The Chronicle Almanac: Some Ideological Concerns

This week The Chronicle’s annual Almanac of Higher Education hit the mailboxes, and deep in the data are some usual and unusual findings.

On the “Political Orientation” question, the customary breakdowns appear. The percentage of faculty members who declare themselves “Far left” or “Liberal” outnumber that of “Far right” or “Conservative” by more than three to one: 55.8 percent to 15.9 percent. The other category, “Middle-of-the-road” stands at 28.4 percent. Given the political climate of the campus, I assume that most of those moderates aren’t, in fact, in the middle, but rather fall into center-left or liberal. Compared to their colleagues, perhaps yes, but not compared to the general U.S. population.

The slant to the left is no surprise, of course, but the “far” polarities do merit notice. If we just take far left and far right, the imbalance runs to more than 12 to 1. This has significant implications in light of the Law of Group Polarization.

Further down the survey, we see how much faculty members believe that colleges have an activist mission. Seventy-one percent of them agree that “Colleges should be actively involved in solving social problems.” 87.9 percent agree that “Colleges should encourage students to be involved in community-service activities.” The same percentage claims that “Colleges have a responsibility to work with their surrounding communities to address local issues.” Let’s give it the proper name: indoctrination.

At the top of that category comes 93.6 percent of faculty members who believe that “a racially-ethnically diverse student body enhances the educational experience of all students.” On those grounds, then, more than nine out of ten college teachers believe that Spelman College, Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Fisk, and other renowned HBCU’s provide an inferior education to students.

Finally, at the end of the survey of faculty members comes an extraordinary admission. The heading is “Issues believed to be of high or highest priority at own institution,” and the last item is “To develop an appreciation of multiculturalism.” To that query, 54.5 percent of respondents answered “Yes.” In other words, when asked about whether their campus promoted a particular ideology and wanted students to embrace it, they agreed. Note that the statement doesn’t say “study multiculturalism.” It says “appreciate multiculturalism.” It sets a particular belief in front of students and urges them to value it. 

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