Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The "UC's Chemerinsky-Summers-Gate: A Study in ... uh ... Comparative Politics
Gail Heriot

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee has an interesting perspective on the UC's twin scandals--the hiring, firing and apparently the re-hiring of Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the fledgling UC-Irvine Law School and the hiring and thus far unrepentent firing of former Harvard University President Larry Summers as a mere speaker. 

I won't comment tonight on the relative merits of each of these cases on academic freedom grounds.  (I'm sleepy and would like to get to bed early tonight.)  I did, however, want to point out that there is some empirical evidence on the issue of whether left-leaning or right-leaning academics get better academic jobs.  The answer they found was liberals. No, this study doesn not in itself prove that conservatives are discriminated against in hiring, but it does show that conservatives will tend to be at less prestigious universities than liberals with equivalent publishing records.  While there are other possible explanations (if conservatives are more likely to be married, perhaps they are less mobile), discrimination surely must be considered as a possible (indeed much more than possible)culprit.  The article, which is by Stan Rothman, S. Robert Lichter and Neil Nevitte, is entitled "Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty."  It abstract reads thusly:

"This article first examines the ideological composition of American university faculty and then tests whether ideological homogeneity has become self-reinforcing. A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict."


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Gail Heriot


Another news flash, the sun rises in the east.

Posted by: krm | Sep 19, 2007 7:33:47 AM

There's an easy answer for this one. In the past few decades, there have arisen a number of conservative schools that need not respond to market forces when it comes to hiring. Oral Roberts, Liberty, Regent, Patrick Henry, Pepperdine, and to some extent, GMU* all come to mind. These schools hire faculty predominantly on the basis of their ideological positions and not their scholarship and unsurprisingly, the graduate students follow the same pattern. As a result, there exists a glut of underqualified radical conservative academics who would not have been able to get their credentials had they been forced to compete against in an open market system, like other conservatives, moderates, and liberals do, and the education at these institutions is markedly worse than almost all schools in America, as ideology again trumps intellectual inquiry. It should not be surprising that these people have a hard time finding a job.

Imagine that the University of Minnesota decided to open a satellite campus that granted a PhD to every Hmong person who applied and didn't bother to teach them much, if anything at all. We wouldn't be surprised to find that Hmong candidates as a group suffered in the job market. Were one to filter out the Hmong who went through this special program and focused on those who went through traditional programs, my guess is the discrimination would disappear.

So filter out the academics with questionable credentials from conservative diploma mills like Oral Roberts, GMU, and Patrick Henry and see if those numbers hold. Antioch college couldn't support itself and it folded, leaving the right alone on this issue.

*George Mason is a tough call in some respects. Some might argue its legitimacy is closer to Notre Dame's; conservative but driven by intellectual inquiry and not ideology. I would venture that the fact that it's a public school drives that image more than the output of its graduates and faculty. By most reasonable measures, GMU is closer to Regent than it is to UVA.

Posted by: Allen | Sep 20, 2007 11:07:05 PM