I don't think I fully processed the implications of the Inbar and Lammers data.
37.5% of social psychologists in their survey explicitly reported a willingness to discriminate against conservative job candidates. These are people who chose the midpoint or higher, where the midpoint was Somewhat inclined to favor a liberal vs. conservative candidate. The 37.5% figure might be an understatement, given that the lower values on the scale still represent some inclination to discriminate.
For some reason I'd been working with the much smaller ballpark figure of 20%, which is closer to the figures on discriminating in paper and grant reviews. I thought a 20% base rate might be enough to confer herd immunity given the academic career and hiring model.
37.5% is enormous. I think if we plugged it into a good model, it would be catastrophic for the careers of incoming conservatives (if they could be identified, if they were open with their views, had written op-eds in the school newspaper, maintained a blog, or were affiliated with Young Americans for Freedom, and so forth.)
I'm curious what base rates we'd see for racial and gender discrimination in the private sector, maybe going back to the 1960s or so. I'm curious at two levels: self-reported willingness to discriminate, as in these figures, and some sort of estimate of the actual base rate of discrimination from hiring managers.
I think it's generally reasonable to assume that the actual base rate of discrimination will be higher than the self-reported rate. Also, given that academic hiring is committee-driven, at any given base rate there will be more exposure to discrimination than in the private sector, where one person might make the decision. The 37.5% figure means virtually every hiring committee will include a discriminator, which is partly why I think this figure might be catastrophic. It will depend on how these committees work and a few other variables.
I've had a couple of conservative RAs, and I'm not sure what we should tell them in general. I'm not sure it makes sense for a conservative to go to graduate school given the level of discrimination in the field. It seems quite unlikely that they'll be able to have a career.
In our paper, we relate the following story of a graduate student in a top social psychology program:
“I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it was for me in graduate school because I am not a liberal Democrat. As one example, following Bush’s defeat of Kerry, one of my professors would email me every time a soldier’s death in Iraq made the headlines; he would call me out, publicly blaming me for not supporting Kerry in the election. I was a reasonably successful graduate student, but the political ecology became too uncomfortable for me. Instead of seeking the professorship that I once worked toward, I am now leaving academia for a job in industry.”
That's incredibly vicious and unprofessional behavior, and it's not unusual in academia. (It's also intellectually vapid and provincial, given that the next Democratic President stepped up the drone strikes and killed far more people with them than Bush did – I assume that we're not just caring about the lives of American soldiers.)
In fact, I'm not sure I would've gone to graduate school had I know that 37.5% of social psychologists explicitly report a willingness to discriminate. It's hard to say. I think libertarians will fare at least slightly better, but we'll often be encoded as conservatives. Note the student above isn't necessarily a conservative – he merely says that he or she is not a liberal Democrat.
I think the core issue is that academic liberals think liberalism is true, and conservatism is false and malicious. This is tautological, but I think it's very important to linger on the fact they think liberalism is true, all the way down, and what the implications are. And they often equate conservatism with creationism and various anti-science proclivities. We see that in some of the commentaries – people think the intellectual landscape consists of 1) the left, and 2) creationists/religious zealots. It seems implausible that anyone would think that's the intellectual landscape, but it's somewhat common in academia.
If you think liberalism is completely true, and conservatism is anti-science, it makes no sense to bring conservatives into the field. Calls for diversity would have no appeal, and would be nonsensical.
So I think the core issue is exposing the breadth of the intellectual landscape, and the inherent potential breadth and nuance of human scholarship. I think people are granting far too primacy to the intellectual and political landscapes of our day. We're a small part of the grand sweep, one that extends thousands of years into the past, and will extend thousands of years into the future. We just happened to be born here – we could have been born in any other era, with any other landscape. I think academic liberals take for granted that they are on the side of history, that their values and aims are inherently progressive, hence they co-opted that term.
They might be right. I certainly agree with some of their major positions. But there is a lot of apparent baggage that comes with contemporary academic liberalism, theories and neuroticisms that I don't think we should be confident will endure through the ages. And core features of the framework could certainly be wrong. One potential danger is that it is so untested, so unpressured, given the intellectual homogeneity of the academy. That would always worry me. For example, while I see some merit in environmentalism, it's the most untested, unexamined, unpressured ideology I've ever seen. It has no symmetric opposite (people who hate trees and savor pollution), but alternative schools wouldn't grant its premises so we wouldn't expect a symmetric opposite. No one is deconstructing it. I can imagine lots of refutations and alternatives to environmentalism, but we don't see that work in academia because everyone seems to embrace it. That's dangerous.
Even if we thought liberalism was completely true, it's unreasonable to demand that people embrace the one true philosophy at age 22 or whenever they'd apply to a social psychology program, or at age 28 when they look for a job.
Another concern is that the academic left has some distinctive antibodies and defense mechanisms for handling dissent, almost a taxonomy. Dissent is precategorized and marginalized as privilege, racism, sexism, and assorted "motives". That can be a powerful shield against substantive disagreement, and installs begging-the-question as a chronic fallacy. Maybe all ideologies have these sorts of immune systems. I know Scientology has a distinctive lexicon for people who speak out against the church, maybe a specific term for former Scientologists who speak out.
In any case, I think assuming one's ideology and philosophy is so true that discrimination is justified is just begging to be featured in the wrong chapters of history.
José L. Duarte
Social Psychology, Scientific Validity, and Research Methods.