Scholars Under Fire Variable Codebook

Scholars Under Fire

Overview

FIRE researches targeting incidents involving scholars at public and private American institutions of higher education, including both community colleges, four-year institutions, and university affiliated research centers. Not all demands for sanction result in the scholar being penalized. In the database, we include incidents in which scholars were targeted, regardless of the results of their targetings. This codebook documents our methodology and allows researchers to understand exactly how each variable was coded. If you would like access to the data file, please email us at ScholarsUnderFire@thefire.org. We encourage researchers to use FIRE’s “Scholars Under Fire” data to conduct additional analyses and further our understanding of the targeting phenomenon.

Who is a scholar?

A scholar is any individual who engages in acts of scholarship within the academic domain and has an official affiliation with a college or university. This includes teaching at a college or university, conducting research and submitting the findings to the peer-review process, and/or discussing peer-reviewed scholarship at professional academic events (e.g., conferences, panel discussions).

For the purposes of this database, a scholar, based on this definition, includes: professors (assistant, associate, full, emeritus), lecturers (adjunct, clinical, instructors), postdoctoral researchers/research fellows/scholars at universities or university-affiliated research centers (e.g., Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study, Stanford University’s Hoover Institute), attending physicians (medical doctors working in university settings), graduate students (master’s, doctoral, law), and medical trainees (medical students, residents, fellows).

We exclude deans and other administrators who have never held a faculty position, as well as researchers working for non-university-affiliated organizations.

What is a targeting incident?

We define a targeting incident as a campus controversy involving efforts to investigate, penalize or otherwise professionally sanction a scholar for ideological reasons. A case where the individual(s) or group(s) expresses opposition to a scholar’s speech, but does not make any demands that the scholar and/or institution take action to remedy the situation, is not considered a targeting incident, and thus is not included in the database.

What details are recorded for each targeting incident?

For each targeting incident recorded, we document what was being expressed (topic); who was being addressed or talked about (subject); the reason for the expression (intent), and where the scholar’s speech took place (context.). Additionally, we identified those who initiated the targeting incident (source); how they want the scholar sanctioned (demands); and whether the targeting incident was initiated by those to the political left or right of the scholar (politics). We also included how the scholar reacted to the targeting incident (response); how the institution or administration reacted (administrative response); and the result of the targeting incident (outcome).

Demographics and Other Information

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
year Year of incident. Year of incident
scholar Name of scholar. Name of scholar
school Name of the college/university where the scholar is employed. Name of school
state State of the college/university. Name of state
comm_college Is it a community college? No
Yes
school_type Is it public or private? Public
Private
school_religion Religious denomination of the college/university. Nonsectarian
Baptist
Catholic
Christian
Evangelical
Jesuit
Lutheran
fire_rating FIRE speech rating of college/university. Warning
Red
Yellow
Green
No rating
chicago Has the college/university adopted the Chicago principles? No
Yes
field_dept Scholar’s academic field or department. Name of department
rank Scholar’s rank. Graduate student
Postdoctoral researcher
Research fellow
Volunteer
Adjunct
Lecturer
Clinical
Specialist
Assistant
Associate
Full
Emeritus
Visiting scholar
tenure Scholar’s tenure status. Tenure not offered
Untenured
Tenure track
Tenured
Emeritus
gender Scholar’s gender. Female
Male
Something else
race Scholar’s race/ethnicity. American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian
Black or African American
Hispanic/Latino
Middle Eastern
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
White
Multiracial
pol_snctattmpt Politics of the sanctioner(s) relative to the scholar? 1 = To the left
2 = To the right
0 = Unclear or Irrelevant
petitions_sanction Number of petitions calling for sanctioning the scholar. Total number of petitions
psnct_signatories Total number of signatories on all petitions calling for sanctioning the scholar. If number of signatories is unknown, then “unknown”;
If no petitions_sanction, then blank; otherwise, number of signatories
petitions_defend Number of petitions defending the scholar. Total number of petitions
pdfnd_signatories Total number of signatories on all petitions defending the scholar. If number of signatories is unknown, then “unknown”;
If no petitions_defend, then blank; otherwise, number of signatories

Intent of Scholar’s Expression

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
accident Were the scholar’s words or actions not intended to be expressed publicly? 0 = No
1 = Yes
activism_change Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to encourage activism and/or express support for a cause? 0 = No
1 = Yes
benign_friendly Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to make a joke and/or a friendly, innocuous remark? 0 = No
1 = Yes
malicious_hate Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to offend, upset, show contempt for, and/or approve of violence against a person or group? 0 = No
1 = Yes
own_views Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to criticize a person or group and/or to express a personal view on a controversial social issue? 0 = No
1 = Yes
pedagogy Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to present sensitive, controversial, and/or difficult content (e.g., quoting racial slurs) to provoke discussion and learning? 0 = No
1 = Yes
sci_inquiry Was the intent of the scholar’s words or actions to discuss scholarship, conduct research and/or to present or test an idea? 0 = No
1 = Yes
unclear Was the scholar’s intent not clear? 0 = No
1 = Yes

Focus of Scholar’s Expression

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
abortion Was the focus of expression support for, or opposition to, abortion? 0 = No
1 = Yes
climate Was the focus of expression climate change and/or environmentalism? 0 = No
1 = Yes
court Was the focus of expression a court trial? 0 = No
1 = Yes
covid Was the focus of expression COVID- 19 origins, calling it the “China” virus, and/or the response to it? 0 = No
1 = Yes
elections Was the focus of expression the 2016, 2018, or 2020 elections, the Capitol Hill protest/riot, voting procedures, and/or ballot initiatives? 0 = No
1 = Yes
foreign_affairs Was the focus of expression international affairs and/or conflicts? 0 = No
1 = Yes
free_speech Was the focus of expression freedom of speech? 0 = No
1 = Yes
gender Was the focus of expression misogynist slurs, sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender inequality, transgenderism, and/or Title IX procedures? 0 = No
1 = Yes
immigration Was the focus of expression illegal immigration, laws restricting immigration, and/or differences between immigrants and non-immigrants, or non-citizens and citizens? 0 = No
1 = Yes
inst_policy Was the focus of expression institutional conflicts of interest, funding, grants, outside pressure, and/or DEI policy? 0 = No
1 = Yes
israel_palestine Was the focus of the expression Anti-Zionism, the BDS movement, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and/or Zionism? 0 = No
1 = Yes
mental_health Was the focus of expression psychological disorders or other mental-health issues? 0 = No
1 = Yes
partisanship Was the focus of expression explicit mention of a political candidate and/or party (e.g., conservatives, liberals, left, right)? 0 = No
1 = Yes
police_protests Was the focus of the expression BLM, ACAB, Defund the Police, Antifa, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Back the Blue, and/or misconduct by or directed at the police? 0 = No
1 = Yes
race Was the focus of expression racial slurs, racial inequality, racial identity, historical racism, DEI, and/or BLM? 0 = No
1 = Yes
religion Was the focus of expression Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, and/or Judaism? 0 = No
1 = Yes
second_amend Was the focus of expression support for gun rights or gun control? 0 = No
1 = Yes
socioecon_status Was the focus of expression economic inequality? 0 = No
1 = Yes
sexuality Was the focus of expression homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and/or other same-sex issues? 0 = No
1 = Yes
terrorism Was the focus of expression terrorists and/or terrorist activity? 0 = No
1 = Yes

Subject of Scholar’s Expression

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
admin Were the words or actions directed at administrators/the administration? 0 = No
1 = Yes
asnppl Were the words or actions directed at Asian people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
blkppl Were the words or actions directed at Black people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
chinsppl Were the words or actions directed at Chinese people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
chrstppl Were the words or actions directed at Christians/Catholics? 0 = No
1 = Yes
feminists Were the words or actions directed at feminists? 0 = No
1 = Yes
gradstdnts Were the words or actions directed at a graduate/law student or student(s)? 0 = No
1 = Yes
hspppl Were the words or actions directed at Hispanic people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
immigrant Were the words or actions directed at legal and/or illegal immigrants? 0 = No
1 = Yes
jewppl Were the words or actions directed at Jewish/Israeli people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
left Were the words or actions directed at liberals, democrats, and/or Biden or Clinton supporters? 0 = No
1 = Yes
lgbqppl Were the words or actions directed at LGBQ people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
medical Were the words or actions directed at doctors and/or other medical experts? 0 = No
1 = Yes
men Were the words or actions directed at men? 0 = No
1 = Yes
musppl Were the words or actions directed at Muslims? 0 = No
1 = Yes
natam Were the words or actions directed at Native Americans? 0 = No
1 = Yes
palstppl Were the words or actions directed at Palestinian people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
plaint_defend Were the words or actions directed at a plaintiff and/or defendant in a court trial? 0 = No
1 = Yes
police Were the words or actions directed at police officers? 0 = No
1 = Yes
politician Were the words or actions directed at a politician or at politicians? 0 = No
1 = Yes
pubfig Were the words or actions directed at a public figure or at public figures? 0 = No
1 = Yes
religfig Were the words or actions directed at a religious figure or at religious figures? 0 = No
1 = Yes
right Were the words or actions directed at conservatives, republicans, and/or Trump supporters? 0 = No
1 = Yes
scholars Were the words or actions directed at another scholar or other scholars? 0 = No
1 = Yes
transppl Were the words or actions directed at transgender people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
ugstdnts Were the words or actions directed at an undergraduate student or students? 0 = No
1 = Yes
whtppl Were the words or actions directed at White people? 0 = No
1 = Yes
women Were the words or actions directed at women? 0 = No
1 = Yes

Context of Scholar’s Expression

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
classroom Was the context of expression the classroom or a virtual classroom, a course syllabus, and/or an exam? 0 = No
1 = Yes
direct_interact Was the context of expression an in-person or otherwise direct interaction? 0 = No
1 = Yes
email_text Was the context of expression an email, letter, or message to a student, scholar, administrator, or any combination of the above. 0 = No
1 = Yes
oped_blog Was the context of expression an op-ed or blog? 0 = No
1 = Yes
pro_responsible Was the context of expression a meeting, resolution, training, event, forum, and/or other setting? 0 = No
1 = Yes
public Was the context of expression a public interview, speech, statement, or podcast? 0 = No
1 = Yes
rally_protest Was the context of expression an on- or off-campus party, protest or rally? 0 = No
1 = Yes
scholarship Was the context of expression peer-reviewed research, scholarship, book, conference, panel, talk, and/or symposium? 0 = No
1 = Yes
socmedia Was the context of expression social media? 0 = No
1 = Yes

Source of Targeting Incident

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
src_actvst Was a grassroots campaign or activist organization the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_admin Was an administrator or the administration the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_alum Was an alumnus/alumna or a group of alumni the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_anon Was the source of the sanction attempt anonymous? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_corp Was a corporation the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_fac Was another scholar or a group of scholars the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_genpub Was the general public the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_govt_pol Was the government, a politician, or a group of politicians the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_grad Was a grad/law student or were grad/law students the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_pubfig Was a public figure or a group of public figures the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_stkprnt Was a donor, stakeholder, and/or parent the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes
src_ug Was an undergrad student or were undergrad students the source of the sanction attempt? 0 = No
1 = Yes

Specific Demands

dmd_apo_condem Apology from scholar, condemnation of scholar by university, apology from university. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_chng_poli Changes to university/official policies or practices, offer resources/space for affinity groups & race-based work, hire more racially diverse scholars. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_censor Audit, change grades or curriculum, cancel or alter course, stop research study in progress or retract research/scholarship/book/op-ed or boycott the journal for refusing to retract. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_demote Demotion and/or removal of emeritus status. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_list Was there a list of demands? 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_suspend Suspend, place on leave, remove from the classroom, restrict teaching duties. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_terminate Fire, do not hire, resign, revoke tenure. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_train Mandatory training for the scholar and/or all scholars. 0 = No
1 = Yes
dmd_vague_investigate Call for investigation and/or some vague, unspecified consequences. 0 = No
1 = Yes

Scholar’s Response

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
prof_context Assert that expression was misinterpreted or taken out of context. 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_deny Deny that the incident occurred or was done by them. 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_leave Voluntarily resign/step down, retire, take a voluntary leave of absence. 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_nocmnt None/no comment 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_notwrong Refusal to concede any wrongdoing. 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_regret Apologize, express regret; delete, hide, or otherwise modify evidence of expression. 0 = No
1 = Yes
prof_sue File/threaten to file a lawsuit or other form of grievance against the institution and/or those calling for sanctions. 0 = No
1 = Yes

Administration’s Response

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
apologize Issue a public apology and/or condemnation of the scholar’s expression, with or without mentioning the scholar by name, and explain that the university is trying to gather more information. 0 = No
1 = Yes
chngexpress Require/request that the scholar not express themselves that way again. 0 = No
1 = Yes
investigate Open an investigation. 0 = No
1 = Yes
no_comnt None/no comment. 0 = No
1 = Yes
reqtrain Require the scholar to participate in a training session or sessions. 0 = No
1 = Yes
support Publicly support the scholar’s expression, explicitly refuse to take action against the scholar, and/or criticize/disagree with the scholar’s expression, but state that it’s protected by the First Amendment and/or campus policies protecting free speech. 0 = No
1 = Yes
suspend Place the scholar on paid or unpaid leave; relieve the scholar of teaching duties; suspend the scholar indefinitely or for a certain period. 0 = No
1 = Yes
terminate Terminate scholar’s contract; fail to renew scholar’s contract; revoke the scholar’s contract extension. 0 = No
1 = Yes

Outcome of Targeting Incident

Variable Name Variable Description Coding
no_sanction No sanction. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_censored Forbidden from conducting research; course canceled or otherwise altered; research or op-ed retracted; publication delayed; disinvited; talk canceled or shut down; agreed not to engage in that expression again. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_demoted Scholar demoted from position or lost emeritus status. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_investigated Title IX or other investigation. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_left Scholar resigned/stepped down voluntarily; retired. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_proftrain Scholar took training(s). 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_reinstate Scholar was reinstated after being suspended and/or terminated. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_suspended Scholar placed on paid or unpaid leave; partially, temporarily, or permanently relieved of teaching duties; suspended indefinitely or for a certain period of time. 0 = No
1 = Yes
out_terminated Scholar not hired; contract terminated; contract not renewed; contract extension revoked; tenure revoked; forced resignation. 0 = No
1 = Yes