New Report Exposes Leftwing Professors
A new report by the California division of the National Association of Scholars (NAS) found that left-wing political activism has had a corrupting effect on the University of California (UC). The report, entitled A Crisis of Competence, found that left-wing political activism in the University’s classrooms has caused four basic problems:
- A sharp increase in faculty members who self identify as radicals
- Curricula that violate UC regulations by promoting political activism
- Failure to study the Western tradition
- Suppression of free speech
NAS spent two years examining UC graduation requirements, reading lists, and course descriptions, and interviewing students and faculty. It determined that radical leftist politics have robbed UC students of a good education because radicalism is directly opposed to the kind of thought that should take place in academic life:
When individual faculty members and sometimes even whole departments decide that their aim is to advance social justice as they understand it rather than to teach the subject that they were hired to teach with all the analytical skill that they can muster, the quality of teaching and research is compromised. This is an inevitable result because, as we shall show, these two aims are incompatible with each other, so that the one must undermine the other.
The report cites several studies documenting academia’s political imbalance. For example, a 2004 study at UC Berkeley found that for each Republican faculty member, the school had 8 Democratic professors. That ratio rose to 17:1 in humanities and 21:1 in social sciences. NAS noted, “The most plausible explanation for this clear and consistent pattern is surely that it is the result of discrimination in the hiring process.”
The University of California’s own rules prohibit the use of its facilities to advance a political ideology. The Regents’ Policy on Course Content, for example, holds that “[The Regents] are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.” Even so, the NAS found numerous instances of inappropriate political bias in the University:
For example, instead of being content to announce the scope of the course, Berkeley’s Political Science 111AC (“The Politics of Displacement”) preemptively shapes a particular political interpretation: “the revolution against traditional political authority embodied in Jefferson’s and Thomas Paine’s attack on the British crown, the rise of slavery, and the conflict with Native America are seen as coherent parts of a cultural and social development that emerges in the 18th- and 19th-century America.” The decision to focus attention exclusively on these issues (rather than, say, the debate over the constitution and the crucial first decades of the unfolding of the new political system) means that a radical political interpretation involving a hostile judgment of the U.S. is frozen into the outline of the course.
UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown disagreed with the study’s findings. Brown argued that the imbalance exists because conservatives don’t often go to grad school to study political science. “If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle, then critics need to look more carefully at “where the discouragement happens.” But the NAS report demonstrated that “This hiring pattern has occurred just as the quality of a college education has sharply declined.” And as San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders pointed out,
In pushing protests, faculty essentially have assured students that they already know enough to occupy Sacramento. Only a third of them can read and explain complex material, but students already know better than lawmakers and voters how best to pay for education. Why study? The proof is in academia’s acceptance of this imbalance.
The report urges University leaders to “proclaim that the campus ought to be a rigorous marketplace of ideas, and that this essential idea is betrayed when the campus becomes a sanctuary for a narrow ideological segment of the spectrum of political and social ideas.” Robert Anderson, a UC Berkeley economics and math professor, said the report
is short on facts, but long on innuendo and anecdotes. The University of California offers tens of thousands of courses each year, the vast majority of which are excellent. A few dozen anecdotes about courses that allegedly have significant flaws does not diminish that fact, much less support the report’s sweeping claims.
The report’s authors anticipated this critique, and answered it carefully:
If even ten percent of classrooms are corrupted, that would be horrendous, and yet the word “most” would allow far more than that. The deepest problem of this defense, however, is that it implicitly concedes that the campus mechanisms that used to protect against corruption of the classroom have long since broken down.
If those mechanisms were still working, the occasional abuse would be dealt with as soon as it became known. This is what happened, say, forty years ago. At that time, nobody would have said that “most” classrooms are not politicized. Instead, it might have been said that an occasional case occurs, but that it is soon corrected. The difference between these two statements is enormous. The first admits that there may be a good deal of this objectionable practice about, but not so much that we should be concerned to any great extent. That implies that there is no need to do anything — we need not correct the abuses. But this flies in the face of all that we know about human affairs. Abuses that go uncorrected will proliferate, because it is precisely the act of correcting them that tells everyone that they are abuses. The position formerly held by deans was that if a single case were allowed to go uncorrected, the rule would no longer exist, and abuses would become common. That is the position we are in today. And so this defense implicitly admits that administrators have lost control of the situation and now tolerate politicization — it simply hopes that there is not too much of it. This is a halfhearted and incoherent attitude, one that ducks the question whether an important principle needs protecting.
The NAS argues that UC administrators have failed in their responsibility to ensure that all students have access to a quality education, opting instead to use the school to promote their own political agendas:
far from performing their role as the university’s quality control mechanism, (they) now routinely function as the enablers, protectors, and even apologists for the politicized university and its degraded scholarly and educational standards.
It would be bad enough if these abuses were unique to the University of California, but NAS cites numerous studies proving that California is just part of a much larger trend. A Crisis of Competence is a must-read for anyone concerned about the continual decline of higher education.