Affirmative Action for Conservative Academics Revisited:

Last fall, I wrote a post criticizing the idea of affirmative action for conservative academics. At the time, I didn't think that any university would actually adopt this extremely dubious proposal. However, the University of Colorado's plan to create a "Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy" has proven me wrong. Therefore, this may be a good time to reair my objections to the idea:

Among other things, [AA for conservatives] would require universities to define who counts as a "conservative" for affirmative action purposes, a task that they aren't likely to do well. Affirmative action for conservatives would also give job candidates an incentive to engage in deception about their views in the hopes of gaining professional advancement. Moreover, conservative professors hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would find it difficult to get their ideas taken seriously by colleagues and students. They might therefore be unable to make a meaningful contribution to academic debate - the very reason why we want to promote ideological diversity in hiring to begin with.

One of the above objections may not be applicable to the Colorado plan. It is much less likely that job candidates will engage in deception about their views to gain a two year temporary appointment than to get a permanent tenure-track position. However, the other points certainly are relevant. As I discussed in more detail in this series of posts, lack of ideological diversity in academia is a real problem. However, affirmative action for conservatives is a poor solution.

UPDATE: I do not object on principal to a chair intended for a scholar who studies conservatism, even if he isn't necessarily one himself; such a scholar might well be a liberal, radical, or libertarian. However, the Colorado plan seems clearly designed to ensure that only conservatives are hired for the position. If the goal were to simply study conservatism as a political movement or ideology, that is probably better done within the confines of existing academic disciplines, such as economics, political science, law, and philosophy.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Affirmative Action for Conservative Academics Revisited:
  2. Ideological Affirmative Action at University of Colorado: