Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Deep Blue Campuses"

The Leadership Institute has produced a new report, "Deep Blue Campuses," that really offers nothing new or earth-shattering regarding campus political leanings:
American campuses are very different from the nation that surrounds them. The differences are especially profound when it comes to politics. The United States is closely divided between the two major parties. No such division exists on any major college campus. . .

Employees at Harvard University gave John Kerry $25 for every $1 they gave George W. Bush. At Duke University, the ratio stood at $8 to $1. At Princeton University, a $302 to $1 ratio prevails.

The Kerry/Bush split in the number of donations is even more extreme. John Kerry received 257 donations of $200 or more from Stanford, while his opponent got just 28. At Northwestern, Kerry received 100 contributions and Bush six. Georgetown University donations swung 132 to six in Kerry’s favor.

Deep Blue Campuses examines the political donations of employees at the top twenty-five national universities listed in U.S. News and World Report’s 2004 college issue. Specifically, the booklet compares donations in the 2004 election cycle to the two major presidential candidates, George W. Bush and John Kerry.

Although George Bush claimed a bare majority of votes in the actual election, John Kerry trounced him in donations received from colleges and universities. In fact, John Kerry received the lion’s share of donations from workers at all twenty-five schools featured in U.S. News and World Report’s annual survey. At one school (Dartmouth), Kerry posted an infinite advantage: FEC records show 39 donations to Kerry but not a single Dartmouth employee donating to George W. Bush’s campaign.
Now, I don't believe that it necessarily follows that political inclinations manifest themselves to a large degree in the classroom, but, in my experience and others, there are certainly some detectable "shadings" and asides that do crop up from time to time. Academics are almost inherently political and it is naive to believe that these numbers are no big deal. While some sort of "ideology test" is a violation of the spirit of open debate, perhaps what these reports can accomplish is to give those in "the Academy" pause before diverting too far from the course work or lecture at hand. I'm not just talking about the "liberals" here, either, given the recent reports out of the Air Force Academy that there is a culture of active evangelical Christian proslytizing, and perhaps even religious discrimination, that has sprung up.

While the debate, in the near term, has taken on a predictable ideological bent, the real goal should be to promote and champion the cause of true intellectual freedom on campus. Without real debate on campus, the sharp edge of rhetoric can dull and critical thinking becomes less so. Perhaps for those permanently ensconced in the Ivory Tower this is nothing of concern, but for those whom they ostensibly teach, for the students who pay the often-high tuitions that subsidize the academic profession, they enter the world unable to critically scrutinize those ideas that both don't align and do align with their own preconceptions. If they have never been really forced to defend their ideas, will they be able to once outside the ivy covered walls?

Thus, for purely ideological reasons if nothing else, (and to approach this from a cynical angle) it would seem that the best way to indoctrinate students and keep them on board once they leave campus would be to offer them real counter-arguments, perhaps even presented by those who genuinely believe them (gasp), against which the students can practice. Yes, perhaps some will actually have their minds changed, but probably more won't. As a result, they will be better prepared to deal with those who don't necessarily march in ideological lock-step with them in the "real world."

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