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Are Professors too Liberal?

Culture Watch




Mr. Cole is professor of History at the University of Michigan and author of Sacred Space and Holy War (I.B. Tauris, 2002). His web site is www.juancole.com.

David Horowitz has now targeted liberal arts and social science departments at U.S. universities as being "one-party" institutions. He wants this situation changed, and is pressing for something like affirmative action for what he sees as excluded conservatives and Republicans. "You can't get a good education if you only get half the story," he has said.

Horowitz was once a civil rights activist, but over the years he gravitated further and further to the political right Now that he is a conservative, he wants set-asides for conservatives in academic departments. But he does not want race to figure in college admissions.

Horowitz commissioned a poll that found that more than 90 percent of professors who taught arts and sciences in elite universities vote Democrat.

His findings are likely true as far as they go, but his argument is bogus in almost every way imaginable. His premise, that a balance of political party affiliation is necessary or desirable in major sectors of American life, would lead to an almost totalitarian quota system.

For instance, Corporate Executive Officers of major corporations are vastly more powerful and influential than are mere college teachers. And yet, it has long been known that CEOs are heavily Republican in their voting patterns. Shall we make a law that half of all persons chosen CEOs of corporations must be registered Democrats, and must give their campaign donations to that party?

Or, let us take the officers in our military services, who have grown increasingly rightwing in the past thirty years. Polling data show that in 1976 only one third of military officers said they were Republicans. By 1996 two-thirds of officers identified with the GOP, and only ten percent were Democrats. This development is truly worrisome. Would President Bush have been so successful in pushing his joint chiefs of staff to put away their objections to an Iraq campaign last summer if he knew two thirds of his officers had voted against him? Did not the open contempt many in the armed services expressed for Bill Clinton weaken our democracy?

Then there are the major political foundations that provide talking heads to cable television news shows. These began being founded in the 1970s by hyper-wealthy and very rightwing families such as the Coors. Conservative think tanks --the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Cato Institute, the Middle East Forum, the Hudson Institute, and Horowitz's own "Center for the Study of Popular Culture"-- have come to dominate political talk. By the mid-1990s they outspent their liberal counterparts by five to one, and were mentioned almost eight times as often in newspapers, radio and television transcripts..

Conservative think tanks do not hire liberal scholars and do not produce liberal reports. They often publish their own books, with no double-blind refereeing or other quality controls. The studies they produce concerning social issues are driven by partisan politics and are often sloppy (failing to incorporate a control group, for instance). They can be enormously influential. Ronald Reagan adopted two-thirds of the proposals put forward by the Heritage Foundation in its "Mandate for Leadership." Why does Horowitz not propose that half of the influential and best-funded think tanks always be liberal in orientation? Surely this is an imbalance that needs to be addressed?

The study of professors left out the business and other professional schools, which are central parts of the university, and focused on elite institutions. It does not consider the possibility that fewer conservatives seek academic careers in the liberal arts. Like most of these think tank studies, it was poorly designed and poorly analyzed.

Hiring at most universities is primarily done at the departmental level, and is therefore a grass roots affair. No search committee I have ever seen or heard of in nearly 20 years of teaching has ever inquired into the party affiliation of the candidate, and doing so would be considered gauche if not actually illegal. There is no way to keep Republicans out, or to induct them, either.

Horowitz's assault on campus liberalism grows out of the frustration of the political right in the U.S. that they have been unable to translate their increasing hold on national politics into true cultural hegemony. They do not want more diversity of voices to be heard, they want to silence the ones they do not like.

 


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jonny bakho - 10/4/2004

Conservatives are the forces of the status quo. Universities are the site of new ideas and new learning. While a percentage of faculty schooled in the past is necessary, Univeristies must be progressive and forward looking if they hope to remain on the "cutting edge" forefront of knowledge. Even in biology there are conservatives that want to keep teaching the same subjects the same way they were taught when they were in school in the 60s and 70s. However, we have had a revolution in genetics and molecular biology since then. The "conservative" position won't cut it. The same is true for progressive thought in other areas.

A primary mission of universities is to move students beyond the stage of dualisitic thinking (Horowitz seems to be stuck there) and to a level where students can appreciate multiple positions and their nuances. This produces a "thinking class" that can address new problems that will not be solved by the old cultural solutions. Any society must have some grounding in a culture and that is the importance of conservatives and institutions such as religion and government. However, the mission of the univeristy is to evaluate new ideas. New ideas cannot be evaluated with the conservative dualistic ideology of first principles, dualism and support for the status quo.


Scott Bessho - 10/4/2004

MNargizian writes:
"First of all if CEO's are Republican it is not because they are screened for their party affiliation. The standards for getting the job are whom the board thinks is going to be best for the company."

Likewise, the standards for getting college teaching jobs are determined by the board members, who consider what is best for the college and its students. Clearly, liberals are thought to be better at the job than are conservatives.

Or liberals have more desire to seek the job--with its emphasis on service and its lower than corporate pay--than do conservatives.

These possibilities also exist.


Allen Whipps - 10/4/2004

Yes. Can I call it the "false other" argument? I’ll have to ask my “liberal” logic teacher* friend if the fallacy has an official name.

The whining (you’ll hear that word again here) goes like:
You teach evolution--you must teach the OTHER side.
You teach there is no God---you must teach the OTHER side.
You teach the world is round---you must teach the OTHER side.

The problem is that the noisiest opposition group gets to declare what the OTHER side is.

The other OTHER political view to the Democrat party platform can also be communism or socialism or anarchy. Horowitz's whining is pathetic.

I work at a University. Most people in certain departments are not only Republicans but of the far out religious variety. That does not seem to be an indicator of lack of quality in teaching nor does it guarantee good teaching. However, when the instructor is awful they drape themselves in their religious shroud for defense and claim prejudice.

Another common pattern I see (working at a University):
Student fails class--they didn't read the assigned text and didn't do the assigned work (not even poorly!). Then they run back to their church and tell everyone that their 'liberal teacher' couldn't deal with their views.
They actually say things like, "I don't have to read this because everything is covered in the Bible" (Another book they've likely never read).

Wimpy whiners! Due the loss of manufacturing jobs, we get lots of first time students who, I kid you not, are proud they have never read a book. They are using this crap whining argument of Horowitz's as an excuse for bad study habits. Horowitz may hear tales but he should not fall for them. He should know how dedicated and honest most teachers are. The liberal ones I know, agonize if forced to fail a student that they know will play the "liberal" card. That's not just because it is trouble but because they really worry about being fair. They go WAAAAAYYY out of their way to grade-up papers where people have dissenting views. If anything, religious kooks (not most Republicans, thank God!), get somewhat of a free pass because you don't want to see them repeat your class! **

* BTW, how the heck does someone teach ‘liberal logic’ or ‘liberal slanted statistics?’ What class is it where in US political party affiliation could possibly matter? Most University classes are bubble-sheet multiple choice tested classes. You either know what a rhizome is or you don’t. Sorry, if you believe that Jesus made that rhizome you don't get extra credit. :-)

** BTW, a female teacher has a lot to worry about in this current climate of suppression--too many complaints about teaching and no tenure. The gall of Horowitz to claim there is anything but a dark cloud of suppression on political descent these days--shame!


J. Carr - 10/19/2003

The Bruanhemden (brownshirts) now in charge? Eroded civil liberties? Mr Dryden have you ever seen the real Brownshirts of the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA)in action? If you ever had you would not be throwing around such foolish comments. I hate to disillusion you, but this country (except maybe Northern California) is nothing like the real Third Reich.


Joe Dryden - 3/9/2003

I find the incessant rants by right-wing commenters on this site absurd. That under the guise of laissez faire private enterprise has eroded our civil liberties, and that the brown-shirts now in charge are about to turn this republic into an empire strikes none of them as worrisome. But watch out for those professors! Geez, it's like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." If the neocon clowns who spend all their time posting on this site are so sure of the soundness of their logic and the righteousness of their cause, what have they got to worry about?


mitzi thomas - 12/21/2002

The best applicants--those with the best publication and teaching records, or those with the best graduate schools records--tend to be liberals.
Any serious scholar would see the flaw here--"BEST GRADUATE SCHOOLS RECORDS"
Maybe liberals tend to get better grades because they are in sync with their professors. When earning my B.A. and M.S. I found out the hard way that it pays to keep conservative views hidden. The few times that I did come down on the conservative side of an issue, despite compelling logic and evidence to back up my arguement, my grade suffered. Compared with the A's I usually got it was curious.
Mitzi Thomas


Clayton E. Cramer - 10/27/2002

I scrambled the details of this from Sowell's book _Markets and Minorities_. Never mind.


Remarc E. Notyalc - 10/26/2002

Correction acknowledged. Then the questions are: a) "Why has Stanford University not initiated an inquiry into the veracity of Thomas Sowell's book, _Markets and Minorities_?" and b) is Clayton Cramer skeptical of data _only_ when it doesn't suit his rhetorical purpose?


OrsonOlson - 10/24/2002

Dear Kevin--

You say you teach a a mid-level teaching school in Texas.
Hmmm. Where's that?

If you've not heard of non-liberal non-Leftists being discriminated against in history hiring (as Cole has not), Horowitz has; I have, too. I have references to more if you want them.....

You writes: "I don't think American colleges and universities differ too significantly from other professional environments in terms of political leanings."
UNBELIEVABLE!

So, where is this "Texas?"

--Orson
(who has driven through the panhandle of a
place signs called "Texas," but has otherwise lived
in three or four US regions, including the South, and has visited 46 of the lower 48 states...Hey! Liberals even dominated at the University of Utah!)




Orson Olson - 10/24/2002

"Maybe they've been swayed by the evidence?" WHAT evidence?

When I've studied the history of political philosophy (recurrently, in fact), I've only known it (Left and Right) to be an endless debate!--SO where is the university debate that reflects THAT reality?


Kilroy - 10/23/2002

Actually, I believe Mr. Cramer is quoting from a book by Sowall, _Markets and Minorities_. Perhaps your question about the veracity of the numbers might be directed to Mr. Sowall?

K


Mike Nargizian - 10/20/2002

Posted By: Prof
Date Posted: October 15, 2002, 4:24 PM
Posted By: Prof
Mr. Nargizian,
If someone disengaged the caps, bold and italics functions on your computer, he or she would have done you a favor. Let the pure logic, acute thinking, and brilliant prose carry your argument.

Yeah, thanks Mr. "Prof" who is so sure of his logic and own prose that he doesn't even have the "balls" to put his actualy name on his piece, and instead prefers to hide behind his compuer.

Forget the artificial emphases. They don't persuade; they turn readers off. Beyond that, the very idea of the necessity of affirmative action for conservatives is so amusing that even Horowitz has not even ventured into this discussion.
No, but I think Mr. Pipes is doing parents a favor by letting them know what some schools they are pumping 30,000/yr into are teaching their kids. That there is no open debate on campus just a left wing, and often radical left wing agenda. That at Cal Berkley they started a class called 'Palestinian History and Culture' and stated NO CONSERVATIVES NEED APPLY. Forget the fact the word 'Palestinian' never existed prior to 1970 and never came into a Pop Culture term until the mid to late 70's./b>

Sincerely,

MIKE NARGIZIAN
Not afraid to write his ACTUAL name, Mr. "Professor"


ryan sour - 10/19/2002

1. There is little that has been said about our nation’s schools that is positive. And most of what has been said is decidedly negative. In fact there is so much that is wrong with our public schools that just about everyone has an opinion regarding how to “fix” them once and for all. Some speak of conquering the bureaucracy that seems to stifle and inhibit all attempts at innovation and reform. Others speak of the lack of funding to our nation’s poorest schools and the tremendous pressures placed on teachers. Still others talk about the badly organized curriculums that ar


Bill Heuisler - 10/19/2002

Mr. Cole, the rooster did not cause the sunset. Your fatuous point about the danger of a "Republican" military exposes reasoning worthy of a C-level high-school kid.
"Did not the open contempt many in the armed services expressed for Bill Clinton weaken our Democracy?" you ask. The reverse is true. Clinton weakened our Democracy through vacillating policies and reprehensible behavior. Our military reacted intelligently to a pusillanimous Commander-in Chief who "loathed the military".
We worry about the surfeit of Democrats in our colleges because modern Dems tend to dogmatic dullness. Our children are being taught by sub-standard scholars and your specious reasoning only reinforces Horowitz.
Bill Heuisler


Remarc E. Notyalc - 10/19/2002

Kevin's got a good point here, Clayton. If Bellesiles's gun count was way off, your count of black Ph. D's in chemistry in 1938 is worse.


Kevin - 10/18/2002

Can you show me where I can find a list of the 903+ black Ph.D's in chemistry in 1938? Are there 903+ black Ph.D's in chemistry in 2002?


Clayton E. Cramer - 10/18/2002

"I've given some thought to why professors tend to be liberals, and I think the answer lies in the realm of financial rewards. Conservative ambition tends to focus on financial reward. Liberal ambition tends to focus on idealistic reward (though idealism doesn't invariably exclude making money). Consequently liberals gravitate toward the Academy, despite low pay. The answer to David Horowitz's complaint is to pay teachers six figure salaries. That in itself would attract more profit seeking conservatives; no need for affirmative action for our poor conservative brethren."

I agree that raising the pay of university professors would certainly increase interest in going into teaching. Part of why I can't justify pursuing a PhD is that if I spent the next several years doing so, when I was done, I would be competing with hundreds of other freshly minted PhDs for a job that pays about $35,000 a year. I'm sorry, but I have a family to raise; this vow of poverty is simply not possible for me to consider.

"Come ye conservatives, earn your Ph.D.'s and join your liberal brethren in the ranks of Academia! Ask the Heritage Foundation for a fellowship, or even for an endowed chair!"

Sorry, but there is simply NO ASSISTANCE provided by conservative groups (probably because they don't have the money) to conservative scholars. You would have thought that my work exposing the Bellesiles fraud would have made it easier to get some funding assistance for my research. Nope. Even groups that should have had an obvious political interest in what I was doing, such as the NRA Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, couldn't find a penny in their budgets to support my research efforts, and you know darn well that no traditional foundation is going to fund work that doesn't support the leftist status quo.


Clayton E. Cramer - 10/18/2002

Unfortunately, the very blatant political bias of university history faculties is for the same reason that universities used to be far less willing to hire blacks than private industry. Thomas Sowell's _Markets and Minorities_ makes the point that in 1938, there were three black chemistry PhDs on faculty in the U.S.; there were more than 900 black chemistry PhDs working in private industry. (If you find the notion that were 900 black chemistry PhDs in the U.S. in 1938--that shows how well the leftist bias of the educational institutions have suckered you in.)

Why? Were university professors hotbeds of racial prejudice compared to private industry? Probably not. Sowell argues that because universities are non-profit institutions, there was no financial incentive for faculty members to avoid the individual prejudices of professors. Private industry wasn't any more liberal, but a consistent policy of rejecting qualified applicants because of race, over time, would tend to injure the bottom line of the company. (Obviously, this doesn't work perfectly; if ALL your competition shares your prejudices, there is no cost to this.)

Universities finally woke up in the 1960s (sometimes in order to get the administration back from protesters), and started working very hard at improving the racial diversity of their faculty. (In some cases, they hired completely faculty whose only qualification was their color; in others, they created whole departments to hire professors of color.) Later, universities became aware of the relatively scarcity of women professors, and corrected this problem.

While I don't particularly like affirmative action, as long as it doesn't hire unqualified applicants, it at least has the potential to provide more perspectives for the students. If this is a good thing with respect to race, why is it not a good thing with respect to political ideology? I would like to think that professors would look at scholarship, not ideology, when making hiring decisions, but I know better.

When the time came for me to graduate with my BA from Sonoma State University, I was awarded "with distinction" on my degree. Why? Well, let's see. My second book had just been published (since cited in a federal court decision as an authority); I had nothing but As in all my history classes, and about a 3.8 GPA in all my undergraduate work (including completion of the computer science minor, filled with classes far more intellectually demanding than any history class); and I had received an award for best undergraduate paper in the AEJMC media ethics contest. And yet I was informed that there was some opposition among the faculty to awarding "with distinction" because some of my research had been into the history of gun ownership!

Political diversity would have avoided this embarrassing situation with Bellesiles's _Arming America_, simply because instead of dozens of professors writing glowing reviews of this marvelous piece of work, without bothering to critically examine it, at least a few history professors would have done what I did--examine it critically, and point out that it was a fraud (altered quotes, altered dates, etc.)


Chris Osborne - 10/17/2002

Professor Herman's remarks about the applicant pool for history department positions being largely Left of dead center is correct if my own academic experiences were any indicator of reality. When I was a Master's degree student at the University of Southern California we had 30 Master's and Ph.D students in the history department. Of these, 29 were liberals or leftists and just one was a conservative. This latter guy got an academic job, by the way. When I was a teaching assistant I was acquainted with a number of conservative students, but these students had a tendency to be more interested in education as something of marketable rather than aesthetic value and thus gravitated toward the more lucrative majors--which do not include the social sciences and the humanities. One of my best undergraduates in my discussion sections, a young conservative, did persuade his parents to let him be a history major as an undergraduate--but they let him know they demanded that he pursue an M.B.A. in graduate school. Thus Professor Herman is correct about the conservative students simply not being there in significant numbers.
Although the remarks of Mr. Nargizian were somewhat more "emotional" in quality, he also brings up an excellent point that the universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas. The anecdotal evidence of discrimination against non-leftist faculty candidates is alarming, as is any anecdotal evidence of discrimination against leftists in other professions and institutions. Truman biographer Alonzo Hamby of Ohio University has noted that Ph.D students may be under high pressure to write on the "holy trinity" of race/class/gender.
Thus the admitted scarcity of conservative students in history departments at the graduate level still does not justify acts of ideological discrimination against non-leftists, as Mr. Sternstein noted in his remarks about Eugene Genovese.


Barrett Archer - 10/17/2002

Isn't this the kind of thinking we expect from the Right? "IF THEY JUST TRY HARD ENOUGH, THEY'LL SEE THE ESSENTIAL CORRECTNESS OF OUR POSITION!" Balderdash. And if the United States imposes governments on people around the world, they will learn to love us and our democracy because they will just SEE how good we really are. Right.
Your argument presupposes that any ideology can be so "true" that its "trueness" becomes self-evident. This is no more accurate of liberalism than it is of conservatism.


herodotus - 10/17/2002

"Maybe it's just hard to spend a lot of time in the intellectually rigorous examination of history, society, and culture without recognizing the fundamental validity of liberal-to-left points of view?"

How on earth can a historian draw such a wide-ranging conclusion as vague and irrelevant as "the fundamental validity of liberal-to-left points of view"? How arrogant! How extremist! This is exactly the kind of intellectual thought-police bullying that Horowitz and others are rallying against. This is the kind of thing that totally turns those who actually enjoy history--not vague ideas that left is always right--from working in the field.


herodotus - 10/17/2002

"Maybe it's just hard to spend a lot of time in the intellectually rigorous examination of history, society, and culture without recognizing the fundamental validity of liberal-to-left points of view?"

How on earth can a historian draw such a wide-ranging conclusion as vague and irrelevant as "the fundamental validity of liberal-to-left points of view"? How arrogant! How extremist! This is exactly the kind of intellectual thought-police bullying that Horowitz and others are rallying against. This is the kind of thing that totally turns those who actually enjoy history--not vague ideas that left is always right--from working in the field.


derekcatsam - 10/17/2002

Michael Kelley, in thirteen words and two brief sentences, manages to spew out two ad hominems at once without proffering a single argument. Very impressive.


Barrett Archer - 10/17/2002

I believe Herman is right about the motivation of conservatives versus liberals (financial vs. idealistic rewards). However, to say that there is no ideological litmus test I think is somewhat inaccurate. True, no hiring committee is going to ask candidates "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Republican party?" but that is not really the point. Those trends currently defining the lines of historical inquiry -- post-modernism, pro/anti-globalization, and the big three of race/class/gender -- I believe tend to filter out conservative historians, who, I've found, tend to more traditional approaches (ie. emphasis on political processes and institutions). I myself am more drawn to these traditional subjects, but I've found I've had to re-orient my work more than once in order to stay "with it," so I have a lot of sympathy for those conservatives whose work has been ignored because it doesn't address the big three, for example.
Furthermore, what are departments looking for in hiring practices? Young, innovative thinkers, or someone who wants to re-examine FDR's politics for the 100th time?

That said, I disagree with Horowitz's call for conservative affirmative action in academia. Frankly, I don't think it will solve the problem of the left's ideological dominance in academia at all. What will solve the problem is for academia to get over it's very American obsession with always trying to find the "next best thing."


A public historian - 10/17/2002

Here's a mischievous thought: maybe the reason for the predominance of left-wing beliefs in academia, particularly at the more high-powered institutions, has to do with the nature of the evidence academicians study. Maybe it's just hard to spend a lot of time in the intellectually rigorous examination of history, society, and culture without recognizing the fundamental validity of liberal-to-left points of view? If that's the case, expecting more conservative ideological "balance" among humanities and social-science scholars is about as realistic as hoping for more pro-"creationist" views among scientists who spend their lives dealing with the evidence for evolution.


Dan Herman - 10/16/2002

I've given some thought to why professors tend to be liberals, and I think the answer lies in the realm of financial rewards. Conservative ambition tends to focus on financial reward. Liberal ambition tends to focus on idealistic reward (though idealism doesn't invariably exclude making money). Consequently liberals gravitate toward the Academy, despite low pay. The answer to David Horowitz's complaint is to pay teachers six figure salaries. That in itself would attract more profit seeking conservatives; no need for affirmative action for our poor conservative brethren.

One more point: there is no ideological litmus test for hiring or for admissions in my department, nor any other department that I know of. The litmus test is how well you write, think, and articulate ideas in the classroom, and how committed you are to research. If you want to know why departments hire liberals, look at applicant pools. The best applicants--those with the best publication and teaching records, or those with the best graduate schools records--tend to be liberals. The applicant pool, not ideological litmus tests, determines who gets hired. Among our own crop of current graduate students, the same is true. No one in the department inquires or cares what political party the applicants belong to. The applicant pool probably tends to be marginally more liberal than the average American, which in turn means that those admitted tend to be marginally more more liberal than the average American. On the other hand, our best applicant last year was an ardent conservative; he was recruited by the department because he is bright and hard-working, not because of or despite his political beliefs.

If bright, qualified conservatives want to teach college, they are free to do so. Come ye conservatives, earn your Ph.D.'s and join your liberal brethren in the ranks of Academia! Ask the Heritage Foundation for a fellowship, or even for an endowed chair! But don't cry foul because you chose to be a stockbroker, an Army officer, or a think-tank ideologue instead of an academic.


michael wreszin - 10/16/2002

Dear Jerry: Just for starters, what of Forrest Macdonald. Has he not won many awards. Was he not the Jefferson Scholar oarwhatever it is. Alan Bloom did pretty well. What of Oscar Handlin. Wsas the Brooklyn College faculty full of leftists. I don't think so. Certainly the leftists in the history department at Queens were in a minority. My God HOrowitz thinks Eric Foner is a Maoist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!It may be a sad sign to see us writing on this veanue losvse to Trina


Michael Kelley - 10/16/2002

Juan Cole is the epitome of bigotry.

He has become a loud bore.


Kevin Gannon - 10/16/2002

Horowitz's survey finds liberal bogeymen in academia around every corner and lurking in every faculty lounge. But it's a survey of "top tier" schools. Of the Ivy League and flagship state universities (or in the case of large states like California, first-tier research schools). And Horowitz's critics--and I am one also--take the argument of those exact terms--yeah, there's a lot of liberals at these schools, but so what? Academic freedom, reverse-McCarthyism, etc.

But what about the other 60% or so of colleges and universities in the US? Part of this may be the chip on my shoulder, but how come discussions of "liberal academia" never dip below the elite, well-funded, first-tier institutions? I teach in the history department of a teaching-oriented, "second tier" state university serving primarily undergraduates. I'm fairly liberal, but I am in a decided minority, both within my department and my university. And I've worked at other colleges and universities outside of this hallowed upper echelon that has dominated the discussion here as well--and the same held true there. Now granted, this claim is based upon my own empirical observations, but I talk politics with my colleagues regularly, and I think my assessments faithfully reflect the realities of the situations I've been in.

Sports fans might recognize the phrase "east coast bias." It refers to the fact that most prominent sportswriters work for east coast papers, networks such as ESPN are located in the east, and thus teams from New York seem to get all the coverage. How much do you hear about the Yankees, even though they're out of the playoffs, compared to the Anaheim Angels, who are in the World Series?

The same holds true, I think, in academia. We are such a self-absorbed profession (which is not always a bad thing) and thus we tend to navel-gaze quite a bit. And our ponderings always seem to take the elite institutions of the US, both public and private, as our frame of reference. Horowitz does this, and we answer him on his terms. If you look at the climate as a whole, I don't think American colleges and universities differ too significantly from other professional environments in terms of political leanings.

Maybe when we move our frame of reference out of just the top tier and consider the needs and realities of the entire academy, we might spend time more fruitfully assessing genuine issues like funding, class size, teaching overloads, and the overuse of adjuncts. But of course, these problems rarely affect the top tier, so we self-obsessedly fulminate over imaginary outrages such as those Horowitz has gotten himself so out of joint over.

And with that, I'll return to the grading of my 169 essays turned in from my four survey sections at my second-tier, but far more representative of academe, institution

Kevin Gannon
somewhere deep in the heart of Texas


Prof - 10/15/2002

Mr. Nargizian,
If someone disengaged the caps, bold and italics functions on your computer, he or she would have done you a favor. Let the pure logic, acute thinking, and brilliant prose carry your argument. Forget the artificial emphases. They don't persuade; they turn readers off.
Beyond that, the very idea of the necessity of affirmative action for conservatives is so amusing that even Horowitz has not even ventured into this discussion.


Mike Nargizian - 10/15/2002

First of all if CEO's are Republican it is not because they are screened for their party affiliation. The standards for getting the job are whom the board thinks is going to be best for the company. Apparently a few Dems have been qualified. Bill Gates, Jon Corzine to name but a few.

The Army is typically more Right Wing because Republican Administrations are typically more Pro Defense. Makes sense to me. I never heard a requirement to be Republican to get promoted, though it could be possible, not denying it.

However, college campuses are by definition are supposed to be a multi collection of broad spectrum of views. It is not supposed to be a special interest or political agendized arena like think tanks, politics, etc... The fact the writer even mentions that Horowitz may be upset because Republican or Conservative thinkers can not break the hold on Campuses by Liberal or Radicals SAYS IT ALL!!

He intimates somehow its legitimate that the study indicated the obvious that the hold in campuses is INSANE! 85% DEM ORIENTED 5% CONS ORIENTED. Can he possibly justify this, or sound like a Jim Crow Southerner justifying the South in 1920??

There should be no special interest design at college campuses that is the WHOLE FREEKIN POINT. All aspects should be exposed to students in debates, forums and representation on staff.

Its quite interesting that the writer states,
"Now Horowitz wants a special nitch carved out for his conservatives on campus"
I wonder if I could say now those blacks want to come to our schools or vote in our booths or eat in our restaurants. A bit over the top but look at the %'s enclosed in the study.
The writer would honestly have us believe its only because
"Conservatives don't seek professorial positions in equal rates than do liberals"

Another words its not harder for a Conservative who doesn't espouse the "going consensus" will have a harder time getting hired let alone getting a Department Chair.

IS THERE ANYONE READING THIS ON EITHER SIDE OF THE ISSUE THAT HONESTLY BELIEVES THIS?

Mike Nargizian


Brian Paulson - 10/15/2002

Has Mr. Cole considered that the rise of right-wing think tanks and political actions groups and the new media outlets may be the response to the left-wing educators and administrators taking over American universities?

Don't even start with the national news networks being balanced or fair to their idealogical opposites. We all know that they aren't.

Is it wrong to hire only your own soulmates when staffing any large institution? Of course it is, but that isn't going to prevent either side from doing it in the future.






Jerry Sternstein - 10/15/2002

I don't know Genovese well, only having met him a few times, so I can't testify to his personality. But I can assure you, those who were most ardent and forceful in denying him an honorary degree did not know him at all. Their motivation, as expressed in their speeches opposing him, was based purely on their understanding of his association with the NAS, which some people have reminded me, is largely made up of former 1960s radicals, like Genovese, liberals, and some long time conservatives, all of whom are hardly the right wingers Genovese's detractors viewed them as.

And as far as "office politics" is concerned, such politics, as practiced in the universities in which I've taught, often reflected the same political divisions one finds outside academia, though there were and are always exceptions to the rule.


David Salmanson - 10/15/2002

I don't know Genovese personally, but his reputation is that he is kind of a self-righteous jerk who revels in his "outcast" status. I think that his politics may be an excuse for many to stick it to a guy they see as pompous and self-righteous. Of course, that makes his detractors petty and small. Too often what is simply office politics is blamed on that other kind of politics.


Jerry Sternstein - 10/14/2002

Juan Cole's criticism of David Horowitz's campaign to establish hiring quotas for conservative academics, I think is generally well taken. Hiring by the numbers to get a better political balance on campus would, I believe, be a cure for its present leftward tilt that would be far worse than the disease. And like Cole, I've never experienced in almost four decades of teaching and talking with members of search committees the issue of a candidates' political registration coming up -- whether he or she was a Republican or a Democrat. Still, I think, politics and ideology has a way of entering into the hiring process in subtle and not so subtle ways. Let me explain by reference to an example of political bias at work in a not untypical urban college in the City University system.

Before I retired at Brooklyn College, CUNY, in 1998, a history department meeting was held to consider, among other things, whether to support the awarding of an honorary degree to Eugene Genovese, an outstanding historian of slavery and the American South, who had graduated the college in 1953. Invariably, such requests from the administration that the history department vote to honor one its own distinguished graduates would sail through unanimously. But not in the case of Genovese and not in the present politically correct climate. Two women members of the department, one a historian of German and women's history who regarded the demise of East Germany and the Soviet Union as Paradise Lost, and another, who taught women's history from a radical perspective, whose field was originally English history, strongly objected to honoring Genovese. As they viewed him, he had betrayed his former radical friends (though they didn't use that term, but their meaning was clear), by becoming an outspoken member of the National Association of Scholars, which they denounced as a right-wing academic organization hostile to minorities and especially women. Whatever Genovese had accomplished as a historian over his lifetime was vitiated, in their eyes, by his membership in that organization -- which I'm not even certain he belonged to. But that didn't matter: He had made speeches and written articles that conformed to that organization's purported anti-women and anti-minority agenda.

Some of us countered this attack on the grounds that it was a form of reverse McCarthyism, hardly befitting an institution which suffered from purges of Communist Party members on the faculty in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, when Brooklyn College was known as the "Little Red Schoolhouse." Also, we argued, we would be honoring Genovese for his scholarship not his current politics, whatever they might be. This carried no weight with his opponents on the left -- as well as the majority in the department -- who emphasized over and over again what they considered his retrogressive beliefs, made emblematic by his supposed membership in the NAS. In the end, his detractors, much to the department's shame, won the day by a considerable margin. Genovese was not honored at Brooklyn College's commencement that year, or, I believe, has he been honored since.

Now if a highly regarded scholar such as Genovese can be denied an honorary degree because of his supposed association with a particular organization many politically correct academics on the left condemn, think of how a new candidate for an opening might fare if he or she belonged to the NAS or something similar. One would not have to ask the candidate anything about party registration or political philosophy. To many on the left, that would be as clear as day, and, in today's highly politicized campus atmosphere, make that candidate, no matter how sterling his scholarly credentials, as "unsuitable" for the position as Genovese was for an honorary degree.

What's the solution to the ideological tilt among faculty Horowitz wants to correct? I'm not bright enough to offer a solution, other than to warn prospective job candidates not to sign any petitions championing conservative causes or to join any organizations considered to have a conservative bent. Indeed, do the exact opposite. You can always show your true colors when you have tenure. But don't ever expect to get an honorary degree.