Thursday, November 3, 2005

Liberal leanings on campus may start at the very top. An unprecedented survey of 764 college and university presidents reveals they voted for Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004.

The survey released yesterday by the Chronicle of Higher Education found 56 percent of the college and university presidents said they voted for the Massachusetts Democrat, compared with 28 percent who said they voted for Mr. Bush. Thirteen percent of those surveyed preferred not to reveal their choice and 2 percent said they did not vote at all.

“The survey shows that presidents’ political identities make a significant difference in where they stand on admissions and several other college policies,” reported the Chronicle.

In this elite group of campus leaders, 41 percent are registered Democrats and 19 percent are Republicans, according to the Chronicle survey. Another 22 percent were independents, 9 percent were not registered and 10 percent would not reveal their party affiliation.

The imbalance worries David Horowitz of the California-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture. “The entire academic community structures itself so conservatives coming into it feel like aliens,” he said.

Republican deans are more concerned about intellectual diversity than their Democratic counterparts: The survey found that the 31 percent of the Republicans say American colleges are less open to diverse points of view; the figure was 19 percent among the Democrats.

Perceptions differ, however. After completing the survey, one female president of a public university complained that “insidious attacks from the far right are not being challenged on campus.”

College and university presidents are not a particularly diverse group: 81 percent are male, 89 percent white, 84 percent held doctorate degrees and 80 percent are between 50 and 65 years old. Fifty-five percent are Protestant, 26 percent are Catholic, 11 percent practice no religion and 5 percent are Jewish.

The survey also sampled the campus presidents’ views on several issues.

Overall, the survey found 68 percent believe the government should lift restrictions on federal financial support for human embryonic stem-cell research. But there’s a partisan divide: among the Democratic deans, 81 percent supported the stem-cell research; the figure was 42 percent among the Republicans.

Seventy-seven percent said affirmative action still has “an important place” in college admissions, while 66 percent said that colleges should make “emergency contraception” available to all students.

Overall, the presidents reported that 53 percent of their day was devoted to fundraising, and 44 percent to budget or finance issues. Fundraising, in fact, was cited as the biggest challenge to the job — above campus issues, enrollment and faculty concerns.

There’s also less of the old “rah-rah-rah” on campus. Six out of 10 of the presidents said that “big-time college athletics” were more of a liability than an asset to their schools.

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