There is a new poll out and it is strikingly similar to the polls previously featured on this blog on free speech and intellectual diversity in higher education. The Buckley annual survey found that almost 60 percent of college students fear sharing an opinion in classrooms or on campuses. That tracks other polls by different groups. Yet, colleges and universities continue to exclude Republican and conservative faculty members and maintain environments of speech intolerance.The poll shows a sharp increase from just last year with 63% reporting feeling intimidated in sharing opinions different than their peers. That is almost identical to the 65 percent found in other polls.
The poll of over 800 students included many liberal students, as reflected in the 67 percent who would require all professors and administrators to make statements in favor of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Half of students believe “America is inextricably linked to white supremacy” and another 33 percent would prefer to live in a socialist system.
The poll tracks earlier polls showing a rising view of viewpoint intolerance that now characterizes higher education in America. That intolerance is reflected in the overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal makeup of faculties.
A new survey of 65 departments in various states found that 33 do not have a single registered Republican. For these departments, the systemic elimination of Republican faculty has finally reached zero, but there is still little recognition of the crushing bias reflected in these numbers. Others, as discussed below, have defended the elimination of conservative or Republican faculty as entirely justified and commendable. Overall, registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by a margin of over 10-1.
The survey found 61 Republican professors across 65 departments at seven universities while it also found 667 professors identified as Democrats based on their political party registration or voting history.
While there may be a couple professors missed on either side of this ideological divide, most faculty will privately admit that it is rare to find self-identified Republicans or conservatives on many faculties. Most faculties are overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal. Diversity generally runs from the left to the far left.
Another survey found that only nine percent of law professors identified as conservative. The virtual absence of Republican or conservative members on many faculties are just shrugged off by many academics. It is the subject of my recent publication in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The article entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.”
Notably, a 2017 study found 15 percent of faculties were conservative. This is the result of years of faculty replicating their own ideological preferences and eradicating the diversity that once existed on faculties. When I began teaching in the 1980s, faculties were undeniably liberal but contained a significant number of conservative and libertarian professors. It made for a healthy and balanced intellectual environment. Today such voices are relatively rare and faculties have become political echo chambers, leaving conservatives and Republican students increasingly afraid to speak openly in class.
The trend is the result of hiring systems where conservative or libertarian scholars are often rejected as simply “insufficiently intellectually rigorous” or “not interesting” in their scholarship. This can clearly be true with individual candidates but the wholesale reduction of such scholars shows a more systemic problem. Faculty insist that there is no bias against conservatives, but the obviously falling number of conservative faculty speaks for itself.
As discussed earlier, the editors of the legal site Above the Law have repeatedly swatted down objections to the loss of free speech and viewpoint diversity in the media and academia. In a recent column, they mocked those of us who objected to the virtual absence of conservative or libertarian faculty members at law schools.
Senior editor Joe Patrice defended “predominantly liberal faculties” based on the fact that liberal views reflect real law as opposed to junk law. (Patrice regularly calls those with opposing views “racists,” including Chief Justice John Roberts because of his objection to race-based criteria in admissions as racial discrimination). He explained that hiring a conservative academic was akin to allowing a believer in geocentrism (or that the sun orbits the earth) to teach at a university.
It is that easy. You simply declare that conservative views shared by a majority of the Supreme Court and roughly half of the population are not acceptable to be taught.
We have previously discussed the worrisome signs of a rising generation of censors in the country as leaders and writers embrace censorship and blacklisting. The latest chilling poll was released by 2021 College Free Speech Rankings after questioning a huge body of 37,000 students at 159 top-ranked U.S. colleges and universities. It found that sixty-six percent of college students think shouting down a speaker to stop them from speaking is a legitimate form of free speech. Another 23 percent believe violence can be used to cancel a speech. That is roughly one out of four supporting violence.
This has been an issue of contention with some academics who believe that free speech includes the right to silence others. Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over the use of a heckler’s veto on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, including a speaker from the ACLU discussing free speech. Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.
In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech,” Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech. (Bilek later cancelled herself and resigned after she made a single analogy to acting like a “slaveholder” as a self-criticism for failing to achieve equity and reparations for black faculty and students).
There are now a wide array of polls and surveys showing a rising sense of viewpoint intolerance and a lack of ideological diversity on faculties. When confronted, faculty often shrug and say that the students are simply wrong about speech intolerance. They also dismiss the importance of labels (even self-reported party affiliations). Few, however, seriously deny that faculties are now overwhelmingly, if not exclusive, Democratic or liberal. Intellectual diversity today on faculties often runs from the left to the far left.
I frankly do not understand why professors want to maintain this one-sided environment in hiring. I was drawn to academia by the diversity of viewpoints and intellectual challenges on campuses. However, the lack of diversity works to the advantage of those on the “correct” side of this new orthodoxy. Conversely, those with dissenting views are often targeted or isolated on faculties. They risk the loss of everything that gives an intellectual life meaning from publishing to speaking opportunities. For faculty, the viewpoint intolerance seen by students is magnified a hundred times over for those seeking to enter or to advance in teaching.