Liberals pooh-pooh these data, sometimes implying that they result because conservatives aren't bright enough or sufficiently intellectual to make it as university professors. The truth is that it is very, very hard to get a tenured faculty position at a university. And the hiring process is unlike anything in a private business. In most cases, one needs a unanimous vote of professors in one's department to get tenure. This puts a high priority on intangibles like collegiality, which often translates into sharing the same politics and ideology.
Bias works in other ways, as well. It is extraordinarily difficult to get an article in a top academic journal or get a book published by a university press unless it slavishly parrots the liberal line. That is because such things must be peer-reviewed by experts in the field before they can be published. This makes it very easy for anonymous reviewers to blackball those with a conservative point of view, effectively killing the careers of those who must publish or perish.
Finally, it is essential these days to be taken under the wing of an established professor in your field and be mentored if you have any hope of getting a teaching position at a good school. With so few conservatives on the faculty -- and many of those hiding their politics to avoid retribution -- the deck is very heavily stacked against any conservative hoping for an academic career, no matter how qualified they may be.
Students pay a heavy price for this state of affairs. In certain fields like political science, it is simply impossible to receive a good education unless exposed to conservative thought. Nor are students likely to receive an adequate appreciation or understanding of the conservative perspective if it is only taught by those hostile to it. According to a new survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, almost half of students reported hearing only one side of political issues in their classrooms and that professors often use their positions to promote personal political views.
Unfortunately, fixing this problem will take a long time. It is certainly not amenable to a legislative fix, such as a quota for conservatives. The only thing that will help is to shame universities into treating intellectual diversity the way they now treat race and gender. But first they have to admit they have a problem. That hasn't happened yet.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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