Well this came as a bit of a shock. A new study by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, two psychologists from the Netherlands, found that liberal professors admitted they would discriminate against openly conservative peers in both hiring and in advancement.
Even the authors of the study were surprised by the candid responses provided by the professors. Inbar (a former Obama campaign volunteer) stated that, “Usually you have to be pretty tricky to get people to say they’d discriminate against minorities.”
This study is troubling for a variety of reasons, and provides a unique glimpse into the mind of the average college professor.
The first cause for concern is the open way in which professors said they would discriminate against a conservative colleague. If a professor admitted they would openly discriminate against a colleague who was a certain religion/ethnicity, they would be fired and blacklisted from academe. On the other hand, discriminating against someone with a different world view is seen as socially acceptable in the modern university.
The second part of this study begs the question: what does this mean for conservative students? If their professors willingly admit that they’d discriminate against conservative professors, does this mean that they’ll also extend those prejudices out against conservative students?
The third aspect is that the study found that the professors who identified as being the most liberal and willing to discriminate, were also more likely to deny that conservatives face a hostile climate in universities. This demonstrates a cognitive dissonance amongst those professors. Clearly some sort of hostility must be faced by conservatives if they are personally discriminating against them.
With a few exceptions, conservative professors are already a rarity on college campuses. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of political donations from professors at America’s top university’s go to liberal candidates. Approximately 40% of the population of the United States holds conservative beliefs, but only 5% of college professors identify as conservative.
College is supposed to be a place where students learn a variety of ideas and learn how to be prepared for working in the real world. If a student never encounters the conservative viewpoint, then they are cheated of a complete education.
Discrimination against people for their skin tone, religious beliefs, or ethnic heritage is wrong and would never be tolerated. The same should be true for political ideology. If a person is a capable professor, they should be hired—regardless of their political standpoint.
Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @CRousselle