Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Conformity in American Universities

There was this interesting article in today's online version of the Wall Street Journal about the political leanings of academics. The author, Ruth Wisse, a professor at Harvard Univeristy, writes about her reaction to donation figures made to Bush and Kerry last spring. Not surprisingly, Kerry's campaign fared much better:

The reporter's "inquiry was prompted by the disparity he'd discovered in donations by Harvard faculty of about $150,000 for Kerry to about $8,000 for Bush."

That's an 18.75 to 1 ratio with 94.9% of contributions at that time going to the Kerry campaign.

The author's comments about the pressure for graduate students and non-tenured faculty to at least appear to conform is particularly disheartening:

"A junior professor told me that when she began teaching at Harvard she resigned from several organizations that would have betrayed her conservative leanings. She hadn't wanted to give colleagues an easy excuse for voting her down when she came up for tenure; but now that the prospect of tenure was before her, she didn't know whether she wanted to stay on in such a repressive community. "

This wouldn't be so concerning if there were some balance of political leanings between universities even if there isn't much balance within each university. That way bright young minds, be they students or faculty, that don't conform at one institution can more easily find a better match with another institution. They can then become part of the conversation that universities are supposed to foster.

But I have a strong hunch that faculty at colleges and universities throughout the US lean far to the left. This tilts the overall academic discourse in that direction as well.