December 08, 2004

Universities promote uniformity

I've known for a long time how uniformly leftist universities are (I went to one once myself), now I know why:

The truth is that it is very, very hard to get a tenured faculty position at a university. And the hiring process is unlike anything in a private business. In most cases, one needs a unanimous vote of the professors in one’s department to get tenure. This puts a high priority on intangibles like collegiality, which often translates into sharing the same politics and ideology.

This is a sure-fire way to get uniformity - and mediocrity. The most original people are almost by definition controversial. (Not necessarily disliked, but disbelieved.) A system to promote diversity would be designed differently, with say, professors taking turns on a small tenure committee, or even having outsiders be in charge. The system described above sounds more like a self-perpetuating aristocracy or cult than anything else.

The article concludes:

Unfortunately, fixing this problem will take a long time. It is certainly not amenable to a legislative fix, such as a quota for conservatives. It would help, however, to shame universities into treating intellectual diversity the same way they now treat race and gender. But first they have to admit they have a problem. That hasn’t happened yet.

I disagree about it not being amenable to legislative fix. At least in the public sector, any state legislature that cared to do so could begin fixing the situation by appointing trustees or administrators dedicated to diversity. The problem is that half of them like the bias on campus, and the other half think it's not worth the fight.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at December 8, 2004 08:23 PM
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Agreed. Leftists think that diversity is to do with ethnicity, gender and financial background, instead of ideas and opinions.

It's also important to assess students solely on academic competence. Factors like attendance and participation should be made irrelevant to grading.

-- Tom

Posted by: Tom at December 8, 2004 11:12 PM Permalink

a few points

* i think the non-monetary prestige accrued to being a university professor appeals more to leftists than rightists. that is, being a professor is a way to be upper-middle-class, but not money-grubblingly so, and still have a lot of prestige.

* the university faculties have been *much more resistant* about imposing quotas on their own hiring policies than have been when it comes to pushing quotas in terms of student admissions. while departments might have a "token" (that is, a token female in the engineering dept.) here & there, they are much less open to proportionality....

Posted by: razib at December 8, 2004 11:39 PM Permalink

In an academic environment there is a big push to be one of the "boys" because many are afraid to stand on their own, they do not want their research challenged.

You are correct, this is very disturbing. It is very important to have free thinkers and to allow them to work without encumberance.

Nothing profound there, but fighting bureaucracy and groupthink can be challenging.

Posted by: Jack at December 12, 2004 04:04 AM Permalink

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