Q: What is Heterodox Academy (HxA)?
A: An association of more than 1,200 professors and graduate students who are standing up publicly to say that viewpoint diversity—specifically political diversity—is necessary for the health of an institution such as a university that thrives on disagreement and challenge. All of us endorsed this pledge when we joined:
“I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”
Q: So are you a right-wing organization?
A: No. Fewer than 20% of our members identify as conservative. You can see the distribution of our membership here. Our largest category is moderates, followed by libertarians, then roughly equal numbers of progressives and conservatives. As far as we know, we are the most politically diverse and politically balanced large group or society of professors to be found anywhere in the academy.
Q: What does HxA actually do?
A: As an association of professors, we focus on analyzing a set of challenges facing the academy and recommending solutions. We collect the existing research (much of it conducted by our members). We have created a tool to help universities collect data for themselves (see our Campus Expression Survey). We have developed a tool that can help universities teach their students about viewpoint diversity—see our Open Mind resource. Although our focus is on viewpoint diversity and freedom of inquiry among the faculty, we offer a page of advice and resources for high school students who wish to select a university that will expose them to a range of political viewpoints.
Q: Is anyone actually listening to you?
A: Increasingly, yes. See our press page. Journalists and university presidents are increasingly drawing on our work to understand what is happening on campus, and to find ways to improve the intellectual climate of the academy.
Q: What is HxA’s position on all the various controversies and debates currently roiling universities?
A: HxA is an association of professors who signed the pledge above. Beyond that, we have no mechanism for polling our members and asking them to weigh in on the constant stream of controversies in academic life. We provide a platform on which our members can express their views. Given the extraordinary diversity of our members by politics and by academic specialization, we would have a great deal of difficulty reaching consensus on most controversial topics. So please don’t ask us to weigh in or declare our position as a group on the latest campus controversy or bill in a state legislature. We welcome blog posts from our members on such topics, but they speak for themselves, not for the HxA as a whole.
Q: I’m a professor and I want to improve the quality of my classroom discussions on politically sensitive topics, what can I do?
A: We have created a resource to foster open-mindedness and epistemological humility: the OpenMind initiative. It will soon be a standalone self-guided app which takes about 2 hours. You could assign students to do the app before a class that raises controversial topics. Class discussions should go much better. (The app includes measurement tools to find out if things really improved.) See also these ideas from HxA executive committee member Cristine Legare.
Q: I’m an administrator, dean, or college president, and I want to “pop bubbles” and improve the intellectual climate on my campus, what can I do?
A: You should figure out whether or not you have a problem with hostile climate and fear of speaking up, using the Campus Expression Survey. (See this post showing the kind of results it can give.) If so, then you should consider a series of clear statements from campus leaders on the need to address the problem, which might include using the OpenMind initiative as the summer reading for future incoming classes.
Q: I’m a college student and want my school to expose me and my peers to more political diversity, with better norms for open discussion of politically controversial topics. What can I do?
A: Try to find allies who are very clearly left of center and right of center. Find all the faculty who are members of HxA at your school. Then start talking to deans and administrators. See our page of resources for you here. Contact BridgeUSA, a growing network of students who want more viewpoint diversity at their colleges. Start a chapter on your campus.
Q: Can I join HxA?
A: If you are a professor or postdoc you may join as a full member by going to this page, which lists further eligibility requirements for part-time and adjunct professors. If you are a graduate student enrolled in a Ph.D. program, you may join as an affiliate member from that page too.
Q: What can i do to help if I’m not a professor or graduate student?
A: If you are a college graduate, write to the president of your college or to any development officers you know and urge them to attend to viewpoint diversity. Suggest that the college consider using our Viewpoint Diversity Experience as the summer reading for incoming students. Send them to this blog post. If you know of any high school students preparing to select a college, send them to this page. Promote schools that have a good heterodoxy score in our Guide to Colleges. And, you can share our content and join the conversation on our social platforms (Twitter or Facebook).