Major American colleges and universities – many birthed in mottos expounding “truth,” “light,” and the pursuit of “knowledge”- apparently are only interested in hiring professors and administrators who support liberal Democrat candidates and causes with their campaign contributions.
The deeply entrenched narrow-mindedness is stunning.
Vastly more of the campaign contributions by faculty and staff members at 58 major public and private universities between 1990 and 2014 went to Democrats than to Republicans at all but six of the schools, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data compiled by OpenSecrets.org.
The few schools that didn’t overwhelmingly favor Democrats gave only slightly more to Republicans. The vast majority of universities gave between 2.5 and 20 times more to Democrats than to Republicans, while the most conservative institutions were the most politically balanced.
That lack of partisan diversity, as reflected in campaign donations reported to the FEC, keeps students from being challenged by new ideas, critiquing their own beliefs and logics, and reaching well-reasoned conclusions about public policy issues.
“Students lose out by missing non-left interpretations of society, ethics, and human meaning,” Daniel Klein, a George Mason University economics professor who has studied the lack of ideological diversity in higher education for more than a decade, told TheDCNF. “Many get sucked into leftism; many remain aloof. But they don’t get the good stuff. A terrible shame!”
Klein in 2003 surveyed 1,678 academics across six fields — anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, political science and sociology. Democrats outnumbered those who identified as libertarian or Republican by ratios of 30:1 in anthropology and 28:1 in sociology. Klein called economists the “stand-out exception,” as Democrats outnumber Republicans or libertarians by only 3:1.
“In academia, the left own the establishment; they are the establishment,” Klein told TheDCNF. “They are not the radicals or rebels, they are The System.”
That bias is only increasing.
When the University of California, Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute surveyed professors across the country in 1998 to 1999, 47.5 percent identified themselves as left or far left, and more than 35 percent identified themselves as middle of the road. Eleven years later in the 2010-2011 survey, 62.7 percent identified themselves as left or far left, and 25.4 percent identified themselves as middle of the road.
UCLA’s own professors lean left in their political contributions, giving $2.8 million to Democrats over the last 25 years versus $440,000 to Republicans.
Some schools address the optics of such imbalance by designating a conservative scholar or group on campus.
That’s what the University of Colorado Boulder, with the largest proportion of contributions to Democrats in the left-leaning Pac-12 Conference, told TheDCNF when confronted with the school’s lack of ideological diversity.
“We have a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy to be sure that we are addressing conservative viewpoints as well as liberal, and we have recently expanded our Center for Western Civilization to encompass more visiting scholars who can debate all sides of the political spectrum,” CU Boulder spokesperson Ryan Huff said, emphasizing that the school recently hosted conservative speakers and a GOP presidential debate.
Hadley Heath Manning, a senior policy analyst with the conservative-leaning Independent Women’s Forum and a Colorado resident, applauded Boulder’s efforts, but said designating a conservative scholar points more to the problem than a solution.
“I do find it very bizarre that there is a dedicated position for the one token conservative and I think the lesson that sends is this is sort o a side show,” she told TheDCNF. “If you have that position, you are dedicated to being a token or you’re kind of out of step.”
Heath Manning said the lopsidedness on college campuses is really a “disservice” to liberal students, who face little opposition to their beliefs and thus, have little chance to sharpen them.
“The critical in critical thinking often means critiquing your own point of view,” she said.
So, how did college campuses become so ideologically lopsided? Multiple forces are at work, Klein has suggested.
Academia may attract more left-of-center minds naturally in the way that mining or agriculture naturally attracts more conservatives, as a Crowdpac analysis of professions by political preference revealed. Academia was the second-most liberal profession they analyzed, right behind the entertainment industry.
People tend to associate with like minds, so department heads tend to hire people like them, Klein said. Once a worldview dominates significantly more than half of an academic department, that cycle perpetuates more rapidly. As leftists dominate a department, conservatives are not only less likely to be hired, but less likely to want to be hired and feel like an outsider at work.
“Yes, academia is now utterly dominated by left-leaners,” Klein told TheDNF. “Not lock-step uniformity, perhaps, but, by and large, non-lefts need not apply.”
“Non-left people know the score,” Klein added. “They are discouraged from pursuing an academic career, though of course there are networks in which the few non-left people find each other.”
Matthew Spalding, associate vice president at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., told TheDCNF that the lack of diversity is “bad for all students and the cause of liberal education.” Spalding believes academia began heading on this “downward path” in the 20th century as value-neutral views began to dominate it.
“We saw the anti-establishment Left on campus bloom in the 1960s,” Spalding said. “Now the radicals are the tenured faculty and the college presidents. And as they replace themselves with increasing vengeance, it turns out they are intolerant and closed-minded. It is getting harder to find any true alternative voices on mainstream campuses and this monolithic political giving is more evidence of their illiberalism.”
But finding the imbalance is the easy part. Addressing it is much more difficult. Universities shouldn’t use quotas, Heath Manning said. But informing college-hunting families is a good first step, she said.
“Just to bring this issue to light and give parents and students the information about what they’re going to be exposed to when they go to college,” Heath Manning told TheDCNF.
Klein has also touted awareness as the best start toward a solution, and dedicates much of his research to that end. He has also proposed allowing professors of different political affiliations to assume more responsibility in the hiring process, although he doubts most universities will agree.
Something needs to change on college campuses, or the country may continue to see campus attacks on free speech, like those at the University of Missouri and Yale University, Heath Manning said.
“I think we as a culture at large, we’ve lost a lot when it comes to that art of agreeing to disagree and exchanging different points of view,” Heath Manning said.
At least one well-known university appears not to care about the fact it has a one-sided faculty and administration.
“The university isn’t going to comment on a non-related work behavior,” UCLA spokesperson Jessica Huff told TheDCNF. “… I don’t think anybody thinks about it much at all.”