Thursday, 21 August 2003

Discrimination in the academy

John Lemon has sparked an interesting discussion at Kevin Drum’s site about whether or not conservatives are discriminated against in academia. My two cents, from my end of the universe:

  1. I’ve seen surveys of political scientists, and their political beliefs as a whole are decidedly left-wing. (One such survey was made available at the 2003 MPSA convention, but I can’t seem to find a copy online.)
  2. There are relatively few self-identified conservatives in political science. I know one self-identified Republican, and he considers himself a liberal Republican—and he’s a Ph.D. student. There are probably a larger pool of either independent or libertarian-leaners in the academy, including my dissertation chair, but to my knowledge none of them have described themselves as Republicans either. I do know a few other students who have expressed sympathies that are consistent with conservatism.
  3. Conservatives and Republicans routinely receive abuse that, if directed at women or racial or ethnic minorities would be grounds for an EEOC lawsuit on the basis of a “hostile work environment.” For example, I have never heard a positive word about George Bush from anyone in a tenure-track job. In general the same goes for people with strong religious beliefs.
  4. There are probably subfields in which this matters more than others. I suspect—but have no evidence—that more empirically-oriented research programs are more accepting of conservatives, since there is less scope for personal political beliefs in such scholarship. (Speaking for myself, in general what I study is fairly divorced from left-right debates, although there are implications in terms of what we can expect from democracy.)
  5. I also suspect that this discrimination is less widespread the higher up the “prestige ladder” one goes in the discipline. I would be surprised if Ohio State, Rochester or Michigan denied someone tenure on the basis of their political beliefs, but I wouldn’t put it past Podunk State University.

What does this add up to? I’m not sure. But I’d be inclined to believe Lemon’s account.

Serendipity: Matthew Stinson at A Fearful Symmetry has some observations from a Florida State (not to be confused with Podunk State) perspective. And, the MinuteMan has more too…