Eric Silver

Eric Silver
Professor of Sociology and Criminology

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D. Sociology, State University of New York at Albany, 1999

Professional Bio


I teach an award-winning course called Knowing Right from Wrong. The course began with 30 students in 2019 and is now one of the largest morality courses in the US, enrolling 700+ students per semester with a waiting list of 50+. The course is dedicated to my grandfather (Grandpa Izzy) whose words of wisdom have guided me throughout my life and which I share with students each semester – his most important being to “always know right from wrong.” I do not shy away from polarizing and challenging topics such as suicide, prostitution, abortion, racism, sexism, necrophilia, the pandemic, immigration, affirmative action, and religion (to name a few). Instead, I use these topics to deepen students’ critical thinking skills and provide them with ample opportunity to practice constructive dialogue in the classroom. The course has received exceptional ratings from students over the years. Teaching this course is one of the great joys of my professional life.


My research focuses on morality, public opinion, racial attitudes, crime, social control, criminal justice, stigmatization, and patriotism. My past research focused on the relationship between mental disorder and violence, communities and crime, and violence risk assessment. I’ve authored over 60 peer-reviewed articles in quality outlets and have received several awards for my research.

I have a new book out with colleagues John Iceland and Ilana Redstone called Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice v. Social Order. In it we show how two clashing worldviews – one emphasizing Social Justice and another Social Order – are preventing Americans from solving their most pressing social problems.

I’m currently working on a book with John Iceland called Equally Ever After: Racial Justice and the Problem of Anti-Whiteness. In it we ask whether the US can continue making good on what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called its “promissory note” of equality for all races – without generating feedback loops of resentment among its people. We conclude it can. But only if it embraces an approach to racial justice that is unyielding in its determination to treat all people equally, fairly, and respectfully regardless of their race.


  • 2023 Open Inquiry Teaching Award, Heterodox Academy (HxA): “For the educator who has most effectively integrated open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, or constructive disagreement into the classroom or curriculum.”
  • 2013 Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank Outstanding Teaching Award, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State University.
  • 2005 Outstanding Tenure Line Teaching Award, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State University.
  • 2002 American Society of Criminology Ruth Shonle Cavan Award for outstanding early career contributions to the discipline of criminology.
  • 2002 Saleem Shah award for early career excellence, sponsored by the American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychological Association) and the American Society of Forensic Psychology.
  • 2002 American Psychiatric Association Manfred Guttmacher Award for the Oxford University Press book, Rethinking Risk Assessment: The MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence (Monahan, Steadman, Silver et al., 2001).



  • Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, College of the Liberal Arts (2013-2017)
  • Associate Department Head (2009-2013)
  • Director of Graduate Studies (2003-2009)

Research Interests by Concentration


morality and rule breaking behavior, the relationship between mental disorder and violence/victimization, deviance
Eric Silver
(814) 865-8714
902 Oswald Tower University Park, PA 16802
Mailroom: 203 Oswald Tower