T Nation

University Faculty = Liberals?

The study referenced in this article seems to be unavailable as yet – I couldn’t find it on the internet anyway.(and please, JTF and others, I can see who funded the study from the article, but I’m not at all interested in what is essentially an ad hominem attack on the study – wait until it’s published, and then critique the actual study if you have an actual criticism – though I’m sure this parenthetical will not save us from some inane post about “OIL MONEY!!!” or some other such tripe).

But the article has enough details to make it very interesting reading

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8427-2005Mar28.html

College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page C01

College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

“What’s most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field,” said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. “There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It’s a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you’d expect to be dominated by liberals.”

Religious services take a back seat for many faculty members, with 51 percent saying they rarely or never attend church or synagogue and 31 percent calling themselves regular churchgoers. On the gender front, 72 percent of the full-time faculty are male and 28 percent female.

The findings, by Lichter and fellow political science professors Stanley Rothman of Smith College and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, are based on a survey of 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 four-year schools. The researchers relied on 1999 data from the North American Academic Study Survey, the most recent comprehensive data available.

The study appears in the March issue of the Forum, an online political science journal. It was funded by the Randolph Foundation, a right-leaning group that has given grants to such conservative organizations as the Independent Women’s Forum and Americans for Tax Reform.

Rothman sees the findings as evidence of “possible discrimination” against conservatives in hiring and promotion. Even after factoring in levels of achievement, as measured by published work and organization memberships, “the most likely conclusion” is that “being conservative counts against you,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me, because I’ve observed it happening.” The study, however, describes this finding as “preliminary.”

When asked about the findings, Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, “The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion.” Knight said he isn’t aware of “any good evidence” that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.

“It’s hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students. In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college.”

Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte find a leftward shift on campus over the past two decades. In the last major survey of college faculty, by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1984, 39 percent identified themselves as liberal.

In contrast with the finding that nearly three-quarters of college faculty are liberal, a Harris Poll of the general public last year found that 33 percent describe themselves as conservative and 18 percent as liberal.

The liberal label that a majority of the faculty members attached to themselves is reflected on a variety of issues. The professors and instructors surveyed are, strongly or somewhat, in favor of abortion rights (84 percent); believe homosexuality is acceptable (67 percent); and want more environmental protection “even if it raises prices or costs jobs” (88 percent). What’s more, the study found, 65 percent want the government to ensure full employment, a stance to the left of the Democratic Party.

Recent campus controversies have reinforced the left-wing faculty image. The University of Colorado is reviewing its tenure system after one professor, Ward Churchill, created an uproar by likening World Trade Center victims to Nazis. Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences voted no confidence in the university’s president, Lawrence Summers, after he privately wondered whether women had the same natural ability as men in science and math.

The study did not attempt to examine whether the political views of faculty members affect the content of their courses.

The researchers say that liberals, men and non-regular churchgoers are more likely to be teaching at top schools, while conservatives, women and more religious faculty are more likely to be relegated to lower-tier colleges and universities.

Top-tier schools, roughly a third of the total, are defined as highly ranked liberal arts colleges and research universities that grant PhDs.

The most liberal faculties are those devoted to the humanities (81 percent) and social sciences (75 percent), according to the study. But liberals outnumbered conservatives even among engineering faculty (51 percent to 19 percent) and business faculty (49 percent to 39 percent).

The most left-leaning departments are English literature, philosophy, political science and religious studies, where at least 80 percent of the faculty say they are liberal and no more than 5 percent call themselves conservative, the study says.

“In general,” says Lichter, who also heads the nonprofit Center for Media and Public Affairs, “even broad-minded people gravitate toward other people like themselves. That’s why you need diversity, not just of race and gender but also, maybe especially, of ideas and perspective.”

BB,

Too bad you expect negative comments only from the liberal side. Seems to go with the lately really unpleasant political bashings here.

Hm, just musing what could be the reasons:
Are liberal families being more inclined to send their children into higher education and academic careers? Or could a liberal mindset be more open to new ideas - which is normally a prerequisite for scientific work? Any ideas?

To be quite honest, I think that a certain mindset tends to go along with a certain job you do - army and police personnel I would expect to be more on the conservative side.

What I could not see from the article was any systematic discrimination against conservatives. Surely that will happen as well, but I’m not convinced it is the norm. But on the other hand I don’t know unis in the US - my alma mater in Germany was very much on the conservative side.

One more thing: Interesting were the gender quotas, I thought - with all the liberals out there, should there not be a higher percentage of women, especially in literature and the humanities there are normally slightly more female than male students…

Just musing,
Makkun

“College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.”

No, no, no there must be some mistake! There is no liberal bias in the media, and there certainly is no liberal slant in the Colleges across this country! Hogwash! That’s false! I question that study! What a bunch of crap! Liar!

(There I thought I would get that out of the way before vroom or one of his fellow liberals does it first :slight_smile:

[quote]ZEB wrote:
“College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.”

No, no, no there must be some mistake! There is no liberal bias in the media, and there certainly is no liberal slant in the Colleges across this country! Hogwash! That’s false! I question that study! What a bunch of crap! Liar!

(There I thought I would get that out of the way before vroom or one of his fellow liberals does it first :)[/quote]

What’s to question in this study? This would be exactly what I would suspect, more interesting was how faculty felt about specific issues, and how in line they were with what most americans believe. Also interesting is how a liberal education doesn’t appear to make you liberal or seem to influence voting,
55% of college students voted for Kerry
and Bush and Kerry split the college graduate vote. And zeb, there still is no liberal bias in the media, actually as you know there’s some studies that show there is no bias in most of the media. (except for FOX according to the studies)

[quote]100meters wrote:
ZEB wrote:
“College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.”

No, no, no there must be some mistake! There is no liberal bias in the media, and there certainly is no liberal slant in the Colleges across this country! Hogwash! That’s false! I question that study! What a bunch of crap! Liar!

(There I thought I would get that out of the way before vroom or one of his fellow liberals does it first :slight_smile:

What’s to question in this study? This would be exactly what I would suspect, more interesting was how faculty felt about specific issues, and how in line they were with what most americans believe. Also interesting is how a liberal education doesn’t appear to make you liberal or seem to influence voting,
55% of college students voted for Kerry
and Bush and Kerry split the college graduate vote. And zeb, there still is no liberal bias in the media, actually as you know there’s some studies that show there is no bias in most of the media. (except for FOX according to the studies)[/quote]

There is indeed liberal bias in the media as well as most major universities! This is a fact!

By the way how does 55% of college kids voting for Kerry prove that liberal profs don’t influence the students?

Oh, and sorry to steal your thunder with my previous post. I know you wanted to say some or all of those words. Well…next time :slight_smile:

Doesn’t suprise me, I worked at a university for awhile and would have to say its a bred culture.
You have a lot of smart people who have never worked in the real world and they don’t have a broad outlook. Stir in a little social conscience (you know the feeling the have to have a protest about decisions and issues that were made years ago now when they are least likely to make any changes) and they immediately loose site of reality and start thinking that extremeist ideals are the only way to go.

[quote]ZEB wrote:

There is indeed liberal bias in the media as well as most major universities! This is a fact!

By the way how does 55% of college kids voting for Kerry prove that liberal profs don’t influence the students?

Oh, and sorry to steal your thunder with my previous post. I know you wanted to say some or all of those words. Well…next time :)[/quote]

There is no liberal bias in the media! This has been debunked over and over again. For it to be a fact it would have to be proven, nothing but the opposite has been found. There are studies that show most in the media are liberal and that most college faculty is liberal. NOBODY disputes this.

If 11 percent of faculty identified themselves as republicans and 45 percent of the students went Bush, I would argue that democratic faculty did a piss poor job at biasing their students.

Stealing my thunder…hmmm, I don’t/can’t disagree at all with this study, It’s exactly what I would have predicted.

What’s the old line?

Those who can’t do, teach?

(wink)

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
What’s the old line?

Those who can’t do, teach?

(wink)[/quote]

Those that can, do.
Those that can’t, teach.
Those that can’t teach, administrate.

(Read this in one of Dick Marcinko’s books, don’t know if it’s original to him or not.)

It’s not bias. Most university staff are liberal because they are intelligent and educated.

[quote]deanosumo wrote:
It’s not bias. Most university staff are liberal because they are intelligent and educated.[/quote]

Most university staff are liberal because they are university staff.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
deanosumo wrote:
It’s not bias. Most university staff are liberal because they are intelligent and educated.

Most university staff are liberal because they are university staff.[/quote]

I’m surprised your reply was so restrained RJ!

[quote]deanosumo wrote:
I’m surprised your reply was so restrained RJ!

[/quote]

To be honest with you, these arguments down here in the political basement have all been had 100 times over.

Isn’t there anything new to argue about?

The last arguable thread was probably the “Shiavo” thread, and it’s what, 10-12 pages long?

The last good thread we had was BB’s “Housing Bubble” thread, and nobody there wanted to argue.

Besides, if academics have to sit around and tell each other how smart they are - well it’s no wonder Little Al has his complex. I fear he’ll make an excellent professor someday.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
deanosumo wrote:
I’m surprised your reply was so restrained RJ!

To be honest with you, these arguments down here in the political basement have all been had 100 times over.

Isn’t there anything new to argue about?

The last arguable thread was probably the “Shiavo” thread, and it’s what, 10-12 pages long?

The last good thread we had was BB’s “Housing Bubble” thread, and nobody there wanted to argue.

Besides, if academics have to sit around and tell each other how smart they are - well it’s no wonder Little Al has his complex. I fear he’ll make an excellent professor someday.[/quote]

I agree, it’s been hard to maintain interest in this part of the site, since the election anyway.

Even my deliberately inflamatory comment above couldn’t get things going.

Liberals like myself seem to be outnumbered 3-1 these days too.
Where oh where are RSU and Lumpy?

George Bernard Shaw first said ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’

[quote]OllyB wrote:
George Bernard Shaw first said ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’[/quote]

And those that can’t do either don’t even bother to read the previous posts.

100meters you are a riot-You admit that the media and the colleges are loaded with liberals, yet you don’t think that they are one bit biased in their respective jobs. Whahahaha- Only a liberal would be naive enough to believe that

Just a quick interjection. There are in fact some of us who do both. That is, profs who “do” and “teach”.

It’s interesting to note, however, that many universities have conflict-of-interest or conflict-of-commitment regulations that largely prevent this duality. So you see, “do” vs. “teach” is not always an issue of competence but can be influenced (dictated?) by administrators. Commitment rules do have their place but they can also serve to segregate professors from the “real world”, as mentioned earlier.

Once upon a time, after taking two years off from teaching to get another couple of degrees and work in my chosen field, I was actually asked upon returning to academia: “Do you feel that your extended time away from academics will limit your ability to function as a professor here?” Limit me?! Ugh. Never was the Ivory Tower more evident to me than it was then.

So, liberal or conservative, there are those in academia who guard its separatism from the rest of society.

LL

I agree completely. Shaw was more than a little conservative in his outlook :wink: After all, he thought that the Gulags in the USSR were a good thing!

There are certain subjects that appear to encourage a ‘liberal’ outlook, I think. There are some that encourage a ‘conservative’ outlook. But from what I’ve seen, there is a slight reactionary element to power structures in universities. Without resistance, there is no progress… perhaps?

Also, on other politics boards I’ve posted on, I’ve noted that ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are far too often used as pejoratives. They are not.

It’s far too generalising to think that a group of people identified as either have a fixed set of values or political ideology.