Columbia's $15 Million Diversity Initiative:

Professor KC Johnson comments on a new $15 million diversity initiative at Columbia. Here's the most amazing part to me:

In addition to recruiting minority and female professors, especially in the sciences, the university could use the money to hire white men "who, through their scholarship and teaching and mentoring, in some way promote the diversity goals of the university," she said.

The obvious question arises--what exactly does Columbia mean by including only those whose views "in some way promote the diversity goals of the university"? How will Columbia interpret this? It is hard to see how this is not an ideological litmus test; if it is not an ideological litmus test, it is hard to see what it could otherwise reasonably be read to mean.

Johnson asks:

Columbia's initiative goes beyond Harvard's. It will recruit women, minorities, and white men—but only white men who, in Howard's words, "through their scholarship and teaching and mentoring, in some way promote the diversity goals of the university." Let's take, then, the example of a white male professor, of distinguished scholarship and teaching, in political science or sociology. Let's say, further, that this professor has publicly argued that a color- and gender-blind legal code is the best way to sustain a diverse society. Columbia's academic freedom policy "guarantees that [its faculty] will not be penalized for expressions of opinion or associations in their private or civic capacity." But does anyone seriously believe a white male who has taken such a position would pass Howard's "diversity" test? How, then, can the pro-diversity white men aspect of this initiative be reconciled with Columbia's academic freedom policy?

The announcement of the initiative itself partially answers Johnson's query by suggesting the range of opinions that will qualify as views that "promote the diversity goals of the university":

Deepening and Extending the University Dialogue:

The investment also allows for continued expansion of University-sponsored events on diversity matters. Last year's guest speakers included Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, who spoke about the hurdles of recruiting and retaining women in science; MIT Biology Professor Nancy Hopkins, who described the institutional transformation around gender issues that occurred at MIT; and Georgetown University Law Professor Chuck Lawrence, who spoke about the continuing need for affirmative action.

One important effect of imposing this sort of ideological litmus test for hiring, is that it makes it increasing difficult to protect academic freedom from bad ideas such as David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights. The objection to the Academic Bill of Rights--an objection that I share--is that it improperly infringes on academic freedom. But if Columbia is going to override its academic freedom policy for these political purposes, then there seems to be no principled reason not to override academic freedom for the political purposes favored by David Horowitz and other advocates of the Academic Bill of Rights. What can Columbia say in response to Horowitz now?

Moreover, if Columbia is indeed imposing an ideological litmus test that excludes conservatives from consideration for these 15-20 positions, this is somewhat ironic to say the least. According to one study of departements of Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology, Democrats already outnumber Republicans 14-to-1 at Columbia, and the study finds only 6 Republicans on the entire faculty in the departments surveyed (see update below) and not a single Republican in the history, political science, and sociology departments. (For those who haven't been following this issue, political party identification turns out to be a strong and easily-measurable proxy for ideological viewpoint--compare this study with this.) I also did a brief review of some of the science departments at Columbia, and although there are substantially more men than women faculty members in those departments, it appears that the imbalance is substantially less than 14-to-1. Moreover, women seem to be represented in much greater numbers at the more junior professor levels, suggesting that the imbalance is narrowing over time, unlike the ideological imbalance in the academy, which appears to be widening over time. Thus, the ironic result of Columbia's ideologically-laden "diversity" initiative will almost certainly be to reduce the ideological diversity of the university and reinforce the prevailing orthodoxy. Nor is it responsive that there are an inadequate number of qualified candidates, as part of Columbia's charge is to "strengthen the pipeline bringing women and minority students into the University's undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs."

According to the press release, the $15 million expenditure was approved by the Columbia Board of Trustees.


A Commenter correctly noted that the underlying study that I link to found that there were only 6 Republicans in the departments of Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology, not on the entire faculty as I originally stated. My apologies and I have corrected the original text of the post.

frankcross (mail):
It "otherwise could be reasonably read to mean" those who research and teach classes in African-American studies, for example.
8.8.2005 10:56am
Justice Fuller:
The Columbia program is more form than substance, I think. Every school is under strong pressure from interest groups to hire particular kinds of faculty. By setting aside this money, Bollinger can take credit for an initiative that will help satisfy those interest groups and relieve pressure on diversity hiring elsewhere. In the end, it's not clear that the initiative will actually end up making any difference.
8.8.2005 11:02am
Duncan Frissell (mail):

The objection to the Academic Bill of Rights--an objection that I share--is that it improperly infringes on academic freedom.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to make academic freedom (the right of a plumber to put the pipes he wants into my house rather than the pipes I want) a competitive offering between competing schools rather than a universal institution.

Oxford and Cambridge became the greatest universities in the world without any policy that we would reckognize as academic freedom. In fact, masters who were in residence and not ill had to engown themselves for a formal dinner in college every night. They didn't even have food freedom.

Harvard abolished mandatory chapel in 1890 or so. It was not a noticibly worse insititution then than now.
8.8.2005 11:21am
I am a student at Columbia Law School and the lack of conservative professors distresses me. There are zero socially conservative professors in the entire law school (there could be professors I don't know about, but please inform me of who they are).
If they really want to spend this $15 million to increase the diversity of Columbia then they will hire a couple of conservative professors for the law school. That would be the easiest way to dramatically increase the intellectual diversity of the school with only a couple of hires. Maybe they can get John Yoo from Berkeley =P.
8.8.2005 11:32am
Cato X (mail):
Tom Merrill, Vincent Blasi, Ed Morrison and perhaps Waldron are all some what conservative at CLS.
8.8.2005 11:37am
bill-10k (mail) (www):
It's always been a mystery to me why white men can't teach Spanish history to blacks. The more they try and explain, the more they try and put contorted policies in place, the worse it gets.

We should just give up on affirmative action and preferences altogether. Reverse racism is no better than racism.
8.8.2005 12:00pm
Why does "through their scholarship and teaching and mentoring, in some way promote the diversity goals of the university" necessarily imply that it is their views that are at issue?

Scholarship/teaching/mentoring seems too broad and nebulous to necessarily mean "views." Maybe if Columbia's entire economics department was educated at U. Chicago, a white guy whose background is from another school would add "diversity" even if he agreed with the other profs on a lot of things.

Maybe the school's political science department is a well-respected, politically correct "rainbow coalition," but they're all stuffy and impersonal and some white guy who cares about students would add "mentoring" diversity.

Maybe if the school's government department is all full of people whose experience is mostly with Western industrialized quasi-democracies, some white guy who served as an advisor to a third-world dictatorship would add "diversity" under their definition.

I'll admit that the phrasing of the policy looks like a good way to implement an ideological litums test while maintaining deniability.

2 asides:

1. I wonder what the "diversity goals" of the university actually are.

2. Without knowing what the "academic freedom" policy of Columbia actually is, I suspect that the answer to Johnson's question of "How, then, can the pro-diversity white men aspect of this initiative be reconciled with Columbia's academic freedom policy?" is just that "academic freedom" is something that attaches once you're hired and has nothing to do with personnel intake.
8.8.2005 12:13pm
Waldron and Blasi are certainly not conservative. What could possibly make you think that they are anything but very liberal?

I don't know much about Merrill or Morrison except that Morrison is a bankruptcy prof. I doubt either of them are 'socially conservative'. Leiter called Merrill "a scholar of the first rank by anyone's estimation" ... that makes me think that Merrill is more liberal than anything else.

There may be some libertarians or economically conservative profs at columbia, but I don't think any of the people that Cato X named are anything but far left of center on social issues.
8.8.2005 12:14pm
WHOI Jacket:
Every day, Columbia gives me another reason to thank God I'm not going there for graduate school....
8.8.2005 12:15pm
Free market, LawBot2000, free market. If you wanted socially conservative professors, you should have gone to George Mason or Catholic or Pepperdine, rather than to a school in the heart of the most progressive city in the nation. But that would have forced you out of the USNEWS "Top Ten," right?
8.8.2005 12:27pm
Columbienne, I'm very happy to be at Columbia, even with the apparent lack of socially conservative professors. I am simply saying that A) our school would be much better with a conservative voice or two on the faculty, and B) if Dean Schizer truly wants to increase diversity in our faculty, then he will hire 1 or 2 conservatives.

I know that they had Richard Primus as a visiting prof last semester... he may be a member of the Federalist Society (not sure though).
8.8.2005 12:35pm
GMU Fan (mail):
Actually, George Mason doesn't have many socially conservative professors, they tend more toward the libertarian.
8.8.2005 12:51pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
I am curious what everyone thought of the Vanguard News Network Forum which attacked Volokh by pointing out how many Jewish Professors are at UCLA compared to the populace are teaching. The attacks on overrepresentation of liberals seems like the same tactic just from a different side.
8.8.2005 12:57pm
frankcross (mail):
Lawbot, Tom Merrill worked at the Reagan White House and worked directly for Ken Starr and John Roberts.
8.8.2005 1:26pm
M (mail):
I'm not so sure this is an infringment on anyone's accademic freedom. Certainly it doesn't seem to be an infringment on the accademic freedom of anyone who is already at Columbia, even if we read the article in the light you propose. Is it worse than, say, setting up a chair for the study of Hayek or something? Or setting up a chair for someone who works on (Catholic) natural law theory? Surely those too don't infringe on anyone's accademic freedom in any interesting way. It may or may not be a good idea to put these limits on particular new hires (I'm not sure this is the right reading- see comment one above) but it seems more than a bit far-fetched to me to call this an infringment of accademic freedom, and it quite clearly is compatible with Columbia's policy as you've quoted it.
8.8.2005 1:37pm
Llamasex, with a nick like that, you are almost certainly a troll, but I'll bite:

There are Jews who are liberal. There are Jews who are conservative. There are Jews who are libertarian. There are Jews who are apolitical, and Jews who are socialist.

What there is not, and could never be (disregarding epiphanies, ideosyncratic definitions of the term, and llamas-in-sheep's-clothing) is a liberal who is a conservative.

If that Dr. Seussian exposition was wasted on you, I'm, well, not sorry.

8.8.2005 1:42pm
CUA Alum:

As for the rash of "socially conservative professors" at Catholic, for most of them you practically have to pry their personal views out with a crowbar, and even then, they'll only discuss conservative views in private. The liberal professors are much more open about airing their views in class. Some do so forcefully. If I were you, I'd be more cautious about the presumptions you make regarding some law school faculty. I think the protections (for lack of a better word) of tenure have more to do with attacting faculty with liberal political views than the character of the institution.
8.8.2005 2:01pm
But then why is political diversity somehow more important than religious diversity? (Not arguing the converse; just curious.)
8.8.2005 2:16pm
CUA Alum: I admit I was just tossing off a list a places popularly understood to be conservative. That said, who's to blame if the socially conservative tenured profs don't have the courage of their convictions?
8.8.2005 2:35pm
Also, Tom Merrill is a fine prof. He made admin law relatively interesting.
8.8.2005 2:36pm
"who's to blame if the socially conservative tenured profs don't have the courage of their convictions" - I think that's the point of this whole discussion.

They don't have the courage of their convictions because those profs that do speak as openly about their conservative views as many liberal profs speak about theirs, are not offered jobs in the first place or are not offered tenure even if their qualifications are just as good as the liberal profs.

I don't think that any school should try to have a quota and make some kind of 50/50 split on liberal/conservative profs, but they shouldn't deny jobs or tenure to profs because they are conservative.
8.8.2005 2:54pm
Bah, I don't feel sorry for the conservative profs (or students, for that matter). You should stand up for what you believe in, especially if such beliefs form the basis of your scholarship (which is, after all, the "product" that professors are selling on the market).

On the other hand, if those beliefs coded as "social conservatism" are actually the products of personal animus towards certain groups, then it's not surprising that they're kept on the downlow.
8.8.2005 3:04pm
frankcross (mail):
Lawbot, when Tom Merrill decided to move from Northwestern, he was very highly sought after and received many offers from top schools.

Do you know of a professor denied tenure because he was conservative?
8.8.2005 3:09pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
A few points in response to the article and the other comments:

1. The diversity initiative applies only to Columbia's faculty of Arts &Sciences and not to the Law School or any of the other professional schools.

2. The numbers the article quotes are only about Arts &Sciences even though they are made to seem as if they apply university-wide.

3. It is hard to believe that there are "only 6 Republicans on the entire faculty", even if this only means the entire Arts &Sciences faculty. The economics department alone includes R. Glenn Hubbard (who was Chair of Pres. Bush's Council of Econimic Advisors and who is now dean of the business school), Richard Clarida (who served as Deputy Sec'y of the Treasury during G.W. Bush's first term) and Nobel laureate Robert Mundell, who is widely viewed as the intellectual father of Reaganomics. That there are three profs in a single department who can so readily be identified as Republicans makes it unlikely that there are only three others on the entire faculty whose politics are less obvious.

4. I remember when the survey of faculty political ties came out (it was not just about Columbia, and other schools had even higher ratios), and as I recall the authors did not actually survey the faculty to find out what their party affilliations were. They simply looked at local voting records to see how people had registered, but this methodology falsely presumes that all faculty are U.S. citizens, that they register where their campus is located and that they can be distinguished on the voter rolls from other people with similar names. It also overlooks the fact that many independent voters have strong preferences for one party or the other despite not being registered members.

5. Who really cares what the political leanings are of professors who don't make their own views part of their teaching? Let's suppose the entire 35-member Columbia physics department is made up of Democrats. So what? Does anyone think Columbia students are being indoctrinated with liberal physics to the exclusion of conservative physics?
8.8.2005 4:17pm
stevebartin (mail) (www):
You can bet that diversity at Columbia will not mean registered Republicans,evangelical Christians,and libertarians get tenure.
8.8.2005 9:40pm
KC Johnson (mail) (www):
Based on my reading of Columbia's academic freedom policy, it's not clear whether academic freedom applies to applicants for faculty positions as well as current professors. (Universities that don't apply academic freedom to job applicants, however, don't have much of an academic freedom policy.) In this particular case, though, I'm not sure that matters: amidst the controversies of the 2004-2005, President Bollinger publicly spoke out on behalf of increasing the intellectual diversity of the college's faculty. I don't see how that goal can be accomplished while simultaneously launching an initiative that seems to exclude applicants solely on the basis of their beliefs.

There seems to me a big difference between this initiative and, say, creating a chair in natural law theory or Hayek. In theory, applicants for such a position could be supporters or critics of natural law/Hayek. Applicants for these positions must either be women, (non-Asian?) minorities, or white (and Asian?) men who pass a vague test of being classified as pro-"diversity."
8.8.2005 10:01pm
Chris Hallquist (mail) (www):
Q: How well does Democrat-Republican ratios compare to liberal-conservative ones? I tried to find an answer in those two surveys, but couldn't. My guess is the D-R statistics give a distorted pitcure by ignoring independents, but I could be wrong.
8.8.2005 11:28pm
Scipio (mail) (www):
I suppose it is too much to hope for Columbia to hire people who through their scholarship and teaching and mentoring promote their students' learning about the topics they are teaching?
8.9.2005 10:21am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Scipio writes: "I suppose it is too much to hope for Columbia to hire people who through their scholarship and teaching and mentoring promote their students' learning about the topics they are teaching?"

This is what Columbia does. It's also what Harvard, Yale, UCLA, UC-Berkeley, UPenn and many other schools do, yet they all have ratios of Democrats to Republicans which are very similar to Columbia's. Does anyone think these schools got where they are today by hiring and promoting faculty based on anything other than scholarship, teaching and mentoring?

I want to note that Prof. Zywicki says the survey showed there were only 6 Republicans on the Columbia faculty (he's wrong; it actually says the authors could find only six in the departments of Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology) and that there were 14 Democrats for each Republican. This means that the authors could determine the party affiliation of only 90 professors. Columbia's Arts &Sciences faculty number about 600, and the university as a whole has about 4,000 (more than half of whom teach in the medical school). Either the authors found a very large number of independents, or they just didn't count everyone. There's nothing wrong with counting only a random sample and extrapolating from that sample, but there is no reason to believe that is what these authors did. Instead it seems they looked at five specific departments. Even if they are right that there are only 6 Republicans in those departments, the claim that there are only "6 Republicans on the entire faculty" is unsupportable. It makes no sense to assume that the six Republicans found in this sample are the only ones on the entire faculty.

Even if one presumes that the overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans throughout the faculty is 14:1 (and I do not believe the data support such a conclusion), this would mean there are dozens of Republicans teaching in Columbia's Arts &Sciences departments and well over 200 university-wide. It's still a small percentage, but there is a substantial difference between "well over 200" and "only 6".
8.9.2005 3:11pm
Zywicki (mail):
Thanks for catching that--I have corrected the post.
8.9.2005 4:46pm