Interrogating Ideological Homophily in Higher Education

By: Merzamie Clark  

This research explores the ongoing attack upon universities caused by an “intellectual intolerance” and a “political one-sidedness” (Etchemendy) within its own walls that, if left unaddressed, will inflict great damage to scholars, research, and institutions of higher learning. The project focuses on the experiences of students who identify as conservatives (religiously and/or politically) in order to interrogate the theory and practice of diversity in academia and, particularly, in the humanities. Based on the assumption that the university operates on predominantly secular (Crowley, Neitz) and liberal (Abrams, Etchemendy, Haidt, Yancey) modes, this research argues that students with identities and identifications outside of these modes have “minority” status. This research broadens current conceptions of “diversity” to include not merely visible markers of identity like race, sex, and ability (Moya), but also less visible markers such as religious belief, political ideology, and experiential knowledge. Furthermore, it problematizes “minority” identities within academia to include students whose ideologies, experiences, and perspectives are marginalized, even subjugated (Yancey). This research introduces data from student writings as evidence that ideological homophily leads to many missed opportunities for expanding free debate and advancing scholarship. It offers recommendations to help educators implement and cultivate holistic diversity in their pedagogical practices.

"Academic Bias", " Intellectual Intolerance", " Holistic Diversity"
Humanities Education
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Merzamie Clark

Lecturer, English Language Institute, Mississippi State University, United States
Washington, United States

Merzamie Clark is a Top Scholar Fellow and Graduate Instructor at the University of Washington’s English Department. A Philippine-born and raised American citizen, she graduated with the UW’s College of Arts & Science’s Dean’s Medal in the Humanities in 2013, and served for two years as an English teacher and U.S. cultural ambassador in South Korea through the Fulbright Program. There, she worked with South Korean students, North Korean defectors, and labor and marriage migrants from around South East Asia. She has tutored international students; worked with USCIS-detained immigrant minors; and served as a GED Tutor to jail inmates at a county correctional facility. Her passion for expanding educational opportunity and social mobility, especially to the underserved, underprivileged, and underrepresented, extends to championing the rights of various minority groups in a context of global justice, and is largely animated by the challenges and difficulties she faced as a first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student. Clark’s highly interdisciplinary research and teaching interests include 20th- and 21st-Century U.S. Literature & Culture; Comparative Studies in Race, Class, Gender, and Religion; Women’s Literature; Composition & Rhetoric; and issues of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion in Higher Education.