- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 11, 2004

For all the agony and lawsuits about diversity among student enrollments, there has been a shameful silence about the lack of intellectual diversity within college faculties. Consider a 2001 Frank Luntz Research/Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) survey of Ivy League professors, which found that 0 percent identified themselves as conservative. At Harvard, Democratic professors outnumbered Republican professors in economics, political science and sociology departments by 50-2, according to a 2001 American Enterprise Institute survey. At Stanford, it was 151-17; at Davidson College in North Carolina, 10-1. This lack of diversity has real consequences on quality education, academic discourse and academic freedom itself.

A course description at the University of California Berkeley (100 Democrats, 9 Republicans, according to a CSPC study) stated that “conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections.” When a student at a Colorado school wrote an essay on why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal, instead of why George W. Bush was, as her professor asked, she received a failing grade. Of course, most students would simply accept the status quo in fear of the opprobrium they could face. After all, when the chairman of Duke’s philosophy department says that his university (95 Democrats, 15 Republicans) doesn’t hire more conservative professors because, “as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative,” why shouldn’t a student stay quiet?

Which is why we are more than encouraged to hear that the Academic Bill of Rights (ABR) campaign is gaining serious momentum on campuses all across the country. Last year, conservative activist David Horowitz founded Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) and launched his campaign aimed at the ambitious goal of eradicating political abuse on college campuses. To this end, he drafted the Academic Bill of Rights that codifies principles of academic freedom by emphasizing the value of “intellectual diversity” and “the rights of students to not be indoctrinated or otherwise assaulted by political propagandists in the classroom or any educational setting.” Rather than fairly debate the issue, many university administrators and faculties attacked the ABR as an attempt to impose hiring quotas for conservative professors. But quotas play no role in Mr. Horowitz’s original draft, nor in the subsequent variations drafted by student senates and state and federal lawmakers. In fact, the ABR states that faculty hiring practices must in no way be based on political affiliation.

Mr. Horowitz is surprised by the positive reaction his campaign has generated, and, frankly, so are we. In less than a year, SAF boasts 133 member campus organizations (most created entirely by the students themselves), legislative resolutions in eight states and a resolution in the U.S. House introduced by Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican. On March 19 in Colorado, an agreement was reached between ABR bill-drafter state Rep. Shawn Mitchell and state university presidents promising steps the universities would take to implement the ABR if Mr. Mitchell pulled the bill. On March 24, the Georgia state Senate passed its own version of the ABR by a 41-5 vote. According to Mr. Horowitz, legislation wasn’t his original intent, but he’s happy to see lawmakers across the nation finally recognize a decades-old problem that, before now, was showing no signs of abating.

The issue here is balance. We think that a campus dominated by conservatives and inimical to liberals would contradict the tenets of academic freedom every bit as much as the reverse situation today. More importantly, we applaud those students, liberal and conservative, who have aligned themselves to the cause of serving their own education.

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