Selective Diversity in Higher Education; Liberal Dogma vs. Academic Freedom

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Selective Diversity in Higher Education; Liberal Dogma vs. Academic Freedom


Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Selective definitions of "diversity" can exclude some of its vital meanings. On college campuses, for obvious example, the goal of "diversity" has most urgently been focused on racial diversity. But at last, leaders of the higher-education establishment - headed by the American Council on Education - have finally recognized the fundamental basis for all education is diversity of ideas.

The present domination by liberal opinion on many college faculties (often verging on this majority's intolerant orthodoxies) was revealed in a recent study, "Politics and Professional Advancement among Faculty," by Stanley Rothman, emeritus professor of government at Smith College; S. Robert Lichter, a professor of communications at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

As summarized in the June 24-26 New York Sun, the result of this study, confirmed in previous reports in the widely respected, nonpartisan weekly, the Chronicle of Higher Education, reveals that campus liberal professors "outnumber conservatives 5-to-1. It also concludes that conservatives get worse jobs than liberals."

In some of these classrooms, conservative students are intimidated into silence, ignored or occasionally ridiculed. Accordingly, although belatedly, the June 23 "Statement of Academic Rights and Responsibilities," led by the American Council on Education, may finally awaken college trustees and alumni to the degree of indoctrination instead of free inquiry that characterizes much of higher education, particularly in the more elite institutions.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis advised, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," and this study, among other similar surveys, may stir parents to look more closely at how free the exchange of ideas actually is among faculty members, and thereby among students, at various colleges.

The release of this statement on behalf of true academic freedom is clearly a recognition, though not explicitly admitted, in the statement of the decline of intellectual diversity in higher education. Otherwise, it wouldn't be necessary for the statement to emphasize that: "Colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas. Such a commitment will inevitably encourage debate over complex and difficult issues about which individuals will disagree. …

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