Political Homogeneity in Academia

Nearly 40% of colleges have no Republicans as faculty.

Writing in the April issue of Academic Questions, a journal of the National Association of Scholars, Mitchell Langbert reveals some information regarding the state of higher education that should come as no surprise to readers of this column.  

Yet while Langbert’s findings are unsurprising, they still can’t fail to shock the observer who continues to believe, naively, that academia is a marketplace of competing ideas.

To put it bluntly, academia is a left-wing, Democrat hegemon.  

Langbert’s research centers on a sample of “8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.-holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News 2017 report[.]” Of these, 59.8 percent, or 5,197, are registered either Democrat or Republican. 

And the vast majority are registered Democrat. 

Nearly 40 percent (39%) of colleges have zero registered Republicans, and while “in most of the remaining 61 percent, with a few important exceptions, [there] is slightly more than zero percent” Republicans, the political imbalance remains “absurdly skewed” against the latter. 

“Thus,” Langbert writes, “78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.”

To put this point another way, Langbert found 808 departments that do not have a single Republican within them, while only 225 departments do have at least one registered Republican faculty member.  

Because of what he describes as the U.S. News reports “anomalous” definition of “a liberal arts college,” Langbert includes in his study the military colleges of West Point and Annapolis.  Had he not done so, though, the Democratic-to-Republican (D:R) ratio would have been a whopping 12.7:1—rather than the still astronomical 10.4:1 ratio that obtains when these institutions are excluded.

While it’s true that the D:R ratio is lower in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) than it is in the humanities and social sciences, Democrats continue to outnumber Republicans even there.  Langbert supplies a chart in which, having broken down his survey by discipline and department, he identifies the number of registered Democrat professors for every Republican.  Below are his findings:

Engineering, 1.6:1

Chemistry, 5.2:1

Economics, 5.5: 1

Professional, 5.5:1

Mathematics, 5.6:1

Physics, 6.2:1

Computers, 6.3:1

Political Science, 8.2:1

Psychology, 16.8:1

History, 17.4:1

Philosophy, 17.5:1

Biology, 20.8:1

Language, 21.1:1

Environmental, 25.3:1

Geoscience, 27:1

Classics, 27.3:1

Theater, 29.5:1

Music, 32.8:1

Art, 40.3:1

Sociology, 43.8:1

English, 48.3:1

Particularly surprising, and more than a little bit concerning, is that in the religious departments of the top-tier liberal arts institutions in this study, there exists an astounding 70:1 D:R ratio! 

The D:R ratio is 56:0 in anthropology and in communications and what Langbert refers to as “interdisciplinary studies”—fields like “gender studies,” “Africana studies,” and “peace studies”—the ratio was 108:0.   Langbert notes that these “interdisciplinary” fields have “their roots in ideologically motivated political movements that crystallized in the 1960s and 1970s”—a fact that could very well explain in large measure why those who specialize in teaching them are exclusively on the left. 

Langbert also offers a list of the liberal arts colleges that he studied and the D:R ratio that he found at each institution (Parents should pay attention!):

Bryn Mawr, 72:0

Soka, 20:0

Wellesley, 136:1

Williams, 132:1

Swarthmore, 120:1

Barnard, 98:1

Sarah Lawrence, 54:1

Bowdoin, 53.5:1

Mount Holyoke, 44.5:1

Pomona, 39.7:1

Hobart & W.S., 38.3:1

Bates, 37.5:1

Vassar, 35:1

Amherst, 34:1

Smith, 32.8:1

Wesleyan, 31:1

Connecticut, 26.3:1

Hamilton, 24.8:1

Pitzer, 21.3: 1

Union, 19.6:1

Trinity, 19.4:1

Bard, 19.3:1

Colgate, 19.1:1

Colorado, 18.7:1

Grinnell, 18.4:1

Oberlin, 15.6:1

Haverford, 15.5:1

Skidmore, 15.5:1

Franklin Marshall, 15.4:1

Occidental, 13.3:1

Holy Cross, 13.3:1

Muhlenberg, 13:1

Colby, 12.1:1

St. Lawrence, 11.8:1

There are several other schools on this list.  The only two exceptions to this rule of Democratic hegemony are Thomas Aquinas College and St. John’s College.  The former has 33 full-time professors, all of whom are Republican. The latter has “above average Republican representation.” 

As Langbert notes, these “exceptions to the Democratic-only rule indicate that institutional factors and discrimination might be key reasons for political homogeneity in the liberal arts colleges.” 

Political uniformity, Langbert goes on to contend, should be an abiding concern for all who are invested in preserving the integrity of the academic life, both in respect to teaching and research.  Such uniformity creates an ideological bubble that insulates academics from those with opposing perspectives.  Consequently, teaching and research promise to be ridden with biases that, in turn, diminish the credibility of academics. 

To support his contention, Langbert adduces a couple of powerful considerations: 

(1)Referencing a recently published anthology on the politically-charged nature of social psychology, he notes that “because of left-wing bias, psychologists are far more likely to study the character and evolution of individuals on the Right than individuals on the Left.”

(2)Sociologists, some researchers have discovered, “prefer not to work with fundamentalists, evangelicals, National Rifle Association members, and Republicans.”

Langbert elaborates:

“Even though more Americans are conservative than liberal, academic psychologists’ biases cause them to believe that conservatism is deviant.”

Leftist bias impacts whole fields—like gender. “In the study of gender,” Langbert informs us, “Charlotta Stern finds that the ideological presumptions in sociology prevent any but the no-differences-between-genders assumptions of left-leaning sociologists from making serious research inroads.”

Colleges and universities had been trending leftward for quite some time.  Langbert writes: “More than a decade ago, Stanley Rothman and colleagues provided evidence that while 39 percent of the professoriate on average described itself as Left in 1984, 72 percent did so in 1999.  They find a national average D:R ratio of 4.5:1.” Not long ago, though, Langbert and some colleagues discovered a D:R ratio of 11.5:1 “in the social science departments of highly ranked national universities.”

And, of course, Langbert’s most recent study, as we have seen, reveals that the D:R ratio has increased even more to 12.7:1 (when military colleges are excluded). 

With numbers like these, Mitchell Langbert’s conclusion sounds all too sober: 

“The solution to viewpoint homogeneity,” he suggests, “may lie in establishing new colleges from the ground up, rather than in reforming existing ones.” 

 

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