William Snider, a professor of 17 years in the Department of Neurology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says he knows why there’s a political imbalance at colleges — meaning, more Democrats in the ranks of the professoriate.
Writing in the Raleigh News & Observer, Snider contends he’s never “heard political affiliation mentioned in any job search” — it’s certainly not on job applications, and it’s never come up in job interviews or during committee deliberations regarding a job candidate.
Being that’s the case as he knows it, then “why is the ratio of party affiliation so lopsided?” he asks. The answer: Science.
(Snider uses, by the way, the 12:1 faculty ratio of Democrats to Republicans cited by North Carolina Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, who probably got it from The College Fix’s own Alec Dent.)
“One reason is the anti-science attitude adopted by many rank and file Republicans and supported by some Republican leaders,” the professor says, echoing Cornell faculty from a year ago. “For example, a Pew Research Survey in 2013 found that only 43 percent of Republicans believe that humans have evolved over time.”
How should scientists react to this? The theory of evolution is the central organizing principle of modern biology. If Republican leaders don’t believe it is true, how can scientists support them? Further, public funds in North Carolina are directed at “voucher” schools that teach that the theory of evolution is false. How can we join the party that apportions funds in this way?
More relevant is Republican positions on climate science. Most of the faculty have no information yet about the new “N.C. Policy Collaboratory” at UNC-CH or candidates to lead it, but presumably the university would choose an individual who supports climate science. Admittedly climate science is complicated. Most of us in the biomedical sciences don’t go into the primary data. However, we respect the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of scientists who are developing and testing climate models.
A recent joint report issued by the National Academy of Science in the U.S. and Royal Society in the U.K. clearly expressed the scientific consensus about the causes and dangers of global warning and emphasized the role of carbon emissions. Most scientists cannot imagine that National Academy of Science or Royal Society members would participate in a conspiracy to manipulate data and conclusions. It is also apparent to anyone who follows the issue that many of the statements claiming that climate science is a hoax are compromised by economic self-interest related to companies and individuals who profit from fossil fuels.
The life of the university depends on rational discourse. If people want to debate women’s reproductive issues or the integrity of elections, interested university faculty in the relevant areas would welcome these discussions. But how should we react when partisan legislation on these issues is justified by catch phrases like “protecting women’s health” and “massive voter fraud” and passed without any serious discussion? In several recent cases, the courts have found that the stated rationales for the partisan legislation in these areas were fictitious. Of course, the faculty are of the opinion that issues should be debated on merits rather than on rationale manufactured to appeal to a political base.
So, we should buy that judicial decisions are based solely on rational deliberation — that there’s never any political considerations among judges?
And are faculty “of the opinion that issues should be debated on merits rather than on rationale manufactured to appeal to a political base”? If so, how is it that The College Fix and others routinely have little difficulty in providing examples of precisely the opposite?
And, of course, conservatives do not hold a monopoly in the “anti-science” realm.
Snider concludes that he hopes there will be no consequences due to the quantity of Democratic professors … but only from a self-interested perspective. But what about what the public — and its perception of political bias in (college) classrooms?
Of the 17 UNC departments researched in Alec Dent’s study, 12 are in the humanities. Would anyone seriously argue there is little-to-no political (i.e. liberal) bias in African-American Studies? Asian Studies? History? Women’s Studies?
What about the field of social psychology, where a “grand total of 3 self-identified conservatives” were in attendance — out of 1,000 — at a conference on the discipline?
A survey by Harvard and George Mason researchers found that “68.2 percent agree that colleges and universities tend to favor professors who hold liberal social and political views; [and] 61.8 percent agree that too many professors are distracted by disputes over issues like sexual harassment and the politics of ethnic groups.”
Even in progressive California, even 53% believe colleges “present topics in the classroom in a politically biased way,” overwhelmingly with a liberal bent.
IMAGE: Adam Tess/Flickr