Monday, August 04, 2003

Weird and natural science 

Prof. Rebecca German writes that my impression of academia as inhospitable to conservatives and libertarians is off-mark, at least in the physical sciences.
In all of these discussion, I have yet to see a break down of teaching population by discipline (and would love to see said numbers). At my University the majority of faculty are in science - med school, engineering, basic science. We don't even have public health, vet school, etc. I have colleagues all over campus, and while women frequently discuss the number of women, and various issues associated with that, I know of no hiring or promotion decisions that were based on either religion or politics.

If one scratches further for causes, I think some of this is a reflection of belief and view (that politics doesn't matter) and some of it is a reflection of the reality in academics of science/biomedical/engineering entities- colleagues are important, and productive colleagues are critical, departments get resources, new hires, and ultimate teaching loads, based on productivity. That we are by and large not social constructionists, so those politics are usually not part of what we teach. So, while sure, there are lots of things I think are politically important, I do not give a damn what my colleagues believe.

Prof. German is at Cincinnati, the school that John Galvin was discussing in this piece I used in discussing in loco parentis last week. I'm pretty sure, however, that she is correct. The natural sciences are likely to be more objective because the stakes are higher, and because I think there are more options for faculty to leave when political strife overflows. Our economics department is in the College of Social Sciences and we are at least two standard deviations away from the rest of the college ideologically. That does make us a little unique, it turns out. We used to be in the much larger Liberal Arts and Sciences college which included departments like Prof. German's. It's telling that senior faculty thought decisionmaking was much more rational in those days, based on the criteria she states here. I suspect that Dave would tell us the same is true in business colleges. But it's not the reality of where I live now.