Universities Lean Left, but Are Diversity Laws the Answer?

An Iowan legislator introduced a bill to require diversity of thought on college campuses in the state.


Perry Heller / Flickr

Iowa Sen. Mark Chelgren (R–Ottumwa) is a man on a mission to ensure partisan balance at universities in his state, reports The Des Moines Register. Chelgren has introduced Senate File 288, a law that would enact a hiring freeze on Iowan universities until the numbers of registered Republicans and Democrats on faculty fall within 10 percent of each other.

"We have an awful lot of taxpayer dollars that go to support these fine universities," he told the Register. Students "should be able to go to their professors, ask opinions, and they should know publicly whether that professor is a Republican or Democrat or no-party affiliation, and therefore they can expect their answers to be given in as honest a way possible. But they should have the ability to ask questions of professors of different political ideologies."

Most college faculties lean to the left, according to Heterodox Academy, an organization that aims to encourage diverse viewpoints on campus. Using data obtained by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), the group found that about 60 percent of professors held far-left or liberal ideologies as of 2014, while far-right and conservative professors comprise a little above 10 percent.

Writing at Heterodox Academy, Sam Abrams noted that professors have been steadily moving to the left. "Between 1995 and 2010, members of the academy went from leaning left to being almost entirely on the left," Abrams observes. "Moderates declined by nearly a quarter and conservatives decreased by nearly a third."

Chelgren sees the regulation of Iowan universities' hiring practices as the solution to this problem. "I'm under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity," he said, according to the Register. "They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are."

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, one of the men behind Heterodox Academy, spoke at the 2017 International Students for Liberty Conference last weekend. In his talk he lamented the ideological skew in higher education. Unlike the Iowa lawmaker, though, his solutions do not resort to legislation. Instead, he hopes students will press their universities "to do three things: adopt the Chicago principles on free expression, implement a non-obstruction policy—meaning you can't shut people down. You can protest, you can wave signs, but you can't stop a person from speaking. And finally, please, university, give us some viewpoint diversity."

By "the Chicago principles on free expression," he was referring to the University of Chicago philosophy that schools should offer a neutral platform for dialogue and disagreement.

Forcing schools to hire individuals based on a political quota probably wouldn't work anyway. As the Register notes, even "Chelgren said professors who want to be hired could simply change their party affiliation to be considered for the position." Colleges and universities should of course strive to incorporate a diversity of thought at their institutions, but mandating that diversity by law is not the answer.

NEXT: With Sales Depressed by Soda Tax, Philly Grocers Look to Cut Jobs as Mayor Blames 'Greedy' Soda Industry

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Lean” left?

    1. I would say they lean Troksyite and that’s being generous

    2. Yeah reason “leans” left already these days (e.g., this article…). Considering it comes from that perspective, I guess academics double-lean left.

  2. Perhaps parents should refuse to finance the matriculation of junior and sis at any institution of “higher” learning that has embraced and implemented the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights March, 2011 Dear Colleague letter regarding the investigation and adjudication of sexual harassment / assault allegations.

    1. Certainly parents of male children ought to reconsider. Of course why the parent of a female child would pay to have her attend one of these rape factories is a bit of a puzzle.

      1. Hardy har har…………………………. : )

        Particularly Duke or UVA.

      2. Serious question. Are there any statistics or studies about the number of false sexual assault accusations on campus?

        My impression is that the Title IX silliness, while it is silly and destructive to liberty, nevertheless is a minor concern on campus when viewed in the big picture. But I don’t have any hard data on the subject admittedly.

        1. Good God no. There are no false accusations. Victims must be believed. Does not apply to white males because they can never be victims.

        2. Every college and university is required to release information about how many sexual assault and rape cases that were reported each year. (Look for a “crime report”.) Last year, at the school I attend, there were six reported rape cases. With a student body of about 1200. Which means that, according to this report, 0.5% of people on campus will be raped per year. This is an extremely safe campus, yet the number of reported rape cases is 20 times higher than the state’s value.

          This may not seem like a large number, but most of the old children here have nothing better to do than wait to be fucked in the ass by the administration, so the administration does something to make everything worse, like temporarily preventing access to any dorm that you don’t officially live in. The administration apparently considers a group of people waiting outside the building to be so successful that they decided to make this policy permanent.

          So, for those that aren’t in any party scene, there is no direct effect (yet). However, what the administration does in response to these fake reports affects everyone.

  3. New laws are always the answer.

    1. Sometimes, you can just modify old ones. Like when they modified the CRA to get rid of segregation by both race and gender both in name and in practice.

  4. Easy solution: everybody on the left re-registers as Green Party. Zero Democrats, zero Republicans. That’s within 10%, right?

  5. No, the answer is the destruction of the power of the university. Cut off all state funding, legalize other means of finding qualified job applicants, and vote against people with elite degrees so that it’s a black mark of shame rather than a purchased title of minor nobility.

    1. I understand wanting to cut off funding for public universities.

      But to “destroy” the power of the university itself? Why?

      1. But to “destroy” the power of the university itself? Why?

        Either from the Church as proxy for government or the government directly the University hasn’t ever really had any power of its own. The only way in which it has/did was when it was implemented rather distinctly/deliberately like trade guilds.

        1. Either Except

        2. Well, I agree that universities don’t really have much in the way of formal power. But they do have some cultural power. People with college degrees are likely treated a little bit better than people without, all else equal. It’s anti-egalitarian, sure, but I didn’t think that was a vice here on a libertarian website.

      2. Cuz book larnin’s fer fags.

        But in all seriousness, having a set of undemocratic, unaccountable institutions set the attitudes and cultural norms for those individuals who will soon disproportionately populate the uppermost levels of government and industry isn’t a surefire way to maintain a government which responds to the will of its people.

        The left’s warnings about corporations are equally applicable to Universities, but the Ivy League actually does attempt to influence the government in ways that corps only do in leftists’ fever dreams.

        1. You say “in all seriousness”, but I remember last year when Republicans were saying things like “smart people will never like us” and “I love the uneducated”.

          There is a real anti-intellectual strain running in the Republican party, and that’s unfortunately not a joke.

          1. Meh. I think a lot of that IS smart people talking bad against the “intellectual” left. I think most people on this site can appreciate that academia has been intentionally transformed into left leaning indoctrination. If that’s the case it’s not necessarily being against “smart people” so much as the pseudo intellectual class that got brain washed at university.

            I’m a reasonably smart person, and I know others that are right leaning that are smart, and none of us are against “smart people” or being educated in general… But a lot of us are kind of fed up with the lefty college crowd and all of the often NON-educated positions they espouse.

            So it may be fair to state that the redneck Republicans out there may be anti-intellectual, but I don’t think the “business class” Republicans really have that going on so much as they’re sick and tired of the left leaning academics and complete lack of common sense on the left. Common sense is often equated with “lower class” morals and lower education ideas nowadays by the leftist college crowd, so some choose to wear those negative labels as a badge of honor. I’m not too far from that on some issues myself. “If it’s simple minded to think a gubmint shouldn’t spend mo’ money than it takes in, well then you can dun call me a simpleton if ya wantsta!”

  6. State legislatures run state universities. So, they have every right to set the hiring policies of said universities. And there is nothing illegal about setting hiring practices that mandated ideological diversity in the faculty, however you define it.

    Is it a good idea? I don’t know. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad idea. But whatever it is, it is not an illegal or unconstitutional idea.

    1. To me it seems as stupid as having race quotas. What they really should be pushing for is to stop the politicization of every damn thing.


      1. I would like to stop politicizing everything as well. Unfortunately, you and I only get half of the vote on that. Progressives get the other half. And they politicize everything. And as long as they politicize it, the rest of us are forced to do the same whether we like it or not. So your choices are either do nothing and let the left politicize universities such that only left wing views are acceptable or can be held freely or fight back and try to balance things out. Keeping politics out of it is not an option.

        1. Here’s a better idea: privatize everything, so that if private universities want to turn everything into little liberal factories, then they can do so on their own dime.

          1. This would be my personal preference.

          2. Here is an idea, why don’t I magically transform myself into a seven foot tall 25 year old who can run like a gazel and shoot three point shots. Then I can just play in the NBA and afford to hire a private tutor for my kids.

            Sadly that is not an option. And neither is privatizing everything. And you know that. So your proposal just becomes an excuse to let Progs turn the universities into re-education camps.

            Granted, you are likely too stupid to understand that. If you are not, then you are just insulting people’s intelligence pretending they are that stupid. Either way, your response adds nothing to the debate.

            1. Shorter John: “I will call you names until I force you to accept my false premise”

              How about this, John. We’re on a libertarian website. We could propose a, you know, libertarian-minded solution, instead of a Republican-lite solution. If you want to discuss how to use the power of the state to twist educational institutions into serving the ideological agenda of the people currently in power, then you should go check out a Democrat or Republican forum.

            2. Oh come on, John. Why on Earth do you feel the need to Debbie Downer everything? There’s nothing wrong with proposing ideal solutions since nothing is going to change anyway.

  7. I see no problem with this or any law that imposes anything on universities. If they want to live by the teet of the state then they should die by the teet of the state

    1. Exactly. they can always go full Bob Jones and stop taking government money and be free to do what they like. Fat chance that.

      1. Even if a certain college went full Bob Jones, the progs would politicize that and make their life miserable.

        1. They would just use the accrediting agencies, which are private by the way, to destroy all of the value of obtaining a degree from there.

          But hey, our resident leftist nitwit says the solution is to just privatize everything, like that is even politically possible or would help if we did.

          1. our resident leftist nitwit says the solution is to just privatize everything

            Wait, so privatization is now a leftist idea? Since when?

            1. Since it’s not John’s idea.

          2. Conquest’s Second Law is a harsh mistress.

            1. It really is. What makes it especially harsh is when it is combined with the Alinksyite tactic of demanding the other side play by their own rules. So whenever someone pushes back, you get trolls like Chemjeff here saying “but you claim to want politics not to be considered”. The left is evil.

              1. So whose rules should we play by? Someone else’s?

                Why should the Left, which you despise, get to set the ground rules for how every issue is decided?

              2. And here’s the bottom line, John:

                When you claim that you want to politicize universities just in order to push back against the Left, I don’t believe you. I think instead, you want to politicize universities in order for them to affirmatively push right-wing ideas, just as they are pushing left-wing ideas currently.

                I don’t want publicly-run universities to be pushing any sort of ideological agenda, either left or right. My solution is to privatize them, so that the number of publicly-run universities pushing any agenda whatsoever is equal to zero. You want to keep the publicly-run part and have them push right-wing ideas.

  8. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/…..newsroom-f

    OT. this appears to be true and O’Keefe is going to release the hundreds of ours of undercover footage of the CNN newsroom tomorrow afternoon. CNN uncut should be quite entertaining.

    1. CNN uncut should be quite entertaining.


    2. I had a sudden mental flash of the CNN offices looking like the Robot Chicken “Pluto Nash Day” video.

      1. Come on, you can’t mention that piece of stop motion animation mastery without including a link.

  9. free expression

    Freedom of expression is only ok if it abides by my sensibilities. //prog

  10. It’s just another naked attack by Republicans on universities. As they admitted lady electron, they don’t really like people getting educated.

    I mean, think about… If you discount folks lying in order to get hired, there just aren’t enough Republicans interested in academia for universities to function. Actually implementing this law would just mean three school would have shrinking faculty year after year, with growing class sizes, and worse instruction as the teachers get stuck with more work for no more compensation.

    1. Sure, the universities might suffer from such a requirement. But why does that reasoning not apply when certain men’s sports are canceled due to title IX requirements, or lesser academically qualified students get spots denied to more deserving applicants in the name of diversity?

      1. Intent.

        Whatever you may think of Title IX’s implemention, I like to think the intent (combating institutional sexism) was uncontroversial. In this case, is just an attack on universities dressed up pretty.

        1. So Title IX supporters had nothing but the best and purest intentions, but supporters of ideological diversity obviously have evil intentions. SMH. This is supposed to be a real argument?

  11. Affirmative action based on political viewpoint? No thanks, that’s just as retarded as affirmative action for race and/ or gender.

  12. Ideally universities should be forced to trim down. Remove bureaucrats, focus on teaching useful, practical courses – programming, science, engineering,

    What has happened to universities is basically because they have all the money they want. Raise tuition? Students are just going to get student loans to pay for it. So they can create rather useless departments devoted to the social sciences and gender studies and such, as well as all sorts of weird bureaucrats.

  13. Personally, I don’t have a problem with colleges leaning left. Kids (18-22ish) naturally lean left and colleges serve them. Youth should be idealistic and a bit head-up-their-assed liberal. My son thinks he can save the world, and I say more power to him. One day when he’s in his 30’s and paying taxes, or trying to run a business we’ll talk about political and economic realities.

    Same goes for my wife. I adore her bleeding heart and wouldn’t want her to be a libertarian (or god forbid a conservative). Conservative women are fucking creepy (just like conservative kids).

  14. Intolerance will not be tolerated.

  15. Separation of Church and State
    Separation of Media and State
    Separation of Arts and State
    Separation of Academe and State

    No funding of propaganda organs

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.