Thursday, June 10, 2004

IMN-Discrimination Against Conservatives on Campus


The Christian Science Monitor
6 May 2002

For more balance on campuses
By Christina Hoff Sommers

Washington - In a recent talk at Haverford College, I questioned the
standard women's studies teaching that the United States is a patriarchal
society that oppresses women.

For many in the audience, this was their first encounter with a dissident
scholar. One student was horrified when I said that the free market had
advanced the cause of women by affording them unprecedented economic
opportunities. "How can anyone say that capitalism has helped women?" she

Nor did I win converts when I said that the male heroism of special forces
soldiers and the firefighters at ground zero should persuade gender
scholars to acknowledge that "stereotypical masculinity" had some merit.
Later an embarrassed and apologetic student said to me, "Haverford is just
not ready for you."

After my talk, the young woman who invited me told me there was little
intellectual diversity at Haverford and that she had hoped I would spark
debate. In fact, many in the audience were quietly delighted by the
exchanges. But two angry students accused her of providing "a forum for
hate speech."

As the 2000 election made plain, the United States is pretty evenly divided
between conservatives and liberals. Yet conservative scholars have
effectively been marginalized, silenced, and rendered invisible on most
campuses. This problem began in the late '80s and has become much worse in
recent years. Most students can now go through four years of college
without encountering a scholar of pronounced conservative views.

Few conservatives make it past the gantlet of faculty hiring in
political-science, history, or English departments. In 1998, when a
reporter from Denver's Rocky Mountain News surveyed the humanities and
social sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he found that of
190 professors with party affiliations, 184 were Democrats.

There wasn't a single Republican in the English, psychology, journalism, or
philosophy departments. A 1999 survey of history departments found 22
Democrats and 2 Republicans at Stanford. At Cornell and Dartmouth there
were 29 and 10 Democrats, respectively, and no Republicans.

The dearth of conservatives in psychology departments is so striking, that
one (politically liberal) professor has proposed affirmative-action
outreach. Richard Redding, a professor of psychology at Villanova
University, writing in a recent issue of American Psychologist, notes that
of the 31 social-policy articles that appeared in the journal between 1990
and 1999, 30 could be classified as liberal, one as conservative.

The key issue, Professor Redding says, is not the preponderance of
Democrats, but the liberal practice of systematically excluding
conservatives. Redding cites an experiment in which several graduate
departments received mock applications from two candidates nearly
identical, except that one "applicant" said he was a conservative
Christian. The professors judged the nonconservative to be the
significantly better candidate.

Redding asks, rhetorically: "Do we want a professional world where our
liberal world view prevents us from considering valuable strengths of
conservative approaches to social problems ... where conservatives are
reluctant to enter the profession and we tacitly discriminate against them
if they do? That, in fact, is the academic world we now have...."

Campus talks by "politically incorrect" speakers happen rarely; visits are
resisted and almost never internally funded. When Camille Paglia, Andrew
Sullivan, David Horowitz, or Linda Chavez do appear at a college, they are
routinely heckled and sometimes threatened. The academy is now so
inhospitable to free expression that conservatives buy advertisements in
student newspapers. But most school newspapers won't print them. And papers
that do are sometimes vandalized and the editors threatened.

The classical liberalism articulated by John Stuart Mill in his book "On
Liberty" is no longer alive on campuses, having died of the very disease
Mr. Mill warned of when he pointed out that ideas not freely and openly
debated become "dead dogmas." Mill insisted that the intellectually free
person must put himself in the "mental position of those who think
differently" adding that dissident ideas are best understood "by hear[ing]
them from persons who actually believe them."

Several groups are working to bring some balance to campus. The
Intercollegiate Studies Institute, The Young America Foundation, Clare
Boothe Luce Policy Institute, and Accuracy in Academia sponsor lectures by
leading conservatives and libertarians. Students can ask these groups for
funds to sponsor speakers.

More good news is that David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular
Culture has launched a "Campaign for Fairness and Inclusion in Higher
Education." It calls for university officials to:

1. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for vandalizing newspapers or heckling

2. Conduct an inquiry into political bias in the allocation of student
program funds, including speakers' fees, and seek ways to promote
underrepresented perspectives.

3. Conduct an inquiry into political bias in the hiring process of faculty
and administrators and seek ways to promote fairness toward - and inclusion
of - underrepresented perspectives.

Were even one high-profile institution like the University of Colorado to
adopt a firm policy of intellectual inclusiveness, that practice would
quickly spread, and benighted students everywhere would soon see daylight.


Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute. Her most recent book is 'The War Against Boys: How Misguided
Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.'


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