Bias: Professoriat in Denial

, Larry Scholer, Leave a comment

Professors who support Democratic causes dominate college and university classrooms. Recent studies have shown that Democrats outnumber Republicans on college faculties by, at least, an 8-to-1 margin. Studies have also shown that the liberal professors do not hesitate to inject their views into their classrooms, even when such digressions are unrelated to course material. On Monday, February 14, the American Enterprise Institute convened a panel to examine some recent data and discussed the implications.

Daniel Klein, a professor of economics at Santa Clara University, has undertaken two studies on the political orientation of professors. The Klein-Western study looked at 23 departments at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley Democrats outnumbered Republican faculty 9.9-to-1; at Stanford, Democrats outnumbered the Republicans 7.6-to-1. Among the humanities and social sciences, there are 16 Democrats for one Republican.

Many of the Republicans on these campuses may soon retire, and younger professors trend Democratic. “It’s clear that the lopsidedness will get more extreme,” Klein said. Of the associate and assistant professors at Stanford and Berkeley, there are 183 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Five of the Republicans are untenured assistant professors.

Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, does not dispute the preponderance of Democrats on faculties, although he does not believe that their numbers chill discourse or hinder open discussion. The hiring of professors “comes down to qualifications,” said Bowen, who noted that conservatives, by their nature, are drawn away from academic fields. Bowen claimed that hiring committees do not exhibit political bias because the committees do not ask for the party affiliations of candidates.

Klein points out that a look at the imbalance in academic associations works against Bowen’s claim that conservatives lack interest in academia. The associations draw members with a keen interest in the discipline, as well as demonstrated expertise—credentials sought in higher education.

The Klein-Stern study examined six academic associations and found that Republicans “are landing outside academia,” according to Klein. Members of these academic associations work within and outside academia. Those working in academia consider themselves Democrats by an 8.6-to-1 margin; outside academia, Democrats outnumber Republicans at a lower rate, 4.2-to-1. On public policy issues, Republicans in these organizations showed a greater diversity of opinion than their Democrat colleagues.

A recent poll by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) found that students are waking up to indoctrination in the classroom. The results “suggest a politically one-sided academy,” according Anne Neal, president of ACTA, that the academy will not confront. Academics have adopted a policy of “Deny the facts, attack the accuser,” she said.

“Many professors are preaching rather than teaching,” Neal said. The ACTA survey found that 49% of students feel that their professors “frequently inject politics” into discussion and lectures. Twenty-nine percent of students felt they had to agree with a professor in order to fare well in the class. Students are being short-changed, according to Neal. “Students are not being given an inclusive look at the issues,” she said.

David French [pictured], president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), described campuses as replete with the “systematic deprivation of civil liberties” and “reactive oppression of dissenting speech.”

French dismissed claims that stories of abuses of individual rights in academia are anecdotal and not representative of academia as a whole. FIRE received over 500 credible complaints in 2004 and has found that 200 schools have implemented speech codes, though the codes are often not labeled as such. Fifty colleges and universities have prevented evangelical organizations from meeting or forming on campus. “The education establishment is going to have to credit the individual stories,” he said.

“Academics have failed to keep their house in order,” French said. Academics have criticized groups like FIRE for intruding upon the educational establishment and have asserted that academia will self-regulate. According to French, given the evidence, “Self-regulation of higher education is no longer credible.”

Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.