Are Conservatives Being Shut Out of the Academy?


Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer


At colleges and universities, conservatives are present in surprisingly few numbers. For example, in one 2004 survey of six academic fields (Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology), the author found that Democrats outnumber Republicans 15 to 1 and estimated that there was an 8 to 1 ratio overall in the social sciences and humanities. The ratio in some fields is much higher: 30.2 to 1 in Anthropology and 28 to 1 in Sociology. This one-sided distribution of professors is also present at elite schools. For example, in 2000 the popular vote in America was roughly evenly divided with George W. Bush and Al Gore each getting 48% of the vote. In contrast, at Ivy League Schools, 80% voted for Gore whereas only 9% voted for Bush.

This effect is probably strengthened in part by features of these colleges or universities that tend to appeal to a leftist worldview. By a leftist worldview, I mean support for higher taxes and larger government, race and gender preferences, gun control, etc. Consider SUNY Fredonia. It has balkanized fields of studies, such as women’s studies, American Indian Studies, and multi-ethnic studies, and administrative departments, such as multicultural affairs and affirmative action, that will not appeal to the political right. It also offers classes such as Education 313: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Field Experience (where students “incorporate multicultural concepts, including cultural awareness; tolerance and acceptance …”) and English 349: Feminist Theory. Any student in these classes who states his opposition to homosexuality, abortion, or welfare will undoubtedly get a chilly reception.

In addition, there is a strong push to diversify the faculty. This is sometimes implemented by hiring women and minority (specifically black and Hispanic) candidates who are not as good as their competitors. Since these same candidates tend, on average, to be farther left than their competitors, the hiring process tends to push the faculty to the left. So strong is the concern for white-male bias that the University Senate decided last academic year to require that the search committees have adequate numbers of women and racial/ethnic minorities. Apparently, members of the senate thought that a committee made up of only white males can’t be trusted to be fair.

The invited speakers have the same political orientation. This year, for example, Robert Kennedy spoke on environmentalism, but trashed Republicans and corporations along the way. The part of the Fredonia website in which faculty discuss ideas regularly features articles and emails arguing for leftist politics and promoting leftist causes. For example, this year there were calls to join protests of the Iraq War and constant criticisms of Bush for trying to cut taxes and restructure social security.

There is an important issue as to whether the lopsided distribution of leftist faculty and speakers and the presence of academic concentrations with clear-cut political agendas results from the intentional exclusion of conservatives or merely reflects the pool who choose to go into academia or academic administration. My guess is that both effects are present, so in the end it’s not clear whether conservatives are being shut out of the academy. Either way, this pattern hinders the free discussion of ideas and shows the concern for diversity to be nothing more than a mask for a political agenda.

Schools: State University of New York – Fredonia Cases: State University of New York at Fredonia: Professor Punished for Public Expression