Monday, December 10, 2007

'Hard' questions asked, answered

An op-ed yesterday in the Washington Post by Villanova political science professor Robert Maranto, "As a Republican, I'm on the Fringe," begins, hilariously:

Are university faculties biased toward the left? And is this diminishing universities' role in American public life? Conservatives have been saying so since William F. Buckley Jr. wrote "God and Man at Yale" -- in 1951. But lately criticism is coming from others -- making universities face some hard questions.

At a Harvard symposium in October, former Harvard president and Clinton treasury secretary Larry Summers argued that among liberal arts and social science professors at elite graduate universities, Republicans are "the third group," far behind Democrats and even Ralph Nader supporters. Summers mused that in Washington he was "the right half of the left," while at Harvard he found himself "on the right half of the right."

This no doubt is what Summers would have said at UC-Davis if he hadn't been deemed--unlike Ward Churchill (who, you'll remember, advocates violence)--"too controversial."

I know how he feels. I spent four years in the 1990s working at the centrist Brookings Institution and for the Clinton administration and felt right at home ideologically. Yet during much of my two decades in academia, I've been on the
"far right" as one who thinks that welfare reform helped the poor, that the United States was right to fight and win the Cold War, and that environmental regulations should be balanced against property rights. . . .
A sociologist I know recalls that his decision to become a registered Republican caused "a sensation" at his university. "It was as if I had become a child molester," he said. He eventually quit academia to join a think tank because "you don't want to be in a department where everyone hates your guts.". . .
What a whiner. I've been publicly accused of being a child molester--by Ward Churchill, of course, but still--and I'm not even a Republican.
Now there is more data backing up experiences like mine. Recently, my Villanova colleague Richard Redding and my longtime collaborator Frederick Hess commissioned a set of studies to ascertain how rare conservative professors really are, and why. We wanted real scholars to use real data to study whether academia really has a PC problem. While our work was funded by the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute, we (and our funders) have been very clear about our intention to go wherever the data would take us. Among the findings: . . .
Read the whole thing to be totally (but pleasantly) unsurprised.

Update: memo to Maranto: A "diminished role for universities in public life" is a feature, not a--whatever that word is that's used as the antonym of "feature."

Update II: Initially I didn't notice that "Fringe" in the Wapo's headline was capitalized. Why do they do that?

Update III: Lawyers, Guns and Money sneers at Maranto and one of his commenters. I, in turn, sneer at Lawyers, Guns and Money's hip-pretentious name.

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