Discrimination in the Academy – Researcher Finds Empirical Evidence of Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education

Hollywood and the American University System both under attack for compromising excellence in pursuit of political correctness

Dr. George Yancey is Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas.

Last week’s kerfuffle over two books charging Hollywood with bias against conservatives probably won’t make a great deal of difference in the entertainment industry. If someone really wants the world of TV creators and movie producers to pay attention to anything, then they are going to have to make an incredible television show, documentary, or feature film about the issue.

A snarky, self-deprecating, pitch-perfect comedy on faith discrimination would have a better chance of changing Hollywood than a book. Even if the books are backed up by a Pulitzer prize and video interviews.

After all, as one veteran TV writer quipped in our online conversation:

“Books don’t change Hollywood, because no one in Hollywood reads books.”

Colleges and universities, on the other hand, are another story altogether–they thrive on books and research projects. And sociologist George Yancey’s new book could make an enormous difference in how the academy views discrimination against faculty of faith.

Dr. Yancey has empirically demonstrated verifiable evidence of bias against faculty espousing conservative religious and/or political perspectives. While his methodology will undoubtedly be challenged (that’s what you do in the academy when you disagree with a researcher’s findings), just fostering a thoughtful conversation on the subject could be a huge step for forward for American colleges and universities. At least until the movie comes out.

Read Thomas L. Trevethan’s review below.


Religious Bias in Academia

by Thomas L. Trevethan

A review of George Yancey’s Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education

George Yancey, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas, has put us all in his debt by offering a methodologically rigorous study of political and religious bias in American colleges and universities in his book, Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education (Baylor Press, 2011). His conclusions are anything but flattering. About his own discipline of sociology he concludes:

The only thing I have demonstrated with this quantitative work is that membership in certain social groups negatively affects the chances one has of obtaining an academic position if that membership becomes known to the scholars in a search committee… This documentation of the hiring bias, beyond unmasking an uncomfortable reality, can help us to understand the boundaries of acceptable scientific research and thus the limits of science itself. (81-82)

And of a wider swath of the academy he concludes:

The reality is that we do have a problem with social bias in academia. It is warranted to argue about the extent to which this bias exists, but this research provides evidence of it existence. To ignore this evidence is to put one’s head in the sand and pretend that the problem does not exist. We can no longer hide behind the argument social bias is merely the unfounded charge of conservative religious and political opportunists. With this research, there is now empirical evidence documenting this bias. (137, emphasis added)

Empirical Evidence of Bias

The shape of Compromising Scholarship marks out the shape of Professor Yancey’s argument. He introduces the topic of his investigation, the shape of his book, the history of investigations about bias in the academy, and himself in the first two chapters. In this introduction his own social characteristics, location, and potential bias is canvassed. Yancey is an African-American, self-confessed evangelical Christian, a political independent, a son of the South from a home of lower socio-economic stature. And he notes how this identity affords both advantages and disadvantages as he undertakes this investigation…

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