I am European and came to America in 2002, where I teach at an elite Liberal Arts College. My native country is among the most socialized in the world, with strong leftist parties, from democratic socialists to outright communist. All across Europe the left – the far left, somewhere between Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean – has a very strong political position, as well as a clearly visible presence on university campuses.
Despite my European background I found myself deeply surprised by the political bias on college campuses here in America. Left-wing bias is almost undetectable among European college faculty compared to America’s academic institutions. The bias that I have encountered has so many facets that I am still encountering new ones.
One of the first signs of political bias was an unqualified admiration for Europe in general and its welfare systems in particular. Having both personal and scholarly experience of those, I told new colleagues of all the problems that I saw there: unemployment twice as high as in the U.S., heavy welfare dependency, high crime, health care rationing, perpetually rising taxes, etc.. This image of Europe did not accord with what my new-found colleagues – overwhelmingly liberal – had decided that they saw over in the Old World.
In fact, their uncritically positive image of Europe astonished me so much that I began trying to convince them that they were wrong. (In the name of free speech and an educated academic conversation – things that you would expect to find on a college campus.) This turned out to be a bad idea: my colleagues slowly but steadily changed their attitude toward me. I refused to acknowledge that the politics in Europe was as superior as European wine, cars or cuisine. (In fact, I prefer California wine, I drive a Chevrolet and I love pumpkin pie!)
The most feverishly liberal among my colleagues now began looking at me as a traitor. One told me to stop expressing my political views when other faculty was around. Why? Because, he said, “I do not want to have to defend why we have a conservative here” at our department.
As much as this shocked me, I began talking to a close group of friends about it. I had realized that the overwhelming majority of my colleagues were radically liberal, effectively socialist. I had also realized that the overwhelming majority among them, in turn, would not tolerate dissenting political views on campus.
I soon began encountering cases of such intolerance in action. One colleague had been effectively forced, rather openly, to register as a Democrat to guarantee his tenure. Another conservative faculty member – junior professor, still far from going up for tenure – was harassed for his political beliefs on an almost daily basis. The harassment was executed by tenured, senior members of his department and took such extreme measures that he simply packed up and left his position at the school.
As if ideological cleansing among faculty was not enough, I discovered that many of my colleagues were exercising political activism in the classroom. Students who learned that I was a conservative came to my office and began telling me of their experiences. These were stories of everything from “innocent” jokes in the classroom to open political bias in graded assignments. Radical leftist students were emboldened by the anti-Republican atmosphere that the radical leftist faculty created and carried their professors’ deeds a step further. Among the innumerable stories they told me was a recurring theme of disrespect, such as when “Bush 2004” signs were ripped off student dorm doors while signs supportive of Kerry or any other Democratic candidate were left untouched.
One of my students told me how he had been given writing assignments in a foreign language class that were always based on texts critical of President Bush. Another told me how a Math professor had spent the entire class right after the November ’04 election ranting against the President. Yet another was told by the professor, before the whole class, that she was “uninformed” because of her conservative preferences.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Overall, conservative students said they felt like second-class citizens, made legitimate targets of ridicule or harassment by faculty who, in official settings, speak at great length about openness, tolerance, diversity and free speech.
FrontPage Magazine, among others, has shown that this is a national phenomenon, an academic epidemic. My own experiences corroborate these observations on many levels: liberal faculty keep conservative faculty out of the ranks; they elevate their political preferences to scholarly judgment and blend it in to their teaching.
This liberal onslaught in college must seem overwhelming to students who have not yet formed their political opinions. It was hardly surprising to see the map of last year’s election, where areas with high density of college graduates voted for Kerry to a much larger extent than other areas. After four years of liberal indoctrination in college it is easy to take the word of so many Ph.D.’s for truth and vote accordingly.
The long term perspective of this is rather disturbing. In issue after issue, the liberal college professor is very critical of America and the values that it stands for. I have heard American college professors tell me – or students – that we cannot say whether our way of government is better than what they had in, e.g., Iraq under Saddam Hussein. This goes hand-in-hand with the Euro-phoria that many campus liberals are caught up in: American government, American way of life, is liable to all sorts of criticism, while much of the rest of the world gets a free pass.
This is the general atmosphere on many of America’s college campuses. I am surprised to have found it, especially in these proportions, and I am quite disturbed by the future prospect of it. To me, America is not just a symbol of freedom and prosperity – it is the home of freedom and prosperity and a role model to the rest of the world. I share this view with millions of others, but not, it seems, with the majority of America’s college professors.
So long as political indoctrination continues on America’s college campuses the gradual transformation of America will continue. Bit by bit, step by step, the liberal college professors educate new generations into believing that liberal values are better, more refined, more logical, than conservative values. The end result is a slow but steady reform of America, away from what it once was and into something it was never meant to be: a second Europe. Gradually, more and more young Americans graduate from college and vote for more leftist candidates. Issue by issue, state by state, the will of the radical college professors is allowed to increase the presence of government and roll back individual freedom.
There is no question that the colleges will get more radical over time as today’s tenured liberal professors recruit even more junior faculty with similarly leftist values. Their biased teaching, radical and often outright anti-American, poses a grave threat over time to the long term health and prosperity of America itself. It is therefore critical that future generations of college students are allowed to grow into strong, independent citizens, proud of their heritage, confident about the future, without liberal – or conservative! – political bias on campus.
It is time for America’s conservatives to form a genuine, coherent and coordinated strategy to bring fairness, balance and an Academic Bill of Rights on to the college campuses. Academia will not change from the inside – only outside pressure, and dollars, can get the job done. One way toward real change is that we begin to demand fairness, balance and rights for our students as we consider to whom we should write the tuition checks.
It is a good idea to attach similar demands to donations when you get a call from the fundraisers at your local college. After all, America is still a relatively free economy where money can speak a clear language that everybody understands.
Including liberal college professors.