We are a politically diverse group of social scientists and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines. We have all written about a particular problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” It’s what happens when everyone in a field shares the same political orientation and certain ideas become orthodoxy. We have come together to advocate for a more intellectually diverse and heterodox academy.
Note: By June 1, we will open up membership to all professors — anyone with a Ph.D. and an academic appointment. Professors: please check back with us then.
Recent Blog Posts
Owing to its huge impact on minorities, the 1994 Crime Bill is back on the table. Proponents of the law claim that it helped lead to a sharp reduction in crime, especially in minority communities. Opponents hold that the law supports America’s carceral state through the targeting of minorities, so that, like many other parts of our jurisprudence, the law is racist. Since Hillary Clinton supported, and Bernie Sanders actually voted for the bill, it follows, neither can be trusted. The charge of racism being especially inflammatory these days, it demands to be tested. To avoid the trap of presentism in doing so, we need to bring ourselves back a generation, something young activists obviously cannot do without some help. So here is National Book Award and McArthur Prize winner Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about his youth in Baltimore. To be black, then, was “to be naked, before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape and disease. The law did not protect us.” His memories of the time, he says, are filled with murder: “I remember being amazed that death could so easily rise up from the nothing of a boyish afternoon, billow up like fog.” In this setting, every day brought a “series of trick questions, and every incorrect answer risk[ed] a beat-down , a shooting, or a pregnancy. “ Read more →
Sociologist Neil Gross, who has studied ideology among academics, has an editorial questioning whether changes in hiring practices will have any impact.
The annual report from the U of Oregon’s Bias Response Team is available online.
In the Independent, university student Benjie Beer argues that marginalized groups will not be helped by censorship.
The Washington Post has a forum on what college students mean when they ask for safe spaces and trigger warnings. Scroll to the bottom to share your thoughts on safe spaces, trigger warnings, “coddling,” and generational change.Read more →
Although young people have long been hailed as more open-minded and politically tolerant than their parents and grandparents, there is evidence that this is no longer the case (see How Marcuse Made Todays Students Less Tolerant). The problem of political intolerance is clearly demonstrated on college campuses in recent months, as student groups clash over issues of immigration, race, and even support for presidential candidates. While debate and protests can be healthy displays of free expression, many of these efforts seem aimed at shutting down unpopular speech or punishing people with offensive viewpoints. In the past several months, scholars at Heterodox Academy have collectively made a compelling case that free speech at America’s colleges and universities does not enjoy the protected, valued status that a “marketplace of ideas” would demand. Read more →
Are college administrators unintentionally promoting narcissism by asking students to think about how they have been victimized by micro-aggressions? Howard Schwarz, professor emeritus of organizational behavior, contemplates this question in a new essay about micro-aggressions and the pristine self.
“When I arrive at college, I don’t wish to live in a safe space,” writes Mahad Olad, a rising freshman and self-identified activist. Olad criticizes several aspects of campus activism, including the use of identity as an argument and the assumption that all minorities share an ideology.
In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes about Olad and similar students, who been treated as treasonous by campus activists for being interested in heterodox viewpoints.
Read more →
Universities are among the most progressive and anti-racist institutions in American society. Many Americans therefore found it confusing to see dozens of our top universities racked by racial protests since last September. To add to the puzzle, many of the most high-profile actions occurred at universities widely perceived to be the most devoted to social justice and racial equality -– schools such as Brown, Yale, Amherst, Wesleyan, and Oberlin. What is going on? A simple resolution of the puzzle is the hypothesis that the anti-racist policies these schools pursue give rise, indirectly, to experiences of marginalization for black students.... In 1969, Judge Macklin Fleming wrote an extraordinary letter to the Dean of the Yale Law School warning that Yale's plan to drastically lower admission requirements for black students would backfire. Judge Fleming also predicted how future black students would react to the difficult situation they were placed into; he predicted in 1969 many of the specific demands that campus protesters are making in 2016. Read more →
We are indebted to Professor Russell Jacoby for his article “Academe is Overrun by Liberals. So What?” published in the April 1, 2016 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Although the article was intended to critique the inclusion of ideology as one element of higher education’s commitment to diversity, the piece inadvertently highlights the need for more political diversity on America’s college campuses. We should begin by disclosing that as a conservative, a libertarian and a liberal academic, we reflect a cross-section of faculty who promote the mission of Heterodox Academy. Our view is that Jacoby repeatedly gets the facts wrong in ways that reveal just how much the academy needs political diversity. Read more →
Here are two definitions of the word liberal: 1) Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values (Oxford Dictionaries) 2) A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. (Robert Frost) Nick Kristof exemplifies both definitions. He happens also to be on the left, politically, but many people on the left these days are not liberal by either definition. This is especially a problem in universities, which cannot function without people who are open to new ideas and who are willing to question their “side” when empirical evidence calls for that. The rising problem of illiberalism on campus is why we created Heterodox Academy in the first place. Many of us were therefore thrilled by Kristof’s column today in the New York Times: A Confession of Liberal Intolerance. Read more →
Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn, Sr. have an editorial in the WSJ, which summarizes what they discovered over the course of interviews with 153 conservative and libertarian professors. The editorial is a companion piece to their new book. The WSJ piece is gated, but some related pieces can be found here, here, and here. (WSJ, Japan Times, and Inside Higher Ed.) A report on diversity at Yale Law School has revealed a lack of both ethnic and political diversity among the school's faculty. And in the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf notes how the tools of campus activists can be used to stifle ....campus activists. Friedersdorf also has a piece about "concept creep," which explains why younger Americans are more sensitive to harm. (See Jon Haidt's related piece here.) Read more →
The Federalist Society held a conference last Friday on intellectual diversity in the academy, at Stanford law school. This echoes a similar conference the Society sponsored at Harvard Law in 2013. The Stanford meeting discussed recent research on the current state of viewpoint diversity by scholars like James Phillips and Jon Shields, a debate between Stanford law’s Michael McConnell and former Stanford law dean Larry Kramer (now head of the Hewlett Foundation), student views of these issues, and a round table on political correctness, including Heterodox Academy’s own Nick Rosenkranz. The conference was opened by current Stanford law dean Elizabeth Magill, an admirably pluralistic academic leader. Video and audio of the panels can be found here. Read more →
A new book by education professor Joanna Williams explores how changing ideas about the purpose of a university have altered the concept of academic freedom and provided a foundation for student censorship in the U.K. The book is called "Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the Fear of Knowledge" and Williams was recently interviewed by Inside Higher Ed. The book explores how changing ideas about the purpose of the university have altered the concept of academic freedom and provided a foundation for the student censorship movement in the United Kingdom. Read more →
This blog post contains resources related to a recent article published in The Guardian, by Jonathan Haidt and Nick Haslam, on campus censorship. That article explored the ramifications of an academic article by Haslam, on "Concept Creep." Haslam’s paper gives us one of the most powerful conceptual tools for understanding what is happening on American university campuses in the last several years, and on British campuses in the last year or so. Haslam shows that many of our most important moral concepts—such as bullying, trauma, and prejudice—have been “creeping” downward and outward to encompass so much of life, and such small exemplars, that vast swaths of what used to be considered normal human behavior are now seen either as pathological (requiring treatment) or as morally outrageous (requiring punishment). This is why it is becoming more difficult to live and work on college campuses -– the zone of acceptable speech and behavior is steadily shrinking, which chills free speech. Everyone is walking on eggshells. The article is long, but it is so important that I (Jon Haidt) have created a condensed version of it, to bring it out to a broader readership... Read more →
The AAUP reports that efforts to halt sexual harassment have had a chilling effect on speech. The NY Times article cites the cases of two professors Patti Adler (UC Boulder) and Laura Kipnis (Northwestern). Here’s the full report. A new blog The Conservative Social Psychologist has been launched on Psychology Today’s blog network by professor Robert Mather (University of Central Oklahoma). And the president of Emory University, James Wagner, has expressed his support for free speech after a nationally publicized incident at the university. The president of Princeton, Christopher Eisgruber, in response to a challenge, has also stated that Princeton is committed to free speech, and would even allow an event commemorating Osama Bin Laden if a campus group wanted to host one. Read more →
For some time now, the term stereotype has connoted one aspect of prejudice, and this linkage between stereotyping and prejudice isn’t altogether unfair. Most people can recall at least one instance when someone applied a stereotype to them, and assumed something that was both untrue, unflattering, and unfair. Nonetheless, there is another side to stereotypes—it can be rational to apply them when they’re generally true. For instance, young men are more likely to perpetrate violent crimes than young women, old men, or old women. Like most young men, I can recall when someone eyed me warily as I passed them on a city sidewalk late at night. While I posed no threat to them, their behavior didn't strike me as irrational, because the stereotype they were applying was quite sensible to apply under the circumstances. In social psychology, there has been an imbalance between the recognition that stereotypes can be both hurtful and accurate. Once the study of stereotypes became subsumed under prejudice research, stereotypes were assumed to be inaccurate. It was only in the 1980s that a very small group of social psychologists dared to measure whether at least some stereotypes were accurate. No sooner had this research been published than they were disparaged by critics who leveled numerous charges against them. Some of those charges were insubstantial insults, but an important charge, one that has persisted in the literature, is that stereotype accuracy is impossible to measure Read more →
College students on many American campuses are showing an extraordinary mix of fragility and anger that is puzzling to outsiders. The recent events at Emory University are a dramatic case: some students described themselves as being afraid and "in pain" after seeing "Trump 2016" written in chalk around campus. They went to see the president of Emory to demand that he take punitive and protective action. The story is now drawing international wonder and scorn. How can this be happening in the cradle of modern democracy? A surprisingly complete explanation of what is happening at Emory was offered by two sociologists in 2014 who described a new moral order they called "victimhood culture." It is essential reading for anyone interested in campus events -- particularly for current college students who are at risk of being turned into "moral dependents" by this rapidly spreading moral matrix. Read more →
A couple of weeks ago, Intelligence Squared US arranged a debate on the motion "Free speech is threatened on campus." If you caught our earlier blog post about it, you might have watched it live. If you missed it, here's the video and transcript. You can also get an audio-only version there or through the Intelligence Squared US podcast. Debating for the motion were Wendy Kaminer and John McWhorter, a Heterodox Academy member. Debating against the motion were Jason Stanley and Shaun Harper. In his opening statement, McWhorter pointed out that we do have boundaries for acceptable speech. We don't consider genocide and slavery to be debatable. But he points out the problem with the current climate: Our problem today is that we're being taught by many people that, that zone that genocide and slavery and women occupies is much more crowded than it is. Read more →
Charles Murray is the latest target for disinviting a speaker from campus. Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank, is scheduled to talk at Virginia Tech later this month, and some activists are critical that he was invited at all. They call him a “white nationalist” and say that he argues that “poor people, women, and especially black and brown peoples are genetically, psychologically and intellectually inferior to upper- and middle-class, white men.” Tim Sands, Virginia Tech’s president, responded by defending the invitation, but in terms that remind us why free speech works best if it is accompanied by greater viewpoint diversity. In an open letter to the VA Tech community, Sands cites Murray’s “controversial and largely discredited work linking measures of intelligence to heredity, and specifically to race and ethnicity – a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.” Read more →
Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn, both members of Heterodox Academy, suggest that conservative professors have figured out how to thrive in academia, and their research shows that conservative in academia don’t feel as beleaguered as some people think.
Fredrick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute attempts a rebuttal here.
In a different op-ed, Shields and Dunn also suggest some reforms to make it more likely for conservatives to be hired and retained in academia.
Read more →
Glenn Custred, professor emeritus of anthropology at UC East Bay, summarizes how the social currents of the 1960 became institutionalized in social and cultural anthropology: Beginning in the 1960s, a movement developed in academia with the aim of transforming scholarly pursuits into instruments of social change. It was motivated by intellectually fashionable ideas, such as Marxism and feminism, and by a trendy antipathy towards Western Civilization in general. Eventually it overwhelmed the humanities and deeply affected the social sciences. The impact of the movement on my field, anthropology, was varied, since anthropology, with its four sub-disciplines, spans the range of scholarly activity from the physical sciences through the social sciences to the humanities. Three of those sub-disciplines (archeology, physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology) have remained mostly unscathed by the efforts to transform anthropology into another politically correct university outpost. But the largest of the four, sociocultural anthropology (the study of social and cultural variation around the world), has been greatly distorted. It has been redefined from a science to an instrument of political ideology. Custred draws on the familiar story of Napoleon Chagnon, but also cites a more recent call for "militant" anthropology. Read the whole thing here. Read more →
As recently as November of last year, I considered myself a progressive, left-leaning liberal. I picked up Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind while trying to make sense of the recent protests at Yale University. I had read about the overwrought response to Dr. Erika Christakis' Halloween email, and was horrified by the video footage of the student screaming profanities at Dr. Nicholas Christakis. If I had ever behaved that way towards a professor, my parents would have refused to speak to me until I wrote a letter of apology, and read it aloud in front of the entire school. Naively, I assumed that all right-thinking people would agree with me that the student's behavior was unacceptable, and the whole situation ridiculous. Then I got into a few debates with liberal friends, and found that they sided with the student. I was accused of not caring about racism, and even of wanting to allow Klan hoods and blackface on the Yale campus. It was surreal, finding myself standing to the right in a political argument for the first time since high school. Read more →
Watch it streaming here at 6:30 PM EST:
The motion is “Free speech is threatened on campus.” The participants are Yale professor Jason Stanley, civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer, Columbia professor and author John McWhorter, and University of Pennsylvania professor Shaun Harper.Read more →
To increase viewpoint diversity in the academy, with a special focus on the social sciences.