In its famous 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a landmark statement on the doctrine of academic freedom and the purpose and function of the modern university. The premise of this report was that human knowledge is a never-ending pursuit of the truth; that there is no humanly accessible truth that is not in principle open to challenge; and that no party or intellectual faction can be assumed to have a monopoly on wisdom. Therefore, learning is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech.
For several decades following the issuance of this statement, a true climate of debate and dialogue flourished at American universities. A dramatic change occurred in the 1960s, however, when the eradication of free speech and free thought took root on those very same campuses. Indeed, liberal arts colleges from coast to coast began to abandon the AAUP’s ideals, transforming themselves into a university monoculture dedicated to propagating the positions and philosophies of the far left while systematically excluding views, particularly conservative ones, which did not accord with their outlook. This trend has continued, unabated, ever since.
Consequently, individuals who today subscribe to conservative ideas—whether administrators, faculty, or students—find it exceedingly difficult to find a niche for themselves in the academic universe. This stands in direct violation of the AAUP’s guiding documents, which maintain that intellectual pluralism and a diversity of viewpoints are essential for academic institutions to carry out their proper function of enabling dialogue and pursuing truth.
The vastly disproportionate presence of leftist professors on university campuses across the United States has been well documented. One of the first studies on this subject was conducted in 2003 by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC, now called the David Horowitz Freedom Center), which examined the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans on the faculties of 32 elite colleges and universities nationwide. The purpose of this study was to challenge the academic left’s assertion that discrimination on the basis of political views was not a factor in hiring or tenure decisions.
In its examinations of more than 150 departments and upper-level administrations at the 32 colleges and universities, the CSPC found that the overall ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans was greater than than 10-to-1 (1,397 Democrats, 134 Republicans). Although in the nation at large, registered Democrats and Republicans were roughly equal in number, not a single department at any of the 32 schools managed to achieve anything even remotely approaching parity in party affiliations. The closest any school came to parity was Northwestern University, where 80% of the faculty members were registered Democrats and 20% were registered Republicans. At other schools, the ratios of faculty Democrats to faculty Republicans were even more extreme, such as 30-to-1 at Brown University, and 14-to-1 at both Yale and Columbia. At four schools—Williams, Oberlin, MIT and Haverford—the researchers could not identify a single Republican faculty member.
It was found, moreover, that administrators at the 32 schools examined in the CSPC study leaned just as far to the left as did the faculties: At schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Melon, and Cornell, not a single Republican administrator could be found. In the entire Ivy League, the researchers were able to identify only 3 Republican administrators.
The CSPC's 2003 survey inspired a spate of further studies which corroborated its findings. For example, a 2005 national survey directed by Smith College Professor Stanley Rothman and co-authored by Professors Neil Nevitte (University of Toronto) and S. Robert Lichter (George Mason University) found that left-leaning professors outnumbered conservatives by a ratio of 5-to-1 on American campuses.
The survey questioned 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 universities and four-year colleges about their political and religious views. Among its findings were that 72% of faculty members identified themselves as liberal or left-wing, as compared to only 15% who identified as conservative or right-wing. When the numbers were broken down by field, the dearth of conservatives was even more apparent in fields where a professor's political views have a higher likelihood of influencing the instruction that takes place in the classroom. For instance, 81% of professors in the humanities described themselves as liberal, as did 75% of those in the social sciences—vs. 67% of those in other fields.
The Rothman study further found that the proportion of faculty who described themselves as liberal had nearly doubled over the preceding two decades—from 39% in 1984 to 72% in 2005. The study’s co-author, Prof. Lichter, stated: "These findings suggest that intellectual diversity on college campuses may be as significant an issue as racial and gender diversity. Even intelligent and broad-minded people may unconsciously favor people like themselves and ideas like their own."
Another survey of faculty political views released in 2006 by Professors Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein yielded similar results. Cardiff and Klein looked at the political party registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities—including large public universities as well as smaller, religiously-affiliated campuses. The ratios they uncovered, particularly in certain departments, were striking. In the field of sociology, for instance, the researchers found a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of 44-to-1, whereas in the humanities overall the ratio was 10-to-1.
These findings were again duplicated in 2007 by Professors Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, who surveyed a random sampling of more than 1,400 faculty members teaching at 500+ colleges and universities across the United States. They asked these instructors, “When it comes to politics, do you usually think of yourself as extremely liberal, liberal, slightly liberal, moderate or middle of the road, slightly conservative, conservative, or very conservative?”
Gross and Simmons' results indicated that 9.4% of respondents considered themselves “extremely liberal” and 34.7% considered themselves “liberal,” as compared with 1.2% who labeled themselves “very conservative” and 8.0% who answered “conservative.” Overall, only 19.7% of respondents identified themselves as any shade of conservative, as compared to 62.2% who identified themselves as any shade of liberal.
Gross and Simmons also found, consistent with other studies, that an even wider gap between liberals and conservatives existed in the social sciences and the humanities. Among faculty in the social sciences, 58.2% declared themselves to be liberals, versus 4.9% who self-identified as conservatives. In the humanities, 52.2% of professors classified themselves as liberal, versus only 3.6% who responded that they were conservative. (The remainder claimed to be moderates.)
In 2012 the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute released the results of surveys it had conducted (at three-year intervals) on a national range of faculty at four-year colleges and universities. When surveyed in 2007-08, 8.8% of faculty respondents self-identified as being on the “far left” and 47.0% as “liberal,” as compared with 0.7% who identified as being on the “far right” and 15.2% who viewed themselves as “conservative.” Three years later, in 2010-11, the same survey found that 12.4% now identified as “far left” and 50.3% as “liberal,” while only 0.4% claimed to be “far right” and 11.5% viewed themselves as “conservative.”
These increasingly lopsided figures suggest that most students at these schools probably graduate without ever taking a class taught by a professor with a conservative viewpoint. The ratios themselves are impossible to understand in the absence of a political litmus test in the training and hiring of college instructors. They strongly suggest that the governance of American universities has fallen into the hands of a self-perpetuating political and cultural subset of the general population, which seems intent on perpetuating its own dominant position.
Without further investigation it is not possible to establish with certainty why this state of affairs has come into existence, but there are many obvious factors that may be said to have contributed to it. Among them is the very exclusion of conservatives from faculty and administrative positions itself. This in itself creates a hostile environment for conservative students contemplating an academic career.
In a 2012 peer-reviewed study on political diversity in the field of social psychology, psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers of Tilburg University (in the Netherlands) confirmed that such discrimination against conservative colleagues does exist. The researchers found: “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists admit that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues.” When the survey participants were asked to choose between two equally qualified candidates—one conservative and one liberal—fully one-third admitted that they would discriminate against the conservative. One professor surveyed even wrote that if his department “could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them.”
The Inbar/Lammers study also found that those professors most willing to admit that they would discriminate against conservatives, were also least likely to believe that conservatives face a hostile climate in academia.
This core hostility to conservatives in academia is amplified by practices that have been incorporated into academic life since the 1960s, including campus speech codes and politicized classrooms—both of which represent radical departures from the pre-Sixties academic environment. An extensive 2003 study by Harvey Silvergate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), concluded that an “overwhelming majority” of campuses had instituted speech codes intended to ban and punish politically incorrect, almost always conservative, speech. Similarly, a 2012 study by FIRE found that 62% of American universities had speech codes "that prohibit expression protected by the First Amendment."
For examples of in-class political indoctrination and the infringement of the free speech rights of conservative students see www.thecollegefix.com and www.campusreform.org.