Those Pervasive Liberal Profs

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - April 13, 2005

Oh my! Did you read that recent study that found America’s college faculties were made up of liberals? Yes, liberals. Whoa! The republic is in danger.

According to the study done by three political science professors, 72 percent of those teaching at American colleges and universities are liberal, 15 percent are conservative, and the other 13 percent, I guess, are ideological hermaphrodites.

Get yourself onto an elite college campus and the scorecard is even worse for the conservative side: 87 percent for the Ls, 13 percent for the Cs.

Now none of this surprises me. Having spent most of my adult life on college and university campuses (even an elite one or two), I am fully aware of the ideologically monochromatic nature of the American professorate.

Indeed, I confess to being an L myself. Maybe even a leftleaning one. I first became aware of this a couple of decades ago when a comely young coed — the daughter of an Air Force officer and the wife of a Marine — approached me after class one day and said, “Prof Boylan, are you a Communist.”

“No Virginia, I’m not a Communist,” said I. Seems I’d said something earlier in the period about the pivotal role played by Soviet armies in the defeat of Hitler during World War II. Made me a certifiable commie in the lass’s eyes.

Maybe a decade later, Sam Slom — not yet a state senator, I think — referred to me in his Small Business Hawaii newsletter as “a socialist professor at Leeward Community College.”

No, Sam, I’m not a socialist, neither have I ever been a professor at Leeward Community College. The University of Hawaii-West Oahu is the name of the place. But I do think the government has a role to play in ameliorating the lives of the old, the lame, the povertystricken. Even of helping out small businessmen if they are in need.

Then a couple of weeks ago, after I’d written a column suggesting that the United States had a ways to go providing healthcare to its citizens and being environmentally responsible, Richard Rowland wrote MidWeek, compared me to Fidel Castro, and lamented my access as a professor to the impressionable minds of Hawaii’s young people.

Oh, the danger my liberal colleagues and I, Fidels and commies and socialists all, pose to the health of the body politic.

And we’re throughout the university. In the humanities, 81 percent of the nation’s professors identify themselves as liberals; in the social sciences 75 percent. Even among engineers, liberals outnumber conservatives 51 percent to 19 percent and — horror of horrors, Small Business Hawaii Sam, business faculty identified themselves as 49 percent liberal, 39 percent conservative.

Closer, but no big, fat capitalist cigar.

Robert Lichter, one of the authors of the study, has been quoted as saying: “What’s most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field. There is no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It’s a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you’d expect to be dominated by liberals.”

One of the other authors, Prof. Stanley Rothman, ascribes the liberal/conservative imbalance to “possible discrimination” against conservatives in hiring and promotion. He thinks “being conservative counts against you” in university personnel decisions. “It doesn’t surprise me,” says Rothman, “because I’ve observed it happening.”

Rothman’s seen something I’ve never seen. In 34 years as a college teacher, I’ve served on more search committees and promotion and tenure committees than I like to remember. Never — ever — have I heard a person criticized for his or her politics. Never have I heard a candidate for a teaching or administrative position asked about their politics.

It would be unthinkable to do so because a) their politics would have nothing to do with their ability to teach history, literature, psychology, engineering, business or anything else I can think of, and b) because asking such a question would be — and should be — illegal.

No, that’s not it. New York Times columnist Robert Krugman offers the best reason for the liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican imbalance among the professorate that I’ve read. “Today’s Republican party,” writes Krugman (a Princeton University economist himself), “increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research — doesn’t respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn’t be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party.

“Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves.”

At least.

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