August 2, 2003
LET'S BARGAIN FOR DIVERSITYFor true diversity, include conservatives (Robert Maranto, Baltimore Sun, 7/31/2003)
Surveys find that only about 10 percent of social science and humanities faculty vote Republican. In the social sciences, the plural of anecdote is data. Here are some data about how colleges value diverse opinions:
- A sociologist who quit academia to join a think tank recalls, "When I decided to become a registered Republican, it was a sensation. It was as if I became a child molester. You don't want to be in a department where everyone hates your guts."...
- An article in Political Science Teacher describes an introductory American government class co-taught by a Democrat and a Republican, who regularly debate public policy. The professors lament that only departments with a Republican faculty member can offer such a course.
- On leaving his political science department for a think tank, a conservative professor says, "Our department has Marxists, communitarians, people who think that Castro has the only democracy in the world, and then it's got moderate liberals and Kennedy-Mondale kind of liberals, but the only two people that were right of center were driven out."...
How did institutions devoted to free thought become ideologically sterile? As economist George J. Stigler wrote two decades ago, getting a professorship is like pledging a fraternity - a single member of the "in crowd" can blackball you. Most academic departments have at least one leftist who vetoes conservative job candidates. Knowing this, I have found that few conservative students attend graduate school and fewer still apply for academic jobs on earning their doctorates.
David Brooks in a recent essay in The Atlantic (not yet available online; tip to Daniel Drezner) recommends that Republicans throw in the towel on academia:
What we are looking at here is human nature. People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves. That's called community. It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian. It's likely that hiring committees would subtly -- even unconsciously -- screen out any such people they encountered. Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool. (emphasis added)
But if our universities are dominated by ideologues of a single viewpoint who stifle dissent and exclude competing perspectives, this is something very bad both for intellectual life and for the nation.
A remedy is available. Universities derive most of their revenue from federal appropriations, either directly in the form of overhead on research grants, or indirectly in the form of tuition subsidies. These subsidies cost the average taxpayer hundreds of dollars per year. These federal appropriations require the support of Republican appropriators to continue. It is quite reasonable for Republicans to condition their appropriations on intellectual diversity. If students had to pay their own tuition and if private organizations funded research, they would certainly direct funds toward ideologically diverse environments and researchers more similar to their own ideologies. Politicians have every right, indeed should, represent their constituents by funding universities in similar fashion.
Of course, this would raise howls of protest. But universities would be poorly placed to complain. After all, don't their own hiring committees condition grants of salary upon political viewpoint?