Reason Roundup

'Cancel Culture' at U.S. Colleges Not Getting Worse, Say Liberal Professors. Conservative Colleagues Disagree.

Plus: Georgia makes it a hate crime to damage police property, SCOTUS denies relief to prisoners, Trump escalates war on Chinese apps, study casts doubt on "diversity training," coronavirus in schools, and more…


Political science professors polled on academic freedom and campus censorship. How bad is "cancel culture" in academia? Not too big of a problem, say more liberal-leaning professors in a survey analysis published by Harvard's Pippa Norris, a professor of political science and director of the Electoral Integrity Project. Their conservative colleagues, however, disagree—at least in the U.S. and other affluent, post-industrial countries. Results skewed just the opposite in less wealthy and developed countries.

Media coverage and commentary suggest that academic freedom is diminishing, notes Norris. She wanted to know if "systematic empirical evidence" supported the narrative of "a pervasive 'cancel culture' taking hold of academic life in many countries."

To find out, Norris looked at data from the World of Political Science, 2019, whose respondents included 2,446 academics in 102 countries. This included 1,245 responses "from political scientists studying or working in 23 affluent post-industrial societies (including the U.S., Europe, and Australasia)."

Norris first delved into the political identities of these professors. "Survey data confirmed the left-wing skew in the discipline of political science," states the study, which also stressed that "the extent of the imbalance should not be exaggerated," since most people were closer to the center than the poles.

Worldwide, a majority of political scientists surveyed—58 percent—described themselves as moderately left and 27 percent called themselves moderately right. Fourteen percent claimed the far left mantle, while just two percent called themselves far right.

Things skewed more strongly left when confined to respondents studying or working in the United States:

Two-thirds of American political scientists (65%) saw themselves as moderate left on the ideological scale, which an additional small group (15%) located themselves as far left. By contrast, overall one fifth (20%) saw themselves as moderate right, but almost no respondents saw themselves as 'far right'.

Of course, an "ideological skew in higher education … does not necessarily imply growing intolerance for alternative values and beliefs, limiting intellectual debate and pluralism," as Norris points out. The next phase of the study was to examine "on the basis of their personal experiences, do many political scientists feel that restrictions on academic freedom of speech, pressures for ideological conformity, and politically correct speech have worsened in recent years?"

To answer this second question, Norris constructed a "Cancel Culture Index." Whether a respondent identified as left or right significantly and consistently "predicted scores on this index," she found—though "the effects varied in direction by the type of society under comparison."

In the U.S. and 23 comparable societies, "self-identified right-wing political scientists were most likely to report personal experience of a worsening cancel culture. By contrast, among those studying and working in universities and colleges in the 78 developing societies, it was the self-identified left-wing scholars who reported a worsening cancel culture."

Read the whole paper here, or check out Norris' highlights on Twitter.


"Let's not mince words: This is the Mafia's business model," writes Julian Sanchez, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, of Trump's recent actions toward the app TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. More here.

Now, the Trump administration is signaling an escalation in its war on Chinese apps. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Wednesday of wanting to get not just TikTok but also "WeChat and others" off of U.S. phones.


Does "diversity training" work? New research suggests no. Tel Aviv University sociologist Alexandra Kalev—who "used to think that diversity training was effective, that it felt like common sense"—and her research team analyzed findings on diversity training programs at 800 companies over 30 years.

"The effect of bias training is very weak if you look at the long run. A company is better off doing nothing than mandatory diversity training," Kalev told the BBC World Service program The Inquiry. Here's how it sums up Kalev and her team's findings:

Firstly, they found that this training normalises the message that implicit bias is everywhere and so we are all biased. "If I am interviewing black and white candidates it can be normal that I will feel more attracted or have a better gut feeling regarding the white candidates."

They also found that people react negatively to efforts to control them, and often they perceive diversity training as such. Kalev points out that they hear from trainers that people often respond to diversity training with anger and resistance.

"So basically force-feeding anti-bias breeds more bias," Kalev said.


SCOTUS denies relief to prisoners trapped in dens of COVID-19. "The Supreme Court on Wednesday night said a California sheriff does not have to comply with a lower-court order requiring accommodations at a county jail experiencing a coronavirus outbreak," The Washington Post reports:

The court's vote was 5 to 4, with the court's liberals in dissent. It follows a pattern of the court staying out of the way of local and state officials who are dealing with the pandemic, and most often Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. holds the controlling vote.

As is the custom in such emergency requests, the majority did not explain the reasoning for allowing Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes out from a district court judge's order.


Several states where schools are starting to re-open for in-person classes are already seeing COVID-19 cases among students, though it's not clear if these infections were acquired in school. "Several students in the Corinth School District in Mississippi have been infected with COVID-19 a little over a week after in-person classes resumed," leading to more than 100 students being told to quarantine, reports CNN.

In Tennessee, where "nearly 50 school districts have started the school year as of Wednesday—the majority of them in-person," there have been "at least 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to schools."

And at Thales Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina, a system of eight private schools that Vice President Mike Pence applauded last week, some students and teachers are now being told to stay home after a fourth-grader came down with a case of COVID-19 (not thought to be caught at school).


Georgia makes it a hate crime to damage police property. Georgia is raising criminal penalties for people who intimidate or harm a police officer or damage any police property. "House Bill 838 creates a new crime: bias-motivated intimidation, which would apply to the death or serious bodily injury of a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician" as well as "any time someone causes more than $500 in damage to property owned by police, firefighters, or emergency medical technicians because of 'actual or perceived employment as a first responder,'" reports the Associated Press. "The crime is punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The measure says the sentence must be stacked atop any other criminal conviction and can't be served at the same time and that each violation must be a separate crime."


• Denying people access to basic sanitation measures… you know, for public health:

• What's going on with New York City's "traveler registration checkpoints"?

• Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have all pulled a video posted by President Donald Trump or his re-election campaign. The video "includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19, which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation," a Facebook spokesperson said.

• A new study looks at COVID-19 transmission on commercial flights and offers some relatively reassuring statistics. Passengers "have about a 1/4300 chance of getting Covid-19 on a full 2-hour flight—that is, about 1 in 4,300 passengers will pick up the virus, on average," Bloomberg News writes. "The odds of getting the virus are about half that, 1/7,700, if airlines leave the middle seat empty. [The author] has posted his results as a not-yet-peer-reviewed preprint."

• New York City saw three straight days with no reported coronavirus deaths.

• COVID-19 testing is going down in the U.S. "An Associated Press analysis found that the number of tests per day slid 3.6% over the past two weeks to 750,000, with the count falling in 22 states."

• What happens when we can't socialize outside anymore?

• It's time to change the way we talk about and address domestic violence, The Atlantic suggests.

• U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) won Tuesday's Democratic primary election (as of yesterday morning, the race had not yet been called).

• The FBI raided YouTube star Jake Paul's California home yesterday.

• An Ohio county prosecutor admitted in federal court to trading legal services for meth.