The Washington Post carries today an insightful op-ed on the “Cancelling Professor Tenure Act” in South Carolina. It is written by Jesse Leo Kass, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of South Carolina, who is also assistant professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. Titled “South Carolina’s effort to cancel professor tenure echoes the 1950s”, the article (also here in PDF) also discusses efforts in our state to stop teaching critical race theory. Kass compares the situation in South Carolina with attacks that took place during the worst excesses of the Red Scare, “a national atmosphere of fear that Americans sympathetic to communism were committing treasonous acts in support of the Soviet Union”.
The author recounts some of the history of the Red Scare in our state, reminding readers that “suspicion fell on seven professors at Benedict College and Allen University, two small, private, church-related historically Black schools.” The professors who were targeted back then were challenging segregation. Even the FBI was involved in the cases, as declassified records show. Kass warns that the future “may closely resemble the situation in the 1950s, when an accomplished professor could be dismissed over a false accusation of being a Communist Party agent. Indeed”, he adds, “much of the current discourse surrounding ‘canceling tenure’ says that universities are promoting ‘socialist propaganda’ — statements that could well have been made by South Carolina politicians in the 1950s”.