A piece in today’s Times:
Pro-Brexit and right-wing academics feel forced to censor their political views, putting free speech at universities under threat, a report has said.
Campuses are increasingly governed by unwritten rules that mean lecturers are under pressure to muzzle unfashionable opinions for fear of being ostracised or passed over for promotion, the Policy Exchange think tank said.
A YouGov poll of 820 academics found that nearly a third — 32 per cent — of those who say their political views are “right” or “fairly right” have stopped openly airing opinions in teaching and research, compared with 13 per cent of those in the centre and on the left. [J4MB: This leaves aside the question of the political leanings of academics, which tend to be left-wing, particularly for academics in the fields of politics, sociology, history…]
Among Brexit supporters, 27 per cent said they had refrained from publishing or airing views for “fear of consequences” to their career. This compares with 11 per cent of Remain supporters.
Remi Adekoya, co-author of the report, said academics on the left and right were too willing to engage in censorship of colleagues who did not share their views.
He warned that such behaviour had a disproportionate impact on younger academics. “The Jordan Petersons etc are going to be fine,” he told Times Radio. “It is flesh and blood for the young researcher of conservative leanings . . . it is a huge problem.”
The report said that academics on both the right and the left discriminate against each others’ applications for grants, promotion and manuscripts submitted for publication. Of those on the right, 50 per cent would choose a Leave supporter over a Jeremy Corbyn supporter during a job application process when both candidates are equal, while 40 per cent of those on the left would do the opposite.
While those on both sides are similarly willing to discriminate against each other, the smaller proportion of conservatives in academia results in a much larger discriminatory effect against them, the report claimed.
The poll found that 86 per cent of the academics said they would be comfortable sitting next to a Remain supporter at lunch. With a Leave supporter the figure was 54 per cent.
Left-leaning respondents were most likely to censor their critical perspectives towards transgender issues. Only 37 per cent of respondents said they would feel comfortable lunching with someone who opposed admitting trans women to women’s refuge centres.
The distribution of views among academics has shifted over decades from being reasonably split to significantly left-leaning, the report said, adding that most academics do not support campaigns to dismiss colleagues for their views. Of the 820 academics who responded to the poll, 336 were retired.
The report was written by Remi Adekoya, who teaches politics at Sheffield University, Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at Birkbeck College, and Tom Simpson, associate professor of philosophy at Oxford. It was backed by the former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Lord Sumption, the former Supreme Court justice, and Ruth Kelly, the former education secretary.
Mr Phillips described the findings as “deeply disturbing”, adding: “No one fought for diversity and inclusion in order to create universities staffed by a faculty who may look representative, but are to all intents and purposes, intellectually identical robots.”
The report called for parliament to create a director for academic freedom with ombudsman powers. It said an academic freedom bill should also establish that universities have a duty to protect academic freedom and that staff are able within the law to question and test received wisdom.
Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “The idea that academic freedom is under threat is a myth. The main concern our members express is not with think tank-inspired bogeyman, but with the current government’s wish to police what can and cannot be taught.”
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