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Where Should Conservatives and Libertarians Go To School?:
David's posts about identifying schools conservatives and libertarians will find safe and respectful raises an interesting question: If you are conservative or libertarian, are you better off going to a school with lots of other conservatives or libertarians? We can ask the same question on the other side: If you identify as progressive, should you look for schools with lots of progressives?

  My own take may be idiosyncratic, but let me put in a plug for attending an institution that does not share your basic ideological outlook. I think we can all agree that an open and respectful environment is essential. But beyond that, I think there are real educational benefits to being outside your ideological comfort zone. In my experience, at least, we tend to learn most when we are challenged; being forced to explain why you think how you think is the best way to improve your thinking. As an old boss of mine used to say, "If everyone is thinking the same thing, no one's thinking much."
PaulV (mail):
Wm F. Buckley "God and Man at Yale" is prime example
3.29.2006 5:41pm
Commenterlein (mail):
I agree. In some sense you (almost by definition) already have a set of good arguments supporting your own viewpoint - otherwise you wouldn't hold it. Hence your best chance for intellectual growth is to learn about the best arguments your ideological "opponents" use to support their views. Their arguments are much more likely to be news to you than additional arguments supporting your own ideology, and while you may not change your views much, at least you will have learned something. And that's what college is for, after all.

Ok, it's also for some other stuff.
3.29.2006 5:44pm
Guest2 (mail):
I'm one of those people who think you should go to the best school you possibly can, regardless of all those other things that school websites and counselors are always saying you should take into account.

If you're choosing between multiple schools that are about equally good, then go to the one that offers you the most money. If that doesn't break the tie, then go to the one that is most cosmopolitan. IMO, anyway.
3.29.2006 5:50pm
Josh_Jasper (mail):
Liberty University.
3.29.2006 5:50pm
Darren Copeland (mail):
I have to say that as a conservative who was born in Boulder, Colorado and went to college at Ithaca College, being in an environment with most people not agreeing with me made me understand and develop my beliefs at a far higher level than the people around me. Because I had to defend myself so many times regarding my beliefs, my understanding about why I believe what I do is far more clear to me than it is for the fellow students who only had to nod their heads for four years.

Diversity works both ways. Use it to your advantage.
3.29.2006 6:01pm
Zac (mail):
I go to the Univerisity of St. Thomas. I'm a staunch agnostic but I chose to go to a Catholic university because I knew almost nothing about Catholicism. There have been points where I bemoaned the fact that I chose a small Catholic university but over all it's been a very good educational experience. I now know more about Catholicism than a lot of Catholics and I think I've gained a better understanding of faith in general. It hasn't changed my views on the world, and I'm all too willing to speak up in my theology and philosophy classes. Occasionally, I've walked the line and written an essay from the Catholic viewpoint but I feel like even then it was a positive experience. Writing from a viewpoint that you disagree with can be incredibly enriching, and I feel that any attempt to divide schools into liberal and conservative schools would ultimately be devisive. What we need is more communication between the political philosophies. How can you expect anything but bitter stagnation when you isolate yourself from anyone who disagrees with you. Dissent is the foundation of our nation and I have nothing but contempt for anyone who would stiffle that in a university or any other setting.
3.29.2006 6:01pm
Rob Read (mail):
"If everyone is thinking the same thing, no one's thinking much."

A very succinct description of the MSM journalists!
3.29.2006 6:03pm
Jason O'Reilly (mail):
I'd just add to Orin's comment the suggestion that in today's environment, I suspect you would be hard pressed to find more than a few campuses in the nation where conservatives are subject to harrassment or threats on anything more than a one-off basis (that is, where there is an actual trend of such threats, not just the occasional nut, who is a fixture of every political stripe).

I'm a recent grad with any number of politically active conservative friends across the country and the most trouble they ever received was puerile criticism. This does not preclude the existence of criticism of course, but it was hardly unsafe for any of them
3.29.2006 6:07pm
Ross (mail):
Being an ideological minority might be an advantage if you are talking about the student body. But if a student has to take classes from faculty members who are zealots and who want to burn the heretics then it is not a very fun experience.
3.29.2006 6:08pm
Taeyoung (mail):

But beyond that, I think there are real educational benefits to being outside your ideological comfort zone. In my experience, at least, we tend to learn most when we are challenged; being forced to explain why you think how you think is the best way to improve your thinking.

This seems relevant if you're studying something like political philosophy or IR or economics, where political differences have some correspondence with different theoretical structures (or something of that sort), or some field where ideology intrudes all the time, like literary theory or sociology or linguistics.

On the other hand, I think that for a lot of learning, ideology is pretty much irrelevant -- mathematics and the sciences in general, for example. Oh, there's the whole ID debate and the debate about whether humans might have evolved more than just epicanthial folds and different skin colours in the past 10,000 years, but as a practical proposition, these too are generally marginal concerns -- whether God devised Man and all the species has few implications for organic chemistry.

In these cases, the additional friction of living in a little proto-society where most of your undergraduate peers think your ideas are potty is probably more of a distraction than you need. There will be plenty of time to debate ideology over the watercooler at work after you graduate. But there's real learning -- getting a solid, broad foundation in your area of study, especially if it's sophisticated and technical -- that's much more difficult to do once you're outside of the academic setting. I think it's reasonable to sacrifice the dubious pleasure of late night bull sessions defending your ideas against your fellow undergraduates in favour of a smoother, more undisturbed opportunity to concentrate on the learning you can best achieve while at university. Not to say that's the only valid approach. But I think it's a perfectly respectable one.
3.29.2006 6:09pm
AfroVoltaire (mail) (www):
For once, in a very long time, I agree with the Volokh, and I can't believe it! YES, YES, YES! One should seek difference, and even embrace it. Anyone who is not willing to engage in a respectful debate with people of other views, are not very convinced of their own views, IMHO. In addition, anyone who refuses to engage difference, is not leaving any room for themselves, to be able to change their minds at some point in the future. And that is just intellectually reprehensible... because we all know that only idiots never change their mind on anything, right?
3.29.2006 6:35pm
RJT:
When John Roberts was first nominated, the NY Times interviewed some of his Harvard Law School classmates to find out what it was like to be a conservative in a mostly liberal environment back then. They all said that being in the minority forced them to develop stronger arguments than their liberal classmates, who were rarely challeneged. It seems to me that this line of reasoning would also hold true for college students.
3.29.2006 6:47pm
Anthony (mail):
Being an undergrad at UC Berkeley converted me from a somewhat hawkish liberal into a dyed-in-the-wool hawkish libertarian conservative. The intolerance of the left, the intellectual bankruptcy of their arguments, and the herd-like manner in which most liberals there acquired and bleated their beliefs have ensured that.

Dealing with the professors wasn't hard - I took a useful major, Civil Engineering. Not much scope for politics in the classes I took.
3.29.2006 6:49pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Of course, the danger of being exposed to opposing viewpoints is that your own views may change in the process. It does seem like the question, where should [ideologue] go to school presumes somehow that the underlying ideology held is correct even before confronting challenge. This is the very definition of prejudice, judgment in advance of argument.
3.29.2006 6:53pm
Moshe (mail):
Orin,
It may be a good idea to seek out an intellectual atmosphere that has a different point of view as your own, and that is fine when people are treating you respectfully. But on many campuses students with conservative views are exposed not just to a different perspective but to hostility. It takes a person of unusual character to thrive in such an environment without keeping quiet. It is perfectly understandable that students would choose not to have their intellectual development take place in an environment where they feel socially ostracized for their views. I think that this was the issue that David was getting at, not the actual ideology of an institution per se.
As a separate issue, some students may not feel that they have a firm grounding in their conservative views, but may wish to learn more, or at least to be exposed to more sophisticated conservative perspectives than they themselves have. This may be hard unless there is an atmosphere that supports it. In such a case they may want an actual conservative atmosphere.
3.29.2006 6:54pm
Sara (mail) (www):
"If everyone is thinking the same thing, no one's thinking much."


The problem is that the professors aren't thinking much as they all think the same way and don't brook any student disagreements. My son (a college student) just got a paper back with this comment: "Excellent writing, very poor premise." Grade C-. It was a political paper where he took a pro-Iraq, pro-military stance.

I think some of the top schools in this country, the ones that get all those really big bucks from their alumni ... the Ivy League, Berkeley, Stanford, U. of Michigan, etc. might get a good wake up if suddenly some of the best and brightest in this country boycotted them and started selecting some of the other great schools with a more well-rounded educational offering.
3.29.2006 6:56pm
Defending the Indefensible:
AfroVoltaire, I think you're agreeing with Prof. Kerr, not Volokh.
3.29.2006 6:56pm
Sha_kri:
When I went to school in the early '90's, there was no room for viewpoints other than liberal. The Student newpaper was a prime example. All articles were just written with the assumption that everyone was a liberal and that was the correct way to view things (offerring other viewpoints was just treated as if the person was backward). So just attending a school that recognized other views points would be a huge step.
3.29.2006 7:02pm
Bryan DB:
At least being exposed to different viewpoints didn't interfere too much with everyone's stereotypes of their ideological counterparts: "The intolerance of the left, the intellectual bankruptcy of their arguments, and the herd-like manner in which most liberals there acquired and bleated their beliefs have ensured that."

One imagines that many liberals would be happy to respond with: "The intolerance of the [right], the intellectual bankruptcy of their arguments, and the herd-like manner in which most [conservatives] acquired and bleated their beliefs have ensured that."
3.29.2006 7:03pm
Bryan DB:
FWIW, I've attended three universities where I did not share the prevailing wisdom. I found those all to be quite educational experiences, and I've yet to demonize those who disagree with me.
3.29.2006 7:04pm
Andrew Olmsted (mail) (www):
I concur with Orin. I learned a lot more by being the outlier than I ever would have going to a school where my views were the norm. If nothing else, it forced me to realize that people could disagree and still interact, something that often seems sorely lacking in the current political environment, where disagreement about politics leads to the assumption the other person is not only wrong, but bad. Having spent 3 1/2 years living in and among people whose views were vastly different from my own meant I inevitably was friends with many people who disagreed with me politically. I think my approach to politics is a lot less painful just for that knowledge, because it's a reminder that even if we disagree, the guy on the other side is probably a good guy who's just coming from different (and wrong, of course) premises.
3.29.2006 7:15pm
Medis:
As an aside, I think what matters even more is the choices you make while in school. For example, at many schools, even people in the political minority will be able to find like-minded students and organizations. So, the real issue will be finding ways to meaningfully engage with people of other beliefs.
3.29.2006 7:19pm
Russ (mail):
Orin seems to have missed the point.

Opposing viewpoints are wonderful. Politics and controversial ideas are fun when they can be debated rationally. However, I've seen far too many professors decide grades and the subjects they teach - subjects that should have nothing to do with politics - by their political beliefs.

I teach ROTC on a UC campus and have had more than one cadet come to me privately and tell me they felt they had to stay quiet in one of their classes in order to get a passing grade. Three of my cadets were thrown out of a history class for having the temerity to suggest that we should focus on today's problems, rather than throw around blame on folks for something they never did, but had ancestors do over 200 years ago.

Opposing viewpoints are fun, so long as the professor does not let it into his or her objectivity, which happens all too frequently. I haven't seen too many conservative professors give out poor grades for someone's views - although if someone has an example, the person who did should also be excoriated. I have, however, witnessed some liberal professors do so. Not many, for certain, but enough for this to be a cause for concern.
3.29.2006 7:30pm
WB:
Critical mass of your own kind is always good, I think. But it need not be the majority, or even a substantial minority. When I went to law school, I was happy knowing 4 or 5 overtly conservative/libertarian types and having the rest of my friends be either liberal or apolitical. Being one of two or three voices is infinitely better, imho, than being the only one... but I didn't need to be one of a hundred voices.

People less comfortable with having their notions about the world put on the microscope fairly often might have a higher threshold for critical mass. People more comfortable in their own skin might be fine going to school with a group of people who disagree with them 100%.
3.29.2006 7:48pm
go vols (mail):
"Three of my cadets were thrown out of a history class for having the temerity to suggest that we should focus on today's problems, rather than throw around blame on folks for something they never did, but had ancestors do over 200 years ago."

Fair point in some arenas, perhaps, but not exactly a strong claim in a HISTORY class, where discussion of the past seems, well, mandatory. If I had some kids suggest that we should stop focusing on the Founding and just pay attention to today's politics, I wouldn't "throw them out," but they certainly would bomb my evaluations.

And Sara, the fact that your kid is both a conservative and got a C does not, note, mean that he deserved a better grade, or that liberal bias determined that grade (it's impossible to tell from your comment). Newsflash--no student of any ideology ever believes they deserve to get the grade they earned if it isn't good. As a parent, you don't exactly qualify as an objective observer.

Anecdotal accounts of conservative students getting bad grades are not evidence of liberal bias. I do not deny that there is a small minority of professors who are both liberal and intolerant. That's human nature; it would be just as true if conservatives made up 80% of academia. I have yet to see any evidence, of any kind, that this is a systemic problem that requires a broad-based solution, ala an "academic bill of rights." I am open to such evidence; for now, though, I see only anecdotes, or worse, made-up anecdotes like the garbage Horowitz is fond of peddling.
3.29.2006 7:56pm
No One of Import:
There's a distinction I think between undergrad and grad programs here.

True, as an undergrad and a grad student it is important to be exposed to other and diverse ideas.

But in PhD, JD and I'd argue some Master programs, knowing what you are getting yourself in for and having at least a someone neutral template is required.

I have an MPA. THE main reason I will never seek a PhD is because I know as a conservative I'd have three choices in terms of PhD in poli-sci or PhD or DPA in public administration.

1: I find a political science or public administration PhD program that is not utterly run by liberals. These simply do no exist in the US today. At least with two conservatives on a faculty I could get a dissertation committee that would not be automatically pre-disposed to slit my throat, metaphorically speaking. This is not to say ALL liberals are pre-disposed to trashing conservatives, but the sheer number of liberals in academia means there is that many more of them who are likely to toss whatever my disseration is in the scrap heap if they find I am a conservative. Which leads to...

2: Get into a PhD program and lie and lie and lie and hope like heck no one finds out I am a conservative. Trouble here is of course you become intimately involved with discussion and discourse with your professors and fellow program people. Am I a good enough liar to hide my conservatism for 4-6 years? Probably not, no. And then what? I will have spend half a decade and a ton of money to maybe get a PhD (assuming the liberals on the disseration defense committee don't toss me, see point 1) and thereafter has NO chance at a professorship?

3: Get into a PhD program, admit but don't advertise that I am a conservative and let the chips fall where they may. If I were not married and planning on raising a family, sure I might. But as I said, this is not really an option because I cannot afford (financially and in terms of time) to gamble that the liberals on the faculty will not simply dismiss me and take it out on my grades.

With so many liberals in the academy, even if a small % are out to get conservatives, that small % becomes a large number of people. I cannot afford to spend time and money only to find that some of that small % but large number of liberals who will simply not tolerate conservative views are sitting on my dissertation committee.
3.29.2006 8:04pm
No One of Import:
I do not deny that there is a small minority of professors who are both liberal and intolerant.

But given that liberals are SUCH a large majority, that "small minority" translates into large numbers of intolerant liberal professors.

Why should I as a conservative risk my time and money in a program if the odds are so good that my work will be dismissed? The answer is: I shouldn't.

First, I have to worry the admissions group doesn't find out I am a conservative.
Then I have to worry the professors and students in the intro course don't find out.
They I have to worry the dissertaion advisor doesn't fid out.
Then I have to worry the dissertation committee doesn't find out.

If I make it this far and get the PhD

Then I have to worry the hiring committee(s) don't find out.
Then I have to worry my students and fellow professors don't find out.
Then I have to worry my three rounds of tenure review don't find out.

Then, after 10-15 years of constant worry and in effect lying about myself to make it clear I am NOT a conservative, then if I managed to somehow get tenure, then and only then can I safely register Republican or give money to certain candidates or answer questions with my honest opinion.

Why would I want to go through all that? I wouldn't.
3.29.2006 8:14pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Russ:
Three of my cadets were thrown out of a history class for having the temerity to suggest that we should focus on today's problems...
That was funny. Thanks.
3.29.2006 8:16pm
Danny Boy:
Any 'top' law school will be fairly liberal. As a conservative at one of them, I have had to defend my ideas constantly, which definitely hones my reasoning skills and has served as an overall positive experience.

HOWEVER, If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have chosen a comparable school with at least one outspoken conservative faculty member. It's tough to do research on topics you care about, or write your law review note on an interesting topic if your professor thinks you are a 'wackjob' conservative to begin with (as all conservatives obviously are...). I miss having a mentor, or at least a legitimate Federalist Society Club advisor, rather than someone that was randomly picked by the administration in the name of ideological fairness.
3.29.2006 8:26pm
Splunge (mail):
[L]et me put in a plug for attending an institution that does not share your basic ideological outlook....I think there are real educational benefits to being outside your ideological comfort zone.

Ever think about putting this principle into actual practise yourself? For example, inviting a scientist, engineer, historian, artist, soldier, businessman--in short, neither a law professor nor lawyer--to add his voice to the VC? Especially if part of your purpose here is to educate, reach a wider audience than your immediate academic peers, sharpen your understanding of your own philosophy through challenging intramural debates, et cetera.
3.29.2006 8:28pm
OrinKerr:
Splunge,

Even assuming it is relevant to compare blogs to universities and fields to ideologies, please keep in mind that I have no control over who posts at the VC. That is entirely up to Eugene, as it is his blog.
3.29.2006 8:37pm
srp (mail):
There is a significant difference in the information environment today from when I attended college (picture dinosaurs striding past volcanos to capture the era...). Today, anybody can access nearly unlimited amounts of like-minded opinion on the Internet, some of it even coherent and powerful. No conservative or libertarian need feel isolated. Today, it's pretty easy to take refuge in an echo-chamber if you want to, even when you attend a school where most people disagree with you.

Back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the hegemony of conventional center-liberalism was much stronger in all media and in academia than it is now. For example, Milton Friedman was the only well-known voice arguing for free-market policy in the major media (and was virtually the only writer with that point of view assigned in poli sci classes). Any mention of Thomas Sowell or Ayn Rand in the major media gave a small jolt of excitement, even if the treatment was superficial or dismissive. Besides the Wall Street Journal editorial page, conservative and libertarian think tanks and small-circulation magazines were where it was at for any kind of discussion about contemporary issues that didn't simply assume statist, dovish, green, etc., premises. Still, we managed. Lots of extracurricular reading was involved.

Given that it's so much easier to tap sympathetic views today, I don't see, therefore, why a student's immediate intellectual environment should be determinative one way or the other of how his views are shaped or affected. Nor do I think that taking a little heat for being a contrarian is all bad--I was amused when someone commented that "I was too nice to be a fascist" and so on.

I am with Orin on the intellectual (or at least forensic) sharpening that comes with being in the minority. It was hard back then to be an unthinking conservative or libertarian because you were surrounded by people who disagreed with you--it was think or change your views. And it definitely showed up in discussions--those on the right were much more aware of counterarguments to their positions and tried to anticipate them. Whether that would work under today's conditions, where being "on the right" is less lonely, I don't know.

The problem of institutionalized harassment of anyone contradicting strong campus norms about race and sex should not be underestimated, however. Read Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglade's the Shadow University for a hair-raising picture of how administrators systematically screw people who trip over these norms (often liberals, by the way) in the name of tranquility and PC legitimacy. FIRE (founded by the two authors) has resources on their website for assessing the restrictiveness of various campus speech codes and the like.
3.29.2006 8:38pm
casey (mail):
The notion that those on the fringes would eagerly debate their points of view is so '50s Greenwich Village Beatnikesque.

It's not a question of discussing in a temperate manner whether the Rosenbergs were guilty, or if Joe Stalin was an OK guy or, on the other hand, if we should leave the UN or impeach Earl Warren (sorry if I've left the younger folks behind here).

Modern polarized thought means that abortionists should be murdered or criminals, by the color of their skin, should be celebrated.

It would take a very brave or very foolish undergrad to jeopardize her future chances of admission to a well-known law or medical school by asking an instructor in a required African-American studies course whether in fact the Great Emancipator's plans to relocate freed Negroes to Africa or the Carribean were not in fact forever destroyed by the actions of John Wilkes Booth.

Similarly, it would be equally academically suicidal to write a paper for a required womwn's studies course suggesting that, in the middle ages, women might not have been effective as men as soldiers on account of their smaller sizes and lack of upper-body strength.

What most face now, in addition to academic punishment, is the well known sound (identified as "scoffing") and the statement "you just don't get it."

What school attracts the brightest (without phony admissions--like a basketball program that enlists paraplegics in order to be "fair") young people from America and internationally and allows full and free discussion of important issues without fear of administrative or academic punishment? I think most students can cope with denigration from peers if their ideas are not sufficiently thought out or expounded.
3.29.2006 8:43pm
Commenterlein (mail):
No One of Import:

I have been in academia for about two decades, and I honestly have no idea how you came up with your perception of what it takes to successfully complete a Ph.D. program and become a professor. You write:

"Then, after 10-15 years of constant worry and in effect lying about myself to make it clear I am NOT a conservative, then if I managed to somehow get tenure, then and only then can I safely register Republican or give money to certain candidates or answer questions with my honest opinion."

Because obviously there are no outspoken conservative professors in academia, since they all need to hide in fear and wait to have tenure before ever mentioning their political views. Not.

Do you really believe that Reynolds, Volokh, Drezner, Bainbridge, Cowen, Zywicki, Barnett, Lindgren, Bernstein, Feldstein, Barro, Mankiw, Lazear, Becker, Posner, Mansfield, Wolfowitz and on and on and on had to hide their political views before they got tenure? They obviously did not, and they got tenure anyway, or probably because they didn't.
3.29.2006 8:46pm
Perseus:
Do you really believe that Reynolds, Volokh, Drezner, Bainbridge, Cowen, Zywicki, Barnett, Lindgren, Bernstein, Feldstein, Barro, Mankiw, Lazear, Becker, Posner, Mansfield, Wolfowitz and on and on and on had to hide their political views before they got tenure?


It is my understanding that Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. was indeed quite careful--one might even say esoteric--about how he expressed his views before he received tenure.
3.29.2006 9:01pm
student (mail):
I go to Eugene Lang College, which is the undergraduate portion of New School University. For over 80 years it has been well known as one of the most liberal institutions in the country. Many of my teachers are socialist and the closest any of them come to politics recently was working with the Kucinich campaign. Politically I lean to the left, however my libertarian and foreign policy views make me stand out in my classes. Overall my teachers love it. They tend to get bored with a bunch of students who agree with them. When I do not do well in a class it is always because of something I did wrong and not because the professor dislikes my views. My arguments have become much sharper and I know it is because I debate with some of the brightest minds on the far left every day.
3.29.2006 9:05pm
No One of Import:
It is my understanding that Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. was indeed quite careful--one might even say esoteric--about how he expressed his views before he received tenure.

Thank you. Yes from what I read Mansfield was walking on egg shells for years and so round about in his statements that it was clear he was a conservative in hiding.

See that's the Catch-22. Conservative students in PhD and similar programs have to mouth and parrot the words even if they don't believe it or as I put it lie (maybe too blunt a word, but there you have it).

In other words, the LACK of a student chiming in with the liberal mantra is almost as clear a sign as if they had a copy of National Review stuck on their forehead.

It has been described and discussed elsewhere and I saw it myself in my Masters program; the assumption in discourse is you MUST believe this, that and the other. It becomes self-reinforcing, to be noticed by professors you must not only be liberal but MORE liberal than the other students in order to stand out.

I barely managed to get through my Masters and I gave up on the prosepects of PhD because I saw nothing on the horizon that would even vaguely suggest it would get or be better at another program.

Commenterlein, I do believe many of those you listed did have to hide prior to tenure or at least bury it and parrot the party line. They took the risk of being conservative in the academy today. It is a risk I don't see myself in taking, spending years and thousands of dollars with the very real possibilty of never getting past the dissertation committee much less the tenure committees.

Someone noted the lack of mentors. The problem is one, single token conservative on a faculty dominated by liberals is useless because that 1 will be out voted by the 2 liberals on your disseration committee and that 1 will be woefully outvoted by the rest of the faculty when it comes time to hire, much less grant tenure.

Now you can say that's impossible and not EVERY faculty will be chock full of intolerant liberals and not EVERY dissertation committee will be 2 intolerant liberals and 1 conservative. But can I afford to spend tens of thousands in tuition (not to mention the income I'd be forgoing in another job) half a decade or more for the PhD only to get my dissertation rejected because 1 liberal on that committee subscribes to the "science" that says conservatives are mentally unstable, unsound or were whiny babies?
3.29.2006 9:39pm
Mark at UofC:
ISI publishes a guide called "Choosing the RIGHT College"
3.29.2006 9:47pm
DRJ (mail):
Go Vols,

In this blog and elsewhere, you have repeatedly criticized the use of anecdotes as evidence of liberal bias in higher education. What evidence would you find relevant? Do you accept nothing less than an outright admission by liberal professors that they silence conservative students or grade them unfairly?

Sometimes where there's smoke, there's fire.
3.29.2006 10:49pm
Christopher C (mail):
No, I disagree. I think you should only attend classes where the professors and other classmates have been pre-screened by your aides to make sure they never ask uncomfortable questions, and are your friends, in order to avoid making you look bad, or having to question your deeply held beliefs. If it works for presidential adminstrations, why not for "higher" education.
3.29.2006 11:05pm
Justin (mail):
I don't know of Mr. Mansfield's story, but wouldn't that, at most, be evidence of what Mr. Mansfield BELIEVED he had to do in order to make it as an academic? He comes across as paranoid to me - none of the other people on that list have had similar experiences.

I'm continuously getting sick of the biad in tenure argument, but how come nobody has had even an inkling of response to

A) the arguments of Brian Leiter, that liberals are just as predominant in those fields where ideology couldn't possibly play a role in the process.

and

B) Why law is equally biased, despite the fact that the criteria is mostly objective (graduating school, law review) and those that aren't are controlled by conservatives (clerkships and certain government jobs).

Yes, yes, law review articles bias against conservatives - except law reviews compete with each other and measure quality under the same objective resume matters, PLUS there are ideological law reviews on both sides. I meant a real argument.
3.29.2006 11:13pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
One place Libertarians shouldn't be, either as students or instructors, is at public universities. If you believe in minimal government and privatization of everything except core functions of everything, then you shouldn't be part of a state-supported institution--especially teaching at one. That is the ultimate in hypocracy.

I'm not even sure you should be on the internet, since it wouldn't exist without the government.
3.29.2006 11:22pm
Perseus:
Here's the requested "inkling of a response" (about bias in hiring and tenure at colleges) to that "Academic Thug," Brian Leiter.
3.29.2006 11:51pm
SLS 1L:
I'd like to agree with Orin that going to a college where people don't agree with you is a good thing. I was a fairly hardcore libertarian when I arrived at the notoriously liberal Swarthmore, and being forced to argue with people about all my core beliefs was absolutely beneficial for my intellectual and moral development. I did have one episode where a hostile professor essentially forced me to drop a class, but otherwise professors were willing to listen to me - I was the sole defender of economics and free markets in Barry Schwartz's psychology seminar on why economics is bullshit and free markets are evil (Schwartz's views are more nuanced than that, but this is not such an unfair view of the seminar), and he gave me one of my best grades.

This did all result in a change in my views: as anyone who's read my comments here before knows, I've become very liberal and a fairly partisan Democrat to boot. But nobody who's thinking about going to college should be tremendously sure of their views: if they can't stand up to four years of intense questioning, your reasons for holding them probably aren't very sound.
3.30.2006 12:19am
Moses Malone:
"If they can't stand up to four years of intense questioning, your reasons for holding them probably aren't very sound."

I agree completely, but I think the majority of college students get through their education without being seriously challenged once on their liberal viewpoints because 1: the professors agree with them, and 2: While the presence of conservatives may be tolerated, fair classroom discussion of their ideas often is not.

Professor makes liberal statement, conservative student challenges it, professor swats back, other students pile on, conservative student puts tail between legs, unable to fend off an entire classroom controlled by a mediator of questionable partiality, professor smugly continues lecture.
3.30.2006 12:42am
Justin (mail):
Perseus, not only has that report been torn apart on this very blog by commenters, it proves my point. If conservatives are underrepresented in linguistics and chemistry, its just because the subset of conservatives that are willing to undergo tenure track professions are not as intelligent and not as large numerically as that subset of "liberals". (I say "liberals" because there is an equal paucity of actually nonstatist liberal voices in academia as there is conservative, but I suspect that has little to do with bias either.)
3.30.2006 1:04am
Justin (mail):
Moses, that seems like a parody of a classroom imagined by a conservative that went to Hillsdale of what life is like "on the other side."
3.30.2006 1:06am
Swimmy:
Perhaps this is better for some students. I can say that it wasn't good for me, personally, to attend a generally liberal (though not thought-oppressive) school. Sitting through lectures about the fascist-socialist idelogical spectrum, socialism bringing "freedom from want," and natural monopoly, in poli-sci, sociology, and econ classes, respectively, was downright painful. It's not that the teachers weren't willing to present opposing views -- they hadn't even heard them! There wasn't even a notion that maybe some of their models had, you know, no support at all.

Now I attend George Mason. Yeah, it's more ideologically in line with me. But I'm confident that these professors are well-read and aren't hiding info from me, at the least.
3.30.2006 1:23am
Perseus:
I'm not convinced that the VC commenters have "torn apart" that study. And I do know from my experience in the job market in political science that colleges filter out conservatives when they say that they want candidates who "value diversity" (not, of course, intellectual diversity, but race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) or are committed to "social action", etc. The research interests and methodology of conservatives also tend to differ.

But back to the original post. I agree with others that people should go to a place where there is a "critical mass" of conservative and libertarian scholars in the social sciences and humanities and that all too many colleges lack that critical mass.
3.30.2006 4:14am
go vols (mail):
DRJ,

I don't know if anyone's still reading this thread, but a nice start would be some anecdotes that have some corroboration--i.e. something more than the student's claim that he or she was maligned. Being able to personally read such a paper and seeing the professor's comments would be a nice start--I would probably know a ideological hack job when I see it.

Another problem, in my view, is that 1) some of these allegations (ala Horowitz) have been made up; when pressed to give details about some of his stories, Horowitz has just mumbled that the details "aren't important," and 2) we see allegations of liberal bias ala the "UCLA Bruin," (or whatever the story Eugene was linked to a few weeks ago) where being a liberal activist outside of your class time was uncontravertible evidence of liberal bias in the classroom. Call it selection bias, if you like, but I feel like I've seen more specious examples of "liberal grading bias" than real ones.

Moreover, we're not just talking about whether or not there are liberal professors who can't be professional. There are: I several such individuals at Wisconsin while at grad school (I believe sociology was the primary culprit). We're talking about whether the problem rises to the level where something should be "done" that wouldn't be worse than the problem itself. For that, probably, I would need some sort of study or broader type of evidence to be convinced. You don't bring in the fire department to put out smoke.
3.30.2006 8:43am
e:
i went to northwestern for undergrad and felt that the environment was quite open to differing views and didn't tilt overwhelmingly liberal. the students were mostly thoughtful and intelligent and professors willing to expose people to multiple viewpoints. overall i thought it had a great balance. i'm not sure what it's reputation in the academic community is, however.
3.30.2006 11:12am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Because obviously there are no outspoken conservative professors in academia, since they all need to hide in fear and wait to have tenure before ever mentioning their political views. Not.

Do you really believe that Reynolds, Volokh, Drezner, Bainbridge, Cowen, Zywicki, Barnett, Lindgren, Bernstein, Feldstein, Barro, Mankiw, Lazear, Becker, Posner, Mansfield, Wolfowitz and on and on and on had to hide their political views before they got tenure? They obviously did not, and they got tenure anyway, or probably because they didn't.
Reynolds is not a conservative, as he is quite prepared to admit. He tends towards libertarian on economic issues, and liberal on social issues (and yes, there is a difference).

Volokh also is more libertarian and liberal (supports gay marriage, repeal of laws against sex with animals)--he is only a conservative by the standards of law professors.

Lindgren described himself to me over lunch as a liberal.

Barnett and Bernstein both describe themselves as libertarians, and Barnett would almost certainly be offended at being called a conservative. (And nearly all conservatives would strongly dispute Barnett being a conservative.)
3.30.2006 11:28am
Russ (mail):
I guess my comments on the history class my cadets were thrown out of wasn't specific enough.

1. It was contemporary history, with focus on the 1960's through the 1980's.

2. The professor in question continued to draw upon how it was all "colonialists' fault" for the persecution suffered by minorities and women.

3. Drawing comparisons to the 1870's was fine for distinction today; telling the students that they needed to work to overcome the injustices caused by "their forebearers" was a bit much.

4. If a professor wanted to debate in the idea, fine. Throwing a student out of class because their point of view was, according to the professor in question, "a disruptive influence who contribute nothing to social justice" has no place at a university, and will silence any future debate...you know...the very thing we are claiming is a good thing at school.

I can cite more from my students:
- the cadet taking a literature class whose professor had him write a paper on how the ten military zones that the JCS has divided the world into to facilitate military logistics was really just the US plan to control the world.

- the cadet that wore her uniform to class since she had to come immediately to a training exercise afterwards and was told by the professor "you didn't need to wear that rag in here."

I could continue to go on, but I guess these are just "anecdotal."
3.30.2006 12:20pm
Bart Motes (mail):
I go to FSU Law, which is probably 60% conservative (it seems like more). It has been an interesting experience. Many of my friends are conservatives and I'm trying to understand their viewpoints. There are even people who could be described as Christian fundamentalists here. Shockingly to me, these are not dumb people. I disagree strongly with their ideas, but I cannot dismiss them out of hand. So, yes, for me, it is a good experience to be exposed to the ideas of the other political camp.
3.30.2006 2:43pm
Mr. X (www):
I'm a hardcore Libertarian at a very left-wing law school that I specifically picked over GMU Law, mostly because I don't like echo chambers. It's a lot more fun to be the lone voice of reason than drowning in the chorus.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...rabble rouser...
3.31.2006 11:11am
Mr. X (www):
Barnett and Bernstein both describe themselves as libertarians, and Barnett would almost certainly be offended at being called a conservative. (And nearly all conservatives would strongly dispute Barnett being a conservative.)

And, IIRC, Barnett wrote in Contracts until he got tenure, then started advancing more libertarian Constitutional arguments.

Not that I'm complaining, his Contracts casebook was awesome.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...just saying...
3.31.2006 11:23am