When African-American professor Norman Hurley applied for a teaching position at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the school welcomed him with open arms. When he arrived and his colleagues got to know him, they had misgivings.
“They told me it was a question of collegiality,” Dr. Hurley remembered at a conference in Raleigh, North Carolina last month. “It is interesting because before I got there and they knew my political views, they told me I looked fine.”
Dr. Hurley has served as a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1997, after completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the school. The University of Illinois graduate also volunteers his time as advisor to UNC-Chapel Hills’ College Republicans.
Being an identifiable Conservative Republican can exact a social cost, particularly in the professional mine field of academic life today. “Once I was physically assaulted at a cocktail party,” Dr. Hurley remembers. “I forgave my assailant.”
Dr. Hurley spoke at a conference called “Freedom and the American Campus” that was held at North Carolina (NC) State University’s Raleigh campus. The respected professor also is a senior fellow at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which sponsored the conference.
Dr. Hurley’s own discipline, political science, is one that suffers from an acute lack of intellectual diversity. “Perhaps outside of economics, the social sciences are dominated by the left,” D.r Hurley says.
“To get into the profession, you need to go to one of the top 25 degree-granting institutions,” Dr. Hurley explains. “These top 25 are, in turn, dominated by the left.”
This dominance affects those taking classes at the undergraduate level as well as graduates attempting to enter the Ivory Tower with degrees, even advanced ones, in the social sciences. The scholarly literature produced by the social sciences tends to be from the left, Dr. Hurley notes. This presents a real dilemma to conservatives seeking tenure who must show review committees articles published in those scholarly journals.
“These fields tend to select those from the left,” Dr. Hurley says.
Not too surprisingly, Dr. Hurley seeks scholarly rigor to go along with philosophical pluralism. Setting high academic standards can be nearly as perilous a career move for professors as wearing “BC ‘04” buttons.
“Early in my career, I had a pretty tough syllabus,” Dr. Hurley says. “The students went around me and I got called on the carpet and told to make the course more palatable.”
While always accessible to his students, Dr. Hurley still believes that hard work never killed anybody. He offers four tips to any professor, conservative or not, who aspires to the lonely end of the lectern:
• “Stick to your pedagogical course.
• “Stick to reader assignments.
• “Stick to good grammar.
• “Stick to facts.”