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Media hyped up ‘brain drain’ from red states, higher ed reporter says

‘Media hyped a brain drain,’ Inside Higher Ed reporter says

Give credit to Ryan Quinn with Inside Higher Ed – even though his publication leans left and is sympathetic to complaints about conservative politicians, he analyzed the data and concluded it is unlikely there is a mass “brain drain” of professors leaving red states.

“News articles and opinion pieces have raised alarms that significant numbers of faculty members are fleeing, or considering fleeing, jobs in states where universities face increasing right-wing pressure in favor of jobs in states where they don’t—fueling a Southern brain drain,” Quinn wrote on Wednesday.

But he said the data do not back up the claims. Governors, such as Ron DeSantis, have come under criticism from some professors for his attempts to reorient universities away from wokeness.

He highlighted an American Association of University Professors’ report that claimed faculty are leaving Florida because “conditions” for professors “are becoming insufferable and they can no longer do their jobs.”

“More and more faculty members are, in effect, voting with their feet,” the December 2023 report claimed.

Quinn dove deeper into a fall 2023 survey from the AAUP and found faculty members could respond multiple times. Respondents also cited “salary” practically as much as they cited “broad political climate” in their responses. The James G. Martin Center, cited by Quinn, noted that the survey oversampled Texas and Georgia, among other flaws.

Others, quoted by Quinn, said data on faculty departures is generally bad and can be skewed by factors such as early retirement buyouts.

The University of Florida, now led by former Republican Senator Ben Sasse, is one such example of how mass media hysteria about the Sunshine State can be misleading. Its recent turnover rate, a measure that is based in concrete numbers not just survey results from AAUP members, is below the national average.

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I will add two other points that are not made by Quinn and I am not implying he would share.

First, the AAUP can be a bit disingenuous, to put it charitably. While its reports warn of political ideology’s role in higher education and a lack of job opportunities, the group has done its own work to push an agenda. The Ohio AAUP’s officially opposed an effort to create “intellectual diversity” centers at several Ohio universities, even though this would create more professor jobs.

“Ohio’s institutions of higher education are already open marketplaces of ideas where free inquiry is ongoing,” University of Cincinatti Professor Stephen Mockabee stated. (A review of Ohio State University professors found this is not the case).

Second, I don’t think it is a serious issue if leftist academics decide to leave colleges in red states. The former New College of Florida data science director who quit and compared Gov. Ron DeSantis to Hitler and said he was a fascist is not a net positive for the school. He may be a nice guy in his private life, but publicly he doesn’t have the demeanor to encourage free and open debate at the college.

It reminds me of the questionable claim that pro-abortion students might not go to red states if they pass laws against killing preborn babies. That claim has been called into question by College Fix reporting, but even if it was true, would it be a big deal? If 20 or 30 pro-abortion, feminist students decided not to enroll at Purdue University, there would just be more spots for other qualified students.

Liberal academics have been allowed to run universities for years – it is good that governors like DeSantis are pushing back. If some choose to leave for that reason, that is all the better.

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IMAGE: Governor Ron DeSantis/Facebook

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.