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Only seven Harvard professors identify as conservative, survey finds

Two years ago, student leaders at the Harvard Crimson campus newspaper called on faculty to hire more conservatives in the wake of a survey that found only 1.6 percent of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences identify as conservative or very conservative.

It’s 2021, and nothing much has changed.

The Crimson’s latest survey of faculty found just seven professors identify as “somewhat” or “very conservative,” roughly 3 percent of survey respondents.

In both surveys, the vast majority of professors say they are “liberal” or “very liberal.”

The spread is so striking that the Crimson recently reported on right-leaning professors as an “endangered species” at the Ivy League institution.

“While the University has made a concerted effort across the past decade to promote gender and racial diversity among its faculty, Harvard has not made any explicit attempts to bolster representation from across the ideological spectrum,” the campus newspaper reported.

The article points out that this trend can be found across higher education. But Harvard has a longstanding reputation as the best university in the nation.

The Crimson quotes a professor who said even in Harvard’s Economics Department, many faculty will not consider conservative viewpoints on some political issues.

“There’s no tolerance at all at this point for something that says we should just be hiring on the basis of merit in terms of scholarship, teaching ability, and so on,” Professor Robert Barro told the student newspaper. “It’s sort of no question now that, in addition to that, you’re supposed to be heavily weighting various forms of identity.”

Professor Harvey Mansfield, arguably Harvard’s most well-known conservative faculty member, told the Crimson: “There hasn’t been a conservative appointed as a Harvard faculty for the last 10 years, as far as I know.”

The Crimson’s 2018 plea to hire more conservatives at the “Kremlin on the Charles” did not hold sway with professors.

Its 2021 article points out that the most recent faculty survey found “only a minority of surveyed faculty support an intentional effort to bolster conservative representation among the FAS.”

“Out of 238 respondents, only 23 percent said they ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly support’ attempts to increase political diversity among the faculty, while 34 percent said they ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly oppose’ hiring more conservative professors. Forty-three percent said they ‘neither support nor oppose’ doing so.”

Another 34 percent supported barring former members of the Trump administration from appointments, the survey found.

“It became increasingly apparent over my 12 years at Harvard that conservative professors were not just a small minority but an endangered species that might go extinct. The skew to the left amongst faculty (and administrators) is now greater than ever and academia should not be politically monochrome,” historian Niall Ferguson, who left Harvard in 2016 to join the Hoover Institution at Stanford, told the Crimson.

In the end, some students take matters into their own hands.

In 2016, one Harvard student launched a conservative women’s campus group called the Network of Enlightened Women. Fast forward to last month, and Harvard conservative students formed a coalition to fight for representation at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

As the student editors of the Crimson had pointed out: “Initiatives to promote campus conversations in which beliefs are questioned should be encouraged, as should giving students the resources they need to feel comfortable but not unchallenged in their identities.”

MORE: ‘It’s hard to be patriotic at Harvard,’ conservative editor at student paper says

IMAGE: Lee Yuan / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.