The conservative intellectual William F. Buckley famously said that he would “rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard university”.
Buckley’s words reflect not only scepticism of ‘intellectuals’, but also a perception on his part that the views of Harvard faculty were not in line with his own. A recent survey by The Harvard Crimson (a student newspaper) suggests that if Buckley were alive today, he would not have changed his tune.
476 members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences were asked how they would characterise their politically leanings. The distribution of responses is shown below:
82% of respondents said “liberal” or “very liberal” (which in the US means “left-wing”). An additional 16% said “moderate”. Only 1.5% said “conservative”. And not a single respondent said “very conservative”. This means that conservative faculty at Harvard are outnumbered by roughly 55 to 1.
Incidentally, the massive left-wing skew of Harvard faculty can’t be explained by those with left-wing views having higher intelligence. According to the General Social Survey, about 30% of Americans who score in the top 4% of IQ have conservative views. So if Harvard faculty were selected only on IQ, you’d expect about 30% to be conservative (and about 25% to be moderate).
The lack of political diversity at places like Harvard creates several problems. For example, research ends up focussing disproportionately on topics that interest ‘liberals’ (like racism and sexism). And faculty discussions devolve into echo chambers, where certain assumptions cannot be questioned (such as that ‘diversity’ is good or that gender is a ‘social construct’).
Unfortunately, there are no good solutions.
Affirmative action for conservatives is intrinsically unappealing, and it’s hard to see how it would work in practice. People could just tick the conservative box on the job application, regardless of their actual views. Indeed, there’s already evidence students do this for race, and political views are even easier to fake.
Asking nicely isn’t going to work either: surveys show that a sizeable fraction of ‘liberals’ simply don’t want to associate with conservatives.
In the end, conservatives may have to accept they’re not going to have much influence through universities. Consequently, taking money away from subjects other than STEM may be their least bad option.