Don’t Shun Conservative Professors

Don’t Shun Conservative Professors, by Arthur Brooks.

While conservatives represent America’s largest ideological group, at 36 percent of the population, they constitute less than 10 percent of faculty in the social sciences and humanities — and a small fraction of that at elite private schools. Many report feeling like oddballs who never quite fit in.

Generally, these professors fear they have little hope for advancement to leadership roles. Research backs up this fear, suggesting that intellectual conformity is still a key driver of personal success in academic communities….

Some might argue that it doesn’t matter — or is even a good thing — that conservatives on campus are marginalized. After all, there are many organizations in which philosophical differences are legitimately disqualifying. No one believes that there is anything strange about a Christian church seeking as clergy members only those who share the congregation’s faith and theology. Buddhists may be wonderful people, but they still need not apply for the job.

But such discrimination is legitimate only when it pertains to the core mission of an organization. It would be less sensible and acceptable for a congregation to reject the best-qualified theologian and preacher because of how he or she voted in a presidential election. That church would be prioritizing ephemeral political battles ahead of its deepest spiritual concerns. That’s a pretty bad trade. …

[Is] the fundamental goal of the university … more political than scholarly? … They are in the process of deciding. If they decide the answer is scholarship, they must work harder to form communities that do not just tolerate conservatives but actively embrace ideological diversity. They must be willing to see conservative faculty members not as interlopers to be tolerated but as valued colleagues, worthy of promotion and appointments to leadership roles when merited. …

And this brings me to a point I want to make to progressive academics: It is up to you to make campuses more open to debate and the unconstrained pursuit of truth. This is partly because liberals are in an overwhelming majority on campus. But more important, the task fits perfectly the progressive movement’s ethical patrimony. American liberalism has always insisted it is the duty of the majority to fight for the minority, whether or not it suits one’s own private interests.