Suspicions Confirmed: Academia Shutting Out Conservative Professors

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  • Rachel Alexander
    Rachel Alexander, an attorney, is the editor of the Intellectual Conservative.
By Rachel Alexander, CP Op-Ed Contributor
June 10, 2013|2:18 pm

Conservatives have long suspected there is discrimination against conservative professors in academia, and now there is evidence to prove it. Sociology professor Neil Gross, a self-described liberal, reveals the results of surveys showing this bias in his new book, Why Professors are Liberal and Why do Conservatives Care?

Sociologist George Yancey asked professors if they would be more or less likely to hire someone if they were a Republican, evangelical or fundamentalist.

Three-quarters said political affiliation would not affect their hiring decision. But the one-quarter that did say it would influence their decision virtually all said they would favor a Democrat over a Republican. Almost half of the sociology professors surveyed said they would look unfavorably upon evangelicals and fundamentalists trying to get a job in their department!

In a 2005 survey, researcher Gary Tobin asked professors how favorably or unfavorably they felt about various religious groups. Fifty-three percent of academics responded that they regard evangelicals unfavorably. The next highest unfavorable rating was 33 percent regarding Mormons.

Professor Gross performed his own "audit study," sending in fake applications to upper academia at universities around the country. One set of applicants, the control group, had nothing political listed on their resumes. The other two sets of applicants indicated they had either worked on the McCain or Obama 2008 presidential campaigns. He found, "On average, the DGSs (directors of graduate studies) responded less frequently, more slowly, and less enthusiastically to the conservative applicant."

The average professor is three times as liberal as the average American, and academia is even more liberal now than it was in the 1960s. Gross provides evidence indicating that feminism greatly increased the drift of college faculty to the left, in every field except engineering. Today, 63 percent of female academics describe themselves as feminists. Seventy-three percent of academics describe themselves as moderates, liberals or radical leftists. Gross admits, "…it would be foolish for anyone with truly antifeminist sensibilities to become a sociologist," due to how liberal that field has become. The Sex and Gender Section is the second largest section in the American Sociological Association. New departments have emerged like Women's Studies where conservatives would not even bother applying.

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Gross's thesis is that conservatives self-select other professions, independently choosing not to become professors because academia is so liberal. But this sidesteps the clear evidence Gross provides revealing faculty bias in hiring. Gross cites, yet ignores, a study that found that seven percent of conservative academics report having been the victim of political discrimination. Conservative professor Mary Grabar debunks Gross's thesis, publishing essays from six white male professors who have been blocked out of higher academia, in her new book, Exiled: Stories From Conservative and Moderate Professors Who Have Been Ridiculed, Ostracized, Marginalized, Demonized and Frozen Out. Most of them cannot obtain well-paying full-time work at four-year institutions, and instead are relegated to "perpetual adjunct status, teaching twice as many classes as the average course load, for wages that work out to be less than minimum wage."

In the second half of Gross's book, he tries to understand why conservatives care about this bias. Besides the fact that it is unfair to conservatives who want to become professors, the obvious answer is because many professors insert their political biases into their grading and teaching. Gross correctly answers this question on page three in his book's Introduction and should have stopped there, "Stick an impressionable twenty-year old in a classroom for fifteen weeks with a charismatic instructor who makes the case that conservatives are heartless or deluded and that the United States has evil designs, and the student is likely to veer left." Gross interviewed professors on whether they engage in political indoctrination, or "critical pedagogy." Two of fifty-seven professors he interviewed fully admitted they were guilty of it.

Yet Gross cannot understand the conservative mind, and wastes the second half of the book analyzing stereotypes and red herrings. Professor Grabar reviewed Gross's book and concluded, "Even as he attempts to look fair-minded, Gross presents caricatured pictures of conservatism."

Gross attempts to make conservatives look bad throughout the book, but much of it backfires. He asserts, "social conservatives tend to come from lower social class origins in the contemporary American context," and, "Professors tend to come from better educated, higher income families than other Americans." However, this just goes to validate the complaint by conservatives that academia is composed of elitist liberals who come from wealthy, connected families.

The good news is not all areas of study are heavily dominated by professors on the left. Economics, criminology, and engineering still have a significant portion of conservative professors, although not quite 50 percent.

To his credit, Gross has attempted to put some semblance of fairness into his book, by daring to expose real biases against conservative professors. And for that he was threatened by the very liberal establishment he is a part of. As a result of his audit study, "Two complained to my institutional review board, and one threatened legal action if his case was not removed from our data set (it was)." It is a sad day for academia when the left is not only shutting down conservatives, but also their own who are speaking up about the suppression of free speech and the free flow of ideas at the universities.

Rachel is the editor for intellectualconservative.com and an attorney.
 

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