Are Conservative Historians Excluded from Search Committees?


Mr. Horowitz is the publisher of frontpagemag.com.

This is an excerpt from a talk Mr. Horowitz gave at Restoration Weekend, a meeting at which conservatives discuss social and political issues.

Shortly after 9/11, I was at an eastern university. The kids'll take me out to a local diner before the speech, and the faculty advisor will often be there. And here he was, and he was a white-haired – all of the conservative professors are white-haired – a white-haired professor in the History Department, Senior Professor of History. And I said to him, "How does it work?" And he said, "Well, they haven't allowed me on a Search Committee since 1985." He said, "In that year I chaired the Search Committee and of course we hired a Marxist. And I said, "Of course." Because conservatives believe in process and educational values; you should be exposed to diverse viewpoints.

The left, as John Diggins once said – John Diggins is a kind of Johnson liberal, or Hubert Humphrey liberal, who were liberals when liberals were actually liberal. I was at a American Studies Association meeting with him, in a room full of academic leftists, and he said, "You know, we liberals let you in, and you came in, and you closed the door behind you."

So this Senior Professor said, "They hired a Marxist." Then, he said, "This year we had an opening for a Professor of Asian History, and I saw that the most qualified candidate was from Stanford. And he didn't get the job. So I asked the Chair of the Search Committee what happened? And he said, 'Well, you're absolutely right, he was the best qualified for the job, and we had a terrific interview. But then we all went out to lunch, and he let on that he was for school vouchers.'" Did you get that? If you have the wrong position on school vouchers, you must be politically incorrect about the Ming Dynasty.

I wish that that was all it was, but what it really is, is power. The idea of academic leftists is, "We cannot afford to let somebody in who is not with the program, because they might let another one in, and another, and we would lose control.

There were 150 campus demonstrations against America defending herself within 2 or 3 weeks after 9/11. This is reflection of the dominance of the left on America's campuses.

At Brown, when I did my Reparations campaign, the leader, the faculty leader of the left, is somone who publishes in the Communist Party's "theoretical journal." He's a specialist in "black philosophy." The Brown Daily Herald printed my ad; my ad was about why reparations was a bad idea. The left attacked the Brown Daily Herald as a racist paper. You have to understand these kids, the editors, had debated the big debate six months before – this was the spring of 2001 – was whether to endorse Ralph Nader or Al Gore; that's who these kids are. They were attacked as racist. The entire issue of the Brown Daily Herald was stolen and destroyed by the left. The President of the university made a very mild statement saying that we shouldn't be destroying newspapers at Brown. Sixty – sixty – members of the Brown faculty signed a statement attacking the President and defending the theft of the papers. That's the situation at Brown.

I think there were four professors who actually came out and defended me, which was four times as many as came out at any other university. Two in the medical school and one botanist, who had written a book on Darwin and design theory. And one music professor whose career and life had been ruined for many years by a false accusation from the feminists – he looked at somebody the wrong way or something. Those were the four who defended me.

This translates into the fact that what students are regularly taught in universities, to put it bluntly, is to be ashamed of their country; to look on America as a racist, sexist, imperialist monster. In other words, the Great Satan, which is why you have so much sympathy on college campuses for our enemies.

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John Olerud - 3/9/2009

I share a large, open office with a number of other adjuncts, and I make sure to step out of the office whenever I'm going to discuss anything with a student that isn't the accepted "company line." Freedom of speech and ideas is absolutely dead unless you are tenured.

allan curtis beegle - 12/13/2004

ATT> "ELIZIBETH"BEEGLE....Why is it that every time i turn around, I hear something about how (smart) you are? "Usually from your own lips"???????? You lack the common sense, patience, human relations knowledge, social skills....ETC...add ...infinitely ..., to be a teacher of bovines. Go back to the post office, your impersonal, anti social angry behavior will fit in perfectly...No response is required, your inaction speaks volumns......Your EX brother...Allan.

allan curtis beegle - 12/13/2004

ATTN. "ELIZIBETH" BEEGLE....By the by, you stated to me that you had reached such a level of spiritual awareness that you had eliminated all negative aspects from your surroundings and no longer had negative thoughts or made negative comments???? Your verbage indicates to even a layman that you have abandoned your moral highground. Or, having never attained the level of spiritual awareness you attempted to portray or, momentarily espoused. Stated your case in a spurious manner....Good day. Your EX. brouther....

Beth Beegle - 8/23/2004

As a nontraditional student in history who is attending a state university, I have been struck by the doctrinaire approach adopted by some of my professors. Even more dismaying to me is the seeming inability of many students to formulate, let alone articulate, their own opinions.

I have encountered heavily biased reading lists, and "discussions" built around liberal assumptions. Prior to returning to school, I thought of myself as liberal, and I still do. In the spirit of intellectual honesty, I despise dogma, whether liberal or conservative, and am troubled by the idea that I, in spite of an excellent academic record, might be prevented from obtaining a university teaching position based on my political or social leanings.

Donald I. Fairman - 1/13/2003

so, anyone whom you have a political difference with is a "nazi" or a "McCarthy". that seems to be the chant of the left. I for one am glad to see these "teachers" method of "teaching" exposed.

David P. Reinhardt - 12/26/2002

I believe it has a great deal to do with history and some of the replies need to get honest with the facts and get their heads out of the garbage cans. It’s things like what’s going on at Brooklyn College that leads me, as a business owner, to support school vouchers.

Jesse E. Worley, II - 12/22/2002

I am afraid that David Horowitz is only trying to pick a fight. He apparently gets paid rather well to do that. He loves to disparage the history profession because the profession has this nasty little habit of interpreting events in a way that does not supoort his views. Apparerntly, historians should worship in the temple of Horowitz and spout the latest in conservative thought and ideas as dogma. As much as I dislike him and as much as I think he distorts the facts (imagine a conservative doing that...ie Rove and Bush), he does have the right to his opinion (Yes, there needs to be a constitutional amendment that commands him to put up or shut up.) It's rather funny. His diatribe, as echoed by conservatives, fails to meet a rather obvious test. I have had conservative professors. I ahve have had liberal professors. I have had professors that thought Marxism was right. THe funny thing is I made up my own mind. I was not brain washed or tortured nor did I ever fail a class for expressing my views. (OK there was one time I had to write a paper from a professors point of view. Sorry but I do not think the British colonists were very British after a few generations. I was called a Whig historian and told to make them very British. Yes, I still disagree (I told him I didn't beleive a word I wrote)but I wrote the paper got the B I deserved. (I would have given it a C by the way) But other than that one occassion, and I am sure I will face a few more before I am through, I have been able to express my opinions freely and not feel discriminated against by a professor.)In Horowitz's perfect academic world there would be discrimnation against any professor who did not believe what he did. Personally, I think Horowitx should find another forum to express his rants.
Jesse E. Worley, II

Jesse E. Worley, II - 12/22/2002

Let's see Clarence Thomas. What is he going to discuss that would be worthwhile? The virtues of Debbie does Dallas? (Not, of course implying that there are any). Of everyone on your list he deserves to be shouted down. He should go back to the rock he crawled out from under and stay there. As to the rest, I would galdly go hear them, however, I doubt East Carolina University can afford their speakers fee and personally I am not ready to pay another increase in student fees to be able to be able to hear them.

derekcatsam - 12/19/2002

Bill --
No problem. We all get overheated here at HNN. That's why it is so damned much fun. When it is not utterly infuriating, I mean.

Bill Heuisler - 12/16/2002

Touche' Derek. Guess his quaint attitude made me reckless.

derekcatsam - 12/16/2002

The difference, Bill, as you well should know, is that Mr. Jennings used his anecdotal evidence not to make a larger generalization, but rather to refute a generalization based on anacdote. This is exactly where anecdotal evidence is good and acceptable. Now if Mr. Jennings had said that his experiences meant that all of academia is actually conservative, well, then you'd have a quibble. But his point stands -- in fact history departments are not the caricature some would make them out to be, and every collection of individual experiences that bears that out seriously undercuts the Horowitz argument.

Yael Bahms - 12/16/2002

Here we have one anecdote in which one unnamed search committee chair makes a stupid comment. What's more, the comment was not made to the author, but repeated to him by another, also unnamed, member of that same unnamed department.

The author's assertion that conservatives are excluded from search committees may or may not be true. I suspect that it's not, but to draw a grand sociological conclusion based upon second-hand gossip of one incident repeated at a diner is, well, incredible.

The story about the author's experience at Brown University might have some meaning about campus politics. But is anyone surprised that Brown University students are more liberal than most Americans? Is it news that campus politics sometimes resort to ill advised means to express their point of view?

If anyone can figure out what the Brown anecdote has to do with the argument that conservatives are systematically excluded from search committees, they are a better reader than me.

Bill Rodgers - 12/14/2002

"Anyone familiar with . . .knows"

The universal assertion.

The argument of charlatans.

Brian Jennings - 12/14/2002

A "rash" of "hate America" and "anti-semitic" rallys? Where? Post-football game riots are much more common on campuses these days, and involve much larger numbers of students.

Jeane Kirkpatrick needs security? We couldn't afford her speaker's fee, but Ollie North, Jim Baker and the conservative half of "Hannity and Combs" (I get them confused) all received respectful audiences here in recent years, as well as the CEO of a company which produces most of its products in maquiladoros.

During WWI, the University of Michigan fired its German language professors. In the 1950s, faculty accused of being communists were silenced in the same way, and it took the force of the federal government to simply admit African-Americans to many Southern Universities. In the 1980s, a student at Dartmouth who publicly announced he was gay was beaten up and locked in a closet, and left for dead. The College tried to sweep it under the rug, and made no attempt to find the students who committed the crime.

Given the uneven history of free speech on college campuses, I'll stand by my assertion that there's more open and free speech now than there has ever been.

I'm not RVW, and I've never been to the Catskills, but perhaps your perception of left-wing tyrannies oppressing conservative speech on campus is colored by the fact that your vision only extends a few hundred miles from the Catskills highest peak. What happens at a few high profile eastern colleges and universities is hardly reflective of the reality in the heartland.

Bill Heuisler - 12/14/2002

Mr. Jennings,
Thank you for honoring our quaint little debate.
But then you complacently refute Horowitz's "self-reported, episodic reports by disgruntled faculty" with your own self-reported, episodic reports. One might ask, why did you bother?
Did you bother to explain the rash of hate-America and anti-Semitic demonstrations since 9/11? Can you explain why conservative speakers like Jeane Kirkpatrick, Clarence Thomas, William Bennett and even Condi Rice need security guards to speak on campus - and are then shouted down? Can you further explain why speakers like Angela Davis are sought-after and lionized by students and faculty alike, even in the smaller schools? Serendipitous? Worth considering? Nah.
Perhaps as you say, "a place where all view poitns are debated and considered with respect" does not include quaint little HNN.
Your Pecksniffian claim of open and free academic exchange forces a reader to wonder at your exertion. But maybe you've been asleep in the Catskills for the last fifty years.
Quaint little salutations, Bill Heuisler

Brian Jennings - 12/14/2002

What a quaint little debate. Horwitz claims "conservatives" are excluded by "left-wing academics" from search committees. The evidence? Self-reported episodic stories by disgruntled faculty (most institutions have folks like this of all political persuasions). Others charge are Universities are teaching oir kids to hate their country. Funny. I teach at a small, non-elite liberal arts college with students whose SAT score are far south of those attending Ivys. Still, my students are smart enough to listen to my lectures critically, and make up their own mind. When I went up for tenure this fall, I asked both the President of the College Republicans and a leader of the campus Green Party to speak on my behalf. I evaluate my students and my colleagues on the qualities of their mind (and other factors) and don't reduce them to labels like "left-wing" and "conservative." And I am not unusual on this campus. Many may find some perverse comfort in dismissing academia as dominated by lefties and brain-washing Marxists, but it certainly doesn't reflect the reality where I teach--a place where all view poitns are debated and considered with respect. And where I teach is not an anomaly. Horwitz built a career on an identity defined by the Cold War. Now that it is over, folks like him (operating on an outdated paradigm of old new left and old right) are only interesting as historical artifacts. Their perspectives on post-Cold War academia, and the post-cold War student body don't reflect the new reality. There has never been a time when the opne and free exchnage of ideas in academia has been greater than now.

Jim Farrell - 12/11/2002

The things Horowitz said about professorial selection bias can be attacked or defended. Your ad hominem tirade is disappointing.

chuck heisler - 12/11/2002

Mr. Kellum, I don't accept your premise that there is a paucity of liberals over fifty, especially on college campuses. Even if I did accept the argument, that still doesn't excuse the lack of open discussion of ideas in college classrooms. Am I to assume that institutions that are, among other things, to prepare youth for meaningful adulthood should be teaching philosphies that don't apply to maturity? I would think that if everyone over 50 is a conservative that we would be better off accelerating the process in our colleges--imagine the confusion that is now created in our youth. Try as you might, you cannot justify the onesidedness of so many academics, unless they fess up and admit that they are indoctrinators instead of teachers.

Bill Heuisler - 12/11/2002

Mr. Kellum,
Your question:
"...how do you explain the paucity of liberals in society under the age of 50?"
Bright graduates are ashamed they were temporarily fooled by a sophmoric swindle, Mr. Kellum. Most are ashamed teachers got away with pretending Real History never happened.
Most informed adults know the gore-drenched Twentieth Century is chronicle to the failed collectivist experiment. Marxism is the hateful dream of old men whose only claim to importance is their flaccid conceit. Those who promote ruinous, blood-drenched dreams maintain their benighted illusions under the careful control of a classroom, but when the collectivist chimera is exposed to fresh air, brainwashed students realize the con.
Intelligent people react to reality.
Bill Heuisler

Tom Kellum - 12/10/2002

Your message implies that conservative thought on campuses is either non-existent or has been effectively muffled, since the mid-sixties.

If that's so, then how do you explain the paucity of liberals in society under the age of 50? (Not counting those who didn't attend college.)

So-called conservative thought predominates amongst opinion leaders throughout the country. The fact that there are many so-called liberals in academia hasn't protected or prevented most under-50, college-educated Americans from falling sway to corporate/conservative dogma.

Chuck Heisler - 12/10/2002

How cute to remind us that "intelligent Republicans" can send their children to "best schools" paying "top dollars" to do so. Our concern should not be for these few youngsters but for the thousands that are captive to one side of the discourse on social, historical, and political matters. To brush off the problem that exists on college campuses, private and public with the lack of exposure to both sides of the discussion is simply repulsive. I realize that it is hard for many academics to realize that their job is to teach not indoctrinate Seuss, but that is, in fact, their jobs. You may snicker at the problem and cast twitty aspersions at conservative targets but the issue is simply that students are not given a "well rounded" liberal educations in our institutions of higher learning when so many of their teachers hold as gospel and preach only one side of the argument. That does not even take into account the unbelievable attempts many of these "scholars" to actually shut down discussion in their classrooms and campuses. The matter is a real problem.

Basil Duke - 12/10/2002

You folks on the left are a one dog show with your stock (albeit meaningless) references to "Rush" et al. Your trusty reference to 'him' is a straw man, designed to divert attention from where attention belongs - on the collectivist thugs passing themselves off as the enlightened elite both within the faculty and in the classrooms of American collegiate life. Mao? Come now. If the good chairman's name be invoked for ideological purposes, surely it must be reserved for that group of people whose fetish for concocting 'hate speech codes' to silence their political opponents (Herbert Marcuse, stand up and say 'howdy.') is exceeded only by the caterwauling they're certain to raise at the first hint of diversion from the group think party line.

Suess - 12/10/2002

There have always been and will always be decisions made by close-knitted professional organizations for inappropriate and unprofessional reasons. It is a problem worthy of attention, not supervision by the state, or paranoid control by self-appointed rabble rousers. Sensible, intelligent Republicans know this and they pay top dollars to send their qualified sons and daughters to the best schools in the world regardless of what David Horowitz, Rush Limbaugh, or Archie Bunker may pretend to think.

The coup de grace for "conservative thought" was probably delivered by Newt Gingrich and the "radical Republicans" whose respect for American traditions was indeed reminiscent of Mao and the "Cultural Revolution".

Chuck Heisler - 12/10/2002

Basil, you are probably "juvenile" to believe that any one spouting off ala Dr. Seuss deserves a response to his drivel.
Anyone familiar with the way conservative thought is treated on campuses across American knows full well the peril an academic, either as an applicant or faculty member, puts themselves in when they support anything to the right of Mao. Of course there is not objectivity in academia--perhaps there was once but I have been around the institution since the mid sixties and the "free expressions of ideas" concept left the hallowed halls about then and has been absent since. Most folks know that.

Basil Duke - 12/10/2002

You may think it "childish" and "juvenile" to comment on the burning of newspapers at an elite American university or the left's tyrannical hammerlock on the university hiring process, but a few folks find it rather disturbing, with historical connotations. Do you endorse the situation at Brown (and similar incidents across the nation)? Do you believe a litmus test must be applied for all university aspirants? Or am I being juvenile in even asking where you stand on the matter?

Dr. Seuss - 12/10/2002

Another waste of webspace from Hopelessly Nonhistorical Nonsense.

David Horowitz is childish fool. First he was a childish fool
"on the left". Now he is a childish fool "on the right". Haven't
we had enough childish fools "from the left" and "from the right"
on this website, who can't endlessly blathering meaningless gibberish about the "left" and "right" ?

So the old boy networks are now old girl-and-boy networks with a different set of biases. This means we have to look for evil conspirators under every campus lectern ?!

Or is this juvenile rant just an attempt to make Daniel McCarthy Pipes look reasoned and insightful by comparison ?