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Is that fair?

Conservatives in academia will not find this surprising, I think.  According to Scott Jasick, in  “Admitting to Bias” in this morning’s Inside Higher Education , there is a very distinct bias in all aspects of academia, including, naturally, hiring.

Just over 37 percent of those surveyed said that, given equally qualified candidates for a job, they would support the hiring of a liberal candidate over a conservative candidate. Smaller percentages agreed that a “conservative perspective”would negatively influence their odds of supporting a paper for inclusion in a journal or a proposal for a grant . . . .’The questions were pretty blatant. We didn’t expect people would give those answers,’ said Yoel Inbar, . . .

Call me biased, but I couldn’t help wondering how many other of those surveyed were disingenuous, even perhaps with themselves, and actually are biased without being comfortable admitting it.  After all, what makes a person applying for an academic position the best candidate for the job?  Certainly, he must be seen as sympathetic by those doing the hiring in a liberal institution, as in sympathetic to the “tribe”, which is one term used in the article that I found most interesting.  If people will have academic liberty, we want to know that they will handle that liberty responsibly.  What would that mean in the context of an institution that holds a certain perspective, (not to call it bias)?
If you are wondering about the political leanings of the social psychologists who conducted the study, they are on the left. Inbar said he describes himself as “a pretty doctrinaire liberal,” who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and who votes Democrat. His co-author, Joris Lammers of Tilburg, is to Inbar’s left, he said.

What most impressed him about the issues raised by the study, Inbar said, is the need to think about “basic fairness.”

There you are. The problem with bias is not what is right, but what is “fair”.  Perhaps that is how conservatives can increase their numbers in academia, by insisting on what is fair.  Proportional representation?  The article notes that, “40 percent of Americans are conservative and only 20 percent are liberal.”  Shall we insist on hiring in academia based on those figures?


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