It’s not the score of a Hawkeye football game. It’s the number of Democrats versus the number of Republicans in the University of Iowa history department, and it has Iowans in an uproar. So, too, do charges published by Mark Bauerlein that left-wing bias has influenced the department’s hiring process. In response to the revelations, department chair Colin Gordon announced that the department had committed no wrongdoing, and neither he nor the university has expressed any concern about the total absence of intellectual diversity. Rarely have the hypocrisy and mendacity of academia been so thoroughly exposed as in the history department’s damage-control campaign.
Professor Gordon contended that the history department cannot discriminate against Republican or conservative job applicants because it does not know the political ideology of applicants. But the University’s own hiring manual states that search committees must “assess ways the applicants will bring rich experiences, diverse backgrounds, and ideology to the university community.” So they are obligated to understand applicants’ ideology, and to make sure not to overlook people with differing ideologies.
Determining a historian’s ideological inclinations is actually very easy in most cases. When I applied to the University of Iowa history department for a professorship in the United States and world affairs, my résumé listed membership in the National Organization of Scholars, which is an organization that everyone in academia knows to be ideologically to the right of the average academic organization. A quick search on Google or Amazon, moreover, reveals that my two books on the Vietnam War have widely been characterized as conservative.
Contrary to his recent protestations, Professor Gordon understands very well the ideological associations of my research on Vietnam. In the leftist publication New Internationalist, he wrote that interpretations of Vietnam similar to mine were part of a “shallow, cynical, and selective” effort by American conservatives who wish to justify global military domination in the spirit of “the aggressive imperialist Teddy Roosevelt.” Similarly well-informed is Professor Stephen Vlastos, the chair of the search committee, who wrote an entire book chapter denouncing historians who interpret Vietnam as I do.
The assertion that ideology doesn’t matter in the history department is discredited further by the support given by Professor Gordon and nine other department professors to the organization Historians Against the War. This organization recently convinced the American Historical Association to ratify a resolution calling on association members to “do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.” Thus, Professor Gordon and at least nine others believe that a historian’s ideology should not only be a matter of interest to other historians, but should conform to the ideology of other historians.
After learning that I was not among the eight applicants to advance past the screening of résumés, I submitted a freedom of information request asking how the search committee had assessed the ways I would “bring rich experiences and diverse backgrounds and ideology to the university community.” The history department replied that it had not assessed my candidacy in this manner. That fact, combined with the 27-0 imbalance in the department and a university policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “creed” and “associational preference,” led me to file a complaint with the university’s Office of Equal and Opportunity and Diversity.
Unfortunately, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity proved unwilling to enforce the university’s policies on either equal opportunity or diversity. The office defended the history department’s failure to assess my “diverse backgrounds and ideology” by explaining that “The University does not expect hiring departments to make this type of assessment of every candidate.” Only a select group of finalists must be assessed in this manner, the office claimed. But the university’s hiring manual makes no such qualification, and it is not a general practice of “equal opportunity” hiring to ignore diversity until a few finalists have been extracted from the applicant pool.
In any case, I should not have needed bonus points for diversity to receive an interview. Professor Gordon accused Professor Bauerlein of characterizing other applicants as less qualified than me without knowing their qualifications, but in fact Professor Bauerlein did know their qualifications, which are posted on the internet. The department offered the job to someone who lacked the type of accomplishments most cherished by history departments at research universities like the University of Iowa: this person had not received degrees from top-tier universities and had been out of graduate school for eight years without publishing a book.
In its communications with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the search committee did make a feeble attempt to justify rejection of my application. Search committee members stated that they had read my book Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 and that it “did not consider any Vietnamese sources.” Triumph Forsaken actually contains over two hundred citations of Vietnamese-language sources.
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity cast further doubt on its integrity by dismissing as “not relevant” a series of articles I had presented as evidence of “associational preference” and “creed” discrimination on campus. An Associated Press article on the University of Iowa, for example, stated,
Some conservative students said they cloak their political leanings to appeal to professors…. Conservatives say the abundance of Democratic professors affects course offerings, reading selections and class discussions, shaping impressionable minds…. Some conservative students complain their political views are not just absent, but criticized when professors show political cartoons mocking President Bush or allow Republican bashing.
Students, parents, alumni, taxpayers, and politicians should pressure the University of Iowa’s administration to enforce the university’s non-discrimination policies, and to create new faculty positions for conservatives beyond the reach of other professors’ tentacles, as other schools have started doing. They should demand that the university use its lecture series to bring in conservative speakers, not just liberals and radicals. In the meantime, students must realize that the university is not a free market of ideas, but a one-party state that strives to convert the impressionable and unwary by hiding half of the political spectrum.
–Mark Moyar holds the Kim T. Adamson Chair at the U.S. Marine Corps University.