‘The New York Times’ on Bias in Legal Academia

By August 29, 2005

An article in Sunday’s New York Times (registration required) by Adam Liptak discusses a new survey that reveals that law school faculties are dominated by those with liberal political beliefs:

The study, to be published this fall in The Georgetown Law Journal, analyzes 11 years of records reflecting federal campaign contributions by professors at the top 21 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Almost a third of these law professors contribute to campaigns, but of them, the study finds, 81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans.

This is unfortunate for our nation’s legal culture. As FIRE has often remarked, an institution of higher education that is ideologically or politically monolithic cannot hope to match the intellectual vibrancy of an institution that welcome ideas from every political perspective. And we’re not alone. Study co-author John McGinnis, a professor at Northwestern’s law school, remarked in the article that his belief was that “liberal ideas might well be strengthened and made more effective if liberals had to run a more conservative gantlet among their own colleagues when developing them.” This goes not just for “liberal ideas” but for ideas of every stripe. 
 
Moreover, ideological uniformity also contributes greatly to censorship and repression. We frequently see various kinds of rather ordinary political and religious speech suppressed simply because those ideas are “offensive” or “extreme.” Yet those ideas are not generally considered “offensive” or “extreme” outside of the academy (including, for example, patriotic displays). An ideologically monolithic culture is often unable to understand the existence of dissent, much less respond to that dissent with appropriate respect for freedom of expression.

Schools: University of Alabama