Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Diversity has its limits

“Conservatives may be self-selecting out of graduate school, but they’re doing it on a rational basis,” he told me. “It’s become clear to them that they’re unlikely to succeed at the same level as someone going into these fields with more socially approved political convictions and attitudes.” They’re discouraged not by a letter from the director of graduate studies but rather by more subtle obstacles blocking the way to tenure, in Dr. Wood’s view. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education in March, he criticized liberal social scientists for failing to heed their own extensive research into bias. [...]

Dr. Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, asked more than 400 sociologists which nonacademic factors might influence their willingness to vote for hiring a new colleague. You might expect professors to at least claim to be immune to bias in academic hiring decisions.
But as Dr. Yancey reports in his new book, “Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education,” more than a quarter of the sociologists said they would be swayed favorably toward a Democrat or an A.C.L.U. member and unfavorably toward a Republican. About 40 percent said they would be less inclined to vote for hiring someone who belonged to the National Rifle Association or who was an evangelical. Similar results were obtained in a subsequent survey of professors in other social sciences and the humanities.
Dr. Yancey, who describes himself as a political independent with traditional Christian beliefs and progressive social values, advises nonliberal graduate students to be discreet during job interviews. “The information in this research,” he wrote, “indicates that revealing one’s political and religious conservatism will, on average, negatively influence about half of the search committee one is attempting to impress.”  
[...] If you were a conservative undergraduate, would you risk spending at least four years in graduate school in the hope of getting a job offer from a committee dominated by people who don’t share your views?
You might well select another career for yourself — but you wouldn’t exactly call it self-selection.
~"The Left-Leaning Tower," by John Tierney (in The New York Times)

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