A Sad Reminder: Republicans Are Not Welcome at Many Schools

With first-year orientations already underway and classes starting shortly at thousands of colleges and universities, it is critical to remember that despite the ubiquitous rhetoric of “openness,” “inclusion,” and “respect for difference” in American academe, Republicans are not welcome.

At first glance, statements from diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices seem to promote viewpoint diversity. Stony Brook University, for example, proudly declares that “the rich diversity of our students…[is] a defining characteristic and an essential source of strength for our campus community.” Fair enough—numerous  studies have shown that diversity strengthens ideas and propels innovation. Stony Brook continues, stating that diversity represents “persons from a growing array of backgrounds, cultures, identities and experiences” and that, when “nurtured in a welcoming and respectful environment,” diversity “encourages critical thinking, reduces harmful stereotypes, and strengthens the ability to communicate, work and play across lines of identity and difference.”

Difference that drives progress is a spectacular ideal for higher education, but far too many schools are failing in practice. At Columbia University, a DEI office explicitly states that they “are committed to centering race in our pursuit of social justice and anti-oppressive practice. We view this as a guiding principle for our community – using a power, race, oppression, and privilege (PROP) framework across our curriculum, administrative practices, operations, and personal interactions.” This is not a neutral statement—it is an overtly political position that opposes the views of many, suggesting that there is no room for disagreement. In practice, this statement means that those who disagree, including conservatives, are not welcome. Sadly, such statements are commonplace nationwide, and the State University of New York system is mandating a new “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice” course for all undergraduates, beginning this fall.

It should surprise no one, then, that data from New America’s Varying Degrees survey shows appreciably different partisan attitudes toward higher education. About 44 percent of Democrats strongly agree that public four-year colleges and universities are meant for people like them. Only 21 percent of Republicans agree. This partisan difference is significant and sobering. Even independents are not thrilled about the politically charged progressive rhetoric on our campuses, as just 29 percent strongly agree that these schools are for them.

By contrast, the survey’s racial differences are minimal—30 percent of whites and 33 of blacks strongly agree that public four-year colleges and universities are for people like them. There are no differences by gender, either, with under a third of both men and women thinking that public schools are very much there for them. Republicans do not feel that our public intuitions are for people like them, and they know they are not welcome.

[Related: “Elite Schools are Leading the Illiberal Charge”]

Consequently, there are wide partisan differences in assessing the influence of higher education on the local community. While 78 percent of Democrats think that colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in this country today, just 41 percent of Republicans feel the same way. Regarding local communities, partisan differences are huge: 80 percent of Democrats and just 52 percent of Republicans think that schools play a positive role in their local communities.

Racial views here look appreciably different—two-thirds of blacks (66 percent) and a little more than half of whites (56 percent) think that schools are having a positive or negative effect on the way things are going in this country today. Black respondents are more positive about the influence of schools within their local communities, with 71 percent of blacks holding a positive view compared to 60 percent of whites. In this case, political differences are far deeper than any racial divide. Given that Republicans feel unwelcome on campus, their responses about schools’ influence on society are understandably negative.

New America’s findings all track with recent Gallup trends, which demonstrate low overall confidence in higher education—just 36 percent of Americans in 2023 have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, down from 57% in 2015. Gallup found that all significant subgroups are less confident in higher ed today, with Republicans dropping the most out of all groups. Americans are well aware of the vitriol coming out of politically charged DEI offices, and we have clear proof that Republicans and many Independents feel unwelcome.

The good news is that many Americans have woken up to the dangerous, disgusting, exclusive, racially fracturing rhetoric emanating from DEI offices. Increasing numbers of states, like Florida and Texas, are shuttering these offices. Their citizens want real inclusion in our educational institutions—conservative views, like liberal views, should now be far more represented and debated on their campuses going forward. Rolling back polarizing DEI offices is a healthy and critical step toward moving higher education in the right direction.

Image: Adobe Stock


  • Samuel J. Abrams

    Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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8 thoughts on “A Sad Reminder: Republicans Are Not Welcome at Many Schools

  1. >>numerous studies have shown that diversity strengthens ideas and propels innovation<<

    Oh boy. Studies that claim that have been debunked. There is no correlation between diversity and innovation or organizational success.

  2. The two things not mentioned are (a) Republican is not a unitary concept, and (b) DEI is backed up by BIT.

    Instead of party registration, it is far more accurate to identify based on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration, transgendered athletes, climate change, EBT (food stamps), etc.

    The BITs are the star chambered inquisitions that enforce the DEI agenda.

  3. Abrams complains that a Columbia DEI office statement is “suggesting that there is no room for disagreement.” Who says there’s no room for disagreement? What rule imposes this statement on everyone else? Of course, Abrams does think there are some things for which there should be no room for disagreement: “the dangerous, disgusting, exclusive, racially fracturing rhetoric emanating from DEI offices.” He can tolerate no dissent, and applauds the states “shuttering these offices” and banning their evil “rhetoric,” all in the name of “real inclusion,” an “inclusion” that allows no room for disagreement.

    1. John K Wilson — the two situations are obviously opposites. In one case, Columbia is essentially imposing a political ideology on those who pass through its gates. You don’t want to go along? See how much chance you have to become a student or get a faculty position. In the case of Abrams, he is simply saying that the odious processes will not be allowed. You don’t like racial preferences? OK, that’s your right, you won’t need to make an auto de fe to get into Columbia. You want to impose the DEI agenda? It’s OK to have that as your opinion — but no, you’re not going to be allowed to impose it on would be students and staff.

  4. Great piece on this DEI subject. Parents should not reward these schools by sending their kids there. They need a list of schools that don’t push DEI on students.

    1. Unfortunately, you can probably count on one hand the schools that DON’T push DEI. DEI is insidious. It has infested academia to a point where it can only be cut out via massive defunding by alumni, and by state and federal governments agencies.

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