Phi Beta Cons

Bias Against Evangelicals on Campus? You Don’t Say!

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran an important story detailing the results of a new study commissioned by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research that looked at faculty attitudes toward different religious groups.  After first discussing a recent survey finding that a majority of faculty members believe in God, the article moves on to faculty bias study:

“The other survey, by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, confirmed those findings but also found what the institute’s director and chief pollster, Gary A. Tobin, called an “explosive” statistic: 53 percent of its sample of 1,200 college and university faculty members said they have “unfavorable” feelings toward evangelical Christians.”Tobin asked professors at all kinds of colleges — public and private, secular and religious, two-year and four-year — to rate their feelings toward various religious groups, from very warm or favorable to very cool or unfavorable. He said he designed the question primarily to gauge anti-Semitism but found that professors expressed positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Roman Catholics and most other religious groups.

“The only groups that elicited highly negative responses were evangelical Christians and Mormons.”

Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP countered that these numbers represent “political and cultural resistance, not a form of religious bias.”  Yet that claim doesn’t survive scrutiny.  Evangelicals and Mormons are not uniform in their “political and cultural views.”  After all, there is a world of difference between Harry Reid and Mitt Romney.  And evangelicals come from all over the political and cultural spectrum, from Jerry Falwell to Tony Campolo.  In fact, if you look at the numbers, evangelicals are actually far more politically diverse than college faculty members (who vote more lockstep for Democrats than evangelicals do for Republicans). The essence of prejudice is the act of making sweeping (and negative) assumptions about individuals based on limited information.  In the survey, the questioned professors were asked their opinions about “evangelicals,” not about “politically conservative, pro-life evangelicals” or “politically liberal environmentalist evangelicals.”  Gary Tobin puts it quite well:”When we ask questions like this, we’re asking the respondent to say how they feel about an entire group of people, and whatever image they have of that entire group comes through,” Tobin said. “There is no question this is revealing bias and prejudice.”For some time, the leftist academic establishment has responded to literally hundreds of stories about the violation of the fundamental rights of religious students with the argument that those stories are mere “anecdotes” and are not evidence of a wider problem.  In recent years, however, the systematic studies have come pouring in, including studies showing dramatic political disparities in the classroom, dramatic drop-offs of faith practice during the college years, and now we see concrete evidence of sheer bigotry.  Our nation’s colleges and universities have a religion problem, and faithful students and professors are paying the price.