The Value of Ideological Diversity in Academia

This issue is dedicated to the freedom of thoughts in the journal. Social Philosophy and PolicyIn a published article on ideologic diversity in American university faculty. Although the final version of this article is hidden behind a paywall, it’s now freely available.

This paper addresses four issues. Is it true that universities faculty don’t have a lot of ideological diversity? It’s amazing how often this assertion is made, but there are a lot of evidence over the decades that shows American academia is very monocultural. You can read the rest of my article here.

While the evidence about the American professoriate’s political diversity may not be perfect, it appears to support the conclusion that it is not too diverse and that it is becoming more so. There is a lot of information now that has been gathered from different sources and at different times. It all point in the same direction about the political composition of American universities’ faculty.

It is possible to discover more. We don’t have enough evidence to cover all institutions or disciplines. The relationship between ideological and political ideologies is truly ambiguous. While we don’t have the answers to some specific questions regarding the ideology composition of university faculty members, we do have sufficient evidence to answer the bigger question about whether university faculty is particularly ideologically varied. No.

This paper’s first section examines the empirical research on the question for the past seventy years. Professors at universities are predominantly left-leaning Democrats and this has only become more so over the past seven decades.

This section focuses on the second question, which is why it is true. The evidence here is less convincing. While self-selection does a large amount of work, there are plenty of other factors that influence the selection process. Additionally, systematic evidence shows outright discrimination towards conservative academics.

There does not appear to have been a steady flow of conservatives looking to go into academia. It is therefore difficult to modify the present composition of professoriate. They would not be welcome if there was. As with many aspects of American life and academia, there is a partisan sorting process. Liberals can opt in while conservatives can opt out. It is possible that the sorting begins as soon students start arriving on college campuses. Students who find the campus hostile will leave and seek out other universities. The majority of university faculty will continue to be overwhelmingly and uniformly on the left side, just as they have for a long time.

Third, we ask whether all of this is relevant. It is a common theme in political commentary that the topic matters because tenured radicals are trying to influence students. However, there is not enough evidence to support this claim. Although there have been instances of poor conduct from professors, we don’t know if this is a common occurrence among left-leaning faculty. It is also not clear that it has influenced the political views of students. It is possible to believe that universities would benefit from greater political diversity if they had more diverse academics. A wider range of viewpoints, especially in the humanities and social sciences, could have a positive impact on what kinds of questions are asked by researchers and what logic and analysis flaws get ignored or glossed over. Researchers can improve their understanding of the world by looking at it from many perspectives. However, universities would benefit from greater ideologic diversity in order to improve their truth-seeking and truth-disseminating capabilities.

Although universities are one of the institutions trying to mobilize and use expertise, they also face distrust from the non-experts they seek to educate. It can be difficult to convince politicians and society leaders, or the general public, of facts that are contrary to their perceived interests. This is made more difficult when the messenger is perceived to be partisan. Scholars may still be confident in their work. However, students and politicians outside the university will likely doubt this. They might also recognize the fact that scholars come from the same political background and view themselves as activists rather than neutral scholars. They must show that they are not motivated by ideological differences if scholars wish to communicate bad news on campus.

You can also find the third section in the paper, which explores additional arguments and concerns. Please read the entire thing.

Finally, the paper poses the question of what should be done. In short, I do not think that there are good solutions. It is highly unlikely that any form of political intervention, or any kind of political quote system, would improve the university’s health. Universities should not only be looking out for ways to diversify their faculty, but also because they have an institutional interest. Like other aspects of university life diversity and inclusion are possible. However, not all actions taken in support of that goal will be compatible with university’s scholarly mission. These conservative principles should not be looking to punish or favorite their enemies, but instead seek a common approach. Although there is some shared ground, it seems that not everyone wants to look for it.

While intellectual homogeneity may be strenuous, it can also make a person feel ill. However, political homogeneity often makes a person more toxic than their intellect. These toxicities must be recognized and addressed by universities to ensure that academic career options are attractive for all students. Although diversity is the best way to overcome insular culture, universities must identify and address the barriers that prevent more conservative students believing that universities are welcoming and friendly. It will be a positive sign that thoughtful conservatives can thrive and exist in university environments. This will inspire others to follow that example. The importance and value that intellectual diversity is emphasized by university leaders can be a useful message for students on their campuses as well to the larger world. It is possible to break down stereotypes by creating programs and centers on campus that offer a focal point of intellectual activity for conservative scholars and students, as well as for topics and themes that are of particular interest to the right. This can encourage more dialogue and communication. Although conservatives may not choose to pursue academic careers, the academy must make sure that they are welcomed.