Sunday, May 08, 2016

The endangered conservative professors on American campuses

To the campus faculty, at least in the hallway in the building where my office is, there is only one presidential candidate who matters, and who can change the country--and, thereby the world--for the better: Bernie Sanders.

So much that the prevailing sentiment seems to be, well, let me put it this way: if you don't feel the Bern, then you are an idiot.  I don't feel the Bern, which means ... ;)

The other day, one of the Bernies told me that if Sanders doesn't win the nomination then he would even skip voting for a presidential candidate.  "Even if that means Trump wins?" I asked the colleague.  Such is the Bernie fever on campus.

Even a casual reader of this blog, leave alone this guy who has racked up quite a few frequent-commenter bonus points, knows from my posts that my campus, like most higher education institutions, is loaded with way-left-of-center faculty.  So ideological is the tilt, so out there to the left, that an independent thinking person that I am have been forced off the conversations and told to shut up.  Apparently my "input and perspectives" are met with "disdain."  And I am not even a right-wing conservative!

Given such an ethos, I am even surprised anymore when commentators bother to write about the lack of diversity of thought in higher education.  It is, after all, old, old, old, stale news.  But, they write and I, too, blog about it!

In that liberal rag, the New York Times, the liberal columnist, Nicholas Kristof--an Oregon native--complains about the lack of diversity:
Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).
In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.
Of course it is far too easy to find Marxists and Socialists among faculty.  Heck, we have two who even contested in elections as socialists!  A Republican social scientist is an endangered species.  For that matter, even the likes of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan might be persona non grata at campuses like mine because they won't be liberal enough!

It is not only the politics, but also the closely related religious beliefs:
The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to Yancey’s study, 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.
“Of course there are biases against evangelicals on campuses,” notes Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. Walton, a black evangelical, adds that the condescension toward evangelicals echoes the patronizing attitude toward racial minorities: “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor.”
Over the years, I have had plenty of conservative and religious students work closely with me, confide their angsts with me, even though they know well that I am an atheist and who is largely left-of-center on many issues.  Because, I do not treat them as "politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor" and instead give them the same professional treatment that I give anybody else.  

Kristof concludes with:
Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.
Dream on!  This will never, ever happen. 


Ramesh said...

Yes, historically campuses have been way way left of centre. Not sure why ? Do you have a business school ? Are they also feeling the Bern ??

You are absolutely right. There should be no bias in campuses. Students ought to be exposed to the entire spectrum of beliefs and helped to think, debate and form their own opinions.

Anne in Salem said...

Well said, Ramesh.

When my mother was a PhD candidate in philosophy, she had wonderful conversations with her colleagues because she was the only person who was not an atheist. I wouldn't have dared to have a political discussion with my advisor. Her opinions were so opposite mine, and she had control of my grades. There were a handful of professors with whom I might have had such conversations, but I didn't pay much attention to life beyond class.

I'm curious how the students respond to bias from the professors. Are there teachers who are preferred by conservative students or avoided by liberal students because of the professor's known politics? That would limit the broader education of the students.

Sriram Khé said...

"Business" should never be an undergraduate degree option and, therefore, a teaching university like mine shouldn't even have a Business department. But, that is an intellectual fight that I will fight another day ;)

Bias has always been there in academia. And, of course, there were plenty of academics even in the decades past who considered the "other" views as utterly wrong and a waste of time. But, it definitely feels like that trend has worsened.

I suspect that the gullible students are easily drawn to the theatrical and the bombastic, like how the unthinking masses are lining up for Trump. Among the thinking students, the ideological ones seek out their like-minded faculty. Which then makes one wonder what happens to the conservative students, right? One of my favorite moments was from a few years ago. In one class, a few weeks into the term, during discussions one female student qualified her comment by identifying herself as a Republican. And then said something like "I will never out myself as a Republican in most classes though." To which a male student immediately jumped in with how he also stays quiet about his politics. And then a third student joined in. It turned out that a half of the class was GOP people--understandable given the split in the real world too ...