by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef writes for the Martin Center about growing efforts among college campus faculty to enforce an academic party line.
Glenn Geher is a psychology professor at SUNY–New Paltz, where he directs the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab. During his academic career, professor Geher has published more than 100 papers. He’s familiar with the trials and tribulations of getting research published, but never ran into such trouble as he encountered with a paper the explored the underlying political beliefs and motivations of the professoriate.
As professor Geher writes here, “I truly believe this research was generally well-thought-out, well-implemented, and well-presented. And it actually has something to say about the academic world that is of potential value.”
How Geher was inspired to delve into the underlying beliefs of professors is an interesting tale. It began in 2016 when, following numerous campus disruptions (including at New Paltz), he was asked to head up a Free Speech Task Force that was meant to help the school come to grips with matters that shouldn’t have been controversial: academic freedom and tolerance.
Geher invited professor Jonathan Haidt, founder of Heterodox Academy and a firm believer in freedom of speech for all, to give a talk at the school. Haidt gave his presentation, arguing that academia cannot be devoted to the search for truth if it also has a political agenda. Geher found Haidt’s talk to be very enlightening and persuasive and was shocked to find that quite a few people in the New Paltz academic community were outraged by it.
For some reason, many people were “genuinely angry” over Haidt’s arguments for academic objectivity and tolerance.
Wanting to learn why many on campus reacted as they did, Geher and his research team came up with an idea to study the motivations of faculty members. Their concept was to survey academics, asking them how they prioritize five academic values: academic rigor, knowledge advancement, academic freedom, students’ emotional well-being, and social justice. The objective was to see if academic values were related to the individual’s field, political orientation, gender, and personality.