top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Profs fear controversy: It's worse than the McCarthy era

Forty percent of liberal professors are afraid of losing their jobs or reputations if they say the wrong thing, according to a new survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). That rises to 56 percent for faculty who are moderates and 72 percent of conservative faculty, the nonprofit reported.

It's worse than the McCarthy era, warns FIRE. "At the end of the Second Red Scare in 1955, 9% of social scientists said they toned down their writing for fear of causing controversy. Today, one in four faculty say they’re very or extremely likely to self-censor in academic publications, and over one in three do so during interviews or lectures.

Younger and female faculty are the least tolerant of "heterodox" speech, the survey finds. One in five faculty members under the age of 35 report some level of acceptance of students using violence to stop a controversial campus speaker, and 19% of female faculty believe that it’s acceptable to limit potentially “hateful” speech even when that speech isn’t intended to be hateful.

Overall, up to 36% of faculty would endorse their college’s administration investigating colleagues for their controversial expression, and half "think that diversity, equity, and inclusion statements are a justifiable requirement for a university job."

Faculties tilt strongly to the left, but 57 percent of liberal faculty say "improving political diversity is less important than advancing race and gender diversity."

University professors don't "reflect" America, writes Musa al-Gharbi on Heterodox. They are far more likely to be on the left and far less likely to be religious (especially Christian). Whites and Asians are over-represented; Blacks and Hispanics are under-represented.

Indeed, even as colleges and universities have been growing more ideologically homogeneous — more overtly and uniformly committed to social justice — they have also been growing more and more institutionally stratified, with systematic variance along the lines of race, gender, ideological leanings, and socioeconomic and/or regional background with regards to who gets sorted where.

"Conservative faculty, when hired at all," may "conceal their political views and avoid working on controversial topics," he writes. They face "ideologically based discrimination and social sanctions (which can manifest in everything from hiring and promotion decisions, to peer review, to institutional review board decisions, and beyond)."

85 views0 comments


bottom of page