Pretty clear that the one group is expected to keep in the closet on college campuses these days: conservatives—especially conservative faculty. Harvey Mansfield tells the story of how, when he finally received tenure at Harvard man years ago, he sent a telegram to Leo Strauss saying, “I have received tenure. Now we raise the Jolly Roger!”
But even tenure won’t necessarily protect you from the braying hounds of leftist conformity. Witness the case of Marquette University professor John McAdams, who faces possible firing over a blog post we wrote in defense of a student who expressed objections to gay marriage in a class taught by a graduate teaching assistant. Yes you heard that right—an ostensibly Catholic university is going after a professor who took the side of traditional marriage. But stranger things have happened. (Conor Friedersdorf offers a good account of this episode at The Atlantic.)
The self-censorship of conservative faculty is one of the many aspects of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, by Joshua Dunn and Jon Shields, just out from Oxford University Press. The book is getting a lot of attention, including a piece today from the American Interest called “The Last Minority.” One sample:
The reason that political homogeneity matters in the academy—indeed, the reason that it arguably matters more there than in other professions—goes back to the Enlightenment tradition that birthed the very disciplines under discussion in this book. In his 1993 work, Kindly Inquisitors, Jonathan Rauch argued that the most important legacy of the Enlightenment is the invention of what he calls “liberal science”—the idea that knowledge can only be created through a competitive and decentralized process in which ideas and theories are continuously challenged, falsified, and refined. An academic class in thrall to a political orthodoxy will naturally be less likely to challenge ideas that fall within this orthodoxy, and more likely to reject, wholesale, ideas that fall outside it.
I had scheduled to tape a podcast today with co-author Jon Shields about the book, but he had to cancel due to a nasty bug that has laid him low. But as it happens, I interviewed the other co-author, Joshua Dunn, last week on the Bill Bennett radio show, and so until we can fix up to have both authors on a proper Power Line Show podcast, here’s my segment with Josh from last week: