Professors Of Groupthink

At a conference on November 14, the American Enterprise Institute released two important new studies by Daniel Klein of George Mason University and Charlotta Stern of Stockholm University. Their research, part of a forthcoming book titled Reforming the Politically Correct University, verifies even further that liberals and progressives outnumber conservatives and libertarians on campuses, overwhelmingly so in certain disciplines.

The authors also find that socially conservative professors must publish more than their liberal colleagues to obtain the same positions (a conclusion bolstered by earlier statistical evidence accumulated by Stanley Rothman of Smith College and S. Robert Lichter of George Mason University). Exploring relatively undocumented but equally compelling demonstration of bias, Klein and Stern show too that conservative students are steered away from pursuing Ph.D.s because of fewer research offers from their professors.


These findings are grounded in decades of survey research, and they consider the ideology, policy views, and voting behavior of faculty members, in addition to voter-registration studies that targeted them.

A companion study to this research indicates that this long metastasis of bias is likely due to the psychological phenomenon known as “groupthink.” According to groupthink theory, as defined in the study, organizations tend to choose and reward only those people who are similar to the organization’s dominant members. This becomes a self-reinforcing mechanism resulting in increased homogeneity and self-validation. Since the predominant academic orientation is liberal or progressive, university faculties have become less, not more, ideologically diverse over time.

This explanation generally captures the structural dynamic that has propelled the liberal-progessive coup within the academy. But the definition’s neutral, deterministic tone might mislead one into overlooking or discounting the personal culpability of leftist professors who have positively nurtured campus groupthink. Without scrutinizing their character, motives, and methodical rise to power, one might falsely assume that the fecund replication of these Alpha Personages has proceeded more or less spontaneously, reflexively, benignly – that it is somehow “dans la nature des choses,” akin to mindless, inevitable cell division.

Not the case. The march of groupthink on campuses since the 60s has been singularly and often blatantly willful. No sentient member of the groupthink hive in this period could have missed the barrage of convincing arguments against their destructive one-sidedness.
Leftist academics on campuses throughout the land did not haphazardly, nor through a blind act of nature, “self-reinforce” and “self-validate.” Nor did they accidently usurp their own hiring processes; subvert intellectual pluralism; abandon centuries of higher education tradition regarding openness and disciplined scholarly inquiry; and monopolize their institutions’ financial and other rewards.

These AEI studies confirm afresh that conservatives and libertarians have indeed been ostracized from faculties, and conservative professors and students shamefully and unjustly treated. Authors Klein and Stern have also performed a significant service in shedding light on academic groupthink.

This analysis should go far to persuade the American people that liberal-progressive professors have through a relentless act of will executed an academic revolution, with malignant consequences for one and all, including, stupidly, themselves.

Candace DeRussy

Candace DeRussy is a staff member at FIRE.

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