Time to Fight Back: An Anti-Discrimination Campaign Waiting to Happen?

By Lee, Kenneth | The American Enterprise, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Time to Fight Back: An Anti-Discrimination Campaign Waiting to Happen?


Lee, Kenneth, The American Enterprise


Imagine opening your newspaper one morning and reading a Supreme Court opinion that puts a startling new twist on an old civil rights tactic. The Court declares that some prominent university has violated equal opportunity laws by "engaging in a pattern of employment discrimination ... against Republicans and Christian conservatives. Of the university's 1,828 professors, there are only eight Republicans and five Christian conservatives. Such statistical evidence of gross political and ideological imbalance has been taken as a telltale sign of purposeful discrimination in many previous civil rights cases. In this case as well it provides prima facie evidence that individual rights are being systematically violated on arbitrary grounds. Justice demands compensatory action to protect the rights of these groups."

Is this a right-wing pipe dream? It may not be as far-fetched as you think.

The Supreme Court has already issued opinions using virtually those same words--only the opinions refer to "underrepresented" racial minorities rather than beleaguered Republicans and Christian conservatives. The simple legal logic underlying much of contemporary civil rights law applies equally to conservative Republicans, who appear to face clear practices of discrimination in American academia that are statistically even starker than previous blackballings by race.

For years, conservatives have complained that universities dominated by left-wing administrators and faculties consistently avoid hiring or tenuring academics with conservative views. Anecdotal evidence of such discrimination abounds. Take John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, an influential and best-selling book published by the University of Chicago Press. At only 26, Lott received his Ph.D. from UCLA and five years later became chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. He has published over 70 scholarly articles, a number that even the most prolific professors rarely match in their entire careers.

Yet Lott has failed to receive a single offer for a tenure-track position from any American university, despite sending his resume to literally hundreds of schools. He instead became an itinerant academic clinging to one-year research fellowships at various institutions, last year, he found a home as a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Would Lott have been snubbed by the academic world had his research on guns yielded opposite, more politically correct results? Not a chance.

Peter Berkowitz, then an associate professor of political philosophy at Harvard, was denied tenure even though he had authored two critically acclaimed books. The five-member tenure committee, for instance, was suspiciously stacked with two child psychologists, who are presumably more familiar with Saint Nicholas than Saint Thomas Aquinas and other subjects within Berkowitz's expertise.

Despite many such examples--plus obvious evidence from campus culture, politics, and daily practice demonstrating that colleges can be hostile environments for people with conservative views--there was until recently no hard, empirical proof of pervasive left-wing bias in our academies. That has changed. As the data arrayed on the preceding pages illustrate, American universities are demonstrably monotone one-party states where only one set of views flourishes. At prominent colleges across the country, the vast majority of professors are committed liberals. Many humanities and social science departments at leading universities do not have so much as a single registered Republican among their ranks.

These stark statistics do more than just confirm what conservatives have always suspected. They potentially may allow Republicans to pursue legal action against universities by using the logic and law of the civil rights movement.

Over the past few decades, studies that show statistical under-representation of minorities have become the cornerstone of civil rights litigation. …

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Time to Fight Back: An Anti-Discrimination Campaign Waiting to Happen?
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