Posted by Jay Livingston
We all know that conservatives on campus have it rough.
outnumbered by liberals by 3 to 1 even in fields known to be relatively conservative, such as economics, by more than 5 to 1 in moderate fields such as political science and by 20 to 1 or more in many fields, such as sociology and anthropology.The numbers are cited by Richard Redding in a recent op-ed in LA Times and other newspapers (including yesterday’s Star-Ledger, which is where my colleague Arnie Korotkin found it and brought it my attention.)
If you’re a conservative like Redding, what do you see as the solution? Surely you would not be in favor of affirmative action, forcing schools to hire more conservatives to the faculty and admit more conservatives to the student body. That tramples on the sacred rights of the individual. If you oppose affirmative action based on demographic characteristics (race, sex), you would oppose it even more strongly when it’s based on ephemeral qualities like political orientation.
But no. Redding is all for affirmative action for conservatives, and he defends it on the same grounds that liberals defend affirmative action for minorities and women. It makes for greater “educational benefits.”
Campus conservatives like Redding (he’s a dean and professor at a law school) feel as though they’re in a foxhole (a FoxTVhole?), and they’re giving up their affirmative action atheism. Now they believe.
Conservatives also oppose campus speech codes. These are well-intended, they argue, but by trying to assure that feelings are not hurt, these codes trample on freedom of speech. From the conservative view, if the minorities and women on campus feel intimidated by other people’s free speech, that’s too bad. They’ll just have to man up.
But another part of Redding’s argument is very similar to the speech-code rationale. He cites a survey of students which found that “most did not think it entirely safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus . . . . conservative students feel alienated . . . conservative students lack academic role models.” Apparently, when the feelings of conservatives are involved, it’s time for action – affirmative action.