College Faculty Don’t “Think Like America”

by James A. Bacon

It has become a widespread conviction on Virginia’s colleges and universities that faculty and staff should “look like Virginia” in their demographic make-up. There is no comparable obsession with hiring faculty and staff that “think like Virginia.”

Employees of James Madison University — faculty, staff, and administrators — donated more than $148,000 to Democratic Party candidates and political committees between November 2018 and November 2020, according to research conducted by Campus Reform. In other words, 92.9% of all JMU employees who made political donations gave to Democratic candidates or Democratic-aligned organizations such as Act Blue and Biden for President. Conversely, only 7.90% of campus money went to right-leaning candidates and organizations.

And that makes JMU the most conservative of the three public universities researched.

Radford University employees donated $46,003 to the Left side of the political spectrum compared to $3,660 to the conservative side — 94.0% compared to 6.0%.

But even Radford was less imbalanced than the College of William & Mary. There, faculty, staff and administrators contributed $201,506 to Democrats and lefties versus to $3,403 for right-leaning candidates and causes — 98.02% compared to 1.98%.

Not every employee or faculty member contributed, of course, and there’s no way to know how the non-donors lean politically. Also, there is the distinct possibility that the intolerance of highly vocal Leftists on campuses suppress donations by Republicans and conservatives that would create a public record of their political sympathies. Who would want to expose himself to being outed, criticized and made the subject of discrimination or retribution? There may be more Republican sentiment than indicated by the numbers but it’s underground, so to speak.

But evidence is accumulating that colleges have become intellectual mono-cultures — and that the problem is getting worse. Faculty members are being recruited on explicitly ideological grounds. At the University and other institutions — I don’t know if it’s so at JMU, RU or CWM, but it’s worth looking into — job applicants have to fill out “diversity statements,” and they must subject themselves to diversity “training.” What right-thinking graduate student in their right mind would want to pursue a lifelong career in such an environment?

A self-selection process occurs — something I can attest to from personal experience.

I was a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University in the mid-1970s in the African history program. But I was an intellectual outlier. In other words, I wasn’t a Marxist or far leftist. I did not see colonialism as the root of all evil in the newly independent African nations.  And I was White. Although most African history professors at that time where White, too, they were tenured. There was agitation even way back then to increase the number of Blacks in academia, and the most obvious place to start was in the fields of African and Black studies. It dawned on me that committing four or five years earning a Ph.D. in a field in which I would be unemployable would not be a wise investment of my time. So, I took my M.A. degree, and I bolted.

The more lopsided universities become ideologically, the more hostile they will become to those with different views, the more the pressure for conformity will grow, and the more hostile the institutions will be for faculty, grad students and, most importantly, students with different views.

Places like Harvard and Yale have so much money in their endowments that they can afford to give the middle finger to the public without fear of retribution. But public universities make a mistake by doing the same. Public universities still rely upon state support and financial aid. Here in Virginia, where Republicans just recaptured a majority in the House of Delegates, they must cultivate the goodwill of Republican legislators. They can blather all they want about educating young people for the jobs of the future, but if they stand out as bastions of partisan hostility toward Republicans and the values Republicans believe in, they should not be surprised if legislators one day decide to give them the middle finger right back.