Jewish World Review August 15, 2005/ 10 Av,
Ideas: The other diversity for colleges
The present domination by liberal opinion on many college faculties
often verging on this majority's intolerant orthodoxies was
revealed in a recent study, "Politics and Professional Advancement
among Faculty," by Stanley Rothman, emeritus professor of government
at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, a professor of communications
at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte, a political science
professor at the University of Toronto.
As summarized in the June 24-26 New York Sun, the result of this
study confirmed in previous reports in the widely respected,
nonpartisan weekly, Chronicle of Higher Education reveals that
campus liberal professors "outnumber conservatives 5-to-1. It also
concludes that conservatives get worse jobs than liberals."
In some of these classrooms, conservative students are intimidated
into silence, ignored or occasionally ridiculed. Accordingly,
although belatedly, the June 23 "Statement of Academic Rights and
Responsibilities," led by the American Council on Education, may
finally awaken college trustees and alumni to the degree of
indoctrination instead of free inquiry that characterizes much
of higher education, particularly in the more elite institutions.
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis advised, "Sunlight is the
best disinfectant," and this study, among other similar surveys, may
stir parents to look more closely at how free the exchange of ideas
actually is among faculty members, and thereby among students, at
The release of this statement on behalf of true academic freedom is
clearly a recognition though not explicitly admitted in the
statement of the decline of intellectual diversity in higher
education. Otherwise, it wouldn't be necessary for the statement to
emphasize that: "Colleges and universities should welcome
intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas. Such a
commitment will inevitably encourage debate over complex and
difficult issues about which individuals will disagree. Such
discussions should be held in an environment characterized by
openness, tolerance and civility."
If "openness, tolerance and civility" were not in short supply on
too many campuses, that admonition would not have been required. Nor
would this remarkable reminder from American Council on Education to
faculty, provosts and presidents of colleges: "Academic decisions,
including grades, should be based solely on considerations that are
intellectually relevant to the subject matter under consideration.
Neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on
the basis of their political opinions. Any member of the campus
community who believes he or she has been treated unfairly on
academic matters must have access to a clear institutional process
by which his or her grievance can be addressed." About time!
Included in the impressive list of signers to this manifesto for
freedom of thought in the nation's citadels of advanced learning
largely ignored by newspapers and television are, in addition to
the American Council of Education, the American Association of
University Professors, Association of American Law Schools,
Association for Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges,
Council for Higher Education Accreditation and Council of
The statement by the higher-education establishments is just words
without accountability. Also, by doing more investigative
reporting on freedom of thought on campuses, the media can also be
of significant help to future students, faculty and the nation as
a whole. We are engaged not only in a war against terrorism, but
also in a war of ideas between those committed to freedom and
advocates of its lethal opposite.
The prevalence of "political correctness" at many colleges and
universities is far from over, but at least, a beginning has been
made to make freedom of thought part of the curriculum.
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