America’s colleges are supposed to be places absent of discrimination, places where everyone is treated fairly. A recent study conducted by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research may suggest otherwise. In fact, 53 percent of the 1,200 college and university faculty members polled held an unfavorable opinion toward a particular group. Can you guess which group? If it were Latinos or African-Americans, this would have made headline news, so it isn’t either of these groups. The study was designed to gauge anti-Semitism, but the study found very warm and favorable opinions towards Jews. It wasn’t Catholics, Buddhists, or Muslims either. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, there was an overwhelmingly unfavorable opinion of Evangelical Christians by college professors.
In the words of the institute’s director and chief pollster Gary Tobin, “There is no question this is revealing bias and prejudice.” While the poll does not measure how professors act, the poll reveals that a shocking number of professors hold a very negative opinion of Evangelical Christians. It would be easy to discount a poll if only one in four or one in three professors thought negatively of Evangelical Christians, but this is over half of the professors polled.
In fact, the numbers are so disturbing that I think we might need to consider sensitivity training in our universities. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that there will be any required reading, lectures, or class discussions involving the discrimination of Evangelicals. That’s too bad, because this prejudice certainly has consequences in the classroom. For instance, the study says, “As it was for Jews on campus two generations ago, maybe Evangelical Christians do not want to talk openly about their identities and beliefs. The prejudice against them stands out prominently in institutions dedicated to liberalism, tolerance and academic freedom.”
Perhaps, the Evangelical sense of morality or opposition to gay marriage and abortion puts them at odds with the university faculty. It could be true, but it doesn’t make much sense. For instance, Catholics, who received favorable responses in the study, hold similar moral beliefs. It seems more likely that professors link Evangelical Christians to the political right, which undoubtedly has an equally favorable opinion among professors. Among professors who identified themselves as Democrat, 65 percent thought negatively of Evangelicals. This could explain the prejudice, but it wouldn’t justify it. If Latinos or African-Americans had undesirable political philosophies, it’s unlikely that anyone would use that as a justification for prejudice.
In America, the largest religious group is Evangelical Christians, which makes up 33 percent of the population. However, only 14 percent of America’s professors identify themselves as Evangelical. It’s obvious that there is a disconnect between those in higher education and the general public. While professors are completely willing to take the public’s tax dollar for their salary, it seems they aren’t able to hold a favorable opinion of many of those paying their salary.
For certain Evangelical students and for others who hold beliefs different from their professors, two separate worlds emerge. There’s the world of the classroom, where standing up for one’s beliefs means openly disagreeing with a professor. While certain students try to stand up for their beliefs, many others “sell-out” or adapt their views to their professors. This sometimes leads to a higher grade but ultimately contradicts ones personal beliefs. Of course, having ones beliefs challenged can be healthy, if in the correct dosage. I sincerely doubt and hope that the majority of the faculty, which thinks negatively of Evangelicals, truly acts upon this attitude, but it’s unquestionable that some do.
Brian Eller is a materials engineering junior and Mustang Daily political columnist.