Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently caused a stir by calling President Obama a “snob” for saying that he wanted all Americans to go to college (it’s actually not what the president wants, but that’s beside the point). “There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day,” Sen. Santorum explained indignantly, “that [sic] aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them.”
Gathering momentum, he later claimed in a radio interview that when he was in college, his professors deliberately gave him lower grades because he was a conservative.
Santorum’s lament reiterates a familiar complaint from those on the political right in America, who have long charged that university and college faculties are loaded with left-wingers, and that these academics bring their political opinions into the classroom, where millions of impressionable young minds await reprogramming.
No one with any grasp on reality can deny that academia does have a liberal accent. Numerous studies and polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of higher education faculty members hold left-of-center political views. As Dr Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, has noted, this cannot be down to chance, since the percentage of the general public who self-identify as conservative is 40 percent, double the percentage who identify as liberal.
Numerous theories have been put forward for why this phenomenon exists. Those on the right charge, and say they have the documentation to prove it, that conservatives are systematically frozen out of academia. College students aspiring to be educators, they say, are discouraged by their professors if they have conservative views; faculty members tend to hide conservative beliefs for fear of ridicule by their peers; and conservative academics have a harder time getting published because the peer review process is controlled by their liberal colleagues.