Does academia have a diversity problem?

As those of you who have me on Facebook may know, I’ve spent the past few months running around in a Trump costume at various comic conventions. I did so for the simple reason that I found it humorous for a Mexican to be running around as Trump. To my surprise the experience was surprisingly enlightening.

When dressed in Trump I got a range of reactions from people wanting a comedic photo with/of me, being attacked by a pair of Hispanics dressed as ‘cholo’ Mario and Lugio, and Bernie supporters saying they hated my guts until I explained I didn’t support Trump.

Yesterday though, when dressed as Trump for Halloween, I got the strangest reaction when walking around my university campus. A meek boy came up to me and asked me if I identified as a Republican, I responded that I did but that I had actually supported Jeb in the primaries*, and his eyes light up. He began to shake my hand and talk about how great it was to find someone else after looking for so long.

The incident really hit home for me since I recall my own undergraduate years of feeling politically isolated from my peers. I had resigned myself to biting my tongue whenever politics were discussed. This didn’t work though since I was often in social sciences and my leanings quickly showed when we had freedom to elect subjects for our assignments. So I just kept shut and tried to produce as bland as possible papers so that I wouldn’t be singled out.

This didn’t change until I discovered there were a few conservative/libertarian professors sprinkled across the university. I didn’t become a chatter box in their classes, but I felt an immense weight off my shoulders knowing that I could voice an opinion outside the mainstream Democratic party line and not have to defend myself from claims of being a racist one-percenter.

Unfortunately, as Landberg et al.’s recent paper shows, there just aren’t many non-Democratic professors in academia. Does academia have a diversity problem? Yes it has an intellectual diversity problem, but its not clear what can be done about it.

Thoughts? Have others had similar experiences?

*This is of course relative to my disdain for the Democratic Party.

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9 thoughts on “Does academia have a diversity problem?

  1. “We looked up 7,243 professors and found 3,623 to be registered Democratic and 314 Republican, for an overall D:R ratio of 11.5:1.”

    Wow. The big surprise for me is that half are independents. I’m glad the party of deplorables is outnumbered I just hope the ratio gets bigger. I too worry about the decline of intellectual diversity in higher education but it’s not the typical angst about ‘political correctness’ that conservatives drone on about ad nauseum. It’s the decline of liberal arts and the dominance of STEM.

    I like the cited article [the data source looks very interesting] and as we know, no research is perfect. However why economics, history, journalism, law, and psychology? What about electrical engineering, chemistry, biology, computer science, and mathematics? I’m worried much less by ‘political correctness’ than I am students who who know how to do a fast Fourier transform but have never heard of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

  2. Yes, academia has a serious “viewpoint diversity” problem. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has been a leading voice calling attention to it and emphasizing the harm it does. See this page on his website. It’s worth checking out; he has a lot of links to research documenting the problem and articles discussing it.

    In addition—for the less scholarly-minded—he and some colleagues have formed what they call the “Heterodox Academy” to promote the cause of viewpoint diversity. For instance, they recently published a “Guide to Colleges,” which ranks the country’s top 150 colleges (according to U.S. News and World Report) according to their commitment to viewpoint diversity.

  3. That was my experience back in the 70’s. Unlike most of my fellow students who were straight out of high school. I had three years in the Army behind me and was married with a young Daughter. My perspective was quite different from theirs.

    I switched to night classes which were taught by teachers who had day jobs in the real world. I learned much more from them in regard to practical knowledge.

    • Isn’t the decline of left/progressive thought ultimately a loss for us though? It may be the case that non-conformist students get exposed both to the left-monopoly and their own readings. However as the left hears less from libertarians/conservatives/others their own arguments become dulled and the non-conformist has to seek out both his fellows and undulled progressives to challenge themselves.

      • It is a loss, but one I don’t lament, largely because the progressive Left is already beginning to see how its monopoly in higher education is degrading progressive arguments.

        Haidt and company are taking the first steps toward making the necessary changes the Left needs to see in order to be effective and worthy of the public’s time. They’re about 20 years behind schedule, but better late than never…

  4. […] In comparison as a libertarian I am often advised to keep quiet about my political views. At minimum I should try to avoid researching things that make it clear that I diverge from the rest of academia in political thought. Otherwise I will have a hard time getting my research published or be cut off from the social networks needed in the job market. On occasion I have found myself ostracized socially for voicing dissent on things like the minimum wage or affirmative action. I’m not alone in this. […]

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