Nick Kristof on “The Dangers of Echo Chambers on the UO Campus*”

Nicholas Kristof is the son of two PSU professors and grew up on a farm in Oregon. A few years ago we got him to come to campus and talk to our SAIL students. He is arguably the most liberal of the NY Times’s columnists, although it’s tough to top Krugman. Here’s his latest column:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members canceled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us. …

UO’s first Diversity Plan, adopted by the Senate in 2006 after a long debate, explicitly noted the importance of those people who don’t think like us:

For purposes of this Diversity Plan, the term diversity is given a broad meaning and includes, but is not limited to, differences based on race, ethnicity, national origin or citizenship, gender, religious affiliation or background, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic class or status, political affiliation or belief, and ability or disability.

Here’s the data on political affiliation for the University of Oregon faculty in 2006:


But the 2016 diversity evaluation posted on the VPEI website is all about race and ethnicity:

Over the last three years, the University of Oregon (UO) Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI) has worked diligently to institutionalize the process of collecting and analyzing data on the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of our faculty, staff, and students. This report on racial, ethnic and gender diversity among faculty and academic leadership ranks is the product of collaborative work with the Office of Institutional Research, the Center for Assessment, Statistics and Evaluation (CASE), Affirmative Action, the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs.

And that is where UO has been spending its diversity money – currently about $5M a year, if you count the VPEI budget and the UMRP money which is now running about $1M a year.


President Schill has now called for UO’s colleges to develop new diversity plans within 90 days. I wonder where they will focus our efforts and our spending?

*OK, so it’s not just about the UO campus.

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32 Responses to Nick Kristof on “The Dangers of Echo Chambers on the UO Campus*”

  1. …wait, so I’m a minority on campus now?!

  2. Old Man says:

    Probably in Math.

  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    A good column by Kristof. (No, he is not the most liberal at NYT.)

    The academy has damaged itself with its ideological homogeneity and intolerance. It does a disservice to our students and is alienating a large portion of the public.

    Remember the millions being spent on diversity when your department budget gets whacked in the coming round of cuts.

    Also, do not forget the related huge bloat in central administration that occurred a couple of years ago. (Before Schill, B.S.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Aiming for diversity of thought is a slippery slope. If only 60% of Americans believe in evolution, do we want the same for our biology department? If 70% believe in man made climate change, do we want our natural sciences faculty to reflect this percentage? If 25% of Americans can add fractions, do we want the same for our math professors? At the risk of sounding judgmental, part of our job as academics is to make judgements about different sets of beliefs, rather than simply asserting that they are all equally valid.

    • Daffy duck says:

      Sorry no, it is not our job to pass judgement on beliefs. Facts, logic evidence, yes. Beliefs are another matter. Even in the sciences, the range of important issues extends well beyond the domain of settled science. Fortunately for the rest of us, the standards for settled science in the modern era are high. Can we honestly say we have the same high standards in the rest of the acadamy? If your answer is yes, we need more diversity of thought.

      • dog says:

        one can make a reasonable argument that some elements of science do conform to a belief system. The wide spread use of the “epicycle” as a necessary part of a scientific model to explain the observations, is fairly wide spread. Most all scientists I know, do not believe a word of that argument.

  5. Anas clypeata says:

    I find it challenging to accept that we should want people working as faculty in higher education who are adherents of a political party that explicitly rejects facts and rationality. I am welcoming of other types of diversity, but that type seems to go against the mission of the university.

    Please help me understand where I am wrong in my thinking.

    • RepubProf says:

      “Please help me understand where I am wrong in my thinking.”

      It would be this assumption: “a political party that explicitly rejects facts and rationality”.

      Substitute “Islam” in the place of “Republicans” and you will see your error. Are there adherents of “Islam” who would like nothing more than all non-Muslims to be slaughtered? Yes. Is that all of “Islam”? No. Is that mainstream “Islam”? No. Same with “Republicans” and rejection of facts. Are there certain issues on which the facts do not support Republican positions? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that all Republicans reject facts and cling to their guns and religion. And there are plenty of issues where the facts would support the Republican position (like the negative economic effects of minimum wage, debt, and high taxes). If you think that just because someone disagrees with you, they must be rejecting facts, that that is exactly the reason we need differing opinions on campus.

      • just different says:

        Differing opinions, absolutely. “Ideological diversity,” absolutely not. The point of diversity is to give people who have been historically denied a voice a place at the table. Saying that Republicans or conservatives are in this category because they make up a minority of academics is a false equivalence, sort of like comparing being a Muslim with being a Republican.

        • Oryx says:

          No, the point of diversity is certainly not “to give people who have been historically denied a voice a place at the table.” The point of diversity is to ensure a variety of perspectives and insights into decisions we all have to make, and activities we all do. I’ve found it useful and enlightening to learn from, for example, colleagues from other countries, not historically under- or over-represented, and I value this diversity. It’s certainly the case that various peoples have been “historically denied a voice,” and it’s important to ensure that this doesn’t continue, and to be mindful of their past exclusion. But the point of diversity is not affirmative action, or “tit-for-tat” justice; the point of diversity is diversity.

        • counter says:

          Your position doesn’t align with that of your colleagues: “For purposes of this Diversity Plan, the term diversity is given a broad meaning and includes, but is not limited to, differences based on race, ethnicity, national origin or citizenship, gender, religious affiliation or background, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic class or status, political affiliation or belief, and ability or disability.

          • Jerry says:

            But nothing on the list explains the point of the list. Oryx is writing about the point, the value of diversity. What is that?

          • just different says:

            A distinction should probably be made between “valuing diversity” (which is easy) and the social-engineering project of trying to increase diversity (which is hard). The latter goal involves addressing both what we’re trying to achieve by increasing diversity and also why it’s necessary in the first place. It may be interesting and even useful for you to have international colleagues to talk to, but internationalism has always been part of academia, so it’s not a very proactive kind of diversity. People of color and people with disabilities, to name just two examples, face very particular and very significant challenges in higher education, from undergraduate admissions all the way up to P&T. Acknowledging and addressing those challenges is the just and ethically responsible thing to do, whether or not it benefits the dominant group (which is a utilitarian rationalization that I dislike).

            On the other hand, the idea that people subscribing to any (sane) set of beliefs, including conservativism, face special barriers to participation in academia has no basis in reality whatsoever. Neither does the currently fashionable assertion that “ideological homogeneity” has insulated academics from real America. I’m not even going to touch the issue of how exactly one would go about achieving “ideological diversity,” which sounds to me an awful lot like thought-policing.

            So, yes, diversity is a kind of repackaged affirmative action, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, affirmative action has done a great deal to reduce inequality in the U.S. Those gains started leveling off right about when affirmative action got politically very unpopular.

            A final remark: right-wing think-tanks have become very adept at manufacturing this kind of jiu-jitsu, and the left is often intellectually flabby enough to allow progressive ideas to be hijacked and perverted. This is only going to get worse in the coming years, so we should get our shit together now.

      • Peter Keyes says:

        I don’t think anyone is arguing that all Republicans, or any one Republican, should be excluded from the faculty because of their conservative political affiliation. It is simply that there is a demonstrable, widespread rejection of facts and rationality in the Republican party – have you read the Republican platform? It seems clear that a higher percentage of Republicans reject facts and rationality, and so the pool of faculty candidates who are in favor of facts and rationality will likely include fewer Republicans, and will therefore be represented in lower numbers on university faculties; perhaps we’ll find that the percentage of conservative faculty is similar to the percentage of Republicans who favor facts and rationality. (On a side note, I’d argue that you’re mistaken in saying the facts necessarily support “the negative economic effects of minimum wage, debt and higher taxes”, but we can talk about it.)

        • counter says:

          Here’s a link to the platform. Can you point out the parts that reject facts and rationality as opposed to ideological differences?

          • Anonymous says:

            Counter: do you dispute the claim even if the platform is tepid evidence for it.

            On balance, among leaders, is it Ds or Rs who call warming a hoax?

            Is it Ds or Rs who reject evidence of police bias?

            Is it Ds or Rs who cling to the laughable Laffer curve?

            Science says sexual orientation is largely not a choice, Ds agree, many R leaders disagree.

            What about “legitimate rape” and the ability of women to “shut all that down?”

            Which set of leaders, say Duncan vs DeVos, believes school privatization, that is “choice”, improves education outcomes in the aggregate for poor kids?

            Which party perpetuates the lie of massive in person voter fraud against all available evidence?

            Which party engineered legislation designed to prevent government funding of gun violence research?

            We of course could go on but the point is made. Ds are very flawed, but on balance D leaders are supportive of science and research and adapt views in the face of relevant facts. Can sat neither about most current GOPers.

          • Peter Keyes says:

            I don’t really have time to fact-check the whole platform – I assume other people do this kind of thing for a living. So I just looked at an area where I have some expertise – housing – to see what the platform says.

            In a section on “Freeing Financial Markets” the platform looks for the roots of the Great Recession:

            “Rather than address the cause of the crisis — the government’s own housing policies …”

            This is a widespread fantasy among Wall Streeters, seeking to avoid responsibility for their own actions which did cause the crisis. It has been debunked repeatedly and thoroughly. Here is a nice summation from that radical left-wing organization, Bloomberg:


            In the next paragraph of the platform:

            “Since the enactment of Dodd-Frank, the number of community banks has significantly declined, and the cost and complexity of complying with the law has created impediments to the remaining banks’ ability to support the customers they serve. From 13,000 community banks in 1985, only 1,900 remain.”

            Besides comparing apples and oranges (decline in community bank numbers from 1985 to 2016, when Dodd-Frank was only enacted in 2010), it just isn’t true. Again, debunking by a radical publication, The American Banker:


            Under “Responsible Homeownership and Rental Opportunities”, the emphasis is on the dastardly activities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, implying that this is where the big bailout money went:

            “U.S. taxpayers paid billions to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the latter managed and controlled by senior officials from the Carter and Clinton Administrations, and to cover the losses of the poorly-managed Federal Housing Administration.”

            These agencies were bailed out, but the platform ignores the fact that the billions in bailouts for these two agencies was a tiny percentage of the bailouts that went to private banks. From the radicals at CNN Money:


            And that all of this bailout has actually been paid back, with profit (from the left-wingers at Forbes):


            You know, in comparison to academic norms, I’m considered kind of conservative. I actually teach real estate development in my housing course, so my students can understand and work within the free-market basis for their future careers. But I just get tired of so-called conservatives twisting the facts to suit their political agenda, and then complaining that academics are biased.

          • Anas clypeata says:

            Sure, let’s just skim through and find this:

            “We renew our call for replacing ‘family planning’ programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.”

            Here’s what actual public health scientists say after a review of peer-reviewed journal articles:

            “Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life.”



            Let’s pick another statement from the party platform:

            “We believe that people are the most valuable resources and that human health and safety are the proper measurements of a policy’s success.”

            This is simply laughable on its face. It is not factual that the party “believes” this in any sense of the word “believe” that is consistent with the idea that actions and speech are motivated by beliefs. See also the abstinence-only recommendation above, which is not consistent with increasing human health and safety.

            Let us know if you would like more.

        • alas, alas says:

          Professor Keyes, you perfectly exemplify the problem.

          I hope the Trumpsters don’t notice when it comes time to settle up.

  6. just different says:

    Kristof really phoned this one in. It’s embarrassing that parroting a narrative concocted by college-educated conservatives is passing for liberal self-reflection at the NYT. So now the reason that 40 million people who have never set foot on a university campus voted for Trump is that there aren’t enough Republican art history professors?

    To address two of Kristof’s more intellectually muddled statements: The “primal howls” were not the shockwave of a Republican win penetrating a smug liberal bubble, but came from well-justified fear of an outpouring of hatred and hostility towards blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. Secondly, Trump’s latest approval uptick (of about five percentage points–about 60% still disapprove of him) can be entirely explained as the result of his Carrier deal, the details of which weren’t public until after this round of polls had been taken. “Liberal hand-wringing”? Really?

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: academia needs much more diversity of social class, in addition to race, ethnicity, disability status, etc. The “ideological diversity” will follow.

    • counter says:

      Your final paragraph implies that you think there is a Republican-leaning social class that is under represented at UO and that we need more people from this class at UO. Which specific social class do you have mind?

      • just different says:

        No. It implies that I think the whole notion of “ideological diversity” is ridiculous.

  7. Progressive Circular Firing Squad says:

    Opposition and alarm regarding Trump is not the same as being anti-Republican thought police. Most Republicans are not raging egomaniac plutocrat racists who feel entitled to assault women, demean opponents, seek favor with White Nationalists and racialists, and who can scarcely open their mouths without lying. Total false equivalence.

    I like Kristoff but he is THE KING of liberal self-flagellation; it is like 20% of his ouevre, his niche. It is his go-to move, as if he has some burning psychological need to prove to conservatives he is one of the good liberals who understands how unfair and misguided and mean we progressives are.

    It is also totally out of scale. There are absolutely no organized or systematic efforts to police ideology on American campuses by the left. There are a bunch of student groups making silly arguments often (and many more serious arguments) and there are some impolitic and imprudent and rigid profs but by and large this notion of leftist thought police on campus is another lie on par with Clinton running child sex rings through pizza establishments.

    By contrast, there is an enormous, multi-decade systematic effort bankrolled by the Coors, Mellon, Olin, and other plutocrat family foundations to the tune of 100s of millions of dollars to create the perception that the leftists are engaging in intellectual pograms on campus even as it is they themselves do so through things like campus watch, the Horowitz outfit, and bankrolling hundreds of right-wing campus groups and papers. There is zero comparable organized effort on the left. This goes back to the 60s and 70s when elites grew concerned about what they called the politicization of campuses or the “crisis of democracy”, i.e. previously marginalized or apathetic groups deciding education should be about much more that sustaining an unjust social system.

    And they have been incredibly successful in the main. One of the ways is to create pressures against progressive intellectuals engaging communities but instead engaging in intellectual parlor games about deconstruction in the faculty club while Fox anchors point at the funny people on campus and call them anti-American.

    Another is to get progressive to think they are at fault for not creating enough intellectual space for conservatives. It is gaslighting taken to the nth degree.

  8. UOGrad says:

    There is not a reason for a liberal apology for the reaction to trump being elected. It is not like Rubio or Cruz were elected. What happened has no parallel in recent history. It is hard to find an equivalent from the left who is as unpleasant, as intellectually lazy, a great a narcissist, and completely unprepared to lead a country who would bewilder republicans to the same extent…. Well, fill in the blank please.

  9. Diversity Jones says:

    This phenomenon of intellectual conformity among academics is not unique. Richard Löwenthal was a Jewish German journalist and professor who wrote mostly on the problems of democracy, communism, and world politics. He notes: “You cannot understand anything about Germany [in the Weimar period] unless you realize that a majority of the professional classes were right-wing all the way up to 1945. Professors of law, schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, there was an enormous majority on the right…” It was not healthy then; and it is not now.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Dangerous if you are equating German conservatism with support for the Nazis. There were honorable exceptions like Max Planck. True, the German academics were either supportive of or supine in the face of Hitler. Heidegger the most notorious.

      Still, it would be perilous at this point to draw a parallel with the American liberals and leftists in academia.

      • Captain Nemo says:

        I am not an historian of Weimar Germany, but I suspect Löwensthal was referencing what some might call the dangers of “Groupthink” generally. And I suspect that is the same point that Krystof wants to make. As HUB rightly points out, what might have been generally true of the academic classes in Weimar Germany, also had plenty of individual exceptions.

  10. uomatters says:

    I would appreciate it if the commenters on this post would figure out how to get the conversation back to matters that relate more specifically to UO.

    • Jack Straw Man says:

      Actually, UOM, your original post accused liberals on campus of not tolerating conservatives. As far as I can see, the commenters here are basically debating this accusation. It all seems pretty relevant to UO to me.

    • Progressive Circular Firing Squad says:

      Maybe then post articles about UO politics and not national politics from a national columnist? Just a thought. I you don’t want us to talk about what Kristof says, then…