Wikipedia's page on Cancel Culture was created on 31 December 2018. It took off in March, 2019, and as of yesterday had 490 edits. Meanwhile, Google found "About 10,300,000" hits for "Cancel Culture" (in quotes) and The Hill reports that 64 % of Americans surveyed by Harvard & Harris told pollsters that cancel culture is a threat to American freedom.
The Florida Legislature is riding to the rescue with a to defend America against this threat. But this does not mean that the Legislature is refraining from doing a bit of cancellation of its own...
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: the latest news from Tallahassee, the proposal to sell the USF Forest Peserve (the wooded area north of Fletcher between 46th Street and the Hillsborough River), reopening the university in fall, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
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Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.
Yes, we are on social media.
Florida politicians are very concerned about cancel culture. Probably the most notable example of this concern is House Bill 233 on Postsecondary Education, requiring that the State Board of Education assess "intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity" at each college and institution, as well as how free members of the campus community feel expressing their views on campus and in the classroom. In addition, colleges and universities may not "shield" students from "expressive activities," and students may record class lectures for their personal use or for litigation.
This bill passed the House last month and the Senate two weeks ago and is now heading for the governor's desk. In the Senate debate, there were some concerns about the survey. For example, the bill does not require that the survey be anonymous, and Senator Lori Berman of Delray Beach asked, "Might faculty be promoted or fired because of their political beliefs?" Senator Ray Rodrigues, the bill's sponsor, said no. Of course, even if the survey is anonymous, the aggregated information may inspire the Legislature to take further action, for the House sponsor, Representative Spencer Roach, said that the Legislature could "use the data as the basis to make policy decisions."
Critics focused on the prospect of KKK meetings on campus and on intimidating faculty, but there is also the possibility of cyberbullying. After all, students have been (unlawfully) recording faculty antics for years - and sharing unlawful recordings is what social media is for. So how long before students turn their phone cameras on each other? This legislation may well become a lesson in unintended consequences.
But while the Legislature vowed to ban "cancel culture," it is devoting much time and energy to canceling people it doesn't like, including the Florida Education Association. Amidst the extraordinary array of bills targeting education and other public services is Senate Bill 1014 "Requiring certain employee organizations to petition the Public Employees Relations Commission for recertification...." This bill has become the centerpiece of the most formidable attack on (teachers') unions in Florida in decades. (Yes, it is specifically targeting the Florida Education Association.) But it doesn't look like cancellation because it doesn't ban teachers' unions; it only entangles them in a web of administrative requirements. The primary ones seem designed to create a train wreck:
So the Florida Education Association is fighting the bill. Readers may recall that two weeks ago, the bill was up before the Florida Senate Rules Committee, and over forty FEA members went to Tallahassee to testify against the bill. After the Committee was informed that they could expect an hour or so listening to teachers and professionals criticizing the bill, it was removed from that day's agenda. The bill appeared in the agenda of last week's meeting, but this time over ninety educators drove to Tallahassee to testify against the bill, and it disappeared from the agenda again. It was back on the agenda this Tuesday, but there were nearly 150 teachers and professionals intending to testify against it, and it was kicked from the agenda again. So union members spoke against the bill, and the AFL-CIO posted the video on their website.
It isn't over until April 30, when the Legislature adjourns, and the really funny business tends to occur in the wee hours of the session. But the FEA will continue to fight, for we do not intend to be cancelled.
Merriam-Webster defines Cancel Culture as the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling ... as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure. Wikipedia describes it as a form of ostracism, with prominent examples being celebrities slammed on social media; very often, the term is applied to someone ostracized for (allegedly) offending or demeaning a marginalized group. Think of the the NFL's cancellation of Colin Kaepernick, allegedly for offending veterans.
Consider Shirley Sherrod, a black Agriculture Department official who was peremptorily fired after Andrew Breitbart posted a misleadingly edited video of one of her speeches to the NAACP. After the edited video was pushed by Fox News, whose pundits accused her of anti-white racism, even NAACP was taken in (!), and Ms. Sherrod resigned. Then the NAACP reviewed the full tape of her speech and announced that, "we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart." The Department promptly offered Sherrod a promotion (she declined), and this being America, the whole mess ended up in court.
Of course, sometimes the target is guilty - or somewhat guilty - as charged. But sometimes even then, the situation can be complicated: what are we going to do about Richard Wagner?
Nowadays, cancellation is news in academia. A non-tenured psychiatrist at Yale University was fired after one of President Trump's lawyers (Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz) complained about statements she made about his client (this psychiatrist was not the first faculty member that Dershowitz has gotten cancelled). In another case, a professor got in trouble for using a racial slur in a literature class when the subject of the day was the usage of that word.
And there is the stomping on Jesus affair, featuring a garbled misrepresentation of a classroom activity that exploded into the national news and panicked an administration into making a spectacle of itself. If the governor signs HB 233 , we can expect more of this sort of thing. While we would hope that university administrators would learn to count to ten, many faculty - especially untenured faculty - may decide that timidity is the safest policy.
Of course, as noted in the previous article, the ghastliest consequences may well arise when students turn their phones on each other. The Legislature has decided to take a bold experiment and is leaving it to the counseling centers to pick up the pieces.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, April 23, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.the Chapter Secretary. Come and join the movement.
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