Academic researchers from Oregon State University expressed their dismay at what they perceived to be disrespectful and offensive reactions received in response to their survey on LGBTQ undergraduate students studying in the fields of engineering and computer science.
The academics, who penned an article in the Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies, felt the reaction indicated a rise of “fascist ideologues” within these fields. The research team saw 50 out of 349 responses to their questionnaire as “malicious”, containing slurs, hate speech or direct attacks on the team.
The study, titled “Attack Helicopters and White Supremacy: Interpreting Malicious Responses to an Online Questionnaire about Transgender Undergraduate Engineering and Computer Science Student Experiences,” revealed strong pushback from students on many of the questions. According to the article, themes like demographics, diversity, equity, inclusion, gender, antisemitism, and “online hate subculture references” emerged from the responses, many of which contained obscene language and referenced internet memes.
Under demographic data, 24 percent of “malicious” respondents identified their gender as aircraft-related, and others equated identifying as transgender to a disability. The researchers also noted references to white nationalist and fascist movements.
The researchers stated that the disrespectful responses severely affected their morale and mental health, especially for a transgender researcher who was already dealing with anxiety and depression caused by online anti-trans rhetoric. They proposed social justice STEM education as a countermeasure, arguing for a focus on online hate radicalization, anti-colonialism, and intersectional solidarity organizing.
Despite their findings, the researchers found their work dismissed or considered alarmist by academic journals. They maintained that they used “antifascist and trans/queer methodologies” to examine the data, highlighting the pervasive presence of white supremacy in the US. They asserted that universities should be sites for revolutionary struggle, educating for critical consciousness using “a pedagogy of liberation.”
In their view, the story of transgender citizens can help educate about power and oppression, emphasizing that categories like race, gender, and sexuality have roots in European colonial logics similar to fascist movements. They singled out engineering as a critical field for teaching these concepts, given its connection with industries like fossil fuels, defense, construction, and technology, which they argue have ties with racial capitalism and global conflicts such as the situation in Palestine.