Florida’s Student & Faculty Academic Freedom Bill

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The Florida Legislature is considering a “Student & Faculty Academic Freedom Bill.” The bill “provides student rights to academic freedom; provides postsecondary student & faculty academic bill of rights; specifies student, faculty, & instructor rights; requires dissemination of copies of act to state universities & community colleges.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley (R) a funeral director from Ocala, but it is not original. It is part of a movement among conservatives to “fix” a public education system that they think is anti-conservative.

From the Independent Alligator:

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Not surprisingly biology education is one of those topics that conservatives want to fix:

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

However, whenever a state legislature begins to mess with higher education always consult the state constitution to see if the legislature even has the power to do it. Many state constitutions give state legislatures zero power over higher public education. This is to prevent politics from influencing academia which can lead to a loss of accreditation. During the civil rights era my state’s universities lost their accreditation because the politicians ordered them to close if they were integrated. The politicians learned their lesson, and now our state constitution protects the University System of Georgia from the politicians in Atlanta. Because of this, Georgia’s “Academic Freedom Bill” was a non-binding resolution.

A similar clause exists in the Florida Constitution:

STATEWIDE BOARD OF GOVERNORS. The board of governors shall be a body corporate consisting of seventeen members. The board shall operate, regulate, control, and be fully responsible for the management of the whole university system. These responsibilities shall include, but not be limited to, defining the distinctive mission of each constituent university and its articulation with free public schools and community colleges, ensuring the well-planned coordination and operation of the system, and avoiding wasteful duplication of facilities or programs. The board’s management shall be subject to the powers of the legislature to appropriate for the expenditure of funds, and the board shall account for such expenditures as provided by law. The governor shall appoint to the board fourteen citizens dedicated to the purposes of the state university system. The appointed members shall be confirmed by the senate and serve staggered terms of seven years as provided by law. The commissioner of education, the chair of the advisory council of faculty senates, or the equivalent, and the president of the Florida student association, or the equivalent, shall also be members of the board.

(emphasis added)

The Florida legislature may pass this bill, but it will probably have no teeth.

58 Comments

I’ve always found the conservative position on “liberal” professors (and, in fact, teachers at all levels) to be incredibly funny. The reason that most profs are liberal is becasue teaching doens’t pay as well as almost any other profession (especially for the amount of schooling required), so the only people who apply are the ones who don’t care that much about money. Which, in my experience, doesn’t describe very many conservatives. If the conservatives really wanted to “fix” the “problem,” they’d just pay professors more.

Maybe universities need to start a “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” policy at the classroom level in the interests of keeping costs down.

From the article:

But Baxley compared the state’s universities to children, saying the legislature should not give them money without providing “guidance” to their behavior.

“Professors are accountable for what they say or do,” he said. “They’re accountable to the rest of us in society … All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn’t be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?”

In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said “arrogant, elitist academics are swarming” to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his intentions.

Baxley is off the deep-end. Being opposed to dictators and totalitarians is not unheard of. Referring college professors in such hyperbolic terms is.

This kind of crap is David Horowitz’s doing. If he lies often enough and loudly enough, there’s bound to be someone stupid enough to believe him.

The thing that I and my fellow faculty members find most idiotic about this whole proposition is this (also from the Alligator article):

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

Essentially, this would forbit me from interacting with my students. After all, if I ask my student to explain how they arrived at the conclusion that the formula for table salt was NaCl2 when it’s really NaCl, I could be seen to be “ridiculing” a student and subject to a lawsuit. Even asking a student to answer a question could be taken this way.

That idiot Ward Churchill really did us in. Not that this anti-liberal, anti-intellectual sentiment didn’t already pose challenges for universities, but he made it much worse with his irresponsible comments. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have just fired him immediately. Not simply to avoid controversy, but to send the message that as much as academic freedom should be promoted, a teacher who goes out of his way to be incendiary will be punished severely.

I can’t wait until David Horowitz returns to my school–San Francisco State University. He comes by pretty often, to stir up controversy. I think I’ll actually attend one of his rants next time, just so I can put that guy in his place. Usually, the debates get out of control because the topic turns to Palestine, students express their support for Palestinians, and David Horowitz starts calling people Jew-haters. (As one can hear, here: http://xpress.sfsu.edu/specials/200[…]narrative01/ )

so the only people who apply are the ones who don’t care that much about money.

Oh brother, what simplistic crap.

Essentially, this would forbit me from interacting with my students.

Do you actually believe what you write?

Well, I am sure Horowitz is wetting his pants at the prospect of being “put in his place”. I wonder where he got the idea that there were Jew Haters at SFSU.

Whether or not the bill has any “teeth”, it is so incredibly vague it is essentially meaningless.

There is nothing that states who determines what constitutes “alternative serious academic theories”. Is that the student’s call? The professor’s? The legislature’s?

Further, there is no definition of “punishment” (“students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree”). If a physics exam asks the student to use an equation that employs the gravitational constant, and the student answers, “Gravity is a hoax. God pushes things together.”…is it “punishing” the student when professor marks the question wrong? This goofy bill could be applied in so many situations it would render all public education a useless post-modern “anything goes” philosophical exercise. Any politician who lacks the foresight and intelligence to recognize this should be barred from ever holding public office again.

At my institution, we have just gone through a very long discussion about academic freedom and integrity (two distinct but related and vital elements in any scholarly environment).

When the question was brought to the students, though, in the form of public hearings and private correspondences outside of the context of the classroom, they spoke out just as loudly as the professors about the need to maintain both elements in the face of these kinds of attacks.

Don’t for a minute believe that this is a groundswell among students. It’s a ripple in society that’s taking the form of a title wave among one segment of the conservative population, albiet a very vocal and opinionated segment.

If professors do their jobs poorly, if they do not teach the material required of them or act illegally, they should be disciplined or fired. But no institution guarantees (or at least they should not) that a student can graduate with a given degree.

These people give our students no credit, and the students know it. Agree or disagree with the professor, that’s fine. But a good university education will teach you so that you can accept or reject the opinions you come across.

Indoctrination is the game for these legislating fools to play. They’re so thick in it, they simply don’t seem to understand how critical thought even operates. I accept nothing at face value. I question everything I am told. THAT’S why I currently disregard ID. The arguments continue to be poor and are easily torn apart, and its supporters use intellectually dishonest means to reach a predetermined conclusion.

In my experience, those kinds of people are called freshmen.

David Heddle Wrote:

MadChemist Wrote “Essentially, this would forbit me from interacting with my students.”

Do you actually believe what you write?

Did you actually read what he wrote?

Mad Chemist Wrote:

After all, if I ask my student to explain how they arrived at the conclusion that the formula for table salt was NaCl2 when it’s really NaCl, I could be seen to be “ridiculing” a student and subject to a lawsuit. Even asking a student to answer a question could be taken this way.

I teach third year Science and Health Science students pharmacology. I occassionally ask students questions directly relevant to the course, such as “What is non-compeditive inhibition” (something I know was taught three lectures ago) or to wildy speculate on the kinds of diseases prejunctional autoreceptor inhibitors could be used in (neurodegenerative disorders, as they increase neurotransmitter release). What do I get in my student evaluations “Dr. Musgrave should not ask us questions”.

Now, I could be a bad teacher (although other wise I score quite highly on student evaluations), but this is a general phenomenon. The Learning and Teaching Unit of the university did a survey and found that students didn’t like being asked questions in class as it made them feel foolish. Heck, even on our computer web board, people will not ask questions unless they can do so annonymously. I want to emphasise that these are Third Year students, who will graduate at the end of the year.

Now this is in Australia, where we are laid back and not particularly litigacious. In the US, where people file lawsuits at the drop of a hat, I can imagine this bill being a real problem.

While there have been incidents in which pro-Palestinian students have had altercations with Jewish students, the events have been few in number.

As much as the behavior of th hateful protestors should be condemned, I do think that when a group is on campus spouting political views the deserve to be confronted about them, but hopefully in a peaceful and reasonable manner. Alas, this doesn’t always happen.

The big problem is that many of the Jewish students on campus blindly support Israel, while the opposition blindly supports Palestinians because they are the supposed underdogs. If a Jewish student were on stage saying that both the Israeli government and the palestinian militants bear responsibility in this whole mess, such a message would not be met with much opposition. (That is the most common view at SF State, from what I can tell).

Jewish students and pro-Palestinian students often make the mistake of not separating the religion from the acts of Israel. These is unfortunate, but both sides are definitely culpable.

David Horowitz is one who thinks that every criticism of Israel is an act of anti-semitism. He does not endeavor to promote reasoned, calm discussion. He goes out of his way to be incendiary. In fact, he supports people like Ward Churchill (as I heard him say on NPR), because it allows right-wing extremists like himself to be accepted as well.

Regarding college Republicans, I think the large majority of students have no problem with them distributing their material. But again, if they are out on campus spouting their political views, they deserved to be challenged. But like David Horowitz, the campus Republicans have not, in their public appearances, attempted to encourage rational debate. They are as equally culpable as the opposition (with the exception of those who resorted to direct hate-speech).

In the end, the problem is that most of the people involved are children, or act like children. That’s because the majority of people at SFSU just go their to attend class, study, grab a bite to eat, and head home. The rational people know that it’s pointless to get into the fray.

I can see how any number of students who are unhappy with their grades would take the universitites to court under the guise of this bill. This would render a degree from state universities in Florida completely worthless.

I bet that Baxley would have more support for a bill that would allow FSU fans to sue referees, the ACC, and the NCAA for allowing Duke to beat up on FSU in basketball. (Hmm… this applies to Miami fans as well. And maybe they could sue the NCAA and SEC whenever UF loses to Kentucky. I wonder if they can take the NFL to court to redress the gross inequities involved in having the Dolphins face the Patriots. Oh yeah - not college. Just brainstorming here.)

Not to speak in favor of such a bill (whatever its theoretical merits and demerits, actual enforcement is bound to be arbitrary, capricious, and subject to bias), but I wouldn’t want to pretend that free speech and thought exactly reign on campus. The case of Larry Sommers shows that there are statements that are almost totally forbidden even to broach on the campus-wide level. And no, I don’t want to debate the merits (or lack thereof) of his statements, only to bring up the merits of being able to question the current reigning orthodoxies.

Otoh, I don’t think that conservative beliefs are particularly singled out for attack, either. Little of the French radicalism, especially of earlier times, would be allowed on most campuses. Analytic philosophy rules most philosophy departments in America, and it afflicts “mind science” (as opposed to brain science (neurophysics, etc.)) with the prejudices of the “philosophy of mind”, such as the belief in the top-down creation of the mind, and adherence to modal logic. By no means is all of analytic philosophy so badly done as it was by, say, Kripke, but the latter reactionary hangs over the departments about as much as does the admirable Quine.

I find the dominant analytic prejudices of the philosophy departments about as conservatively biased as I find the generally ill-informed adoption of deconstructionism and similar “literary theories” by the English departments to be liberally biased. As an aside related to the latter phenomenon, Derrida’s specter hangs over America well after continental Europe has moved on–probably because the continent actually understood what Derrida was about, and saw the need to move on.

Unfortunately, the tendency of the departments to simply cling to their own biases means that conservatism rules in one area, and liberalism rules in another, and neither allow enough free thought to get anywhere. I’ve run afoul of both the “conservatives” and the “liberals” at various times, leading to my own personal conclusion that there is just too little freedom of thought in the heads of too many non-science professors (probably the heads of science profs, too, but that doesn’t matter for most when they’re doing science).

The science departments are lucky, because even if they dare not question certain liberal prejudices about equality, mostly they get to follow the evidence. This is why I think it is so absurd for the Discovery Institute and like-minded believers to attack the least biased realm of academia with their lame pseudoscientic beliefs. If they really wanted to whittle away at liberal biases that exist in some regions of academia they ought to embrace science, and to use its methodologies and results to knock down the banal self-righteousness that infects so much of the humanities.

All of the non-science departments could use more exposure to science and its methods. The lack of good epistemologies and empirical methods among too many of the non-science departments maintains the prevailing orthodoxies of both the liberals and the conservatives.

The problems that exist are unlikely to be helped by government intervention.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Horowitz himself claims that his Academic Bill of Rights wouldn’t mandate the teaching of creationism:

Wiener and others have also distorted the Academic Bill of Rights by claiming that it would require the teaching of creationism in biology classes. It would not. It specifically requires that students be “made aware of the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion.” The last time I checked, the Bible was neither a scientific nor a scholarly text. (from ‘Academic Freedom at Princeton’)

Perhaps he should give Rep. Baxley a call and inform him that the ABofR doesn’t require the teaching of ID/creationism. But then again “made aware of the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion” is open to interpretation. To people like Baxley ID is probably “significant scholarly opinion”, to the majority of biology professors it isn’t.

Reed, are you implying the public education system is not anti-conservative?

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Yeap. In all the years that I have spent in the public education system of Georgia, I haven’t seen any evidence that the system is anti-conservate.

Anti-luddite

Good point about not caring about money. How about giving some big tax incentives on unearned income to public school teachers? That’ll get some rich conservatives volunteering to teach.

Reed,

Do you agree that “conservative” and “belief in God” show a positive correlation?

Don’t feed the lying trolls who refuse to acknowledge their lies.

Merry Christmas.

Wait a minute. We have bills in congress that seek to prevent lawsuits, and here we have one that encourages student lawsuits?

No, DaveScot, I do not.

Don’t try arguing that public education is anti-God. That is a myth spread by people with little experience with public education. Christianity of all flavors along with other faiths and non faiths is alive and doing well among the students and teachers in our public education system. Students say grace, have Bible clubs, meet at the pole, pass out Gideon Bibles, etc.

Horowitz himself claims that his Academic Bill of Rights wouldn’t mandate the teaching of creationism:

Perhaps he should give Rep. Baxley a call and inform him that the ABofR doesn’t require the teaching of ID/creationism. But then again “made aware of the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion” is open to interpretation. To people like Baxley ID is probably “significant scholarly opinion”, to the majority of biology professors it isn’t.

One of the biggest problems with Horowitz’s crusade, whether or not he chooses to acknowledge it, is that by railing against the anti-(whatever) bias of college institutions, and by mandating through the legislature that they drop their anti-(whatever) policies, the door is wide-open for politicians to mold the academy to their own ideological liking, no matter how obviously wrong their ideas may be. It was a foregone conclusion that someone would use this to support creationism. Once society holds that anyone who rejects an idea must be biased, any kook who gets power gets total control over what’s real and what’s not.

Frankly, I’m quite certain that Horowitz understands the dangers of what he’s doing, and that it’s his intention to encourage it.

I was embarassed that the United States of America is rejecting the teaching of the wonder of science, and thus evolution. But this bill from R Baxley, Florida is really scary. Bill O Reilly has been ranting about Ward Churchill, and Dr. Betsy Hoffman resigned on March 7, 2005.

Something occurs to me here - if this thing were actually to get passed, then if a teacher tried to teach Creationism, students who want actual science could then sue the teacher for that.

Or am I missing something? :)

Henry

The funniest thing about this “Academic Freedom Bill” movement is that at the same time that Horowitz and other conservatives are arguing that professors need to be protected from being denied tenure because of their politics, they are trying to get professors like Ward Churchill fired for their politics. It really reveals that this movement is not about academic freedom but about advancing conservative politics in higher education.

I find it amazing that these conservatives believe that professors must be indoctrinating conservative students and discriminating against them. The way these conservatives act, it is clear to me that such beliefs are the result of projection.

You don’t have to fire people like Ward Churchill for their politics; you can fire them for their academic misconduct.

And by so doing, you could put pressure on the so-called educational institutions which employ the likes of Michael Behe to hold themselves to the same standard.

By cleaning house, academic institutions would remove some of their worst embarassments and give themselves ammunition to use against those who would destroy them in the pursuit of their agenda.  Win/win.

Oh brother, what simplistic crap.

Speaking of “simplistic crap”, David — I am curious. If, say, you were my professor and I were a student, and I were to ask you a question such as “why are your religious opinions any more authoritative than anyhone else’s” and you refused to answer and ran away, do you think I would be able to sue you under this new law?

If, say, you were my professor and I were a student, and I were to ask you a question such as “why are your religious opinions any more authoritative than anyhone else’s” and you refused to answer and ran away, do you think I would be able to sue you under this new law?

Gee, Rev, you really boxed me in a corner there. Uncle! Uncle!

Don’t try arguing that public education is anti-God.

Here’s a little real-life vignette. My son’s 7th grade class was doing a project on world religions. His part of the project was to write about Abraham. Part of his report said “Abraham discovered that there was one god”. I pointed out that wasn’t really correct. He said he knew that, but that was what he was “supposed” to write.

Smart kid.

Baxley’s effort in Florida will probably come up short, at least I hope so. But intellectually and politically his effort differs not one whit from the Bush administration’s effort to distort or ignore facts when they don’t suit their ends. In fact I see both as an effort to enforce an a priori orthodoxy that is built on a kind of revealed truth rather than intellectually open inquiry. It may not come from THE Bible but it’s biblical in nature. Such efforts are remarkably similar to mandating of orthodoxy followed by the Soviet Union and other communists states. In that regard many of our religious right and social conservatives are morally similar to the communists.

Typical of their posturing were the public comments of William H. Smagula of Public Service of New Hampshire when he testified recently about mercury emissions in his power plants and the pressure for them to control them …

“A large volume of data is based on analytical assumptions and conclusions,” he told the committee. “We don’t do business on the basis of analytical assumptions and conclusions.”

Such values are what Baxley seeks to encourage. (If that is their driving philosophy, remind me not to buy stock in Public Service of New Hampshire.)

If, say, you were my professor and I were a student, and I were to ask you a question such as “why are your religious opinions any more authoritative than anyhone else’s” and you refused to answer and ran away, do you think I would be able to sue you under this new law?

Gee, Rev, you really boxed me in a corner there. Uncle! Uncle!

I notice that you seem awfully reluctant to discuss the matter, David. Why is that.

Reed Wrote:

That is a myth spread by people with little experience with public education.

I have three kids, two of which have gone from kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools and the last is halfway through. I also attended K-12 public schools myself. That gives me about 42 years experience the public education.

What experience with public education do you have, Reed?

You don’t have to fire people like Ward Churchill for their politics; you can fire them for their academic misconduct.

Churchill, of course, made his statements in an essay, not in class.

So what was his misconduct?

His statements (most of which were taken out of context, by the way) were inflammatroy certainly, but he was not forcing them upon a class and declaring those that disareed to be wrong or whatever.

I have three kids, two of which have gone from kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools and the last is halfway through. I also attended K-12 public schools myself. That gives me about 42 years experience the public education.

And how many of that 42 years was filled with anti-God rhetoric and indoctrination?

DaveScot Wrote:

What experience with public education do you have, Reed?

A family full of public educators gives me insights that parents of public school children often don’t have.

I have 14 years of public education myself. My mother has taught elementary public education for 25 or so years. My mother-in-law, who is now a superintendent, has worked for the public school system for a similar period of time. Between the two of them there are some forty years of public education, on top of their combined fifty years of service to public schools. My mother’s father taught chemistry at a public college and her mother taught at a public school. My wife has three aunts, two uncles, and a cousin, who have been or still are public educators, at all levels including administration. Every single one has advanced degree(s) in education. This means that family functions, of which there are many, are filled with discussions of education policy.

The people mentioned above are diehard Republicans, supporters of public education, and church going folk. (Although, I believe that my mother’s parents, Tennessee mountain folk, were Democrats.)

That gives me about 42 years experience the public education.

Apparently, English class was not part of that experiennce, huh.

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Reed Wrote:

Although, I believe that my mother’s parents, Tennessee mountain folk, were Democrats

Might I inquire from where? My paternal grandfather was from Rockwood (W of Knoxville).

I’m a little slow finding things sometimes, so please bear with me. I just read on the Scientific American site a quote of Baxley defending this bill.

“Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don’t want to hear,”

If rednecks like this have control of our universities, how much longer will any serious students enroll in them, and how can we survive the storm of scorn from the rest of the world? An elected politician in the United States who considers freedom dangerous? I become more depressed daily.

Churchill is not going to be fired (if he will get fired) for his inflammatory comments about 9/11. He’ll get fired for plagiarism, and/or lying about his Native American heritage to get his job, and/or for his lack of scholarly output. In other words, for just cause.

Hoffman resigned or was forced out largely due to the football program issues, not because she was defending Churchill.

Regarding the liberalism of the academy and public school systems: this issue is hashed to death on other parts of the web, so there’s not much point in re-hashing it here (especially if you’re just going to dismiss Horowitz as a liar). There are two aspects to the issue: 1) are faculties, teachers, and administrators more politically liberal than the general population? and 2) what is the effect, if any, of 1) being true? It seems to me that 1) has plenty of empirical evidence to support it (including polls and public statements of professors that affirm it, the fact that the teachers unions always vote Democrat, etc.), so the real debate is over whether this fact has any significant effect on education.

It seems to me that if Conservatives claim the schools are too liberal, and liberals claim that they’re fine the way they are, or that if the individual teachers are statistically more liberal, it doesn’t have any effect on the teaching, that that means de facto that the schools are more liberal than average. It’s not as if you have an equal number of people complaining that schools are too conservative. So, one can argue that the schools degree of liberalness is appropriate, or that if they are to the left of center, it doesn’t affect the teaching, but you can’t very well claim that they’re not liberal, as an institution, compared to the beliefs held by the majority of Americans.

so the real debate is over whether this fact has any significant effect on education.

Well, we need only look to our increasingly socialist, scientifically literate population to answer that question.

I could really have used this bill when I was a student. Electromagnetic field theory is just a theory after all. I could find many examples of the theory that believed in ignoring edge-effects (mostly in high school and undergrad texts). That wasn’t good enough for Professor Hill though. He was part of that whole edge-effect mind-control conspiracy that can manipulate difficult line integrals in their heads. Bastages!

I notice that Mr. Heddle has not answered a direct question.

What direct question? Point me to the one you are referring to and I’ll give it a shot.

What direct question? Point me to the one you are referring to and I’ll give it a shot.

How about this one —– if your religious opinions are just that – your opinions, and are no more authoritative than anyone else’s religious opinions, then why should anyone pay any more attention to yours than to mine or my next door neighbor’s or the kid who served me a Big Mac and fries for lunch yesterday afternoon?

Rev:

Nobody should pay attention to my opinions, unless they are interested in what I have to say.

More evidence supporting the leftward tilt of the professoriate. The article even discusses the points I was making,

“It’s hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students. In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college.”

It strains credulity to think that such a heavy preponderance of one type of view wouldn’t distort the educational milieu. Not that I think this has much effect in science departments, but it’s pretty clear it affects the academy as a whole. Look at what happened to Larry Summers - from a scientific standpoint, the questions he raised are perfectly sensible, whether you disagree with any purported conclusions he made or not (he actually didn’t reach any conclusions, he just threw some ideas out). But a significant fraction of the Harvard faculty think that it’s a firing offense to bring up certain ideas that contradict the current (liberal) dogma. This is a model of open inquiry and debate? I submit that the existence of this kind of groupthink is at least in part due to the ideological/political imbalance on the faculty.

Mike: I agree with what you say almost entirely, but would you try to do anything about it? What can one do?

From my standpoint (which differs here somewhat from my earlier post on this thread, due to a different use of the same words), faculty are neither conservative nor liberal, but mainly pro-status quo. Literary studies tends to hold onto deconstructionism and other “liberal theories”, but largely as a conservative tendency to keep themselves and their education “relevant”. Analytic philosophy clings to what appears to me to be “conservative theories”, but again, largely as a conservative impulse. Both departments vote mostly “liberal”, but this, too, is a conservative strain in academia.

Political leanings are what I care least about. I know that these affect the students, but there is always a political uniform to be worn in academia. Nothing has changed as profs became more Democratic in the sense of being actually much more egalitarian or anything like that, so academics do the usual thing–please the rich and the powerful. Fortunately, in science this entails mostly producing results.

Beyond science, however, the conservative tendencies in the liberal arts propagate profs’ prejudices to a considerable degree. There isn’t much to do about it, since it really is difficult to question and doubt everything, while it is very easy to counsel such a tack and to thus imply that one has done so one’s self. This is why analytic philosophy drones on without much doubt about its own claims, literary studies cling to their ill-understood “theorists”, and both departments decide that they’re really very smart for voting with the herd.

What can one do about it? The “revolutionaries” grew up to be reactionaries, just as anyone with any intelligence knew they would. There isn’t much to be done about it, since winning and keeping positions are what really motivate “revolutionaries”.

What I find interesting is that when people seek to demonstrate that academia is liberal, they point to universities located in liberal areas of the country.

If Harvard University can be used to demonstrate how liberal academia is, then Oral Roberts University can be used to demonstrate how conservative academia is.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

What can one do about it? The “revolutionaries” grew up to be reactionaries, just as anyone with any intelligence knew they would. There isn’t much to be done about it, since winning and keeping positions are what really motivate “revolutionaries”.

The only way things will change is if parents and alumni start putting more pressure on administrations. Money talks.

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

What I find interesting is that when people seek to demonstrate that academia is liberal, they point to universities located in liberal areas of the country.

If Harvard University can be used to demonstrate how liberal academia is, then Oral Roberts University can be used to demonstrate how conservative academia is.

What is the basis for your assumption that the political makeup of the faculty of a university should reflect the political makeup of the surrounding area? Besides, even on your reasoning Harvard is far more liberal than Massachusetts, if not Boston.

The political makeup of the university never concerned me, either when I was a student or a professor. (Although had I been a conservative history prof, I might have been worried about getting tenure.)

I think the students are discerning. They can see through the BS of a Ward Churchill or a Peter Singer.

The amusing aspect is the denial of the liberal bias. That takes balls.

Reed: according to your theory would a survey of the University of Texas at Austin find it to be conservative, given that it is in Texas?

Probably not UT since from what I’ve heard Austin is liberal by Texas standards. Baylor on the other hand.…

My main problem is that people selectively use polls of faculty from schools like Harvard as evidence that academia is liberal. They never look at schools like Oral Roberts, Liberty, Baylor, etc. If Horowitz finds that a few colleges in blue states are dominated by Democrats, should we take that as evidence for Democratic bias of academia?

And finally, I know of no liberal equivalent to the slew of bible colleges that require both their professors and students to sign conservative statements of faiths.

Nobody should pay attention to my opinions, unless they are interested in what I have to say.

See, it DIDN’T kill you, did it . … .

Now we need to work on this false humility of yours . … .

Heddle repeats the usual libel:

(Although had I been a conservative history prof, I might have been worried about getting tenure.)

Sorry David, that dog won’t hunt. Out here in the boonies, we have a bunch of conservative Professors, in History, English, Poli. Sci., etc. In fact I expect that there are a lot more conservative English Professors than there are Marxists in the business school. And in the professional schools, sciences and Engineering, where the bucks are, there are plenty of conservatives. I also have colleagues who are overtly religious (some IMHO disconcertingly so) and whom my tenured colleagues and I have strongly supported for promotion and tenure. So knock off the faux-martydom.

Reed,

Is the example of avowedly religious schools reasonable? Aren’t they advertising their bias up front? Nobody expects anything at Liberty except what they get. Or at Bob Jones. But Harvard, for example, would not send signals nor admit that it has a liberal bias. Harvard, as arguably the premier liberal arts university in the world, might be expected to have a diverse (beyond tokenism) spectrum of ideologies on its faculty.

Frank,

I was in the bible belt, and we were decidely liberal. But neither my anecdotal evidence nor yours is necessary: we have the referenced WaPo article for data.

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I used to visit dozens of college campuses every year on business trips. Things may have changed, but in the 80s and early 90s, there were always plenty of conservative profs, especially at mediocre state colleges.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on March 25, 2005 2:02 PM.

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