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Yale faculty agree it has no real political diversity

‘Basically all that diversity means here is skin color’

What happens when a university prioritizes every kind of diversity except in thought?

You get Yale University, where it’s not just the exceedingly few right-of-center professors who are faulting the school for woefully underrepresenting non-leftist viewpoints in faculty hires.

The Yale Daily News has a feature on the perspectives of right-leaning faculty such as David Gelernter (above), but other professors also gave their two cents to The Wall Street Journal in response.

When Gelernter, a renowned computer scientist (in)famous for his skepticism of Darwinian evolutionary theory, estimated the rate of faculty political diversity was “0%,” another faculty member told the Journal “I agree with the calculation”:

A third Yale faculty member, a self-described liberal, says the faculty is “moving further to the left” and has become increasingly intolerant of conservative viewpoints. This faculty member, who also requests anonymity, says that some faculty bias is subconscious: “They think people who agree with them are smarter than people who disagree with them.” This professor adds: “Universities are moving away from the search for truth” in favor of a search for “social justice.”

The Journal compares the criticisms to the “conversation-killing” warnings issued by Anthony Kronman, the former dean of Yale Law School and recent guest author for The College Fix.

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“Yale talks a lot of diversity, but basically all that diversity means here is skin color,” history professor Carlos Eire, a Cuban emigre, told the News.  “The liberal point of view is taken to be objective — not an opinion, not a set of beliefs”:

Eire said his political beliefs are the source of faculty whispers, which he said can prevent open dialogue and contribute to a culture of silence. In turn, this leads to alienation that Eire said also weeds out conservative graduate students, resulting in a faculty hiring pool filled with liberal-leaning professors.

It was actually easier to be an open conservative at Yale in the 1990s, according to English professor Mark Oppenheimer, who was an undergraduate then. He thinks “the social cost that one would pay for having certain conservative views is very strong” on campus today, resulting in “a form of censorship” because people don’t want to be socially marginalized.

The News did a survey two years ago that has probably not changed much: three in four Yale faculty self-identified as liberal, 7 percent expressed “conservative leanings,” and “nearly” all opposed the Trump administration.

Yale leaders have not always used their words carefully in explaining the heavy political tilt on campus. The dean of its undergraduate college, Jonathan Holloway, said conservative students might feel unwelcome on campus because they say “stupid” things. (He’s now provost at Northwestern.)

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President Peter Salovey is intent on overcoming Yale’s reputation for ideological monoculture, telling the News the university is “actively seeking to recruit scholars from a range of backgrounds with different perspectives.”

But he’s not looking for right-leaning faculty per se:

According to Salovey, looking for faculty members from different geographical areas and “off the beaten path” universities are some examples of hiring strategies that result in more intellectual diversity. He added that while the Provost’s office oversees hiring ethics and legality, specific departments select candidates, conduct interviews and speak to references.

Salovey said looking for candidates with “unusual” or “iconoclastic” views is one general strategy that can be used in hiring without “relying on a political litmus test.”

He also suggests resurrecting an approach he tried five years ago with a “very hardcore libertarian”: professors with diametrically opposed views co-teaching seminars together. The benefit of the approach was that students “became increasingly comfortable disagreeing with each other” as they saw two opposites having civil disagreements.

Gelernter asks the News why instead of these indirect half-measures, Yale doesn’t just “hire them all” – the right-leaning academics who have “interesting things to say, at any rate.” It has the money to do so, and it would make Yale “the one intellectually serious elite university in the country.”

It would certainly embolden students from the center to the right to speak their views a little more freely. But that’s probably what Yale fears – more open disagreement that leads to more “shrieking girl” moments where petulant snowflakes have public meltdowns.

MORE: Conservative Yale students feel unwelcome for saying ‘stupid’ things?

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.