Tag Archives: progressives

A College Guide to Viewpoint Diversity

With so many campuses under renewed pressure to create “safe spaces” from political speech and dissent, growing numbers are asking us at Heterodox Academy: Where can I (or my children) go to encounter at least some modicum of viewpoint diversity among the faculty? While there are many college guides with an eye to politics, they point students to the most liberal campuses, such as Bard, or to the few distinctively conservatives places, such as Liberty University or Grove City College.

Such guides, therefore, steer students to the most homogenous and sheltered campus communities. But if students want to know whether a university offers enough political diversity among its faculty to ensure a robust exchange of ideas, they will search in vain for a useful college guide. We at Heterodox Academy aim to provide direction for students looking to escape academia’s many monocultures.

Campuses Eradicate Conservative Thought

When Joshua Dunn and I began searching for conservative professors to interview for our new book, Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, we assumed that nearly all elite universities and colleges were equally monolithic, more or less. That was a reasonable assumption, since only 4 percent of all humanities professors and 5 percent of all social scientists self-identify as conservative.

But after locating more than 200 self-identified libertarian and conservative professors in six disciplines in the social sciences and humanities (economics, political science, sociology, history, philosophy, and literature), we discovered that they are not evenly sprinkled across elite colleges and universities. In fact, many prestigious universities have no libertarians or conservatives at all. But, happily, a few excellent schools, though still dominated by progressive academics, employ at least some right-of-center professors across a range of departments in the social sciences and humanities.

Where are these special places? They tend to be located in the South or in Catholic colleges. Among top public universities, the University of Virginia, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas are unusually diverse. Virginia boasts at least one right-wing professor in its departments of government, history, literature, and sociology. Some of these professors are even culturally conservative, such as sociologist Brad Wilcox. Texas A&M includes one or more right-wing faculty in economics, literature, history, and philosophy. The University of Texas, meanwhile, employs many conservatives across a range of subfields in its government department, one in sociology, and at least two in philosophy as well.

Emory University is among the most diverse elite private institutions. There you will find at least one right-wing professor in the departments of philosophy, history, political science, sociology, and literature. George Mason enjoys some diversity too, with many libertarians in its economics department and some conservatives in its political science department. At elite Catholic colleges, meanwhile, Notre Dame University, Catholic University, and Boston College are unusually diverse by academic standards, far more so than Georgetown, Villanova, or Santa Clara University.

Why So Few Conservatives in Higher Ed?

If you have your hearts set on an Ivy League education, I would recommend Harvard University. A couple of conservatives can be found in its departments of government and history, not to mention quite a few in economics. Many of these scholars are prominent and outspoken about their politics, such as Harvey Mansfield in government and Greg Mankiw in economics. It also boasts many genuinely heterodox thinkers such as Steven Pinker in psychology and Orlando Patterson in sociology.

The other Ivies seem far less diverse. We identified only two conservatives at Princeton and two at Yale. The University of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has a couple of conservative historians and the heterodox John DiIulio in its government department. We found a single conservative at Dartmouth, and one at Brown as well. At Cornell we identified no conservatives in the fields we examined. (Jeremy Rabkin, who was once regarded as Cornell’s only right-wing professor, has since left the government department for George Mason’s law school.) [UPDATE: We also identified no conservatives at Columbia.]

If, on the other, hand, you are looking for an elite liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna College is the only such place with any political diversity. That may surprise many given the recent events at Claremont, which have included a push for more faculty training, diversity officers, and minority hiring. But unlike campuses that were engulfed in similar controversies, there has been a significant conservative countermovement at Claremont led by students and faculty, not to mention a mobilized block of centrist students.

These dissenting voices reflect the diversity of its students and faculty. Claremont has libertarians and conservatives in its departments of economics, literature, and, especially, in government. One recent study found that approximately 13 percent of its faculty members are registered as Republicans. That may seem like an unimpressive number. But compared to most other elite liberal arts colleges, where there are exactly zero conservatives, it’s a remarkable accomplishment. At neighboring Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges, for example, there is not a single Republican faculty member. That is the norm, unfortunately.

We at Heterodox Academy intend to offer more assessments of viewpoint diversity at America’s most prestigious colleges and universities. For example, we plan to examine public records to determine the percentage of faculty who give money to Democratic political candidates, compared to Republican candidates. In the meantime, this very limited “first edition” of the Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges may offer some guidance for those looking to escape the political monoculture that dominates so many American campuses.

Crossposted from Heterodox Academy.


Jon A. Shields is associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and coauthor with Joshua Dunn of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University.

The Systematic Eradication of Conservative Thought on Campus

Progressive faculty justify the absence of moderate and conservative voices on campus by saying that conservatives are stupid. As a result, moderate Republicans with Ivy League degrees and genius level IQs sometimes can’t find a job in academia.  My former boss had a degree from the highest-ranked law school (Yale) and had published scholarly articles, but could not find a law faculty job as a young lawyer due to his moderately-conservative leanings. (He later successfully argued a landmark Supreme Court case.

But ignorance certainly doesn’t keep progressives from being hired, especially in women’s studies departments. A classic example is Barbara LeSavoy, Director of Women and Gender Studies at The College at Brockport in New York, who thinks the President can rule by decree. Every schoolchild in her generation was taught that Congress enacts laws, not the President (the President can successfully veto a law only if it was passed with less than two-thirds of the votes). But LeSavoy is unaware of this basic constitutional requirement (typical of all Western democracies), and thinks the President can ban all guns just by issuing a decree. She penned an October 10 op-ed in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle urging President Obama to ban guns: “I urge President Obama to ban firearm possession in America. He is the President of the United States. He can change the country. He can do it today.”

Her op-ed was aptly summed up by a commentator as “Please, Dear Leader — Ban Firearms By Decree.”

Writing “with a bleeding heart,” LeSavoy declared: “I admire Obama. But he has let me down.” Her embattled but resilient faith in her collectivist savior could be fully restored if he would simply “ban firearm possession in America.” Doing this would be a matter of utmost simplicity, she insists, since Obama “is the president of the United States. He can change the country. He can do it today. I believe in him.”

In fact, the only thing about America LeSavoy apparently finds worthwhile is Barack Obama and what she thinks he represents.

“While politically minded, I am not overly patriotic,” she explains. Yet during the 2008 campaign, “my two daughters, partner, and I ate every meal in our house on Obama placemats [that were] plastic-coated, plate-sized paper rectangles with an image of his face framed by colors of the flag.”

By making such a bourgeois purchase, LeSavoy committed an act of capitalist apostasy, but it was in what she earnestly believed was a good cause. While “this mealtime ritual of American allegiance was odd for me,” she found strength in the act of looking “at the image of his face each day and [believing] that he really could be the change in America.”

To be sure, she continues, that faith has been sorely tested. She describes herself as “jaded” in 2012 as Obama stood for reelection, because some of his promises weren’t fulfilled. And yet, she proudly recalls, “I did not waver. I dug into our old dining room cupboards, and found our worn but resilient Obama placemats.”

Those sacred totems were restored to their proper place in the dining room, where LeSavoy, her daughters, and her partner could take strength from the visage of the Dear Leader . . . .

“Firearm possession should be banned in America; president Obama can orchestrate this directive,” insists LeSavoy – who somehow obtained a doctorate degree without learning even the rudiments of constitutional law…. Obama’s presidency “can be remembered as a remarkable turn in United States history where a progressive leader forever changed the landscape under which we live and work,” LeSavoy exults in giddy ignorance of the significance of her mixed metaphor.

Ironically, progressives justify the absence of conservatives from academia on the ground that conservatives are disqualified by their stupidity. “Robert Brandon, chair of the Duke University Philosophy Department, gives this explanation of why faculties at U.S. universities usually lean to the political left: ‘We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If … stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.’” But Republicans actually have a slightly higher average IQ than Democrats.

Progressive faculty also claim that conservatives would rather work in the business world or a conservative think-tank than in academia, ignoring the fact that plenty of conservatives would like a cushy academic job where they can teach only a few courses a year and get paid better than an employee of a low-paid conservative think-tank. Several years ago, Slate reported that the average think-tank senior fellow was paid about $160,000 per year. But while this may have been true for liberal think-tanks, which can count on lots of foundation and government money, it was certainly not true for conservative think-tanks: At the time, my employer, a free-market think-tank, paid most of its senior fellows less than $100,000 per year, despite being located in one of America’s highest-living-cost areas, Washington, D.C. (Some senior fellows were paid closer to $60,000, and non-senior fellows were paid as little as $40,000 per year).

Progressives also falsely claim that Republicans are scarce in academia because they are “anti-science.” Most jobs in academia have nothing to do with science, but this bogus rationale gets invoked even by liberal English instructors like Cornell’s Kenneth McClane.

Some progressives are themselves hostile to (and ignorant of) scientific advances. The agronomist Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the Green Revolution, saved perhaps a billion lives in the Third World by developing high-yield, disease-resistant crops through biotechnology. For this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. For this, he was smeared in the liberal magazine The Nation, which has an irrational phobia of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as being “the biggest killer of all.”

Progressives Shoot at Shakespeare

Dana Dusbiber’s statement in The Washington Post deploring the teaching of Shakespeare in high school English courses evoked universal scorn and laughter. Her thesis is simple: Shakespeare is too old, white, male, and European for 21st-century American students, especially those of color.  His language is dense and unfamiliar, enough so that Dusbiber herself can’t always understand it.  He is the result of white people’s tastes.  He’s a routine, not a fresh discovery.

The Common Core English Language Arts standards (quoted by Dusbiber) require a play by Shakespeare in high school, but she treats the rule as a hidebound imposition.  It makes for a boring and alien class experience.  When are bureaucrats going to realize that the student population needs something else?  When will they stop peddling old-time, non-diverse classics to youths who don’t like them—and with good reason?  We need to assign words, images, and ideas closer to their real lives.

Commentators jumped on Dusbiber for anti-intellectualism, low standards, and incompetence. But why attack Dusbiber for voicing standard progressive premises? Her opinions are not the complaints of a narrow-minded and eccentric individual. They are entirely in keeping with multiculturalist notions.  True, she delivers a blunt and inexpert expression of them, but her conclusions and practices follow logically from the race and gender focus of reigning education theory of the progressive kind.  She says nothing that gainsays the following truisms about the English class:

  • Students need “representation”—black students need to see black authors and black characters (humanely portrayed), and it’s best if they are presented by a black teacher.
  • The past is irrelevant or worse—history evolves and mankind improves (if steered in the right social-justice directions); to emphasize the past is to preserve all the injustices and misconceptions of former times.
  • Contemporary literature is better—it’s more diverse and more real.
  •  Classics are authoritarian—they deny teachers and students the freedom to chart their own curriculum and take ownership of their learning.

Dusbiber adopts all of these assumptions.  Her error lay not in her ideas but in her inarticulate version of them.  A more sophisticated rendition would have blocked much of the hostile response, but reached the same conclusions.  We should aim criticism not at her, but at progressive education in general.  Everything she said she heard before in teacher training programs.  Shakespeare can’t survive hack teachers, and he can’t survive progressive principles, either.

One particular response recognized the threat progressivist to the Bard and aimed to dispel it on progressivist grounds.  Written by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, “The Progressive Case for Teaching Shakespeare” appeared in The New Republic. For Bruenig, Shakespeare is defensible even in the non-white urban American classroom for two reasons.

One, his distance from us compels us to reflect upon our own condition.  As we enter the world of Hamlet and Henry V, we must imagine a world of different values and beliefs and mores. This in turn excites in youths a “political imagination,” Bruenig says, that makes us regard our own time more critically.

The second rationale has a political meaning, too, but a concrete one.  Politicians often invoke historical references to bolster their positions.  It is crucial, then, for youths to know these references in order for them to assess their political uses and abuses.

It is hardly necessary to note that if this is the best progressive argument for Shakespeare, he hasn’t a prayer.  One doesn’t need to read a whole Shakespeare play in order to pick up historical allusions in contemporary politics.  A Wikipedia entry will do.  The same goes for encountering the strangeness of the past.  Why struggle through the scenes of King Lear in order to understand the situation of the poor in Renaissance Europe?  (Bruenig chooses the poor as her example.)  You could do the same by choosing more accessible materials such as paintings and videos and museum artifacts.  Nothing Bruenig contends justifies Shakespeare over anything else.

The problem is that progressivism can’t make the argument. Shakespeare endures in the classroom on aesthetic and cultural grounds that progressivism refuses.  It casts aesthetic excellence as a political tool, the imposition of one group’s tastes upon everyone else.  And it marks the culture at whose pinnacle Shakespeare stands (the English literary-historical canon) as an outdated authority.

To say that Shakespeare is central to our cultural inheritance—beloved by audiences in the 19th-century American west, quoted by presidents, source of countless American idioms—is to dispel the multiculturalist breakthrough of the mid-20th century.  If progressivism reigns in secondary and higher education, Shakespeare, Pope, and Wordsworth are doomed.

How the Far Left on Campus Ruined Liberalism

By Taylor Schmitt

I have some confessions to make: I am a liberal. I am pro-choice. I favor the legalization of gay marriage and marijuana. Claremont imageGiven supreme authority, I would drastically cut our military budget and use the money to institute a single-payer healthcare system (certainly not something many of my colleagues at the Independent would agree with). I even voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, in the last presidential election. However, despite my overwhelmingly liberal political leanings, the progressive movement – particularly as I’ve seen it manifested on college campuses – has made me embarrassed to identify myself as a liberal

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Fox News spends only 45 percent of its airtime on factual reporting, while it spends 55 percent of its airtime on opinion pieces and commentary. It was unsurprising that a news source frequently lampooned as opinion-driven and biased spends the majority of its time reporting opinion pieces. But why is Fox News considered such a horrible and untrustworthy network when the same study showed that the liberal MSNBC network spends a whopping 85 percent of its airtime on opinion segments and only 15 percent on factual reporting?

If Fox’s penchant for focusing on opinion is worthy of criticism, doesn’t MSNBC’s more egregious example of the same sin merit even more? The contempt for Fox I hear coming from liberals coupled with a lack of criticism towards MSNBC suggests that many within the liberal movement don’t want factual journalism at all, but rather opinionated journalism with a liberal bent. In fact, though they would have you believe they merely support truth in journalism, many liberals openly disregard the truth – and criticize those who don’t – when it conflicts with their worldview.

The most recent example that comes to mind is the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. My fellow liberals decided from day one that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Brown, was in the wrong. Before autopsy results were released, without reading the eyewitness testimony, and with no regard for forensic evidence, the left prejudged Wilson as guilty.

Although I personally prefer to hear evidence before forming an opinion, I can understand why –especially in light of the slanted media reporting on the case – many people would leap to the conclusion that Wilson was guilty. What was appalling to me, however, was that when the evidence that was released proved far from sufficient to suggest Wilson’s guilt, the vast majority of the left was still calling for Wilson to be punished. Protests predicated on the assumption of Wilson’s guilt, like the march to Claremont City Hall, were held nationwide after a grand jury failed to indict Wilson, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that the evidence against him was inconclusive at best.

Campus liberals acted similarly in the case of Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who has vowed to carry a mattress around campus with her until her alleged rapist leaves the school. Rallies in support of Sulkowicz were held at college campuses across the nation, including here in Claremont. Despite the fact that criminal charges were never filed and the man who ostensibly assaulted her was found not responsible by Columbia, supporters of Sulkowicz have continued to refer to him as her “rapist” and harass him on and off campus (have they never heard of the Scottsboro Boys?). The Columbia Spectator decided to print the name of the accused despite the fact that the university had not found him responsible for any wrongdoing (did the Spectator learn nothing from the media’s handling of the Duke Lacrosse case?).

This uproar will affect the man for the remainder of his time at Columbia and will continue to follow him for the rest of his life. Because the alleged assault fit into campus liberals’ dominant narrative on sexual assault, the overwhelmingly liberal students of Columbia, the Claremont Colleges, and other elite institutions were eager to risk ruining a potentially innocent man’s life by naming him a rapist, even as new evidence emerges, all of which seems to support the alleged attacker’s innocence.

To question the guilt of Darren Wilson was to be a racist, and to question the veracity of Sulkowicz’s story was to be a sexist rape apologist. Doing either of these things would almost certainly get you branded as a conservative. As a liberal who did both of these things, I have been appalled by the irrational mob mentality displayed by my fellow liberal students at events like the Ferguson protest and the “Carry That Weight” march in support of Sulkowicz. I am struggling to come to terms with this new reality wherein sticking to an objective view of the facts is considered a conservative trait. The campus left’s complete unwillingness to adjust their opinions of these cases to fit with the facts shows a thought process completely devoid of reason. Facts are apolitical.

To question prevailing liberal thought on Ferguson and Columbia because of the evidence (or lack thereof) is not a conservative position. It is a realistic one. To question prevailing liberal thought on Ferguson and Columbia is not to deny the existence of racism in law enforcement or sexual assault on college campuses, but to acknowledge that not every individual case fits those patterns.

Ferguson and Columbia are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to college liberals privileging (if I may appropriate one of their favorite words) narrative over evidence: As it turns out, trigger warnings (well-intentioned though they may be) actually do more harm than good, and controlled exposure to trauma can lead to a quicker recovery from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than complete avoidance. According to the founder of the Trauma Studies program at King’s College, London: “You cannot get a person to avoid triggers in their day-to-day lives. It would be impossible…Instead of encouraging a culture of avoidance, [the media] should be encouraging exposure…Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That’s not good.”

Women do not make $0.77 for every dollar men earn for the same work. When controlling relevant variables such as profession and hours worked (seemingly obvious measures conspicuously missing from the original $0.77 study), the wage gap almost completely disappears. Childless women in their 20s actually make as much as 8 percent more than their male counterparts.

President Obama hesitates to refer to the Islamic State as an Islamic extremist group and makes an effort to downplay what are actually alarmingly high levels of sympathy for extremist movements in Muslim communities worldwide.

It is most likely untrue that 1 in 5 female college students is sexually assaulted. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number may be closer to 6 in 1000 . This data, collected over the course of 18 years and with a response rate of 74 percent, is much more reliable than the 1 in 5 study, which sourced its data only from two large schools, had a response rate of 43 percent, and did not even take into account whether or not the people being surveyed felt that they had been assaulted (a similar study found that 49 percent of women classified as having been raped did not think they had been, while only 47 percent did). The author of the 1 in 5 study himself said “We don’t think one in five is a nationally representative statistic.”

The list goes on and on.

The fact that my fellow liberals seem so unconcerned with evidence makes it hard for me to sympathize with their cause. Although I may agree with them on many issues, the way in which we arrive at those conclusions differs drastically. I thoroughly believe that most of the liberals here at the Claremont Colleges do what they do with good intentions; as liberals we should help the disadvantaged and strive to create positive social and political change.

However, what is stereotypically “liberal” is not always right, and what fits most cleanly into our belief systems is not always true. Unwillingness to listen to opinions differing from the mainstream and attempting to silence opposing viewpoints (including the destruction of print issues of the Independent around campus) is completely illiberal and is an insult to the campus Free Speech Movement that liberal students championed 50 years ago. Silencing minority viewpoints does not prove them wrong and says more about those doing the silencing than those being silenced.

The only rational way to approach divisive political issues is to base your opinions off of the facts that are available to you. Liberals and conservatives have always disagreed on how those facts are to be interpreted, and we should be glad for it. Neither conservatives nor liberals are correct 100 percent of the time. However, it seems lately that evidence has become a nonissue for many on the left.

Unless my fellow liberals learn to stop shoehorning every situation to fit the narrative they are trying to construct, the left of tomorrow will be made up of individuals who are unable to distinguish their beliefs from reality. Those of us who can make this distinction will not want to associate with the liberal movement any longer. Where will we go?

Reposted with permission from the Claremont Independent