Stern professor resigns from professional org. after refusing to write diversity statement

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business, resigned from a psychology research conference after refusing to write a required equity, inclusion and anti-racism statement.


Julia McNeill

File photo: Jonathan Hadit, a professor of psychology at Stern, speaks at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in 2018. (Julia McNeill for WSN)

Carmo Moniz and Tori Morales

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business, refused to follow a new rule which presenters at an annual research conference to submit a statement on equity, inclusion and anti-racism. Instead of writing the statement, he announced that he will resign from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology — the world’s largest organization of social psychologists which runs the conference — at the end of this year.

The announcement was posted on Sept. 20 to a blog run by Heterodox Academy — an organization of more than 5,000 educators, students and administrators that Haidt co-founded — which promotes diversity of thought in universities across the United States. While the organization claims to be politically neutral, it has faced criticism for suggesting that conservatives often face increased scrutiny in the field of academia.

“Most academic work has nothing to do with diversity, so these mandatory statements force many academics to betray their quasi-fiduciary duty to the truth by spinning, twisting or otherwise inventing some tenuous connection to diversity,” Haidt wrote in the post.

In a statement to WSN, an SPSP spokesperson clarified that the work presented at the conference is not obligated to advance goals related to diversity or anti-racism. The organization also wrote that diversity, equity and anti-racism statements it has received in the past have specifically highlighted diversity and inclusion in politics.

“Each submission is evaluated based on its scientific strength, rigor, contribution to our field, and interest-value to our audience,” the spokesperson wrote. “Separately, reviewers evaluate the extent to which a submission promotes equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Now, the goal is to hone this process and make sure that we are finding ways to improve.”

“It is not the University’s practice to comment on its faculty members’ decisions about which scholarly organization they choose or don’t choose to be a part of,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman said. 

Haidt is on the board of advisers at the University of Austin, a new organization that opposes “illiberalism” and “censoriousness” in higher education. Many academics, writers and university administrators have backed the university, which has no accreditation, campus or faculty. Among its founders is former Stern professor Niall Ferguson, who has made homophobic comments and denounced “cancel culture.”

In 2018, Haidt co-authored a book titled “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure,” in which he criticizes the existence of safe spaces and trigger warnings on college campuses, and argues that these concepts are detrimental to the young people’s mental development.

Haidt wrote in his resignation post that he believes SPSP should focus on the development of social and personality psychology and attribute less importance to diversity in academia, adding that the idea of anti-racism is problematic. 

“Let there be speakers, panels and discussions of this morally controversial and influential idea at our next conference!” Haidt wrote. “But to adopt it as the official view and mission of SPSP and then to force us all to say how our work advances it, as a precondition to speaking at the conference? I thought this was wrong.”

Haidt did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected] and Tori Morales at [email protected].