Phi Beta Cons

PC Doesn’t Hurt the Academy?

Last fall two professors at a Harvard symposium released a “working paper,” “The Social and Political Views of American Professors,” that purported to show that the American professoriate is mostly “centrist” and that the “campus left” is actually very small. The study by Neil Gross (Harvard) and Solon Simmons (George Mason) achieved some celebrity in the liberal press as a “so there!” story. Conservatives were skeptical, but it fell to my colleague Steve Balch (“Imaginary Moderates“) to point out the definitional squeezes that Gross and Simmons used to achieve their counter-intuitive numbers.
Professor Simmons is now back with an on-line journal article, “Ascriptive Justice: The Prevalence, Distribution, and Consequences of Political Correctness in the Academy,” that has again received plaudits in the liberal press — this time for demonstrating that the professors he classifies as “politically correct” are as fair-minded in making faculty appointments as are professors he classifies as “politically incorrect.” The big story, supposedly, is that we now have statistical evidence that political correctness is benign. Simmons also offers up evidence that “politically incorrect” professors do just fine at elite universities. 
Once again, Steve Balch is finding fault with the findings. It is important to have such refutations in the record. Almost inevitably, studies like “Ascriptive Justice” get hauled out by the academic Left as proof that the conservative critique of universities is a tissue of lies, and that in reality American higher education is a world of fair-minded scholars going about their legitimate business. We may well have something to learn from Simmons’s research, but it is best approached with caution.  Steve’s response shows why.


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