Confronting the Lack of Intellectual Diversity on New England Campuses

This week, Boston Magazine published a very interesting article on the lack of intellectual diversity on Northeastern campuses. The article features an interview with Professor Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College, whose New York Times piece on this topic caused a stir last summer.

From the magazine:

Last spring, Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, decided to run the numbers. From the start, he certainly expected liberal professors to outnumber conservatives, but his data—25 years’ worth of statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute—told a far more startling
tale: In the South and throughout the Great Plains, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors hovered around 3 to 1. On the liberal left coast, the ratio was 6 to 1. And then there was New England—which looked like William F. Buckley’s worst nightmare—standing at 28 to 1. “It astonished me,” says Abrams, whose research revealed that conservative professors weren’t just rare; they were being pushed to the edge of extinction.

This phenomenon has been quietly unfolding for years. Abrams, who describes himself as a centrist and earned a doctorate from Harvard, sees the decline as a canary in the higher education coal mine, undercutting the mission of college and diminishing the value of six-figure educations. When the student and teacher activists of the 1960s marched across many of these same leafy campuses, they were often fighting for freedom of expression. After all, isn’t that what being a social progressive is all about? Today’s movements, on the other hand, are widely aimed at preventing the established power structure from harming less-privileged groups. Consequently, student activists have banded together—sometimes alongside faculty—in support of safe spaces, protective speech, and trigger warnings. It is the best way, the thinking goes, to align with and support all identity groups. To some people on the receiving end, however, progressive rhetoric can sound shrill and an awful lot like suppression of speech and intolerant political correctness. The result? Many conservatives on New England’s campuses are feeling more marginalized and alienated than ever before.

If you believe that plurality, open discourse, and exposure to conflicting lines of thought are critical to a complete education and to a fuller understanding of how the world works, this relatively recent shift should set off alarm bells.

There is much more interesting material in the full article, which is well worth reading.

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