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Profs ponder lack of conservatives on college faculties
The Dartmouth ^ | Wednesday, October 22, 2003 | By Michael Herman

Posted on 10/27/2003 11:50:52 AM PST by .cnI redruM

Common stereotypes portray university faculties as "vast left-wing conspiracies," a sentiment most recently articulated by New York Times columnist David Brooks in an attention-getting op-ed piece last month. Brooks' piece, titled "Lonely Campus Voices," criticized university faculties for having a liberal bias and for making it exceedingly hard for conservatives to receive tenure at top universities.

While there is some agreement with Brooks' view among Dartmouth's faculty, most professors here who spoke to The Dartmouth about this issue felt that Brooks inaccurately presented the political atmosphere at most colleges.

In the article, Brooks writes that "faculties skew overwhelmingly to the left. Students often have no contact with adult conservatives, and many develop cartoonish impressions of how 40 percent of the country thinks." Brooks also claims that conservatives face discrimination and resentment when trying to seek tenure.

Among Dartmouth's faculty, especially in the humanities and social sciences, there are a greater number of politically liberal professors than conservative ones, said Linda Fowler, director of the Nelson E. Rockefeller Center. However, she thought that this disparity is most likely due to self-selection.

Liberals, she argued, are more drawn to study topics like history, religion, philosophy and similar disciplines because "they're predisposed to take relativist views -- that's why they study what they study." On the other hand, conservatives who go to graduate school tend to pursue other career paths in the private sector or in politics instead of in academia, Fowler said.

Jeff Hart, emeritus professor of English, took an opposite view. He said that conservatives choose not to go into academia precisely because they fear not receiving tenure because of their political views. "Conservatives don't think they can get anywhere in the academic profession," he said.

But Hart did allow for some exceptions. "A good conservative will get promoted."

Most professors here disagreed with Brooks' claim that conservatives have a harder time receiving tenure. "Political views play virtually no role in the hiring of faculty," chair of the economics department Doug Irwin said, "I would be very leery in the name of diversity to apply a political litmus test for hiring."

Still, Hart contended that liberal professors are more likely to favor a liberal candidate over a conservative one when deciding tenure because "liberals tend to think that liberalism is common sense, whereas there has to be a good reason to be conservative: it might be a psychological aberration or bad character," said Hart.

"Conservatives like to believe they're fighting the good fight against a deeply entrenched enemy," said Fowler, adopting a different stance. "To blame the academy for a dearth of [conservative] people seeking degrees really isn't useful."

While there are fewer conservatives than liberals among Dartmouth's faculty, said English professor Ivy Schweitzer, "the senior faculty tends to be more conservative in general, and as a group, than the younger faculty, and so fewer wield more power." In that sense, it is hard to say if conservatives are really a minority at Dartmouth, she said.

"I think we have a very open forum for faculty to speak, from all sides of the political spectrum," said Schweitzer. "Is the general atmosphere here 'liberal?' Yes, because we are a liberal arts institution, and liberal arts education is supposed to produce 'liberal' attitudes that encourage forward thinking ideas about inclusion, equality and innovation."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: academia; davidbrooks; highereducation; pchiring
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To: Rodney King
A few months ago, I posted something on a law librarian listserv asking if there were any groups or individuals interested in arranging opposition to the American Libraries Association (there is one guy on their board of directors who is literally a member of the communist party). You wouldn't believe the load of crap I received from some people who claimed they were "moderates" and "middle of the road", and couldn't believe I would try to organize against a communist. It was classic.
21 posted on 10/27/2003 1:11:56 PM PST by LanPB01
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To: wideminded
Undoubtedly liberal arts department faculties are very liberal, but these type of articles never seem to present any statistics on the proportion of qualified conservative candidates who are seeking to join university faculties.

Yeah, I bet the Gender Studies, Black Studies and Multicultural Studies departments just have hords of conservatives trying to find rich rewarding careers.

22 posted on 10/27/2003 1:12:29 PM PST by Blue Screen of Death (,/i)
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To: liberallarry
Yes...and just before the 50's, conservative professors had at the time, a hammerlock on tenured positions in every academic area.

They decided at that time that liberal viewpoints would bring a welcome diversity of ideas and had accomplished that feat by the time you went to college.

In the 60's, the conservative professors had been weeded out by attrition and discrimination of new professors by liberals in a gradual manner.

By the 80's, the transformation was complete and liberals held almost every tenured position and chairmanship in all liberal arts.

In the 90's, they began to make headway into the hard sciences. The hard sciences are harder to win over for liberals for obvious reasons. Today, conservative professors in the hard sciences absolutely MUST exercise a significant degree of self-censorship of their conservative ideas or face a review board.
23 posted on 10/27/2003 1:12:45 PM PST by Maelstrom (To prevent misinterpretation or abuse of the Constitution:The Bill of Rights limits government power)
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To: .cnI redruM
As a conservative-leaning individual who took a degree in Philosophy, I maintain that the problem is rooted in the popular triumph, in all areas of inquiry, of the entire modernist project, beginning with the influence of the "enlightenment" and its subsequent "scientistic" materialism that has become the religion of our age. However, rather than leading to a new era of rationality,as has been touted by modernist afficionados, this trend has resulted in the creation of a new paganism revealing a horrible irrationality. Consider the bloody consequences of atheism, dialectical materialism, relativism, nihilism, existentialism, deconstructionism, and so on. Consider the negative social effects of our flight from reality through our denial of any notion of universal truth, which leads to the destruction of any sense of ethical responsibility, rampant criminality, sexual perversity, abortion, euthanasia, and so on.

Yet, it would appear that the people, as a whole, have no problem with these trends and developments, when you witness the manner in which the perpetrators of the greatest evils are held high as models of emulation. Given this, I see no reason to be sanguine about our future.
24 posted on 10/27/2003 2:01:50 PM PST by vanmorrison
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To: Maelstrom
You're right, it was the New Deal "Brains Trusters" who helped to turn the faculties to the hard-core left.
25 posted on 10/27/2003 2:43:04 PM PST by Theodore R.
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To: Lost Highway
Tulane Law School – one of the institutions I visited this spring -- has not a single Republican or conservative faculty member

For what it's worth, I graduated and became more conservative as a result of the leftist slant at TLS. There actually is one Republican faculty member a tax prof who is about 80 years old.

What I find interesting is that there has been a total lack of institutional support for alum Bill Pryor who was nominated to the 13th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush.

26 posted on 10/27/2003 2:49:26 PM PST by bigeasy_70118
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To: bigeasy_70118
Newt Gingrich got his Ph.D. from Tulane, but he was not in the law school. Hiring committees are overwhelmingly liberal in all "higher education" institutions.
27 posted on 10/27/2003 3:01:38 PM PST by Theodore R.
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To: vanmorrison
As a student offered a place within the Philosophy Department on the basis of a single class, I insist that the problem is rooted in popular aversion to reality.

"Enlightened Self-interest" was never a debunked philosophy, it was rejected without merit on the basis of what are now known to be failed concepts.

Rooted at the heart of "Enlightened Self-interest" is *NOT* education, albeit this helps. At the heart of "Enlightened self-interest" is the fundamental concept of Justice as an enforcement mechanism for Trust.

From that fundamental concept flows moral capitalism, the family unit, and a cohesive society.
28 posted on 10/27/2003 3:46:20 PM PST by Maelstrom (To prevent misinterpretation or abuse of the Constitution:The Bill of Rights limits government power)
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To: .cnI redruM; theDentist
You're both wrong. She meant this literally. Good conservatives DEFINITELY get promoted at college campuses.

Don't forget, however, that to liberals, the only good conservative is a dead one.
29 posted on 10/27/2003 4:48:56 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (The scariest nine words in the English Language: We're from the government. We're here to help you.)
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To: Maelstrom
Is it really that bad?

I've been out of touch with the academic world for a long time and am continually surprised by reports of its current condition.

I also wonder how to correctly factor in age. When I was young most professors seemed smart. Now most don't. I don't think that's because they're dumber than they used to be...but I've heard fairly good arguments that they might be.

30 posted on 10/27/2003 6:22:42 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: Lost Highway
I wish I could take credit for it but it's an article By David Horowitz.

Horowitz did a study of UC Berkeley and found only 7% of the faculty was registered Republician.

31 posted on 10/27/2003 6:35:14 PM PST by tubebender (FReeRepublic...How bad have you got it...)
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To: Lost Highway
Very fine. Very, very fine.

I'm used to the fascist stuff in the street but am surprised to hear that it's coin of the realm in colleges across the nation.

I wonder though if you might be exagerating. I have a friend whose daughter is exceptionally bright and attends UC Berkeley. She seems to have a good grasp on conservative views and is able to discuss them intelligently and without cant.

32 posted on 10/27/2003 6:45:14 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: .cnI redruM
I think the liberal bias in academia is more prevalent on the coasts. In the heartland, where I've spent my career in academia, there are many more conservative professors, and most liberals respect alternative views. I have a number of friends who are liberals. I think they are amused by my positions, to some degree, they admire my candor and integrity to some degree, and wish they had my backbone, to some degree.

It is possible to make a career for oneself in academia as a conservative, even in the humanities, but one has to be intelligent, work extra hard and put up with some hypocricy and double standards.

Oddly enough, I find that the people who are more often the targets of radical animus are not the conservatives, but moderates. They're not liberal enough for the radicals, so they really get it. There is much pressure to conform in those circles. (I think Thomas Sowell, Justice Thomas, and Ward Connerly know what I'm talking about. Not that they're moderates, but, because they're black, they're supposed to tow the line . . . or else. Same thing for liberals.) Conservatives are generally too dangerous to tangle with. They actually know how to argue, are generally "well armed," and one tends to come away from a conflagration with an intelligent conservative looking foolish.

This, of course, can lead to retaliatory strikes behind closed doors (in tenure and promotion committee meetings,) but there aren't enough faculty willing to get politically vicious, in my experience, to successfully blackball someone for their views (unless those views are held unintelligently).

My impression, after 10 years in academia, is that the lefties are in positions of power at present, but there is a cadre of young [mostly gen-Xers, who came of age in the Reagan years] climbing the ranks at present. Once the lefties die off and/or retire, we'll take over and clean up the mess they've left behind (like we conservatives always do!).

As for faculty in the professions, engineering, and medicine . . . mostly conservative. They can't afford to be relativists.

BTW, liberal arts education is NOT about educating people to hold liberal/progressive views. It is educating for liberty. Click here for a good reflection on the meaning of liberal arts education.

33 posted on 10/27/2003 7:02:32 PM PST by TPartyType
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To: Maelstrom
As time passes, I find I am better able to appreciate the genius of Giambattista Vico, who, in his "New Science", outlines the manner in which societies evolve and devolve through history. Vico was a severe critic of the "Enlightenment" and its vanity. He presciently predicts that a society that evolves from a naive paganism to a high culture will begin to degenerate to an even lower cruel,ugly, and cynical new paganism that is unchecked by any moral or ethical considerations, since these sensibilities, once having been established by a high culture, are then rejected as meaningless and passe. I believe we are witnessing this entropic phenomenon in our own present degenerate society. Like Rome of old, I have seen the people of this country twice elect a repugnant monster, then excuse his abominations in a manner unseen since the days of Caligula.

And the most disgusting aspect of this catastrophe was to see the intellectual class, particularly the professoriat, twist themselves into pretzels to apologize and rationalize the criminality, perversity, and depravity of their own special representative, the "Rhodes Scholar" from Little Rock who didn't know the meaning of "is".
34 posted on 10/27/2003 7:17:30 PM PST by vanmorrison
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To: TPartyType
When I went to college I had three glorious professors - Linus Pauling, Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann. Pauling was liberal and no one to tangle with as HUAC discovered. Feynman was truly a-political. And Gell-Mann was one mean sucker. I never knew his politics. I don't think much has changed in the sciences.
35 posted on 10/27/2003 7:20:47 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: vanmorrison
Rome saw some of its most glorious days after Caligula and many, including Gibbon, would disagree with the analysis you offer.
36 posted on 10/27/2003 7:24:37 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: tubebender
FWIW, I think Horowitz is a radical. He's now a conservative radical, but a radical nonetheless. In many ways, I hold "conservative radical" to be an oxymoron. True conservatives eschew radical methods and are not ideologues. Horowitz believes in fighting fire with fire. I believe doing so sullies us.

So, for example, the DC Chapter trying to go "toe-to-toe" with A.N.S.W.E.R. doesn't impress me much. There's something awkward and pathetic about conservatives doing street theatre of the absurd and trying to beat 60's radicals at their own game. Then we wet ourselves when FR gets a mention in a wire story, or some air on C-Span. Big deal.

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the work they do, trying to balance the liberal voices in the nation's capital. But one needs to be careful about the methods one employs, lest we become too much like "them." I don't doubt their motives, it's their methods I question. The ends do not justify the means. There are certain methods that conservatives should avoid because we believe in taking the high moral ground, and we believe in reasoned discourse and decorum. We should strive to elevate the marketplace of ideas.

That is to say nothing of the time they devote to being on the streets week after week. Commendable, you say? Don't they have families, I ask? Horowitz cheers on, (eggs on, actually,) people who may eventually develop a need to be out on the streets, waving banners, grabbing headlines and picking fights with left-wingers. I suspect that sort of activism is addictive.

I don't honestly value picking fights with irrational types. I don't think countering the people who make a living grabbing headlines in Washington, DC is a healthy lifestyle, over the long haul. Most real people look at those misfits and clowns and shake their heads as just keep on walkin'. They're buffoons. And we will be viewed in the same light, eventually, if we become too much like them.

In my mind, conservatives have to role model for each generation what it means to be "fit for liberty." Here's a link to a reflection on what it means to be fit for liberty (based on Federalist #1).

37 posted on 10/27/2003 7:32:44 PM PST by TPartyType
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To: liberallarry
38 posted on 10/27/2003 7:34:44 PM PST by TPartyType
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To: liberallarry
Gibbon was an "enlightened" idiot. He considered the advent of Christianity as a problem that marked the end of the (pagan) glory of Rome. Further proof of his idiocy is that he admired the murderous Moslems. I think Burkhardt had a better handle on the history of Rome, viewing the rise of Constantine and the establishment of Christian society as the saviour and renewal of a degenerate civilization.
39 posted on 10/27/2003 7:35:40 PM PST by vanmorrison
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To: TPartyType
I think so. Either that or that Senate counterpart. It's been a long time - 50 years or more.
40 posted on 10/27/2003 7:37:24 PM PST by liberallarry
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