Apparently 90% of Harvard Faculty Can Agree On Something: Giving To Democrats (Forbes.com) May 7, 2015Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
I guess we now know why William F. Buckley famously said: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” According to a recent study by the Harvard student newspaper, 84% of Harvard faculty giving to political campaigns goes to Democrats. In the College of Liberal Arts and the Law School it was a stunning 96% and 98% respectively, and 86% at the fair and balanced Kennedy School of Government. Even in one typical campus bastion of conservatism, the business school, 62% of political giving went to Democrats.
In one sense, this is hardly news, except for the near unanimity of any action on the part of presumably thoughtful, independent people. An old saw says that faculty can’t agree on anything except to hang the dean, and even then they can’t agree on when and where. So having hundreds of smart, notoriously independent people all decide to give their money to one political party over another surely makes a powerful statement. Even the Dean of the Harvard College of Arts and Sciences, Michael D. Smith, admitted to being “amazed at how high that number is.”
Lest you jump to the conclusion that the Harvard Crimson must have cooked up some crazy statistical anomaly, previous studies tend to support these results. In 2012, Campus Reform studied giving by faculty and staff at the 8 Ivy League colleges and found that $1,211,267 was given to President Obama and only $114,166 to Mitt Romney. Brown University led the pack with 96% of faculty and staff donations going to Obama, with Dartmouth (where an occasional conservative voice is at least heard) and the University of Pennsylvania bringing up the rear with 94% donating to the Obama campaign.
In an earlier day, a few studies of professorial voting registrations were collected. In one study of 15-20 California institutions, nearly all had 80%+ faculty registered as Democrats, with only two institutions, both of which had reputations for being quite conservative, having close to 50/50 voter registrations. Obviously just being balanced politically looks wildly conservative in the Alice in Wonderland world of higher education. An article, “Why are Professors Liberal?” by sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse summarizes some of these studies, noting that the liberal tendency of the professoriate has “grown over time.”
So what, one might say. At least that’s what Harvard officials said, more or less. Harvard Business School professor Jay W. Lorsch, who gave approximately $65,000 to Democratic causes from 2011-14, said: “I think most faculty here are pretty careful about not imposing their political views on students.” Even if that is true—and having been on college campuses myself for over 40 years I do not believe it—UCLA Professor Alexander Astin has long pointed out that students learn more from the “implicit curriculum” of a University than what is actually taught. The implicit message is clear: it’s only ok, or intellectually responsible, to be a Democrat. Academic debates are framed within a narrower spectrum. Courses are accepted in the curriculum and new faculty are hired—or not—from that fundamental premise.
The fact is that American higher education has come to represent a diversity of everything but ideas. We seek ethnic diversity, gender diversity, sociological diversity, geographic diversity—but not a diversity of ideas or points of view. And, after all, isn’t that supposed to be the fundamental business of education, the pursuit of ideas?
On the seal of my alma mater are the words “the wind of freedom blows.” In real life, sometimes those winds blow left, sometimes right, often center. But not in the artificial and dangerous world of higher education, and certainly not at Harvard.