Academic Bias Documented Again

, Shannon Blosser, Leave a comment

Daniel Klein is a distinct minority in academia. Sure, he’s open about his beliefs and is not afraid to tell you what they are. The thing is his belief system runs counter to the vast majority of professors in academia today.

Klein, currently an economics professor at the Santa Clara University who will move to George Mason University in the fall, is one of the few in academia who do not subscribe to liberal ideology. He is a libertarian in a profession filled with leftist professors and administrations.

It’s not just at institutions like the Santa Clara University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and others that have a large number of professors who subscribe to liberal ideology. Research performed by Klein and others indicates there is a large bias against conservative and libertarian professors in academia today.

In a presentation at the John Locke Foundation Monday, Klein said it is a trend that will continue to worsen before it improves.

“Republicans are being utterly and systematically eliminated,” Klein said.

Klein’s went into detail regarding his research on political affiliation for professors at Berkley and Stanford in California. Registered Democrats, at both institutions, far outnumber Republicans, Klein’s research shows. At Berkley, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 10 to 1 ratio, while at Stanford the ratio to 7.6 to 1.

The numbers are even more skewed in social sciences and humanities, Klein said, with a ratio of 16 to 1 at both schools. His research also shows that Democrats outnumber Republicans 30 to 1 at younger professor levels – assistant and associate.

Klein said he is not optimistic about the numbers changing and universities beginning to hire more conservatives and libertarians to their departments. The reason, he explained, is because of the current structure of most academic departments. They are dominated by professors with a leftist political bent, who usually insist on hiring applicants who share their philosophy.

“It’s a winner take all mentality,” Klein said about the preference for leftist professors. “They win every vote every time.”

In his presentation, Klein discussed what he considered to be four options that conservatives and libertarians have in hiring more professors that share their belief system.

The first of the four Klein mentioned was a form of ideological affirmative action, where academic departments would be it required to hire a certain number of conservatives and libertarians. Klein said that a quota system for ideological beliefs is not feasible.

“It’s just not going to work,” Klein said.

Another proposal Klein discussed what he considered a property rights option within a department. The proposal is the brainchild of National Association of Scholars President Stephen Balch. It’s based on giving different factions power as proposed by President James Madison in the Federalist Papers.

In this proposal, for instance, if 25 percent of department’s professors are conservative then that portion of the department would get to hire new professors 25 percent of the time.

That is a change that would be opposed by those who currently wield departmental power. “I don’t think departments are going to go for this,” Klein said.

Klein also discussed the idea of creating new departments. In this proposal, conservatives and libertarians would start their own departments within the university where they would have complete control.

“It would be a good thing,” Klein said. “I’m not optimistic about everyone else being enthusiastic about it.”

Finally, there is the possibility of raising outside funds to create non-leftist campus institutions like the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Klein likes that idea, but points out that these institutions are tend to be oriented more toward research than teaching students.

“It doesn’t really solve the problem,” Klein said. “It doesn’t get them in the curriculum.”

For now, Klein said people need to become aware about the liberal bias among both taxpayer- supported universities and private institutions.

“The most important goal is more awareness,” Klein said. “The people paying for this should know what they are paying for. Awareness is an end in itself.”

Awareness, Klein said, allows for taxpayers to understand who they are hearing from in academia as well as whom they are not hearing from. Ultimately, Klein said, he hopes that awareness leads to the elimination of taxpayer funding of higher education.

Klein was scheduled to speak at four North Carolina campuses this week: UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, UNC-Greensboro, and UNC-Charlotte.

Shannon Blosser is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.