Monday, March 01, 2021

Chad Kaufman: Academic Freedom Is Withering

   None of this should surprise anyone in academia:
   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. Some 75% of American and British conservative academics in social sciences and humanities say their departments offer a hostile climate for their beliefs. Nearly 4 in 10 American centrist faculty concur. This produces a chilling effect that results in self-censorship: I found that merely 9% of Trump-supporting academics say they would feel comfortable expressing their political beliefs to a colleague. Their progressive counterparts admit as much, with only 14% of all U.S. academics saying a Trump supporter would feel comfortable expressing his beliefs. In Britain, only 18% of Brexit-supporting academics would feel comfortable sharing their views, even though 52% of the British electorate supported Brexit.
   Fully 7 in 10 conservative American academics say they self-censor in their teaching, research or academic discussions. Conservative scholars shy away from asking questions that go against the progressive consensus out of fear for their careers. This chilly climate is picked up by conservative and centrist students, which in turn influences the pipeline of who continues on to graduate school and the professoriate.


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