Religious diversity among professors

While it’s hard pretty hard to find a UO professor who’s a registered Republican (back in 2006 I could only find 25, out of 506 matches to the Lane County voter file) there’s more religious diversity than you might expect, along with some interesting differences by field. From a 2006 national survey here, 63% of Accounting profs “know God really exists”, while only 13% of Psychology profs claim the same. Economics is among the fields with the largest diversity of religious beliefs with 23% total unbelievers and, on the other hand, 44% who are sure god exists (just one god?):

UO’s 2006 diversity plan included political and religious diversity:

For purposes of this Diversity Plan, the term diversity is given a broad meaning and includes, but is not limited to, differences based on race, ethnicity, national origin or citizenship, gender, religious affiliation or background, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic class or status, political affiliation or belief, and ability or disability.

And after Trump’s election in 2016, the NYT’s Nicholas Kristof, the son of two PSU professors, wrote this:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members canceled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us. …

Does anyone know what UO’s latest diversity plan says about diversity of thought?

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26 Responses to Religious diversity among professors

  1. thedude says:

    As our university as increasingly focused on educating out of state students, and the kids of rich liberals in the Willamette valley, those in rural Oregon are increasingly reluctant to send their kids to a place where the values they have taught to their kids (both political and cultural) are looked down on or openly mocked.

    • honest Uncle Gangsta says:

      And dude — another thing — on what other campus than UO will their proud 5th generation ur-Oregon children find inspiration from statues honoring the Pioneer Mother and Father?

  2. uomatters says:

    I agree, and as Schelling showed it doesn’t take much of a difference in preferences to produce complete segregation. The next step will be when liberal parents, a la Kristof, realize they’re doing their kids a disservice by sending them to universities that have no diversity of thought and that are isolating them from the beliefs that drive the behavior of 45% of the population. Presumably administrators will respond by firing psychology profs and replacing them with accounting PhD’s to keep up enrollment.
    Meanwhile, what to make of the fact that 44% of mechanical engineering profs are atheists, vs only 2% of electrical engineers? Is this selection, or proselytizing by their professors? FWIW Thomas Edison was as close to atheism as was possible at the time – but he was a self-taught electrical engineer. And of course famously bad at accounting.

  3. Conflict of Interest says:

    Yes, let’s welcome in the philosophy of the party that aided and abetted Trump’s denial of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of our citizens. The students deserve a FAIR AND BALANCED perspective on sanctioned obstruction of justice, tax fraud and other presidential antics. Let’s not be biased against a party that still largely denies the results of the election while the vast majority of civilized countries look in in shock.

    Let’s find as many professors as we can who champion such vile and illogical propaganda. But let’s put them in YOUR department, not mine.

    • thedude says:

      So you would knowingly commit discrimination and refuse to hire a qualified candidate because of their politics?

      That sucks. It really does. And that’s what’s broken in academia. Too much virtue signalling, too much fear, and too out of touch with 47 percent of the country. Do you really want to suggest 47 percent of students shouldn’t come to UO? Or that it’s our mission to change which party they belong to?

      Why can’t it be our mission to have them engage in critical thought so they can recognize what is wrong or broken about both parties. When Rahm Emanuel suggests out of work retail workers should take a 6 month training programming so they can learn to code because of the pandemic, its obvious democratic answers to problems are often stupid and broken too.

      • Environmental necessity says:

        I mostly agree with this. I think the whole enterprise of trying to seek political balance by design is flawed at the outset. The politics of students or faculty simply should not be an issue considered in admission or hiring and I shudder to think about the potential abuse by any committee or department or administrator tasked to design and implement a scheme to achieve ideological quotas. I would make exceptions at the great extreme, like membership in a neo-Nazi group or open advocacy of indiscriminate violence, but in general I don’t see an acceptable solution even if I shared UOM’s concern about ideological narrowness on campus, something I concede is real but I think is massively overstated.

        • thedude says:

          Would we take a donation from the Koch foundation to fund endowed chairs? Would your department?

          Do we invite and foster debate? Or is the only we create inclusion by making sure our debates are so watered or so narrow that almost everybody is in agreement to begin with?

          Again, I feel the need to declare I’m not a republican when I rebuke democratic ideas like the idea that job training programs are easy and work. 40 years of studies and randomized control trials says they aren’t to me says something is broken.

          And as the country polarizes, many of the people who stand to benefit the most from college, will be increasingly unlikely to go because their parents are scared because we the faculty bring 1-side politics into our classroom discussions as increasingly a norm.

          I don’t how to fix it, because the problem becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If smart conservatives or republicans people feel they won’t enjoy or have much of a shot in academia because of their own college experience in the classroom, then they never to grad school, and we end up picking from increasingly polarized part of the original student body. But then eventually, they don’t even want to college.

          • Environmental necessity says:

            Unsure of your point or how this comment is responsive, assuming you are responding to my earlier post. Let me attempt clarification. 1. If the Koch’s give money without strings take it, not if with strings. 2. Campuses should be open to a full range of opinions, including unpopular views and conservative views. 3. Assuming ability, the politics of faculty members should not enter into hiring decisions or admissiions for students, only field competence and potential. 4. There should never be a person or committee empowered to impose or pursue ideological diversity. Which points do you accept and which do you reject and why?

            • thedude says:

              I accept all.

              But we also have our provost now esposing non-peer reviewed sociological claims like anti-racism. That you’re either a racist or anti-racist. If that thesis is true, which I think we should debate, instead of having the provost decide new policies and university standards for equity and inclusion because he read a book that inspired him. Isn’t this something for the senate to actually debate?

              I just wonder if 4) is actually true, if people are vetted informally during campus recruiting visits either explicitly or implicitly we’re looking for those who will fit in the department. If someone was registered republican and admitted as such during their campus visit, how would that affect their odds of getting an offer, as opposed to whether they had up a Biden/Harris donation link on the webpage? I propose to you that MOST units would intentionally not hire someone who admitted to being a republican, or perhaps even a libertarian. That’s certainly something that would hurt someone’s odds of getting an offer here.

              Do you think I’m right on point 4? Do we host grieving crisis response units for the republican club on campus because the jack-ass-in-chief lost?

              • Environmental necessity says:

                We agree that otherwise worthy faculty applicants should not be barred for their political beliefs. You won’t find me leaping to defend Phillips’ missive or his latest initiative. Where we may differ is the question of how widespread this situation is, whether anyone has documented that it is widespread, and how damaging it is even if it is widespread. Again, center-right ideological views are dominant or at least robust in every other arena of life. At worst, if universities are bastions of PC thinking they are in island, a safe harbor. And I do not think they are monolithic lefty bastions, certainly not on the strength of poorly designed studies or using religious views as a proxy for intellectual diversity. The right has for decades been peddling a myth of ideological conformity on campus as a cudgel to try and defang their role of supporting critical inquiry and return the academy to an earlier era when it was nearly exclusively an extension of elite ideology.

      • Conflict of Interest says:

        How can a candidate be “qualified” if they embrace Trump’s pro-Nazi, anti-science, anti-immigrant, lying narcissistic bullshit? He is ACTIVELY trying to undermine a fair election outcome. Doesn’t this phase you at all? Or are you just too taken with Fox New’s
        “fair and balanced” facade of a philosophy?

        Of course, people with conservative politics do not always embrace or tolerate such evils, but unfortunately, the vast majority of elected republican members of congress are just fine with it.

  4. honest Uncle Gangsta says:

    But dude, they should look at it this way. UO is the place that flouts the covid rules — 4 times as many cases as OSU, according to NYT — Trump supporting, fear-not-covid rural types should love having their kids here. Literally to soak up the “atmosphere.”

  5. Environmental necessity says:

    So what is the plan to achiece “thought diversity” that does not cause more harm than good? Are we to invest more power and authority in the powers that be so they can provide “intellectual balance”?

    Make space for critics of the 2nd Law?

    Young Earth Creationists in geology?

    Neo-Confederates in political science?

    I find this recurring self-flaggelation misplaced and destructive, providing further ammo to the ideological jihadists on the right. The charge could have been written by Turning Points USA.

    There is no practical plan that avoids empowering ideology bean counters. All possible solutions are worse than the disease. The charge ignores the social context of higher education, an island of relatively open critical inquiry in a society awash in center-right dogma in every other institution. We are the safe harbor.

    The critical function of a public univeristy is to create a context where scholars can pursue the truth. It is not a machine for achieving ideological benchmarks and validating people’s beliefs, however deeply-felt and rooted in their local culture.

    • honest Uncle Gangsta says:

      Sorry to post so much under this topic — but so much inspiring material!

      Perhaps your political scientists would not have made such absurd polling predictions in the last election had there been a bit more “intellectual balance” in the academy. Instead of the Biden landslide, they might have foreseen the razor-tight outcome, the shift of minorities toward Trump, the near-debacle for Democrats in the so-called “downstream” Congressional and state elections.

      If pursuit of the truth — even about such ephemera as a national election — is the criterion, you are not doing so well. Maybe time for a bit of a rethink?

      There are websites with serious writers that a person can read that might have allowed them to see a bit more clearly what was coming. But these are hardly known in academic circles, and they are scorned when they are. Not all of the inhabitants are “Neo-Confederates.” In fact, I don’t know of any, not in the true sense. Some of them are black, in fact. It might be good to have some of them at UO, even just for a visit.

      • uomatters says:

        Some links would be welcome, hUG. My own understanding of this doesn’t go much beyond Thomas Sowell –
        Meanwhile I’m still puzzling over the fact that mechanical engineering profs are 20x more likely to be atheists than those teaching electrical engineering. And will the Knight Campus’s new bio-engineers increase or decrease UO’s average religiosity?

  6. Cheyney Ryan says:

    Just a comment that the study you reference seems to have an awfully narrow, indeed parochial view of what it means to be religious. It seems to equate being religious with “knowing that God exists”. (Correction: “knowing that God REALLY exists”— whatever that means). This is an awfully Protestant view of what religion is. I see that the study you cite references Durkheim at the very start. But Durkheim emphasized that belief in God is not essential to religion. Rather, it was the distinction between the sacred and the profane. I think that presenting students with different religious perspectives is less important than raising questions of what it means to be religious, whatever your religion.

  7. Having wasted a few minutes staring at the paper the table is from, it’s hard to take this seriously. The total sample size, across all fields, is about 1420 professors. Of course the authors “believe our sample to be an approximate representation of the more than 630,000 professors teaching full-time in U.S. colleges and universities.”

    1420 / 20 fields = 70 respondents per field! That’s where the rows in the table are coming from.

    If we take electrical engineering, the two “2.4%”s are a hint that 2.4% = 1 individual, so the total number surveyed is probably 42 people. For economics, my guess is 43 faculty.

    I wouldn’t conclude anything about any field from this (except maybe the authors’…). The aggregate over all fields might be ok.

  8. honest Uncle Gangsta says:

    Try Glenn Loury, Shelby Steele (not his estranged identical twin brother Claude, who was here for a visit — there must be an interesting story there — they are both on the Stanford campus, but supposedly not on speaking terms), John McWhorter. Quillette online magazine, which posts extended essays and articles, recently had an interview with these three, plus Shelby’s son Eli, who recently made a movie with his father related to the events in Ferguson.

    Quillette also had a recent article by someone else about Shelby Steele’s ideas and career.

    Here are links:

    the group interview:

    the retrospective on Shelby Steele:

    In the first link, with the interview, Glenn Loury has some interesting things to say about black literacy and self-development up through the early 20th century.

    Thomas Sowell is somewhat in the vein of these three, especially S. Steele and Loury, but well to the right of them, and also about a generation earlier.

    None of them is a Neo-Confederate though, lol!

    • prof from another school says:

      I find many thoughtful essays at Quillette. I recommend those by David C. Geary, an educational psychologist at Missouri who takes an evolutionary biology approach to many things.
      His undergraduate text book ‘MALE, FEMALE: the evolution of sex differences’ is in its 3rd edition and is great. your gender studies folks will not approve, of course.

  9. Marion Goldman says:

    Instead of the 2006 survey research , I suggest looking at more up to date and complicated research by Elaine Howard Ecklund and her collaborators. She uses better measures and has done international comparisons as well as studies in the USA. Her 2019 book Secularity and Science is quite interesting.

  10. apt says:

    there’s an assumption floating here that “diversity of thought” means including conservative thinkers (whether for or against). It’s gettin kinda binary in here; what if thought diversity meant left-leaning folks shared certain conservative values? what if folks on the political right stood behind Black Lives Matter? What if we didn’t have to pick a side? Especially when the choice between R and L has constantly been which one will f us over the least? Could we then develop an actual diversity of thought on campus?

    I also worry over diversity initiatives being solely identity-based. When I first spoke w Gov Brown on diversifying the Board of Trustees I asked her if she wanted diversity of thought and experiences or (in a more diplomatic way) if she was looking to show racial, ethnic, and gender diversity as long as the potential Board member was still within the experiences and thought of the typical Board member. She rather have people who look different but think the same because they’ve shared similar experiences in their professional and social realms. But hey it looks diverse! That’s a problem, too.

  11. apt again says:

    and cause it’s Sunday: can we “know” G-d(s) or something greater than us humans exists? or is this beyond our knowing? Is faith too outdated for a Modern thinker? And I’m on existence not even touching to “know” G-d’s will….

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