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Guidance on Describing Affiliation with HxA


In order to fully honor the needs of our membership, we invite members to give us feedback on these guidelines. Please submit any questions or thoughts you may have by December 1, 2019 to feedback@heterodoxacademy.org 

Heterodox Academy provides frameworks, data, tools and platforms to help people understand and address the challenges facing institutions of higher learning with respect to viewpoint diversity, open inquiry and constructive disagreement. However, reform does not occur simply in virtue of us providing these resources. Instead, institutional change happens when our members and sympathizers put them to use – acting in their local communities, in the classroom, at the institutions they are affiliated with, with colleagues in their disciplines, etc. HxA helps inspire, encourage, facilitate and amplify ideas and initiatives by our members and allies – who are themselves the actual agents of change.

Since our September 2015 launch, we have seen a radical increase in the number of people who are aware of the challenges HxA exists to address and are committed to doing something about these challenges. Scholars have launched research collaborations, working groups and events; they have developed pedagogical innovations; members have sought out ways to better institutionalize heterodoxy in everything from course syllabi, to job ads, to non-discrimination and diversity statements; they have been making their case to their colleagues and other academic stakeholders through public talks, publications and social media engagement.  And progress is being made as a result of their initiative, courage, hard work and perseverance.

However, as greater attention is being paid to the issues we are trying to address, as the movement continues to grow and incorporates a larger and more diverse array stakeholders, and as more and more efforts are being developed and launched without the direct involvement of HxA leadership (which is the goal!) – questions increasingly arise about how members and those inspired by our organization and its work should describe their relationship with Heterodox Academy, and the connections between HxA’s efforts and their own. Responding to this need, we have developed the following guidelines:

Panels, Conferences, Initiatives, Edited Volumes

HxA encourages the formation of cross-collaboration, local initiatives, disciplinary initiatives, etc. We hope to help foster more of these via our new HxDisciplines forums. However, we do not have ‘groups’ or ‘chapters’ or any kind of sub-entity for which there are separate spokespeople, parallel organizational structures, etc. Constellations of members, be it across a particular discipline, or in a given geographical region or institution, or working on a particular issue, or in a particular professional capacity (e.g., high school teachers), should take care not describe themselves as HxA chapters, etc., or suggest they in any way speak on behalf of HxA or some HxA sub-entity, or other members.  

Similarly, it will often be the case that initiatives, events or publications will be put together primarily or exclusively by Heterodox Academy members. This does not make them HxA initiatives, events, publications, etc. and they should not be described as such. These are your creations! Take the credit you deserve rather than ascribing it to us. But DO tell us about them. We love to celebrate or amplify members’ efforts as relevant, and to help provide models that other people can draw from. More broadly, we’re always eager for a deeper understanding of what our members are up to. Contact our Membership team (membership@heterodoxacademy.org) to keep us in the loop!

Because we hold a range of trademarks related to our name and our work, please reach out if you’d like to use the word “Heterodox” (or some derivative thereof) to describe a panel, event, collected volume, etc. that is inspired by our organization and its efforts.  We will review your request and, if it seems broadly consistent with our organizational mission and values, we will grant a license to use the mark free of charge for a particular instance. 

Critically, this would not amount to an endorsement by Heterodox Academy for the event or product itself, nor its organizers, nor its contents – it would merely indicate that we did not detect an obvious contradiction between that work and our own at the time the request was made. Hence, it would still be essential to ensure that the initiative, product or event was not described as, or implied to be, from Heterodox Academy, by HxA, approved by HxA, etc.

An example of someone doing this well:

There is an independently-organized and funded annual conference called “Heterodoxy in Psychology” – put together by HxA founding member Richard Redding and others. Many of our members, particularly those in psychology or adjacent fields, participate in the conference. However, Heterodox Academy played no role in organizing or sponsoring the event. Hence, it is explicitly emphasized on the event page that this is not an HxA event:

The Heterodoxy in Psychology Conference is an independent conference not organized or sponsored by Heterodox Academy or other entities. The content and views shared at this conference do not necessarily reflect the position or commitments of other organizations.

Open letters/ Statements

Philosophically, HxA leadership discourages open letters and collective statements on two grounds:

First, we view it as central to our mode of engagement that scholars should speak for and as themselves rather than appealing to collectives or hiding behind anonymity.  

Second, the reason a long list of signatories follows a statement, the reason people often try to get prominent members of the academy to sign an open letter, etc. – that is, the *work* that is supposed to be accomplished by the signatures — is to appeal to institutional power dynamics or sheer force of numbers to persuade, over and above whatever arguments or data may be contained in the letter (of which, generally, there is very little). As Jon Haidt put it, “Such letters are efforts to ‘win’ by applying social pressure — magnified by social media and (often) the news media — rather than using the proper method of the academy: reasoned argument.”

But we also appreciate that the use of this tactic (open letters, collective statements) is an issue about which there can be reasonable disagreement, and there is disagreement within our membership about the appropriateness and efficacy of taking such measures. Hence, the HxA leadership team has also offered guidance and best-practices (available here) for those whose conscience moves them to compose or otherwise take part in an open letter or collective statement.

However, we ask that if one signs onto such a statement they do it exclusively as a scholar affiliated with a given department or academic institution, not as a representative of HxA in any capacity. For instance, one should never sign a letter or statement as:

  • [NAME], Heterodox Academy
  • [NAME], Heterodox Academy member
  • [NAME], [UNIVERSITY], Heterodox Academy
  • [NAME], [POSITION] at [UNIVERSITY], Heterodox Academy member

Or any variation of this nature. This would, again, implicate Heterodox Academy or its other members into a position which they may not, in fact, support.

Op-eds and Media Inquiries

Heterodox Academy has a team of appointed research assistants, faculty fellows, and members of the leadership team who occasionally publish op-eds and list their institutional role at Heterodox Academy in their byline. However, these works are typically proposed, produced and workshopped within our writers’ group to ensure that they appropriately model our organizational values, do not violate our 501c3 status, and make a novel and valuable contribution to the public discussion on these issues. 

Many other HxA members also independently produce and publish op-eds and engage with the media. This is great! We strongly encourage our members and sympathizers to make the case for viewpoint diversity, open inquiry and constructive disagreement in op-eds, media interviews, public talks and other public forums – and to model our organizational values when engaged in the public sphere. We similarly encourage people to spotlight our data, tools, resources and initiatives – and to invite others to join – whenever it is sensible to do so.

However, please not add ‘HxA member’ to one’s byline for independently produced and published works, for instance:

[NAME] is a [POSITION] in [DEPARTMENT] at [UNIVERSITY] and a member of Heterodox Academy.

Although the intention behind such bylines may be to help drum up attention for the organization or signal pride in one’s membership – it also positions one as a representative or agent of Heterodox Academy. Consequently, many could gain the false impression that one’s independently-produced and published work was approved by the organization, or is representative of the views of HxA leadership or other members. This could be especially damaging when people are staking out a strong view on a controversial topic (which could alienate other members or potential members), or when engaged in activity that would violate our 501c3 status (i.e. arguing for or against any particular ballot initiative, political candidate, political party or business interest).

In a similar vein, journalists often turn to our member database to identify scholars who are engaged in interesting work in various fields or who could be quotable experts on various topics. If a journalist reaches out to you in virtue of your membership in HxA, or if Heterodox Academy otherwise comes up in the context of an interview, feel free to mention that you are a member – as long as you are, in fact, a member and are embodying the ‘HxA way’ in the interview itself. However, please emphasize that you are speaking for and as yourself, not as an agent of Heterodox Academy.

If a reporter asks for HxA’s position on a given topic, please do not purport to speak for the organization and impute a position to us. If they ask for information about the organization for which you are unsure of the answer, do not feel compelled to ‘guess’ or ‘wing it.’ Instead, please direct the journalist to our Academic Communication Director (media@heterodoxacademy.org) for more information about HxA or comments from HxA.

Social Media

We encourage all HxA members and sympathizers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to dive into the conversations on these forums, and to share the content that we post as desired. However, please do not put ‘@HdxAcademy member’ of any variation of this (@HdxAcademy) as part of one’s social media profile(s).

Again, while we understand and appreciate the intent to help raise interest about HxA and to signal pride in membership, the reality of the matter is that most of us are not engaging in the ‘HxA way’ in all of our social media interactions (although it would be great if we did!). Nor do most abstain from topics that could violate HxA’s 501c3 status in all of their social media posts (for instance, many argue for or against various political parties, candidates, policy proposals, business interests, etc.). Moreover, many personal opinions people express from their private social channels could alienate existing or potential members rather than appealing to them – and could create a false impression of what other members believe, or what HxA is about.

Hence, it is important not to give the impression that one is speaking as a representative of Heterodox Academy, or that one’s views on a given topic are characteristic of those of HxA or its membership, via one’s social media profile.  Consider: with an HxA affiliation declared on your profile, your most ill-considered tweet could be held up as representative of HxA. To those who do not know much about us, your worst tweet could be their first impression of the organization.

Membership Certificate

HxA will soon make available Membership Certificates to those who join, or have joined.  We invite our members to display these certificates proudly in their offices, labs, etc. as a signal to one’s students or peers within a higher-ed institution that one is committed to viewpoint diversity, open inquiry and constructive disagreement. This can help grant social permission for others to similarly stand up for these values, or to feel more confident in challenging orthodoxies.


Here, we have listed some of the common ways that people have sought to express affiliation or solidarity with Heterodox Academy, and provided guidance as to if or how they should go about that. Three core considerations informed our approach:   

First, it is a core principle of ours that people should speak for and as themselves rather than anonymously or via collectives – as described in greater detail on this page about the ‘HxA Way.’

Second, Heterodox Academy has over 3k members – faculty, administrators and grad students. Our members are affiliated with different types of institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad. They hail from a range of demographic and ideological backgrounds. Consequently, on most issues there will be a lot of internal disagreement. Out of respect for this pluralism, cognizant of the fact that members may have different views on the issue in question, or may not wish to be associated with a given argument or approach – it is important for members avoid representing themselves as speaking or acting as an agent of HxA per se when staking out some kind of controversial view. We are a big tent, and in most cases should be able to accommodate you and those who disagree with you about a given issue. Hence, it is important not to push one’s own views and approaches as, in any way, representing those of HxA as an organization or as being emblematic of any other HxA members. 

Finally, as a 501c3 not-for-profit organization we are forbidden from advocating for or against any ballot initiative, political party or politician, advocating for business interests of donors, etc — or allowing the impression of these things to happen (that is, we can be held responsible if it LOOKS like we are allowing these things). Those who claim affiliation with us, who are ostensibly acting as member of Heterodox Academy, while engaging in activity which violates our charter (i.e. praising or criticizing any particular ballot initiative, politician, political party, business, etc.) — could jeopardize our 501c3 status.

This guidance is not intended to exhaustive. If you have a question about a particular case, feel free to reach out to us (questions@heterodoxacademy.org) for more information.