Liberal professors in the majority

Andrea Wilson

Despite the common pursuit of diversity on college campuses, two studies published in recent weeks claim that political diversity may be lacking in the academic community.

The studies, authored by professors at the University of Santa Clara, found that in the realm of humanities and social sciences, Democratic professors outnumber their Republican colleagues by at least seven to one, a gap twice as large as it was 30 years ago.

The role of universities in politics has been a hot topic this year, with pundits either praising or criticizing academia after reports that the top two institutions for employee per capita contributions to this year’s presidential campaigns were the University of California system and Harvard University.

These universities beat out Time Warner, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft for the top contributing spots.

The institutions gave about 19 times more money to John Kerry than to George W. Bush, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Sara Dogan, national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, said her organization supports the findings of the new studies.

“We … believe that it makes an extremely compelling case that conservatives are being discriminated against in academia,” she said. “Conservative views are simply not welcome on college campuses.”

Eric Biersmith, president of the University’s College Democrats, said the results of the new studies come as no surprise, but he disagrees with Dogan about their importance.

“[College professors] are far more educated and intelligent than the average person and as with other educated and intelligent people, are more likely to be liberal,” he said.

“A professor’s own view will rarely affect the quality of the education they provide,” he added.

“They are given the task of teaching their students to think for themselves and for the most part, they do just that.”

Philip Consuegra, president of the College Republicans, agreed that the statistics were irrelevant to the purpose of the University.

“If anything, the liberal bias of the faculty here at Villanova encourages conservative students to educate themselves more on their own ideals and positions on political issues,” he said.

Theories about the cause of the national disparity range from claims that conservatives are simply uninterested in academic professions to accusations of discriminatory hiring practices.

Dr. Richard Redding, a professor at Villanova University School of Law, is currently doing research on intellectual and sociopolitical diversity.

“While it varies across schools and academic disciplines, studies show that, on average, only about five to 10 percent of faculty members are conservative whereas the others are liberal,” he said.

“I think the balance is only growing more disproportionate,” he added.

Students for Academic Freedom is spearheading the movement to “end the political abuse of the university and to restore integrity to the academic mission as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge.”

David Horowitz, who as a former liberal helped pioneer the antiwar movement on college campuses during the 1960s, started the growing organization that now serves as an umbrella for 135 chapters nationally, including those at nearby Haverford, Temple and the University of Pennsylvania. The group also compiles student complaints of “academic freedom abuse.”

Among a long list of nationwide accusations that appear on the group’s website, two vague complaints dated Feb. 8 are posted about Villanova professors.

The reasons that accompany the complaints are listed as “Singled Out, Introduced Controversial Material, Forced Students, Mocked Political/Religious Figures, openly racist” and “University Funds.”

Dogan said SAF contacts students who post complaints on their website and “attempts to help them find ways to end the abuse and resolve their individual situations.”

She said the listings are meant to “illustrate how widespread these abuses are on college campuses.” However, the postings are anonymous and no details about how they have been investigated or resolved are given.