Want Viewpoint Diversity on Campus? Here’s How

the poison of identity politics

From supporting shout-downs and intimidation of conservative speakers to denying due process to students accused of sexual assault, stories regularly emerge that chronicle the liberal lopsidedness and lack of true viewpoint diversity among campus administrators.

It is widely known that these omnipresent administrators – mid-tier staffers who occupy dozens of offices including diversity and inclusion, student achievement and success, deans of students, and student affairs — set the political agenda from orientation programs to residential life policies and are far more progressive than those in the professoriate and the students.

The question remains: what can be done to bring more balance to higher education?

After spending a number of years studying this problem, I have an answer: we need more scientists, engineers, and business-focused college administrators who sync up with the interests of students and bring in drastically alternative values from those in the humanities who now dominate the administrative class.

[The Bullying and Silencing of Students]

This conclusion comes from a national survey of over 900 students in 2018, which shows not only are the humanities dominant among administrators but also that there is a significant disconnect between what incoming students want to study in college and those who set the tone and tenor of so much life on campus.

Specifically, UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute asks incoming students about their intended major, and just under 11% are interested in the arts and the humanities while another 11% state the social sciences are what they hope to study. In contrast, 26% of new students state that they are interested pre-professional courses of study like business and health-related fields and another 35% hold that technical fields like computer science, engineering, and hard sciences are their planned fields of study. There is a real diversity in student interest, and this breakdown of majors fits nicely with narratives that show lower demand for humanities of late and significant shortages for classes in programming and related technical fields.

While roughly 22% of incoming students want to major in fields like anthropology, art history, and English, 63% of administrators have backgrounds in the arts, humanities and social sciences – three times the number of students. As for pre-professional business and health professions, only 9% of administrators have backgrounds that speak to students with those needs. Just 7% of administrators have backgrounds in technical fields like engineering and computer science, and this is 5 times smaller than the number of students who are entering college wanting to study in those areas.

The data reveals that although almost two-thirds of students want technical and pre-professional training in college, only 16% of administrators have any experience in those areas which is a shockingly limited amount of intellectual diversity among administrators.

[The Campaign to Indoctrinate Students Against the West]

Going further, the fact that the humanities are so pronounced and the disparities between student interests and the background of administrators are so great, we now have a clear basis for the problems with campus discourse today.

As a professor of politics, rarely does a week go by when I do not have a student in my office who is upset about the socio-political currents on campus. So many students are interested in careers and internships, pursuing their passions (which may not be art history or anthropology) and are looking to have a bit of fun; they are not interested in regular fights about social justice and political correctness in their social spaces.

Students tell me that campus administrators regularly present programming with messages about diversity and inclusion that are unwanted and one-sided, are told about how they are pressured to talk about sexuality and identity even when they consider these topics private, and are barraged with seemingly never-ending socio-political narratives from their dorms to the dining halls that are distracting and disruptive to their collegiate goals.

[How Social Justice Undermines True Diversity]

Taking this new background about administrators into account, the extreme liberalism in indoctrination makes total sense. Whereas humanistic inquiry is often subjective, is fixated on the human condition where facts are hard to define, sees activism as ethically essential, and views engagement as necessary to address wrongs of the past, those in business, science and engineering value clear evidence, the scientific method, and often eschew politicizing their inquiries and questions.

If administrators are overwhelming from the humanities, which now explicitly promote liberal activism and engagement, and there are few scientists around to work with students and bring the evidence-based values to the table, it is no wonder that our college and university extracurricular programming has taken a sharp turn to the left.

Thus, one solution to this ideological imbalance is clear: If our institutions of higher education and their administrators really value viewpoint diversity, these schools will actively recruit administrators who will match the intellectual needs of their students and move beyond a population that deeply values political promotion.

True viewpoint diversity is so much greater than identity politics, and it includes divergent intellectual paths as well.  Engineering and computer science students have their own norms and culture, and that is notably different from those in the arts and social sciences. Varied cultures can and should co-exist, and more intellectual balance among administrative personnel should help provide more balance for our students.

Administrators with broader views will change campus culture for the better because questions of social justice and righting past wrongs may be crucial to some students, many students do not want liberal politics infused into every aspect of their lives outside the classroom, they just want real personal and professional guidance.

Samuel J. Abrams

Samuel J. Abrams

Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

4 thoughts on “Want Viewpoint Diversity on Campus? Here’s How

  1. While I agree with Mr. Cutting, that there is no guarantee that hiring more administrators with backgrounds in STEM will not solve the problem, my more basic concern is that the article hasn’t even established a causal link between the political breakdown of the administration and the student activistsm. At best the article shows a correlative relationship, but that doesn’t mean the former is causing the latter.

    Can you cite any examples from other schools that contradict the results? For example how many schools have taken a stricter stance against the disruption of peaceful speech, give out pamphlets and held talks on taking personal responsibility for your actions, and the value of free speech. And encouraged the 2 sides to get together and talk out there differences peacefully. They should host an Oxford style debate, and require both sides to be prepared to argue the other side. Yet despite their efforts to foment peace, a radical group of progressive students held protests, and handed out leaflets, and spread social media awareness? Why did a radical group arise despite the absence of a progressive professoriate?

    Another question is “why is it that progressive ideas are becoming pervasive amongst the academy.” How is it that the people with those ideas are being promoted through the system, and by whom? As a Libertarian, I’m inclined to believe the Dept. of Education plays a role, although I’ve been happy with Betsy Ross’ direct confrontation of ridiculous policies, and promotion of school choice. Could be doing way more.

    I’m not sure if it would be a good thing for Trump to come out more forcefully on school choice. There’s one thing you can say about Trump, no matter what subject Trump is involved in, there will be a deep national debate about the issue. School choice could use a little national debate.

    On the other hand, many people simply take an instinctive reaction against whatever he says. Or he could just totally screw up the message. He could be handed the Emancipation Proclamation on a teleprompter, and it would still sound like some guy from Queens, whose a little bit connected to the mob, who sounds like he’s trying to sell you a used car.

    1. although I’ve been happy with Betsy Ross’ direct confrontation of ridiculous policies, and promotion of school choice.

      First, it’s DeVos, not Ross, and second, school choice is a K-12 issue.

      Choice does exist in Higher Ed, in that parents (and students) get to choose which IHE they will be writing a check to — the problem is that it is largely a distinction without a difference.

      I’m not sure if it would be a good thing for Trump to come out more forcefully on school choice.

      The problem is that — in most cases — there really isn’t that much of a choice….

      ” [Trump] could be handed the Emancipation Proclamation on a teleprompter, and it would still sound like some guy from Queens, whose a little bit connected to the mob, who sounds like he’s trying to sell you a used car.”

      If you get past 150 years of history, reality is that the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t all that great, either. First it freed absolutely no one — as it only applied to those states “in rebellion”, it didn’t free the slaves in the State of Maryland (which remained loyal to the Union). And Lincoln did some truly questionable things such as suspending the Writ of Habeus Corpus in Maryland, which the Constitution says can only be done in cases of rebellion — which wasn’t the case in Maryland…

      SCOTUS Chief Justice Roger Taney (who was from Maryland) wrote in his diary that he fully expected Lincoln to toss him into prison — which might not have been a bad idea, but was definitely extra-legal. Look at the Milligan and Maryman cases, Lincoln definitely played it fast & loose with the law. Arguably, he had to — DC would have fallen had Maryland joined the Confederacy — but Lincoln was no blushing virgin…

  2. The problem is presuming that STEM administrators would resemble their STEM colleagues and not their administrative ones. Or conversely that sane administrators would have a greater chance of getting hired as administrators than their sane colleagues in other fields…

    It’s like saying we’d have some fiscal sanity in DC if we only had an Economist elected to the House — and we got Alexandria Occasio-Cortex — who has an Economics degree from the late John Silbur’s Boston University….. *

    Perhaps a better example would be David K Scott, who served as Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts from 1993 to 2001. Scott was a Physicist with what appears to be legitimate credentials including an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Edinburgh, a PhD at Oxford University in England in Nuclear Physics, and being appointed the Scientific Director of the Cyclotron Laboratory at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

    But it was Scott who purged the campus administration and replaced them with like-minded leftists. His Provost, Pat Crosson, did not even have an undergraduate degree — although she did have an EdD from UMass. It was under Scott that UMass turned into the truly ideological wasteland it is today. Someone with a background in literature couldn’t possibly have done worse than this!

    In fact, Daphne Patai, a largely unsung hero of that campus (and who’s written about it here) officially was a Professor of Brazilian Literature. There were others – the late Arnold Silver, who wrote Shortchanges, a book largely about David Scott’s UMass of the late 1990’s. Others whom I suspect would prefer not being named. And “Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College” — a college that definitely leans to the left.
    `
    Hence, respectfully, I’d argue that
    it’s the individual and not inherently the field of study that matters, and it’s a mistake to think that someone from the sciences will lean up a campus. I can think of two current examples where it has not — UMass Amherst & UMaine Orono-Machias. Both hired STEM, UMaine literally hiring a woman out of the NSF….

    —–
    *I’d had loved to see what he’d have said about her dancing on the roof. Twisting the gravel causes it to grind holes in the (waterproof) membrane below and finding those leaks can be damn near impossible, so you oft/en wind up replacing the whole roof.

    That can run you upwards of $500K for a building that size, but in the congested confines of that part of Boston where busy streets would have to be closed, police details hired, etc — it could wind up costing a Million Dollars. Yes, the “Million Dollar Dancer”

    1. I agree; its not the educational background of administrators that matters. The problem with hiring more scientists and economists as administrators is that most “real” scientists and economists do not want to be administrators; they want to do cutting edge research in their discipline. The only ones who would apply would be the Scott’s of the world; those either not capable of world class research, or (more likely) those more interested in foisting their own political agendas on others than doing their own research.

      No, the true solution to these problems lies in the power of the purse. Most of these colleges (U Mass may be an exception, but Sarah Lawrence is not) are heavily dependent on alumni donations to survive. SO, all alumni need to find out where their alma mater stands on these issues, and demand answers to whatever questions they may have. If your alma mater is part of the problem, then DO NOT give them any money. And make it clear that your donations are contingent on some sort of reform of the above policies.

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