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KC Johnson on Intellectual Diversity in Universities.--

The historian KC Johnson has an interesting, link-filled article on ideological and intellectual diversity at Inside Higher Ed:

Inside Higher Ed recently reported on four University of Pittsburgh professors critiquing the latest survey suggesting ideological one-sidedness in the academy. According to the Pitt quartet, self-selection accounts for findings that the faculty of elite disproportionately tilts to the Left. "Many conservatives," the Pitt professors mused, "may deliberately choose not to seek employment at top-tier research universities because they object, on philosophical grounds, to one of the fundamental tenets undergirding such institutions: the scientific method."

Imagine the appropriate outrage that would have occurred had the above critique referred to feminists, minorities, or Socialists. Yet the Pitt quartet's line of reasoning — that faculty ideological imbalance reflects the academy functioning as it should — has appeared with regularity, and has been, unintentionally, most revealing. Indeed, the very defense offered by the academic Establishment, rather than the statistical surveys themselves, has gone a long way toward proving the case of critics who say that the academy lacks sufficient intellectual diversity.

Johnson then critiques three excuses for ideological homogeneity:

1. The cultural left is, simply, more intelligent than anyone else. As SUNY-Albany's Ron McClamrock reasoned, "Lefties are overrepresented in academia because on average, we're just f-ing smarter." The first recent survey came in early 2004, when the Duke Conservative Union disclosed that Duke's humanities departments contained 142 registered Democrats and 8 registered Republicans. Philosophy Department chairman Robert Brandon considered the results unsurprising: "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire." . . .

2. A left-leaning tilt in the faculty is a pedagogical necessity, because professors must expose gender, racial, and class bias while promoting peace, "diversity" and "cultural competence." According to Montclair State's Grover Furr, "colleges and universities do not need a single additional 'conservative' .... What they do need, and would much benefit from, is more Marxists, radicals, leftists — all terms conventionally applied to those who fight against exploitation, racism, sexism, and capitalism. We can never have too many of these, just as we can never have too few 'conservatives.'" . . .

3. A left-leaning professoriate is a structural necessity, because the liberal arts faculty must balance business school faculty and/or the general conservative political culture.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Political Diversity on Law School Faculties.--
  2. KC Johnson on Intellectual Diversity in Universities.--
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
I think this is mainly a function of the packaging of social conservatism with conservatism in general. Intellectuals have, for the most part, never been socially conservative. This creates a feedback loop where, because the academy is viewed as being on the left, it attracts leftists.

Also, doesn't the recent ID contreversy lend credance to the scientific method critique?
8.26.2005 2:19pm
DC Lawyer:
All of you on the Volokh conspiracy graduated college as did the vast majority of your readers. You were taught by members of the "liberal establishment" yet you found your own voice, were successful in school, went on to higher education, prestigious clerkships, etc. You appear to have suffered not a whit for your views -- indeed I submit that you were challenged by and thrived in your environment. So why the whining?

So why all the carping about university professors? What do you want affirmative action for conservatives?

If, and I do not concede, there is a liberal bias in academia, self-selection may indeed play a role. But other than for the "intelligent design" acolytes, the reason can't possibly be objection to the scientific method. Rather it's that liberals may be more drawn to teaching as an expression of their social concern than conservatives, who may be more philosophically inclined to private practice, or business.
8.26.2005 2:20pm
Quarterican (mail):
What about the idea that there might be self-selection based on career/lifestyle choices? I know this invites chicken/egg arguments ("conservatives don't do into academia because they're pressured not to by the experience of being undergraduates...!"), but I always thought that was one of the more reasonable-sounding attempts at explanation.

But what I really want to see is a well-executed and broad survey tackling the question: "Did you find, overall, that your college professor's explicit or implicit political biases affected the nature and quality of your education? Did you feel that their teaching was tainted by this personal bias?" With a good professor, I honestly don't think it ought to matter. I was taught by a number of excellent professors in college, and I knew almost none of their political leanings, and when I did they didn't come up in the classroom. Actually, if anything in class was troubling to me at the University of Chicago, it was due to (some of) the students; there was an occasional instance of knee-jerk Bush/Republican/conservative bashing that was (almost) always met with a combination of agreement and silence. The classroom didn't feel like a safe space to drop similarly unthinking conservative rhetoric without engaging the ire of most other students. But that had nothing to do with the teachers.
8.26.2005 2:24pm
Goober (mail):
I was hoping to find more substance in the article itself than was excerpted here. I must say it seems like the customary conservative whining and intimations of discrimination that were out of style in 1994 when it was liberals who were the ones playing identity politics.

I have a couple of questions for anyone who genuinely believes these disparities are evidence of discrimination in faculty hiring.

1) Is it unreasonable to suspect that bright young conservative college students tend to value financial success and go to B-school and the banks, but bright young liberal college students tend to value academics and go to grad school?

2) Is it unreasonable to suppose that the conservative mindset, in general, tends to disvalue the reflective temperament necessary for academic pursuits? Think whether you could imagine George W. Bush or Al Gore as a university professor (and they had roughly the same grades and SAT scores, remember). Indeed, I can only think of one or two recent Republican presidential candidates fit the temperamental bill of university faculty, Forbes and Gramm. Yet on the Democratic side, Kerry, Gore, Kucinich, etc.---only Edwards and maybe Dean seem unsuited to academic work.

And it's not surprising---Republican voters found something deeply unsettling about John Kerry's stress on "nuance" during the last election, preferring Bush's moral clarity. Nuance is where academics live. If Republican voters don't think it's an attractive trait in candidates, why is it not unreasonable to suspect they'd be turned off from pursuing career choices that demand they personally develop that trait?

3) If discrimination is the reason for these disparities, why does the disparity appear even in the physics and math departments? Is there a Democratic way to do physics?

Overall, I find the empirical argument seriously undeveloped. And as a meta-commentary, I find the willingness of many conservatives to believe the theory of discrimination---reflexively, in spite of all its holes, as an "of course" matter---to be yet another example of intellectual unsuitability for tenured faculty positions.
8.26.2005 2:40pm
Cecilius:
DC Lawyer launches a bizarre attack on the "whining." His argument amounts to, well, the Ford Pinto's gas tank did not explode for all these other drivers, therefore, there must be no defect at all.

While many VC readers continued to educate themselves after school and began to drift rightward, too many of our classmates did not and stayed both undereducated and leftist. No, no, I'm not saying that leftist=dumb. I'm just saying that, based on the incomplete education provided at most universities, most people (including future conservatives/Republicans/libertarians) leave their Universities voting Democrat. Only after continued exposure to information and ideas, without the blinders imposed by our 'intellectually superior' professors, did many of us begin our drift rightwards. And even then it is with a touch of guilt and confusion. ("We all learned that Communism is a superior economic system. So why am I beginning to think it's not? Is there something wrong with me?")

Too many of my college friends retained their leftist beliefs after school as they lapsed into a life of sitcom re-runs. They never cared to continue learning, and since they only heard one side of the story in college, Mission Accomplished! - they're life long Democrats. If they stayed intellectually active, some of them would still be liberal. Some of them would not. When colleges crank out a steady stream of left-leaning graduates, they're betting that students will never learn more. The question is not how many VC readers survived their schooling with their political beliefs in tact (or converted later in life). The question is how many more VC readers would there be if college students were given a more honest education.
8.26.2005 3:00pm
goldsmith (mail):
This brings up a core issue in this debate: what is the goal of the academy? Is it to pass on knowledge to and encourage critical thinking in subseqent generations? Or is it to "fight against exploitation, racism, sexism, and capitalism."


If the goal is the latter, then you have an enormous problem, because the program then has the explicit aim to indoctrinate students, not foster critical thinking and advance human knowledge. If you have a faculty who is so partisan as to be unable to ecumenically and broadly discuss issues, the students are at a tremendous disadvantage. I think the first comment brings up an interesting point, that there is some confusion as to what, exactly, "conservatism" is and what it means. I think many people, and perhaps these few sad professors quoted here, have fundamentally confused "conservative" (in the adjective sense) and Conservative, in the sense of the range of philosophy generally referred to by that term. The conflation of this philosophy with a socially conservative philosophy (by which I mean proscription of trangressions based on a religious dogma) may be why some people are so distressed by the idea of conservatives in the academy, but it also highlights their basic ignorance of the difference between indoctrination and education. You can be a liberal/leftist and still be an outstanding and ecumenical educator. But that is not what we're discussing, nor what is, in many cases, happening in so many colleges and universities.
8.26.2005 3:01pm
NickM (mail) (www):
How much self-selection is there due to a perception that the academy is hostile toward conservatives - the comments of one Robert Brandon or Grover Furr, even if every one of their colleagues rolls their eyes at them, can dissuade conservatives from applying to that school because all they see in the media (in large part due to the media's structural bias for presenting controversy) is the anti-conservative rant. Multiply this by enough instances at different schools and you have "conventional wisdom".

Personally, I tend to agree that self-selection due to philosophical views about income and business is largely responsible for the disparity.

Nick
8.26.2005 3:08pm
anonymous coward:
On the common argument that "...bright young conservative college students tend to value financial success and go to B-school and the banks, but bright young liberal college students tend to value academics and go to grad school":

I expect this plays a role, but I think we shouldn't forget the parents.
Of course children of conservatives are more likely to be conservatives; similarly for liberals.
Many conservative parents want their kids to go into business or accounting or in any case do something practical; liberal parents may place less emphasis on their kids' financial success, and may actually be happy that they're considering a financially worthless liberal arts PhD.
I never did buy the "more education makes you more left-wing [for a given income level]" argument.

So: are liberal and conservative parents unequally supportive of academic careers? Could this be a reason why so many of the over-educated are liberal?
8.26.2005 3:09pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

1) Is it unreasonable to suspect that bright young conservative college students tend to value financial success and go to B-school and the banks, but bright young liberal college students tend to value academics and go to grad school?
I think it is more likely that bright young conservative college students can't afford to go into the academy, because they don't have multimillionaire parents to subsidize them. I can't talk myself into going back to school to work on a doctorate because if I stuck to it, upon receiving my PhD:

1. I would be competing with hundreds of other PhDs in history for each position that would pay about 40% of what I make now. Once I have retired, and no longer need an income, then I could afford to teach. More importantly, once I no longer need to work for a living, I can at least afford to invest the time and money in pursuing a doctorate so that I can compete with hundreds of other PhDs for a position.

2. I'm sure that most academics would not intentionally discriminate against conservatives--but they would just be "more comfortable" with people whom they think of as intelligent. The more that someone else's beliefs match yours, the more intelligent they must be, right?

3. It is true that most academics are not such doctrinaire haters that they would intentionally prevent qualified conservatives from being hired--but it doesn't take too many of the PC bunch making hiring decisions or sitting on tenure committees to effectively block all conservatives from becoming employed--especially when the attitudes KC Johnson quotes are considered acceptable.

I don't have much confidence that the academy plays it very straight. Some years back, I was applying to grad schools to work on my master's in history. I had just completed my BA in History, cum laude, and the department granted "with distinction" as well--perhaps because I already had two history books published before I received my BA. I had As in every class in my major.

My GPA for all classes was about 3.8--dragged down by having taken upper division classes in computer science, as well as other classes that history majors don't usually take, such as two semesters of calculus, and the serious sequences of chemistry and physics.

When I took the History GRE, I scored 91 percentile on the world history section, and 99 percentile on the American history section.

With those qualifications, you might think that getting into grad school to work on a master's would have been a piece of cake, right? Nope. The only grad school that would accept me was Sonoma State University, where I had earned my BA. Washington State University at Pullman and University of Idaho sent me rejection letters indicating that I wasn't qualified for their programs. When I asked them to explain in what way I was not qualified, I could get no answer out of them.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it?
8.26.2005 3:20pm
Carol Anne:
"Any 20 year-old who isn't a liberal doesn't have a heart, and any 40 year-old who isn't a conservative doesn't have a brain."
--Winston Churchill
8.26.2005 3:23pm
Taimyoboi:
"3) If discrimination is the reason for these disparities, why does the disparity appear even in the physics and math departments? Is there a Democratic way to do physics?"

This is a non-sequitur. If discrimnation exists, then it doesn't matter what subject matter you are teaching. Discrimination means you are hiring on qualities other than those that are related to the job at hand.

It's not that there is a Democratic way to do physics, but that the professor of physics happens to be a Democrat, and so, is hired in part because of his political leanings and not just his demonstrated mastery of the subject.
8.26.2005 3:27pm
Kristian (mail) (www):
All of you on the Volokh conspiracy graduated college as did the vast majority of your readers. You were taught by members of the "liberal establishment" yet you found your own voice, were successful in school, went on to higher education, prestigious clerkships, etc. You appear to have suffered not a whit for your views -- indeed I submit that you were challenged by and thrived in your environment. So why the whining?


Hmm...I suppose that argument is just fine...

But then, why is/was there such a outcry for {women | gays | blacks | hispanics}in the {congress | policitcs | military | police |fire departments | business boardrooms | law school | college atheltics}?
8.26.2005 3:36pm
Houston Lawyer:
I believe one reason for the relative lack of conservatives on campus is the hostile work environment shrilly enforced by the monolithic leftist faculty. Recall the recent kerfuffle at Harvard regarding the president's suggestion that men and women may have innate cognitive differences. Universities used to be places of open discussion in this country. They are that no longer.

Universities are now places where increasingly onerous taboos are foisted on a largely unsuspecting populace. Sure, some of the more heretical youngsters are goaded into fighting back, but does anyone think that the presentation of only one side of a debate is the role of a university?

And how would a conservative apply for a job in a women's studies, gender studies or Black studies program, when the sole purpose of those programs is to perpetuate historical leftist grievances?
8.26.2005 3:38pm
SP:
I find it remarkable that a lot of those on the left try to come up with convoluted reasons for why conservatives are not in academia, in particular that conservatives simply aren't as intelligent. I'd love to see the scientific method applied to that analysis. One would think that a monoculture is a bad idea to begin with, if only because it makes your arguments lazy and unhoned.

But I think a not insubstantial part of it is that much of what a vast section of academia deals with today simply isn't that interesting to anything other than a very small group of self-selected people to begin with. How many people do you know actively follow gender studies? Somewhere along the line sociology moved from dealing with general questions such as "what causes high rates of teen pregnancy" to oddball analyses of why we need five or more "genders." I consider myself a fairly well read person, but it wasn't until I ran into an English professor that I knew Captain Ahab was merely neo-Marxist prefiguring of the Jack Albertson role on "Chico and the Man." Or whatever. It's become such hopeless babble that it seems unmoored from even the subjects these people are purportedly dealing with - are they surprised that the vast amount of people IN GENERAL, and not merely conservatives, have no interest in it? A substantial section of academia is in areas that essentially have no connection to the day to day lives of about 99% of the population. Anthropology I'm sure has interesting insights on the nature and structure of American society. But you wouldn't know that from talking with them. Philosophy moved from "How do I live?" to a mishmash of semiotics. Academia is becoming more and more of an echo chamber, and the liberal political dimension is only one aspect of that.
8.26.2005 3:55pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
A conservative bias in universities is certainly possible, and obviously now a goal of the Right. Historically, before the Great Depression and World War II, universities were dominated by conservatives in all faculties. Economics departments and business schools enforce a conservative orthodoxy today. Within a generation, I would expect conservative opinion could be made a necessary qualification throughout academia.

With corporate and political America completely dominated by the Right, preserving a liberal bastion in academia -- particularly in the social sciences -- seems unlikely. Just as corporate America has been hollowed out by the creation of a class of greedy, ignorant, irresponsible corporate executives, I think academia can be hollowed out by replacing liberal, rational faculty with conservative, rational faculty, whose critical capacity is focused exclusively on approved topics.

The plutocracy wants a conservative academia, which will serve the interests of the ruling class. They will get what they want. Let's accept the inevitable with as much dignity as possible.
8.26.2005 3:58pm
jasmindad (mail):
The explanation is different for different areas. As has been said, b-school professors at most universities are not especially leftist. They know their Econ 101, that markets are generally good things, etc. They don't get large grants from government agencies.

Science department professors are probably middle-of-the road liberals, with many conservatives thrown in. This has partly to do with their more positive view of the role of the government as funders of research, partly to suspicions about religious conservatives and their historical role in interfering with science. But most physics and chemistry professors are comfortable with Clinton-like triangulated liberalism -- hardly the lefties that everyone is worried about.

Engineering professors are between b-school profs and science profs. Even though they know science, they don't do science, they apply science. As a group, they have less historical memory of religious conservative interfering with their work. A good percentage of them are middle of the road republicans. Engineering schools in the US are heavily funded by DoD, and they are less knee-jerkily suspicious about US DoD. But they are still liberal enough to want a strong government role in funding research.

Most people in the above departments don't even know the political leanings of their colleagues. When people are interviewed, their technical work is the only one discussed, and maybe their personalities. There may also be politics, but the politics has more to do with ideas in their disciplines, e.g., a prof might not have much respect for a certain technical approach, and he or she might veto a newcomer pushing that approach. But this is not left vs right politics.

People in history and philosophy departments are probably on the average left-of-center liberals, not "lefties" in the sense of raging Marxists or whatever. But there are exceptions. The way anti-conservatism might come in here in a philosophy department is through relatively less respect for areas like metaphysics, which are often the areas that religiously inclined philosophers study. It is also true that philosophers are by trade more likely to be critical and questioning, and religious conservatism is less likely to flourish in such departments.

It is the English, culture studies, etc. departments that seem to have real "loony" leftists, at least people whom most of this site's readers would regard as loony leftists. I don't have a simple explanation for it.

BTW, there were studies a decade or two ago that plotted liberalism vs conservatism (as measured by voting Democratic or Republican, admittedly a proxy measure) against education. At that time, labor was still a relatively dominant force. People with the lowest education voted Democratic and as educational level went up, the percentage voting Republican increased nicely. At the Ph D level, the correlation started going down, with a larger percentage voting Democratic again. When it came to Nobel laureates (mostly scientists), an overwhelmingly large percentage voted Democratic. Make of it what you will.
8.26.2005 4:04pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

A conservative bias in universities is certainly possible, and obviously now a goal of the Right. Historically, before the Great Depression and World War II, universities were dominated by conservatives in all faculties.
You might start by asking why this was the case--and if the same mechanisms might be at work today. Thomas Sowell argues that it is because the academy and regulated monopolies exist outside a competitive market. There is no cost to irrational discrimination.

Economics departments and business schools enforce a conservative orthodoxy today.
They do? I've read quite a bit by economists that isn't terribly conservative. Perhaps what you mean is that these parts of the academy aren't completely dominated by the left. I would be overjoyed if the humanities and social sciences were as politically diverse as econ departments and business schools.

Within a generation, I would expect conservative opinion could be made a necessary qualification throughout academia.
We would be overjoyed if there were some conservative opinions in academia. Diversity is a wonderful thing, according to the left, with respect to race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Diversity is so important that it actually takes precedence over excellence. So why is diversity in political orientation less important?
8.26.2005 4:10pm
Conservative historian:
Well, I'm more of a libertarian, actually, but I am definitely among the underrepresented voices in history departments. I thought I could add a few salient points from somebody who is actually on the inside.

First, the presence of a bias to the left is simply fact. Those who try to deny it are deluding themselves. Other than me, I don't know of anybody in the department right of moderate Democrat, and I certainly know many for whom the Democratic Party is much too right-wing.

Second, in my experience, there is little overt discrimination when it comes to hiring. Sure, the structure of some fields definitely presents a strong impetus towards a left-ward bias, but the more salient point is that there are simply far fewer Ph.D.s being produced in the humanities who are right of center. I judge this based on my graduate school colleagues who were on the whole well to the left of my faculty colleagues. To understand where this is all coming from, I think we need more insight into why people choose whether to enter academic fields in the first place. We can sit around and speculate on message boards like this all we wish, but it will never be much more than speculation--and the type of speculation that leads those of certain ideological shades to assume a particular etiology of the problem. Some real facts would be nice.

Third, I'm not so confident about the lack of bias that I spend a lot of time proclaiming my conservative bona fides. Still untenured, I continue to fear the possibility of bias, though I have seen no direct evidence of its impact.

Fourth, the unrepentent far left folks like Grover Furr are truly the exception. You should see his Stalin apologetics on the H-Russia list. Disturbing, but unusual in a field of history that despite popular understandings is actually on the whole farther to the right than most fields of history. Far more faculty spend far more time concerned not to bring their political biases into the classroom than many of you would like to believe. One of the posters on Johnson's Inside Higher Ed article made the correct point that it is this great majority that is never covered in the media, because the careful teacher who really does seek to promote critical thinking is a lot less interesting to the press than the ideologue seeking to indoctrinate.

Finally, based on my own obviously ridiculous sample size of one, I simply cannot accept the notion that conservatives are less curious, less committed to education, or otherwise less fit in general outlook for academia.
8.26.2005 4:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The plutocracy wants a conservative academia, which will serve the interests of the ruling class.
Take a look at where the "plutocracy" puts its money at election time--and ask why they want a conservative academia, since they are spending their money on liberal politicians. Take a look at the list of top contributors to the 527 committees. The top 4 are overwhelmingly hard left contributors.

#1 is George Soros who gave more than $23 million ($2.5 million alone to MoveOn).

#2 is Peter Lewis of the aptly named Progressive Insurance, who gave just under $23 million (another $2.5 million to MoveOn).

#3 is Steven Bing who gave almost $14 million (almost a million to MoveOn).

#4 is Herb &Marion Sandler, who gave $13 million (more than $2.5 million to MoveOn).

At #5 we finally get to a "plutocrat" contributing to conservative 527s (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth).

#6, #7, and #8 are all hard left contributors.

#9 is T. Boone Pickens who, to my surprise, backed conservative causes.

#10 is again a left contributor.

What is this about the plutocracy wanting conservative academia? The plutocracy is disproportionately left.
8.26.2005 4:21pm
Cala:
The only grad school that would accept me was Sonoma State University, where I had earned my BA. Washington State University at Pullman and University of Idaho sent me rejection letters indicating that I wasn't qualified for their programs.

You applied to three schools, got into one (a 33% conversion ratio isn't that bad, really), and are extrapolating from this that the academy hates conservatives? That seems a bit of an overreaction; many history Ph.D.s apply to tens of programs even with Ivy League undergraduate credentials and only get into a couple of the top programs. Some get into some top programs and not others (i.e., into the top program in their field and not the second-tier). Some have to get a master's degree first because their undergraduate school is less well-known.

I mean, maybe a 3.8 from Sonoma State isn't perceived as that valuable? Maybe (as often happens) there's not a faculty member with a specialty in the field you want (e.g., if you want to study Chinese history, and there's no one in the department researching it, you might get rejected.) It's kind of hard to blame your conservatism; I don't remember the part of my grad school application process where they asked me my political views, religious beliefs, or party affiliation.

The idea that Ph.D. students are all the sons and daughters of millionaires so they have no need to go and make money is almost as laughably absurd as the idea that all conservatives are the sons and daughters of small business owners who work hard so they must go to Wall Street.

The idea that conservatives aren't as bright is just stupid. There may be something to the idea, illustrated in the Churchill quote above, that people tend to be more liberal when they're younger and grow more conservative as they age. My students often joke that once they're i-bankers, they'll discard their liberal views due to self-interest. If someone never leaves the academy, they're unlikely (broadly generalizing) to be the sort to chomp down on conservative policies that don't benefit them much.

My guess is that it's somewhat self-selective, and now, self-perpetuating as fears about the liberal academy convince people that they shouldn't consider graduate school. That's unfortunate; we'd be better off with more balanced opinions.
8.26.2005 4:32pm
Drill_Thrawl (mail):
I think you are over-complicating the situation. It's all very simple really.

Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Those who can't teach, administrate.
8.26.2005 4:41pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
I have been writing and speaking on this topic for about a decade. I have my own views, which are not the same as Johnson's. I thought his piece was interesting, as much for his collection of examples of arguments as for anything else. For those unfamiliar with Johnson's career, you can go to HNN.com and read about his tenure case, which was an example of how bad politics can get in tenure reviews in other fields. Such unfairly political tenure reviews are exceedingly rare in law schools--and the left is more likely to be victims of political discrimination in tenure than the right (because left-leaning professors are more likely to use unconventional methods).

I have always argued that self-selection plays a big part in political disparities in law faculty hiring. Yet one of the reasons for looking at the extent of the political disparity in faculty hiring is that it is much too large to be plausibly due entirely to self-selection. Further, there is enough open, admitted political bias against hiring conservatives that it is reasonable to speculate that there is unadmitted bias in hiring.

One must remember (as John McGinnis's forthcoming study reveals), there are very few top law schools with any significant faculty political diversity. Among the top 15 schools, my impression is that only Virginia, Northwestern, and Chicago have more than 20% conservative or Republican leaners--and (the last time I counted) Republicans are outnumbered at least 2-1 at Northwestern and Chicago. It is my impression that Texas and Yale are among the other top schools with more than token representation of faculty leaning Republican.

I have run faculty hiring for at least a total of 6 years at three different law schools. As to the success of my fellow Volokh conspirators in legal education, I can't tell you how many times (at least a dozen) I have heard a faculty member at a top school say that they would have trouble getting one or more of my fellow VC members through their hiring committees or faculties in part because of their (libertarian) politics. If you don't think that VC members' politics are discussed when they are doing a look-see visit at a top 5 law school, then you really don't understand legal education.

Have you ever wondered why so many VC members (most of whom are libertarians or have libertarian leanings) have ties to George Mason, which is the law school most open to hiring smart conservatives and libertarians? One left-leaning friend of mine who places as many people in law school teaching as any law professor in the country said of a candidate he/she was advising a few years ago: "Given his politics, the only schools that are likely to give him a serious look are Chicago, Northwestern, Virginia, and George Mason." He/She then proceeded to say why two of the four schools really had no needs in his area, leaving only George Mason and one other. That prediction proved to be exactly right: the candidate went to Mason after getting close to an offer at one other of these four schools relatively open to libertarians and conservatives. I can't say for certain that he got no other offers, but I don't think he did.

I am not arguing that no conservatives or libertarians are hired at other top schools, just that it is far from an unimportant obstacle at many of them. Certainly, Stanford and Georgetown have been among the least politically diverse schools, though Georgetown is making a genuine effort in the last year. Nor am I arguing that there is no discrimination in faculty hiring against people on the extreme left.
8.26.2005 4:44pm
frankcross (mail):
There is still the mystery of liberal predominance in the sciences. I promise you that in math and physics there is not ideological discrimination. When hiring, they have no idea what the candidate's ideology is, unless it is volunteered by the candidate (and they might find that a little odd). So why do liberals predominate there? Any thoughts, Jim?
8.26.2005 4:54pm
RogerA (mail):
Interesting thread--I have nothing much else to offer except in the area of personal anecdote--I went back for a PhD at the age of 55--good program and I enjoyed it; I did not detect any serious professorial biases that showed up in their classes (although their pedagogy was absolutely horrible). I was more struck by their lack of what I would term reality based grounding. Yes, of course they had mastered the literature in their field. But in a discussion of tax burden one professor noted the tax burden on the average citizen was less than 20 percent--His faced paled when I asked him about local sales and property taxes and what those did to the total tax burden on a property owning citizen (approaching 50%) I ended up more concerned with their grasp of reality than their knowledge of the literature.
8.26.2005 5:03pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It's kind of hard to blame your conservatism; I don't remember the part of my grad school application process where they asked me my political views, religious beliefs, or party affiliation.
I should have been clearer about this; I was not suggesting that this was political discrimination, but that there's not much sense to how the academy operates. Yeah, a 3.8 GPA might not be impressive from a third tier school like Sonoma State, but the publication history and GRE scores should have been. (How many fresh graduates have published books?) It isn't like University of Idaho or WSU Pullman are Ivy League schools.

The title of my second book, For the Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep And Bear Arms might have been something of a tipoff about my politics. (It was eventually cited in one federal court decision and a Rhode Island Supreme Court dissent.) Do you suppose if the title had been, Sexuality &Constitutional Law: A Post-Modernist Critique of Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Amerikkka the results of my applications might have been different?
8.26.2005 5:06pm
Goober (mail):
I think it is more likely that bright young conservative college students can't afford to go into the academy, because they don't have multimillionaire parents to subsidize them.

Sigh. Yes, liberals are all multimillionaires.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

You'll forgive me if---given the rest of what you wrote---it doesn't make me wonder that much.

Taimyoboi---

This is a non-sequitur. If discrimnation exists, then it doesn't matter what subject matter you are teaching. Discrimination means you are hiring on qualities other than those that are related to the job at hand.

I think that's certainly a valid point, and I left unspoken part of my problem. What I meant to suggest is that, whereas it makes some amount of sense that English lit profs would find conservative approaches to the discipline distasteful and evaluate them unfairly, but still think they were being objective, there's no analogous way for that to sneak into faculty decisions in physics. Which leaves only blatant discrimination, which I don't think is plausible. It appears you do:

It's not that there is a Democratic way to do physics, but that the professor of physics happens to be a Democrat, and so, is hired in part because of his political leanings and not just his demonstrated mastery of the subject.

But to repeat, I simply don't find that plausible. Do you really think there are math department hiring committees saying "Well, XXX is a Republican, so we'll go with YYY, even though his expertise is questionable"? Because that really seems highly unlikely to me.
8.26.2005 5:13pm
Andrew M (mail):
I want to take issue with the explanation for the under-representation of conservatives in academia that is expressed in the quotation in the post from philosopher Robert Brandon. He is claimed to have said: "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire."

First, schools hire from a pool that forms a small subset of the non-stupid, i.e., the very smart. Since Mill's remark about the stupid has no bearing on the conservative propensities or otherwise of the very smart, it can tell us nothing about why conservatives are under-represented in academia. Secondly, Mill's remark can't in any case all alone explain why non-conservatives so outnumber conservatives in academia. For Mill's remark is compatible with its being true that all non-conservatives are utterly unreliable, and hence unhireable, in which case academia would have no non-conservatives at all.
8.26.2005 5:14pm
Goober (mail):
Kristian---

why is/was there such a outcry for {women | gays | blacks | hispanics}

Because disadvantaged minorities were historically denied the economic opportunities to go to school, achieve political power, etc.? I'm just guessing.

There's no contemporary movement to ensure economic access for, say, Jews, nor should there be, because Jews have been able to succeed on their own for quite a while. Likewise, why should conservatives need a help up? They're already up. (The existence of many on this thread who have convinced themselves that they're down notwithstanding.)
8.26.2005 5:17pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Frank:

As I said, I think self-selection plays a big part.

As for other reasons, I would speculate that lifestyle issues are present. Michael Barone's Hard America/Soft America places academics as part of soft America, with reduced market forces. Then I think that there is socialization with fellow faculty and with faculty in other fields in college. The culture that gives rise to elite educations disproportionately reflects New England educated culture, which is pretty liberal even outside the university.

Frank, you are as smart as anyone I know, and you've taught at Texas, Northwestern, and probably other places. Why do you think it is?

I just looked at the Ladd Lipset book. In 1948, professors favored Democrats by 9% more than the general population. In 1969, the social sciences favored Humphrey over Nixon in 1968 75/20, the humanities 72/23, law 65/35, physical sciences 57/39, biological sciences 56/41, business 40 (Humphrey)/55 (Nixon), engineering 37/60. Even then, the relative odds of favoring Humphrey for social over physical sciences is 2.6 to 1. Might one treat the physical sciences as a baseline and then try to model the rest of the disparity?

Do you have more recent data on the physical sciences or math or physics?
8.26.2005 5:22pm
Craig Oren (mail):
I want to emphasize the point that there is nothing inevitable about the domination of universities by the left. Prior to World War II -- indeed, even prior to the accession of Hitler -- the faculty at German universities tended to be men (sic) of the right -- the kind of people who praised the Kaiser's Weltpolitik and feared the socialists as subversives.

I also wonder whether the slant to the left will continue. Young law professors tend, I think, to be more conservative than the middle-aged folk who grew up in the 60s; the same may well be seen in other fields.
8.26.2005 5:28pm
Nobody Special:
Goober:

But to repeat, I simply don't find that plausible. Do you really think there are math department hiring committees saying "Well, XXX is a Republican, so we'll go with YYY, even though his expertise is questionable"?

I don't think that anyone serious is asserting the bolded part. However, keeping in mind the number of Ph.D. holders compared to tenure track positions (even in the sciences), the bolded part need never come into play- there's plenty of capable people for the spot.
8.26.2005 5:29pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Correcting a mistake:

#6, #7, and #8 are all hard left contributors.
Nope. "Progress for America" is actually a Republican 527. So of the top ten "plutocrats" contributing to 527 committees, five were left--and those five contributed a total of $77,576,110; the other five, contributing to conservative causes, gave a total of $27,685,199.

Going down the rest of the list shows that the hard left is better represented than conservatives.
8.26.2005 5:30pm
Bill Dalasio (mail):
I'm inclined to agree with the idea that conservatives have largely self-selected out of academia due to a hostile work environment. The suggestion that they're less reflective or more money-driven is pretty much cartoonish. The irony, of course, is that the hostile work environment made employment with think tanks all the more attractive for a bright, intellectual, conservative. Somehow I suspect that wasn't exactly the sort of results that folks like Grover Furr were exactly aiming for. My how unintended consequences can be fun!
8.26.2005 5:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I want to emphasize the point that there is nothing inevitable about the domination of universities by the left. Prior to World War II -- indeed, even prior to the accession of Hitler -- the faculty at German universities tended to be men (sic) of the right -- the kind of people who praised the Kaiser's Weltpolitik and feared the socialists as subversives.
Yup. But "right" in the Weimar Republic sense isn't the same as "right" in the American political meaning. The German "right" believed in a very strong government, one not noted for laissez faire economics. What a lot of people tend to forget is that not only professors, but secondary teachers and overwhelmingly students turned out for Hitler, even if many looked down on Hitler and the Nazis as uncultured sorts. The 1932 election, for example, which helped to put the Nazis in a position to win Reichstag political struggles, was the first election after the voting age dropped to 18. The Nazis made very effective use of a slogan that would be considered "leftist" in America today: Gemeinnuetz vor Einnuetz! (Collective needs before individual needs.)

I also wonder whether the slant to the left will continue. Young law professors tend, I think, to be more conservative than the middle-aged folk who grew up in the 60s; the same may well be seen in other fields.
My impression is that among historians, those who grew up after Watergate tend to be, if not more conservative, at least least less doctrinaire leftists. A few that I have talked to are very careful what they write or say, because they know that tenure will be difficult if they are perceived as not following the Party line.
8.26.2005 5:38pm
Goober (mail):
RogerA---

I'm deeply suspicious of your math. If it is true that the Federal government taxes 20% of the average paycheck, does it seem likely that the states and local governments spend one-and-a-half as much again?

It seems you're referring to the Americans for Tax Reform figure, here (.pdf), but it's important to note that 50% estimate takes into account (as nearly a third!) of the total tax burden the cost of complying with regulations. First, I doubt that's an easy figure to calculate, and probably includes a hefty normative judgment that regulation is bad. Second, it doesn't jibe with your claim that taxes alone eat up 50% of the average paycheck, even those of only property-owners. So even accepting the ATR's figures, 33-35% seems more likely.

Furthermore, 50% doesn't seem plausible. I'm just recalling from my own faulty memory, but the national GDP is about $11 or $12 trillion. The federal budget is about $2 trillion, plus a $300 million or so deficit. So $2.3 / $11.5 = 0.20; federal government spending equalling 20% of the national income seems pretty plausible. Accepting the ATR figures as roughly reflecting reality, it appears state and local spending in aggregate is half as large as federal, so we could estimate that total government spending is 30% of the national income. Now, spending would equal taxes plus deficits, so total government taxation, we'd predict, should be even less than 30%. And that jibes with reality; I'm a lawyer (comparatively high-paid) in New York (certainly high-taxed); I don't pay nearly half of my income to government. And there just aren't enough people in the 2% or so above me to make up for those below me if, as I suspect, those who make less money than me pay a smaller percentage in their taxes (I have no dependents and only trivial deductions, so it stands to reason).

My point is that it's all too easy to assume that those who disagree with us are simply in the delusions of ideology. That's possible, of course. But it's equally possible that it's we ourselves who are mistaken. (In the example you provided, I suspect it's a little of each.) It's therefore a mistake to infer from that mere observation of disagreement that there's some institutional bias against a group of people.
8.26.2005 5:44pm
Neema:
As a science (biophysics) graduate student, there definitely may be bias in the tenure process, though in hiring it would be difficult. It's hard to imagine 5 years going by without some people figuring out one's political bent. However, my guess is that self-selection is the key factor. I am in the Bay Area, so things are probably more leftist here than most places, but out of approximately 500 professors, grad students, and post-docs in my building, I would guess that 5 people at the most voted for Bush (including myself, mostly a libertarian). There are many who call your intelligence into question if you're not a leftist. Very few have any sort of knowledge in Econ and have some of the most absurd ideas on how the world works. It can be maddening to work with these people 50 hours a week, so I can understand why most conservatives/libertarians wouldn't want to continue after grad school. As for myself, I won't.
8.26.2005 5:47pm
Goober (mail):
Nobody Special---

Ah. You've got it right. But I think if you replace "not qualified" with "not as qualified as the distasteful Republican" it should work.
8.26.2005 5:49pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

There are many who call your intelligence into question if you're not a leftist.
I would be overjoyed if all they called into question was my intelligence. You get told that you are evil, racist, hate-filled, intent on keeping all women barefoot and pregnant. (This same crowd didn't know what to make of my wife, who was working on her MA at the time, wore shoes--and was occasionally pregant.)


Very few have any sort of knowledge in Econ and have some of the most absurd ideas on how the world works.
Yup. Hence the term "ivory tower" as an expression of contempt for someone isolated from how real people live, work, and play.
8.26.2005 5:52pm
Nobody Special:
Goober-

Ah. You've got it right. But I think if you replace "not qualified" with "not as qualified as the distasteful Republican" it should work.

But I don't think it's that even- I'm pretty sure that, given the realities of supply and demand, a conservative has to be markedly better than a liberal to be employed.
8.26.2005 5:59pm
Rob Lyman:
I wonder if we haven't got the causal arrow going the wrong way to some extent.

Perhaps people come out of college fairly leftty, but those who go into business become more conservative due to their experiences there, while those who spend their entire lives in academia never shed their youthful, lefty beliefs. That doesn't make one right and the other wrong, BTW, just that different experiences will naturally produce different results.

That accounts for the Democratic physics profs. And, as someone with an MS in physics, I can't say the "hostile work environment" theory makes any sense to me. I was WAY to the right of most (though not all) of the grad students, but that did not somehow make my life there miserable.
8.26.2005 6:03pm
Taimyoboi:
"there's no analogous way for that to sneak into faculty decisions in physics. Which leaves only blatant discrimination, which I don't think is plausible. It appears you do..."

I made absolutely no claims in one direction or another. I took issue with your attempting to generalize about discrimination in general based on the unlikelihood that such would occur in the sciences. Your original statement being:
"If discrimination is the reason for these disparities, why does the disparity appear even in the physics and math departments?"

If you prefer to limit the discussion to the sciences, then no, I don't think there is systemic hiring discrimination against conservative physicists or mathematicians. But I wouldn't rule it out so casually as you have done.

"Which leaves only blatant discrimination, which I don't think is plausible."

Does that mean you also believe its implausible that hiring discrimination exists against minorities in the business world?
8.26.2005 6:05pm
TomH (mail):
Left leaning types are much more satisfied with a job where you work only six months a year and still get to complain that you are not paid as much as someone who works full time.
8.26.2005 6:16pm
Conservative historian:
Dear Tom H:

I'll put my hours of work up against yours any time. The lack of knowledge of the academic world is clear when people think we work "only six months a year." Believe it or not, most of my work comes outside of teaching, so I am not "off" when classes are not in session.
8.26.2005 6:29pm
flashene (mail):
Philosophy Department chairman Robert Brandon considered the results unsurprising: "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire." . . .

Aren't we all forgetting that in Mill's day, "conservative" had quite a different meaning? Many of today's conservatives and libertarians are much more closely aligned with Mill's classic liberalism than your average modern democrat.

Doesn't anyone else find it alarming that a Philosophy Dept Chair has somehow missed this major and obvious distinction?
8.26.2005 6:29pm
Bob Smith (mail):
Why aren't conservatives better represented on campus?

Maybe because they don't see anything hypocritical in thinking that a lack of conservatives on campus is a bad thing but a lack of women, minorities, etc. is not.
8.26.2005 6:36pm
Goober (mail):
NoSpecial---

I think we agree, then, on the terms of the debate: Whether science faculty hiring committees really would take a marginally less qualified liberal over a marginally more qualified conservative, for the reason that they'd rather hire a liberal. Or am I still missing your point?

If I'm not, I think our disagreement has been identified: I don't think any committee actually would make such a conscious decision.
8.26.2005 6:42pm
Perseus (mail):
I've always found it interesting that the same liberals who point to disparities in the percentage of women and minorities on the faculty as prima facie evidence of discrimination and/or the need for affirmative action go to great lengths to discount those same statistical disparities when it comes to conservatives. I know that in the field of political science it is not uncommon for job ads (besides explicitly encouraging women and minorities to apply) to state that those who likewise support "diversity" are preferred, which is not exactly an open invitation to conservatives. Prominent figures in academia such as Juan Cole and Brian Leiter (who in truth subscribe to variations on excuses # 1-3 above) disingenuously claim that the political orientation of faculty hires is usually unknown. This may be true in the sciences, but is unlikely to be true in the humanities and social sciences unless one ignores telltale signs on a person's CV and during the campus interview. Certainly there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of such bias, though I, too, would like to see more rigorous studies on the matter.
8.26.2005 6:42pm
TomH (mail):
Conservative Historian -

Perhaps I made an inteperate and hasty comment. There are, in every group, exceptions. However, I know my fair share of graduate level academics, of which I am not admittedly a part, who lament in July that they have to go back to work in September. Maybe those I know are the exception.

I should know better than to generalize from specific examples on this blog.
8.26.2005 6:48pm
Goober (mail):
Taimyoboi---

Hmmm... First, sorry to rush to judgment.

Second, let me restate, because I'm a little confused here. A large majority of French lit and gender theory profs vote Democratic. But a large majority of physics profs do, too. The inference I draw from that is, if the differential in the former is due to discrimination, then the differential in the latter presumably would be due to the same thing. But if the latter differential is not due to discrimination, then it seems likely there's a partial non-discriminatory basis for the former, as well.

Now, I don't think there is a discriminatory basis for the differential in physics faculties. I don't think I'm ruling it out; I'm just making my best guess given the weight of the evidence in a situation of uncertainty. And so long as one remains open to revisit the issue if circumstances change, I don't think it's terribly hasty to infer good faith where there's no evidence to the contrary.

(Analogous: Is it fair to say, "No, I don't think that person is a racist, an anti-Semite, and a Dave Matthews Fan. But I wouldn't rule it out so casually as you have done." Obviously not the same thing. But still.)

Here's where you lose me:

Does that mean you also believe its implausible that hiring discrimination exists against minorities in the business world?

I didn't mean to suggest that blatant discrimination, in every circumstance, is implausible; I meant only to say that outward discrimination against conservatives doesn't seem to me terribly likely.

But I think race is a good example to discuss part of my argument. Even someone who thinks he's not racist can subconsciously use an African American's race as a proxy for all sort of undesirable traits, and therefore discriminate on race without knowing he's doing so. Indeed, that seems to me the stronger argument against university liberalism; that liberal arts faculties use conservative arguments as a proxy for weak-mindedness or academic unseriousness. In history departments, I can imagine it happening. But in chemistry, it makes a lot less sense to me, and I still think that the only plausible discriminationwill be outward and blatant, rather than subliminal. But I don't think that outward, blatant discrimination is very likely; therefore, in the sciences at least, I don't think any discrimination is very plausible.
8.26.2005 6:55pm
Goober (mail):
Perseus---

Fair enough. But of course that argument goes both ways. I can't recall who put it this way, but try answering the following questions:


1) The reason there are so few conservatives in university faculties is __________________.
2) The reason there are so few women in science faculties is __________________.
8.26.2005 6:58pm
ShelbyC:
The reason for the lack of conservatives in academia is simple. Conservatives are disproportionately successful in the private sector, where concrete results are required.
8.26.2005 7:17pm
Sam (mail):
It is amusing to see conservatives scream about the absolute numbers as an indication of discrimination when they generally oppose the "de facto" discrimination doctrine that says if the numbers aren't there there must be discrimination. It is even more amusing to see liberals scream there is no discrimination when they support the exact same policy in racial situations.

As for the ludicrous suggestion that liberals are smarter than conservatives the fact that conservatives do quite well in Engineering, economics and business should dispel that. Ask any undergraduate about the difficulty of those major respective to poli sci, philosophy, history etc. (I'm poli sci and the rest of my family are engineers) The relative GPAs between those majors may be informative as well.

If I remember my sociology from undergrad right there are some interesting works suggesting that a certain percentage of a minority are needed for success of that particular minorty. While I'm not necessarily endorsing the research it does seem to provide an interesting possible explanation.
8.26.2005 7:21pm
RogerA (mail):
Goober--your points and references are clearly well taken and I am relying on an aging memory; If I overstated the case my apologies. However, a percentage figure doesnt mean much to an individual until you know that individual's entire tax burden. My only point was to suggest that unless all state, county, city, mosquito districts, fire districts, hospital districts, and whatever else the 80 some odd thousand local entities can levy, are taken into consideration, citing the federal tax burden as the only tax burden an individual pays, understates the case. I am sure we can both agree we pay considerably more in taxes than just our share of our federal tax burden.
8.26.2005 7:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Conservative historian writes:

I'll put my hours of work up against yours any time. The lack of knowledge of the academic world is clear when people think we work "only six months a year." Believe it or not, most of my work comes outside of teaching, so I am not "off" when classes are not in session.
Teaching isn't just the time in the classroom--it is the time preparing to teach, grading papers, doing research, and participating in various departmental activities (which as an adjunct, I don't have to do). Some of my professors worked 60-70 a week during the school year--although these were generally the recent hires. Some of the tenured faculty indicated that they worked not much more than 40 hour week during the school year. Of course, there's three months off during the summer, and a bit of free time over the Christmas (excuse me, winter) break.

On the other side of the equation: some of these activities are so much fun that it is hard to distinguish work from play. I enjoy time spent digging through archives, reading, and trying to unravel historical mysteries. Even teaching can be somewhat enjoyable, when you have students (at least some students) who are interested in learning, and have made some effort to prepare for class. I would expect that most historians who work full-time also enjoy this quite a bit.

For the most part, those of us in the private sector get paid better partly because we work 50 weeks a year, and partly because our work is less fun. If I had any influence on this society (which, being a conservative, I do not), I would prefer state governments pay professors better--perhaps in exchange for a bit more consistent teaching in their assigned fields, and a bit less political agitation masquerading as teaching. My experience as a student was that perhaps 80% of professors were doing their jobs (and just their jobs), while another 20% thought that "political activist" was one of their responsibilities in the classroom.
8.26.2005 7:44pm
frank cross (mail):
Jim, I have a theory but it's a little controversial, so let me emphasize that it is just a hypothesis.

First, Conservatives cover a large body of attitudes. A huge percentage of conservatives are traditionalists (paleocons) or very Christian. The academy today rewards a skeptical rationalism. Anybody who thinks that tradition or revelation trumps rationality is not going to make it. Hence, the devotion to rationality precludes a big chunk of conservatives. Now, I am not saying that traditionalists or Christians are irrational people, just that it is not their lodestar, like it is at the university.

Libertarians of course, are pretty devoted to rational analysis. And while Conservatives as a group are underrepresented, I think that libertarians are, if anything, overrepresented. I see much more libertarian feeling among faculty than other groups of society with which I am familiar.

I think that there may be some bias against the religious, because of the academic methodology, which is to question everything and rationalize answers.
8.26.2005 7:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Why aren't conservatives better represented on campus?

Maybe because they don't see anything hypocritical in thinking that a lack of conservatives on campus is a bad thing but a lack of women, minorities, etc. is not.
How many conservatives do you know who think that discrimination against women and racial minorities is okay? I've met conservatives who think this is okay--but it isn't much more than the number of people I know who are fans of Noam Chomsky and race Ferraris on the weekends. (And yes, I do know people like this.)

There is pretty general agreement among conservatives that people should be judged on their individual merits. Not because they are black, or white, or male, or female. This is the conservative critique of affirmative action--that individuals are not being admitted to schools or hired based on their own merits, but because they fill a quota.

Remember that affirmative action first surfaced when it did not because there were conscious discriminatory efforts that affirmative action was trying to fix, but because there were a lot of often unconscious assumptions that were getting in the way.

There were genuinely intentional racists out there. Back when I was an employment agent, I provided assistance to a Human Resources manager working at a government contractor in finding a new job, so that she could safely send in the attack dogs from EEOC after the Engineering Manager. Choice quotes from the Engineering Manager: "Don't send me any more Hispanics or blacks." "There's only two things women are good for: filing and f--king."

For the most part, the problem was that an overwhelmingly white and male hiring population tended to hire people that sounded and looked like them. Affirmative action was originally an attempt to get managers to consciously examine assumptions that were causing minority applicants to be dropped from consideration because, "He doesn't seem very serious about the job." This may be the sort of affirmative action required at universities--a conscious examination of whether the hiring committee's political assumptions are denigrating the value of an applicant's scholarly work.
8.26.2005 7:57pm
Conservative historian:
Tom H.

No big thing. It was a note of frustration--likely born of too much time away from the kids as I try to make it to tenure. People always think we have it easy in academia, and some who don't take it seriously probably do, especially if they have more teaching experience than I. I just finished my first full-time teaching year and averaged probably 6 hours prep for each hour in class and after that I did the things that will actually get me tenure some day, because it won't be the teaching that counts. For me, the summer is much needed time to catch up on all those things I did not finish during the regular academic year.

Anyway, this is really off topic here, so I'll stop.
8.26.2005 8:26pm
Perseus (mail):
My tentative responses to the questions posed:

1) The reason there are so few conservatives in university faculties is: ideological discrimination, affirmative action for women and minorities, and different job preferences, though I certainly don't rule out other possibilities. I don't buy the "conservatives are too dumb" hypothesis. More plausible is that conservatives on average prefer the world outside academia, but I don't think that that can account for such a huge discrepancy. Since women and minorities with PhDs are more likely to be liberal than their counterparts, affirmative action for them means relatively more liberals. Btw, I'd concede that colleges (or departments) with conservative reputations tend to be biased too, though given there are so few of them one might argue that it's therefore justifiable.

2) The reason there are so few women in science faculties is: how about Larry Summers's threefold thesis (in decreasing order of importance), namely, (1) high-powered job (the mommy-track isn't especially conducive to an academic science job, and I'd add that the mommy-track coincides with a person's younger years, which I suspect is the most prolific time for scientists, unlike, say, historians), (2) possible differences in aptitude (this would tend to lead to women being relatively less represented in the hard sciences but relatively more represented in the humanities and social sciences), and (3) sex discrimination.
8.26.2005 8:45pm
Goober (mail):
RogerA---

I agree entirely. (Well, I can't agree with you as to the very last point, because I'm cheating on my state and local taxes. (Shhh.)) And I'm somewhat intrigued and somewhat terrified by these "mosquito districts" of which you speak. The moment I run into a mosquito big enough to hire a tax assayer, I'm moving to Siberia.
8.26.2005 8:46pm
Goober (mail):
Perseus---

I suspect you didn't understand the rhetorical point of the questions.
8.26.2005 8:50pm
Perseus (mail):
I did understand the rhetorical point, but I was trying to provide a good faith answer lest I be lumped in as a conservative hypocrite.
8.26.2005 9:02pm
Howard (mail):
My response to the Brandons and McClamrock's (is that a real name???) of the world regarding their OBVIOUS intellectual superiority is to cite a story told back in 1978 in the pages of the Wall Street Journal by Irving Kristol:

It seems he had a friend (OK, it was Saul Bellow, as verifed by Irving himself when I once met him) back at CCNY (my alma mater, incidentally, although somewhat later) who belonged to a Marxist group, which of course was the fashion of the times. Young Saul brought his comrades back to his family's Brooklyn apartment every Friday night whereupon they engaged in passionate discussion and controversy of the most minute points of Marxist theory and doctrine. While this discourse was taking place, his mom, an immigrant short in formal education, would keep the young intellectuals plied with coffee, tea, other beverages, cookies, sandwiches and fruit.

One night after they left she turned to her son to remark "Your friends, what brilliant young people! Smart! Smart!" and then with a downward dismissive swipe of her hand, "Stupid!!"

True enough in the short term. What I'd really like to know is how many kids Brandon and McClamrock have. As was noted after the 2004 election in endless discussions of Red State Fertility, the bluest states have the fewest kids. Ron, even if you all are "f-ing smarter" than us, if you don't pass your intellectually superior genes on to a next generation and don't convert the children of people who do, your ideas will soon disappear--and that can't happen too soon for me!
8.26.2005 9:06pm
DanB:
You appear to have suffered not a whit for your views -- indeed I submit that you were challenged by and thrived in your environment. So why the whining?

Well, the two main reasons are (a) because left-wing students don't get the benefit of having their ideas challenged and (b) because it encourages people, with good reason, to define the word "academic" as meaning "political ideologue" rather than "informed expert".

The second problem is really the biggest one. Heck, even the liberal students at my university used to crack jokes about the courses they were taking -- "White-Men-Are-Evil Studies", "America is a Fascist State 101", etc. It wasn't that the professors leaned slightly to the left; it was that it was easier to find a professor willing to sing the praises of Fidel Castro than it was to find a professor willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, Ronald Reagan had been right about one or two things.

It isn't the bias, it is the cartoonish nature of the bias. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where you could ask the question "Hm, what do the biology professors think about this latest environmental issue" without knowing the answer is "Probably whatever the latest Greenpeace newsletter tells them to think"?
8.26.2005 9:24pm
Goober (mail):
Perseus---

So I ask you a pair of questions (Why so few women / conservatives on faculties?) designed to underscore the easy leap to judgment by many conservatives that "of course universities are discriminating against us!", even though they're reluctant and you answer:

1) Why so few conservatives? Discrimination first! Then reverse discrimination! Then 'cause they don't want it very much. (You wouldn't want it either, if you had to deal with all that discrimination!)
2) Why so few women? Discrimination last! If at all! Only after 'cause they're dumber! And most of all because girls don't like hard work!

I'm caricaturing, obviously. But you didn't do a very good job of showing that you got the point. Nor showing that you're not a hypocrite. Not that I believe you are one, but if that's the charge you're worried about it's an ineffective rebuttal that conservative bias, unlike liberal bias, might be justified.
8.26.2005 9:31pm
Cala:
Clayton Cramer: Incidentally, no offense intended re: your academic background. I re-read my original post and I sounded a lot nastier than I meant. (A published book is quite impressive.) Perhaps you were unlucky and got an anti-gun type reading your application; I suspect not, only because in my own school, one that conservatives Love To Hate, the graduate students in the humanities range from conservative to nanny-state liberal to libertarian. (I also suspect that mispelling America wouldn't go over well anywhere. ;-) )

In any case, I wanted to make the broader point that just because a professor identifies as a Democrat doesn't mean that her teaching itself is biased; 'Democrat' doesn't mean 'leftist' any more than 'Republican' means 'fascist'. It's possible to teach a philosophy class, for example, that teaches the foundations of introductory ethics that doesn't consist in holding up conservatives as unethical, nor on downgrading students for having different beliefs than the prof. Critical thinking will always be involved; but that really shouldn't worry anyone, because conservatives use critical thinking too.

There are limits, of course. You probably won't get too far as an IDer in a genetics course if you refuse to learn about genetics; you probably won't do well in a course on Marx if your essay consists of screeds against Marx and doesn't demonstrate that you read the material. But surely those students are rare; probably about as rare as profs that laugh Christians out of the classroom.

It's certain more interesting leading a class discussion where the students are free to express their own beliefs and challenge each other's beliefs than it is to hear boring pabalum regurgitated.
8.26.2005 9:50pm
pst314 (mail):
Why do I think leftist bias is a problem? A few examples:
(1) A Milwaukee biology teacher who is outspokenly contemptuous of conservatives, while displaying a comically cartoonish view of what conservatives are.
(2) A Chicago-area astronomer who is loudly hostile and even inserts nasty comments into discussions of astronomy.
(3) Someone in the humanities so comfortable with her hostility to Christianity that she dismissed Christians as evil ignoramuses in the presence of the invited Jesuit scientist.
(4) Humanities professors who are perfectly comfortable with and respectful towards Marxists, Maoists, and Castroites but make no secret of despising Reagan and all he stood for (making it obvious what they would think of me once my opinions became known.)
I soon decided to avoid this hostile environment.
8.26.2005 10:32pm
vicneo (mail):
Just my $0.02

I dont care much for the liberal or conservative bias of College Professors WRT what they do in the voting booth or wherever. But as the father of two kids who will be going to college in the next few years, i have a real problem with paying that kind of money for an essentially illiberal education.

To me the 4 years they spend at the university is supposed to be an opportunity for them to get exposed to a variety of opinions in a unbiased manner.

The Larry summers witch hunt to me was deeply disturbing, not just in the eventual outcome but the ultimately fascist manner it was conducted in. deeply disenchanting.

I am rapidly coming to the opinion that the 200K per kid i wil probably spending on college eduaction will giv e them nothing other than an external albeit superficial and meanigless Stamp of approval so that they can get meaningfully employed.

a sad reflection indeed on the essentially parasitic charcter of academia.
8.26.2005 10:39pm
Bill Dalasio (mail):
Bob Smith,

But, on my end at least, the argument isn't based on statistical discrepancies, but on observed behaviors. Its not at all uncommon to hear professors openly referring to conservatives or Republicans using language that would make a dockworker blush. What is rare is to hear any condemnation of of their rants. If a professor were to speak about women, African Americans, or gay people in the manner that they quite often speak about conservatives, they'd rightly be shown the door and the college would quite likely be exposed to a very large legal bill.
8.26.2005 10:41pm
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Frank Cross: In answer to your hypothesis, I think several of your premises are wrong. For one, I don't believe it is especially true that "The academy today rewards a skeptical rationalism." They all believe that they are especially rational, of course, but nearly all men at all times have felt that they were more rational than those who disagreed with them. It is a common disease of the species.

Ever since Galileo, it has been fashionable to prefer "skeptical rationalism", by which the speaker always means "You should be more open to changing your mind. Since I'm right, I don't have to." In the current academy, this always means "skepticism of Christianity", "skepticism of traditional American ideals", "skepticism of the American government when it is being run by Republicans", "skepticism of history that makes the West look good", "skepticism of anything that can't be reduced to physics". It never seems to include "skepticism of physicalism", "skepticism of the intentions of America's enemies", "skepticism of political correctness", or "skepticism of the idea that global warming is caused by human activity".

People who believe in tradition or revelation are not less concerned with rationality. Often it is quite the opposite in fact. People who are willing to openly express the source of their premises are more dedicated to rationality than people who pretend that rationality itself can provide premises. It can't. And a true respect for rationality requires one to carefully explicate the boundaries of rationality.

Conservatives and libertarians don't disagree for rational reasons. They disagree because they have different pre-rational premises.
8.26.2005 10:46pm
Lantern Bearer (mail):
Is it because people who ask too many questions and are able to defend stated positions on logical and factual grounds dangerous to loopy group think and followers of the petulant leader. This is not a battle of conservatives and liberals. Conservative thinking and intellectual constructs are to be valued by their depth of thought and by a rational understanding of cause and effect. The same is true for the liberal mindset. A university education is for the teaching of method and process in framing and making informed decisions based on gathered and considered observation of fact. There is now to be found in the current controversy a vicious and outcome only oriented mind set that starts from a position far outside the classic process of academia and intellect. They may be intelligent. They may be dedicated. Many were middling to near non performing students. They resisted complying with method and process. They tend to start from ill informed positions and do so knowingly and deliberately. They know what they know and never tire of spewing it. Their outcomes have been preordained. Their methods are irrational and mean spirited. They are that way because they can be. They are well financed and as such are self entitled to get what they expect. They are capable and goal oriented perpetual two year olds. They are a cancerous growth on the host party. They will use up the resources they have because the method is all or nothing. It is sad and tiresome to watch and to hear.
8.26.2005 11:34pm
Uncle BigBad:
I love all these "self-selection" arguments, and I'll even buy into them as long as they can be extended to women and minorities, e.g. women are not found in some professions because they choose not to be. I know that to be true, so why wouldn't I believe that conservatives choose to not pursue academic careers?
8.26.2005 11:42pm
Art (mail):
Academia (and civil service) is heaven on earth for the risk averse. Conservatives often don't fit into safe employments and should stop bitching that they're not wanted there ... it is sufficient compensation for conservatives to be entertained listening to tenured faculty and civil servants deny any connection between their sheltered existence and their support for statist ideology.
8.26.2005 11:48pm
Sha_kri:
Liberals are taking over the education system. Its a job scam. They push people of their own ideology in and try to push people who don't reflect their ideology out (ie conservatives). I know what I said wont be taken seriuosly, but in my experience it is true.
8.27.2005 12:00am
Perseus (mail):
Goober: Perhaps you could offer your own serious answers to the same questions. Or do you believe that there's no significant bias against conservatives or women and minorities? And no, I won't caricature your answers as you did mine (it's certainly fun to do, but it's not very enlightening).
8.27.2005 12:08am
Anon1ms (mail):
Perhaps my experience in an academic setting are not typical,coming as they did at state universities, but I do not recognize the history departments at which I worked in many of the comments above.

Obviously there are exceptions, but generally the selection committees for graduate students are looking for applicants that 1) will make the department stronger, 2) match up to the fields and specialties of the faculty and 3) display a curious mind.

We never really cared about the politics of the applicant (although I suppose at the fringes that could come into play). In fact, there were quite a few students that one of our more liberal members jokingly refered to as "misguided, but not misinformed."
8.27.2005 12:18am
NYSofMind:
I really think it has a lot more to do with the fact that when conservatives look to their side and see a gay person working next to them, they lose the ability to speak coherently. Since there *are* gay academics, liberals will tend to thrive in academic environments, because they can continue to speak clearly without worrying that god will strike them down for working with a homosexual.

Someone else pointed out the difference between conservatives and social conservatives-- it's true. an environment which excludes people on irrelevant criteria like sexual orientation, gender, and religious belief will naturally suffer retarded academic growth. Religious Christians, as long as they are tolerant of other people's lifestyles and beliefs, are welcome in a liberal environment; gays, Jews and people who are actively culturally black are unwelcome in a wonderful place like Bob Jones.
8.27.2005 12:58am
Perseus (mail):
The "match up to the fields and specialties of the faculty" is part of the problem. For example, how many members of the faculty do research in military history as compared to social history (how many history departments even offer courses in military history to pique student interest)?
8.27.2005 1:15am
Cala:
Course listings are perhaps not the best way to judge admissions of doctoral students and faculty interests, but while military history is not as big as social history at the moment, if you wanted to do an undergraduate degree in history at one of the Ivies you could focus on military history quite easily. I know a few graduate students who focus on military history. Not as numerous as social history, of course, but it's not as though they're not allowed at the big kids' table (and not all social history is Marxist; there's a lot of overlap).


I am rapidly coming to the opinion that the 200K per kid i wil probably spending on college eduaction will giv e them nothing other than an external albeit superficial and meanigless Stamp of approval so that they can get meaningfully employed.


Assuming you're a reasonable man, and not the sort that thinks requiring biology students to learn evolution is symptomatic of liberal bias, you really have very little to worry about. Profs who fail kids for having different opinions are well known; and learning differing points of view is part of what university is about, as is whether to agree with those points of view and how to argue against them.

In all seriousness, if you are that worried, send them to a school that agrees with your conservative values (it won't be as high of an educational standard, but maybe that's a sacrifice you're willing to make). But practically, your conservative child is far more likely to be corrupted by classmates, meeting people who have different backgrounds, alcohol, and being outside of parental control for the first time instead of by some liberal English prof asking him to read the naughty bits in Catcher in the Rye.
8.27.2005 1:56am
DanB:
Assuming you're a reasonable man, and not the sort that thinks requiring biology students to learn evolution is symptomatic of liberal bias, you really have very little to worry about

That's true only if his kids are interested in the physical sciences, mathematics, or engineering. If they're interested in the social sciences or humanities they're basically going to have to resign themselves to four years of reguritating what some twit tells them, and rely on self-education to learn what's what.
8.27.2005 4:04am
ummmmm (mail):
Military history is an open option for many undergrads. I attend an extremely liberal undergrad institution (so liberal we even have affirmative action for men! *gasp*) and history majors, such as myself, can easily spend nearly their entire academic careers in courses heavy with such offerings. A friend of mine even toyed with doing an independent major entitled "War".

Of course, the concept of military history is not quite what is presented on the history channel. Look at the substance of what the "traditional" military history is: battle tactics, troop deployments and comparative weaponry virtually devoid of context. Compared with social history, the standard of analysis for this military history is quite thin—most of this information can be drawn verbatim from generals' letters and field commands, with the rest being the rote regurgitation of facts. That really isn't what most historians consider to be a historian's job. The point is to take sources and DO something with them, not just transpose them into a monograph.

That's no longer the point of military history (thankfully I feel) and it's going in a new direction. Try looking at Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men
I felt this book much more valuable to my understanding of Nazism and WWII than any map of battle fronts ever could be.

And to all the commenters who decry the American university system as a Marxist echo chamber, you must realize what a ludicrous accusation this is. I've actually been in a seminar where we discussed the fetishization of Communism by Western intellectuals and how misguided it has been.

Just because FIRE says so, don't automatically believe it's true. I'll have a little more faith in that organization when it starts defending the constitutional rights of Bob Jones University students to watch Disney movies and listen to boybands.
8.27.2005 4:13am
Silly Undergrad (mail):
(Disclaimer: I'm an undergrad at a small liberal arts school so I don't really speak from experience but rather what I've read about the subject. And I'm getting most of my ideas from Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind)

It seems to me it's really too bad that the debate has to be about giving liberals and conservatives equal time to try to convince the undergrads that they are right. It's sad that the academie has become so enmeshed with politics. Why can't we just try to hire people who are thoughtful and serious? I have a bias because I go to St. John's college where this really isn't a problem. We have liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and many others that don't fit into these neat little categories. What keeps everyone together is a commitment to honest inquiry and discussion.


It seems to me the reason why political bent has become such a big issue is because so much of what academics do now is not thoughtful questioning and research but intellectual lobbying. So the liberal faculties aren't really interested in keeping out conservatives per se but anyone who is going to seriously question thier work. It's alot easier to influence society and political instiutions if you can speak with a unified voice.
8.27.2005 6:22am
Perseus (mail):
I was using military history as an example of how the research interests (and course offerings) of professors (which frequently overlap with political or philosophical views) constitute one of the various barriers to entry for graduate students who might have different interests and viewpoints. I do know that in my field of political science, left-of-center views and research interests are predominant and are reflected in APSA journals, though the APSA does throw a few bones to conservatives now &then (there are, of course, other differences of opinion on methodology, philosophy, etc.). And of all of the disciplines, political science is the one where the strongest case can be made that the lack of conservatives poses a serious problem for intellectual diversity.

And speaking of the discipline of political science, I do know that while women and minorities are "underrepresented" among those seeking political science faculty positions when compared to the general population (women 36%, blacks 4%, Hispanics 4%), their chances of landing a permanent job are comparable (and significantly better in the case of Hispanics) to their white male counterparts (men 81%, women 79%; whites 44%, blacks 41%, Hispanics 58%--all stats are for year 2001-2). (How the numbers would look without affirmative action is an interesting question). I wish that someone would compile job placement statistics for political views or party affiliation. Inquiring minds would like to know whether conservatives are just whining.
8.27.2005 6:24am
Public_Defender:
Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.

As a practioner who's dabbled in teaching, I can tell you this is emphatically wrong. Teaching is hard. Teaching well is very, very hard. It's much harder to teach someone to write a good brief than it is to write a good brief.
I've always found it interesting that the same liberals who point to disparities in the percentage of women and minorities on the faculty as prima facie evidence of discrimination and/or the need for affirmative action go to great lengths to discount those same statistical disparities when it comes to conservatives.
I've always found it interesting that the same conservatives who point to disparities in the percentage of conservatives on the faculty as prima facie evidence of discrimination go to great lengths to discount those same statistical disparities when it comes to women and minorities.
8.27.2005 10:52am
Chad:
Perhaps a quota system for conservative professors would solve the intellectual diversity problem
8.27.2005 11:01am
Cala:

I wish that someone would compile job placement statistics for political views or party affiliation. Inquiring minds would like to know whether conservatives are just whining.


Again, as has been stated many times, political views or party affiliation is going to be a really crappy way to tell how a professor runs a classroom. (Just as the % of women profs doesn't mean that someone is actively screening out the applications for women, but might reflect a host of other issues that may or may not be problematic.)

Should we next demand equal hiring of liberals on Wall Street? Surely our business ethical practices would benefit from a different point of view. This is just silly.


If they're interested in the social sciences or humanities they're basically going to have to resign themselves to four years of reguritating what some twit tells them, and rely on self-education to learn what's what.


So, the problem is, you might go into a humanities classroom and be exposed to a different viewpoint, be tested on the that viewpoint, and might become so intrigued that they do extra research? (Hell, if they continue to the point where they're good at sociology, they can probably write papers criticizing the other viewpoints and methodology! And get the all important A's!) What would be the alternative? To have a conservative prof so everyone else has to learn 'what's what'?

People seem to be under the ridiculous impression that in something like philosophy, the fact that the faculty are all Democrat means that they all agree on substantive matters of philosophy; that they all think there's no God, or that there are only material things. And that's just untrue. Philosopher never agree. People seem to think that because there are some sociologist who all voted Democrat, that they all teach the same research method, or all unanimously agree on conclusions. Or that we're all standing up there telling our students to drink green tea and vote for Kerry when the topic is the argument for the existence of God.

Everyone knows of the few lightning rods, of course. Easy to find a liberal academic going on record about little Eichmanns. It's also easy to find a conservative prof who openly oggles his students or old administration members who think the school was better before they had to admit all these women. By and large, though, even at the liberal Ivy I'm at, you can be churchgoing and conservative and do just fine.
8.27.2005 11:25am
Public_Defender:
The gay rights issue may pose a stumbling to some conservatives. To many liberals, opposing gay rights is as bad as being openly racist or anti-Semitic.

It's possible that many liberals on hiring and tenure committees would look at a candidate who opposed gay rights the same way they'd look at a candidate who's openly anti-Semitic or racist.

Since many, if not most, conservatives oppose gay rights, they may find it harder to get a job at an institution where treating gays as equals to straights is a prerequisite.

But this is just speculation from someone who has spent very little time in academia.
8.27.2005 2:10pm
Goober (mail):
Perseus---

It's really not relevant, and it troubles me a little bit that you ask. Only a little bit, and only insofar as it shows you still don't get the rhetorical point of the questions I asked. But.. you know, marinate on that a bit.

If you really are curious, my intuition is that women are underrepresented for pretty much the same reasons as Larry Summers really said. Not what he was taken to say by either his rabid fans on the right or his equally rabid detractors on the left, but what he really said, that the largest reason is probably that society has made a value judgment that high-prestige jobs should go to those willing to work 80+ hours a week (and, said Summers, we should ask whether society is right to expect that), coupled with the societal expectation that women be the ones to do most of the child-rearing (and, said Summers, we should ask whether society is right to expect that). I'm aware of anecdotal evidence of statistical studies that showed that blind hiring committees reacted measurably different to "John Smith" and "Joan Smith" with identical CVs, so it wouldn't surprise me if subtle hiring bias played a role. And I'm one who's not inherently skeptical of the theory that men and women's brains can work differently, so if even in the absence of any societal discrimination the MIT astrophysics department would be 60-40% or whatever, I wouldn't be astonished.

But honestly? I don't know. I'm making a guess based on what I know, or think I know, but I can't pretend I have it locked down. And I feel the only responsible choice in such uncertainty is to keep one's mind open, and not leap to the answers of "Of course it's genetics!" or "Of course it's discrimination!" And I had very little patience for the foolishness on left and right that encouraged precisely those decisions.

Equally so for conservatives. I can make a guess, and it has something to do with my experience with a lot of conservatives who never seriously engaged ideas in college because they had been taught the rote line that academia is biased against conservatives, so what's the point? Parrot the conclusion and get thee to b-school, was frequently the attitude (at least as it came across to me). See the comment from 8/26 at 9:32, "I soon decided to avoid this hostile environment." Many conservatives believe ingrained defeatism in the African American community has led to a "culture of poverty," so I think this (exactly analogous) explanation should have some resonance with them. What would you expect of a young generation that have been taught to scowl at words like "Ivy League"---that they would rush there?

Contra my conservative friends who were actually interested in engaging the ideas---they thrived in graduate school, and possibly even had an advantage, since their perspective made it easier to see faulty reasoning that felt instinctively correct to liberals. Those were the ones who, when asked by colleagues "How can you be a conservative on the issue of XXX?", took it as an invitation to justify their ideas. Not, like many on this thread, evidence that they should just give up. (And frankly, who has the chutzpah to compare challenging the ideas of conservatism with discriminating against women and minorities? Universities are supposed to challenge ideas! You can't challenge someone's race; it is what it is. But political identification is nothing but a collection of ideas; and universities test all ideas!)

Additionally, I do think there's something to the notion that conservatism (unlike liberalism and, notably, libertarianism) that's internally inconsistent with academia. Academia is about asking questions, about rethinking assumptions, about protecting the arena of free inquiry. These stances don't arouse the intellectual commitments of conservatives like they do to liberals. I raised this above, but I don't think I got a response: George Bush and Al Gore had roughly equal college transcripts and SATs, but can you really imagine George Bush being a college professor or graduate student? And can you imagine Al Gore being anything but? The intellectual curiosity and fascination with nuance that is necessary to successful academics has been, of late, much sneered at by the right. Tweren't always so, but I don't think it can be denied to be the case now.

Finally: Seriously? The Republican party is solicitous of a worldview that says evolution is a lie, global warming isn't happening, and fetuses feel pain in the first trimester. Why would you expect conservatives would be taken seriously by academics, when they won't even state the obvious truths about Intelligent Design lest they lose primary votes in Kansas? Democrats have to deal with criticism that, unless we publicly disavow the Michael Moores of our party, we won't be taken seriously. At least we have the cojones not to whine that it's only discrimination that would force us to make up our minds.
8.27.2005 4:01pm
Goober (mail):
And Perseus---caricature away, by all means! If it's fun (and esp. if it's funny), please!
8.27.2005 4:03pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I think it's amusing that NYSofMind (8/26, 11:58 pm) and Public Defender (8/27, 1:10 pm) think that fear of, or loathing for, gays keeps Republicans out of academe.

I was once present when the junior faculty of a Humanities department at a southern university were discussing a just-made hiring decision. I was the only Republican in the room, and the only adjunct, so I kept my mouth shut. I was also the only one who was astonished that they had decided to hire candidate A over candidate B (the last 2 finalists) because B was gay and "wouldn't be happy here". (B would not have been the first, second, or third gay professor in the department.) I thought maybe, conceivably, B would enjoy a bit of missionary work bringing enlightened thoughts about sexuality to the benighted citizens of [Oxford, MS? Tuscaloosa? Fayetteville? Jonesboro? Bowling Green? -- I'd just as soon not say]. Maybe B has a "martyr complex". Maybe B was fond enough of fishing and barbecue and affordable golf courses to outweigh any worries he had about offending local sexual mores. In short, maybe B should have been allowed to decide for himself whether he would have been happy teaching there. Yet all the good Democrats in the department, Reagan-haters to a man/woman, found it perfectly natural to turn him down for being gay, while I would have voted to hire him if I thought that he was the better-qualified of the two candidates. (As an adjunct, I hadn't seen him or his application.)

The idea that any significant percentage of Republicans with Ph.D.s object to working with gays is ridiculous. It's not like there's any lack of gays to work with in the business world, either.
8.27.2005 4:50pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
P.S. On reconsideration, I probably shouldn't have included Public Defender in my previous comment, since (s)he is saying something a little different.
8.27.2005 4:55pm
Frank Westhood (mail):
"You can't challenge someone's race; it is what it is. But political identification is nothing but a collection of ideas; and universities test all ideas!"

That isn't really true. Essential to "race" is a collection of social perceptions, social identity, shared social history, political perspective, and cultural behavior. You can certainly test someone's race, and people do so all the time. There is plenty of discussion about what authentic blackness is, and it was once common in some areas for white people who feared another white person was losing his white identity to call that person, e.g., a "niggerlover" or to note that he had "gone native".
8.27.2005 4:59pm
Goober (mail):
Sure, but those discussions about race are totally open for comment in the university setting. But you're correct; I should have clarified that you can't challenge the genetic component of someone's race.
8.27.2005 5:10pm
Ragged Tiger:
I work at a major public university after an undergraduate trip through a cold and dreary ivy league institution (you know who you are, damnit!). After a decade in industry, I'm surrounded by professors, graduate students, post docs, undergrads, and staff folks. It's a fascinating, cross-dis-functional environment that's easily the most oppressive to contrarian thinking I've ever worked in.

I don't think the cliquishness around the university matters, I don't think "conservatives" or Republicans are going to suffer because they can't be part of the fun. The folks who suffer are the undergraduates who show-up expecting an education and the folks who could be more/better work in an environment that rewards utility, correctness, excellence, production, rather than slavish adherence to the party line of "up the bureaucracy".

This university (and it's quite a "good" school by ranking, reputation, etc) is a dysfunctional family, subject to therapy and analysis at innumerable levels. But the root cause is simple enough (sales and marketing are focused on money paid in advance of product delivery by mercurial bodies at a distance from the real work) and the most obvious effect is that the "system" is devoted mostly to its own perpetuation.

The dominant culture of the modern university is not characterizable as "conservative" or "liberal" in the senses used to describe political affiliations. The dominant culture is static and reactionary. Sometimes this aligns the university with political goals on the right (e.g., DARPA funding), sometimes on the left (e.g., increased federal funding for stem cell research).

Undergraduate studies are a means of recruitment for the university's "program" more than they are a service provided by the university to the undergraduate. Even those who do not continue within the "system" will carry with them memories of the time spent there, will enforce the orthodoxy they were indoctrinated into, and will seek to promote their institution and the system of which it is a part going forward.

Who stays in such an environment? Folks who are so interested in their work that they participate despite the costs (the essentialists) and those who recognize that the system is bilkable (the instrumentalists). The essentialists are dwindling across the university system---industry is a happier place for anyone doing results-oriented research, even if the lifestyle &"prestige" aren't as readibly available. The instrumentalists run the place and populate leadership positions with instrumentalist cronies; eventually, they'll run the place into the ground.

Along for the ride are the career staff employees who trade security for opportunity and respect. The university support staff is regarded as a caste of incompetents serving the PI aristocracy. They respond by becoming exactly that. I never saw people treated as poorly in industry (I work in high-tech, not textile or shoe manufacturing).

The upshot, train your kids to identify the instrumentalists &deal with them. Otherwise they're Katie Holmes in the hands of Tom Cruise and the legions of Xenu.
8.27.2005 5:11pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
The tiny percentage of conservatives and Republicans on university faculties cannot be explained entirely or predominantly by self-selection, as several people have tried to do.

While it is no doubt true that Republican lawyers and doctors are much more likely to go into private practice than academe, there are some fields in which there is no equivalent to private practice. My Ph.D. is in Classics (Latin). For me the only choice was between university teaching, high school teaching, and doing Latin on the side while working in an unrelated field. I've done all three. For ancient Greek, there are usually only two choices, since there are very few high schools that teach Greek, though I'm lucky enough to work at one now.

If I'm not a university professor, it is certainly not by choice. I made more money as an adjunct than in four of my five high school jobs, and had a lot more free time then, even in the year I taught 13 courses at 2 universities 58 miles apart (6 in the fall, 5 in the spring, 2 in the summer). The hours were long, but not as long as in high school, and I never had to worry about students throwing things at me if I turned my back on them.
8.27.2005 5:21pm
Public_Defender:
I think Jews are inherently disordered. I find the practice of Judiaism abhorrent. That said, there are no lack of Jews in my field, so I've learned to get along at work. I don't really mind that Jews exist, but I wish they wouldn't flaunt their Jewishness as much.
This is what many liberals hear when social conservatives talk about gay people. Again it's speculation, but I wonder if this perception is a roadblock for some conservatives in academia.

To the libertarian and economic conservative academics out there, do you find it necessary or helpful to distance yourself from social conservatives when applying for academic jobs?
8.27.2005 6:01pm
lucia (mail) (www):
There is still the mystery of liberal predominance in the sciences. I promise you that in math and physics there is not ideological discrimination. When hiring, they have no idea what the candidate's ideology is, unless it is volunteered by the candidate (and they might find that a little odd). So why do liberals predominate there? Any thoughts, Jim?

I'm not Jim, but maybe leftist mathematicians and scientists enter academia because they are uninterested in pursuing jobs at weapons labs. Maybe the liberal mathematicians are also avoiding working for banks and investment firms.


I admit I'm speculating, but some self-selection seems probable.

Still, not withstanding your promise to the contrary, there may also still be discrimination at hiring time. Someone would need to study this to figure it out. Likely as not, that person will be an academic in sociology; equally likely they will be a liberal.
8.27.2005 7:24pm
jasmindad (mail):
Goober's posting (8.27.2005 3:01pm) brilliantly deals with the issue.

Dr. Weevil: in what way did your conservatism stand in the way of your getting a position in higher ed? What I am asking is whether that the facts that you are a conservative and that you didn't get a position in academia may be unrelated.

Except for a small number of high-profile cases like Ward Church (who are matched by a small number of various nuts such as the holocaust-denying engineering professor at Illinois, I think, a few years ago), and except for a few high-profile English departments, academia is actually quite mainstream center-left, just like the manager class in US industry as a whole is mainstream center-right. Few nuts in either of the groupings. I think faculty in a typical four-year college in the US is likely to be on the average center-right too. In any case, the fact that universities are center-left and the managerial class is center-right is good for the country, and necessary for each group to do its job. The country as a whole actually benefits from such a setup.
8.27.2005 9:36pm
DrewWeiss (mail):
A basic assumption running through this discussion is that academics are smarter (even much smarter) than average.

I've spent my life in higher education -- selective liberal arts college undergrad, grad school at two well regarded universities, five years teaching at a Research I state university, 11 years at a small church-related liberal arts college and the last eight years at a regional branch campus of a state university.

In my experience, professors run a pretty good range. I've known some truly brilliant people and some rather silly, stupid ones. Its an error to believe that brilliance or even above average intelligence is needed to achieve a Ph.D., to publish or be hired for a tenure track position. Nor are most of the academics that I've known particularly committed to reason, empirical data or rationality, at least when the issues involved move beyond their own fields.

In fairness, I've known quite a few people in business (which I teach), in the ministry, in law and in medicine who run the same range.

Most of the academics I have known tend to associate with other academics, whether in small college towns or urban universities. In large institutions, they may not even have much contact with academics in other departments. Unlike people in other occupations, their work doesn't regularly bring them into regular contact with people in other occupations.

In my experience, academics are specialists and like most specialists they tend to be ill informed about most things outside of their specialties. Outside (and sometimes even inside) their specialties, academics are just as prone to accept conventional wisdom and take on the dominant geist of the surroundings. And if their social and professional lives tend to bring them into contact with people like themselves, then there's not much opportunity for the conventional wisdom, the geist, to be challenged -- dissent just isn't very likely, and when it does occur, it seems wrong-headed and disturbing.

Accepting the validity of dissent creates cognitive dissonance, and the research on cognitive dissonance makes it very clear that we human beings don't like experiencing it.

That academics have a tendency to believe that they really are smarter than most people, helps reinforce the conventional wisdom that surrounds them, and helps them resolve the dissonance by assuming that the dissenters are simply not as smart as they are.

In many ways, the typical college or university department tends to be more like one of those villages in an Agatha Christie novel or a nightmarish vision of a 1950's suburb, than the cosmopolitan or bohemian neighborhood some of us thought it was going to be. Its not that the academy is a bad place. Its just not all that more open minded, rational or accepting than all the other places in contemporary America.

But its pretty clear to me that, for the past 30 years or so, the conventional wisdom in the academy has run to a more or less uncritical left-liberal or progressive world view. That actually applies to business professors as well, but that's another topic.

Drew Weiss
8.27.2005 9:47pm
random columbia 1L:
I do feel compelled to respond to Dr. Weevil-- while my post may not have worded quite as clearly as it might have been, I did try to draw a distinction between simple conservatives and social conservatives. Someone who is anti-affirmative action, who believes in deregulation and who is anti-choice may still not be anti-gay.

On the other hand, I'd love to see the membership roster of the "Intelligent Design Supporters who believe in Gay Rights" club.
8.27.2005 10:13pm
DanB:
I've always found it interesting that the same conservatives who point to disparities in the percentage of conservatives on the faculty as prima facie evidence of discrimination go to great lengths to discount those same statistical disparities when it comes to women and minorities

Well, I can't speak for all conservatives, but I don't think discrimination is a significant factor in any of the above.

I think the primary reason conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because it isn't an attractive job. It takes a special kind of determination to accept bad pay to spend your days hanging out with a bunch of snotty left-wingers who think you're a Nazi. Better to get a real job with normal people.
8.28.2005 2:34am
Anon. Law Student:
Check out this on-topic article in the Sunday NYTimes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/weekinreview/28liptak.html
8.28.2005 3:22am
Perseus (mail):
Goober: Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I assumed that your rhetorical point was something along the lines that if it's reasonable to postulate that women are too dumb/can't hack it in the sciences, then it's likewise reasonable to postulate that conservatives are too dumb/can't hack in academia. Am I wrong?
8.28.2005 6:24am
random (mail):
I have to challenge the proposition.

There is a desparity in the academy in political affiliation by discipline. Naturally, liberal arts attracts liberals while the more tangible sciences such as engineering attracts conservatives.

Math and Physics also seem to attract liberals--but of a different sort. These are people who think in the abstract while the liberal arts run of the mill tend to thing in relational terms with themselves at the primary node.

So, the attraction of liberals to the liberal arts in the academy is primarily an indication of the discontect between thoughts and outcomes. That's not much to brag about. Good theory should be tethered to reality.
8.28.2005 1:12pm
Bill Dalasio (mail):
Quick question for those postulating that academia isn't biased toward the left: If there is no leftward bias, why do some course guides specifically discourage conservatives from applying to certain courses? I can't say I've ever run accross any courses marked "liberals need not apply"?
8.28.2005 1:42pm
random (mail):
Of corse academia on the whole is biased towards the left. It's a permissive and protected environment for faculty--the perfect sanctuary and breeding ground for liberals.

Now, if there was a means of grading the graders on the merits of their teaching, academia would be far more conservative. However, there is no effective feedback to hold professors to task for good teaching.

I would suggest that we implement a tipping system. First, cut tuition by 15%--and keep those funds in escrow. Then, at the student's discretion at the end of the term if they feel they have had good service, allow them to designate whether and what portion of the 15% should go to faculty salaries, lab equipment, libraries, or back to the taxpayers.
8.28.2005 3:22pm
Goober (mail):
Perseus---

Close, but I think there's a distinction. Namely, the implication I was trying to drive at was a more negative than positive one. That is, conservatives presumably don't think that the small number of women in academia is due to discrimination; why should they then find it so easy to conclude that the small number of conservatives is such evidence? Likewise, if a conservative were quite sure that a mere disparity in numbers were evidence of discrimination when it comes to conservatives, you'd expect that same conservative not to jump to denounce feminist critics of Larry Summers as unwilling to listen to reason. And yet....

From my perspective, I think neither claim of discrimination has been proved with sufficient rigor as to allow conclusions that conservatives resentful of academia / feminist haters of Larry Summers would like to make.
8.28.2005 3:24pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Bill, there was actually one professor at Berkeley who discouraged leftists from taking his course.
8.28.2005 3:25pm
random (mail):
Then, by the same token, why don't liberals support affirmative action for conservatives?

Maybe we should institutionalize scholarships as well.
8.28.2005 3:36pm
random (mail):
... I guess the fact that we don't is an indication of discrimination, i.e. a disparity not met with affirmative action means that conservatives are an adversely targeted group while women are a favorably targeted group.

QED Goober hangs himself on his own rope.
8.28.2005 3:41pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
NYSof Mind writes:


I really think it has a lot more to do with the fact that when conservatives look to their side and see a gay person working next to them, they lose the ability to speak coherently.
Huh? I don't approve of homosexuality, but I've worked with homosexuals at jobs and in common political causes without losing the ability to speak coherently. Do you think that all black people have natural rhythm?

Since there *are* gay academics, liberals will tend to thrive in academic environments, because they can continue to speak clearly without worrying that god will strike them down for working with a homosexual.
Do you honestly think that there are conservatives who think God "will strike them down for working with a homosexual"? I can't tell if this is an attempt at being insulting to conservatives, or simply ignorance. You may have just unintentionally demonstrated why there need to be conservatives in academia--so that you can actually find out what they are like, instead of working off stereotypes.

Someone else pointed out the difference between conservatives and social conservatives-- it's true. an environment which excludes people on irrelevant criteria like sexual orientation, gender, and religious belief will naturally suffer retarded academic growth. Religious Christians, as long as they are tolerant of other people's lifestyles and beliefs, are welcome in a liberal environment; gays, Jews and people who are actively culturally black are unwelcome in a wonderful place like Bob Jones.
Are you suggesting that Bob Jones University is as typical of conservatives as universities are of liberals? My point above continues: you obviously need some conservatives in your department so that you can find out what they are like.
8.28.2005 4:53pm
Goober (mail):
Random---

Bravooo. And the fact that liberals don't support affirmative action for liberals seeking placement as oil executives means that liberals discriminate against liberals, too. Heavens, with all the discrimination we do, it's amazing we can get dressed in the morning.

QED, indeed. Or did you mean "Quite Effusive Distraction" by that?
8.28.2005 5:01pm
Goober (mail):
NYSofMind---

Off-topic: I can't yet subscribe to your (impressively novel) explanation for the disparity, but I must commend the combination of Bluebook abbreviations and Billy Joel lyrics!
8.28.2005 5:10pm