"Feeling marginalized? Welcome to the world of conservative academics." Letter to the Editor published in the Washington Post today. Letter is in response to protests and discussions that have been held on university campuses in response to the Presidential Election. Thought I'd offer a somewhat novel perspective informed by research I've conducted to date. Click the link below to check it out!
If you have not visited Heterodox Academy, you must. ABSOLUTELY MUST.
I've been following this site since a little after it first launched, and the collection of topics presented and discussed is extremely valuable. Heterodox Academy's mission is to "increase viewpoint diversity in the academy, with a social focus on the social sciences." If you've read some of my other blog posts, or stumbled upon any of my research you will quickly note that this has been a topic near and dear to my heart for many years--something that I am extremely passionate about, and look forward to contributing to as I continue my research. As I get back into the swing of my "Today's Readings" posts, you will most certainly find Heterodox Academy posts showing up.
It is often quipped that one should not counter speech with which they don't agree by restricting the speech (censorship), but instead engage in their own speech (more speech). The analogy can be extended to viewpoint diversity within universities. We should not shut out certain ideas or people who hold these ideas from our universities, but should instead view having differing viewpoints on campus as an opportunity to debate important topics more comprehensively, and therein look at increased viewpoint diversity as a simple way to increase the reliability and validity of our scientific endeavors.
Academia cannot allow selective or convenient forms of diversity, and should instead have a vested interest in protecting the pluralistic tradition of universities. If anything, perhaps being exposed to viewpoints different than our own will help us become more tolerant of particular out-groups. I agree with Heterodox Academy that academia "would produce better and more reliable research if [it] contained more viewpoint diversity." I hope to somehow be able to play a role in helping address this problem, and therein help improve academia.
Check out the site!
If you're read through my blog posts here you will have noticed that I've written a lot about Free Speech, "open membership" and related topics. These are topics of great interest to me, and that I am passionate about working on.
My brother and I decided to take things to the next level and collaborate to launch a CSU-wide organization to coordinate advocacy efforts in regard to the "open membership" policy. Our group is CSU SOFA: CSU Student Organizations for Free Association. In order to effectively work to get this policy removed or revised, groups that are affected need to work together on a united front, and we think this will be a good step toward making that possible.
Check out our web-site www.csusofa.org for more information about the coalition, to join, or for more information about the "open membership" issue in general.
I was watching old sermons a week or so back, and Pastor Tom Thompson was speaking at Shadow Mountain Community Church (link at the bottom), and was speaking in the context of how frequently when scrolling through faceplant or when reading the news we see stories about different things going on and we frequently think "something out to be done" or "somebody ought to do something about that," but do we ever come to the point where we do something about it ourselves?
He went on to say: "Compassion moves you to action. Pity looks and says "how awful;" compassion weeps and says 'I'll help.' Pity looks on from afar; compassion rolls up sleeves and gets involved. Pity waits for a convenient time; compassion doesn't know the meaning of time. Pity is cheap and plentiful; compassion is rich and priceless, but it is costly."
Yesterday I came across an article (link at the bottom) about how due to CSU Executive Order 1068 and the Open Membership policy InterVarsity has been kicked off of every California State University campus because it has the audacity to stand on principle and require its student chapter leaders affirm InterVarsity's Doctrinal Basis.
Stories like this sadly are not new. Open Membership policies (or "all-comers" policies) have been wrecking havoc across the United States against belief-based student groups (political, religious, etcetera irrespective of religion or political ideology) the last few years with increasing frequency. For the past year I have been trying to fight this CSU Open Membership policy but have been able to make little headway. I have written many blog posts here on my website on this topic and contributed to many news stories on the topic to raise awareness. Perhaps now with InterVarsity we have reached a tipping point.
It is time to double-down with this fight and go on the offensive. I admire InterVarsity and their commitment to continue campus ministries, and to work all the more hard to reach these university students despite their inability to be a campus recognized group. They will not let this policy get in their way. But, I cannot standby and let this policy go unchallenged and unchecked. Something must be done as this policy cannot be allowed to continue to exist as-is, and I am going to do something about it.
I am hopeful that commonsense can prevail, and that a compromise can be reached such that the CSU can have their open membership, but belief-based student organizations (political, religious, etcetera) may be exempted so that the purpose, mission, and beliefs of their groups may be protected. The status of first-amendment rights for student organizations, the existence of many student organizations, and the existence of commonsense policy sits at the brink.
CSU Administrators have been unwilling to compromise on this misguided policy. It seems that the next best option would be legislative action from the State, such as what has been done in North Carolina, and pressure from California taxpayers, as this is a non-partisan issue that all can rally around. It is important for the CSU to remember that it is accountable to California voters and taxpayers. Another thought: Churches sponsor many InterVarsity staff, will they be willing to encourage their members to stand up for InterVarsity and other related groups affected by this policy?
The lessons of freedom and free speech are supposed to be pivotal elements of a college education and experience. Through exposure to different points of view students can better understand wheat they believe and why, or come to their own conclusions about what they want to believe and stand behind. College is supposed to be an educational experience where any and all viewpoints are welcome, not a place where only the party-line is allowed to be presented and certain groups ostracized and degraded accordingly. We cannot stand by and let students be taught that harmful policies such as this Open Membership policy are OK.
The scary thing is that InterVarsity was not the first group in the CSU hurt by this policy and kicked off campus, and if nothing changes they will not be the last. Please take some time to read up on this critical issue, and get involved somehow if you can.
Pastor Thompson closed with a sort of manifesto to action, detailing a few principles to live by. To list a few:
Check out the clip to hear the sermon and the other manifesto to action points, it will be worthwhile. Open Membership may not be the issue that lights your fire like it does for me, but I hope there is something out there that does light your fire that you are working to be a part of the solution for, or can start working to be a part of the solution for.
A new research article is in the pipeline, and it is likely set to make waves comparable to those made by Jonathan Haidt in 2011 and Inbar and Lammers in 2012.
While combing the internet reading research articles (something that so much of my time will now be spent doing!) I came across an in-press article that instantly caught my attention, and I couldn't put down or stop thinking about. An all-star team of social psychology researchers joined forces to publish an article titled Political Diversity will Improve Social Psychology that discusses a sort of crisis the field of social psychology is experiencing due to the lack of viewpoint diversity, particularly political diversity.
Some key things that stood out for me:
Every critical item related to this topic is covered in this article--a lot to take in, but so many important things to think about and consider.
I can hardly wait to read commentary on their article, and for the field to jump into discussion on this critical issue. I am quite excited that I can get excited about things like this, and I look forward to contributing to this important area with my research work. The call to action couldn't be any more necessary or clear. If you can, take some time to read the article. You will most definitely be able to consider it time well spent.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Remember that ominous line from George Orwell's Animal Farm? It probably conjures up memories from Junior High or High School English Literature class...
Well, as discussed in a recent blog post by FIRE (see below for link) it seems that a slight modification of this classic quote could be applied to the state of many university students today: 'All students are equal, but some students are more equal than others.'
Duke University professor Michael Munger in a recent talk discussed how in the modern university classroom it seems many professors fail to challenge liberal students, and even thought there is much talk about discrimination against conservative students (and research to substantiate these claims...results reflected in some of my work as well), he argues that counterintuitively conservatives may be benefiting from classrooms dominated by liberal professors and the disparaging of their views.
While the climate may not always be friendly, and the ostracizing of viewpoints (in general non-liberal viewpoints) counterproductive to science and limiting for students interests and advancements, the opportunity for conservative students to interact with professors that don't share their opinions poses an opportunity to think critically, engage in debate, all the while helping the conservative students better understand what they believe, why, and how to best articulate these beliefs. Liberal students, on the other hand, are often viewed as "already having it right," and as such, Munger argues, just skirt on through. Success outside of school relys heavily on being able to interact and engage in discussion with different people that hold sometimes extremely different opinions. If many students aren't learning how to do this the long-term consequences will be catastrophic.
An education is often most valuable when students are forced to engage with ideas that aren't their own, and opinions they don't agree with. Now, in many situations within universities this is not handled in the best way as many students fear challenging or engaging in a discussion with professors who hold different views than their own out of fear of retaliation (e.g. a poor grade on an assignment or in the class).
The blog post by FIRE linked below, along with the original article by Munger linked below pose some fantastic things to think about regarding this topic.
Much of my research this far has been within the field of political diversity and political discrimination, and my research along with a lot of research by others has show that the university climate is typically stacked against and hostile toward conservatives (or broadly political minorities depending on what area of the university you are looking at). My research along with research by others has, unfortunately, put forth some not so positive data describing some not so positive situations conservatives (students and faculty) face. It is enlightening to hear another perspective putting forth the idea that perhaps there are some benefits to the situation, and that there is always more than one side/perspective to be considered.
In a major victory for student organizations, at least student organizations in North Carolina, the governor of North Carolina signed into law a bill that allows religious and political student groups at the state's colleges and universities to limit their leadership to individuals who subscribe to the group's mission and/or faith.
This is a bold and noteworthy move to combat the many problems created in the wake of the CLS v. Martinez decision and Open Membership policies (which I have written and talked about a lot!).
This legislation serves as a great example that hopefully many other states--perhaps even California--may be able to use to create and pass similar bills.
Open Membership policies hurt groups all across the political and religious spectrum, limit the viewpoints expressed on campus, and limit the ability of students to unite together around similar causes and/or beliefs. North Carolina joins a few other states who have also stood up in defense of belief-based student groups, and with some urging many more states will as well.
Read the article linked below.
Since the CLS v. Martinez decisions, things have only become worse for student organizations across America's university campuses. University administrators are now armed with legal justification to target ideologically based student organizations (e.g. religious clubs, political clubs, etcetera), and are taking advantage of it.
The most poignant efforts are being instituted against religious organizations that are being forced off of campuses because they require the leaders in their group to share the group's faith. Within the California State University system (CSU) CLS v. Martinez is manifesting itself through an Open Membership requirement, requiring that the leadership and membership in all student organizations be open to all interested students. Many religious and political clubs within the system are facing many problems as a result.
Anti-discrimination efforts have gone too far, university administrators with the support of this legal decision mandating diversity within student clubs instead of protecting diversity among student clubs.
A handful of states, on their own initiative, have taken measures to protect belief-based student groups, passing legislation allowing belief-based student groups to have belief-based requirements for membership or leadership. While it is disappointing that individual states have had to step in to protect the First Amendment rights of students and student groups to freely assemble, it is a good response toward remedying this issue.
Open membership policies propped up by CLS v. Martinez fail to do any good and instead only harm and promote division among student organizations, and inhibit a positive campus climate. With much hope perhaps California in the near future may be able to pursue legislation to protect belief-based student organizations, and bring sanity back to our universities--at least in this regard.
It does not matter what political persuasion you may be of, free speech and First Amendment rights are issues of universal importance. Our individual free speech and First Amendment rights are only as strong as those held by the weakest (i.e. those with the most controversial and disparaged views--whether justified or not--in society). We cannot afford to lose any ground on the free speech fight.
I took to the opinion section in today's edition of Mustang News to address this issue, with a particular focus to recent campus events. This issue is of great importance to me, so I have a difficult time staying quiet! Universities are the training grounds for the future leaders of homes, communities, our nation, and the world. If our universities cannot properly teach and instill in students the true meaning of what free speech is and what the First Amendment guarantees and protects, then our liberty and freedom in the near future are at great risk.
I can't emphasize enough, too, how this is a non-partisan issue. Though in our society today it is typically conservative students and student groups (or religious groups) that are predominantly having their First Amendment rights violated (FIRE, a non-partisan free speech advocacy group discusses this throughout their site), it could very well be groups on the other end of the spectrum tomorrow.
If you have a moment, check out my letter to the editor, and try to read it with an open mind :)
Friday, March 21, 2014,
After a full day of traveling, day one of the FIRE Leaders in Student Rights Conference is complete. Convening down here in New Orleans, Louisiana is probably one of the most friendly and intelligent, yet rambunctious and rabble-rousing groups of college students around. These are the people who are willing to get their hands dirty as they fight the good fight for students rights on issues of free speech, association, due process, and much more on university campuses across the Unite States.
It has been amazing to hear some of the stories and about some of the work other have been doing on their campuses, and to finally be able to meet face-to-face some of the students I have read about.
I have only spent a few hours with this group, but I am already quite energized (not that I wasn't before, but even more now) for the cause on my campus, and and am overflowing with new ideas.
Tomorrow we will be hearing from FIRE staff and digging in on the key issues at hand and how we can continue to contribute to this battle.
A great quote from our packet to close on:
“The essentially of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident... To impose any straight jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation."
--Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250 (1957)
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