Revisiting “Compromising Scholarship”

Three years ago my book Compromising Scholarship was published. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first systematic documentation of political and religious academic bias. Since then, other information on this topic has come out, and I have had a chance to see responses to the book. Based on both this new information and these responses, I have become even more convinced that this bias, particularly as it concerns conservative Christians, is a real problem. I have also come to the conclusion that this will be a very hard bias to overcome – if we ever are going to be able to overcome it. I take this occasion to revisit that book and look at this issue in light of the new information I have gained in the last few years.

First, let me examine the reaction to the book. A few individuals have pointed out the low response rates of my surveys. That was a problem I dealt with in the book where I showed that the results are not due to the social dynamics of my sample differing from demographic makeup in academia. There are researchers who have debated whether low response is the problem; some say that it is, but the power of my findings strongly suggests that low response rate bias is not a serious problem to the overall results.

Other than a couple of mentions about the response rate, there are two other criticisms of the work. First, some have argued that this one study does not prove that academic bias is a problem. I will go into more depth about this critique later when I discuss other work supporting my argument. Second, some have argued that even if there is a bias that this is not important since Christians, especially conservative Christians, are not suited for academic work. I saw many such claims in comment sections in online articles about the book and in response to a video I made about the book and some of my other work.

The implication of this argument is that religious discrimination is okay. That is quite disturbing. But perhaps it is not a surprise. Whenever a social group mistreats an out-group there is a need to find legitimation for that mistreatment. Is it true that Christians are not suited for academic work? It is possible that anti-intellectual trends in some Christian circles results in some Christians being less open to academic work. However, having a contrasting epistemological framework can also allow Christians to bring ideas into academia that are normally ignored. Having individuals who are nonconformist to the current scholarly paradigms can provide new fruitful academic directions. The argument that Christians are not suited for academic work can be used to suppress voices challenging the academic status quo. Part of my disappointment in my findings is the loss to science when voices that do not comport with the current scholarly fashions are silenced.

But even if those voices do not contribute to science, bias against someone seeking a place in academia due to their religious beliefs is just wrong, even if we believe their religious beliefs to be wacky. I do not expect everyone who works around me to agree with my religious and political viewpoints. Unless I am working in a ministry where promotion of a certain religious perspective is one of the main objectives of the job, then it would be wrong for me to not hire someone who disagrees with my religious perspectives. This moral truth seems so self-evident that I scarcely see a need to defend it.

However, there may be a need to assert that anti-religious discrimination is wrong since there is an assumption by some that Christian scholars bring their faith into their work. The implication is that a Christian professor cannot help but promote his/her faith in scholarship and teaching instead of doing quality work based upon data. My response to that claim is that all scholars bring their beliefs into their work. As I stated in a former blog, objectivity is a myth. What I find curious is that there is a worry about objectivity when a scholar or potential scholar is a Christian but not if that person is a Marxist, homosexual or feminist etc. I would argue that given the atmosphere of skepticism against traditional religion in academia, a Christian scholar is more likely to be challenged on his/her own belief system than those with a more secular and/or humanist perspective and thus more likely to engage in introspection than other scholars. This said Christian has to be willing to challenge his/her belief system since it is clear that other scholars will challenge it when that professor presents research or uses a given pedagogical approach. If I am right then Christian scholars are more likely to work at being unbiased than other scholars.

As stated earlier I have found work supporting my argument about academia bias. Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers also did a survey of 800 social and personality psychologists finding that they are willing to discriminate against political conservatives when it comes to hiring, reviewing papers, reviewing grant proposals and invitations to a symposium. Furthermore, Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter (See their chapter “The Vanishing Conservative” in The Politically Correct Univeristy) found that cultural conservative academics tend to work at jobs that are lower status than would be expected given their achievements and qualifications. Finally, there are case studies such as the trial of Mike S. Adams revealing what happens when this bias flairs up from behind closed doors. Kandy Kyriacou and Ojoma Omaga sued Peralta Community College when they were punished for praying for an ill professor. Another example can be seen in the case of Jennifer Keeton who faced pressure from professors for her traditional Christian-based views on sexuality.

To be fair, Neil Gross provides some evidence that directors of graduate programs do not discriminate against political conservatives. However, I pointed out some weaknesses of his approach in an earlier blog. Furthermore, he only looked at political bias and in Compromising Scholarship I found bias against religious conservatives to be more powerful than bias against political conservatives.

This leads me back to the question of whether my study proves that academic bias is a problem. I argue that my study in and of itself shows that bias against religious, and to a lesser extent political, conservatives is a problem. I found that slightly less than half of all academics stated that they were less willing to hire a job candidate if they found out that the candidate was a fundamentalist and only a slightly smaller percentage were less willing if they found out the candidate was an evangelical. I only have to point out that if we found such percentages less willing to hire a candidate if that candidate was Jewish, Muslim or atheist that we would rightly look at the problems of religious bias in academia. Should we be less concerned if the candidate is a conservative Protestant?

The additional research lends even more power to that argument. We not only have a survey indicating that academics are less willing to hire from a certain religious group, but we have case studies where it appears that bias is a problem and evidence that cultural conservatives, who are highly likely to be members of this group, may not receive as much of a return on academic achievements as other individuals. Once again if we were talking about, well name your favorite non-Christian religious group, having professors talk about not willing to hire them, cases where it is likely they were discriminated against and evidence that they face systematic, structural disadvantages in their job placement, then it is highly unlikely that individuals would state that there is no evidence of discrimination and prejudice. If there is discrimination against a group by highly educated academics, who are highly motivated to hide overt signs of bias, the evidence noted above is what I would expect to find.

What is of real interest is the double standard that snaps into play when the subject of anti-Christian bias comes up. Some argue that unless we have people overtly stating that they will not hire someone because they are a Christian or that a person cannot get tenure because they are a Christian then we have not PROVED anti-Christian bias. By that standard we have not PROVED contemporary anti-black bias in most institutions as educated individuals know not to be blatant with their biases. In one of my blogs, one person commented that unless there are “Christian need not apply” signs that we have not proven bias. Do we have any modern “Blacks need not apply” signs out there today? How often do we have people who overtly state that they will not hire or promote African-Americans? I, and other race scholars, clearly know that we have problems of racial bias even today and yet we do not have the type of evidence demanded by critics of my work. Critics of the notion of academic bias demand far more evidence for that bias than what is provided to show racism, sexism, homophobia etc. in our social institutions.

So three years after the publication of Compromising Scholarship, I am more confident that religious, and to a lesser extent political, academic bias is a real problem. However, I am less confident that it is a problem that will be solved in the foreseeable future. Previous research has shown that conservative Protestants are quite underrepresented in academia. Given that those with a more secular perspective are overrepresented, those with anger towards and contempt towards Christians, particularly conservative Christians, have more power in academia than those Christians. While Christians have social advantages in other important sectors in society, they have a marginalized position in academia. This reality is a blind spot for many scholars. When I did the research and wrote that book, I hoped that pointing out such blind spots would raise enough concern that there would be those who would work towards creating a more equitable environment. I did not expect overnight results, but I thought that there would be recognition of the problem which would be the first step towards finding lasting solutions. I realize now that I was naïve. Academics, even those who study issues of power and its abuses, are just as willing to legitimate the use of power over marginalized groups when it concerns groups they do not particularly like. A willingness to punish out-groups one does not like may be a universal quality that does not know political and social boundaries.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. History has shown us that when groups have power over others that it is difficult for the members of the powerful group to perceive this power as a problem. Social scientists should be able to recognize good evidence of bias. But the evidence of double standards indicates that when it comes to looking at those that scholars likely perceive as out-groups, they seem as vulnerable to social and cognitive biases as others in our society. One may hope that academics would be more knowledgeable about dynamics of social power and more sensitive about using that power over out-group members who are in subordinate positions in the institutions they control. But everything I have seen indicates that academics are not immune to using social power in unfair ways against groups they do not like. My hope now is that in time academics will engage in the self-introspection necessary to fully address some of the issues that Compromising Scholarship has brought out. But that hope has waned over the last three years.

God is Not Dead and This is Not What Anti-Christian Animosity Looks Like

It is quite dangerous to talk about a movie one has not yet seen. Indeed I want to make very clear that this is not a movie review. I have not seen God is not Dead and I cannot comment on the acting, directing, camera work etc. If anyone wants to say Kevin Sorbo deserves an Oscar for his performance, I have no basis to argue with him/her. The only thing I want to evaluate is the main premise of the movie which has been widely discussed in Christian circles. That premise is in an area of my expertise; thus, I feel comfortable commenting on it.

As you may have heard, the main premise of the movie is that a student is asked by his philosophy professor to write “God is Dead” on a sheet of paper. He refuses. This angers the professor who tells him that if he cannot convince his classmates that God exists then he will fail the course. In the fashion of Hollywood the student triumphs in the end. I am not going to deal with the ending, which is a problem in itself since professors have so much control in their classrooms that a student will not triumph if the professor does not want him to, but I will merely deal with the premise that this Christian kid would put his grade at risk by refusing to deny the existence of God.

The problem with that premise is that it is unrealistic. I am not opposed to suspending reality when watching movies. I saw a couple of days ago the trailer to the upcoming X-Men movie Days of Future Past. I am salivating like Pavlov’s dog waiting for that movie to come out. Yet I know that mutations cannot give us such tremendous superhuman abilities. It is fairly clear to most of us that what happens in X-Men, or just about any other superhero, movie is not possible. I highly doubt anyone leaves the theater of the X-Men movie worrying about Magneto taking over the world. Suspending reality is part of what allows us to be entertained. The problem develops when the movie intends to tell us a story portrayed as realistic when in fact it is not realistic. The way some talk about God is Not Dead is problematic because they talk about it as if the premise really can occur in our contemporary society when I know this is not the case.

Why am I so sure that a professor would not threaten to fail a student who did not affirm atheism? Well, the first reason I am confident this would not happen is because the student would sue the teacher and university. Furthermore, I am pretty certain the student would, and should, win. Cultural progressives have been criticized about caring about freedom of worship and not truly caring about freedom of religion. But even if this criticism is accurate such progressives would defend the right of a student to believe any religion he or she chooses. What good is freedom of worship if a person is not even allowed to accept whatever religious belief he or she wants? So even if a professor wanted to force atheism on students, the legal system would not allow that professor to get away with it.

But there is even a more basic reason why the premise in the movie is not realistic. This premise misunderstands how individuals with anti-Christian hatred tend to think. Such individuals do not engage in overt expressions of religious bigotry. Such expressions would violate their stated values of religious neutrality. Part of their argument against Christians is that Christians are attempting to force others to adopt their religion. An overt attempt to punish those who do not accept atheism would be such a clear case of hypocrisy that they would not be able to maintain claims of religious neutrality. So even if the professor did not fear a legal lawsuit, it would be highly unlikely that the professor would directly tie a student’s grade to religious beliefs. This would rob the professor of a great deal of legitimacy he has for hating Christians and Christianity.

This is not to say that people who dislike Christians are unable to punish Christians. I do not argue that anti-Christian hatred or bigotry is merely the imagination of Christians. I have done the research documenting the reality and nature of this type of religious intolerance (some of which will come out in a book I currently have under contract). The way those with anti-Christian hatred attempt to punish Christians is more indirect than failing those who do not give up their faith. I liken it to a concept in race/ethnic literature known as symbolic racism. This occurs when whites who do not like people of color use an issue with symbolic meaning to punish those people of color as long as the issue contains non-racial justifications. For example, there are non-racial reasons for wanting tough immigration laws. However, those who do not like Hispanics can also desire tough immigration laws simply because of an antipathy towards Hispanics. The nonracial justifications tied to tough immigration laws allow them to support those laws without fears of being labeled a racist. Likewise, antipathy towards Christians can lead to support of legal and public policies with a disparate impact on Christians as long as a non-bigoted reason can be tied to those policies. Support of such policies and engaging in indirect religious discrimination is much more likely from those with anti-Christian disaffection than overt religious discrimination.

I point this out because it is important for Christians to recognize how those who hate them think. I fear that movies like God is Not Dead paint a picture of secular humanists willing to engage in activities such as putting people in jail for their beliefs or closing down churches. That may have happened in certain totalitarian societies but it is not happening here, nor do I see it happening for at least the foreseeable future. Constructing unrealistic boogey men about those with anti-Christian animosity inhibits the ability of Christians to have productive conversations with such individuals and work out solutions that respect the rights of both Christians and non-Christians. These stereotypes also create unnecessary fears about actions unlikely to occur, leading to unfounded claims of persecution, when instead conservative Christians would be better off dealing with realistic problems that anti-Christian antipathy does create.

I suspect that some Christians are pushing this movie because they are tired of being portrayed badly in Hollywood movies. I sympathize with such individuals as I do think there is a fair argument to be made about anti-Christian stereotyping in the media. Having a movie where the Christian is the hero with positive personal characteristics is likely a sight for sore eyes to such Christians. As long as they suspend reality as they watch the film there is nothing any more wrong with Christians cheering on a Christian character in a movie than a black cheering on a black character or a Jew cheering on a Jewish character. Others may argue that Christians should attend this movie because there are so few movies out there that buttress the values of Christians. If Christians do not support movies with a positive Christian theme then we can expect even fewer of these movies in the future. That is a fair enough argument and I would not mind seeing more positive Christian movies. But I fear that such Christians will not see this movie in the way I will watch that X-men movie and will be duped into believing that Christians face as much persecution in society today as they did in biblical times. Atheist professors are not going around intentionally flunking Christian students for their beliefs. I have previously written on the misuse of the concept of persecution by Christians and will not rehash those arguments here. However, it is clear that we do not need more efforts to misled Christians into accepting a persecution belief.

Some Christians have argued that this is a great movie since it will help other Christians to become more involved in apologetics. Seeing a student argue with a professor, and win that argument, may help Christians to more seriously consider the sources of their faith. I would welcome such changes as I believe that Christians, and other individuals, should engage in the cognitive activities necessary to investigate the underpinnings of their epistemological beliefs. Although I have chosen to not engage in theological and apologetic arguments with my blog writings, I am quite intellectually comfortable with my Christian faith and do not fear an honest interrogation of it. That lack of fear comes from truthfully engaging in the presuppositions buttressing that faith. I welcome the message that Christians should engage in a serious, open-minded investigation of their beliefs and if this movie happens to encourage that investigation then it is a message I heartily support.

Right now I am not planning on actually watching this movie in the near future. There are too many other movies (i.e. Days of Future Past) out there or coming out there I want to see. I will probably wait to see the movie when it comes on television or at best when it is at the dollar theater. So there are no plans for me to do a longer movie review that not only looks at the theme discussed in this blog but also evaluates the quality of the movie. There will be plenty of other individuals eager to provide that review. I want my Christian brothers and sisters to enjoy the movie if they so desire. All I ask is that we leave the characterizations of the professor’s actions in the theater and not believe that these actions are likely to happen in real life. Maintaining such a healthy attitude will help them to be prepared to deal with anti-Christian animosity in the real ways it manifests itself in our society.

Media Matters but Not as Much as Propaganda

Well quite a bit has happened since my last blog. This month I had an article come out in Academic Questions. In that paper I did a critical analysis of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to illustrate one of the consequences of the political imbalance in academia – that progressive organizations generally do not have to undergo critical scrutiny from academics. I have published a little thought piece before in this journal and not much attention was paid to that article. I felt that the same thing would happen this time. I was wrong.

I was contacted by Austin Ruse who was guest hosting for the Sandy Rios Show and asked to do an interview on the article. I agreed and spent about 20 minutes last Thursday being interviewed by Mr. Ruse. I have been interviewed before and so I thought nothing of it when I then proceeded to work on my latest project. Evidently the interview had some impact. It was picked up by several conservative outlets and one of them made the article, which had been behind a pay window, available to the readers. I think that is where Media Matters (MM) found the article.

MM works pretty quickly. They put up a page refuting me the same day of the interview. But professors know that the first student to turn in a test often does not do the best work. Sadly, this is the case for MM. I debated whether I should spend my time showing the flaws in the MM presentation but what tipped the scales for me was that I discovered that several other progressive organizations also were taking the MM article and reprinting it word for word on their website. Evidently they decided to outsource their critical thinking. Given the quality of the MM review of my work, they should reconsider their choice of materials to showcase on their websites.

Okay there were four major points made about my critical review, and so let me deal with them with a 4 point response.
1. The first complaint is that my work is not a systematic study. I never said it was a study. I always represented this as critical analysis. It is in the spirit of the types of critical analyses we see all the time in Black Studies, Women Studies and Gay/Lesbian Studies programs. What I did was question the type of criteria used by SPLC that results in the designation of the Family Research Council as a hate group but not a progressive group, such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that used the same type of derogatory language . I suggest that the target of the group “hated” – homosexuals as opposed to conservative Christians was the best explanation for the different treatment. But I did not do a comprehensive study, and I even corrected Mr. Ruse on the air when he said it was a study.

To be fair, MM may have reacted to the titles of some of the conservative websites who used “study” in the title. I cringed a little when I saw that. But I do not have control over some of the titles of books I have written, over this recent article on Christianity Today (which I thought was a little too confrontational) and certainly not over other websites writing about my work. If MM is merely trying to clarify that this is not a formal study, given those titles, then I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but I clearly have not represented the work in this particular paper as a study.

2. But where I cannot give them the benefit of the doubt is their argument about black separatists. They point to the black separatist groups as evidence that non-conservative groups are held accountable. They make it sound as if I did not know this and did not put it in my article. Although I knew I put it in the article, I figured I must have just had it in a footnote. They may have missed that footnote which is unprofessional considering that they were critiquing the paper but an understandable mistake. Yet three times I mentioned black separatists in the article; twice in the main body of the text and once in the footnotes. If MM bothered to fully read the article there is no way they could have missed this fact. Instead they chose to write this response in a way to make it seem like I ignored the black separatists. That is more than unprofessional. That is deceitful.

So let us look at why the black separatist issue does not refute my basic premise that potential progressive hate groups are ignored by SPLC. If we take the SPLC center at its word, the only progressives, or perhaps more accurately nonconservatives, who may be involved in hate are blacks. So non-conservative ideology is sufficient for keeping whites from acting out in hate but not blacks. Really? Whenever we say that only blacks can do bad things, there is a word for that sort of sentiment- racism. Now I really do not think that SPLC is racist and I hate throwing around the racism card when it is not warranted. What I think happened is that members of the SPLC tend to be white progressives and they have a hard time envisioning people like themselves are capable of hatred. The black separatists are far enough away from them so that they can see them as a hate group but certainly not white progressives. That is why there are no mostly white progressive groups on their Hatewatch list. It is not due to the fact that there are no hateful white progressive groups (as I pointed out in the article), but it is due to the social position of the leaders of SPLC. But if they would like to reject my explanation and just say that it is racism then go ahead and have fun with that one.

3. The next complaint lodged at me is that I am not neutral. Guilty as charged. Guess what? The scholars MM cites are not neutral either. In fact if any graduate student in sociology after his/her first year in classes believes that scientists are completely objective then they have either not paid attention in their classes or have bad professors. Scientific objectivity is a myth. I do not think that I am any more biased than the average scientist but all scholars have been affected by social and personal biases.

But just when I think the MM may actually have a decent point, they have to try to prove the point with a “quote” from an interview I did for the Christian Post a year ago. Here is their quote “…he (that would be me) denounced what he called the often ‘downright hateful’ views of cultural progressives, asserting that many liberals’ views are ‘born out of fear and irrationality.’” I did not remember saying things quite that way, so I took the time to look up that quote. Here is what I really said in the context of the question asked of me.

CP: As you were doing this research, did you find yourself empathizing with cultural progressives at any point?
Yancey: Sometimes I was and sometimes I thought what they said was born out of fear and irrationality and was downright hateful. I understand some of their concerns and they’re acting out of some of the fears that they have developed.

Can you see the slight of hand? MM stated that I was arguing that many liberals’ view are downright hateful and born out of fear and irrationality when in fact what I said was that some of the statements of the respondents in my research were downright hateful, fearful and irrational. I am not a journalist but is this not what they call taking a comment out of context? I thought it was unethical to do that but I guess MM disagrees with me.

Now the author of the MM piece has no idea of what statements I was referring to. I am going to use some of them in a book I am working on that is currently under contact. But here are a few statements directed at the Christian Right that in my “non-neutral” opinion I consider hateful, fearful and/or irrational.

“I wish we could start feeding them to lions again, or burn them at the stake.”
“Line ‘em up and shoot ‘em.”
“They are well organized and highly motivated, kind of like a serial killer.”
“Kill them all, let their god sort them out.”

Nope, no hate there. Absolutely no irrational fear. I was just a biased scholar to read those comments and come to that conclusion. I am not a part of the Christian right but I am a Christian with a fairly conservative theology so maybe I am too biased to analyze that data. I also have Christian right friends and so maybe I need to apologize for not wanting them to be shot, eaten by a lion or referred to as a serial killer. By the way if you want to see a few more of these non-hateful comments then you can check out my YouTube video on bias in academia (From the 10:50 mark to the 12:00 mark).

4. Now as I stated before I have my biases. One of them is that hatred does not know political boundaries and I desire to see a society where there is less demonization in our speech no matter our political ideology. I do not believe, as it appears that SPLC and MM believe, that progressives are incapable of engaging in hate. But, I base my beliefs on more than hunches. I have conducted research showing that hostility towards conservative Christians is at least as high as it is towards Muslims and that progressives are more likely to have that animosity. I have also systematically documented the willingness of academics to discriminate against conservative Christians and the propensity of progressives to have dehumanizing attitudes towards Christians. My assertions are based on studying data.

On the other hand, MM made this statement. “There’s no objective metric by which he determines whether the SPLC goes too hard on conservative groups and too easy on leftist ones.” Remember SPLC has no mostly white progressive groups on their list. Zero. So there is no way to compare conservative groups to liberal groups. Essentially they are saying that there are no white progressive groups that have “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people.” It seems to me that if someone wants to make such a sweeping statement that they have the pressure to provide evidence that this is the case. I provided evidence in my article that at least one progressive group maligns a certain group of people.

I expect that some will challenge me in the comments of the blog and those who know me know that I will engage in dialog as long as it is respectful and fruitful. But I will ask you if you believe that white progressive groups that malign others do not exist. If you do have that belief then I will ask for evidence. I have shown you evidence for my belief so that you can see that my statements are not merely a feature of my bias and I have the right to ask the same of my detractors.

To be fair there is one card left for MM to play. It is this statement – “ Yancey also neglected to mention that FRC President Tony Perkins has spoken before the white supremacist Council of Concerned Citizens.” Anyone who studies race knows that the Council of Concerned Citizens is the continuation of the White citizens councils that buttress Jim Crow racism. I do not know the context of Perkins speaking at this group. Did he know what they were about (too many white conservatives would not recognize them)? Did he disavow them after finding out? I am a big believer in forgiveness as I mention in my blog about Martin Bashir. I would need to spend a little more time to study the issue before I come to a conclusion on it.

But for the sake of arguing let me assume the absolute worst of Perkins. Let us say he knew how racist there are and went there anyway. And let us say that he is unrepentant. Can we now say that we have a way to distinguish the FRC and the MRFF? Yes we can make that distinction. But what about the other groups such as Traditional Values Coalition, American Family Association and Liberty Counsel. Have their leaders spoken in front of supremacist groups? I suspect that the answer is no, revealing this argument is not about Perkins’ misguided speech but rather it is what I stated above – the inability of groups made up of white progressives to critique other white progressives. Unless all of the groups on the Hatewatch list are likewise connected to established supremacist groups, I have every right to see this last argument as nothing more than a distraction.

I am sure that there are a couple of minor points I am missing but this is getting too long as it is. I believe I have made my point on the inadequacy of the MM report. It would be nice if the owners of that website would order a retraction at least for neglecting to state that I talked about black separatist and/or for the taking of the quote out of context. But I am not holding my breath.

Academic Bias? – Does it Affect Business Professors?

My previous book, Compromising Scholarship, documented the willingness of academics to engage in political and religious bias. One of the criticisms I have heard about that work is that occupational bias is not limited to social scientists, physical scientists and professors in the humanities. This is obviously true. I have never argued that social bias is only found among academics. My goal was to show that scholars who prided themselves on being inclusive may not be quite as inclusive as they portrayed themselves to be.

A corollary of the critique that bias is not limited to academics in the sciences and humanities is that we should expect to see social bias among other academics. Since there is research indicating that business professors are not as politically liberal as other academics, it seems likely that academics in the business fields exhibit bias against different groups than academics in the sciences and humanities. A difficulty of comparing the social biases of academics in the sciences and humanities to other professionals is that we rarely make apples to apples comparison. The same measures used to assess the strength of the social biases in other professional occupations have not been used to assess those biases in academia.

However, it is possible to compare academics in the sciences and humanities to those in the business fields. While finishing Compromising Scholarship I decided to send out a survey to accounting and marketing professors. The survey was the same one I used in my book. After the book came out I worked on that data a bit. Other research interests got my attention (Squirrel!!) and I did not have time to do the additional literature background needed for a fully developed academic paper. But given that we do not have other relevant empirical comparisons, I decided to go back to the data and see if those in the business fields have the same degree of willingness to discriminate against out-groups as academics in the sciences/humanities and if so then which groups they would discriminate against.

A quick recap of the research in Compromising Scholarship. I sent a survey out to academics labeled for addressing issues of collegiality to academics in nine disciplines. I included a question that asked how a scholar feels about a job candidate who came from a given social group. There were twenty seven groups for the scholars to assess on a seven-point likert scale. The groups were chosen to assess possible political (Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, Libertarians, Communist Party, ACLU, and NRA), sexuality (Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual, Transgendered), religious (Atheist, Mormon, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish), lifestyle (Vegetarian, Hunter), family status (Married, Divorced, Cohabitating, Single with Children) and age (Under 30, Over 50) dimensions of bias. Higher numbers on the scale indicate that membership in a given social group enhances the desirability of a hypothetical candidate while lower numbers indicate that membership damages desirability. If belonging to a social group neither enhances nor damages a candidate’s desirability then the respondent was allowed to respond with a “4.”

In my original research I found that academics in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities were willing to discriminate against fundamentalists, evangelicals, Mormons, NRA members and Republicans. The bias was stronger against religious out-groups than political out-groups and it varied by discipline. For example, 60 percent of anthropologists were less likely to hire a job candidate if they find out that the candidate is an evangelical. Respectively, I found that 38.8 percent of sociologists, 52.6 percent of English literature professors and 31.1 percent of chemists are less willing to hire a job candidate if they find out that the candidate is an evangelical. On the other hand, 32.3 percent of anthropologists, 28.7 percent of sociologists, 26.9 percent of English literature professors and 16.4 of chemists are less willing to hire a job candidate if they find out that the candidate is a Republican.

My survey to business professors produced a sample of 82 accounting respondents and 144 marketing respondents. I eliminated those who did not work on a college campus which left 63 accounting professors and 111 marketing professors. Like my other work, the response rate is lower than I would have liked, but I did similar methodological checks to make sure that the social demographics of my sample did not determine my results. While these particular findings have not undergone peer review, my original work was reviewed and my methodology is not significantly different.

Because of the contrasting social and political makeup of business professors, I expected that there would be different groups that they would be willing to discriminate against. I found that accounting professors did not reject political and religious conservatives but showed a willingness to reject members of the communist party (32.8% of them were less willing to hire them) and the transgendered (27.1% of them were less willing to hire them). Marketing academics are also likely less willing to hire members of the communist party (38.1% of them were less willing to hire them) and the transgendered (28% of them were less willing to hire them). Both marketing and accounting professors are less willing to hire members of the communist party more than any other group, and I suspect that this is the least popular of the 27 groups I asked about for members in the general business disciplines.

As I expected, there are distinct social groups more likely to be rejected by business professors than by professors in the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities. It should not come as a surprise that members of the communist party are not held in high esteem by business professors. The philosophy of communism is not exactly conducive to the profit-making goals of business. The resistance to the transgendered may represent a desire of business professionals to support traditional sexual norms. I did not document resistance to homosexuality or bisexuality but it may be that transgenderism is a bridge too far.

Critics are correct when they state that social bias is not limited to the academic disciplines investigated in Compromising Scholarship. Business academics seem to exhibit bias towards norms of traditional sexuality and rejection of economic radicalism. The idea that the same groups face negative biases in all sectors of academia is not supported by this study. However, there is no evidence of a positive bias within the business academics towards religious and political conservatives. Since political conservatives are more likely to be business academics than academics in the science and humanities, it may be that explanations of ethnocentrism or group interest are not useful for understanding academic bias. Yet it is possible that because the ratio of conservative to progressive academics in business disciplines is much less than the ratio of progressive to conservative academics in the sciences and humanities that political conservatives are not prominent enough in the business disciplines to create ethnocentric norms that generate positive bias for political conservatives.

Beyond understanding which groups business professors may reject, it is also important to speculate about whether there is a stronger or weaker propensity of business professors to reject out-group members relative to other academics. Among business professors only communist party members and the transgendered had percentages of respondents willing to reject them significantly higher than the general percentage of professors willing to reject other social groups. There were at least five social groups (fundamentalists, evangelicals, NRA members, Republicans, Mormons) who consistently had significantly lower scores when looking at these 27 groups with professors in the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities. Furthermore, the level of rejection of members of the communist party and the transgendered is distinctly lower than towards at least fundamentalists and evangelicals. A quick examination of my previous reporting of the percentage of professors in the various disciplines less willing to hire individuals from the noted groups demonstrates that business professors reject out-groups in much lower percentages than other professors. Another piece of evidence suggests that professors in the business fields are more open to hiring out-group members than those in the sciences. A significant minority of business professors did not favor or disfavor any of the groups by indicating that social group membership did not matter for all 27 groups. This would have been done by scoring a “4” for all 27 groups. As it concerns hiring a potential candidate, 40% of the accounting and 43.8% of the marketing professors indicated this. In my original work only 25 percent of the social scientists, 25.3 percent of the humanities scholars and 31.3 percent of the natural scientists stated that none of the social groups mattered as it pertains to hiring a candidate. Thus, business professors are more open to ignoring social group membership of all different types as it concerns hiring a potential job candidate than professors in the sciences and humanities.

It is quite possible that my listing of the 27 groups to test did not include groups that would be especially distressing for business professors. This oversight may create findings indicating that business professors are less open to hiring individuals with whom they disagree than other academics. I believe that I attempted to add a wide enough variety of social groups to irritate just about anyone. As I look over my listing I am hard pressed to think of what groups may be more hated by business professors than members of the communist party. However, my lack of imagination, rather than social reality, may contribute to the potential assertion that business professors are less likely to reject out-groups than other professors. Thus, I am hesitant to make such an assertion. What I do assert is that notions that professors in the business fields are more likely to participate in discrimination against social out-groups than those in other academic disciplines do not seem accurate. I am critical of assertions of greater tolerance within academic fields supposed to be more open minded than business disciplines.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X