A new study finds 10% of academics in three English-speaking nations, including the U.S., support firing colleagues who express views regarded as controversial.
The study by Center for the Study of Partnership and Ideology in the United Kingdom is described as the first of its kind on authoritarianism and political discrimination in academic. It found “a significant portion of academics discriminate against conservatives in hiring, promotion, grants and publications.”
More than 40% of academics in the U.S. and Canada would refuse to hire someone if they supported President Trump, and in the U.K. one in three would not hire a Brexit supporter.
“Only 28% of American and Canadian academics would feel comfortable having lunch with someone who opposes the idea of transwomen accessing women’s shelters,” the report found.
“Right-leaning academics experience a high level of institutional authoritarianism and peer pressure. In the U.S., over a third of conservative academics and PhD students have been threatened with disciplinary action for their views while 70% of conservative academics report a hostile departmental climate for their beliefs.”
Not surprisingly, it found more than 90% of Trump-supporting academics would not feel “comfortable” expressing their views to a colleague, and more than half self-censor because of the political climate.
The problem “is likely to get worse in the coming years,” the study authors found.
“Younger academics and PhD students, especially in the United States, are significantly more willing than older academics to support dismissing controversial scholars from their posts.”
And researchers suggested a resolution would be for government to “apply the law” to universities and impose “sanctions” when academic freedoms are violated.
“High profile incidents of campus illiberalism are often brushed off as spirited exceptions to the rule that academic freedom is safe,” the report explained. ‘Recent examples include the mob violence directed against Charles Murray at Middlebury State College and Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State University. Progressive critics view the free speech debate – on campus and more generally – as overblown, a moral panic concocted by the right. In universities, many don’t experience a threat to their ability to teach and research, so they wonder what the problem is.”
But the report said most academics admit discriminating against conservatives when a “list method,” designed to get around social desirability bias, is used to obtain responses.
“While even one episode of intolerance of free speech should raise concern, it is important in science to be able to generalize findings to a wider population,” the report said about its documentation of threats to jobs, to reputations and more, based on “political discrimination.”
A “skew” in academia is confirmed by the finding that 70%-80% of social sciences and humanities professors in Britain and North America lean left, with only 5%-10% identifying as conservative.
Conservatives also were found more likely to retire early, “suggesting that selection effects work to both limit entry and hasten the exit of conservatives.”
“Injustice and discrimination are typically not experienced by the leftist political majority, making it possible to imagine there is no problem. ‘How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?’ remarked Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In the pre-Civil Rights American South, discrimination passed white Americans by. Likewise, today, discrimination is concentrated within a minority of perhaps 5-10% of scholars, who happen to be conservative or gender-critical feminist researchers. Furthermore, it is those working in the social sciences and humanities that are disproportionately victimized, again reducing the number affected. From the point of view of this small minority, illiberalism and discrimination are massive problems, but these can be invisible to the left-wing majority in the academy.”
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