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UCLA Magazine Winter 2004
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Winter 2004
Too Liberal?
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“The polarity between conservatives and liberals in academia is real. There are more political liberals than conservatives on faculty, but there are definitely conservative faculty everywhere. My students are very curious to find out if I’m liberal or conservative, whether I voted for Kerry or Bush. I never tell them.”
—Lynn Vavreck

The whole idea of liberal bias on campuses is "the biggest bunch of baloney since Spam was packed in cans," says Mike Lofchie, chair of the Department of Political Science at UCLA. This "new wave of attacks," as he describes the objections from conservatives, is a "pale image of the more intense and painful attacks" on academia during the McCarthy era. "A great university is one that can find some niche to further knowledge, whether from the liberal or conservative point of view," says Lofchie. "No great university can put an ideological test on that."

Yet anecdotal evidence does appear to suggest that competent professors who don't share liberal values do less well in academia than their liberal peers. "People of conservative views generally get less recognition," says Julius Getman, an avowedly liberal professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "One colleague of mine, with some justification, says he doesn't have an academic chair because of his conservative views." Other academicians Getman has known have fallen victim to political correctness gone awry.

The answer for conservatives concerned about their lack of adequate representation within the academy, argues James Morrison, chair of the Department of English Literature at Claremont McKenna College, "is to get degrees, apply to graduate schools, write dissertations and get the jobs and tenured positions. It's basically a market-driven issue and it's odd that conservatives, of all people, would fail to get that."

Conservatives respond that the issue is far more complex. "Conservative students who are initially drawn to the humanities often decide after four years of classroom sparring with liberal faculty members that the integrity of such studies is suspect," Reed Browning, a conservative professor of history at Kenyon College in Ohio, wrote last April in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. "Being likelier to have a Hobbesian/Calvinist view of human nature, that individuals in a free society should deal with their own problems rather than rely on government, conservative students are more prone than their liberal peers to see fields like law, business or medicine as career options that offer the possibility of making the world a better place."

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