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moral disagreement

Three Strategies for Navigating Moral Disagreements

We in America and Western Europe, and by now many other places in the world, have this idea of people as fundamentally rational. On this account, our profound cognitive abilities are designed to help us discover objective truths about the world through logical argument and empirical observation. Contemporary research in cognitive science, psychology and related..


Princeton, The N Word and Students: An opportunity for learning

Princeton University professor Lawrence Rosen, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology, found himself as the latest professor in the national spotlight when The Princetonian reported that several students walked out of his class after Rosen repeatedly used the n-word as part of an opening session exploring the nature of social taboo. As Inside Higher..


Why I’m Leaving the Academy in Order to Help Save it

Dear Members of Heterodox Academy, I landed my dream job in 2005.  For the past 13 years I have been on the faculty at Harvey Mudd College, an elite liberal arts school with an intense focus on the STEM disciplines. Every single day I get to work alongside incredible students and colleagues–faculty, staff, and administrators–who..

columbia philosophy

A Tale of Two Columbia Classes

Of the seven philosophy courses I’ve taken at Columbia so far, not a single one has operated even close to this way––philosophy professors are always the first to point out logical weaknesses, strong counterarguments, and alternative points of view, even when they fundamentally agree with the course material. In this class, I got the sense that the professor was wedded to the material, such that a critique of the material would have been synonymous with a critique of her. As hyperbolic as this might sound, voicing a strong pushback against any idea that the Professor favored was nearly unthinkable.

2017 End of Year Letter

Dear Members and Friends of HxA:

2017 was another astonishing year for those who care about universities, and another extraordinary year for Heterodox Academy. First, the universities. This year we saw an increase in intimidation tactics, uncivil behavior, and actual violence on campus. Most alarmingly, students joined with local activists to use violence as a tool to stop unwanted speakers, first at UC Berkeley and then at Middlebury College…. but the left had no monopoly on intimidation tactics…
2017 was a year of extraordinary growth and success for us. Here are a few stats and achievements for the year… Here are just a few of the initiatives we will roll out in 2018 to support these priorities…

Stigmatizing Legitimate Dissent Threatens Freedom of Speech

By: Dr. Lee Jussim, founding member of Heterodox Academy and Akeela Careem, PhD Candidate in Social Psychology at Rutgers University In this essay, we discuss Spiked’s Unsafe Spaces event, held at our home institution, Rutgers.  It was, at times, a wild and woolly event, complete with a substantial security presence, Black Lives Matter activists, some..

Lindsay Shepherd and the Potential for Heterodoxy at Wilfrid Laurier University

By: Raffi Grinberg, co-Director of Heterodox Academy’s OpenMind Platform The audio recording of a recent meeting at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Canada has captured the academic world’s attention. A teaching assistant named Lindsay Shepherd was reprimanded by her supervising professor, as well as a “manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support” and one other..

Faculty Responsibility for On-Campus Policy Debates with Diverse Viewpoints

A team of graduate students and I have just completed research on the topics and participants in on-campus debates or forums with divergent viewpoints in 24 policy areas. The issues cover everything from more abstract subjects such as constitutional government, federalism and separation of powers to more specific hot button subjects such as policies about guns, immigration, and abortion. While the focus was on national issues, local policies that were the subject of campus forums with divergent viewpoint were also included.

Jonah Gelbach Responds to Amy Wax and Jon Haidt

[Guest post by Jonah Gelbach] As is by now well known, my Penn Law colleague Amy Wax recently co-authored a controversial op-ed published at Philly.com with University of San Diego law professor Larry Alexander; for brevity, which is in short supply in this post, I’ll generally call this just the “op-ed” and refer to it as Professor Wax’s, except when it is especially relevant to refer to Professor Alexander. Professor Wax subsequently gave an interview to the Penn student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, which led to an article that fueled the controversy; henceforth, I’ll call this the “DP interview”. Much more has transpired, including a number of critical columns and other statements, as well as various tweets and posts in support of Professor Wax and articles with quotes from or extended interviews with Professor Wax.

This post will focus principally on the op-ed and the DP interview, as well as an open letter to the Penn community that I signed along with 32 other colleagues of Professor Wax’s; henceforth, I’ll call this the “Open Letter”. As a matter of full disclosure, I note that I was the organizer of this letter and took ultimate responsibility for creating and finalizing its contents. [There is a brief response from Haidt at the end]

I Don’t Care if Amy Wax Is Politically Incorrect; I Do Care that She’s Empirically Incorrect

I was one of the 33 members of the University of Pennsylvania Law School faculty to sign a letter criticizing Amy Wax’s (joint with Larry Alexander) op-ed and subsequent comments regarding the decline of bourgeois culture and its role in America’s perceived social ills. Was this the predictable response of a morally squishy, politically correct, ivory tower academic lefty who is unwilling to endorse unspeakable truths for fear of being bounced from faculty cocktail parties? I can understand this presumption, but, in my case, I prefer going to my kids’ football games to chatting about Derrida over wine and cheese anyway… [I believe that] Wax’s arguments come up lacking when judged by rigorous empirics.

In Defense of Amy Wax’s Defense of Bourgeois Values

Since 2015 we’ve seen an increase in petitions and movements to denounce professors. Typically a professor says or writes something, then a group of students protests. The students demand that the professor be censured or renounced by the university administration, or by his or her colleagues. The event is amplified by social media and by secondary, agenda-driven news outlets, pressuring other professors to take sides and declare themselves publicly. (There is a different script for pressure from right-wing sources off-campus).

The two highest profile cases so far involved Erika and Nicholas Christakis, at Yale, and Bret Weinstein, at Evergreen. We also had the case of Rebecca Tuvel, a philosopher at Rhodes College, in which the pressure campaign did not come from students but rather from other professors.  In all of these cases the professor in question was on the left politically, and had said something that most professors did not find offensive. As far as I can tell, most professors outside of the immediate conflict zone supported the accused professors, thought it was inappropriate to subject them to punishment of any kind for what they said or wrote, and thought that these denunciation campaigns ultimately reflected badly on the academy.

Now, in late August, we have a case that may play out differently because the professor in question is a conservative who has made a conservative argument about poverty and culture. She made the argument a few days before the events in Charlottesville. Students at Penn have demanded that the university denounce her, and many of her colleagues did so.