Last month, Samuel Abrams, professor of political science at Sarah Lawrence College, published an op-ed in the New York Times about ideological bias among university administrators. Abrams reported the results of a nationally representative survey of 900 college administrators, which found that liberal staff members outnumbered conservative staff members by a 12-to-1 ratio. Abrams’s article succeeded in generating some thoughtful discussion among both university faculty and education-policy experts interested in viewpoint diversity on college campuses.
Unfortunately, the response at Sarah Lawrence was far different. Shortly after the piece was published, Abrams found threatening messages on his office door demanding that he leave the school; decorations on his door, including pictures of his family, had been torn down. Abrams and several members of his department repeatedly asked Sarah Lawrence College president, Cristle Collins Judd, to condemn the vandalism and express support for free speech.
This did not happen. Instead, Judd sent a campus-wide email that mentioned the importance of free expression but mostly stressed her “commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence.” Even worse, during a private phone conversation, Judd accused Abrams of attacking members of the community. “She said I had created a hostile work environment,” Abrams said in an interview with Reason.
Judd’s unwillingness to forcefully condemn the vandalism, and her subsequent criticism of Abrams, is immensely disappointing. Abrams has published a number of articles about ideological bias in higher education and has never criticized Sarah Lawrence until this point, and his New York Times article was neither polarizing nor inflammatory. While he did point out some campus events that were ideologically biased, Abrams did not criticize any Sarah Lawrence faculty member or administrator by name.
As I discussed in my previous NRO blogpost about Abrams’s op-ed, ideological bias among university administrators is a worse problem than ideological bias among faculty. Conservative students can often avoid faculty members who are hostile to their beliefs, but administrators exert a tremendous amount of influence over hiring, campus programming, and discipline. Unfortunately, Judd’s response to this campus vandalism indicates that lesson has been lost on her.