Today, Inside Higher Ed reported on new research suggesting that undergrads think hypothetical gay or lesbian professors are more biased than their heterosexual peers. In one of the studies, 564 student participants rated two identical syllabi (except for a mention of whether the professor was gay or straight) for bias in a proposed class on Human Sexuality. Researchers found, on average, that "Lesbian and gay professors were rated as having a political agenda, compared to heterosexual professors with the same syllabus," according to the study's abstract.
That sexual orientation might sway students' bias perception may not be completely surprising (the hypothetical professor's class is on human sexuality). Other studies have come to similar conclusions: In 2009, for example, a study featuring 18,000 high schoolers found that gender bias factors in how students perceive their science teachers (male teachers were graded higher than females even though students performed equally well in their courses regardless of an instructor's gender).
The lead researcher behind the latest study, Kristin J. Anderson, has been probing this subject for years. She's authored studies detailing similar findings with Anglo male students' perceptions of Latina professors, attempted to debunk the notion that self-identified feminists dislike men more than non self-identified feminists, and authored a book, Benign Bigotry, theorizing how subtle, prejudiced psychological cues go "undetected by both perpetrator and victim," according to the book's description.
Anderson points to this sort of "undetected" bias when parsing her latest study's findings: "Even when there is no evidence of bias, students believe that minorities bring political baggage into the classroom, whereas whites, men, and heterosexuals bring with them the cool heads of objectivity," she surmised to Inside Higher Ed.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.