Thursday, December 13, 2012

Affirmative Action for Conservative Professors?

At first I thought it was satire, but NYU history and education professor Jonathan Zimmerman seems to be on to something here.  A taste:

Bill O’Reilly is right. As a devout Democrat and a frequent O’Reilly critic, I never imagined I’d write that sentence. But last week, the conservative Fox news talk-show host said something that makes real sense to me: Universities should institute affirmative action for conservative professors, so all the professors don’t think the way I do.

No, we’re not the wild-eyed Marxists that Mr. O’Reilly and other right-wing pundits sometimes make us out to be. But we are overwhelmingly liberal, as the recent national elections confirmed. At the eight Ivy League schools, for example, a whopping 96 percent of faculty and staff who made campaign donations gave to President Obama’s re-election bid.

At Columbia University, 650 employees wrote checks for the Obama campaign, while only 21 made donations to Mitt Romney. And at Brown, 129 faculty members gave to Mr. Obama, and just one staff member – that’s right, a single individual – donated to Mr. Romney.
It’s not just an Ivy League thing, either. At the University of Wisconsin, only 4.5 percent of faculty and staff donations since 2011 have gone to Republicans. At the University of Connecticut, just 3 percent of campaign donations went to the GOP.

Is this a problem? I think it is. And might a conscious hiring effort on the part of universities – that is, an affirmative action program – help remedy it? I think it would.

Read the rest here.


Paul said...

You can cut the irony with a knife! See University of California vs Bakke, 1978.

csccat said...

The issue isn't *hiring* conservative job candidates. The issue is why don't more conservatives prepare for academic careers?

I don't buy the liberal indoctrination argument. As I tell my students, given how many college grads vote for Republicans either that story is bunk or you should demand your money back because it is clear that I am a lousy professor.

In my 20 year career as a political scientist at at Baccalaureate-granting institutions, most of my conservative students choose to enter law, public policy, or business, even when I actively encourage them to consider graduate school. Those that do go to grad school tend to study political theory.

Sadly, jobs are pretty scarce in theory, not because of liberal agendas but because administrations are pressuring programs for "vocational" offerings. It's the administrators that don't get it, not us. At my school, we've been lobbying for a full-time, tenure track theorist since our last one retired eight years ago. We've got a really good young prof now adjuncting for us that we would love to keep. I wouldn't be surprised if he donated to Republican candidates.

Then there is the demographic issue. My conservative students *tend to be* white males. And, yes, it is an especially tough job market out there for all white males, where universities are still trying to make up for years of "hiring people like us". (Note: my professional association stats say that this is not the case at Research I schools, where white male TT hires still greatly outpace female and/or minority hires)

If one were to do a time series on partisanship in the academy, I think the story of conservatives in the academy would be even more dismal. This story doesn't have to do with selective hiring as much as it does with the evolution of the conservative movement and the Republican party.

I went to grad school in the '80s with Republican supporters: women, latinos, and a white, middle class, suburban guy. Guess which one still votes for Republican candidates?

John Fea said...

The Latino?

csccat said...

Ironically, my latino friend (born in Cuba, grew up in Miami) is the now the most liberal of the bunch. I guess that's what a lifetime of studying militaries in Latin America and US policy towards LA will do to you.