Colleges used to encourage the exchange of challenging ideas. Now faculty members who challenge students’ beliefs are being forced to leave the profession.

Francesca Block:

One sentence in a blog post almost ruined Thomas Smith’s career.

“If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle,” commented Smith, 65, a law professor at the University of San Diego.

He wrote it back in 2021, in a piece questioning the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic on his personal legal blog, which usually received only a few hundred visitors per day. 

But the backlash was swift. Smith estimates 60 students submitted a formal complaint to the administration and accused him of being racist, using derogatory language, and promoting conspiracy theories with “detrimental consequences.” Smith later updated his post to clarify that his ire was directed at the Chinese government, not its people.

A week later, Robert Schapiro, the dean of San Diego’s law school, announced an investigation into Smith in an email to the student body, stressing that “University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin.”