Phi Beta Cons

A Reader Responds: There Is Bias Against Non-leftists

After posting yesterday’s Clarion Call on the controversy over why leftists dominate in the faculty ranks, I received this response from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous:

I found your post on conservatives in academia poignant. When I followed the link to the Pope Center discussion, I realized that I am a data point in this discussion.

You see, I received a master’s degree in historical theology from a liberal institution by hiding my conservatism. (I’m not even a conservative by the contemporary definition; I just know I am not a liberal.) When I wrote my master’s thesis on Augustine’s distinction between auctoritas and potestas in the City of God, certain passages caused my professors to realize they had been harboring a pariah in their midst. My application to a respectable doctoral program was turned down on the grounds that my application materials were “not universally excellent.” It turns out that several of my professors damned me with faint praise in their letters of recommendation, and my application was doomed.

The idea that conservatives do not love history, philosophy, and literature is ridiculous. I spend all my spare time poring over the minutiae of early Christian literature, and I have managed to be published several times. But I know that I am not welcome in academia. I know that I could try again at one of the new “conservative” Catholic institutions that have recently cropped up, but I am too old to drop everything now to pursue a doctorate. So I study, write, and publish when I can, but it’s not the same as being in a setting where the open discussion of ideas is welcomed and even cherished. How I miss a world that does not exist!

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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