Guest Editorial: A Call for Intellectual Diversity · 09 November 2004

By the Columbia Daily Spectator, 11/09/04

Columbia professors are overwhelmingly liberal-that should come as no surprise to any student.

Although the business school, economics department, and political science department have a conservative presence, conservative professors are noticeably absent from history, philosophy, and the rest of the humanities departments. This lack of contrarian voices is harming Columbia's ability to produce fully educated liberal arts students. By not having a conservative voice hawk its wares in the hue and cry of the academic marketplace, Columbia is failing its students.

While conservatives are minorities in faculties across the country, almost all of Columbia's peer institutions have some strongly conservative humanities professors. The Hoover Institution at Stanford is a mecca for conservative thinkers of all stripes. Niall Ferguson, a history professor at NYU, Harvey Mansfield, a government professor at Harvard, Donald Kagan, a classics professor at Yale, and Robert P. George, a jurisprudence professor at Princeton, are all right-leaning professors who teach very popular classes at their respective universities. The intellectual iconoclasm that drives these professors manifests itself in their contributions to campus debates. For instance, Mansfield, an outspoken opponent of grade inflation, offers two grades for undergraduates: an official, inflated grade for the registrar, and a private, much lower grade for the student. Who at Columbia would not appreciate a professor so willing to visibly challenge campus orthodoxy?

In all other areas of campus life, students do not hesitate to call for diversity. There is no reason why these same arguments should not apply to conservative professors in the humanities.

We are not calling for intellectual tokenism, nor are we arguing that creationists should be appointed to the biology department. The same rigorous academic standards that apply to leftist professors should apply to conservative professors, but there are conservative professors out there who more than meet these standards. We are merely acknowledging the fact that a campus where Eric Foner and other leftist luminaries of the faculty could have a stimulating, challenging debate with a worthy conservative opponent would be a more exciting, intellectually fulfilling institution.

Right-wing students would be heartened that evangelicals are not the only proponents of conservative beliefs, and left-wing students would be forced to develop their arguments further and not rely on consensus as an intellectual crutch. Promoting faculty diversity is one of Columbia's greatest challenges, and finding a proper balance will be difficult. But it should be self-evident that a faculty that speaks with unanimity on some of the most divisive issues of the day is not fulfilling its duty. Students across the ideological spectrum must demand that Columbia address this need.