Friday, April 16, 2021

Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship

Last week MSU hosted a virtual meeting on Freedom of Speech and Intellectual Diversity on Campus. I particularly enjoyed several of the talks, including the ones by Randall Kennedy (Harvard), Conor Friesdorf (The Atlantic), and Cory Clark (UPenn). Clark had some interesting survey data I had never seen before. I hope the video from the meeting will be available soon. 

In the meantime, here are some survey results from Eric Kaufmann (University of London). The full report is available at the link.

In this recent podcast interview Kaufmann discusses the woke takeover of academia and other institutions.

Stylized facts:

1. Academia has always been predominantly left, but has become more and more so over time. This imbalance is stronger in Social Science and Humanities (SSH) than in STEM, but even in STEM the faculty are predominantly left of center relative to the general population.

2. Leftists are becoming more and more intolerant of opposing views.

3. Young academics (PhD students and junior faculty) are the least tolerant of all.

In my opinion the unique importance of research universiites originates from their commitment to the search for Truth. This commitment is being supplanted by a focus on social justice, with extremely negative consequences.

Figure 1. Note: Excludes STEM academics. Labels refer to hypothetical scenarios in which respondents are asked whether they would support a campaign to dismiss a staff member who found the respective conclusions in their research. Brackets denote sample size.


Figure 2. Note: Includes STEM academics. Based on a direct question rather than a concealed list technique.


Figure 3. Note: SSH refers to social sciences and humanities. Sample size in brackets. STEM share of survey responses: US and Canada academic: 10%; UK mailout: zero; UK YouGov SSH active: zero; UK YouGov All: 53%; UK PhDs: 55%; North American PhDs: 63%.

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