Conservative Professor Fights Smith's Tenure Decision · 31 May 2003

O'REILLY: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, James Miller, who teaches economics at Smith College in Massachusetts, was up for tenure this year, but he didn't get it.

Miller says the reason is he's a conservative Republican. And the college grievance committee agrees he wasn't treated fairly, saying "the rationale for their votes included consideration of matters that infringed on the candidate's right to academic freedom."

Joining us now from Boston is Professor Miller, who is the author of the book, "Game Theory at Work." All right, so you succeeded in convincing the hierarchy at Smith College that you were, indeed, denied tenure because of your political beliefs, which is supposed to be against every academic tenet in this country. But I find it hard to believe that a college as prestigious as Smith, they would punish you because you were a conservative. Am I naive?

JAMES MILLER, SMITH COLLEGE ASST. PROF.: Well, I think the problem is that there are so few conservatives and Republicans at most American colleges, including Smith, that when, you know, they read something written by a conservative, it just seems crazy to them. So I don't think the people who are punishing me for being a conservative thought they were violating my academic freedom. They thought they were keeping out someone who has this utterly crazy beliefs from teaching and corrupting their students.

O'REILLY: Yes, but surely -- surely educated people at the college level have heard conservative opinion before. Are you off the wall, professor?

MILLER: I don't think that I'm off the wall. I was writing things for "The Weekly Standard" and the "National Review," things that I think were pretty mainstream for conservatives. But, you know, the people who were violating academic freedom -- they're Marxist. I mean, to them, Teddy Kennedy is a reactionary. Someone like George Bush is completely beyond the pale. They wouldn't even, you know, consider watching you or Fox News. You know, anything -- anything that's even mildly fair or balanced would be considered...

O'REILLY: But that's fine. That -- I don't care whether they watch Fox News or not, I mean, if those people want to live in their own little, sheltered world, but to try and hurt somebody because they disagree with their political views... I mean did you say anything patently offensive that they would -- because if you didn't get tenure, that means you don't stay at the college. I mean you have to leave, correct?

MILLER: Right. Well, what one person objected to is I wrote an article criticizing colleges for not hiring conservatives. The article also made the point that, you know, most college professors are left-wing, and someone wrote in the letter explaining why I shouldn't be given tenure that she was very disturbed that I had expressed these views.

O'REILLY: But what -- I mean that's insane. All of the polls show that in the Ivy League colleges -- now Smith isn't Ivy, but it's, you know, on...

MILLER: It's close.

O'REILLY: ... that level -- that 88 percent of the professors voted for Al Gore in the last election. So what you're saying is you're basically stating the obvious.

MILLER: That's what I thought, but this person was very disturbed. Another professor objected to my criticism of academia. In my book, "Game Theory at Work," I said that tenure, which is a lifetime job guarantee, sometimes attracts people who don't really want to work very hard for the rest of their lives, and this person was very upset that I would criticize academia in a public way.

O'REILLY: But, again, these are your views. They're critical. I mean it's not like you're attacking a race or a religion or them personally. So what you're saying, Professor, and what we're seeing here at Smith is intolerance for views other than their own. Is that correct?

MILLER: I think, among these two people, yes, although the Smith grievance committee, the five members -- they were very tolerant, and they overturned this decision. So, overall at Smith, I think there is a lot of tolerance. There's just, you know, pockets of intolerance, and, unfortunately, you know, that caused me not to get tenure the first time I was there.

O'REILLY: All right. Now you do believe that on college campuses in America that the instructors are primarily left-wing. You believe that, correct?

MILLER: Oh, absolutely. Yes. O'REILLY: OK. Now is that because that's who they recruit, they being the administration, or is it just that that type of person, a liberal person, gravitates toward that job? MILLER: I think it's mostly that it sort of self-perpetuates. Since so many professors are very left wing, most of the people who decide to go in academics -- they go in because they like the views their professors tell them about. So they go in because they're attracted to this left-wing ideology. Also, in a lot of disciplines, especially humanities, it would be almost impossible to have a successful career unless you're fairly left- wing. So a rational conservative who seems very interested in English wouldn't pursue a career as an English professor because...

O'REILLY: And you're saying that you couldn't have a good career because the intolerance of the left would prevent you from having one? MILLER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: All right, Professor.

MILLER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Well, we're glad you're going to be re-evaluated. Let us know what happens next year, OK?

MILLER: Well, thank you very much.

O'REILLY: And we see that Smith College did do the right thing in the end.