Should colleges hire equal numbers of liberal and conservative professors? Should that be a law?

A Republican legislator in Iowa wants a political litmus test for faculty at the state’s public campuses to ensure a balance of ideologies.

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, told the Des Moines Register, “We have an awful lot of taxpayer dollars that go to support these fine universities. Students should be able to go to their professors, ask opinions, and they should know publicly whether that professor is a Republican or Democrat or no-party affiliation, and therefore they can expect their answers to be given in as honest a way possible. But they should have the ability to ask questions of professors of different political ideologies.”

Chelgren is proposing a state law to bring balance. His Senate bill 288 requires:

Partisan balance of the faculty employed at each of the institutions of higher learning governed by the board. A person shall not be hired as a professor or instructor member of the faculty at such an institution if the person’s political party affiliation on the date of hire would cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other political party, on the date established by the board for determining the political party composition of the faculty…For purposes of this subsection, “partisan balance” refers to balance between faculty members who declare a political affiliation with one of the two political parties whose candidates for president of the United States or for governor, as the case may be, received the largest and next largest number of votes at the last general election.

According to the Register, Chelgren believes political affiliation represents another dimension of the diversity colleges contend they want on their campuses.

“I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity,” said Sen. Mark Chelgren. “They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are.”

Asked whether the regents need greater diversity of thought, spokesman Josh Lehman said the board “expects the universities to hire the most qualified faculty to teach our students.”

But Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City whose district includes the University of Iowa, said she doesn’t believe such a quota would pass Constitutional muster. “We do have a Constitution and it’s there for a reason, and it’s to try to protect equity and to make sure that we don’t judge people on the basis of their race or religion, their creed, their political beliefs,” she said. “We never ask that question when someone’s hired: Are you a Republican, Democrat, or independent, or Green Party or socialist or any of that. And I think that would be clearly discriminatory.”

There’s long been a contention that liberal college professors convert impressionable students to their leftist views, although related research by April Kelly-Woessner and Matthew C. Woessner suggests that may be overstated.

They note:

If college faculty roughly reflected the politics of the public at large, the all-too-human tendency to favor one’s personal beliefs would be of no consequence.  Because most professors come from the political left, the sum total of the average student’s collegiate experience would, theoretically, reinforce political beliefs that are generally incompatible with conservative ideas.  Accordingly, even a corps of highly professional faculty, consciously dedicated to a bipartisan approach to instruction, may be incapable of presenting political material even-handedly if they are collectively opposed to either liberal or conservative ideas.

Overall, our research indicates that an instructor’s politics matters. Efforts to politicize the classroom have a deleterious effect on a political science instructor’s core responsibility to educate students about the workings of government and generate enthusiasm about the political world. However, our study suggests that students may not be the sponges that some people have suggested.  At least among students with preformed political views, it seems unlikely that professors’ messages would be taken at face value.  This may mean that the “indoctrination” effect may be somewhat overstated.  Still, it is important to note that our study simply does not measure political persuasion.  While we have some evidence that shows students are resistant to information from professors whose political orientations differ from their own, this does not mean that no persuasion occurs – only that students are less open to information when their views differ from those of the professor.

 

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
Luc Racaut
Luc Racaut

And buddhists, jews, muslims and scientologists ... equality and diversity gone mad

Prof. William G. Naphy
Prof. William G. Naphy

Stupid. Applicants will simply sign up for the party affiliation which is 'under represented' - coupled to which what if an area (or will it be statewide, nationwide) has, say, the American Socialist Party with 5% affiliation of voters (will independents count in the mix?)? Will a university hire 5% socialists? The whole idea is ludicrous. What is worrying is that it seems that the present political environment has allowed / encouraged lawmakers / politicians to feel free to propose this sort of crap.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Stupid idea for a law.  But, colleges do not do themselves any favors when they have professors who go off on a left-wing-nut rant about Trump being a "terrorist" like that so-called "professor" at Orange Beach college recently did.   The college's response?  They're going after the student who videotaped the rant and posted it on social media.


My advice to Senator Chelgren?  Climb down off your high horse and quit worrying about an "issue" that doesn't effect 99% of the population.  

I've always said there is not a dimes worth of difference between the Dimocrats and the Repuglicans.  Quit trying to prove me right.

Kathy Thompson
Kathy Thompson

No more laws... Laws are only made for a certain few..

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Maureen, that was an excellent discussion with you, high school principal Dr. Duke Bradley, and the female Democratic legislator on "Lawmakers" on public television this evening. You and Dr. Bradley made some excellent points such as unnecessarily duplicating of bureaucratic educational services between the local and state leadership and the need for addressing individual student needs, especially those who enter high school behind high school curriculum expectations.

The female legislator whose name I regret I cannot recall made the excellent point that the main problem is poverty which also must be addressed by community wraparound services for the whole family.

I do hoe you three will be returning to speak further on "Lawmakers" as the television host suggested. Thank you for your educational insight.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@MaryElizabethSings I was impressed with Dr. Bradley. I feel he knows more about his school and his students than any "chief turnaround officer" hired by the state.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I felt that way about Dr. Bradley, also. He knew, and named, the essential challenges which need to be addressed in his school and he cares. He made me proud to have been an educator for 35 years of my life.

HockeyFan99
HockeyFan99

Ahhh yes, those wonderful College professors!  Reminds me of an old saying:  Those who CAN....DO.  Those who CAN'T...TEACH!!!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Intellectual ideas transcend politics. To limit our university experiences in courses only to the political realm will limit intellectual growth in universities.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Just ridiculous. Illegal any way you think of it. Also impractical: the young students usually don't pay much attention to the politics of their "ancient" professors, but just roll their eyes or check their email on their SmartPhones when professors hold forth politically.

Donalyn Harris Vaughn
Donalyn Harris Vaughn

Colleges should hire the most qualified professors regardless of political ideology.

Babycat
Babycat

Better idea, have the college professors keep their bias' to themselves and actually allow free and open discussion in the classroom and on campus.  Unfortunately, many people today have lost the art of listening to others and learning.  You may not agree with their view but it may help you understand.  There is no one perfect answer to anything, but there is a way to meet in the middle!

gapeach101
gapeach101

I want to know what happens if a professor changes his/her affiliation.  Can this person now be fired? 

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

No one should be "required" to hire anyone.
An actual conservative would know that.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@jarvis1975  The guys like this Iowa fella are total frauds who wouldn't know a principle if someone was beating them over the head with it.  They say whatever they need to say to suit the moment and their audience.    Unfortunately that can get you elected President these days. 

Chloecake
Chloecake

I'm trying to figure out how the party, chiefly against affirmative action for racial diversity, is now suddenly for diversity when it comes to political party affiliation. Must we politicize everything? Leave education open to open minds and varying ideas, people willing to see gray areas, the unfettered examine data and science and all the other reasons public universities tend to be more liberal. These reasons can't be overcome by writing laws to insure a political bias in hiring. I can't imagine how enforcement of this concept would screw up an educational system that is the envy around the world. 

Wrecker
Wrecker

Although legislation is the wrong way to accomplish this goal, it remains a worthy ambition.  I have been told for 30 years that diversity is an ideal in and of itself.  Who would argue that we should not strike for intellectual balance and exposing our children to a wide variety of viewpoints?

gapeach101
gapeach101

This sounds too much to me like parents who homeschool because they don't want their children introduced to threatening ideas (like evolution).  If students aren't confronted with new and different ideas when they are still under mommy and daddy's roof, how will they ever make it in the real world?

Wrecker
Wrecker

@gapeach101 Universities are the farthest environment from "the real world" that I can imagine.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@Wrecker @gapeach101  I agree with that, but exactly when do you think children should be introduced to ideas that conflict with mommy and daddy's idea of the world?

dawg fan
dawg fan

Basically we've got a snowflake who doesn't like opinions that differ from his own and wants to do something about it.  That's all that's going on here.  That's what's so funny about clowns like this and the piece of trash in the White House.  They act so tough and call everybody else snowflakes but they are in fact the most sensitive nancies you will ever meet in your life.  Oh boo hoo your kids have to listen to a liberal professor.  Cry us all a river snowflake.  I have to listen to a President who cries like a teenage girl on twitter during intelligence briefings and you don't seem to mind at all.  Somehow I get through it, mostly with laughter. 

Wrecker
Wrecker

@dawg fan Funny to see someone "acting tough" on the web behind their anonymity.  I get through your posts with laughter as well, mostly the derisive type.

dawg fan
dawg fan


@Wrecker I'm not acting tough, just expressing my complete and utter lack of any and all respect for the piece of human trash in the White House.  He's a tough guy who "tells it like it is" I'm told so he shouldn't need guys like you sticking up for him.  Don't be a hero pal. 


weetamoe
weetamoe

I do not believe professors "convert" student to their  views, but I know that some bias creeps in to grading. A responsible professor should abide by an obligation to provide clear written guidelines of course expectations, including criteria used in grading written work. 

redweather
redweather

@weetamoe Most of us do explain to our students how we will arrive at their grades, especially those of us who teach English.  But if I'm teaching math, for example, how does bias creep in when grading an objective test?

Ed Danger Watson
Ed Danger Watson

It's funny that when a great professor teaches a student to think for themselves they're all labeled as crazy liberals in the ivory towers of Academia. That should tell you all you need to know about the difference in the parties. As a result, this anti-intellectual movement is moving us to an idiocracy. Let's take back intellectualism.

independentiii
independentiii

" one of the two political parties" -that will encourage diversity of opinion, yea. 

What about independents, non-affiliated, what about when the Rep's split into 2 parties, --don't those peoples opinions count? 

And what about the reality that you would have a hard time getting enough conservatives to teach.  Conservatives tend to be self-interested, and want to make all the money they can for themselves.  They don't have time to help (teach) for the good of society, much less to take the time and expense to get educated enough to be able .

And what about, just about a decade ago, when most R's in Ga now were then D's?

ByteMe
ByteMe

Math is liberal?  Science is liberal?  How did that happen?


Just another stupid bill.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Neither is comprehensive history nor great literature, which reflect the human condition with depth.

Wrecker
Wrecker

@MaryElizabethSings History and literary interpretation are completely viewpoint dependent.  Math and science classes have answers.  History and literature have opinions.

time for reform
time for reform

Consider that voters have put the Republican Party in charge of both houses of Congress, the White House and two-thirds of all governorships and state legislatures nationwide. Including Georgia's.

Then consider that biased hiring results in nearly every college liberal arts faculty being exclusively liberal-Democrat. 

Perhaps those parents paying full tuition for their child to attend Emory, the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech should be given exclusive rights to determine just who will get a teaching contract any given year.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Then, you would be equating political trends, which blow with the wind and invariably change, with intellectual depth and acuity which transcend political spheres.

To do that would be fundamentally intellectually dishonest because intellectual growth is not equivalent to popularity contests. Consider Jim Crow's declining popularity over time because of the growing intellectual and spiritual insights of the populace, over time.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@time for reform  Perhaps the parents to children paying full tuition should simply find a school of their political liking.  Who would work at a university where parents selected professors?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

To "Time for Reform":

You have misread my thinking. I personally am a political Democrat and I wear that "hat" when I am an advocate for political ideas.

However, I am also a thinker who respects all intellectual thoughts and ideas because that is a given if one's thinking transcends the limitations of simply political spheres.

Btw, I enjoy reading the conservative thoughts of conservative thinkers in the political sphere of both George Will and David Brooks. Moreover, I appreciate the contradictory ideas for our nation's future of both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton although I do believe that Jefferson's ideas are more eternal than are Hamilton's.

I try to practice thinking with the intellectual acuity that I was blessed to receive from my higher education in NYC.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@time for reform LOL.  How would it would be fair and intellectual for parents with no experience in a particular field to pick the professors who would teach those fields?  You might want to quit while you're behind here pal.  This would be like electing someone President who has no experience doing anything other than closing real estate deals and running his mouth on TV.  Oh wait . . . 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Jefferson wrote that if we are to keep our democratic Republic, we must educate the American population (to understand with depth).

dawg fan
dawg fan

@time for reform That's not what you said. You said parents should be given "exclusive rights" to determine teachers.  Which parents?

dawg fan
dawg fan

@time for reform Yes, very much so.  I am shocked that a man of such low integrity, class and dignity is now President.  This disturbs most reasonable people.  I am certainly not alone.

time for reform
time for reform

@dawg fan 

Voters in 30 of the 50 states that President Trump won (including Georgia) clearly disagree with you.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@time for reform @MaryElizabethSings

Mr. Brooks, and Mr. Will 

are conservatives, and 

they have spent their

careers articulating a

conservative approach

in policy and analysis.

Each man has publicly

spoken and written 

numerous articles on 

various issues that

have been important

 to conservatives for 

decades. I often have

different opinions on 

the issues they discuss

and write about, but both

men express their ideas 

and thoughts well, even

though I disagree with

many of their political 

positions on issues.





Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Iowa appears to be going over the edge.  Let's continue to select teachers for their proven accomplishments and expertise in the field for which they are hired.  (Publish or Perish). 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Wouldn't it be better to screen out professors who believed in magic instead of science? Would you want your child taught by someone who believes the Harry Potter stories are real?

weetamoe
weetamoe

@AvgGeorgian I would not want my child taught by anyone  who believes the Harry Potter stories are literature.  But since students at many colleges are whining that Shakespeare is "too hard" and demanding  crayons and coloring books and the time and safe spaces to use them, maybe the country's intellectual decline has reached that level.