The Corner

Conservatives Need Not Apply, Continued

Robert Brandon, the, er, ‘chair’ of Duke ‘University’s’ philosophy department has now come up with a reply to his critics. It’s worth reading, but let’s take a look at a few of the points he raises.

“There seems to be a widespread perception that professors reward students for agreeing with them and penalize those who disagree with them. That has certainly not been my experience; not as a student, nor a professor.”

Ah well, Professor, could that be, perhaps, because you have always surrounded yourself with those prudent enough to subscribe (at least publicly) to the smelly little orthodoxies of today’s academy?

But is there any bias in the way that Duke hires its teaching staff? Brandon doesn’t think so. To his credit, he is honest enough to acknowledge that its faculty does lean to the Left, but:

“The claim is that we liberals only want to hire other liberals. The process for hiring faculty in our university is largely decentralized. The hiring units in universities are departments, not the administration. I did not presume to speak for other departments, but I did categorically deny that there was any such bias in the hiring practices of Duke’s philosophy department. None of us would want such a bias to be there, and in virtually all cases there is no mechanism for it to be there.”

That’s an argument, I suppose, but , thinking about it for a moment or two, it fits entertainingly uncomfortably with the case for mandatory ‘diversity’ usually made by academics in universities such as Duke. I don’t know where Professor Brandon stands on that particular issue, but supporters of affirmative action generally regard a heavy preponderance of one ethnic group or one sex within an institution as undeniable proof of prejudice. Following that logic, the same should be true of a teaching staff heavily skewed towards one ideological point of view. Any thoughts on that, professor?

What really is nonsense, however, is this claim:

“Typically, we know nothing about the candidates’ politics until after they are hired.”

Oh come on, professor. In your discipline, a quick glance at a candidate’s publications, fields of interest and so on will be more than enough to reveal his or her political leanings. You don’t need to look for a bumper sticker.

Brandon also wonders why so many academics lean to the Left. Hmmm, tempting though it may be, the old jibe (“those who can’t do, teach) is not the sole explanation. Still, Brandon has raised an interesting topic, but one for another time, so I’ll just conclude with this remark from the professor:

“There is a statistical association between the qualities that make for good academics and those that lead to left-leaning political views.”

Well, Dr. Brandon, that depends on what you mean by a ‘good’ academic.

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