It’s become almost trite in our day to point out that colleges and universities are disproportionately left wing. Does anyone dispute it anymore? Universities are grossly intolerant of conservative viewpoints and Phoenix gets really hot in the summer.
But that is precisely the danger. We’ve become so accustomed to knowing that faculty are radically unrepresentative of the people at large, it no longer surprises us when we hear stories or read details confirming it. Sometimes we find it funny, on par with the satire of a witty Vonnegut or Kafka novel, mocking or laughing off some of the more rank absurdities of the university system. But it’s deadly serious. These same administrators and faculty members are propagandizing the next generation. We see the fruit of it now.
According to a Gallup poll in 2019, 37% of Americans identify as conservative, 35% of Americans identify as moderate and 24% of Americans identify as liberal. Ideologically, America remains a center-right nation. When it comes to party affiliation, the Democrats fare a little better. In another Gallup poll the same year, 47% of Americans identify politically with the Democratic party and 42% of Americans identify politically with the Republican party.
What about college professors? A recent study by Mitchell Langbert and Sean Stevens showed that college professors are 95 times more likely to donate to Democrats than to Republicans. The same study also explored party affiliation. Among the faculty at Harvard University, there are 88 registered Democrats for every registered Republican. At Georgetown the ratio is 75:1. At Princeton the ratio is 40:1. The more elite the school, the more unrepresentative is the faculty but even at smaller colleges and regional universities, the ratio is extremely lopsided.
Nor is this the only study confirming extreme partisan bias. A study in 2016 examined the nation’s top 40 colleges and universities, focusing on five fields: economics, history, journalism, law and psychology. The study found a ratio of 11.5 Democrats for every Republican. History was the worst, with a ratio of 33.5 Democrats for every Republican. Another study by Mitchell Langbert in 2018 examined 51 of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. At 39 percent of these colleges, the faculty had zero Republicans. Zero. The vast majority of the remainder had so few Republicans that it made virtually no dent at all in the university’s intellectual life.
Academia has leaned Left for many decades, since at least the end of World War II. Yet the problem has greatly intensified over the last quarter century. Survey data revealed that in 1969 about 27 percent of American professors described themselves as at least moderately conservative. By 1999 that number had plunged to 12 percent and by all indications, today it lies somewhere in the low single digits. The number of faculty who identified as Left (at the expense of moderate or conservative) grew proportionally. As late as 1984, only about 39 percent of American professors, on average, described themselves as Left. By 1999 that number had soared to 72 percent. The biggest shift, then, occurred around the early to the mid-‘90s, so that today it is simply a given – of course university faculty are left wing. We forget that not too long ago, faculty were not so homogeneous. We forget that universities used to be a place of discourse, debate, and disagreement between scholars of diverse ideological perspectives. Today, ideological consensus is the rule and the consensus goes one direction.
Barring fundamental changes in the university system, this trend will only worsen. Langbert’s 2018 study found that among younger, tenure-track professors, the ratio of Democrat to Republican is almost 13:1. It is worst of all in the humanities (English, literature, philosophy, history, anthropology, art, etc.). Among tenure-track professors in the humanities, there are 32 Democrats for every Republican. Think about that: only three percent affiliate with a party supported by forty-two percent of the American people. Those same professors, on receiving tenure, will train graduate students to become a new wave of PhDs, more prone to groupthink than even the last and will monopolize the search committees that hire new faculty.
What have we created?
Colleges and universities are becoming full-fledged indoctrination centers. Some have already reached that dreaded point; others are fast approaching it. Sadly, that is not hyperbole. Even STEM fields are giving way to this trend. Why have we allowed this? Why are we subsidizing this? Why are we sending highly impressionable young adults to institutions that are overtly, systemically and unapologetically hostile to ideas and values (moderate or conservative) cherished by upwards of 70 percent of the American population?
What do we do? The answer is complicated. But obviously something must be done. We can begin by urging our state legislatures to grow a backbone: demand that they hold taxpayer-funded universities accountable and refuse to subsidize them if the extreme ideological biases continue. Additionally, alumni must be encouraged to withhold donations to endowments, i.e., defund, to affect change in the profound ideologic imbalance endemic in higher education today.
This needs to be a priority. Liberty itself is at stake. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, called knowledge “the soul of a republic.” If that is the case, we’re in deep trouble.