Paul L. Caron

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sunstein & Pulliam: Universities (And Law Schools) Need To Hire More Republican Professors

Following up on my previous posts (links below): 

Cass Sunstein (Harvard), The Problem With All Those Liberal Professors:

The paucity of Republicans at many top schools hurts everyone.

Suppose that you start college with a keen interest in physics, and you quickly discover that almost all members of the physics department are Democrats. Would you think that something is wrong? Would your answer be different if your favorite subject is music, chemistry, computer science, anthropology or sociology?

In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017. The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia).

Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.

The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is just 1.6 to 1. Still, Lambert found no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats. ...

For two reasons, these numbers, and others like them, are genuinely disturbing.

The first involves potential discrimination on the part of educational institutions. Some departments might be disinclined to hire potential faculty members based on their political convictions. ...

The second reason is that students are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy. Students and faculty might end up in a kind of information cocoon. ...

John Stuart Mill put it well: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value ... of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.” 

Mark Pulliam (Law & Liberty; Retired Partner, Latham & Watkins), Ideological Balance Is Essential to Sound Pedagogy in Legal Academia:

[N]either the ABA nor the AALS shows the slightest interest in promoting opportunities for the most underrepresented group of all in legal academia: conservative professors. Georgetown University law professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz quips that there are more conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court than on Georgetown’s 120-person faculty, but his larger point is no joke: “Elite law faculties are overwhelmingly liberal.” The dearth of conservatives on law school faculties, especially at elite institutions, is well-documented. This imbalance creates a serious pedagogical defect. Indeed, the paltry number of right-of-center faculty members are disproportionately libertarian rather than conservative, further tilting the ideological imbalance in the academy.

Failing to ensure ideological diversity diminishes the quality of legal education. Without a robust diversity of opinions, classrooms become echo chambers for the left-of-center orthodoxy that now dominates legal scholarship. This is unfortunate, because students exposed to only one side of contentious legal and policy debates are less tolerant of opposing views, and may be less capable of zealously advocating their clients’ varied interests upon graduation. Rosenkranz notes the incongruity of lopsided faculties in disciplines—such as law—predicated on the adversarial system, which depends on robust debates to reveal the truth. When balance is lacking, rigorous debate is impossible. The result is intellectual laziness, complacency, and myopia in the academy. Rosenkranz concludes that “Intellectual diversity matters to students. Without it, they are getting only half of a legal education”—if that. ...

The U.S. Department of Education, and the state supreme courts which have entrusted the ABA with quasi-governmental powers in this area, must not allow the nation’s law schools to become monolithic progressive enclaves, indoctrinating students with leftist dogma posing as scholarship. Some reformers have described the status quo as “the left’s Kulturkampf.” It is worse than that. “Kulturkampf” refers to a struggle for control; the Left’s current domination of legal academia constitutes a rout. The ABA’s abysmal dereliction in this critically-important area justifies a re-evaluation of its supervisory role.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


Incredibly and somewhat disturbingly, "descriptor" - let's call him Mike - and I agree on something.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 24, 2018 8:10:39 AM

Doug Laycock at UVA isn't shy about his views on the legality of rules limiting gay rights in the name of religious freedom:

Posted by: Not so orthodox | Sep 23, 2018 9:30:54 PM

"Raise your hand if you think that any top 50 law school would hire a young assistant professor who had written scholarly, well-researched and well-written articles arguing that the Court’s gay marriage case was wrongly decided. Me neither. Some views are taboo at elite law schools."

Here's the dean of B.C. defending a B.C. professor who shot a commercial opposing gay marriage.

And here's Volokh conspiracy on close to half of Con Law Professors having doubts that the constitution requires gay marriage.

There's no gay marriage litmus test for hiring.

Posted by: Not so orthodox | Sep 23, 2018 9:26:50 PM

Very few conservatives are likely to "out" themselves by registering as republicans if they are tenure-track. Unfortunately, the left only embraces diversity of appearance, not diversity of thought.

Posted by: Chris P. | Sep 23, 2018 5:32:32 PM

Skimming all these comments ... seems someone's hit a nerve.

It's obvious that all-liberal faculties at so many schools is a serious problem.

The main reason is that they're dead wrong about so much and it takes so much time for their students to realize that their professors were wrong about so much.

- Signed, a product of public high school education

Posted by: Anon | Sep 23, 2018 5:24:03 PM

@Douglas Levene,

The author of the Dubya torture memos, John Yoo, teaches law at freaking Berkeley. And say, don't you teach in Beijing? Not exactly known for its freedom of speech, is it? Spare us your concern trolling.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 23, 2018 11:52:32 AM

It's interesting that none of my detractors can actually say anything in support of the facially shoddy methodology in the study; nay, the study must be right because... I said so! See what that sort of reasoning gets you on a college paper.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 23, 2018 11:50:47 AM

To "Interesting": Interesting. So let's look at the current example: There has been ... let's see ... one woman who claims that Brett Kavanaugh touched her inappropriately (and supposedly put her in fear for her life) about 35 years ago (she's not sure of the year, but she was 15 at the time). Which leaves us 19 short of the first score of victims in this case, but they'll be showing up any minute now, right?

Posted by: werewife | Sep 23, 2018 11:01:50 AM

So the response to an article by Cass Sunstein, the most cited legal scholar in modern history, is that the argument to hire Republicans is made only by stupid people. What am I missing here?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Sep 23, 2018 9:10:49 AM

Raise your hand if you think that any top 50 law school would hire a young assistant professor who had written scholarly, well-researched and well-written articles arguing that the Court’s gay marriage case was wrongly decided. Me neither. Some views are taboo at elite law schools.

Posted by: Douglas Levene | Sep 23, 2018 8:31:43 AM

Mnemonic Mike, it’s also interesting watching the right immediately try to refute allegations of child molestation and sexual assault committed by conservative Presidential candidates, Senate candidates, and Supreme Court nominees. It’s pretty obvious when scores of victims come forward that the candidate is a sex offender. It’s the knee-jerk denial that catches my eye: “boys will be boys,” “what about Bill Clinton,” “in the south older men date young girls.” What does that tolerance of sex assault and child molestation say about conservatives in general?

Posted by: Interesting | Sep 23, 2018 8:02:55 AM

Why would any sane right leaning academic subject their career to the leftist mob mentality in academia? The blackballing of conservatives by hiring committees is obvious, and pervasive. There is no clear solution, and the leftist mob posters even on this web site do not even acknowledge the problem. sad.

Posted by: Steven Gosney | Sep 23, 2018 7:51:50 AM

It's interesting watching the obvious leftists immediately try to refute the general thrust of the study ... but it's pretty obvious to any sentient being that our colleges are overwhelmingly staffed by leftist professors. It's the knee-jerk denial that catches my eye: people *know* there is a marked left-of-center bias at the colleges/universities, but they want to hide it and pretend it's not there. What does that "hiding the truth" say about leftists in general?

Posted by: MnemonicMike | Sep 23, 2018 6:43:49 AM

50 year college professor, lifetime Republican, retired from major research university. Not happy that Republicans have become the party of stupid. No straight tickets for me. So how do the researchers count me?

Posted by: mike | Sep 22, 2018 3:52:22 PM

I would definitely benefit from this proposal. I remember when I was on the market in 2008, a friendly dean told me not to mention my support of John McCain.

Posted by: Enrique | Sep 22, 2018 3:02:31 PM

"Without a robust diversity of opinions, classrooms become echo chambers for the left-of-center orthodoxy that now dominates legal scholarship."

If you can't find pro-top 1%, pro-corporate, anti-egalitarian legal scholarship, then you probably can't read.

Posted by: Questionable | Sep 22, 2018 12:23:05 PM

Don't forget anti-science, when it comes to Climate Change.

The title is very questionable. Sunstein is not taking the position that Universities or law schools need to hire more Republicans, he's only saying the professors should present views that they may not agree with fairly and ensure that students are aware of the range of political opinions.

"It is far too simple, of course, to say that professors of history, political science, philosophy and the like should “look like America” in political terms. What matters is that they are experts in their fields, able to convey what they know. In faculty hiring, affirmative action for those with conservative political positions is not likely to serve anyone well."

Unless universities are somehow going to ban Television, Radio, Newspapers, Youtube and the Internet from anywhere within a 50 mile radius of campus, I'm pretty sure people are going to figure out that there are people who are eager to cut taxes and shrink the government into nothing more than the military, police, prisons, and court system for handling criminal prosecutions and rare property disputes that aren't handled privately through arbitration.

Posted by: Questionable | Sep 22, 2018 12:15:16 PM

From a comment I made on earlier coverage of this *study*:

Why doesn't the study list the percentages of professors at these institutions who are actually registered as Republicans or Democrats? I see only one institution's data, listed in dicta as an explanation to a table: "For example, I identified 254 full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors at Williams. Of these, 132 are registered Democratic, and one is registered Republican, so the D:R ratio is 132:1." So really we only know the political affiliations of just over half the faculty (133 of 254), and not even that, since the study ever-so-conveniently chooses to not find the political affiliations of non-PhD faculty (We don't need to know what the MBAs think!), NTT, part-time, and adjunct faculty. Oh, and per the college website Williams actually has almost 400 faculty. So for this one college, the *study* managed to find the political affiliations of... not quite 1/3 of the faculty. But no doubt the National Review will trumpet it as proof that HBS needs more conservatives and Chicago more libertarians.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 22, 2018 11:39:34 AM

This is some really sloppy methodology:

- Samples only 51 of the nation's >4,000 Title-IV eligible colleges and universities, all of which are broadly the same (selective, all liberal arts colleges, almost all secular, mostly on the coasts). I mean, when one includes their online students, Liberty University by itself has about the same enrollment as these 51 liberal arts colleges put together. Where's the study on Liberty's faculty politics, eh?

- Only includes tenure-track professors. The large majority of college professors nationwide are neither tenured nor tenure-track.

- Only includes professors who are registered as members of one party or the other, which as the study itself notes is only 59.8% of the TT faculty at those 51 liberal arts colleges.

If this were a Statistics 101 assignment, it would receive a failing grade. It's embarrassing to see Sunstein appear to take it at face value. GIGO.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 22, 2018 11:33:53 AM

There is a reason for this. Professors, by definition, are highly educated. And highly educated people, in general, can't abide by the modern Republican party - racist, anti-immigrant, anti-government services, etc. The only solution to this problem is for a total remake of the Republican party, which in the era of Trump, isn't going to happen.

Posted by: Oliver Buckley | Sep 22, 2018 5:31:16 AM