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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bias? What bias?

The New York Times has published an article by John Tierney about liberal bias in academia which attempts to answer the question "why are conservatives such a minority at so many graduate schools?" Here's an excerpt:
“The most effective way to keep out a whole class of people who are unwelcome isn’t to bar entry, but to make sure that very few in that class will want to enter,” Dr. Wood wrote. “If it comes down to it, entry can still be impeded through other techniques, the feminist and the multiculturalist vetoes on the faculty search committee being the deadliest as far as conservatives go, although there are others.”

Republican scholars are more likely than Democrats to end up working outside academia, as documented by Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University. Dr. Klein, who calls himself a classical liberal (a k a libertarian), says that the university promotes groupthink because its system of “departmental majoritarianism” empowers the dominant faction to keep hiring like-minded colleagues. And when a faculty committee is looking to hire or award tenure, political ideology seems to make a difference, according to a “collegiality survey” conducted by George Yancey.

Dr. Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, asked more than 400 sociologists which nonacademic factors might influence their willingness to vote for hiring a new colleague. You might expect professors to at least claim to be immune to bias in academic hiring decisions.

But as Dr. Yancey reports in his new book, “Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education,” more than a quarter of the sociologists said they would be swayed favorably toward a Democrat or an A.C.L.U. member and unfavorably toward a Republican. About 40 percent said they would be less inclined to vote for hiring someone who belonged to the National Rifle Association or who was an evangelical. Similar results were obtained in a subsequent survey of professors in other social sciences and the humanities.

Dr. Yancey, who describes himself as a political independent with traditional Christian beliefs and progressive social values, advises nonliberal graduate students to be discreet during job interviews. “The information in this research,” he wrote, “indicates that revealing one’s political and religious conservatism will, on average, negatively influence about half of the search committee one is attempting to impress.”

Most academics claim to be politically unbiased, but it's a moot point when the academic environment at graduate schools is subtly hostile to conservatives and the pool of graduate students self-selects for liberals.

1 comment:

Attila said...

I find it pretty hilarious that the left absolutely refuses to conider self-selection as an explanation for fewer women in academia (in math & science at least) - witness the crucification of Larry Summers when he suggeted it - yet it's the first thing they come up with when talking about conservatives (well aside from the sneer that conservatives are just too dumb). Open mind my ass.