Liberals in Academia myths

A couple acquaintances from grad school, Matt Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, have gone on to make quite the name for themselves by studying the role of ideology in academia.  Yesterday, they had a “5 myths” piece about liberal academia.  From what I recall, at least Matt is one of those rare conservatives in Academia.  I think they set up some straw men, to a degree, in some of these, but still an interesting read.

I’m going to quote number 4, as it certainly comports with my experience:

4. Conservative academics are ostracized on campus.

We have found little evidence that right-leaning college professors are treated poorly. In our survey, 33 percent of Republican and/or conservative faculty say they are “very satisfied” with their careers, while 24 percent of Democratic and/or liberal faculty say so. More than 90 percent of Republican professors report that, given the chance to “begin your career over again,” they would definitely or probably still become a professor. Meanwhile, fewer than 2 percent say they have been treated unfairly because of their political views. These results are nearly identical to those of their liberal counterparts.

However, conservative professors can have trouble publishing in peer-reviewed journals and academic presses. A recent study of Harvard University Press by Econ Journal Watch concluded that the publishing house is heavily biased toward liberal views. Only eight of 494 books published in the past 10 years were classified in the study as “conservative” or “classical liberal” in orientation. Since the ability to publish is a key requirement of securing tenure and promotions, this issue cannot be ignored.

Despite 90%+ of my colleagues being liberals over the years, and being the part of many hiring (and fewer promotion) decisions, I’ve never seen any evidence whatsoever of ideological bias in this all-important realm.  I’m sure it’s annoying for conservative academics to have all their colleagues initially assume they are likewise liberal (presumably, there’s a lot of awkward pauses after, “actually, I voted for George W. Bush” etc., statements), but if that’s the worst of it, there’s really not much to complain about.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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