Enjoy perilous work? Try being a conservative on a college campus in
This is a story of how I was--almost--done in by the politically correct
crowd. In April 2000 my career as an economics teacher at Smith College
looked bright. Despite my having published only one academic article in four
years, my department liked my teaching and "strongly" recommended me for
reappointment. I was extremely productive over the next two and a half
years, publishing five additional academic articles and a book. In 2002,
however, my department voted to fire me by denying tenure. Why? I believe it
was because after April 2000 I started espousing conservative viewpoints in
Very few Republicans, let alone conservatives, teach at American colleges. A
2001 poll of 151 professors at Ivy League universities found that only 3%
considered themselves Republican, while 57% said they were Democrats. I
suspect that on many campuses Marxists greatly outnumber Republicans.
Leftist professors, consequently, are surrounded by kindred spirits and
often find it challenging to even conceive of a sane conservative
intellectual. Furthermore (and fortunately for me), many professors are so
comfortable in their disdain for the right that they don't even try to hide
their political bigotry.
Each of the nine senior members of the economics department who voted on my
tenure had to write a letter to the college president explaining the
reasoning behind his or her vote. One member wrote how I had "publicly"
criticized academia in my book, Game Theory at Work. Another wrote how she
was "disturbed" by some of the views I had expressed in a "National Review
Online" article about why college professors are so left-wing. Among my
positions that some academics find disturbing: that the U.S. should invade
countries such as Iran, which I believe support anti-American terrorists,
and that markets are usually more effective than governments at organizing
Smith's five-person Grievance Committee unanimously ruled that these two
members of the economics department had violated my academic freedom, and as
a result I was allowed to come up for tenure a second time. On the second
vote I was again voted down.
In early May this year Smith's Board of Trustees, perhaps fearing a lawsuit
and negative publicity, overturned this decision and granted me tenure.
To give you an idea of the political atmosphere on campus, in October 2002
several faculty members sent a petition to the president objecting to an
invitation to Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit, to speak on campus. No
one objected, however, when a porn star gave a how-to talk at Smith on anal
sex. Once when I was interviewing a job candidate over lunch with two other
members of the economics department, the three of them started criticizing,
in very harsh terms, those who opposed affirmative action. They had just
assumed that I agreed with them.
My tenure fight generated a large amount of publicity, which led to my being
recruited to run for the Massachusetts state senate this fall. As part of my
platform I have proposed starting an institute to bring intellectual
diversity in academia to Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts at
Amherst is an otherwise excellent school whose humanities and social science
faculty is almost exclusively left-wing.
To balance that I would create what I call the Minuteman Institute, which
would hire faculty to teach from a procapitalist viewpoint. Its members
would teach traditional courses. For example, the Minuteman Institute might
hire a women's studies professor who, in contrast to nearly every other
women's studies professor in America, wouldn't start her class by assuming
that America is racist, sexist and homophobic.
The Minuteman Institute I seek to create would in no way prevent left-wing
professors from criticizing America. Rather, it would seek to ensure that
students also hear arguments as to why America, capitalism and indeed
Western civilization have greatly benefited mankind.