‘Progressives rule higher education,” write political scientists Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn Sr. in “Passing on the Right,” a new book on the dearth of conservative professors. “Their rule is not absolute. But conservatives are scarcer in academia than in just about any other major profession.”
Profs. Shields and Dunn aren’t exaggerating. In the humanities and social sciences, they note, surveys show that the percentage of self-described Marxist professors is around 18%, or nearly double that of self-described Republicans.
Nor is it merely classroom instruction that leftists tend to control. Liberal faculty and college administrators also closely monitor outside speakers invited to campus. The message conveyed to students is that people who challenge liberal dogma are not very welcome. A 2010 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that only 40% of college freshman “strongly agreed that it is safe to hold unpopular positions on campus” and that by senior year it’s down to 30%.
In more recent years the intimidation has not only continued but intensified. A lecture on crime prevention by former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was canceled after Brown University students booed him off the stage. Scripps College in California invited and then disinvited Washington Post columnist George Will for criticizing ever-expanding definitions of criminal assault.
Planned commencement addresses by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Rutgers University), human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Brandeis University) and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde (Smith College) were scuttled by faculty and student protesters, who cited Ms. Rice’s role in the Iraq war, Ms. Ali’s criticism of radical Islam and the IMF’s rules for lending countries money.
Yet you don’t have to be in such distinguished company to earn the ire of the campus left. Last month I was invited by a professor to speak at Virginia Tech in the fall. Last week, the same professor reluctantly rescinded the invitation, citing concerns from his department head and other faculty members that my writings on race in The Wall Street Journal would spark protests. Profiles in campus courage.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been approached by conservative students after a lecture to a mostly liberal audience and thanked, almost surreptitiously, for coming to speak. They often offer an explanation for their relative silence during question periods when liberal students and faculty are firing away. “Being too outspoken would just make it more difficult,” a Wellesley student once told me. “You get to leave when you’re done. We have to live with these people until we graduate.”
In April, I spoke at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the college Republicans who invited me took the precaution of clearing my name with liberal student groups “to make sure they wouldn’t be upset.”
We’ve reached a point where conservatives must have their campus speakers preapproved by left-wing pressure groups. If progressives aren’t already in absolute control of academia, they’re pretty close.
That’s a rather calm description of what everyone with a pulse has noticed over the past decade or two. It is a shame at so many levels: It hurts students and faculty to who disagree, it teaches the opposite of discourse, thoughtfulness, and problem-solving, and it hurts our nation as a whole because we are throwing away good people who would otherwise participate in problem-solving in various fields. Why would any decent person choose to go near the “soft-sciences”? So we will continue to experiment with the same failed approaches, ad nauseum, as generation after generation of inner-city kid fails, while those with resources go to college and learn techniques to keep them down.