“Eye-Popping” Lack of Ideological Diversity in Universities

Cass Sunstein, the author of the passages quoted below, was the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012 during the Obama administration. He is currently a professor at the Harvard Law School. His spouse is Samantha Powers who he met while advising the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. She went on to be appointed by Obama as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

(p. 7B) In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia). Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.
. . .
. . . , the current numbers make two points unmistakably clear. First, those who teach in departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to offer competing views and to present them fairly and with respect. A political philosopher who leans left should be willing and able to ask students to think about the force of the argument for free markets, even if they produce a lot of inequality.
Second, those who run departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to find people who will represent competing views — visiting speakers, visiting professors and new hires. Faculties need not be expected to mirror their societies, but students and teachers ought not live in information cocoons.
John Stuart Mill put it well: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value … of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.”

For the full commentary, see:
Cass Sunstein. “The problem with All Those Liberal College Professors.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, May 1, 2018): 7B.
(Note: the ellipsis internal to last paragraph was in original; the other ellipses were added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 30, 2018.)

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