New Approach to Bias in University Faculties

Patricia Cohen of the New York Times recently published the article Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left, that overviews new research on why the majority of university professors tend to identify as liberals. The article looks at new research by Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia and Ethan Fosse, pursuing his Ph.D. at Harvard University.

The new research essentially concludes that one of the reasons why many university professors identify as liberal is because the occupation of professor itself is “typecasted.” The researchers suggest that conservatives are drawn to other professions that are often typecasted as conservative professions. Therefore, they do not pursue positions as professors, which causes the imbalance.

Cohen interviewed Stanford Professor of Education Mitchell L. Stevens who “finds the theory promising.” Stevens believes that, “choosing an occupation is part of fashioning an identity.”

Cohen also points to decades of conservative critics who have given the occupation of professor a label of “liberal,” reminding readers that conservatives often point to ideological discrimination in the hiring process as a reason for the imbalance. She does cite sources who believe that low pay and the idea that current professors will support like-minded professor candidates have an influence on the ideological makeup of university professors.

It’s hard to find data on how Stanford’s faculty identifies itself, but last year Brian O’Connell of the Stanford Review conducted a study to determine how much money Stanford faculty donated to the Obama and McCain campaigns (excluding the Hoover Institution). While this can be a poor indicator of whether or not someone is liberal or conservative, it’s extreme lopsidedness could point to underlying lopsidedness in the ideologies themselves. Stanford faculty donated $356,048 to the Obama campaign and only $8,200 to the McCain campaign.

Gross believes that conservatives, by perpetuating the idea of liberalism in academia, will actually cause this liberalism to continue. If this study proves to be correct, then the future ideological balance of academia could depend simply on the way academia is portrayed to the students of today.

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