PSU Vanguard Shield Icon

Adademia: liberal bias?

A survey in the September issue of the magazine The American Enterprise underscores what umpteen previous studies (and simple common sense) have long suggested: The fixation of universities on “diversity” does not extend to diversity of opinion. Professors (like members of newsrooms) are overwhelmingly, almost ridiculously so, of the liberal persuasion.

The conservative magazine’s measure was a crude one. It looked up the voter-registration records of professors at elite universities, and branded Democratic, Green or Working Party voters of the “left.” Republican or Libertarian Party voters were said to be of the “right.” We would object that some Democrats (though few, we imagine, in academia) are more conservative than some Republicans (especially in these parts). And some so-called Republicans registered that way only to participate in intriguing primary elections – say, voting for John McCain to try to derail George Bush.

Still, if not taken too seriously, the numbers offer testimony to the absurd one-sidedness of American institutions of higher learning. At Brown, for example, the magazine found 54 on the “left” and only 3 on the “right.” There were no “R’s” located in Brown’s English, history, political science or sociology departments. Other scores were similarly lopsided: Cornell, 166 to 6; Harvard, 50 to 2; Stanford, 151 to 17 (with 7 of those 17 in the economics department); UCLA, 141 to 9; etc.

The American Enterprise fumes that conservatives should fight back by launching discrimination suits against colleges. But does every interest group have to demand its pound of flesh through the courts? We would prefer that universities start to reflect on the disadvantages of imposing a monolithic viewpoint on students and try to fight bias – intentional or not – against people who take a conservative slant on politics.

After all, a clash of ideas is far more stimulating than a force-fed menu of politically correct propaganda. Certainly, universities should be places where diversity of opinion is valued and contrarian ideas can get a fair hearing. For, as John Milton famously observed, “Who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”