In my recent law review article at Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, I discuss the recent student survey showing that over 82 percent of Harvard faculty self-identify as liberal or very liberal. What is striking is that, even as Harvard is ranked as one of the most hostile academic environments for free speech, students are rallying in support of the effective purging of conservatives from the faculty.
The survey conducted by The Harvard Crimson revealed that 82.46% of faculty surveyed identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 16.08% self-identified as “moderate” and a mere 1.46% identified as “conservative.” Not a single faculty member identified as “very conservative,” but the number of faculty identified as “very liberal” increased by another 8% in just one year.
At the same time, conservatives have been virtually eliminated from the student body with only seven percent of incoming students identifying as conservative. With virtually no faculty and few students identifying as conservatives, it is not surprising that only 35 percent of that dwindling number of students feel comfortable in voicing their views or values in class.
Recently, one of the last remaining conservatives on the faculty spoke out. He is 90-year-old political scientist Harvey Mansfield and he decried the loss of intellectual diversity and the increasing association of Harvard University with far left positions:
“The Harvard Commencement is something like the Democratic National Convention. And that’s a hell of a way to run a university, to maintain its impartiality and its devotion to veritas, to truth, just to go out of your way to provoke people who happen to have different politics, instead of inviting them to come and even just give a talk. How can that be in Harvard’s interest?
As to hiring, I don’t think a conservative has been hired in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the last decade. And it’s probably been going on longer than that. Maybe there’s one or two, but if so, they stay hidden. Because if you’re conservative and want to get on with your colleagues, you have to indulge in self-censorship, and I think a number of students do that as well. But I can’t get my colleagues to think of this as a problem.”
One would think that these studies and objections would deeply concern everyone at Harvard about the loss of diversity of viewpoints and the rising of an orthodoxy that is either by design or de facto in light of these statistics.
Think again. The editors of the Crimson insisted this week that there is no reason for concern that conservatives have virtually been removed from the entire faculty.
The editors of the Harvard Crimson wrote:
Where our board disagrees with Mansfield — and rather sharply, we may add — is in his notion that a more even distribution of faculty along a conservative-liberal binary would increase productive disagreement in any meaningful way. We find little reason to believe that. In fact, boiling down ideological and intellectual diversity to such limited labels strikes us as downright reductive.
So reducing the number of conservatives on the faculty to a statistical nullity is “downright reductive.” After all, there remains a vigorous debate at Harvard that runs from the left to the far left.
This is the face of orthodoxy, which does not lend itself to self-evaluation or self-criticism. The purging of the faculties of conservatives or libertarians is simply not a problem when this survey is based on the self-identification of faculty. These universities are allowing liberal faculty to replicate their own values and to exclude opposing views. They have created an echo chamber within one of the greatest universities of the world, destroying the essential intellectual diversity needed to sustain higher education.
The fact is that the reduction of viewpoint diversity is not just a reflection of intolerance and intellectual rigidity. It also offers greater opportunities for faculty in access to conferences, publications, and speaking events. Other faculty, including some who have contacted this blog with accounts or controversies, are fearful of being publicly targeted by their colleagues or students. In three decades of teaching, I have never seen this level of intolerance and the general lack of support for free speech on many campuses.
Of course, even in unanimity, there can be subtle nuance and dissent.