Affirmative action for conservatives

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, at 11:39 am

Unless you believe that ever-expanding government programs and centrally planned economies are the solution to all of life's contingencies and social problems you will not likely get a faculty position in the humanities, social sciences, or education at an American college or university. A prevailing myth in America is that our colleges and universities are bastions of diversity. This is laughable. To believe the diversity myth one must ignore the fact that American higher education seems to care less about students being introduced to diverse ideas and perspectives. When American colleges talk "diversity" they only seem to mean it along the axis of race, gender, and class. The notion that a robust learning community requires students be exposed to multiple perspectives has no value in the modern academy. What matters today on most campuses is intellectual homogeneity—also known as tribal "group think."

In the August issue the journal Inside Higher Ed, a large survey of psychologists reported the following:

“Just over 37 percent of those surveyed said that, given equally qualified candidates for a job, they would support the hiring of a liberal candidate over a conservative candidate. Smaller percentages agreed that a ‘conservative perspective’ would negatively influence their odds of supporting a paper for inclusion in a journal or a proposal for a grant.”

In another major study, research by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers demonstrates that social psychologists, for example, openly admit they would bypass conservatives in the hiring process. When the authors surveyed a large number of social and personality psychologists they discovered several not-so-surprising facts:

“First, although only 6 percent described themselves as conservative ‘overall,’ there was more diversity of political opinion on economic issues and foreign policy. Second, respondents significantly underestimated the proportion of conservatives among their colleagues. Third, conservatives fear negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. Finally, conservatives are right to do so: In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.”

What's the moral of the story? It seems that there is proven discrimination against conservatives in America's colleges and universities and this will not likely change anytime soon without radical intervention. Will colleges and universities be as proactive in securing intellectual diversity as they have been for racial and gender diversity? Do we need affirmative action hiring programs for non-liberals and progressives because conservatives are not given access to faculty opportunities? If so, that's something that even President Obama might truly call “forward.”

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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