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Too many liberals?

BY KIRSTEN JACOBSEN | MARCH 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Colleges of “Liberal Arts and Sciences” seem to be just that: overwhelmingly, unapologetically left-leaning.

Critiques of Republican lawmakers run rampant. Professors, students, and ideologies tend toward the left side of the spectrum, despite the opposite effect documented in the larger American population.

It would seem, as Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post so brazenly put it, that “On campus, conservative may be the new gay.” (I’m not sure which group should be more offended by that.)

While I will readily admit that I am active member in University Democrats — and heartily enjoy living in the most Democratic county in Iowa — it’s time to “politically diversify” the UI.

How can a university, that bastion of ever-widening minds and divergent viewpoints, provide students with an accurate portrayal of American politics when one side is so overwhelmingly drowning out the other? This is where divisive political stances get into some hot water: Are colleges and universities more liberal because broadened minds are naturally predisposed to the mindset of the left, as Democrats would like to claim? Or is it because conservatives are discriminated against in the teaching realm and right-wing viewpoints are shunned, as Republicans would avow?

Nationally, 50 percent of professors admit to being liberals (with only 11 percent identifying as conservative). A 2005 study by political-science Professors Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Neil Nevitte found that the devious liberal takeover of higher education has increased 11 percent since 1984.

No immediate statistics were available for the UI, but in my experience, the national data seem to hold true.

But professors, as well as students, adhere to set academic curricula and are free to agree with or discard viewpoints. After all, is it not the role of colleges to expand minds and introduce differing viewpoints?

“It’s hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students,” said Jonathan Knight, the director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors to the Washington Post. “In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college.”

Could the anti-intellectualism trend be contributing to the liberal bias?

“I can’t imagine that college Republicans enjoy the anti-intellectual rhetoric coming from their party,” said Dane Hudson, a co-president of UDems. He also suggested that the college atmosphere tends to liberate students from traditionally conservative backgrounds. Living in Iowa — a breeding ground for political activism — also contributes to the outspokenly leftist image of the UI, I imagine.

Aside from alleged collegiate Democrat-incubating, the age of college students themselves may play a large role in developing political persuasions. A 2007 poll conducted by the New York Times, CBS News, and MTV found that a majority of 17- to 29-year-old respondents held liberal viewpoints on most social issues (abortion, gay marriage, health care) — yet roughly equal percentages identified as Democrat or Republican. The pervasive nature of social issues, most notably on college campuses, apparently also contributes to their ingrained liberalism.

So I ask you, educated and reasonably informed Republicans, to “come out” and represent the right’s side of the equation. Let’s have rational debates and discuss policy in a manner our national government is seemingly unable to emulate.

I would have asked a conservative how he or she felt about marginalization, but one could not be found for comment.


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