March 30, 2005

Academics Overwhelmingly Liberal on College Campuses, Klein Says

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“It’s quite clear that Republicans are being absolutely eliminated from these two schools,” said Prof. Daniel Klein, economics, Santa Clara University, of Stanford and the University of California at Berkely in a speech yesterday in McGraw Hall. Klein discussed academic diversity on America’s college campuses in a lecture entitled “Ideology of Faculty in the Social Sciences and Humanities.”

Klein presented two of his studies, the results of which have garnered substantial attention, appearing in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist.

One of Klein’s studies explored the voter registration rolls of the faculties of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. This study showed a 9.9:1 ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans on the faculties of the 23 Berkeley departments examined. Stanford’s faculty showed a ratio of 7.6:1. At both schools, the ratios proved more extreme in the social sciences than in mathematics and hard sciences. Put together, the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans in the social sciences and humanities at Stanford and Berkeley is 16:1, according to Klein’s work.

“Its pretty much like Republicans don’t exist in those major areas at those major universities.”

Another of Klein’s studies surveyed the political leanings of the members of six of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. The study showed that the trends apparent at Stanford and Berkeley exist in academia nationwide.

According to the study, Democrats outnumber Republicans 30:1 in anthropology, 28:1 in sociology and 9.5:1 in history, across the country. Economics proved one of the more balanced fields,with a ratio of roughly 3:1.

Moreover, Klein suggested that the divide has deepened in recent years and projected that it would worsen in years to come. The studies suggest that the few conservative professors tend to be the more senior ones, leading Klein to believe that the ratios will grow even more extreme as these older professors retire.

Klein acknowledged the potential for bias in his studies, but doubts they are significant, if they exist.

One of Klein’s studies explored diversity of opinion within each ideological camp. “There’s more diversity of opinion under the Republican tent, whereas under the Democratic tent, there’s more of a party line,” Klein found. “So it’s really clear the Dems are more statist overall and less diverse.”

“Klein confirmed a lot of observations that I’ve noticed at Cornell. He did a great job of providing statistical evidence for that,” said Mike Lepage ’05, chair of Cornell’s College Republicans.

The lecture was co-sponsored by Cornell College Republicans and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

“I thought it was an interesting talk and well grounded in social sciences,” said Will Evans ’06, a Sun columnist. “The problem is that the question it answered was not particularly profound. Everyone knows that the professors are overwhelmingly liberal. This was just the statistical data to back it up. The question that wasn’t answered here and the question that needs to be asked, is why.”

Prof. Jeremy Rabkin ’74, government, expressed dismay over the dearth of academic diversity at Cornell.

“I don’t think Cornell is worse than other places, but it’s not better,” Rabkin said. “There’s a broad range of interests and perspectives out there and we have narrowed this down to a very small range; and that’s just too bad, because it just closes off a whole range of ideas that are, among other things, illuminating.”

According to Rabkin, Cornell’s narrow range of ideological prospectives fails to challenge and stretch students to the extent that it could.

“One of the reasons people go to college is to learn about things that they don’t know. We do a terrible job of allowing people to engage [diverse ideas],” Rabkin said.

“My concern is that people are not discriminated against on the basis of their race, their gender, their sexuality, their political ideology,” said Robert L. Harris Jr, vice provost for diversity and faculty development.

Despite Rabkin’s comments, Harris, also a professor of African-American History, is confident that Cornell professors offer their students a broad menu of ideologies and ample opportunity for healthy discussion.

“My students, I think, get a number of ideological prospectives. Part of the educational process is that we engage in discussion,” Harris said. “I will let my students know what my position is. Does that mean that that has to be their opinion? No.”

Archived article by Josh Goldman
Sun Contributor