March 30, 2016

YES, CONSERVATIVE PROFESSORS EXIST: But a lot of them stay in the closet. My latest Bloomberg View column looks at the important new book, Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, which documents what life is like for right-of-center scholars in the social sciences and humanities.

Only the economists interviewed routinely expressed the conviction that their political convictions were irrelevant to their professional advancement and to the standards of research quality. (The authors seem surprised that right-of-center economists spoke highly of Paul Krugman’s scholarship, if not his New York Times columns.) Economics is also the only field Shields and Dunn studied where professors’ partisan affiliation mirror the general public’s. Marxists are more common in the social sciences and humanities than conservatives.

The modern academy pays lip service to diversity. Yet as a “stigmatized minority,” the authors note, right-of-center professors feel pressure to hide their identities, in many cases consciously emulating gays in similarly hostile environments. “I am the equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950,” a prominent full professor told Shields and Dunn. He’s still hiding because he hopes for honors that depend on maintaining his colleagues’ good will. “If I came out, that would finish me,” he said.

More often, conservatives follow Rossman’s strategy, hiding their views until they’re safely tenured. “Nearly one-­third of professors in the six disciplines we investigated tended to conceal their politics prior to tenure,” write Shields and Dunn. The number rises to nearly half when you exclude economics.

Tenure is, as intended, a politically incorrect scholar’s best friend. Read the rest here.

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