Nicholas Kristof:  Liberal Intolerance in Academia!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, himself a progressive, writes today about the intolerance that academia has shown conservatives and evangelical Christians.  He provides data demonstrating the predominance of liberal thought among college professors.  For instance:

“Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.

Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).

In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.

In terms of hiring, Kristof comments:

“The scarcity of conservatives seems driven in part by discrimination. One peer-reviewed study found that one-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.

George Yancey, a black sociologist, who now teaches at the University of North Texas, conducted a survey in which up to 30 percent of academics said that they would be less likely to support a job seeker if they knew that the person was a Republican.

The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to Yancey’s study, 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.”

Kristof concludes by referring to:

“Jonathan Haidt, a centrist social psychologist at New York University, who cites data suggesting that the share of conservatives in academia has plunged, and who has started a website, Heterodox Academy, to champion ideological diversity on campuses.

“Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s…”

Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.”

This is not an easy subject to write or talk about. I was at a meeting at my own university a couple of weeks ago where this issue arose and I commented that we (liberal thinkers in academia) should be confident enough in our views to allow others with different positions and worldviews to speak their mind.  My sense is that what I said was visibly uncomfortable for some of my colleagues (faculty and doctoral students).  One individual commented “Oh God”.

So yes, let’s demonstrate tolerance and let diversity extend to thinking.



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