While so much of what we hear about academia has a extreme leftist bent to it, it’s important to remember that there are a number of conservative professors floating around. They simply tend to remain silent for obvious reasons.
The Wake Forest Review decided to take a look at the situation, and found that — according to North Carolina’s Public Voter Search — about 11 percent of tenured, tenure-track, and teaching professors vote conservative.
They then spoke with some of the professors about their experiences:
“Politics has replaced the pursuit of truth,” said a professor in the social sciences.
“Ideology gets in the way of the pursuit of truth,” said a professor in literature. “It certainly lacks integrity to say I get to bring my political views to the table but someone else doesn’t,” said a professor in the humanities. Across the undergraduate college, political ideology is getting in the way of academic freedom and intellectual pursuits.
Professors said that there are questions that are not allowed to be asked and assumptions that are not allowed to be challenged for political reasons. “It’s such a flawed way to explore new ideas when you just rule out ideas as beyond the pale when half of the populous has these ideas and act like there are no replies to their own ideas. This is as debilitating to them [professors] as it is to their own students,” said a professor in the social sciences.
A different professor in the social sciences believes that this problem stems from intellectual arrogance: “The problem is that whenever you are on the liberal left, to some degree, you don’t really see conservative ideas as even valid or worth the time and effort to allow because you have a sense that you know more and you know better.” This arrogance creates what another professor described as an “ideological vacuum.” In this vacuum he described, professors do not acknowledge counter-arguments on issues or challenge their own assumptions.
Wake Forest’s provost, Rogan Kersh, notes that 11 percent appears to be a fairly normal percentage of right-leaning professors in academia. The professors interviewed for the piece argue that they’re basically in hiding, afraid to espouse any conservative or libertarian ideology for fear it will negatively impact their careers:
Due to these factors, many of these professors have decided to stay in hiding. One professor said staying in hiding makes it easier to get hired: “Conservatives can’t even get their foot in the door in a ton of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities unless they completely disguise it and fly under the radar.” Another professor believes that disguising his beliefs creates a better work environment: “I would lose harmony and congeniality if I was more open about some of my views.”
One professor has chosen to stay in hiding to avoid association with harmful labels. “There are a lot of things people mean when they say (they) are right of center or conservative, and we all don’t mean the same thing by that, which is important to keep in mind,” she said. She believes assumptions based on these labels “really undermine your career opportunities, your ability to lead effectively and to interact well with others and collaborate because people made a whole bunch of assumptions about you.”
Meanwhile, it’s unlikely to change in the near future. Part of the issue is that certain professions are more attractive to progressives than conservatives or libertarians — and university teaching is most definitely one of those.