Yes, Universities Discriminate Against Conservatives

by David French

Why are there so few conservative professors in American higher education? University leftists like to say that it’s a combination of self-selection and intellectual interest. There are simply fewer conservatives who are interested in, say, sociology or art history. I’d buy “fewer,” but I simply don’t accept that “fewer” means “virtually none.” There is rampant discrimination in higher education, and it’s not against minorities — indeed, universities often violate state and federal law and their own policies in the quest to increase ethnic, gender, and sexual diversity. It’s against conservatives.

Writing yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Georgetown University professor John Hasnas shares his experience on faculty search committees:

In the more than 20 years that I have been a professor at Georgetown University, I have been involved in many faculty searches. Every one begins with a strong exhortation from the administration to recruit more women and minority professors. We are explicitly reminded that every search is a diversity search. Administrators require submission of a plan to vigorously recruit applications from women and minority candidates.

Before we even begin our selection process, we must receive approval from the provost that our outreach efforts have been vigorous enough. The deans and deputy deans of each school reinforce the message that no expense should be spared to increase the genetic diversity of our faculty.

Yet, in my experience, no search committee has ever been instructed to increase political or ideological diversity. On the contrary, I have been involved in searches in which the chairman of the selection committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered. Or the description of the position was changed when the best résumés appeared to be coming from applicants with right-of-center viewpoints. Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions.

The result is an academic world that is staggeringly one-sided:

According to data compiled by the Higher Education Research Institute, only 12% of university faculty identify as politically right of center, and these are mainly professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools. Only 5% of professors in the humanities and social-science departments so identify.

A comprehensive study by James Lindgren of Northwestern University Law School shows that in a country fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, only 13% of law professors identify as Republican. And a recent study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University showed that 96% of social psychologists identify as left of center, 3.7% as centrist/moderate and only 0.03% as right of center.

One can learn a lot about an institution by examining where it is willing to test the limits. American universities test the legal limits to admit ever-more liberal minorities while it tests (and exceeds) the legal limits in its quest to exclude conservatives. Breaking through the ivy-covered walls will require a multi-front effort — with outstanding conservative scholars knocking on the doors at the same time that leading conservative lawyers make an example out of the most egregious offenders. Moreover, conservative lawmakers must exercise appropriate oversight on the public institutions in their jurisdictions.

Parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to send their children to glorified propaganda mills, where students (to borrow my friend Greg Lukianoff’s excellent phrase) “unlearn liberty.” You can call this “college,” but don’t dare call it an “education.”

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