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Student Singlehandedly Exposes Widespread Liberal Bias on Campuses

Many college students spend their free time playing video games or partying, but not Nate Honeycutt.

The 20-year-old psychology and political science major, who attends a highly regarded public university in central California, used most of his free time during his junior year to research academic bias, and over the last two semesters uncovered an extremely liberal bent among campus leaders and professors in his region.

Honeycutt, an incoming senior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo – one of the top research institutions among the public system’s 23 campuses –documented widespread leftist political bias across a majority of academic disciplines at his and three other nearby universities through a large-scale online faculty survey and by looking up campus leaders’ party affiliations through the registrar of voters.

The research found conservative academics are outnumbered by liberal ones by a 5 to 1 margin.

What’s more, conservative professors surveyed reported that they experienced hostility from peers because of their viewpoints, and tended to avoid outing themselves as conservatives to ensure they were not harassed or intimidated.

The survey was massive in scope: of the 2,339 questionnaires sent out, 644 professors responded representing nearly 80 academic disciplines.

“This really stifles the discussion and education and learning about how other people think,”  Honeycutt said in an interview with The College Fix. “These results are really disheartening. I think the university should be a place where open discussion is encouraged and alternative view points are expressed.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Honeycutt’s findings were not reported on in his campus’ student newspaper. But his data – meticulously researched and scientifically presented – was touted at not one but two psychological conferences in recent months: the Western Psychological Association convention, held in April, and the Association for Psychological Science gathering last month.

Call Honeycutt’s research a hobby – with perks.

“I really enjoy politics, and at the same time I am looking to pursue a career in higher education,” he said. “This is good way to see what I am going to be getting myself into.”

As part of his research, he launched an investigation in August to determine the political leanings among Cal Poly’s faculty, administrators and student campus leaders via their party affiliations denoted at the Registrar of Voters office.

Of the 1,554 people Honeycutt looked up, 627 were registered Democrat while only 242 were registered Republican. Another 363 were unknown, 265 did not cite their party affiliation, and the rest were among the Libertarian, Green, Independent and other smaller parties.

His research found about 40 percent of the campus leadership is Democrat while only about 15 percent is Republican.

Soon after that project was completed last fall, Honeycutt took on the much larger online research project, launching the survey of faculty at Humboldt, Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo and Stanislaus universities to determine their political leanings. Those results were released in early May.

Honeycutt undertook the efforts without the aid of a nonprofit or leadership from an activist group. He said he just wanted to do it.

He said he is glad he did, that the findings are important, as they prove discrimination occurs in higher education and dissenting voices do not have equal standing in the academe.

“This is a topic that a lot of faculty and administrators don’t really want to talk about,” he said. “It’s great to be able to start those conversations.”

For more on Honeycutt’s many and varied undertakings, visit his personal website.

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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IMAGE: Nate Honeycutt

About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

Add to the Discussion

  • Just Wunderin

    Worthwhile study. But showing underrepresentation of Republicans on college faculties doesn’t necessarily “prove discrimination” as this story says. It suggests it might be happening. But it is also possible that far fewer young Republicans are interested in academic careers. (Sadly, stories like this may amplify that tendency.)
    It might be worth surveying students to see if conservatives feel that they would be unwelcome in academia. If they do, that would be harder to explain away.

    • Billy Johnson

      Conservatives might not be discriminated against necessarily but, as a former college student, I can tell you for a fact that most of the people who run colleges in America have real liberal leanings. I can also confidently say that the left-wing bias displayed by those who run colleges here in America absolutely does not reflect upon American society as a whole.

    • Blah

      Conservatives are unwelcome in academia.

    • Josco

      This is very much after the fact, but I feel compelled to comment: As a university lecturer in a public university, I can state with confidence that there is liberal bias. In fact, I’m shocked that there were so many Republicans in the study. They must be deeply closeted. The number of Democrats was smaller than I’d expect, although my colleagues tend to be Green Party or Socialist as often as Democrat. I like my colleagues and love teaching, but I would have gone much further in my career if my interests were acceptable to those around me.
      Good for Honeycutt. He’s doing this the right way. When you’re in the minority, you have to work five times as hard to persuade.