Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities · 28 August 2003

Filed under: Reports

Executive Summary

(David Horowitz and Eli Lehrer)

This report on political bias at 32 elite colleges and universities is the third in a series conducted by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and researched by Andrew Jones.

Methodology

The Center generated a list of 32 elite colleges and universities. We included the entire Ivy League, premier liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Pomona, well-known technically-oriented universities like MIT, highly competitive public institutions like the University of California at Berkeley, and other elite private universities like Stanford. We compiled lists of tenured or tenure-track professors of the Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science and Sociology departments - choosing these because they teach courses focusing on issues affecting the society at large. We compared these lists to the voter registration lists of the counties or states in which the colleges were located, and attempted to match individual names.

The quality of our data varied. Not all faculty are registered to vote and not all reside in the county or even state which we searched. The political affiliation of these individuals was therefore not accessible. In other cases there was more than one individual with the same name, again making a positive identification impossible In some places, the Center was able to identify most professors; at others, only a minority were positively identified. The figures contained in this report are indicators of a problem; they make no claim to definitively identify that problem. This would only be possible with greater resources than are available to the Center or with the cooperation of the institutions themselves.

We selected party registration for our study because other indices of bias would be highly subjective. The meanings of "liberal" and "conservative" are notoriously indeterminate, reflecting as much the prejudices of the cataloguer as they would the preferences of those being studied. Although the terms "Republican" and "Democrat" may seem inappropriate in the context of academic pursuits, they have the advantage of reflecting the self-identifications of the individuals under scrutiny and they are clearly identifiable.

Moreover the terms "Republican" and "Democrat" can reasonably be said to reflect a predictable spectrum of assumptions, views and values that affect the outlooks of Americans who finance, attend, administer and teach at these educational institutions. This is why we chose them. It is not our intention to suggest that there should be quotas based on party affiliation in the hiring process at universities. Rather it is our purpose to discover whether there is a grossly unbalanced, politically shaped selection process in the hiring of college faculty. While recognizing the limitations imposed on our study, we believe the figures recorded in this report make a prima facie case that there is.


Summary of Results

In our examinations of over 150 departments and upper-level administrations at 32 elite colleges and universities, the Center found the following:

  • The overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans we were able to identify at the 32 schools was more than 10 to 1 (1397 Democrats, 134 Republicans).
  • Although in the nation at large registered Democrats and Republicans are roughly equal in number, not a single department at a single one of the 32 schools managed to achieve a reasonable parity between the two. The closest any school came to parity was Northwestern University where 80% of the faculty members we identified were registered Democrats who outnumbered registered Republicans by a ratio of 4-1.
  • At other schools we found these representations of registered faculty Democrats to Republicans:
  • Brown 30-1
    Bowdoin, Wellesley 23-1
    Swarthmore 21-1
    Amherst, Bates 18-1
    Columbia, Yale 14-1
    Pennsylvania, Tufts, UCLA and Berkeley 12-1
    Smith 11-1
  • At no less than four elite schools we could not identify a single Republican on the faculty:
  • Williams 51 Democrats, 0 Republicans
    Oberlin 19 Democrats, 0 Republicans
    MIT 17 Democrats, 0 Republicans
    Haverford 15 Democrats, 0 Republicans
  • Faculty registration is just as unbalanced at major research universities as it is at small colleges. At Columbia University, the Center could identify only 6 faculty Republicans. The Center could not locate a single Republican in the history, political science, and sociology departments. Cornell University was just as left-leaning: the departments of English and history were entirely devoid of registered Republicans.
  • Administrators lean just as far to the left: at schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Melon, and Cornell, we could not identify a single Republican administrator. In the entire Ivy League, we identified only 3 Republican administrators.

Conclusion

These figures suggest that most students probably graduate without ever having a class taught by a professor with a conservative viewpoint. The ratios themselves are impossible to understand in the absence of a political bias in the training and hiring of college instructors. They strongly suggest that the governance of American universities has fallen into the hands of a self-perpetuating political and cultural subset of the general population, which seems intent on perpetuating its control. This is an unhealthy development for the both the educational enterprise and the democracy itself.

Without further investigation it is not possible to establish with any degree of certainty why this state of affairs has come into existence, but there are many obvious factors that may be said to have contributed to it. Among them is the very exclusion of conservatives from faculty and administrative positions itself. This in itself creates a hostile environment for conservative students contemplating an academic career. This core hostility is amplified by practices that have been incorporated into academic life in the last several decades, including campus speech codes and politicized classrooms - both which represent radical departures from the pre-Sixties academic environment. A comprehensive study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (available at www.speechcodes.org ) found that over 90 percent of well-known college campuses have speech codes intended to ban and punish politically incorrect, almost always conservative, speech. (Cases available at www.thefire.org.) Student testimonies about in-classroom political indoctrination are available at www.noindoctrination.org.

The impression that conservative values and ideas aren't welcome on campus is driven home daily to students until it becomes second nature. Professors generally do not grade politically, but a large enough percentage do that students - and not just conservative students - will take the prudent course of concealing what they actually think in order to protect their academic standing. This is obviously at odds with the educational mission of the university but academic authorities have done little to address the abuse.

All these factors exert a negative influence on the choices a conservative student might make about pursuing an intellectual career. But of all these factors the lack of conservative professors is the most significant. It serves to reduce the ability of the best and brightest conservative students to pursue graduate study even when they want to. Nearly all distinguished doctoral programs rely on matching students with professors who have compatible interests. A student interested in pursuing a Ph.D. based on his or her interest in Austrian school economics, traditionalist literary criticism, conservative historiography or religious poetry will have a difficult time finding a professor who wants to take her on. In the social sciences, Marxists have an infinitely easier time finding good mentors than Hayekians or Straussians. The lack of conservative professors provides a ready-made excuse (professors don't even think of it that way) for rejecting doctoral program applications for conservative students with stellar grades, recommendations, and standardized test scores.

For those conservatives who earn the doctoral "union card" necessary to teach at a major research university, a second obstacle awaits: hiring and tenure committees, which are stacked with their ideological and political adversaries. A number of high profile cases have occurred recently in which conservative scholars with significant records of publishing have performed according to the book and still ended up out of work.

The entire process of training graduate students, qualifying Ph.D. recipients, hiring junior faculty and granting tenure is hierarchical, arbitrary, closed to public scrutiny and designed to produce intellectual conformity in the best circumstances. Therefore special concern would be required to ensure that there are protections for students' academic freedom and for intellectual diversity. Unfortunately, in the present institutional framework no such protections exist.

We believe a remedy for this problematic situation would be for universities and state legislatures to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights stressing the importance of intellectual diversity to the goal of academic freedom, and making this goal an integral part of educational policy. We are attaching a copy of our suggested draft for such a Bill of Rights to this report.

When Ezra Cornell founded the institution that bears his name he said: "I would found an institution, where any person can find instruction in any study." American universities do not fulfill that promise when they cater to only half the population and fail to provide protections and adequate representation for the other. Presently, conservative viewpoints and values are under-represented in the academic curriculum, and conservatives themselves are relegated to second-class citizenship. While nearly all university administrations devote extraordinary resources to defend the principle of diversity in regard to race and gender, none can be said to have shown interest in the diversity of ideas. This bias has created a situation that is unworthy of the academic enterprise and unhealthy for the democracy that supports it, and in serious need of reform.

Data:

Total Schools Surveyed: 32
Total Democrats: 1397
Total Republicans: 134
Total Unaffiliated: 1891
Total TM : 790
Total Miscellaneous: 43

Amherst
55D, 3R, 23U, 0TM, 1M

Bates
18D, 1R, 18U, 0TM, 0M

Bowdoin
23D, 1R, 23U, 0TM, 1M

Brandeis
8D, 1R, 76U, 0TM, 0M

Brown
59D, 2R, 67U, 18TM, 0M

Bryn Mawr
14D, 2R, 13U, 8TM, 1M

Cal Tech
22D, 4R, 14U, 4TM, 0M

Carnegie Mellon
31D, 6R, 39U, 34TM, 0M

Chicago
79D, 8R, 144U, 0TM, 0M

Colgate
35D, 4R, 22U, 38TM, 1M

Columbia
57D, 4R, 74U, 123TM, 0M

Cornell
55D, 6R, 72U, 70TM, 1M

Dartmouth
38D, 4R, 68U, 0TM, 0M

Davidson
2D, 3R, 35U, 19TM, 0M

Duke
95D, 15R, 50U, 0TM, 15M

Harvard
77D, 11R, 127U, 0TM, 2M

Haverford
15D, 0R, 12U, 11TM, 0M

MIT
17D, 0R, 71U, 2TM, 0M

Northwestern
25D, 7R, 136U, 63TM, 0M

Oberlin
19D, 0R, 21U, 26TM, 0M

Pennsylvania
60D, 5R, 69U, 55TM, 0M

Princeton
49D, 6R, 127U, 75TM, 1M

Smith
43D, 4R, 46U, 0TM, 0M

Stanford
75D, 8R, 85U, 33TM, 8M

Swarthmore
21D, 1R, 14U, 22TM, 0M

Tufts
12D, 1R, 84U, 3TM, 0M

UC Berkeley
100D, 8R, 80U, 59TM, 6M

UCLA
137D, 11R, 90U, 55TM, 6M

Wellesley
23D, 1R, 63U, 0TM, 1M

Wesleyan
32D, 3R, 46U, 19TM, 0M

Williams
51D, 0R, 43U, 1TM, 0M

Yale
73D, 5R, 102U, 52TM, 0M