Political correctness and universities

Ah yes D’Souza.

Again what some people call political correctness I would call common decency and on many campuses in the United States there is no viewpoint more prominently represented than conservative Christians. At my own university like many around the country there is an entire building devoted to Christian students. No other group on campus be they transgendered students, gay and lesbian students, secular students, or students of pretty much any other religious affiliation have that sort of representation.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Religious faith and interest in basic science

Yes, and when one sees Dinesh D’Souza (how was prison, Dinesh?) being cited as though his views will save our modern society, that’s a pretty good example. People who actually value a humane, law-based society see D’Souza very differently: as one of those who would burn it all down if he thought it would serve his faith, and who stands ready, torch in hand.


I mean didn’t D’Souza mock Florida students lobbying for better gun control laws in their state? Is this the sort of “political incorrectness” we should be encouraging in our public universities?

I think a lot of people who complain about universities as hot beds of liberal “political correctness” don’t realize that most public universities in the United States are not in particularly liberal communities. I’ve spent my entire academic career working in five states, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and West Virginia and can tell you that in these states the characterization you might hear about universities in the prime time slots on Fox News do not reflect the reality.

That doesn’t make much sense. Over the last couple decades there is good evidence that faculty at universities have shifted to being liberal. That can be a good or bad thing depending on your personal views, and it doesn’t explain the reasons why. However to deny this sociological fact due to the surrounding neighborhoods is nonsensical.


Students at state universities Josh come from the community. These kids are not nearly as liberal as people might think. The largest student organizations on our campus are Christian organizations with a sizable proportion of students who would identify with many conservative Christian causes and this influences the campus culture. The humanities faculty I’ve interacted with the most on my campus through mostly teaching workshops and fellowships have all been Christians who I would not necessarily categorize as liberal. I think the knee jerk reaction to categorize universities as enforcing liberal “political correctness” is a little overblown.


Here is some information and data to add to the conversation:


So this article runs counter to the claim that there is any discrimination towards conservatives or enforcement of a liberal “politically correct” ethos.

Just saying most academics are liberal is not the same as saying academia is discriminatory or overly “politically correct”. You can point to several studies in the article you cite Josh but this sums things up.

“ Yes, professors lean left (although with some caveats). But much of the research says conservative students and faculty members are not only surviving but thriving in academe – free of indoctrination if not the periodic frustrations. Further, the research casts doubt on the idea that the ideological tilt of faculty members is because of discrimination. Notably, some of this research has been produced by conservative scholars.”

And you are a faculty at a public university Josh so what are your positions on these “politically correct” culture war positions? Are you for LGBT rights? Are supportive of feminism?

I can second this.


I don’t know how old you are, but I am old enough to have been around when the term “politically correct” first started to come into wide usage, and I can tell you its original sense. In its original sense it was a term of ridicule or reproach. It was implicitly or explicitly contrasted with “factually correct”, and the idea was that people were being pressured not to say what was true, but rather to say what was acceptable to certain rising tides of intellectual or social opinion (whether feminist or other). So, for example, if statistics showed that crimes in many US inner cities were disproportionately committed by blacks (or by some other identifiable group or combination of groups), one was not supposed to say that out loud or in print; it was not “politically correct” in light of the reigning attitude among a certain sort of intellectual. Saying it out loud would lead to immediate charges of racism against one, which made it difficult to discuss the social causes of crime in a rational and objective way. One had to tiptoe around the facts, instead of facing them head-on. Saying out loud, based on the actual choices of women, that women seemed to prefer careers in work that involved “people” than in work that involved primarily “things” was deemed “sexist”, and so one could not report the mere fact that relatively fewer women chose engineering than teaching or nursing without incurring the sexist label. Irritation with this attempt to police thought and language led to the contrast between “politically correct” and “factually correct”, and the term “politically correct” was intended as a sneer against the thought and expression police.

The example I gave of Doreen Kimura is pertinent here, because she was saying things about male and female brain development which she regarded as established by the proper methods of brain research, and was getting resistance from people who thought that such conclusions should not be drawn, and the motivation for the resistance was not scientific, but political.

If you are against science being controlled by the religious beliefs of fundamentalists, I’m with you, but unless you are against science being controlled by the philosophical or ideological beliefs of anyone, we aren’t on the same side.

We need more information about this. Is this a secular university? Is it publicly or privately funded? Is the building in question one donated by private donors, entirely from their own personal funds, for the use of Christian students? Would the university’s rules allow a similar dedication or donation of buildings to Muslim students, Jewish students, etc.? You aren’t giving us enough to assess the situation. Perhaps you could name the university and the building so we could investigate.

At the university where I was an undergrad, one large lounge in a student-dedicated (but wholly publicly funded) building was called the “women’s lounge” and only women were allowed to congregate there. Had that same building allotted a lounge of equal size to men only, there would have been a colossal scream of sexism, endless editorials in the student paper about “old boys’ networks” and so on. But at the time, feminism and the alleged interests of women dominated the campus, and the idea was that equal rights for women was not enough, that special considerations for women were required. It was politically incorrect to say that if the women had a dedicated tax-paid room, the men should have one, too – even though that would have been a fairer use of taxpayer money.

At that same university, there was a room used regularly by the Intervarsity Christian group, but they didn’t own the room and had to book it like any other group. Groups representing all religions, all political parties, homosexuals, etc. were equally free to regularly book a constant venue for meetings in various buildings around the campus. The student union gave out money to all these student groups, I believe according to a formula depending partly on number of members. Christian groups were not favored.

More important, look at the rash of incidents over the past 20 years or so in which activist student groups on campuses at secular universities have tried to block invitations to visiting speakers whose views offend them. These have made the news, often very prominently, and I don’t see how anyone who claims to know anything about university life can be unaware of them. You will not notice any case in a secular university where Christian groups have tried to block talks by visiting speakers who attack Christianity. You will find many cases where special interest groups have tried to block invitations to speakers who hold views that are politically incorrect according to those groups. It isn’t Christianity that is the problem on secular US campuses; it’s interest-group politics, grievance politics. In some cases the university administrations have shamefully capitulated to pressure from the interest groups and rescinded issued invitations. But students who aren’t willing to tolerate the expression of views they find offensive aren’t fit to be university students. Nobody forces any of them to attend any visiting speaker event that they find offensive, and they shouldn’t be trying to block the exchange of ideas or prevent others from hearing those speakers. Again, this problem is not coming from Christian students. It’s coming from various secular and generally leftist quarters.

Americans use to hold strongly to the principle, “I may disagree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it”; that commitment was always one of the noblest things about America. But that commitment to diversity of opinion is waning in America, in its universities and elsewhere, due to the power of political correctness. This is not a good development for a free nation.

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Yes, I think he did. I have an older brother who probably knows D’Souza – he gets up to all sorts of horrid things and is friends with D’Souza’s pal David Horowitz. These people are awful – cultural vandals who, if they get their way, will bring back the guillotine and already have a pretty long list of people to use it on. They see the western liberal tradition as a basic mistake.

And so when episodes of illiberalism on the part of college students come along, and somebody can’t speak on a college campus because of protests, or somebody holding dissenting views is treated badly, these people point to that and act as though they want to put a stop to all of that. They omit to mention that many WITHIN these institutions don’t concur with illiberal notions relative to free speech, and they also omit to mention that they themselves are immensely illiberal, albeit in different directions.

I am all for sarcasm, wit and confrontation on issues of public concern. And if D’Souza thinks he can get somewhere by mocking kids who saw their classmates being gunned down, well, I think he may be mistaken but as far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to it. But substantively it must be recognized that a world where public discourse is remade by people like D’Souza, or by the David Duke personalities that run the Discovery Institute, would be a dystopic one indeed.


Eddie, virtually every single public university in the south (and I suspect most others as well) has a privately funded campus Christian student union many with a significant presence on campus in the form of actual infrastructure. Some may have other buildings or other space devoted to other religious groups on campus but none are as well represented as Christian student organizations.

I have to tell you Eddie, I’m not keen on putting my life on the line for someone to spout their bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic nonsense. My life is worth a lot more than someone’s ignorant BS.

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Indeed. And we do have institutions, particularly the courts, which traditionally have been meant to avoid you having to put your life on the line for it anyhow. But one of the vandal-projects of the culture warriors has been to strip the courts of authority and credibility. That’s what you do when you want authoritarian voices to hold sway; it’s not what you do to protect expression.


I was at UA. I can confirm your statement

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Auburn. War Eagle.

“Cultural vandals”, I think that is an apt description.

Eddie, I’ve been involved in academia and higher ed in some capacity for over thirty years.

Your anecdotes aside I’m just going to leave you with a quote that summarizes the article that Josh cited that he says lends some actual data to the discussion.

“Yes, professors lean left (although with some caveats). But much of the research says conservative students and faculty members are not only surviving but thriving in academe – free of indoctrination if not the periodic frustrations. Further, the research casts doubt on the idea that the ideological tilt of faculty members is because of discrimination. Notably, some of this research has been produced by conservative scholars.”