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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Statistically, I Didn't Exist

When I worked as a professor I was a real oddity. Not because of my personality, but because of my subject area and political persuasion.


I was a conservative Republican political science professor. There are so few that fit this category that it doesn't make up even one percent of all political science professors. Statistically, I didn't exist.


If I hadn't been Mormon, I believe I would be a liberal Democrat. (I'll address this issue more in an upcoming series.) For now, I want to highlight a few comments in a wonderful piece in Inside Higher Education. It's entitled "An Acceptable Prejudice" by Thomas C. Terry. He's an Episocopalian Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Idaho State University. The entire essay is well worth reading.
I’ve attended numerous scholarly conferences since that lunch where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics. 
I was at a conference at Wayne State University. The speaker ask how many of us voted for Bob Dole. Mine was the only hand.


I didn't hear a lot of snide comments about Mormons. But, apparently they were said, because I had friends and colleagues tell me about them later, privately. It was usually to give me a heads up about avoiding such people if I wanted tenure.
Many of the academics consider themselves liberal, socially responsible, and broad-minded individuals, the repository of the best in America. They’re proud of themselves for voting for Barack Obama (a bit too smug maybe?). They would splutter and bluster and be generally outraged to be considered prejudiced. None would consider saying anything similar about African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans . . . well, you get the idea. But anti-Mormonism is part of the same continuum that contains discrimination against any group. Why, then, is it allowable publicly express bias against Mormons?
It was a bit difficult to separate my Mormoness from my Republican conservatism. I cannot be sure what exactly the other professors were reacting to. I can only guess. But, given that my experiences mirror Professor Terry's, I cannot assume mine were unusual.


Given how few of us there were, the other professors could pretty much insult us with impunity.

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