Education

New England’s Hallowed Halls, Crumbling

Campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
The region’s colleges and universities are at the bottom when it comes to diversity of thought.

It is hard to think about New England without its colleges. Numerous schools in the region predate the founding of the United States, and many towns such as Middlebury are so intimately linked to their local school historically, culturally, and economically that it would be hard to think of New England without its politically progressive, prestigious institutions of higher education.

It is thus understandable that New Englanders may be upset over a new ranking series that places many New England schools at the bottom of a list.

The offending list is the Heterodox Academy’s new ranking of 200 schools created to measure how much viewpoint diversity one can expect to find on a particular campus. The assessment takes into account a number of factors pertaining to free speech and viewpoint diversity — including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute ratings of campus culture and whether or not the school has endorsed the Chicago Principles on free expression.

At a time when the diversity of ideas — and notably conservative thought — is diminishing on college campuses nationwide, this new classification of schools is important. It answers questions such as, Is the school a place where students are likely to encounter a variety of views on politically and socioeconomically controversial topics? And: Has the school created and fostered an environment where students who do not hold the dominant political viewpoint are afraid to speak up?

The ranking has revealed that New England is by far the worst region of the country, especially for liberal-arts colleges, when it comes to campuses that support and maintain viewpoint diversity. With Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Tufts on the university side and Williams, Wesleyan, Smith, Amherst, and Mount Holyoke on the liberal-arts college side, these schools reflect the politics of the region and were all at the bottom of the rankings in terms of viewpoint diversity. This could well be the first time that these esteemed institutions have found themselves at the bottom of national rankings that are so crucial to the very mission of higher education.

Schools in the Upper Midwest and along the West Coast are the next-worst in the rankings. Schools in the South and the Midwest are the least closed in terms of viewpoint diversity, with William and Mary, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and the University of Florida leading the charge toward being least closed. Of course, these are broad general strokes that represent general trends. For instance, the Claremont Colleges were among the most highly ranked schools in terms of prompting viewpoint diversity despite being close to the West Coast and surrounded by other schools that were struggling to promoting a real diversity of ideas on campus.

It might be easy to dismiss these findings as being imperfect or simply a one-off study, but they confirm my previous work, in which I revealed that our nation’s college and university faculties have moved sharply to the Left over the past decade and that the liberal shift among professors was more extreme in particular places.

In New England, the proportion of liberal-identifying faculty is far greater (28 to 1) than anywhere else in the county.

Regionally, these differences were even more pronounced in New England, with the proportion of liberal-identifying faculty being far greater (28 to 1) than anywhere in the county. New England has long viewed its progressive and social-justice leanings as part of its historical fabric, and the ideological preferences of those teaching in its institutions certainly reflect that. Moreover, raw percentages of professors on the West Coast and in the upper Midwest were also more liberal than their counterparts in the Southwest and the South.

Taken together, these studies should give pause to New Englanders and anyone else interested in education, civic life, and questions of innovation and social progress. Students — current, future, and former — along with parents, trustees, and those in the community, should demand that institutions of higher education recommit themselves to the free exchange of a multiplicity of ideas. Viewpoint diversity is what drives progress on countless fronts, and it can help forestall the almost weekly nationwide blowups over speech and ideas.

This message is beginning to resonate. Wesleyan president Michael Roth, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, recently acknowledged the problem and proposed aggressive action to “create deeper intellectual and political diversity,” because many, often conservative, ideas “seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.” While Roth was short on specifics, his message suggests that the Connecticut college president finally sees that there is a real problem, and he may push Wesleyan to move in the right direction.

New Englanders have a long and storied tradition of localism and a fierce ability to solve problems. It’s time for them to demand more diversity of ideas on their hallowed quads and campuses.

READ MORE:

Evergreen State: Another Professor, Another Mob

The Battle of Middlebury

Campus Snowflakes Will Never Face the Real World

Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Most Popular

Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Regulatory Policy

Going Medieval

Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Smith gives more than a nod to Peter Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction (or, as Smith neatly relabels the phenomenon, “elite over-competition”) as a cause of the current wave of turmoil in the West, something with which I would agree but, I think, more emphatically. Quite ... Read More
Regulatory Policy

Going Medieval

Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Smith gives more than a nod to Peter Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction (or, as Smith neatly relabels the phenomenon, “elite over-competition”) as a cause of the current wave of turmoil in the West, something with which I would agree but, I think, more emphatically. Quite ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More