Antioch College fires a grad student

November 30, 2022 • 11:30 am

UPDATE: Elliott may have been “de-fired”, an addendum to the video says this:

As of yesterday my student ID was listed as invalid. I made this video because my assumption was that they terminated me due to my speaking out. Tonight, my ID was reinstated and I was able to login again. Please see my subsequent video update for details.

I suspect that Antioch had second thoughts about how firing her would look. Regardless, the counselor training degree program should be revamped.



About a week ago I wrote about Leslie Elliiott, a graduate student in mental-health counseling at Antioch University in Seattle—part of the whole Antioch College consortium. Elliott had posted a video on YouTube about how her fellow students were being taught to force their counseling practice into a racial or identitarian mold, no matter what their problems. Her complaints, which you can see at the site linked above, were reasonable ones: she wanted to counsel people based on their needs, not cram a progressive ideology down the throats of vulnerable patients.

Further, Elliott refused to adhere to a pledge included in her course syllabi, a pledge I mentioned earlier:

The pledge, which Elliott says is now included in most syllabuses, reflects the social justice mission of Antioch. It states: “I acknowledge that racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, ageism, nativism, and other forms of interpersonal and institutionalized forms of oppression exist. I will do my best to better understand my own privileged and marginalized identities and the power that these afford me.” Antioch added the statement starting in 2020 after the death of George Floyd.

What Elliott got for her efforts, as I wrote at the time, was not unexpected but still reprehensible. .

 . . . a response from Antioch sent to all students in the college—save Elliott (what a rookie move!)—implicitly singling her out for promulgating “white supremacy” and “transphobia”. Here we have the college acting like an online social-justice mob. The author of the college’s email, and presumably at least part of the “Commitment to Social Justice” statement, is Shawn Fitzgerald, CEO of Antioch’s Seattle campus and Dean of the Graduate School of Counseling, Psychology, and Therapy.

Clearly the “one person who posted online” is Eliott, who, according to her own school, stands accused of transphobia, white supremacy, and “harmful ideologies”, as well as “hate speech”. The statement was certainly inspired by Elliott’s video above.  Elliott has posted another video detailing what’s below and giving her response.

Finally, Elliott wrote to the administration explicitly saying she would not stop calling out Antioch’s misguided social justice and asking them not to retaliate against her.

But they did. She was just kicked out of Antioch.  She made a short YouTube video recounting what happened to her, which you can see below.

I don’t have any reason to doubt what she says, and it’s shameful that Antioch let her go, much less kicking her out without telling her directly.  They’re not only quashing her freedom of speech, but promulgating an ideology that could be harmful to the patients of their students. And they’re cowards.

I wonder if she could sue them, but of course, if she returned to the school, that lawsuit would make her life.

h/t: Norman

17 thoughts on “Antioch College fires a grad student

  1. Glad to hear that she may be “de-fired.” Even so, she doesn’t deserve this. I sincerely hope that Ms. Elliott can land safely somewhere and train to be the evidence-based psychologist that she wants to be and that the profession needs.

    1. With the emphasis on what the profession needs, and everyone who needs counseling. I feel really sorry for people who seek therapy and end up with someone trying to remold society.

    2. This is a great chance for a university that truly supports free speech to try to woo her. It would be great PR within the academic-libertarian community. Best of luck!

  2. A modified pledge perhaps?

    “I acknowledge that racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, ageism, nativism, and other forms of interpersonal and institutionalized forms of oppression exist, although they usually do not require excessive intervention and should not normally affect the nature of the care given to people.”

    Although those who want to make a name for themselves by elevating politics beyond any reasonable accommodation wouldn’t be pleased.

  3. Reading the original pledge, the thing that would irritate me the most about being made to sign it would be the word choice here:

    “I acknowledge that… forms of interpersonal and institutionalized forms of oppression exist”.

    (my italics)

    If they had written, say “acknowledge that… sources of potential interpersonal and institutionalized bias exist”.

    I would personally have no problem with it. But ‘oppression’? Hmm.

    It is not really controversial to acknowledge that various sources of possible bias exist, both individually and institutionally. The difficulty for me is that the phrasing seems to imply that they operate at every moment on everybody equally, and that we should seemingly seek to frame all our social interactions within this paradigm. I really struggle to see how it is helpful to anybody if we take the view that everyone in any category other than ‘Caucasian able-bodied heterosexual middle-to-upper-class cis male” should be immediately labelled ‘the oppressed’ in each and every setting or interaction.

    1. ….and “if we take the view that everyone in the category of ‘Caucasian able-bodied heterosexual middle-to-upper-class cis male’ should be immediately labelled ‘the oppressor’ in each and every setting or interaction.”

      (Italics where I changed your words in the quotation.)

  4. This case looks similar to that of Amy Gallagher who is suing the Tavistock Clinic in the UK. She argued that Critical Theory was being embedded into the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy. For example, viewing whiteness as ‘problem of our time. No disagreement or discussion of these tenets was allowed and she was unable to complete her training in psychotherapy because of her expressed scepticism.

    1. Yes, I was struggling to remember Amy’s name the last time that this came up.

      Very glad to hear that Leslie Elliott may have been “de-fired” – fingers crossed that she has.

  5. I’d love to see some success in bringing about statistical studies in the effectiveness of adding the justice dimension to psychological therapy. To my understanding, such studies have shown only negative effects to critical training in schools and organizational training- just increased suspicion, resentment and divisiveness.

  6. First, I applaud what Ms. Elliott is doing in calling out Antioch. Nobody, not even the “oppressed” per Antioch, are served by a counselor that presumes every mental health problem has its roots in some kind of privilege hierarchy.

    That said, there have been a few occasions where I was unable to log in to my computer at work, and was locked out. I didn’t make a video about how I was fired with no notice, I called up IT and asked them what was up, at which point they were able to unlock my account.

    Ms. Elliott’s update video did not address the login issue whatsoever, so she shed no clarity on whether it was some type of IT issue or indeed a firing/de-firing. I suspect the lack of clarity may be intentional to save her some embarrassment for immediately assuming that she’d been turfed from the school when other, much more prosaic, explanations might be offered. Forgive me for finding it ironic that someone (rightfully!) calling out her school’s transformation into a victim-obsessed SJW factory is playing a victim here.

  7. “I wonder if she could sue them, but of course, if she returned to the school, that lawsuit would make her life.”

    Did you mean “that lawsuit would make her life hell?”

  8. It would be pointless for Ms. Elliott to sue Antioch. Far better for Antioch’s academic accreditation to be withdrawn—on account of its brazen persecution of a grad student for exercising what is elsewhere termed freedom of speech—and for Ms. Elllott to transfer to a reputable institution. [There must be a few left, one hopes.]

    The pledge that Antioch apparently now requires of its students reveals an interesting process. Over-the-top woke verbiage was invented during the BLM festivities of 2020 summer, and then this verbiage was established irreversibly in multiple Antioch syllabi. It is a perfect ratchet phenomenon, leading irreversibly to a complete academic culture akin to Christian institutions in medieval times, Islamic madrasas, or Biology departments in the USSR between the 1940s and 60s. How Progressive, this ratchet to the past.

    1. It looks like their accreditation is already on thin ice. “the [Higher Learning Commission] notified Antioch that it was continuing the accreditation of the college, but subject to the provision of interim reports in 2022 and 2023 on various topics”

      What’s the appropriate way to engage in that discussion without making it look like we are trying to ‘cancel’ the college? This IS how cancel campaigns start.

    2. No, it would not be pointless to sue Antioch. Witness Oberlin. Make them pay, and pay, and that should work down in US economics to higher insurance, loss of alumni support (like my daughter re Oberlin, and me at two of my almas mater), and eventually the message may get through.

  9. This is depressing. When I trained as a counsellor, the one fundamental rule was make no assumptions. Your job is to wait and listen. One of the goals is to find out what assumptions the client makes about you as a therapist, since that will tell you something about their worldview. If you start the therapeutic relationship with a bunch of ideological boxes, you will learn nothing about the client, and the client will learn nothing about himself or herself.

  10. Antioch University in Seattle is not affilitated with Antioch College. The college and university are separate entities and have been for about ten years.

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