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Political Bias in Academia:

Over the weekend I read through the paper that prompted KC Johnson's column in Inside Higher Ed (discussed by Jim last week). Leaving aside the data issues that the authors raise there, I want to explore the "alternative hypothesis" that the authors there raise as the nondiscriminatory explanation for the observed data. I will follow the convention of referring to all non-left/liberal ideologies as "conservative," however inapt that may be.

Here's the author's alternative hypothesis, followed by my analysis:

[Continue reading under hidden text]:

(show)

Daniel Redys (mail):
It may be that conservatives do self select out of teaching positions. I know as a libertarian that I could not tolerate the amount of office politics that occurs in institutes of higher learning and my brother (Business(economic) conservative not one of newer kinds of religious(social) conservatives) also has a thing about playing politics in order to get ahead. Neither of us even considered teaching as an option. (Him MBA, Me MS in AI). Not having to suck up to lots of people to get ahead is a positive of the non-education world.

Dan
8.29.2005 3:43pm
anonymous coward:
"Based on my personal experience having known many bright students in many different fields (I meet many undergraduates and graduate students through IHS Seminars at which I lecture)..."

Far be it from me to question the almighty anecdote, but the "Institute for Humane Studies" sure doesn't sound like a forum for hard science students. The "liberals are scary" thesis makes sense for humanities or law or sociology, but not so much for hard science or engineering. (But, hey, my evidence is anecdotal.)
8.29.2005 4:06pm
P. G. Dudda (mail):
*giggle* What kind of hoo-haw are you smoking?

You have to suck up *everwhere* to get ahead. It's not a phenomenon unique to academia. Nor, for that matter, is the business world a meritocracy by any means. Seniority often results in incompetent clods being hired over capable individuals who simply haven't worked for 'the company' quite as long.

In addition, guess what the biggest factor in getting hired is? Personally knowing the hiring manager. (sarcasm:) No, no favoritism there at all... (end sarcasm)

My guess? It's a combination of self-selection, the fact that the personality types attracted to teaching generally seem to be more "liberal" (for varying definitions of such), and one's tolerance for different types of politics - academic vs. corporate vs. non-profit vs. civil-service, each of which functions somewhat differently from the other.

But then again, I might be the one smoking hoo-haw... ;-)
8.29.2005 4:11pm
Nobody Special:
I think his point with the IHS was that 1) conservatives ain't stoopid and 2) these people told him that they have (or will) self-select out.

Also, you'd be surprised how well that may generalize, even to the hard sciences. IHS programs are fairly general interest things, and I've known a number of engineers, etc. that have gone to their programs. Remember, there's a lot of people in engineering and science that are also interested in philosophy and whatnot- just look at the open source movement, composed entirely of software engineer types and having its own anarco-libertarian ideology.

Also, self-selection here. I bailed for law school despite admissions to a number of the most prestigious graduate programs in my old (humanities) field. I didn't want to spend the rest of my career dealing with Derrida, Lacan, and Foucalt.
8.29.2005 4:15pm
Zywicki (mail):
Anonymous:
Yes, IHS students are social science and humanities, but that was the point--those are the fields where the ideological hurdles are perceived to be highest.
8.29.2005 4:16pm
Steve:
Life outside of academia is a lot less like "solving the real world" and a lot more like a Dilbert comic.
8.29.2005 4:19pm
Conservative historian:
Let me strongly second the call for more study of this issue. As Prof. Zywicki quite rightly points out, armchair analysis of "why" this disparity in academia exists is generally rather unrevealing, except to reveal the biases of the armchair analyst. What I would not do for some facts as to why so few conservatives have followed me into the academy! Surely, I am not the only conservative willing to forego riches for the independence of the life of the mind. Or maybe my lack of desire to enter the business world indicates that I'm not really a conservative?
8.29.2005 4:31pm
erp (mail):
The hard sciences aren't immune to drinking the kookaid either. Hasn't anyone heard about the increase of fraud in scientific research? Science and Scientific American have gone PC as have major cultural icons to scientific progress like the Smithsonian Institution.

In over 30 years around colleges and universitites, I never once heard an opinion other than the received wisdom of the left. Remember the punishment Sommers at Harvard got from an alleged scientist and professor of biology because he deviated from the feminist dogma. With few exceptions, higher ed, is a bastion of the left.
8.29.2005 4:40pm
DanB:
You have to suck up *everwhere* to get ahead.

I've never had to. But I work in a field that has fairly obvious standards for judging performance. I don't get judged on whether my work is "relevant", I get judged on whether it was successful and completed on time.
8.29.2005 4:47pm
anonymous coward:
"Yes, IHS students are social science and humanities, but that was the point--those are the fields where the ideological hurdles are perceived to be highest."

I believe that even science/engineering faculty skew left, so I don't think the "liberals are scary" thesis is what's fundamentally going on in the academy (although it probably has some explanatory power). I misread your statement as stronger than it actually is, since you are uncertain if any sort of self-selection plays a big role.

Idle, perhaps redundant thought: what's the ideological mix for undergraduate students at top private universities and state schools? PhD candidates? Law students? Now they are (I think) liberal but less so than their professors.
But how does the ideological distribution among students 30 years ago compare to the professors of today?
8.29.2005 4:59pm
conservative untenured sociologist (www):
Todd, excellent take down of the Pittsburgh argument, especially the conservatives hate reason thing.
I believe that self-selection and designated topic area are the main things at play, but I find it ridiculous when people like Juan Cole claim that not only does discrimination not occur, but it couldn't because nobody knows. I can offer my own (very successful) experience on the job market last year as a counter-example. At every meal I had with the faculty on my fly-outs, they wanted to talk about the election and how the world was going to hell in a handbasket and Christians are no different from Al Qaeda and the American people are morons and homophobes, etc. I didn't say anything I didn't believe, but I was also carefully evasive and tried to address the issues only in value-neutral, horse race terminology and change the subject back to academic matters. Fortunately I'm secular and suppressed my offense so it was relatively easy to pass, but still what they no doubt saw as engaging conversation, I saw as basically a series of interrogations. Anyway, the idea that nobody knows what candidates think about issues outside their expertise is ridiculous because in my case I was consistently asked.
In fairness to my field though, I have to say that I've also experienced a lot of ideological tolerance. Pretty much everyone at my graduate instition knows what I think and we got along fine. One very liberal professor at an institution where I never studied, worked, or interviewed, even seems to view my beliefs as vaguely exotic and has befriended me and repeatedly championed my career.
Overall, I view the experience of being an ideological minority as a humbling experience and character-building experience which has given me perspective which as a straight white American man I would otherwise lack. What didn't kill me has only made me stronger.
8.29.2005 4:59pm
Dem:
As someone who is a liberal but has some libertarian leanings and has participated in a number of IHS programs, let me say that (based on my anecdotal experience) I find all this talk about bias and conservatives in academia pretty hard to understand. For a libertarian or conservative student who wants to get into teaching, there is a great deal of institutional support from orgs like IHS and the Federalist Society (which offers those $60k/year fellowships that house you at a law school.) There is, to my knowledge (and I've researched it pretty closely since I'm interested in teaching), nothing at all like this on the left. As someone who is trying to get into teaching now, from the standpoint of support, I would be a lot better off as a conservative. I've gotten more support from orgs to get into teaching as a result of my minor libertarian leanings and connections than I have as a result of my significant ties to liberal/progressive orgs. If, despite all of the incentives an programs on the right to bring people into academia, there are still very few conservatives, maybe (just maybe) it's because conservatives are just not as inclined to academia. I agree with TZ on one thing though: this sort of speculation is just that (on both sides). If you want to prove bias, I think you'd need to have a study that focused on ideology of those who apply for law teaching jobs versus those that are offered jobs.

Second, to the extent there is a preference for hiring liberals, what is the problem? I often laugh at how so many free-market lovers are the first to complain at some perceived injusitce that is really nothing more than the market at work. Why shouldn't institutions be able to decide who to hire based on whatever criteria they want? Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, if there is a liberal tilt to law teaching it could be due in part to what the students (consumers) want? After all, Yoo's involvement in the torture memos drew some pretty spirited protests at Boalt. If enough students are upset about the liberal make-up of a faculty, they'll head to Chicago or GMU or some place with a conservative reputation. And, if Harvard, Yale, and Stanford start losing enough students to Chicago because they want to lean from Richard Epstein instead of a liberal prof, I'm sure Harvard, Yale, and Stanford will start zealously pursuing conservative scholars. This may explain why, despite TZ's pleas, there are no blue ribbon panels on why there aren't enough conservative scholars and there is more concern for other underrepresetned communities (people of color, women, etc.) Maybe there is just more demand on the part of students for African American or women teachers than there is for conservative teachers. At the end of the day, I just don't see why, if the lack of conservative teachers is a problem, it can't be corrected by the market.
8.29.2005 5:07pm
Chris in Wisconsin (mail):
I managed to graduate recently from a private university near a large public university. During my entire time at school I could likely count on one hand the number of times a professor cancelled/missed class without finding a substitute (usually these incidents were related to deaths/sudden illness.) There was a single notable exception:

During my senior year I chose several humanities and other classes as electives due to my interest in politics and philosophy... My political science teacher cancelled or dismissed early around 20% of his classes and assigned us a reading book that could easily have been entitled "A Guide To Common Sense." The class was amazingly easy, despite this professor being well recognized at the larger public school, and having a group of engineering students with multiple classes already completed involving philosophy (ethics, other electives.) The professor was unable to fill the entire class duration and spent over a week on a "model UN project" which he admitted was something he might have had time to get into. (This was at a quarter-based school.)

Personally, I have no doubt that I could have spent a full week on Plato/Aristotle, another on the proper role of government, perhaps another on modern conservatism/liberalism in the US with examples of ideology and prominent figures... But instead I was left with an easy "A" at a school where I had never before seen such a thing.

This experience really turned me away from pursuing additional classes in the liberal arts and helped commit to the view many have that liberal arts teachers simply don't care. I think there might be one other point...

Schools with large accountability (private, conservative) are less likely to have large liberal arts departments; while these departments are more likely to attract conservative teachers for the reasons in your article (less politics, more objective standards and a "real world feeling".) While larger schools, with an institutional methodology are more likely to attract liberals (who often see the legitimacy of larger organizations that are not private sector as a bonus.) The accountable schools are minor players in the market, while institutionalized schools give needed experience to those whom they hire that opens them a door to the accountable schools. This allows the selection of one group to directly influence the choices available to private institutions.

This might also help explain the differences between types of academia. Based upon the "origin" of many of my teachers accountable schools often search through private industries to fill posts within science fields, as many retired/current members exist with the knowledge within the field. The other fields, where the ratios are most extreme seem to have little direct translation from a private field, and in my experience, few teachers who have come from the private field.
8.29.2005 5:09pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

For a libertarian or conservative student who wants to get into teaching, there is a great deal of institutional support from orgs like IHS and the Federalist Society (which offers those $60k/year fellowships that house you at a law school.)
I had no idea. Perhaps when I retire (and can afford to teach) I should pursue this.
8.29.2005 5:18pm
Chris in Wisconsin (mail):
Dem,

I would argue that the substantial amount of public schools, both without market forces and with extreme differences in faculty makes the "who cares" argument unpersuasive.
8.29.2005 5:20pm
SP:
I wasn't really under the impression that when I went to graduate school, I was making a "market" choice based on my professors' politics. I was, you know, getting a degree so I could get the job I sought, and not seeking to have my conscience massaged. I don't think there's really a significant market demand for a "conservative" law school - or for a liberal law school. Sure, Boalt is liberal, but are the number of people who want to flip tables over because the army recruiter is skirting around Don't Ask Don't Tell that high an amount of people?
8.29.2005 6:11pm
JonC:
"For a libertarian or conservative student who wants to get into teaching, there is a great deal of institutional support from orgs like IHS and the Federalist Society (which offers those $60k/year fellowships that house you at a law school.)"

As a federalist-minded law student, I haven't heard anything about this either. I checked the Fed Soc website, and there's nothing there about "$60k/ year fellowships that house you at law school". Had there been such a thing, I certainly would have applied for it.

It looks like there is only one Fed Soc fellowship even open to law students, and that is the Jay Fellowship, for $5k/year, awarded to up to 4 students per year. Maybe Dem is referring to the Olin fellowship, which is for $50K, and goes to as many as three (count 'em, three!) "top legal thinkers" each year who hold J.D.'s and want to pursue careers in academia.

Okay, so we've got $150K per year working on the conservative/libertarian side from a legal group that the MSM is actively working to demonize, versus millions of dollars on the liberal/left side. That should achieve parity in, what, 300 years or so?
8.29.2005 6:42pm
Joe Nikoleit:
What I don't understand is the ratio for Political Science instructors. I would assume that there are many high profile ex-government officials from Republician administrations that would enjoy university life. Recognizable names in the brochure would appeal to middle class parents deciding on which university they want to send their paycheck/children to.

I've seen arguments that schools would gain an advantage over discriminating schools by hiring qualified minorities that their rivals unfairly passed over. Why doesn't this argument apply with equal force for conservatives?

Why hasn't one mid-level university gone this route and obtained better faculty than at it's top-tier rival?
8.29.2005 6:48pm
Kilroy:
The analysis presented above in point one seems to evidence the third point, rather than to contradict it.... But then, to take an isolated example of your poor reasoning and applying it that broadly would be as absurd as trying to refute the study based upon a single urban and single rural school. After all, an isolated example of sloppy thinking doesn't mean that you are always, or even usually, a sloppy thinker. Particularly when it's not even selected at random.
8.29.2005 7:34pm
Cheburashka (mail):
It seems to me that the obvious reason there are not more conservative professors is the gross hostility of tenured professors at elite institutions towards conservative ideas.

A conservative would be insane to bet his or her future on the chances of being peer-reviewed for tenure by such a group.
8.29.2005 7:53pm
anonymous coward:
Interesting point, Joe Nikoleit. A lot of conservative ex-government officials go to quasi-academic institutions like Hoover or AEI, while their Democratic counterparts end up at Stanford proper (Condi aside) or Harvard. The dynamics could be different for high government post->think tank/university vs. the PhD->academia route.
8.29.2005 8:03pm
Bill Dalasio (mail):
Strangely, everyone (myself included) seems to be overlooking marginalism. Ultimately graduates choose between the academic lifestyle and big mounds of cash. Basically, for a conservative choosing between academia and non-academia, the choice between the two need only be marginally in favor of non-academia (the big mounds of cash). This marginal difference in decisions could result from two things, either the conservative fundamentally values the big mounds of cash more than the academic lifestyle vis-a-vis his liberal counterparts or he is less likely to receive the offsetting benefits of the academic lifestyle. If the former explanation prevails, the fact that conservatives are vastly more common in the professions and what I'll call quasi-academic careers (research, some areas of finance, think tanks, etc.) poses a major problem. On the other hand, there is ample reason to believe that the advantages of academia will be less accessible to conservatives. Job security is less demonstrable as conservative views are likely to be marginally less in demand within the academic community. Collegiality is less pronounced as our conservative finds his views and opinions under attack. Given time, I'm sure I could name a few other reduced advantages. The thing is, for the disparity to become pronounced, it doesn't really have to be the case that academia is unbearable for the conservative. All that needs to be demonstrated is that the advantages to academia will be less accessible to conservatives, ceteris paribus, than they will be to their liberal collegues. This will create a liberal plaurality that will actually tend to expand over time.
8.29.2005 8:19pm
Dem:
JonC: I was referring to the $50k/year job. I'm sorry if the $10,000 difference made it unclear what fellowships I was referencing. Yes, there are "only" three positions, but that's three more than ACS or any other liberal institution offers. And, three is a lot when you consider these positions pay $50,000 a year just to think and write. You get paid to "spend a year writing and developing scholarship" and get office space at a university. As far as I know, there is no requirement that you actually teach. You say there are "millions of dollars on the left/liberal side." Where? Please tell me, I can't wait to apply. I'd love to get $50k from ACS to write about my liberal beliefs. Despite all the hysteria on the right, if you look at targeted, political, institutional giving to think tanks and the like, I think its pretty clear that the right has the left beat. All my conservative friends tease me about how the left is 30 years behind: the left has no Federalist society (ACS just started a few years ago), Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, or AEI. If you can point me to this vast network of left/liberal institutions that fund scholarship I will be forever in your debt. But, I think its more likely that your comment is not based on any facts whatsoever.

Chris in Wisc: I think you have a fair point about public institutions. I think public institutions have a particular obligation to make sure they are serving the public and shouldn't just be subject to the whims of the market. But, I don't see how this undermines my larger argument since the large majority of law schools are private and, certainly, the hyper elite schools (where the alleged bias seems to upset TZ and others most) are almost all private. I agree that public schools should probably have some obligation to provide ideological balance (whether or not the market wants it), but why can't Harvard hire whoever they want? If they make bad hiring choices they will lose students to other schools. Otherwise, it seems to me, that there isn't much of a problem. (And, in any event, I'd like to reiterate that there is absolutely no empiracle proof whatsoever that the large number of Dem law profs is due to "ideological bias" as opposed to some other factor. As TZ says, this is all speculation)

SP: I don't quite understand your point: when you go to law school you are purchasing a good. You are a participant in the market. Maybe the ideology of profs at a school doesn't matter enough to you to influence your choice. But, if the political ideology of professors was a problem for enough of students, they would go to Chicago over Harvard and it would create an incentive for schools to change their hiring practices. That, to my mind, is a pretty standard account of how a market functions.
8.29.2005 8:39pm
Nobody Special:
Dem-

Interesting that you don't question why conservatives have developed what is, essentially, a parallel professoriate.
8.29.2005 8:56pm
DanB:
I would assume that there are many high profile ex-government officials from Republician administrations that would enjoy university life

It doesn't seem like a safe assumption that there would be "many" such people. Aside from the opportunity to teach grad students on a regular basis, what does the university have to offer such a person that he couldn't find elsewhere?
8.29.2005 9:04pm
Dem:
Nobody Special: I think the answer to your question is pretty clear: those institutions exist to influence policy and politics in a very organized way. It is not at all a "parallel professoriate" as being a professor and a think-tank person are entirely different jobs. As a prof you research mainly for academic journals, only tengentially have influence on policy, and, of course, teach students. As a think-tank researcher, your main objective is to work to change policy. You publish documents and memos to guide the policy work of your org and only ocassionally publish in standard journals. Your question seems to imply that you believe conservatives have been forced to develop all these organizations because they were discriminated against by universities. Do you really believe that, if only colleges hired more conservatives, then AEI and Cato would not exist? I think the truth is that these conservative orgs were developed to build the conservative political and policy movement and not because qualified conservatives could not get hired to teach.
8.29.2005 9:23pm
Christopher Rasch (mail) (www):
Most academic institutions, even nominally private institutions like Harvard, derive a large portion of their income either directly (via grants) or indirectly (via federally subsidized student loans) from government sources. This is why conservatives care that academia gives such short shrift to conservative thought.

This may also help explain why there are fewer libertarian/conservative scholars. A conservative scholar may feel hypocritical to depend so heavily on tax-subsidized income.
8.29.2005 9:30pm
Justin (mail):
To tack onto the criticism of Chris in Wisconsin, just because the University of Michigan is funded by the state (the University of Virginia's law school, btw, is NOT), does not mean they are immune to market forces. If they don't get the kids they want, their graduate schools cease to be in the top 10 across the board in US News and World. Obviously, this is something they care about greatly. Though the University is not in the market for *money*, which is subsidized, they are in the market for *prestige*, which is *NOT* subidized.

That you don't neccesarily see that point is okay, because the National Review's Jonah Goldberg missed it too (and insulted me for the suggestion of the use of market forces). Then again, being told you aren't dumber than Jonah Goldberg is hardly comforting.
8.29.2005 9:38pm
Justin (mail):
My previous post applies equally to Chris Raich.
8.29.2005 9:38pm
Justin (mail):
PS Anyone who wants to show discrimination has to show me first that the amount of liberals in the political bias fields (economics, political science, law, history, english, etc) are significantly larger than the amount of liberals in the non-political-bias fields (philosophy, physical sciences, math, engineering, architecture, etc).

If you can't do that, then the starting point isn't bias without a "beyond a reasonable doubt" show of evidence that the bias extends to non-political fields (a "hypothetically possible" reason such as a vast liberal conspiracy doesn't sell).
8.29.2005 9:42pm
Christopher Rasch (mail) (www):
Justin writes:


"Anyone who wants to show discrimination has to show me first that the amount of liberals in the political bias fields (economics, political science, law, history, english, etc) are significantly larger than the amount of liberals in the non-political-bias fields (philosophy, physical sciences, math, engineering, architecture, etc).


Perhaps you missed this part of Todd's article:

"I looked at the study itself and found the following for Liberal/Conservative identifications:

Mathematics: 4.1 to 1

Physics: 6 to 1

Chemistry: 2.2 to 1

Biology: 4.4 to 1

Computer Science: 2.8 to 1

Engineering: 2.6 to 1

Economics: 1.4 to 1

By contrast, humanities and social science departments (except economics, which is probably more scientific than most of the other social science departments) have the following divides:

English Lit: 29 to 1

History: 7.7 to 1

Philosophy: 16 to 1

Theology/Religion: 16.6 to 1

Political Science: 40.5 to 1

Sociology: 8.6 to 1

Psychology: 10.5 to 1"

Justin writes:

"Anyone who wants to show discrimination has to show me first that the amount of liberals in the political bias fields (economics, political science, law, history, english, etc) are significantly larger than the amount of liberals in the non-political-bias fields (philosophy, physical sciences, math, engineering, architecture, etc).

Perhaps you missed part of Todd's article:

"I looked at the study itself and found the following for Liberal/Conservative identifications:

Mathematics: 4.1 to 1

Physics: 6 to 1

Chemistry: 2.2 to 1

Biology: 4.4 to 1

Computer Science: 2.8 to 1

Engineering: 2.6 to 1

Economics: 1.4 to 1

By contrast, humanities and social science departments (except economics, which is probably more scientific than most of the other social science departments) have the following divides:

English Lit: 29 to 1

History: 7.7 to 1

Philosophy: 16 to 1

Theology/Religion: 16.6 to 1

Political Science: 40.5 to 1

Sociology: 8.6 to 1

Psychology: 10.5 to 1"

Justin writes:

"Anyone who wants to show discrimination has to show me first that the amount of liberals in the political bias fields (economics, political science, law, history, english, etc) are significantly larger than the amount of liberals in the non-political-bias fields (philosophy, physical sciences, math, engineering, architecture, etc).

Perhaps you missed part of Todd's article:

"I looked at the study itself and found the following for Liberal/Conservative identifications:

Mathematics: 4.1 to 1

Physics: 6 to 1

Chemistry: 2.2 to 1

Biology: 4.4 to 1

Computer Science: 2.8 to 1

Engineering: 2.6 to 1

Economics: 1.4 to 1

By contrast, humanities and social science departments (except economics, which is probably more scientific than most of the other social science departments) have the following divides:

English Lit: 29 to 1

History: 7.7 to 1

Philosophy: 16 to 1

Theology/Religion: 16.6 to 1

Political Science: 40.5 to 1

Sociology: 8.6 to 1

Psychology: 10.5 to 1"
8.29.2005 9:50pm
Christopher Rasch (mail) (www):
Oops, sorry about the duplication. I'm not sure how that happened.
8.29.2005 9:51pm
Dem:
Justin: You make an excellent point about public universities.

I think, though, that more is needed to show bias than a comparison between disciplines. There are a number of possible reasons other than bias that could explain such discrepencies. For example, perhaps in those other fields, conservatives pursue academia more often than in they do in law. Or maybe fewer conservatives go into English Lit than go into computer science. I think that in order to prove actual bias, there would need to be a study focused on how conservatives who go on the teaching market do relative to liberals who go on the teaching market.
8.29.2005 10:06pm
Justin (mail):
Okay, the second gate is explaining the 16 to 1 philosophy, when modern philosophy is not open to political bias.

I think we're starting to see the edges of the self-selection argument, Chris. We've got a few more steps to go.
8.29.2005 10:08pm
Justin (mail):
Also, economics (which is the strongest political bias suspect of the bunch (despite Todd's statement), with the least political bias, is going to be important to the evidence of the self selection argument.
8.29.2005 10:09pm
Justin (mail):
Dem, I completely agree, which is why the cross-concentration info is only the first step. It's an entryway into a real discussion, but not proof (not even close) by itself.

And the evidence provided confirms my suspicion that self selection and the liberal majority amongst the intellectual elite (sorry, I went to Michigan and Columbia, and it is simply fact that while liberals do not have a monopoly on intelligence, that the majority of the cream of the *elite* intelligent student bodies in this country (though not every brilliant student, of course), lean strongly left, and did so before coming to college or being "brainwashed".
8.29.2005 10:24pm
Justin (mail):
Whoops, computer pressed send.

last post should end

) compose the primary reasoning towards the fact that most college faculties are focused around what the general population at large would call the center-left. Heck, physics professors are as liberal as a group as DCites.
8.29.2005 10:26pm
Chris in Wisconsin (mail):
I'm still unconvinced that state schools are open to market forces the same way as private (when it comes to professors being hired/retained.) State schools recieve massive aid to individual students, lowering tuition to well below what any private school could hope for. The lower tuition, along with specialization within schools found in the same reason, and relative cost of securing a private university make it very unlikely that a student would leave school based upon having a bad professor or several things in the school be undesireable.

As far as the school's rankings in various survey tools, these tools may give some idea of how a school performs, but certainly are not the same on a public school, where ranking would only be one of dozens of metrics the school must monitor and constantly respond to. My point was also certainly not that no market forces exist for public schools, but that the structure of the schools signifantly weakens market forces... This is also likely true of K-12 public schools, which do feel effects of parents aignst about their children's education (my 18 year old son in spending his day drawing Unit-Circles with sideway chalk...) but at the same time have very little political power to change things, as the candidates in most local elections are chosen by the teachers unions themselves. This is simply a force you are not likely to ignore at a private school where even something as minor as a professor skipping class can involve calls from angry students/donors demanding an immediate answer and solution... And in which the means for the solution in disciplinary action are still present and have not been minimized/removed entirely.
8.29.2005 10:38pm
DanB:
Okay, the second gate is explaining the 16 to 1 philosophy, when modern philosophy is not open to political bias

Modern philosophy is open to anything that can pad the length of a journal article. :)
8.30.2005 6:22am
Platypus (mail) (www):
This is just one data point, of course, but it casts doubt on the idea that conservative academics have an unusually pro-rural preference.

Well, no, actually one data point doesn't cast much doubt on anything unless the original claim had been absolute - which it wasn't. It's meaningless.
According to one survey of eight of Duke's humanities departments, however, Duke has 142 registered Democrats and 8 registered Republicans (17.75 to 1).

Sample of one, again.
Willingness to Apply the Scientific Method: The fact that the authors would propose this explanation seemingly with a straight face is evidence of the straw-grasping going on here.

Did you notice that the authors said "many conservatives might not..."? Many, not all. Do you deny that there is a significant faction within conservatism that tends toward a faith-based and often outright anti-scientific world view? Even if it's only a quarter, that's a quarter less conservatives compared to liberals (assuming the overall numbers are almost equal) in academe.
conservatives may be disproportionately turned off by the fundamental "unseriousness" of the modern academy. Conservatives may simply prefer the real world, with its mechanisms of accountability, merits-based determinations, and focus on solving real problems.

I've often seen conservatives (and libertarians) reject the theory that they are underrepresented in the academy because they're more interested in money, less given to pondering abstractions, etc. Now it looks like you're presenting the same argument but with more conservative-friendly terminology. That makes me wonder whether those other objections were really to the substance of claims or just the way they were worded. You say "merits-based determinations" and someone else might hear "money" because they actually do have their own idea of merit even if you don't accept it. You say "real problems" and they might hear "narrow problem domains" etc. In short, you try to paint these attitudes as positives and others might try to paint them as negatives but the real point is that they exist. Whether it's religious fundamentalism or materialism, there are personal-preference reasons why non-liberals might shun academe.
it seems utterly absurd that people are still making uninformed armchair speculation about the causes of the prevailing ideological imbalance in the academy.

...and what you're doing is...?
I think maybe it is time to take even a small percentage of those tens of millions being spent at places like Harvard and Columbia and perhaps do a study of the causes of the ideological disparity in the academy

Do you mean like the present study whose findings you refuse to accept? It seems to me that what you're asking for is not just a study but one that produces results you'll like.
8.30.2005 7:43am
Nobody Special:
I think the answer to your question is pretty clear: those institutions exist to influence policy and politics in a very organized way. It is not at all a "parallel professoriate" as being a professor and a think-tank person are entirely different jobs. As a prof you research mainly for academic journals, only tengentially have influence on policy, and, of course, teach students. As a think-tank researcher, your main objective is to work to change policy. You publish documents and memos to guide the policy work of your org and only ocassionally publish in standard journals. Your question seems to imply that you believe conservatives have been forced to develop all these organizations because they were discriminated against by universities. Do you really believe that, if only colleges hired more conservatives, then AEI and Cato would not exist? I think the truth is that these conservative orgs were developed to build the conservative political and policy movement and not because qualified conservatives could not get hired to teach.

Give me a break. Most of the modern academy (at least since the 1960s-1970s, when these organizations were founded) has been profoundly directed at influencing policy, and essentially always to the left.

Don't believe me? Let's look at some examples:

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Williams Project at UCLA Law

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU

This is just a list off the top of my head. All of these things receive university funding; none of them conduct anything other than advocacy-related scholarship, exactly as the think-thanks do.

Also, I suggest that you pick up and browse a full volume of any major law review (top 25 or so should do). You will find a number of normal, actually academic articles. However, you'll also find a significant number of advocacy pieces, most (if not all) expounding a leftist vision. To claim that there's somehow a dividing line between "academic" and "advocacy" is to be willingly blind.

Yes, I believe that if colleges provided equal treatment and funding to conservatives as to leftists, organizations like Cato and AEI would not exist in the form they do. They would be operating centers of the university, like the ones I just named, rather than forced private institutions, as they are now.
8.30.2005 8:55am
Platypus (mail) (www):
Nobody: would you say that the centers you mention (or even the sum total of all like them) constitute "most of the academy"? Don't make me laugh. Yes, they're part of the academy, but so is Liberty University.
8.30.2005 9:15am
flaime:
I've worked for 3 colleges/universities.
Jamestown College was disproportionately conservative, except in the art department, which only 2 people.
Illinois State was probably pretty liberal overall, though the College of Business was pretty conservative.
Pepperdine is exceedingly conservative. Indeed, they will hire a less qualified candidate on the basis of his conservative politics here.
8.30.2005 11:52am
Nobody Special:
Platypus-

Yes I would. Those were only a small sample, as I said.

Additionally, even faculty unaffiliated with those centers feel free to, and do, publish what are largely advocacy pieces.

Entire departments are based on political advocacy. For example, pretty much every degree program/department whose official ends with the word "studies."

To draw any sort of distinction between "academic" and "advocacy" as Goober tried to is to ignore the last thirty to forty years of academic work.
8.30.2005 12:11pm
Justin (mail):
Chris you're making one of two mistakes.

Either you're still thinking the goal of public institutions..at least the more elite onese...is to maximize student enrollment. It is not. It is to get a class with the strongest sats/gpas/diversity/chance to succeed out in the real world. To get those, they're competing with private institutions without any important subsidy.

Yes, they are subsidized monetarily (as are Harvard and whatnot due to their endowments). That isn't the issue. The price of getting professors is irrelevant to the occasion. The only question is what product will get them the top students. If they discriminate by picking only liberal professors, they will lose students, lose prestige, and either lose elite status or be forced to change policies (this is why economists believe discrimination happens in monopoly employment situations but not in competitive ones).

In other words, the University of Michigan will get some of the top students at Michigan due to being the big public school. That's fine if it wants to compete with North Dakota. If it wants to compete with other top 25 (top 10 graduate) schools, it must compete on a market forces playing field or lose people to other schools. After all, North Dakota is way cheaper than Michigan, even for Michigan students.
8.30.2005 3:24pm
Chris in Wisconsin (mail):
Justin,

Remember that the original discussion was whether or not the political diversity in colleges was even worth discussing.

While I understand that the competition for the top spots amongst the top universities is tough, there are still over 2000 universities, all of which suffer from the diversity issue in faculty, surely not all of these schools place such tests as you point out as a top priority. There are many schools which do compete for students in smaller markets, of which the governmental-run schools do not have to worry about patronage from former donors, admissions, prestige, or student-approval of the school as much as a private school would. I personally know that what that top professor from the local public school did by skipping class is something I simply don't see because the school's administration would not tolerate it, and I suspect he isn't coming back to my former school in the future.

Secondly, it is a different issue as to whether the differences in market forces between public/private lead to the diversity problem. That study and thought debate would have to take place after the problem of whether public/private schools have different forces present at all, as Dem pointed out, should they have no differences at all, and the governmental-run schools are EXACTLY the same as they would be if run by the private-sector... Then the diversity problem would move from being a possible instituionalized creation to a market force that one could look into off-setting with some additional force to create balance.

The fact is that taking GPAs/Diversity/Success Afterwards and stating these factors remain the same for public/private ignores additional factors such as Patronage/Student Opinion AT School/Financial Hardship/Current Professorship Powers/Community Needs and factors that also affect the decisions the schools make, these decisions being very different between private/public. Public schools have much less of a burden to the students currently enrolled, which is why class sizes are often larger and taught in part by TA's and others whom students would find less desireable. In addition, many public schools have the ability to be large research institutions instead of solely focused on education, creating professors who can work on large projects but cannot teach students anything of value.

Even with the top schools being mostly out for their ratings, they still receive professors from other schools as professors move around (experience is a great way to get in the door.) As long as a significant difference exists between the forces at work in a public school and a private school there will always be a difference from a "pure market" for education which would, as I've mentioned, move this debate out of how to change institutions and make it purely a debate of how to influence policy. Dem's suggestion that this topic need not be discussed as the "market has spoken" is simply not a strong influence on me.
8.30.2005 5:50pm
JonC:
Dem replied to my post: "You say there are 'millions of dollars on the left/liberal side.' Where? Please tell me, I can't wait to apply."

Where? Here's a short list for starters: Harvard, Columbia, Yale, UPenn. Add to that just about every single other major American academic institution dedicated to churning out liberal scholarship, and you have the millions of dollars per year I was referring to. The only reason why right-wing (broadly defined) scholars have to turn to the comparatively meager offerings of explicitly conservative institutions outside of academia like the Federalist Society in the first place is because the formal academic structure is simply not interested in providing the resources for the kind of work conservative scholars want to do.

So while you, Dem, can potentially tap the entire Ivy League (presuming the quality of your work is robust), every single conservative who wants to be a law prof can look forward to competing for the three annual fellowships from Fed Soc, and then, if they're lucky enough to ever be named to a federal judgeship in the future, the privelege of being smeared by the media and Senate Democrats for their past relationship with that organization.
8.30.2005 7:56pm