Think Professors Are Liberal? Try Administrators

An NYT Op-Ed from 2016 by political scientist Samuel Abrams which just popped up in my twitter feed, because some Sarah Lawrence students are trying to get him fired for writing it:

Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators

The ideological bent of those overseeing collegiate life is having the biggest impact on campus culture.

I received a disconcerting email this year from a senior staff member in the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement at Sarah Lawrence College, where I teach. The email was soliciting ideas from the Sarah Lawrence community for a conference, open to all of us, titled “Our Liberation Summit.” The conference would touch on such progressive topics as liberation spaces on campus, Black Lives Matter and justice for women as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and allied people.

As a conservative-leaning professor who has long promoted a diversity of viewpoints among my (very liberal) faculty colleagues and in my classes, I was taken aback by the college’s sponsorship of such a politically lopsided event. The email also piqued my interest in what sorts of other nonacademic events were being organized by the school’s administrative staff members.

I soon learned that the Office of Student Affairs, which oversees a wide array of issues including student diversity and residence life, was organizing many overtly progressive events — programs with names like “Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,” “Microaggressions” and “Understanding White Privilege” — without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative. These events were conducted outside the classroom, in the students’ social and recreational spaces.

The problem is not limited to my college. While considerable focus has been placed in recent decades on the impact of the ideological bent of college professors, when it comes to collegiate life — living in dorms, participating in extracurricular organizations — the ever growing ranks of administrators have the biggest influence on students and campus life across the country.

… Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

The 12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators makes them the most left-leaning group on campus. In previous research, I found that academic faculty report a six-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative professors. Incoming first-year students, by contrast, reported less than a two-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives, according to a 2016 finding by the Higher Education Research Institute. It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators.

… This warped ideological distribution among college administrators should give our students and their families pause. To students who are in their first semester at school, I urge you not to accept unthinkingly what your campus administrators are telling you. Their ideological imbalance, coupled with their agenda-setting power, threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.

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5 Responses to Think Professors Are Liberal? Try Administrators

  1. Christ Marx Wood and AOC says:

    There’s a related piece at the ever-excellent Quillette:

    No good sound bite, but here’s a quote:

    Groups of students were asked to list on posters the stereotypical characteristics associated with blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews, thus exciting animosities while ostensibly ameliorating them. Administrators unselfconsciously referred to lesson plans as “treatments” and “interventions,” and they dictated “learning outcomes”: “Each student will learn about the forms of oppression linked with each identity group. Each student will learn that systemic oppression exists in our society. Each student will learn the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.”

    To almost any outside observer, the crass authoritarianism of such a “curriculum” would have been obvious at first glance. Within the closed circle of administrators, however, this was a fine plan, nobly wrought.

    Each bit of news seems worse than the one before. I’m starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t start burying copies of the Western canon in obscure places, so that we’ll having something to jumpstart with after the coming cultural revolution.

    • uomatters says:

      Please try and limit yourself to one screen name.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      So, CMW/AOC — does it really come to burying the Western canon for the coming cultural revolution/dark ages?

      I keep reading claims that the “canon” is either being abandoned in American humanities, or is being highjacked for “cultural Marxist” purposes in a most crude “appropriation.” On the other hand, some colleagues in the humanities tell me this is exaggerated, that the “traditional” humanities are alive and well. But, other humanities colleagues, mostly older, tell me that the horror stories are more or less true, both the ignorance of the students, and the trashing of the Western tradition by the faculty.

      I’m not in a terribly good position to judge, do you have anything to say about this?

  2. Conservative duck says:

    Sounds like those kids need to be taught the definition of the word “tolerance”.

    The actual, dictionary definition, not the new leftist re-definition of the concept.

  3. Frank says:

    These “conferences,” “first year programs,” and other quasi-curricular socialization events–even 1st year requirements are fair targets–have been written about by NYT Science Writer John Tierney. I found Tierney’s piece disturbing, but well worth reading. UO gets a mention.

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