Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Academia and Orthodoxy

The September 24 Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on a topic I am well familiar with: The plight of conservatives in liberal/leftist dominated academia. As a conservative academic librarian, I face this situation within both the framework of the library profession and also the broader academic environment. The article cites issues such as difficulties with tenure and promotion, or being denied career opportunities. In my view, these issues, while real, are not the true problem. Sadly, these types of things happen all too often in academia, for a variety of reasons. Personally, I have had no such problems, and am fortunate in having colleagues who are decent, honorable, and fairminded regarding such matters.

The real problem is that the overwhelming liberal/leftist presence in academia inevitably leads to intellectual conformity and greatly impacts the free exchange of ideas by both faculty and students. Out of about 30 professional colleagues at my workplace, I can count the number who agree with me regarding politics on one hand, with probably a couple fingers to spare. In this environment, people simply assume that your politics are left of center, because that's how they and everyone else they know look at the world. In academia, especially in the humanities and social sciences, and librarianship, everyone knows that only ignorant uneducated Red State troglodytes support George W. Bush. In such a conformist environment, one naturally tends to pause before doing something to disabuse people of such notions, such as ordering conservative or right of center books for your library. This ideological conformity threatens the mission of both libraries and universities to foster the free exchange of ideas and information from a variety of perspectives, and negatively impacts both students and library users.

The complete Chronicle article is available on their Web site, and provides a reasonably fair look at the issue:

Conservatives in a Liberal Landscape


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