[Paleopsych] American Enterprise: Conformity on Campus
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Fri Jun 10 23:43:15 UTC 2005
Conformity on Campus
American Enterprise, 2005 June
First, the summary from CHE:
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.6.9
Magazine & Journal Reader
A glance at the June issue of The American Enterprise: The bully
pulpit in academe
Not only do an increasing number of professors at colleges around the
country have liberal political affiliations, they are bringing their
politics into the classroom, to the detriment of their students, three
Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and
Alumni, a national group that advocates a traditional curriculum,
describes a study that her organization commissioned of undergraduates
from 50 of the top-ranked colleges in the country. She reports that
almost a third of the respondents said that they felt that they had to
agree with their professor's political stance to get a good grade.
Forty-six percent said that professors used the classroom to present
their political views. Such responses came not only from
conservatives, she writes, adding that a majority were from students
who identified themselves as liberal.
"One simply cannot deny, after these findings, that faculty are
importing politics into their teaching in a way that affects a
student's ability to learn," she writes.
David A. French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in
Education, says that his organization "received more than 500 credible
complaints of deprivation of civil liberties" on campuses last year,
and that most of the complaints concerned suppression of speech by
those on the "left."
"We're reaching a tipping point," he writes. "The higher-education
establishment will either open itself back up to the full marketplace
of ideas, or it will see its ivy-covered walls battered down by force
-- whether class-action litigation or extreme legislation."
The article also includes an excerpt from an essay written for The New
York Observer by Fred Siegel, a professor of history at the Cooper
Union in New York City.
"Far from teaching the mechanics of knowledge," Mr. Siegel writes,
college professors "are in fact preachers of sorts, spreading a gospel
akin to that of Howard Dean."
The article, "Conformity on Campus," is online at
Background articles from The Chronicle:
* Left-Wing Bias in Education Schools Is Overstated by
Conservative Critics, 2 Reports Suggest (5/26/2005)
* Conservative Professors Are Less Likely to Advance in Academe,
Study Finds (3/31/2005)
* This Just In: Democrats Outnumber Republicans on American
Faculties, Studies Find (11/19/2004)
* Conservatives in a Liberal Landscape (9/24/2004)
* Patrolling Professors' Politics (2/13/2004)
* When Students Complain About Professors, Who Gets to Define
the Controversy? (5/13/2005)
* Conservatives, Too, Are Politicizing Campuses (3/18/2005)
* Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual (11/12/2004)
E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.
Conformity on Campus
By Anne Neal, David French, Fred Siegel
We hear a lot these days about the importance of diversity in ensuring that
ideas are heard fairly. But the individuals who are most insistent about this
are interested only in racial and sex diversity. Intellectual and ideological
diversity is not what the enforcers of political correctness on campuses and
other sectors have in mind.
This magazine has helped pioneer evidence of how politically unbalanced most
college campuses have become. Most recently (see our January/February 2005
issue) we presented the findings of University of California economist Daniel
Klein, who found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in social sciences
and humanities faculty nationwide is at least 8:1. At universities like
Stanford and Berkeley it is 16:1 in favor of Democrats.
Twenty-five years ago, the ratio was less skewed, at 4:1. In the future it is
going to be even more skewed. Among the young junior faculty at Stanford and
Berkeley, there are now 183 Democrats, and just six Republicans--a 30:1 tilt.
As today's older professors retire, political lopsidedness will grow even more
After years of denying the ideological uniformity of colleges, this accumulated
evidence has now caused many academics to shift to claiming that the lack of
political diversity on campus doesn't matter. It doesn't affect what gets
taught, they say.
But in a recent panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, two
experts warned that academic one-sidedness matters very much indeed, and is
clearly having harmful results. We present their statements below, along with
an extract from one professor's recent pointed analysis of this subject.
President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni
There are now countless stories (and large volumes of hard data) about
political pressure in college classrooms, and faculty hostility to non-liberal
viewpoints. When confronted with this evidence, what did the higher education
establishment do? Did it conduct its own surveys to see if the claims were
valid? Did it try to determine whether the education of students was being
impaired? Did it affirm its commitment to the robust exchange of ideas? No. It
offered the classic institutional dodge: Deny the facts and attack the accuser.
Roger Bowen, president of the American Association of University Professors,
stated that political affiliations are of little consequence in the classroom.
Professor of political science David Kimball asserted that "any concerns about
indoctrination are overblown." John Millsaps, a spokesman for the University of
Georgia, insisted "we have no evidence to suggest that students are being
intimidated by professors as regards students' freedom to express their
opinions and beliefs."
My organization, which represents college trustees and alumni, wanted to move
beyond anecdotes and test the claim that politics was not affecting the
classroom. So we commissioned the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at
the University of Connecticut to undertake a scientific survey of
undergraduates in the top 50 colleges and universities, as ranked by U.S. News
& World Report. We went right to the student population who are directly
affected, who have no reason to misrepresent what is happening there, and asked
them about their experiences.
What did we find? Forty-nine percent of students stated that professors
frequently inject political comments into their courses even if they have
nothing to do with the subject. When we asked students if they felt free to
question their professors' assumptions, almost one third said they felt they
had to agree with their professor's political view to get a good grade.
We also explored whether students were being exposed to competing arguments on
today's issues. Forty-eight percent of all students reported that presentations
on political issues seemed completely one-sided, and 46 percent said professors
used the classroom to present their personal political views. Forty-two percent
said reading assignments represented only one side of a controversial issue.
The students voicing concerns are not a small minority--nearly half reported
abuses of one kind or another. And they are not just conservatives: a majority
of the respondents consider themselves liberals or radicals. Moreover, the
majority of the students we surveyed are studying subjects like biology,
engineering, and psychology--where there is no reason for politics to enter the
classroom in the first place. It does anyway: Fully 68 percent of all students
heard their professors make negative classroom comments about George Bush,
versus 17 percent who were exposed to criticisms of John Kerry.
One simply cannot deny, after these findings, that faculty are importing
politics into their teaching in a way that affects a student's ability to
learn. This should trouble us all. Responsible academic freedom involves not
only the professors' prerogatives, but also the freedom of students to learn
free of political indoctrination.
President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Faced with clear evidence that colleges lack ideological diversity, many campus
apologists say "So what?" At FIRE, which represents students in academic
freedom battles, we face the question "so what?" every day. And I can assure
you the problem of ideological uniformity on campus goes far beyond the fact
that many red-state suburban kids now get their views attacked in the
classroom. Ideological uniformity in higher education has led to daily,
systematic deprivation of the civil liberties of students and professors.
First, ideological uniformity has led to the suppression of dissenting speech.
I'm not talking about extreme expressions of dissent; I'm talking about things
such as an "affirmative action" bake sale sponsored by that notorious radical
organization, the College Republicans. I'm talking about students who question
whether an academic department should show
Fahrenheit 9/11 in all classes before the election to persuade students to vote
These aren't isolated cases. In 2004, FIRE received more than 500 credible
complaints of deprivation of civil liberties on campus. We surveyed the speech
policies of the 200 leading universities and found freedom-squelching speech
codes at 70 percent of those schools. In the last four years, as many as 50
universities have made attempts to eject evangelical student organizations, or
to restrict them so thoroughly as to effectively rob them of their distinct
religious voices. At many campuses, students are subjected from the moment they
arrive to mandatory "orientations" and diversity training designed to shock
many of them out of the views they bring from home.
At FIRE, we have people from across the ideological spectrum on our staff and
on our board. And even the most dyed-in-the-wool liberal on our staff will
acknowledge that 80-85 percent of our cases involve suppression of speech by
We're reaching a tipping point. The higher education establishment will either
open itself back up to the full marketplace of ideas, or it will see its
ivy-covered walls battered down by force--whether class action litigation or
extreme legislation. We have reached the point where the self-regulation of
higher education is no longer credible.
Universities say it's people like me, red staters who grew up in middle-class
suburbs, who need their views challenged. In my experience, the exact reverse
is true. I went to a Christian undergraduate school and then went to law school
at Harvard, and I can tell you that the professors at my Christian college were
more open to challenges to campus orthodoxy than my professors at Harvard Law
When I applied to teach at Cornell Law School, an interviewer noticed my
evangelical background and asked, "How is it possible for you to effectively
teach gay students?" If I had not given what I consider to be, in all modesty,
an absolutely brilliant answer to the question, I don't think I would have
gotten the job. I sat in admissions committee meetings at Cornell in which
African-American students who expressed conservative points of view were
disfavored because "they had not taken ownership of their racial identity." An
evangelical student was almost rejected before I pointed out that the
reviewer's statement that "they did not want Bible-thumping or God-squading on
campus" was illegal and immoral.
Academics who say "so what?" need to realize that ideological uniformity leads
to restrictive speech codes and the suppression of Constitutionally protected
speech on campus. It leads to the exclusion of people of faith from campuses.
It twists hiring and admissions and classroom discussion.
No campus official should define what is orthodox in politics, religion, or
law. Yet that happens every day to thousands of students. It is a deprivation
of their civil liberties, and it will stop sooner or later, one way or another.
The real question is: Will the academy wake up and begin to put its own house
in order, or will it act like Dan Rather--delaying reform until an entire
culture has revolted, then shuffling off into oblivion muttering about a
Professor of history at New York City's Cooper Union
Academia, taken as a whole, has become dominated by freeze-dried 1960s radicals
and their intellectual progeny, who have turned much of the humanities and
social sciences into a backwater. In 1989, when Eastern Europeans were
reclaiming the ideals of human rights and political freedom, students and
faculty on the Stanford campus were marching with 1988 Presidential candidate
Jesse Jackson shouting "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture's got to go." Up the
road, Berkeley--dominated by its university--announced it was adopting Jena in
communist East Germany as a sister city, this just a few months before the wall
Academics have been getting it wrong over and over again. Criminologists were
convinced that crime couldn't be cut; sociologists were sure that welfare
reform couldn't work because it didn't go to the root causes of poverty; and
Sovietologists were certain that the USSR of the 1980s had matured into a
successful, even pluralistic society. As for radical Islam, the consensus view
of the Middle Eastern Studies Association was that the danger to America came
from a "terror industry" conjuring up imagined threats in order to justify
But even as academia's batting average has declined, its claim to superior
knowledge has expanded. The old ideal of disinterested scholarship, or at least
the importance of attempting to be objective, has been displaced. In 2003 the
University of California's Academic Assembly did away with the distinction
between "interested" and "disinterested" scholarship by a 45-3 vote. As
Berkeley law professor Robert Post explained, "the old statement of principles
was so outlandishly disconnected to what university teaching is now that it
made no sense to think about it that way."
The reality, as Post recognized, is that many professors now literally profess.
Far from teaching the mechanics of knowledge, they are in fact preachers of
sorts, spreading a gospel akin to that of Howard Dean. For professors part of
grievance studies departments, like "Indian" poseur Ward Churchill, there was
never any expectation of objectivity. They were knowingly hired as activists
and are now puzzled as to why this has become a problem for some of their
students and the larger public. After all, what they preach is built into the
very orientation students are given when they arrive on campus. New students at
many schools are quite literally given a new faith.
In the absence of intellectual competition (other than the disputes between
left and lefter), academia will continue to get it wrong. This might be of
limited concern if not for the fact that the sheltered students who emerge from
this one-party state are left bereft of any means of negotiating with reality
once they engage in politics as adults. Instead of being given the background
knowledge of American institutions they need to make judgments as citizens,
they are fed attitudes. Credulous undergraduates fall prey to priestly
performers who claim to be initiating them into the subterranean mysteries.
Those who buy into this worldview are left both insufferably pretentious and
This is condensed from an essay Siegel wrote for the New York Observer.
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