Friday, October 14, 2005

Academic News

Some interesting maneuvering going on in the academic sphere. To start, Brian Leiter informs us that Chicago Law Professor Adrien Vermeule is jumping ship to Harvard. But more interestingly, he says that of Harvard's latest five pick-ups (including Vermeule), three are generally considered to be "conservatives."

Now, Leiter thinks that the liberal academy is a "myth" to begin with (I personally think there is some truth to it, see my thoughts here, here, and here for a few examples). Regardless of whether that's true or not, one wonders about the impact of Harvard's hiring choices. Is it completely innocent? Are they trying to remedy unequal political representation on their faculty? Are bowing to outside pressure and trying to appear to remedy said inequality (without actually thinking it exists and/or matters)? Regardless of intention, how will Harvard's campus environment be affected by an influx of conservative scholars?

On a slightly related note, one of the big reasons I've been willing to concede there is a liberal slant in academia is that their seem to be a lot of studies demonstrating it to be true. (Big reason number two is that I've definitely observed it on my own campus). But now I read this Lior Strahilevitz post on the latest of those studies, and I'm not so sure. Apparently, a much trumpeted David Horowitz study proclaimed, among other things, that at the University of Chicago, Democrats outnumber Republicans 55 to 8, out of 100 full-time professors surveyed. The problem, as Professor Strahilevitz notes, is that Chicago only has 33 full-time professors, making the data...suspect...at best. Anybody know what's going on here?

2 comments:

L.Austin Bernard said...

It all depends on how they define professor

does he mean tentured? tentured and emeritus? tentured, emeritus, and honorary?

I think their could be 100 people who would be to the minds of most people professors who the organization might not call professors

alex said...

Horowitz had previously done another very similar study, finding conservative bias in academy as a whole, rather than only looking at law and journalism schools.

But as I noted at the time, the conclusions of these studies are self defeating. In technical schools - MIT and Caltech and Carnegie Mellon - Horowitz found large gaps between Republicans and Democrats as everywhere else in academia. Since it is ridiculous to suggest that one has liberal bias in math or engineering or most of the sciences, Horowitz' results actually suggest that there is something different than bias going on.