Do “Elite” Universities Discriminate Against Christians?

In the book, Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity, and Faculty Gatekeeping (published by Harvard University Press),  Julie R. Posselt  “obtained permission from 6 highly ranked departments at three research universities to watch their reviews of candidates, and she interviewed faculty members at four others.”

Here is one observation that might be on interest to some of you:

In most cases Posselt observed, the committee members used banter and “friendly debate” when they disagreed with one another. They didn’t attack one another or get too pointed in criticizing colleagues. She describes one discussion she observed — in which committee members kept to this approach — that left her wondering about issues of fairness.

 

The applicant, to a linguistics Ph.D. program, was a student at a small religious college unknown to some committee members but whose values were questioned by others.

“Right-wing religious fundamentalists,” one committee member said of the college, while another said, to much laughter, that the college was “supported by the Koch brothers.”

 

The committee then spent more time discussing details of the applicant’s GRE scores and background — high GRE scores, homeschooled — than it did with some other candidates. The chair of the committee said, “I would like to beat that college out of her,” and, to laughter from committee members asked, “You don’t think she’s a nutcase?”

 

Other committee members defended her, but didn’t challenge the assumptions made by skeptics. One noted that the college had a good reputation in the humanities. And another said that her personal statement indicated intellectual independence from her college and good critical thinking.

 

At the end of this discussion, the committee moved the applicant ahead to the next round but rejected her there.

 

What’s striking to me is even though the committee members knew they were being observed, even that did not stop them from engaging in this unprofessional and unethical behavior.

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20 Responses to Do “Elite” Universities Discriminate Against Christians?

  1. TFBW says:

    Huh. Ivory tower syndrome as seen from within the ivory tower itself. It really is a thing, isn’t it?

  2. KIA says:

    Colleges and educational institutions generally do discriminate, if that’s the word you want to use for judge or discern intelligence or intellectual competency, against people or all ilk that believe this that are not true, scientific or demonstrable to be existent and in accordance with Reality.
    Christians can cry if they want, but if you want to believe the unbelievable and teach the unverifiable, for example.. A 6000 yr old earth, special creation of mankind apart from the evolutionary process of other animals on earth and the rising from death after 3 days in the grave of a failed 1st century Jewish messianic prophet who got killed trying to fomet anti Roman ‘jihad’, I would say yeah… Then you will be excluded from teaching opportunities where you would have platform to mis educate young impressionable minds and made to defend your indefensible claims.
    Not discrimination like racism, sexism, slaver and other forms brought to us by the bible and furthered down thru the years by the church.
    Its called calling b s on unsubstantiated and unproveable belief systems of Faith in the face of evidence based reality.
    Occam’s Razzor is a bear isn’t it?

  3. Michael says:

    Surprise! Defending discrimination by trafficking in stereotypes and fear-mongering. Something tells me the the chair of that committee would probably agree with you. 😉

  4. Kevin says:

    I notice the progressive elites who think believing in God is “denying reality” are also the quickest to declare that a man who identifies as a woman is in fact as much of a woman as our mothers .

    Somehow, I don’t think progressive elites are qualified to gauge whether others can perceive reality.

  5. Kevin says:

    Atheism means that literally nothing matters. Why would you want someone who believes that nothing matters teaching young impressionable minds?

    Or if they are of the deluded atheist variety, and pretend that their opinions and values actually DO matter even though they objectively do not, then why would you want deluded teachers who can’t even understand the implications of their own beliefs and, thus, can’t perceive or accept reality?

    Give me a young earth creationist any day over that.

  6. Billy Squibs says:

    George Yancey and David Williamson’s book So Many Christians, So Few Lions researched whether there is anti-Christian bias in America – including educational institutions. Incidentally, the name of the book came from one respondent who clearly had an issue when it came to Christians (at least a certain variety of them). You can check out Yancey on Youtube for more on this. Arguably he’s not a great public speaker but he gets his point across.

  7. Dhay says:

    KIA > Then you will be excluded from teaching opportunities where you would have platform to mis educate young impressionable minds…

    The quote is clear enough: “The applicant, to a linguistics Ph.D. program…” There’s nothing about the applicant wanting to teach, nothing about the applicant wanting to “teach the unverifiable” as you allege.

    Your incoherent and illiterate word-salad also demonstrates an abysmal level of reading and comprehension ability. You should pay more attention to “evidence based reality”.

  8. 22056 says:

    Colleges and educational institutions generally do discriminate, if that’s the word you want to use for judge or discern intelligence or intellectual competency, against people or all ilk that believe this that are not true, scientific or demonstrable to be existent and in accordance with Reality.
    Christians can cry if they want, but if you want to believe the unbelievable and teach the unverifiable …Then you will be excluded from teaching opportunities where you would have platform to mis educate young impressionable minds and made to defend your indefensible claims.

    My God, by this standard, we need to remove all the atheists and naturalists from higher education as soon as possible. Consider:

    Atheist: There are nothing, and then….NATURALISTIC MAGIC….the universe!

    Atheist: There was no life, and then….NATURALISTIC MAGIC….life!

    Atheist: There was no consciousness, and then…NATURALISTIC MAGIC….consciousness.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    If we want to talk about unverifiable evidence-free claims, atheism and naturalism lead the pack by a wide margin. Furthermore, and here is the funny part at least on Christian theism we have an omnipotent God who, by definition, could make miracles happen, but we have no idea if NATURALISTIC MAGIC has the causal resources to do so. So, in actual fact, the Christian has a more rational, sound, and comprehensive point of view than naturalism does.

    Its called calling b s on unsubstantiated and unproveable belief systems of Faith in the face of evidence based reality.

    I.E. – Atheism and atheistic-naturalism.

    Occam’s Razzor is a bear isn’t it?

    For naturalism, absolutely, given that the simplest and most parsimonious worldview is immaterialism, not materialism (and remember, the burden of proof is on the materialist to prove the existence of matter…so good luck!). So yes, Occam’s Razor is a bitch for the naturalist and for the atheist (given that atheism is hard-pressed to be coherent on immaterialism).

    22056
    http://www.investigativeapologetics.wordpress.com

  9. dognillo says:

    But where did your omnipotent God come from? Most theists I have talked to would make the claim that God is eternal and didn’t have to come from anywhere. That sounds just as nonsensical to me as to say that everything came from naturalistic magic (or nothing). Why not just say that we don’t know? I don’t think that you can rightfully claim that Christianity (or even deism) is more rational than naturalism. They are equally rational (or irrational).

  10. The original Mr. X says:

    Dognillo:

    But where did your omnipotent God come from? Most theists I have talked to would make the claim that God is eternal and didn’t have to come from anywhere. That sounds just as nonsensical to me as to say that everything came from naturalistic magic (or nothing). Why not just say that we don’t know? I don’t think that you can rightfully claim that Christianity (or even deism) is more rational than naturalism. They are equally rational (or irrational).

    It’s not that God is eternal, but that he’s /necessary/. (Of course, a necessary being must also be eternal, but an eternal thing doesn’t have to be necessary. E.g., Aristotle thought the universe was eternal, but not, AFAIK, that it was necessary.) Being necessary, therefore, God doesn’t need a source of existence outside himself, unlike the universe, which is contingent.

  11. The original Mr. X says:

    Dognillo:

    But where did your omnipotent God come from? Most theists I have talked to would make the claim that God is eternal and didn’t have to come from anywhere. That sounds just as nonsensical to me as to say that everything came from naturalistic magic (or nothing). Why not just say that we don’t know? I don’t think that you can rightfully claim that Christianity (or even deism) is more rational than naturalism. They are equally rational (or irrational).

    It’s not that God is eternal, but that he’s /necessary/. (Of course, a necessary being must also be eternal, but an eternal thing doesn’t have to be necessary. E.g., Aristotle thought the universe was eternal, but not, AFAIK, that it was necessary.) Being necessary, therefore, God doesn’t need a source of existence outside himself, unlike the universe, which is contingent.

  12. 22056 says:

    dognillo,

    I just happened to address the issue that you raise earlier on my blog. Here you are:

    “Note that if the atheist truly believes that the ‘Who (or what) created God?’ question is a knock-down retort against the theist, then the same atheist should realize that the ‘Who (or what) created the universe?’ question is an equally devastating objection against the atheist, and thus the atheist gains no advantage over the theist in posing this causal question, for both the atheist and the theist seek after some ultimate first cause; and note further that if the atheist can claim that the universe has no cause and is just a brute fact, then, by parity, nothing stops the theist from using this defense as well, so the ‘who caused…’ question, if actually taken seriously–and it should not be–is as allegedly deadly to atheism as it is to theism.”

    And…

    “It is the case that if the atheist seriously mounts the “Well then, who (or what) caused God?” objection against theism, then the theist can just as readily mount the “Well then, who (or what) caused the universe?” objection against the atheist; and it should be pointed out that this game is much worse for the atheist than the theist, for while it is easy and natural to demand a cause for the universe–there does not, after all, seem to be anything necessary about the universe’s existence–the fact is that it is absurd to ask for the cause of a being which must, by definition, be uncaused in order for the being to be what it is (for God, to be the greatest conceivable being, which He is, must be uncaused, for all other things being equal, an uncaused being is greater than a caused one) and thus while it makes sense to ask for a cause of the universe, it does not make sense to do so for God.”

    22056
    http://www.investigativeapologetics.wordpress.com

  13. Larry Olson says:

    They should discriminate, just as we don’t let medical doctors practice Homeopathy and Astrology in our hospitals to treat serious diseases. People discriminate all day long. When someone does not make it into the NHL, they are being discriminated against for not being big enough, not being fast enough, not being fit enough. Doctors who believe in witchcraft (christianity, Islam, Hinduism) should be educated and not allowed to bring any of their religion into their scientific study, just as Homeopathy should not be allowed inside medical cancer treatment centers and universities. Next time your medical doctor invites you in when you have a broken leg and he refers to his Astrology chart on the wall about you being born on a certain date therefore your broken leg was meant to happen on a certain date, are you going to go back to that doctor? So why should doctors and scientists and politicians be allowed to peddle their religious superstitions into their careers and schooling? When Stockwell Day was exposed for believing the earth was around 6000 years old, a lot of people stopped voting for him in Canada, and rightly so.

  14. Kevin says:

    The vast majority of doctors believe in God or some other higher power, so you’re screwed I guess.

    Christianity is witchcraft now? I’m just amazed at what I learn from Larry.

  15. Dhay says:

    If you read Larry Olson’s website you will find out how he intends to avoid the heat death of the universe by making a device which violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; such devices are known as, or can be made into, perpetual motion machines.

    http://olsonb.com/articles/why-olsonb.html

    So (re-phrasing his own wording) why should Larry Olson be allowed to peddle his pseudo-scientific ideas about breaking the 2nd Law, and creating perpetual motion devices. If we take his last response seriously, the obvious conclusion is that his website should be closed down to silence his obviously nutty views.

    I gather that the US Patent Office used to be flooded with perpetual motion device designs, but put a stop to that for pragmatic reasons:

    blockquote>While it can be quite useful to have some kind of a prototype, even a crude prototype that you create yourself, there is no requirement that a prototype exist before you file a patent application. This statement catches many by surprise and they think it has to be incorrect. It is only a slight exaggeration. The rules of the United States Patent and Trademark Office say that the only time you must produce a working prototype is if you are claiming a perpetual motion machine. Our current understanding of science says that a perpetual motion machine cannot exist, and the USPTO has gotten sick and tired of inventors claiming they have invented a perpetual motion machine.

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2011/10/08/turning-your-idea-into-an-invention/id=19737/

    Larry Olson likes to pretend he is a man of science, but I will not start taking his science (and other) ideas seriously until he either drops his perpetual motion device pretensions or actually produces a working device.

  16. dognillo says:

    20056, how does an uncaused being make any sense at all? An uncaused being or something coming from nothing. Choose one if you wish, but I’m going to abstain for the time being. I don’t know sounds like a really good option. I know that we’re here, but I’m not going to claim to know how or why. I don’t see any advantage to either position.

  17. dognillo says:

    22056, sorry I got your number wrong above.

  18. Isaac says:

    Sadly most atheists I have ever encountered rant in the style of KIA or Larry: they have no idea what they’re talking about, are incoherent and inarticulate, make false claims in bundles, lack any kind of logical narrative, and are mean spirited and insecure. The prophets of reason and intelligence are not producing quality disciples.

  19. Dhay says:

    Larry Olson > They should discriminate … When someone does not make it into the NHL, they are being discriminated against for not being big enough, not being fast enough, not being fit enough.

    I imagine they have to smart, too, with the right kind of smartness that makes a good player. I’m sure there are other qualities they need, too, such as being a team player, etc etc. What they don’t have to be is an atheist or agnostic, and it would be entirely inappropriate to discriminate against big, fast, fit, smart etc hockey players because of their religious beliefs (or absence thereof.) In Britain, to do so would contravene employment law.

    > Doctors who believe in witchcraft (christianity, Islam, Hinduism) should be educated …

    Presumably one goes to a university, medical school, or other educational establishment in order to be educated. Did you not know this.

    > and not allowed to bring any of their religion into their scientific study …

    What do you suppose it means for a student to bring religion into their studies. That looks vague and meaningless.

    But I suspect that the thrust of this semi-gibberish is that you would, like KIA, wish to bar religious people from entering education, to bar religious people from the avenues of employment the education would lead to — and for many jobs have a minimum or vocational educational requirement — and especially to bar religious people becoming educators; and in your case, you would specifically bar religious people from becoming doctors.

    You do realise that in civilised countries such as Britain — somebody will have to tell me what the law is over there where you are — it is illegal to discriminate by failing to provide equal access to services, education included, and also illegal to discriminate by providing equal access for equally qualified people to employment, on the grounds of eg race, colour, gender, sexuality or disability. And it is equally illegal to discriminate when providing services or employment on the grounds of religion or religious views. Whatever makes you think you can legally and morally get away with this last. You are a disgrace.

    > just as Homeopathy should not be allowed inside medical cancer treatment centers and universities.

    That’s a contentious issue. You have strong views one way. I know people with strong views to the contrary.

    > Next time your medical doctor invites you in when you have a broken leg and he refers to his Astrology chart on the wall about you being born on a certain date therefore your broken leg was meant to happen on a certain date, are you going to go back to that doctor?

    One of my pet peeves is those who criticise homeopaths and astrologers without having the slightest clue what homeopaths and astrologers actually do. I cannot imagine a doctor or astrologer acting out your phantasised script. Clueless. Utterly clueless.

    > So why should doctors and scientists and politicians be allowed to peddle their religious superstitions into their careers and schooling?

    I remain very unclear how anyone can peddle something into their schooling. My reading of Jerry Coyne’s blog tells me that in the USA, in public universities at least, it is actually unconstitutional for an educator to push religion, or even push atheism, in the classroom. As regards “peddling their [anti-]religious [views] into their careers”, are you considering proposing that Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and the, er, neuroscientist Sam Harris should have been banned from practicing medicine, science and political activity? I rather think equal opportunities legislation demands the same treatment of people who are atheists as it does people who are religious.

    *

    I suspect that not only was the selection procedure reported in the OP unfair and improper, it was also illegal. If the slippery slope is allowed to continue, the practice of denying religious people the same access to elite universities that equally qualified non-religious or not obviously religious people are afforded — discrimination on grounds of religion — will sooner or later result in elite universities containing a skewed proportion of atheists and non-religious students. If the same selection procedures are applied to staff selection, as I am sure they will be, this will result in professors at elite universities being disproportionately atheist compared to the general population.

    Indeed, one way to test for whether selection discrimination is taking place, and it’s extent, is to examine to what extent the highly educated and their educators are similar to the general population. (An example is, if women are under-represented, that might well be due to systematic or structural discrimination on the grounds of their sex.)

    Reading Jerry Coyne and John Messerly crowing how people who have attended or are at university are less religious than the less-educated general population, and in particular that professors at elite universities are much less religious than the general population, I wonder whether my warning is too late, and whether selection discrimination on religious grounds is already widespread.

    If so, it somewhat undercuts claims that the more intelligent you are (or in practice, in these surveys, the more highly educated), the less likely you are to be religious.

  20. Dhay says:

    It occurs to me that differentially excluding elite religiously inclined students from elite universities compared to same-level non-religiously inclined students, the same differential discrimination against religiously inclined students at non-elite universities, and — and where does it end, that tendency to try to prevent contamination by student religiosity, that failure to expose both religiously inclined and non-religiously inclined students to the full range of ideas and intellectual stimulation?

    I don’t see it likely to happen anytime soon, but note that if judgmental attitudes discriminating against religiously inclined students should extend from tertiary education down to secondary and primary-level education, and then down to the parents and family and community who are teachers of very young children — fortunately, I don’t see it likely to happen anytime soon, probably never, for that mind-set gets perilously close to accepting what some New Atheist extremists call for — a next step is the removal of children from their “abusive” families and communities; one really hardcore New Atheist extremist, the notorious AtheistMax, has already expressed on S2L his opinion that Michael’s parents should be punished for historic child abuse — and that without enquiring whether the two were actually religious, ie no evidence needed, no trial, just lock ’em up.

    It occurs to me that differentially excluding elite religiously inclined students from elite universities compared to same-level non-religiously inclined students is the thin end of a wedge. It’s a long wedge, the other end of which is currently out of sight, but the same hostile attitudes operate at both ends.

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