1,500+ profs vow to resist intellectual 'intolerance'
More than 1,500 professors have now endorsed Heterodox Academy’s mission to support “viewpoint diversity” and “free inquiry” on campus.
Founded in 2015, Heterodox Academy is the brainchild of New York University Professor Jonathan Haidt and Georgetown Law Professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, who have recruited like-minded professors to combat “the near absence of political diversity” in many academic fields.
“Our goal is attain enough diversity—and enough room for diverse viewpoints to be aired without fear of consequences—that orthodoxies get disrupted and the normal processes of debate and disconfirmation can work their magic,” asserts the group’s founding statement.
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To that end, all Heterodox Academy members have endorsed a statement affirming the value of political and ideological diversity in academia.
“I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other,” the pledge reads. “I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”
Rutgers University Professor Lee Jussim told Campus Reform that the rapid growth of Heterodox Academy “tells me that we have hit a nerve,” pointing out that it shows there are “a lot of academics, professors, and graduate students, who, regardless of their personal politics, reject what has been a rising tide of intolerance and biased scholarship.”
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Loretta Breuning is a professor emerita at California State University, East Bay. She became a professor in the early 1980s, and says she joined Heterodox Academy because she is increasingly concerned with what she calls the “authoritarian culture” on campuses.
Students are trained to “filter facts to fit socially acceptable conclusions and back up their conclusions with veiled aggression,” Breuning told Campus Reform. “They don’t learn to analyze information honestly.”
California State University professor Bradley Campbell, meanwhile, was motivated to join after seeing the damage that political uniformity has done to sociology. Many sociologists, he says, only conceive of the field “in terms of helping to advance a left-wing political agenda.”
Although he says that the goal of sociology should be to study the science of social life, Bradley worries that “the very purpose of the field has become distorted.”
“And it's not just that fields like sociology become corrupted,” he added. “The recent attacks on free speech at universities throughout the U.S. threaten the very survival of the university as a place of scholarship and debate.”
So seriously does he view the threat, in fact, that Bradley even co-authored an upcoming book, The Rise of Victimhood Culture, discussing the recent proliferation of concepts like trigger warnings and safe spaces.
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The lack of political diversity in academia is also a concern abroad. Although the majority of Heterodox Academy’s members teach in the United States, it also boasts supporters in Turkey, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, France, Canada, and others.
Janice Fiamengo, who teaches English at the University of Ottawa, worries that the lack of viewpoint diversity circumscribes students’ capacity for understanding and debate.
“I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that without true viewpoint diversity, students do not learn how to reason at a high level,” she told Campus Reform.
Although Heterodox Academy doesn’t allow undergraduates to join, it does allow PhD students to join a separate roster that currently boasts more than 170 signatories, including some from Slovenia, Belgium, and Germany.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen