Why I’m Leaving the University

I’m a professor, retiring at 62 because the Woke takeover of higher education has ruined academic life. “Another one?” you ask. “What does this guy have to say that hasn’t already been said by Jordan Peterson, Peter Boghossian, Joshua Katz, or Bo Winegard1?

There’s only one way to find out.

Defenestration of a Colleague

I’ve been a tenure-track professor since 1996 (tenured since 2000) in the Anthropology Department at UCLA. (My research, which I plan to continue doing, has spanned topics ranging from nonhuman primate behavior to human personality variation). For decades, anthropology has notoriously been riven by conflict between scientific and political activist factions, leading many departments to split in two, but UCLA’s department remained unusually peaceful, cohesive, and intellectually inclusive until the late 2000s. Gradually, one hire at a time, practitioners of “critical” (i.e. far-left postmodernist) anthropology, some of them lying about their beliefs during job interviews, came to comprise the department’s most influential clique.  These militant faculty recruited even more extremely militant graduate students to work with them.

I can’t recount here even a representative sample of this faction’s penchant for mendacity and intimidation, because most of it occurred during confidential discussions, usually about hiring and promotion decisions. But I can describe their public torment and humiliation of one of my colleagues, P. Jeffrey Brantingham. Jeff had developed simulation models of the geographic and temporal patterning of urban crime, and had created predictive software that he marketed to law enforcement agencies. In Spring 2018, the department’s Anthropology Graduate Students Association passed a resolution accusing Jeff’s research of (among other counter-revolutionary sins) “entrench[ing] and naturaliz[ing] the criminalization of Blackness in the United States” and calling for “referring” his research to UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Research, presumably for some sort of investigation. This document contains no trace of scholarly argument, but instead resembles a religious proclamation of anathema. As you won’t be surprised to hear, Jeff is not a racist, but a standard-issue liberal Democrat. The “referral” to the Vice-Chancellor never materialized, but the AGSA resolution and its aftermath achieved its real goal, which was to turn Jeff, who had been one of the most selfless citizens of the department, into a pariah. He taught (still teaches) a course, “The Ecology of Crime,” that consistently drew 150+ students and earned rave reviews. This course had a catalogue number that grouped it with sociocultural anthropology, and it fulfilled a sociocultural anthropology requirement for anthro majors. In an act of petty spite, ritual moral purification, or both (take your pick), the Woke faculty clique, which comprised a majority of the sociocultural anthro faculty, banned him from using (polluting?) any of their course numbers. Jeff continued to offer the course, just under a different kind of number.

[Related: “Add Me to the List of Canceled Professors”]

But his tormentors weren’t finished with him, even though Jeff stopped attending faculty meetings, and in every other way accepted his punishment of permanent ostracism. In early March 2020, this flyerappeared in the hallways of the anthropology department. “Predpol” is the name of Jeff’s predictive software. The sponsoring “Institute for Inequality and Democracy” is a far-left UCLA unit whose associate director is Hannah Appel, who also holds a faculty position in anthropology. That is, a professor tried to organize a mob to demand the professional destruction of a colleague. Within a few days after the appearance of these flyers, the pandemic lockdown confined us to our homes and overshadowed everything else, and the anti-police movement soon had bigger fish to fry after the killing of George Floyd. Nevertheless, Jeff remained a popular and powerful hate-figure for the department’s Woke faction. On September 23, 2020, during a webinar, “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn?” sponsored in part by the UCLA anthropology department, many of the chat comments from graduate students reviled him and called for further action against him. The entire episode recalls a prescient observation in a 1995 article by the great psychological anthropologist Roy D’Andrade: “Isn’t it odd that the true enemy of society turns out to be that guy in the office down the hall?”

The Other Signs and Portents

Not only was Jeff ostracized, he was unpersoned. None of the faculty talked about him, if they could possibly avoid it. Meanwhile, our department chair opened most faculty meetings by solemnly intoning that our department was a community, a family, and that “we’re here for each other.” In private conversations, I was able to elicit from some of my colleagues an embarrassed acknowledgment that the Woke faction had treated Jeff abominably, and that we strongly resembled a dysfunctional family in denial. This pervasive institutional doublethink was partly a result of Jeff’s own apparent decision to refrain from open confrontation: I offered to help him, by defending him publicly if he wished, after both the 2018 AGSA resolution and the 2020 flyer posts, and he thanked me but politely asked me to stay out of it. But the principal driver of the doublethink was fear of the Woke faction.

Signs of this fear are omnipresent. Discussing whether to stop requiring the GRE (a standardized test, like the SAT) from applicants to our Ph.D. program, one colleague told a meeting of the biological anthropology subfield that he regarded the GRE as the most informative part of an applicant’s dossier, but that we had no choice but to vote to stop requiring it, because otherwise we would be regarded as racists (I was the only person to vote against dropping the GRE requirement). Asking a question following a public talk, a colleague conspicuously used the word “Latinx” even though the speaker had described both herself and her research subjects as “Latinas” and even though he himself, in a previous private conversation, had mockingly referred to the opinion polls showing that only a small minority of Hispanic Americans prefer to be called “Latinx.”

Outside the anthropology department, UCLA as a whole is showing all the signs of Woke capture that typify the contemporary U.S. university. Emeritus Professor Val Rust (Graduate School of Education) was banned from campus, and researcher James Enstrom (Environmental Health Sciences) and lecturer Keith Fink (Communication Studies) were fired, all for dissenting (in different ways) from Woke orthodoxy. (The facts of the Fink case are a matter of ongoing dispute.) Gordon Klein, after being suspended by UCLA’s business school in Spring 2020 for refusing to use race-based grading criteria, mobilized mass support and legal assistance, was reinstated, and is now suing the university. Statements recounting one’s activities on behalf of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are mandatoryin faculty job applications and in promotion dossiers. Among its “Gender Recognition” policy recommendations, a university task force is calling for “curricular updates…For example: inclusion of non-binary and intersex identities in biology courses for health care practitioners.” Is this a threat to pressure course instructors in the life sciences and social sciences to deny the human sex binary? The experience of former Penn State evolutionary biology postdoc, now Substack writer, Colin Wright (although unconnected with UCLA), suggests that it might be. For arguing against assertions that “biological sex is a continuous spectrum [and] that notions of male and female may be mere social constructs,” Wright’s academic career was derailed by an online mob.

[Related: “The New Anthropology”]

Also typical of elite U.S. universities, UCLA is awash in anti-Zionism, a.k.a. thinly disguised Jew-hatred. In May 2019, one of my colleagues, Kyeyoung Park, invited a guest lecturer, San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi, to her class to proclaim that Zionism is a form of white supremacism. A considerable brouhaha ensued. Unlike Rust, Enstrom, Fink, Klein, or Brantingham, Park was celebrated by the faculty and administration as a courageous, embattled exponent of academic freedom. The Anthropology Graduate Students Association chimed in with a resolution agreeing with Abdulhadi. More recently, the Asian-American Studies Department posted to its website a statement accusing Israel of settler colonialism, racial apartheid, etc. Irrespective of the content, doesn’t it infringe on the academic freedom of individual professors (and postdocs and graduate students, whose careers are dependent on faculty recommendations) for an academic department to take a political stand on behalf of all its members? Several other Jewish faculty and I have made that case to the UCLA and overall University of California leadership, to no avail.

As Doris Day sang, the future’s not ours to see, but it’s a good bet that the grip of Woke orthodoxy on the University of California, and most other U.S. universities, will tighten in the years to come. The younger faculty tend to be more Woke than their elders. Administrators and student “protesters” perform elaborately choreographed routines that end with the former enacting policies that they wanted to enact anyway, for which the latter’s public temper tantrums serve as a pretext. Now that standardized tests have been dropped from undergraduate application requirements, a growing number of students will be simultaneously (1) unable to handle university level coursework, and (2) predisposed to denounce their professors for heresy, having been chosen for admission on the basis on their far-left activism as high school students. Meanwhile, California’s K-12 schools are increasingly substituting mind-damaging political indoctrination for education.

But Why Not Stick Around for the Paycheck?

One of my more cynical friends, a tenured professor at a different university, suggested this. He’s no longer on speaking terms with his colleagues, refuses all requests to serve on committees, and spends as much time as possible out of the country. He thinks I’m out of my mind, swapping a salary for a pension.

Maybe he’s right. And maybe I’m craven for ducking the unpleasantness that would be entailed by going that route, or by remaining at my job and becoming a chronic troublemaker. But I strongly suspect that mainstream U.S. higher education is morally and intellectually corrupt, beyond the possibility of self-repair, and therefore no longer a worthwhile setting in which to spend my time and effort. The rise of alternative institutions, like the University of Austin and Ralston College, is a hopeful sign, but so far it’s been happening painfully slowly.

A 2019 article by Liel Leibovitz, titled “Get Out,” argued that the increasingly open hostility of American universities toward Jews is inseparable from the universities’ increasingly brazen rejection of two values that, during the 20th Century, made them into places where Jews specifically, and curious, ambitious, and open-minded people generally, could thrive: meritocracy and free debate. In 2019, I thought that Leibovitz was exaggerating and rather overwrought. Everything that’s happened since has shown that he was right. That’s it: I’m getting out.

What’s next? For one thing, with the time that used to be taken up by teaching and university service, I’ll write blog posts. Stay tuned.


1 Note: Peterson and Boghossian resigned. Katz and Winegard were fired.


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Dr. Manson on his blog on July 4, 2022 and is crossposted here with permission.

Editor’s Note 7/14/22: The original version of this piece stated that Gordon Klein is fired—he was in fact suspended. The article has been updated to reflect this correction. The author also wishes to note that the facts of the Keith Fink case are not established and are a matter of ongoing dispute. The link contained in this article contains Fink’s side of the story.

Image: Josh Lee, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Joseph H. Manson

Joseph H. Manson is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of "Manipulative Monkeys: The Capuchins of Lomas Barbudal."

7 thoughts on “Why I’m Leaving the University

  1. An excellent account of the dangers of “group-think” inherent in the American university system, peer-review system, and faculty tenure system. Thank you! In order to become “someone” in the academe, one has to adhere to the tenets of established ideology. As a music historian, I had to add the names of Foucault, Derrida or at least Adorno to my conference abstracts in order to be accepted to present my work at American Musicological Society annual meetings.

    This process started, for me, in the 1990s when I was working on my doctorate at McGill University, completing the dissertation in 1994. I then switched to the field of Polish music, where the requirements to quote the “masters” of the Marxist Frankfurt School and their minions was not so rampant. I managed to spend quite a few years happily writing music history, documenting that history and managing an academic center dedicated to that cause.

    I left the academe in 2003 and, though I am still invited to contribute to books and journals, I had time to look back at my academic interests and professional biases to notice the pervasiveness of “critical theory” and “group think” even in the choice of subject of study, defining what is valuable what is not. For instance, “beauty” was a no-no for any “serious” music historian. It was OK to study the earning of composers and translate their marks or talars modern dollars but not OK to wonder what and what they considered “beautiful.”

    Today, the “woke” attacks the canon of classical music with gusto. “Is Czech music white?” asks one scholar, with the unspoken assumption that if it is, indeed, white, it must be bad and should be banned or replaced by the international soup of pop sounds manufactured and promoted by major transnational corporations.

    The problem with the “woke” in our university system is the problem of their corporate overlords, the boards of regents that include billionaires from these major transnational corporations. They set the tone, they demand the introduction of an agenda. They replaced the faculty as the most important element of an institution of higher education. I realized that when I switched to “development” as my profession and found that development officers earn far more at universities than professors. Why? They bring money. What does money do? Corrupt. Who pays, gets what they pay for.

    When looking at the state of the “woke” universities we must look beyond the masses of students that do not know better, of young faculty before tenure, terrified of their higher-ups that can destroy them academically and ban from the academe for life if they break away from the orthodoxy, and beyond the tenured faculty’s personal agendas. This is a worldwide takeover of our countries by transnational corporations: sometimes competing, sometimes working in tandem, always pushing the Western world towards the Chinese Communist Party’s model of “slave” and “slave owner” – “global citizen” and “corporate tsar” with nothing standing in the way. The destruction of all institutions and systems that guarantee individual rights, freedom of thought, personhood, citizenship – borders, countries, universities – is a purposeful step towards that goal.

    Great Reset, anyone? Let’s look at bans of “nitrogen” by Netherlands and Canada, for starters. “Nitrogen” – the core element of our atmosphere, the basic building block of organic life… on what grounds do some governments now say it is dangerous to the planet? There is a method in this madness. Let me repeat: Great Reset. But there is a cure, as well. We can leave, form our own organizations, create new systems. We can stay positive, full of gratitude and happiness. We can spread the light of love in our immediate circles, neighborhoods, communities. Know your neighbor, know yourself – work with others towards the alternative – the Great Awakening of sovereign, enlightened, creative, inspired people working together to make this planet, each country, each city, each neighborhood the paradise that they are meant to be.

  2. I was a tenured prof in the humanities at a small southern college, and saw this writing on the wall. The pandemic shutdown had all our courses go fully online in March 2020. By July the state university system put out the offer to any full time faculty over 60 with more than 10 years service could be paid 1/2 year’s salary. I had been contemplating leaving when I turned 62 in spring 2021, so that sealed the deal.

    I’ve thought of going back after moving to another state, but the woke walls are too high to climb, and with my freedom in retirement, I’m convinced I would not be able to silently acquiesce to the mob.

    Today it seems all the adverts for adjunct instruction include DEI manifestos and require a DEI loyalty statement. I taught in a town that was 70% non-white with a student population that was 40% non-white. (Since the intents and effects are identical, “non-white” has become my more literal translation of “people of color.” I prefer clarity. . . . see what I mean. . . I wouldn’t survive.)

    This is a sad thing, however. I truly loved my role and the opportunity to interact with people who valued the free exchange of ideas, and for a while I lived that dream. It’s nearly impossible to find it today and this is a much greater loss than most of us think. It has effects that will ripple (or rip) through our society for years if not decades, to the great loss of us all.

    I read once the theory that 5th century BC Greece, 11th century Bagdhad, and 15th century Florence, Italy were centers of socio-cultural and intellectual progress because thinkers were free to state unpopular truths without fear of serious consequence, and this freedom led to the brilliant advances of those cultures.

    I realize now how rare that condition is.

  3. Why in the world would shooting the messenger who tells “bad things” about blacks be judged “helping” blacks? Do people have a right to reside in a fantasy world where there are no problems and professors are merely enforcing this right? Imagine a campaign that forced doctors to tell their patients only the good news? What are these academic fools thinking when they shut down those who describe a harsh reality? Guardians of a Potemkin Village?

  4. Indoctrinate U, a documentary by a man named Evan Coyne Maloney, out about 15 years ago, exposes much of what these horrid people are up to in academia. I urge people to look it up and read about it on Wikipedia.

    The brainwashing is readily evident and, after being softened up real good, the grads come out to get hit right between the eyes by the propagandists who’ve replaced journalists. Whether it’s CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times or Washington Post, these people are diabolically dumbing down America. They lie all day long. Some people still believe them.

    Kudos to Mr Manson for taking a stand against these abhorrent monsters. Enrollment in these places should go the way of CNN ratings, down, down, down, as more and more people wake up to the so-called woke, who’re nothing more than a subculture of demented minds. They are like monkeys throwing poop. The Joseph H Manson’s of this world are the grown ups who call them out. The man deserves a gold medal.

  5. Ah, but a day of reckoning is coming. A few years off, but rest assured it is coming.

    My university, a public university, is already starting to cut faculty positions due to decreased enrollment which, in turn, has led to lower state funding. The faculty is up in arms because only certain departments are targeted for faculty/staff layoffs. It should come as no surprise to anyone that no STEM departments are on the chopping block; it is not hard to guess which ones are.

    But even the administration still refuses to believe the truth. Case in point is our provost. She believes this downturn in enrollment is only going to last 5 years. How naive and foolish.

    Millions of people are burdened with student loan debt they have little or no hope of ever repaying. Many of these people realize the degree they got (assuming they even graduated) was absolutely worthless in the real world. What was the point of taking on $80,000 of student loan debt to wind up working next to someone who only has a high school diploma? And making the same salary you do.

    Last month I was at the airport. I was wearing a hat indicating I was an alumni of the state’s major university. The young lady working the cash register at one fast food counter noticed my hat and asked what year I graduated. She then beamed while telling me she too had just graduated from the same university. I didn’t have the heart to ask what degree she got.

    Well these millions of people are going to have kids. How likely do you think it will be they will encourage those kids to go to college, and take on tens of thousands of student loan debt? Think they will encourage their kids to get a degree in womens studies? Art history? Black studies? History? Anthropology? Sociology? LBGTQ studies?

    Many people will also be turned off by the leftist woke culture in academia. Parents are already fighting back about teaching critical race theory to their 2nd graders. I seriously doubt they will be suddenly be okay with their kids being indoctrinated in this garbage in college—and paying for it with student loans.

    My point is with the combination of the student loan debacle, the pervasive marxist indoctrination, and business beginning to devalue the worth of most college degrees, there will be a slow (but relentless) drop in college attendance. Only in STEM fields and some business fields will degrees still be valued.

    Yes, a day of reckoning for academia is coming. I surmise most college administrators are too blind to see it.

  6. Would software that predicted fire station staffing needs or where ambulances be staged be considered racist?

    If it accurately predicted fire & EMS needs, wouldn’t that be a good thing? And if the Black neighborhood had greater documented needs, wouldn’t it be racist NOT to provide them?

    How is policing any different?

    We can get into why crime is higher in Black neighborhoods, a 76% illegitimacy rate comes to immediate mind, but don’t Black crime victims deserve police?

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