August 2, 2014

STEVEN HAYWARD: Conservatives & higher ed: A look at what has caused the dearth of conservatives in higher education, and why we should be concerned.

On the surface you’d think that the pool of conservative students who express satisfaction with higher education would lead more of them toward graduate paths, except for their evident alienation from the liberal dominance of the humanities and social sciences, perhaps along with a perceived higher salience for conservatives on pursuing “practical” professional vocations. While these factors can’t be dismissed, Neil Gross points to compelling data about how the most important determinants of whether students go into graduate study are not large ideological factors, but mundane things like whether students have close relationships with professors or find academic mentors to encourage them along graduate paths. And lacking mentors and direct encouragement means that liberal predominance in graduate education, and hence the ranks of left-leaning professors becomes self-reinforcing, even if there is zero political bias in hiring decisions.

It’s a diversity problem. The obvious solution is to set aside at least 50% of hires for conservatives until the left-right balance matches the overall population. Not enough applicants? Too few in the pipeline? Those are just excuses, and evidence that you need to work harder.