Every professor under whom I’ve studied in graduate school has been positioned on the left side of the political/religious spectrum. I am acutely aware of this because I am positioned on the right.
I do not say this to condemn my professors. I have learned a great deal from many smart and gifted scholars who have given me the opportunity to examine important perspectives that are different from my own.
However, when every book on every syllabus in every class makes baseline assumptions of ideological truths that run counter to core conservative principles, students on the right are marginalized.
Additionally, when a left-leaning bias turns into outright workplace discrimination, I must believe even my most liberal professors would join me in saying there is a problem.
Along that line Kennesaw State University hosted a small panel discussion April 1 exploring the experiences of conservative academics in Georgia.
Bringing to mind Teresa Wagner, who recently sued the University of Iowa for passing her over for a promotion because of her conservative worldview, Dr. Mary Grabar, Dr. Timothy Furnish and Dr. Melvin Fein spent two hours describing their experiences as part of an ideological minority within academia.
Dr. Grabar is an adjunct professor who founded the website Dissident Prof to examine the impact of academia’s ideological gatekeepers on the quality of American free thought. She opined that critical theory has politicized the humanities and undermined the Western canon. (Writing about dead white men is simply not in vogue unless one is disparaging dead white men.) She is right.
Cherokee's Dr. Furnish, a former assistant professor at Georgia Perimeter and guest lecturer at the Joint Special Operations University who works now as a geopolitical analyst of Islam, recalled his amazement when a hiring committee felt comfortable enough with ideological discrimination to tell him outright that he was simply “too conservative” to join a faculty despite the merits of his work. He then decried the very serious impact of the tunnel vision that is created by any politically correct approach to scholarship, which no longer analyzes action but apologizes for it. (Jihad isn’t jihad because liberals say it isn’t jihad?) He is right, too.
Adding much needed levity to the evening, Furnish cracked the audience up with quips like, “The national debt makes me want to buy a hemlock latte.”
Dr. Fein, a tenured Sociology professor at Kennesaw State who organized the panel, discussed how his Jewish heritage had — ironically — protected his tenure from being derailed by “tolerant” colleagues who didn’t like his politics. (In academia, those openly on the right are socially ostracized and professionally blackballed.) This is not OK.
However, when Dave Gethings, a young doctoral student, challenged the panel with instances in which they had framed the left in an overtly dismissive and antagonistic way, he highlighted how the evening’s format had fostered the deployment of reductionist rhetoric that did not invite open dialogue.
Unfortunately, he had a point.
For example, when Dr. Grabar called lyrics written by Tupac Shakur mere “scribblings” unworthy of being studied on college campuses, I suspect the young audience stopped hearing what she was saying because she suddenly sounded too abrasive and narrow-minded.
That is a shame because such tone deafness occasionally undermined the panel’s message, which was a good one that needs to be spoken loudly and often.
When only one political orientation is deemed “acceptable” on university campuses, spirited debate and intellectual inquiry are stifled. That is a major detriment to a society that depends upon the free exchange of ideas to function.
Furthermore, when universities feel it is OK to discriminate against job candidates based purely on mainstream ideological outlooks, the concept of diversity, which liberals say they value, is completely undermined.
The truth is there are no fair-minded intellectuals I know who think ideological homogenization in institutes of higher learning is a good idea. Therefore, it is doubly important to have more serious discussions about why liberal tilt exists in universities and what — if anything — should be done to restore a sense of balance.
When this happens, everyone who cares about education will be better served.