Monday, April 25, 2005

Chopped Liver and "Conservatives First"ism

I'm sure you've seen references to this study. But here is the link, just to be sure.

Abstract of the paper:

This article first examines the ideological composition of American university faculty and then tests whether ideological homogeneity has become self-reinforcing. A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict.

Now, here is my own thought: ANYONE who defines themselves by some irrelevant characteristic (lesbian, black, conservative, marxist, vegan) ought to be a failure as an academic. Example: Ward Churchill is actually a pretty important writer, according to some people I respect. But he primarily defined himself as a Native American, and when that lie was outed he was let go. He should never have been hired, because we don't need professional Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives.

We DO need, IMHO, good professionals who HAPPEN to be Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives, as a side matter.

So....people on the left are right to say that we shouldn't hire profs whose core identity is "conservative." But then they also should oppose hiring profs whose core identity is ANY OTHER kind of anti-intellectual activism.

I have a friend, very liberal, who happens to be a lesbian. Great person, terrific scholar. One of the lesbian organizations in Political Science was looking for "symbolic" representation, and complained that no lesbians had a voice on a certain committee. Since my friend was at that time chairing THAT committee, I immediately began referring to her loudly and gleefully as "Professor Chopped Liver."

She fumed that one of the things that holds back any movement is the need to make sure everyone's "papers are in order." And she was exactly right.

As long as conservatives define themselves as conservatives first, and scholars second, they will end up at second rate schools. And they will deserve it.

(nod to TtwbC)

UPDATE: Check out Alex Tabarrok, in a similar vein. It seems our views are pretty close. That almost certainly means we are both wrong, of course....

(Nod to JH)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


i think your point gets to the crux of the matter. if there is a selection bias towards a certain group, then is the answer to proportionately represent every ideology, ethnicity, race, creed, religion, etc.? The problem is that if conservatives use this as a rallying cry then they risk doing the same thing they lament about academia and afffirmative action- namely having a litmus test for joining the club. Rather than creating an intellectual diversity.