Friday, December 10, 2004

Academic bias in the news

Source: The Economist

Two three-part series on liberal bias in academia were published this week, one in the New York Sun and the other in

On Wednesday, the Sun ran three op-eds in a series entitled "Campus Crisis":

  • "A New Free Speech Movement, Starting With Alumni" by Ronald S. Lauder:
    It's fine to donate money to your college. I can think of no better institutions in our country to be the recipients of your philanthropy. But get to know your alumni association, follow the news at your college, do your homework, and don't be afraid to ask questions. The next time you fill out that check, make sure your money is designated to some place or someone whose viewpoints wouldn't make you cringe.
  • "Wanted: Intellectual Diversity" by Bruce Bartlett:
    Although conservatives complain loudly and often about liberal bias in the mass media, the truth is that one is far more likely to read a conservative perspective in the New York Times than hear it from a college professor. At least the Times publishes an occasional conservative on its op-ed page. At many universities, just finding a Republican anywhere on the faculty is problematic.
  • "Higher Education In Decline" by Walter E. Williams:
    In a study to be published in Academic Questions, sociologist Charlotta Stern and economist Daniel Klein found in a random national sample of 1,678 university professors that Democratic professors outnumber Republican professors 3 to 1 in economics, 28 to 1 in sociology, and 30 to 1 in anthropology. As George Will said in his Washington Post column, "Academia, Stuck to the Left" (November 28, 2004): "Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations."
Also this week, published a three-part series by Daniel Flynn on academic bias:
  • Part I: "Deep Blue Campuses" builds on my earlier piece showing the lopsided campaign contributions from employees of top universities:
    Of the Kerry campaign’s top twenty contributors, five were universities – the University of California, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Michigan. By way of comparison, not one of the twenty institutions listed as employing the most generous donors to the Bush campaign was a college or university.

    Harvard employees donated 97 percent of their presidential campaign contributions to John Kerry, and just 3 percent to George W. Bush.
  • Part II: "Academia Embraces Terrorists":
    There is something hilariously self-refuting in violent revolutionaries, who preach the evils of intolerant America, getting bankrolled by leading American schools. But to make the point that America isn’t the intolerant incubator of hatred they make it out to be, wouldn’t it be enough for us just to let these jailbird intellectuals speak freely without the imprimatur of leading academic institutions, the subsidy of unwitting alumni, or the command of impressionable students?
  • Part III: "Academic Snobs Ban the Military":
    More than a generation ago, academics cited the Vietnam War as the justification for kicking ROTC and military recruiters off campus. Today, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy excluding open homosexuals from serving in the armed forces serves as the pretext. The explanations have changed, but the underlying reason remains the same: academic snobs hate the military.

These six articles come in the wake of related columns by Ruth Wisse in the Wall Street Journal ("John Kerry U: At Harvard, a few of us stray from the 'herd of independent minds' ") and George Will ("Academia, Stuck To the Left"). The key finding in these articles--that academia tilts left-- is not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention; the magnitude of the tilt is, however, shocking. (If you're not convinced, spend a few minutes reading the articles linked above.)

The best we can hope for is that conventional wisdom begins to recognize that academia has a major problem on its hands. Recognition of the problem is the first necessary step towards its resolution. Unfortunately, the people inclined to read opinion pieces in the New York Sun, NewsMax and the Wall Street Journal are not the ones who need convincing.

Update (via Chris Lawrence and Robert Prather): There's more. Jeff Jacoby wrote "A left-wing monopoly on campuses" for the Dec. 2 Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on Dec. 3 entitled "A Chill in the Classroom: Liberal professors routinely harass conservative students." The Lexington column of the Dec. 2 Economist (from which the cartoon above is taken) is entitled "America's one-party state: If you loathe political debate, join the faculty of an American university."

Update: Jonathan Chait thinks liberal bias in academia is the Republicans' fault.