Esteemed law professor Jonathan Turley recently laid bare the wildly disproportionate numbers of students who self-identify conservative, Republican, libertarian, or right-leaning versus those who see themselves as liberals, Democrats, or progressives. Citing the Harvard Crimson’s survey of incoming, newly enrolled college freshman, Turley reports that 72.4% of them identify as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” In comparison, just 7.4% assert they are either “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” And with rising intolerance of views on the right, the number of campus Republicans continues to contract.
Harvard’s survey is conducted annually and is culturally and politically telling. Turley notes that the fractional and diminishing numbers of college freshmen who identify as conservative are commensurate with the percentages of conservative teaching staff serving in higher education – both vanishingly rare. The professor attributes these numbers to rising intolerance for conservatism in general and opposing political views that include support for President Trump in particular.
Hearts and Brains
A whopping 88.9% of these same surveyed college undergraduates viewed President Trump as either “strongly or somewhat unfavorable” with 80.9% falling in the “strongly unfavorable” category. That there is powerful antipathy for Trump among first-year students is not a surprise. After all, a famous quote with disputed attribution roughly asserts that those who are not liberals when they are young have no heart, while those that are not conservative when they’re older have no brain. Even so, the increasing rarity of conservative voices on campus – of both teachers and students – is alarming. The numbers are trending away from any kind of balance in dissenting views, which bodes poorly for higher education.
These percentages put the lie to the decades-long contention from the left that there is no bias in selecting professors for appointment. Democrats outnumber Republicans on college faculties over 10 to 1 nationally – and in a few notable exceptions, this is closer to 30 to 1. As Turley notes:
“Liberal faculties routinely dismiss candidates who advance opposing views as intellectually unsound or simply not as intellectually “promising” as more liberal candidates. The bias is evident on every level. Faculty members tend to exclude conservatives from presentations, publications, and citations. The result is an echo chamber in academia that feeds upon itself.”
The result of this selection bias is that conservative professors are relegated to lower-ranked schools. And this same bias is unsurprisingly evident is the classroom where 70% of undergraduates in a Yale University poll stated they had experienced political discrimination. This is consistent with a Pomona College poll, which showed that 9 of 10 students feel pressured by the political climate on campus not to say anything others might find offensive. Close to two-thirds of staff in the same survey felt likewise, and roughly 75% of conservative and moderate students agree that the school climate hinders their free expression.
Exclusion By Design
Turley offers a reality check when he asserts that 40% of Americans view Trump favorably and that Gallup polling shows 37% of Americans see themselves as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 24% as liberal. That means a great majority of 72% identify as either conservative or moderate – the virtual antonym to the numbers evident on college campuses nationwide. With 72% nationally identifying as conservative or moderate and Harvard admitting just 7% conservatives or moderates, Turley argues that it’s “demonstrably absurd” to say that the dearth of these students and staff’s representation on campus is by accident and not by design.
As a lifelong liberal, a Democrat, and a man who didn’t vote for Trump, Turley isn’t optimistic:
“The impact of this bias is devastating for higher education. Faculty members are using their majority on faculties to exclude potential colleagues with opposing views, the very type of bias once used against not just liberals but minorities seeking entry to faculties. The result is that we are creating a bifurcated educational system where conservatives can only gain entry to top schools by hiding their political views or espousing liberal positions.”
The same pressures felt by many throughout the nation to espouse affinity for liberal views or the Democratic Party now appear to be systemic in higher education. As Turley summarizes, “it is a mockery to pretend that this is the result of anything other than systematic bias in academia.”
Read more from Pennel Bird.