Prof. Robert Brandon, chair of the philosophy department at Duke, is quoted as saying (thanks to InstaPundit and Andrew Sullivan for the pointer):
"We try to hire the best, smartest people available," Brandon said of his philosophy hires. "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.

"Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too."
Well, here's the exact quote from Michael St. John Packe, The Life of John Stuart Mill 454 (1954), quoting Mill's speech in which he said this:
"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. Suppose any party, in addition to whatever share it may possess of the ability of the community, has nearly the whole of its stupidity, that party must, by the aw of the constitution, be the stupidest party; and I do not see why honourable gentlemen should see that position as at all offensive to them, for it ensures their being always an extremely powerful party . . . There is so much defense, solid force in sheer stupidity, that any body of able men with that force pressing behind them may ensure victory in many a struggle, and many a victory the Conservative party has gained through that power."
What's more, here's the original statement to which he was alluding, from his Representative Government:
The Conservatives, as being by the law of their existence the stupidest party, have much the greatest sins of this description to answer for: and it is a melancholy truth, that if any measure were proposed, on any subject, truly, largely, and far-sightedly conservative, even if Liberals were willing to vote for it, the great bulk of the Conservative party would rush blindly in and prevent it from being carried.
     Mill never said that stupid people are generally conservative -- he said that stupid people in the England of his era belonged to the Conservative Party. Mill, as a partisan, wrote a partisan rant about the Conservative Party; he said nothing about conservatives generally. It's hard to see how his comment has anything to do with conservatism in 2004. (Note that the problem can't just be explained as an error on the part of the Duke Chronicle; even if Prof. Brandon said "Conservative" and the reporter wrote it as "conservative," the problem is with Prof. Brandon's using a quote about a particular party as if it were a quote about conservatism generally. Nor is it easily dismissable as an obvious joke, especially given Prof. Brandon's talk about "Mill's analysis.")

     If some liberal professors (who are probably pretty far from 1860s Liberals) want to express their contempt for conservatives (who are probably pretty far from 1860s Conservatives), then it seems to me that they shouldn't call on John Stuart Mill to support their prejudices.

UPDATE: The original version of the post erroneously referred to the quote as coming from a letter by Mill; it was in fact a parliamentary speech. I've updated the text accordingly.