The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid

John Hasnas, Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2016

Many universities are redoubling their efforts to diversify their faculties in response to last fall’s wave of protests from student groups representing women and minorities. Yale, for example, has announced a $50 million, five-year initiative to enhance faculty diversity. Brown has committed $100 million to hire 60 additional faculty members from historically underrepresented groups over the next five to seven years. America’s institutions of higher education seem committed to faculty diversity. But are they really?

In the more than 20 years that I have been a professor at Georgetown University, I have been involved in many faculty searches. Every one begins with a strong exhortation from the administration to recruit more women and minority professors. We are explicitly reminded that every search is a diversity search. Administrators require submission of a plan to vigorously recruit applications from women and minority candidates.

Before we even begin our selection process, we must receive approval from the provost that our outreach efforts have been vigorous enough. The deans and deputy deans of each school reinforce the message that no expense should be spared to increase the genetic diversity of our faculty.

Yet, in my experience, no search committee has ever been instructed to increase political or ideological diversity. On the contrary, I have been involved in searches in which the chairman of the selection committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered. Or the description of the position was changed when the best résumés appeared to be coming from applicants with right-of-center viewpoints. Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions.

I doubt that my experience is unusual. According to data compiled by the Higher Education Research Institute, only 12% of university faculty identify as politically right of center, and these are mainly professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools. Only 5% of professors in the humanities and social-science departments so identify.

A comprehensive study by James Lindgren of Northwestern University Law School shows that in a country fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, only 13% of law professors identify as Republican. And a recent study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University showed that 96% of social psychologists identify as left of center, 3.7% as centrist/moderate and only 0.03% as right of center.

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