A professor recently wrote a candid essay in which she confessed a secret: she didn't want to write a letter of recommendation for a student, solely because this student has different views (presumably) about gun rights.
Note that the situation made the professor feel uncomfortable—not because she saw anything wrong with her stance, but because the sheer awkwardness of it was frustrating. How do you tell a student—one who is satisfactory in all relevant ways—that you can't recommend them because you suspect their political opinions don't completely align with yours?
The professor teaches at an unnamed college and used a pseudonym in her article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Arrogant, intolerant, and oblivious to her biases (and how destructive they are), she is everything that is wrong with modern higher education.
She seems to be a good kid, Sarah. And I don't know what she really thinks of gun advocacy and political failures that have cost us all these lives and our sense of safety as educators. I don't know what she does on the weekends. I also don't know if she understands emotions, or what real rage feels like. It seems to me no person who has truly experienced the full impact of their own emotions would ever go near a gun.
So what do I do? Do I write her a recommendation because I originally said yes? Do I say no and explain myself? Do I ignore her email?
Reading the full column, it quickly becomes clear that the professor believes everyone who has encountered a gun and not recoiled in horror is a sociopath. She doesn't have very well-developed reasons for thinking this—she says guns were part of her life growing up but does not suggest that they were ever used improperly. Her mother got rid of the family gun because they worried her father was suicidal, and no gun-related harm ever came to him or anyone else. If anything, the professor seems to have an inexplicable fear of guns, though she is entitled to feel that way.
She is also entitled to decline to write a letter of recommendation. But—and this point needs to be stressed—her reasons for not wanting to recommend Sarah are abhorrent. Sarah's views about guns have nothing do with being a good student, and it's not even clear what her views are: she's merely made a couple vaguely pro-gun statements. It's cultural, rather than political: Sarah is the kind of person—a guns person—that the professor instinctively dislikes.
As The Washington Free Beacon's Sonny Bunch notes:
Obviously, Ms. "Payne" understands just how awful and bigoted she must sound—hence her hiding behind a pseudonym like a coward. Still, one imagines that she's far from the only garbage professor who discriminates against her students for holding different political beliefs. What's truly worrisome is just how many people like her there are in positions of authority on campuses around the country.
Indeed, the ideological biases of the professoriate are a real problem—not just for out-and-proud conservative students, but for people like Sarah who evince no discernible disagreement with liberalism but nevertheless reveal themselves to be culturally different from left-wing academics. University professors skew so overwhelmingly left (particularly in the liberal arts and social sciences), and are so constantly surrounded by like-minded people, that they have become intolerant and distrustful of the most mild forms of dissent.
Adding to the irony of all this is the fact that liberal members of campus often pretend to want more diversity. They say they want more diversity initiatives, more funding for diversity projects, hiring that reflects greater diversity, etc. But that's only true if "diversity" means "more of what I already think." As Georgetown University professor John Hasnas, a libertarian, wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed:
In my experience, no search committee has ever been instructed to increase political or ideological diversity. On the contrary, I have been involved in searches in which the chairman of the selection committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered. Or the description of the position was changed when the best résumés appeared to be coming from applicants with right-of-center viewpoints. Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions….
Predominantly liberal faculties identify merit with positions that are consistent with theirs, see little value in conservative and libertarian scholarship, and perpetuate the left-wing stranglehold on the academy.
The professor who refuses to write a letter of recommendation for her pro-gun student provides an excellent reminder of why academia needs more diversity—just not the kind of diversity it is exclusively focused on obtaining.