Academia’s Leftward Tilt Documented

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When Reed Irvine started Accuracy in Academia 20 years ago to document the leftward tilt in higher education, critics charged that we were way off base. Recent studies show that we are on to something.

Recent studies by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), the National Association of Scholars (NAS) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) show both sides of an academic coin that looks increasingly counterfeit. ACTA found that at least half of the students in its multi-school survey say their professors tilt their lectures to the left, whether the class is political science or not.

The NAS looked at the party registrations of professors at the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. The NAS researchers looked at many of the school’s departments, not just the more freewheeling social sciences.

“Most of the specific academic departments at each of these universities had zero, one, or two Republicans at most,” Karl Zinsmeister reported in the current issue of The American Enterprise. “The departments that came closest to balance were electrical engineering (40 Democrats and 13 Republicans at the two campuses combined), civil and environmental engineering (24 D, 7 R), mathematics (35 D, 9 R), chemistry (42 D, 9 R), and law (55 D, 8 R).”

“Even the accounting and marketing departments at Berkeley and Stanford—business bastions which ought to have room for Republicans—showed 8:1 ratios of D over R.”

Zinsmeister serves as editor-in-chief of The American Enterprise magazine. The American Enterprise magazine is published by AEI.

Three years ago, The American Enterprise and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture studied faculty party registrations at 19 schools. Not too surprisingly, the researchers found that professors were overwhelmingly more likely to register with political parties of the left than to sign up with political parties of the right.

“At Brown University, for instance, we uncovered a total of 54 professors registered in a party of the Left, to just three registered in a party of the right,” Zinsmeister reports. “At the University of Colorado, it was 116 on the Left to five on the Right.”

“The University of Maryland: 59 Left, ten Right,” Zinsmeister tallies, “Syracuse University: 50 Left, two Right.”

“And so on.”

In fact, surveys show that the left-wing bias is more prominent among younger faculty members just entering the field and likely to be around for decades than among older, retiring, faculty members. “Among full professors at Berkeley and Stanford, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 7:1,” Zinsmeister notes. “But among younger untenured assistant and associate professors, it’s a ridiculous 31:1.”

“Among the rising generation of professors, in other words, Republicans are almost extinct.”

Actually, there are so few conservatives in academia that I think sometimes that I know them all. The ones who I know have two things in common. For one thing, most of them have tenure. The other attribute that they share is a determination to maintain a wall of separation between their political activities and their classroom lectures.

When you take Mike Adams for a criminology course or Walter Williams for an economics class, do not expect to be quizzed on their columns for the week. Rather, you will be asked questions about criminology and economics.

This should, perhaps, come as no surprise. Many conservatives in academia started leaning to the right when they saw the left-wing politicization of other classes at their colleges and universities. Their reaction to the leftward drift made them determined to avoid the same pitfall coming from the political right.

For our part, Accuracy in Academia has been tracking case studies of left-leaning classrooms and campuses since 1985. Currently, we publish our findings on two web sites and in a monthly newsletter.

On alone, live for a little more than a year, we have run more than 200 stories on more than 125 schools. Unanimously, these stories show beleaguered conservative students, who are many, and professors, far fewer, running afoul of liberal deans, administrators and faculty.

Frequently, I am asked, “Would you be as upset if classrooms were tilted to the right?” It is a hypothetical question that I must answer hypothetically: Yes, I would be. I have to give a hypothetical answer to that question because right-leaning classrooms are right up there with live dinosaurs on the list of things that you are not likely to see anytime soon.