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Survey Shows Political Discrimination and Cancel Culture Are Hurting Academic Freedom

Survey Shows Political Discrimination and Cancel Culture Are Hurting Academic Freedom

“only 28% of American academics say they would be comfortable sitting with a gender-critical scholar over lunch, less even than the 41% who would sit with a Trump-voting colleague”

Cancel Culture and political bias against conservatives in higher education are frequently dismissed by the left as overblown or even non-existent.

New findings show that is simply not true and academic freedom is suffering as a result.

Eric Kaufmann reports at the Wall Street Journal:

Academic Freedom Is Withering

Academic freedom is in crisis on American campuses. Last year, the National Association of Scholars recorded 65 instances of professors being disciplined or fired for protected speech, a fivefold increase from the year before. Yet many of academia’s defenders brush aside worries about dismissal campaigns and the lack of ideological diversity as little more than a collection of anecdotes cherry-picked to feed a right-wing moral panic.

My new report for the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology gives the lie to these claims. Based on eight comprehensive surveys of academic and graduate-student opinion across the U.S., Canada and Britain, it buttresses the findings of numerous studies to provide hard data on the absence of viewpoint diversity and presence of discrimination against conservative and gender-critical scholars. High-profile activist excesses are mere symptoms of a much wider problem of progressive authoritarianism. Roughly 1 in 3 conservative academics and graduate students has been disciplined or threatened with disciplinary action. A progressive monoculture empowers radical activist staff and students to violate the freedom of political minorities like conservatives or “gender-critical” feminists, who believe in the biological basis of womanhood—all in the name of emotional safety or social justice.

Political discrimination is pervasive: 4 in 10 American academics indicated in a survey this summer that they would not hire a known Trump supporter for a job. In Canada, the share is 45%, while in Britain, 1 in 3 academics wouldn’t hire a Brexit supporter. Between one-fifth and half of academics and graduate students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning grant applications, journal submissions and promotion cases. On a four-person panel, this virtually guarantees that a conservative will face discrimination.

Meanwhile, only 28% of American academics say they would be comfortable sitting with a gender-critical scholar over lunch, less even than the 41% who would sit with a Trump-voting colleague. Somehow this has become acceptable in a way it never would be for a person from a religious, as opposed to political, minority.

Kaufmann’s report points out that this is being driven by younger and more radical minority:

The lack of viewpoint diversity among faculty underpins both hard and soft authoritarianism. It produces hard authoritarianism because, as this report shows, pro-cancellation sentiment is concentrated among far-left academics (even though most on the far left are not hard authoritarians); and because those on the left are more likely to be cross-pressured between their progressive and liberal value commitments, muting their opposition to hard authoritarianism in a way much less true of conservative academics. The significant minority of far leftists and relatively small share of non-leftists in SSH departments thus increases the supply of hard authoritarianism while reducing resistance to it.

A Radical Minority, Disproportionately Young, Supports Cancellation

Worryingly, younger academics are significantly more authoritarian than those who are older. Among American and Canadian academics from the Millennial generation, the share who would back at least one dismissal campaign is between a third and a half. With other factors held constant, a 30-year-old far-left academic has a 50% chance of endorsing at least 1 of 4 hypothetical dismissal campaigns involving politically incorrect research findings, whereas a 70-year-old far leftist has a 35% chance of doing so. PhD students, who represent the future of academia, are 10-20 points more in favor of cancellation than academic staff. Unless these trends are capturing a life cycle effect that people mature out of, this portends rising support for illiberalism in the future. On the other hand, a 60% majority of academics in their 20s and 30s continues to reject cancellation, and young academics are 10 to 20 points more supportive of academic freedom than PhD students the same age.

The correct perception that conservative ideas are not welcome, sets up a cycle where right leaning people become less likely to enter academia, making the problem worse:

A Hostile Climate Deters Conservatives from Going into Academia

The origins of academia’s left orientation lie partly in recruitment. Historic data show that SSH fields have shifted from approximately 2 leftists for every conservative in the 1960s to a ratio of approximately 10 to 1 today–slightly more in top US and Canadian universities and a bit less in the UK.[3] In surveys in the early 1970s, younger academics were as much as 30 points more left-wing than their elders. That age gap is non-existent today, so we should not expect conservative academics to go extinct. Nevertheless, I find evidence that a hostile environment for conservatives in SSH departments is actively discouraging them from pursuing academic careers. Generally speaking, 70% to 80% of right-leaning academics and doctoral students say their departments are hostile environments for their political beliefs.

Read the whole report here.

As I have suggested before, American taxpayers should not be expected to fund “free” college, as long as half of American taxpayers would not be welcome on American college campuses.


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I refused to attend faculty meetings if we were not compensated for attendance. Talk about being forced into a hostile environment of some of the most dreadful organisms ever to survive in the light of day? You’re talking mandatory faculty meeting.

healthguyfsu | March 3, 2021 at 7:39 pm

Of the remaining 59% that “wouldn’t sit” with a Trump-voting colleague, almost all of them would do it and use it as an opportunity to try and find cancel bait against them under the guise of “feeling unsafe”.

healthguyfsu | March 3, 2021 at 7:40 pm

Also, had I been aware of the hostility that would eventually befall us conservatives in academia, I probably would have found a different path to suitable employment. These people are pervasive, whiny, and downright insane as to what they let certain groups get away with.

healthguyfsu | March 4, 2021 at 11:17 am

In other news, water is wet.

These numbers suffer from Pollster Syndrome, because there’s no way a quarter of the respondents would actually feel comfortable sitting next to “a gender-critical scholar over lunch” because anything you say or *don’t* say will be used against you like a club at anytime over the next fifty years, with perfect recall on behalf of the ‘scholar’ and vicious attacks against anybody who dares to take your side. Even gender-critical scholars would be cautious sitting next to their own peers, because nothing is more nasty than a member of that peer group lashing out against a colleague who dares deviate from the Narrative *as perceived by the other person* So one chance word, one mistaken glance, and there goes your career.

And of the people who would not feel comfortable sitting next to a Trump supporter, I suspect it’s not because the Trumpster will ‘Go Karen’ on them, but because of the possibility of a humorless shrew (as above) walking by and deciding to cancel you for the crime of ‘Eating socially with an undesirable.’