scientific and medical community – this may represent a watershed moment in which American academia stands up to defend scientific research from ideological abuse.
But, back to the Ontario government, should members of university communities – be they tenured or (as in this case) untenured professors or students – really have to depend on grassroots support from thousands of strangers around the world to ensure their right to research and publish their results, whatever they maybe? Aren’t those the principles that should be hardwired into every self-respecting university? Brown University is a private college, it can, I suppose, do what it wants (or whatever it’s donors will allow), Ontario’s universities are publicly funded – we should demand better from public universities as part of the quid pro quo for public support. No professor in Ontario should have to go through the sort of ordeal that Prof Littman has been subjected to.