Group-Think in Academia

Leftist ideology only.

According to The College Fix, a campus watchdog organization run by students, the political donations of Duke University employees are ten times higher in the year since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency than they were in the year following the reelection of Barack Obama.

The Center for Responsive Politics found that Duke faculty and staff members made 870 individual contributions within the last year.  This number is in stark contrast with the 88 individual contributions that they made over the span of 2013.

What’s telling, but unsurprising, is that of the 870 political contributions made by Duke University employees, all but six were made to leftist, Democratic Party causes and candidates.

Sadly, the ideological and political homogeneity that prevails at Duke is all too representative of that which imbues the contemporary academic world:

In the social sciences, Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly twelve to one.  This is the finding of research into five fields—economics, journalism, history, psychology, and law—at 40 “leading” universities.  

The researchers admitted that the Democrat-to-Republican ratio is “even higher” than they had suspected, and that it is highest at the more prestigious universities. They also found that “an awful lot of departments have zero Republicans.”

At Columbia University, in the five disciplines on which the study focuses, there were a total of 179 registered Democrats and a total of six registered Republicans.  This is a Democrat: Republican ratio of nearly 30 to one.  Yet of the 40 universities studied, Columbia still came in at having only the ninth highest Democrat-to-Republican ratio behind eight other institutions.

Caltech and Worchester Polytechnic Institute, which came in at first (13:0) and second places (9:0), respectively, are technical institutions with significantly lower overall numbers than are typical of the generic university.  Yet they rank as high as they do because they have zero Republicans in the fields in question.  In third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth places are Brown University (60:1); Boston University (40:1); John Hopkins (35:1); Rochester University (35:1);  Northeastern University (33:1); and Tufts University (32:1).

In total, this study “looked up 7,243 professors and found 3,623 to be registered Democratic and 314 [registered] Republican.” The remaining weren’t registered with either party.

It has long been common knowledge among those in the know that while institutions of higher education should be the most intellectually free and diverse places in the world, in reality they are anything but this.  Quite the contrary: a remotely objective, casual observer of academia can’t fail to be struck by the ideological and political uniformity pervading American faculty.  

Indeed, Groupthink is as visible in academia as it is anywhere. Actually, it is more prevalent in academia than it is almost anywhere.

The social psychologist Irving Janis characterized the phenomenon that he referred to as “Groupthink” in terms of the following symptoms:

(1) The illusion of invulnerability

(2) Collective rationalization

(3) Belief in inherent morality

(4) Stereotyped views of out-groups

(5) Direct pressure on dissenters

(6) Self-censorship

(7) Illusion of unanimity

(8) Self-appointed “mindguards”

When it is considered that the in-group of academia is powered by a “progressivist” vision, Janis’s “symptoms” seem that much more fitting:

(1) The illusion of invulnerability, as Janis labeled it, generates “excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.” Historically, and much to the chagrin of its countless victims, excessive optimism and the extreme risk-taking to which it leads are hallmarks of leftist ideology in action.

(2) As for collective rationalization, this transpires inasmuch as the group’s members fail to revisit their presuppositions—even after others warn them as to the disastrous consequences to which their plans could lead.  Again, one will not be hard pressed to find illustrations of leftists ignoring warnings and clinging to the assumptions underwriting the destructive policies that they continue to support.

(3) Members’ belief in the inherent morality of the group’s causes is actually a belief in the moral superiority of those causes and, thus, the concomitant conviction that the pursuit and realization of those causes are without any objectionable consequences.

(4) The in-group needs an “enemy,” an out-group that it can demonize.  We see how the left, whether in academia or elsewhere, satisfies this need today.  Members of out-groups are “stereotyped” as “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” “Islamophobes,” “white supremacists,” “colonialists,” “capitalists,” “the rich,” etc.

(5) Members of the in-group, or at least those who are believed to be members, are pressured to resist deviating in any key respects from the party line.  Examples of this “symptom” of Groupthink in academia abound, with dissenting left-liberal academics being treated at least as scornfully as those to their right who belong to the out-group: Blacks who are deemed by the members of the in-group of being insufficiently progressive are derided as “sell-outs,” “oreos,” “race-traitors,” and worse, while women who incur the academic left’s wrath find that their womanhood is denied to them. 

And, of course, if the deviant is a white liberal man, then he is ultimately objectified as a “racist” and “white supremacist.” 

The bottom line is that dissent, at least over certain fundamental propositions, is not tolerated by the in-group.

(6) That this last message is usually received loudly and clearly is borne out by the fact that the members of the in-group censor themselves:  Seeing the fate of those of their fellow members who have dared to challenge the orthodoxy of the group, individual members of the academic clique will suppress their thoughts when they are at odds with the group’s orthodoxy.

(7) The illusion of unanimity is strong among academic leftists.  It is indeed assumed that the majority perspective is the perspective of all of their colleagues. 

(8) “Mindguards” are those members of the group—this would be whole departments at most colleges and universities around the country—that strive to immunize the ideology of the group against any potential threats to it.

There is much more that needs to be said on this subject of academic Groupthink. Far too few studies have as yet to be done on it.

However, as I was at pains to show here, there can be no question that Groupthink does in fact exist among contemporary academics.

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