Discrimination at Cal Poly? Say it isn’t so

March 13, 2013
Roger Freberg

Roger Freberg


(Editor’s note: This is part two in a two-part opinion piece.)

“It’s not every day that left-leaning academics admit that they would discriminate against a minority.” – Washington Post

College life today

College has changed since the 70s. For one thing, it is ridiculously expensive these days. Parents are paying $60,000 per year at private universities, and I think the price tag is leading to a lot of new questions.

Question: Do you still have to be a good “parrot” of your professor’s political ideology to succeed?

Answer: Yes, you do!

Question: Is it worth it?

If you talk to Cal Poly students today, you will find that the political climate on campus is much more extreme than the one I experienced in the Vietnam era 1970s. Nowadays, it’s not enough to conform to your professors’ ideas in essays and papers; you can expect to be humiliated on a regular basis if you are conservative and are expected to ridicule others if you are not.

So, why do faculties feel so free to publicly humiliate the students in their charge? One reason is that they know they are among like minded friends. There are no peers or supervisors on campus who might complain about their boorish behavior. Their bad behavior unfortunately extends beyond the classroom, marginalizing not like minded faculty and restricting access to things like sabbaticals, grants and opportunities to all but ‘their people.” My wife hasn’t had a sabbatical in years, even though she continues to try, but that is another story. She knows why and has a good sense of humor about it.

In walks Jonathan Haidt

Over the past few years, a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt (formerly at the University of Virginia, now at NYU) began to challenge his colleagues about the lack of conservative voices in psychology. After all, psychologists talk a lot about stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination; he felt a need for balance was missing. At a convention of personality and social psychologists, Haidt asked the proverbial question to over 1000 attendees, “How many of you are conservatives?” Would you be surprised to learn that only three hands went up?

“This ‘statistically impossible lack of diversity’ likely leads to discrimination against political conservatives and an unwillingness to consider alternative hypotheses in research, Haidt told the audience” (as reported by Napp Nazworth).

Haidt said that there are two risks from a lack of intellectual diversity. First, this limits the questions that will be asked. Secondly, existing data will be skewed and misinterpreted. Most people raise an eyebrow or two when they are presented ‘facts’ that are designed to manipulate your opinion or actions. Holy Sequester!

Only skewing the facts Ma’am

Let’s see the misinterpretations at work. Gender studies professors believe that biological differences between men and women, other than reproductive systems, are “small and behaviorally insignificant.” At the same time, they will argue that 100 percent of sexual orientation is the result of, you guessed it, biological differences. They seem blissfully unaware that the sexual orientation researchers used the existing studies on the difference between men and women’s brains as a starting place for their work. Biology is okay when it fits the leftist world-view, but otherwise it’s meaningless. This is why some many people have lost faith in bad science in general and many debunked scientists in particular.

We also see academic articles smugly reporting that conservatives are more “fearful” than liberals, based on arousal measure like eye blink rates. A better understanding is to note that most of the American military tilts conservative, and it is unlikely that Marines are more “fearful” than a bunch of liberal college professors. Instead, perhaps we could say that conservatives respond to perceived threat more than liberals do. This could go a long way in explaining differences between the political groups in matters of foreign policy. Conservatives see a problem on the horizon and liberals don’t see it until it falls into their laps.

The unwillingness to look at data straight without the filter of political bias, is not just an academic problem, but one that has cost many lives. Several years ago, the FDA was running clinical trials for a new heart medication. At first glance, the data looked unimpressive. But then some bright, unbiased researcher noticed that the drug only worked extremely well on African-Americans, but not people of other races. Instead of approving the drug with instructions for physicians regarding who would benefit, the FDA sat on the drug for several years out of fear that the approval would show that race was somewhat biological, rather than just a “social construct.” If your grandmother had died during those years because of someone’s misguided political correctness, how are you supposed to feel?

As the eminent Harvard linguist Steven Pinker once said, “facts are not biased.” It’s how people use facts that can be biased.

Over a beer with Inbar and Lammers

In the audience of one of Haidt’s talks were two Dutch psychologists, Yoel Inbar and Joel Lammers. They simply could not believe what they were hearing and seeing, and over a beer (probably Heineken, they are Dutch), they decided to test it out. They sent questionnaires to all members of their professional organization (SPSP) representing personality and social psychologists. Their findings were amazing, as reported below:

“1) the best estimate we have of conservatives in social psych is 6 percent (presumably almost all grad students);

2) there really is a hostile climate for conservatives, and

3) conservatives are likely to face active discrimination when they try to publish or apply for grants or jobs.

The Inbar and Lammers findings are explained in Inside Higher Ed, and on many blog posts such as Assoc. for Psych Science.” — Jonathan Haidt’s University of Virginia webpage

We have all heard the stereotypes offered by leftists — conservatives are stupid, too money-grubbing, and too closed-minded to enter academia. Inbar and Lammers paint a very different and more sinister and realistic picture:

“More than a third of the respondents said they would discriminate against the conservative candidate. One respondent wrote in that if department members ‘could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them.’” – Washington Post

Inbar and Lammers also point out that based on numbers alone, the discrepancy among personality and social psychologists meets the legal definition of discrimination (Teamsters vs. United States, 1977).

Okay, you’re thinking, social psychologists are a relatively small group of faculty. Surely not all faculties are like that?! Well, as my wife’s dissertation advisor, Robert Rescorla, was fond of saying, “it’s an empirical question.”

The Cal Poly experiment – A case of discrimination

One enterprising Cal Poly undergraduate recently undertook a replication of the Inbar and Lammers study, with an expanded view. First, he surveyed all departments across four CSU campuses, receiving nearly 700 responses, and second, he asked mirrored questions about whether liberals experienced discrimination and whether conservatives would discriminate against liberals. (In the second part of this article, he will share his results with you.)

His research has already gathered a lot of attention. It has been accepted for presentation at the prestigious Association for Psychological Science (APS) annual convention in Washington, D. C. in May and also at the Western Psychological Association (WPA) annual convention in April. He also shared his work with Yoel Inbar, who was very supportive of what he had done.

Next came the reality test, the Cal Poly student wondered how can you show that biased individuals will actually follow through with active discrimination. He decided to present his project to Cal Poly’s selection committee to see if it would be chosen to be one of 10 sent on to the CSU research competition. As expected, his project was not chosen; in fact, it was enthusiastically not chosen by one account. Just for reference, some of the selected projects, one in particular, was professionally embarrassing.

Specifically, the Cal Poly selection committee objected vehemently to the axis labels on his histograms and questioned just about everything but his manhood. I’m not kidding. Frankly, some unqualified committee members were making observations and criticisms about his use of statistics with apparently little understanding of the topic. By contrast, one outside reviewer thought that his study was a remarkable dissertation project (leading to a doctorate) and found it hard to believe that is was merely a study by an exceptional undergraduate.

Does the study by the young researcher show that Cal Poly meets the “legal definition of discrimination?” My guess is that they probably do, but you can read it for yourself soon enough.

Stay tuned for the Cal Poly Research “that you were never supposed to know about” in part two.

Roger Freberg is a San Luis Obispo resident who is using his retirement to write a culinary-inspired blog, comment on important local events and occasionally enjoy getting sued for his journalistic excellence.


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I find it interesting that Liberals have called Conservatives so many hateful names. Liberals state they are smart, highly literate, critical thinkers. While conservatives, according to the comments here, are confused, illogical, wrong, nitwits, denialists, Flat Earth Society members, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, liars, lazy, phony, misleading, “challenged”, enemies, evil, backward, cruel, morons, immature and dumb. (More to come, I am sure.) Wow! Quite a list there! It is so much easier to discredit someone by calling them names than it is to discredit an idea by actively debating it.

I find this young researcher to be very brave in confronting an issue that obviously brings out a lot of fear and ignorance in some of the readers here. I look forward to the findings of the mirrored questions about whether liberals experienced discrimination and whether conservatives would discriminate against liberals.

Methinks you confuse scholastic achievement with intelligence.

Roger confuses intelligence with myth.

Reactionary thinking is illogic defined as law. Reverse engineering. They can’t go wrong, even when demonstrably proven impossible.

Roger: Perhaps more people could see how the questioning works if you either posted the questionnaire here or provide a link to a site that not only provides the questions, but also rates the responses so the individual can then see how this particular “reality test” actually works. Of course simply participating by answering the questions on this test cannot predict how one would really interact with others of different political persuasion, but by following through we could see if there is, in our own opinion, see if there is any bias present in the questions themselves, in the fashion they are presented, and if a rating of answers are provided, if the individual who chooses to take this test agrees with the assessment provided.

I’m reasonably sure that in most groups of people, a bond of sorts does eventually come out, and being an outsider attempting to gain access to that group can be difficult no matter the setting, and academics cannot really be that different than most other groups in that regard. Since I am not an academic by any stretch of the imagination, I really am not in a position to either agree or disagree with the assertion that Cal Poly engages in a sort of discrimination against conservatives; I could see that happening, but is also possible that those conservatives who have felt that they were discriminated against just could not penetrate the bond of the group so the charge of discrimination is an easily played card to justify their feeling of not being accepted.

On the subject of questionnaires and political viewpoints, link here to a very interesting questionnaire that will give you a very interesting read of how your political beliefs plug into the structure of what constitutes “left” verses “right”. If anyone reading here has never taken this test before, it is a very interesting exercise, and they are very careful not to record your responses; the information is for you to do with what you want, and only for you to decide.

bob …you are a too courteous ‘liberal’. Nice person, I am sure.

But we are dealing with nitwits…’conservative’ denialists that don’t accept facts or science. No one can argue with these people. They are the modern equivalent of the Flat Earth Society.

They just are impervious to reason.

Amuse yourself at your own waste of time; but know that you will have no effect.

I took that questionnaire you linked and got:

Economic Left/Right: 2.62

Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.33.

Not sure what that all means, but usually those things are put up by Libertarians to show that most of us are libertarian in nature.

Roger would never list his results. They would be upper right…close to Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin.

I scored in extreme lower left, beyond the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi.

S/F: I’m sure you’re correct about Roger not listing his results, and for the very reason you mentioned.

As for myself, my first time I took it about 2 years ago, my scores were:

Economic Left/Right: -7.88

Social LIbertarian/Authoritarian: -6.77

I took it again today after posting the link and had a slightly different result, but close to the same as before:

Economic Left/Right: -7.12

Social LIbertarian/Authoritarian: -6.46

I must be mellowing, very slightly as I get older :)

Very informative on the Political Compass test are the results of comparative tests located on the left scroll.

For US Presidential Elections 2012, it is compelling that both Barack Obama and Willard Romney scored solidly in the middle of the Authoritarian/Economic Right quadrant …practically neighbors.

Obama +6/+6 , Romney +6.5/+7

Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein was the only semi-major candidate to score in the lower Libertarian/Economic Left quadrant at -3/-3

For the scoring of US States 2008 ( figured by compiling the records of individual state’s senators ) EVERY US state is in the Authoritarian./ Economic Right quadrant. Even Vermont with the only true ‘liberal’ senator, Bernie Sanders is still A/R, though closer to the center. Most “red” states are in extreme top right A/R corner.

But wait; isn’t Barack Obama the most liberal, far left president we’ve ever had? Not according to his actions and his policies; but that doesn’t matter to those from the right, to anyone to the left of them, we are all “far left”. Funny how perception doesn’t really require facts ….

Good for you. And, after all, it is about you!

Your snark is duly noted, thanks for playing- oh wait, you haven’t posted your numbers. Are you afraid to show your ranking?

I have seen the linked questionnaire/chart before although I have never completed it until now. I am skeptical of it since I find that, as with many such polls and questionnaires, the options for answers are often inadequate to give accurate responses. I decided to try it anyway and see how it labeled me.

I am a little left of center and about halfway down on the Libertarian scale. I would have guessed the latter correctly but would have thought I was straddling the left-right dividing line. The difference could be in the choice of questions asked, the aforementioned inadequate options for responses or maybe I am a touch further left than I thought. If the latter is true, it could be that I have moved to the left on economic issues due to the massive cases of unethical behavior by large corporations.

(By this I am referring to abuses of the public health and welfare and to financial techniques that focus on means other than better and more efficient production to “win” in competition. All of that is enabled by their financial control of the political process and, to a large extent, of the media propaganda machines.)

Having “taken” the political compass test on 3 separate occasions, I really do not see how the answers could have “more” options; a statement is made and you are given 4 different response to choose from: Strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree. My point is, I believe that this seems to be a pretty accurate indicator of how you really feel about issues in today’s society, both on a political level and on economics as well as how much the two are linked together.

I think that most Americans are just slightly “left” of center and also tending towards libertarian more than authoritarian, in other words, your results are where most Americans will come down on this “test”, if they answer how they honestly feel about the issues for themselves, not their political ideology.

And your recognition of the complicity of the political and media structures to support the “haves” over the “don’t have as much” and the “don’t haves” is spot on, IMO.

This propaganda reminds me so much of a classic statement by Mark Twain:

“There are lies, and there are damned lies, and then there are statistics”.

Also, how the BBC Masterpiece Theatre production , “To Play the King” outlined how polling could be massaged to reflect any political point of view one chose.

All one has to do is to select a certain polling audience, and/or to have particular leading and often ‘misleading’ questions in the survey.

Then, one just has to cherry pick the most conforming results to find a pre- determined outcome.

Frank Luntz ( conservative pollster ) does this all the time.

What a load of intellectually lazy codswallop ! Confused connections, loose strawman arguments, circular logic abounds. Typical right-wing A+B=C conclusions, instead of factual A+B= A + B .

All in the usual buzzhype of “some people say…” phony journalism so prevalent in the echo chamber of conservative agitprop.

For example; Who is this Jonathan Haidt, and what axe does he have to grind ?

Then, the misleading numbers…1,000 questionaires ? 700 responses ? My garsh, those MUST be representative of the whole ! ( satire ).

The corollarty to the question is, What if it is TRUE that the more intellectually discerning one is tends to make one more liberal, as a natural consequence, and that those that are ‘conservative’ are …let’s politely say “challenged” ?

This would not be discrimination, it would just be the plain facts.

As someone who knows many full-time faculty, it is not uncommon for discussions to center on part-time faculty members and whether to support bringing them back to teach. “Do they fit into our department?” In particular, do they (i.e., part-time faculty members) reflect the western-oriented view of society and are they progressive. Sorry folks, it is true. While many of the full-time instructors believe they are “sophisticated” and “urbane”, they are not; their personal views are myopic and they have an egocentric world view.

“Sorry folks, it is true” – the only people I ever hear denying this are the lefty professors themselves. The entire rest of civilization has known this emphatically for the past 40 years.

The questionnaire distributed by Inbar and Lammers and the one by the young Cal Poly student didn’t not determine who was conservative or who was liberal. It was based on self report.

What is interesting to me is that most academics underestimate their political position relative to what positions on various issues actual conservatives, moderates or liberals actually take. My observation is that many academics will call themselves moderates when they are actually liberal, for example…. but that is a study for someone else to do.

This is a “replicated” study which means that Inbar and Lammers have already hammered out the hard questions… the development of the questionnaire and how the data was analyzed. Their study was peer reviewed at the Association of Psychological Sciences… not exactly a light weight or conservative think tank.

The data speaks for itself.

People might not like what the survey says… but there isn’t much room for criticism… The real issue here is what can universities like Cal Poly do to create a less hostile work environment and an openness for free expression?

My biggest gripe is that the word “liberal” somehow got hijacked by these leftists who are, in actuality, marxist progressives a la Fabian Socialism… LIBERAL used to mean just that: liberty. As in freedom and individualism. I’d rather see “Conservative” and “Progressive” – those are more appropriate terms, in my opinion.


The word ‘liberal’ got hijacked by reactionary imperialistslike war criminal families GHWBush screaming, “LIBERAL, LIBERAL, LIBERAL ! ” and his henchmen…Lee Atwater.

They made the word a pejorative.

It may take some time, but I am working to make ‘Republican” and ‘conservative’ understood in popular vernacular as ENEMIES, EVIL, BACKWARD, and CRUEL.

I have to say, that I have had some success.

All those moron conservatives make my task all that easier.

Hijacking is right. Modern “liberals” are NOT. It would make a very interesting study to demonstrate exactly how that propagandistic switch happened.

“The real issue here is what can universities like Cal Poly do to create a less hostile work environment and an openness for free expression?”

It has been my observation that conservatives are never at a loss to shoot their mouths off. Even when they are proven wrong.

“Even when they are proven wrong; like every single time.”

There, fixed it for ‘ya.

Oh Please, what a load of crap. So many assumptions and opinions, I don’t know where to start. Oh wait, how about at the beginning: “If you talk to Cal Poly students today…” Gee, that’s rigorous scientific investigation. Could it be, Roger, that if conservatives are not respected (assuming there is substance to that), it’s because the conservative points are idealogical and not based on any reality?

By the way, Roger, how to you determine who is liberal or conservative? I mean, take myself: I believe in personal responsibility, (I have been self-employed for 27 years) I believe in a woman’s right to choose; I am against the death penalty; I am a firm believer in Second Amendment rights, I don’t like government intrusion; I believe in having a strong military but I do not believe in throwing the big stick around and starting wars on a whim…How would you classify me (a concept I am not happy with) Roger?

So, Roger, why write an inflammitory piece like this? Why not something positive? And something fact-based?

The question is not how I would categorize you… but how you would categorize yourself and how you would react to certain statements on the survey. It also asked you specifically about whether you would higher a liberal or conservative over another.

If you are willing to discriminate, then that says a lot no matter who you are politically.


“catdude” – did you even read the article? Those “assumptions” were on a questionnaire that people would answer about themselves… Your knee-jerk reaction and misinterpretation of what was presented does not bode well for your argument (such as it is).

It is only inflammatory to those that may be harmed by it. I am neither conservative nor progressive, and am curious how the survey was answered. Can’t wait for part 2.

I am going to help Roger with this one. Obviously he can’t answer the question or he wouldn’t have come back with the immature ” its not how i would classify its how you would yada yada yada”

Its simple catdude you are a SOB crumudgeon and a good old fashioned American

Could be that only 3 out of over 1000 psychologists were conservatives indicates the high level of literacy and critical thinking there. Most smart people are liberals, and of course the converse holds true for the others.

Spoken like a true liberal; if your views don’t align themselves with mine, you’re stupid, or a racist, or some other label that liberals are not supposed to apply because of their open mindedness.

lol labels!

You must be a conservative then.

Who let Pee Wee Herman in ?

Foot: meet mouth.

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