William H. Simon, Columbia Law
Nicholas Kristof recently editorialized on liberal arrogance and the general absence of conservative opinion in Academia:
We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table â€” er, so long as they arenâ€™t conservatives.
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. Weâ€™re fine with people who donâ€™t look like us, as long as they think like us. ..
Iâ€™ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.
â€œMuch of the â€˜conservativeâ€™ worldview consists of ideas that are known empirically to be false,â€ said Carmi.
â€œThe truth has a liberal slant,â€ wrote Michelle.
â€œWhy stop there?â€ asked Steven. â€œHow about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots?â€ …
To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogance â€” the implication that conservatives donâ€™t have anything significant to add to the discussion. My Facebook followers have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination.
If anybody doubted that Kristof had a point, this particular letter-to-the-editor in response from a snotty self-complacent Columbia Law professor provides excellent confirmatory evidence. All you under-educated and wealthy out there take heed!
To the Editor: Nicholas Kristof exaggerates the problem of liberal bias in the academy. It is not the job of the university to represent all the views held in the surrounding society. The commitment to critical inquiry requires it to disfavor some views based on religious dogma, social convention or superstition. The goal of a community of mutual respect requires it to disfavor others, including those that are explicitly racist, misogynist or homophobic. Such views can be expressed in the university, but it is not a cause for concern that academics do not espouse them in their teaching and research. Much of the disparity between views in the academy and in the Republican Party is attributable to their varying social bases. Academics tend to be educated and middle class. The current Republican Party is constituted disproportionately of the undereducated and the wealthy.
That education leads people to different views is neither surprising nor, on its face, disturbing. And if it is a problem that the views of rich people are underrepresented in the academy, they have had little trouble making up for this disadvantage in the media and the political system.
WILLIAM H. SIMON
The writer is a professor at Columbia Law School.