Unearthing Myths Concerning Political Professors

Many people assume that most college professors are liberal, but is this really the case?

A report entitled “The Faculty Bias Studies: Science or Propaganda?” was released last November by John Lee, Ed.D., the founder and president of JBL Associates, a post-secondary education research and analysis group, with the purpose of finding out whether or not this liberal bias really does exist. Lee examined eight different studies done on the subject to come to his findings.
According to the report, “several research publications have presented evidence purporting to show that higher education in the United States displays a systematic liberal bent. This, in the opinion of critics, marginalizes conservative voices in the faculty and results in political views being presented in the classroom and a research agenda that is shaped by liberal priorities.”

One of the studies cited by Lee, “Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action,” presented by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, stated that 49% of students from US News & World Report’s top 50 colleges and Universities said that some of their professors frequently made political comments while teaching. Another study, “Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities,” presented by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, claimed that in their study of faculty and administrators, there was a ratio of ten Democrats for every one Republican.

Lee’s report concluded that while college professors are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, “none of the studies reviewed here indicates how the supposed liberal bias affects the hiring process or promotion opportunities.

“Until credible studies are conducted to provide a more grounded and systematic approach to understanding the subtle relationship between political beliefs and professional responsibilities, it is irresponsible to suggest that the conclusions reached in these reports represent a scientifically derived set of facts,” the report claimed.

Although the report found that the liberal bias many people believe exists on college campuses may not really be there, one wonders if this is true at St. John’s as well.

“I’ve been at St. John’s for almost 40 years and I’ve found professors all across the spectrum,” said Dr. Connolly-Weinert, a theology professor at St. John’s. “It is easy to go over the top in the classroom, but sometimes professors use exaggeration as a way of making an impact. It’s about what will make teaching the most effective and sometimes it’s more of a pedagogical method rather than a bias. Most professors are very conscientious and are trying to do the best version of their job.”

However, many students believe that this so-called liberal bias does exist at the school.

“I had a professor last year who would always talk about politics instead of the subject he was supposed to be teaching, and he was very liberal,” said student Gary Sasidek. “In fact, most of the professors I’ve had have been liberal.”

Student Sharon Dindial said that the majority of her professors have been liberal. “Sometimes they try to seem like they’re not one-sided, but their opinions do come out during class,” she said. She added that it is mostly older professors who seem to show their bias the most. “The younger professors have been more partial.”

Laura Dolce agreed that many of her professors have stated their liberal opinions during class. “I haven’t had any professors who’ve shared a conservative point of view with the class,” she said.

Although students may believe that a liberal bias exists in the classrooms at St. John’s, those in charge of hiring new faculty had something else to say on the matter.

“A person’s political leanings are in no way taken into account at hiring,” said Dr. Sicari, the chair of the English department in St. John’s College.

“The classroom is not a forum for touting one’s own personal beliefs about contemporary issues, unless the issues are relevant to the course of study or provide relevant and useful examples for students to consider in applying ideas or methods to real life,” he added. “And even then, one must be careful to avoid mere pious preaching to a captive audience, but open up discussion.”

Dr. Julia Upton, provost of St. John’s, said that political views do not come into play at any point during the hiring process.
“A professor is hired based on his or her credentials and how good they would be in a classroom,” she said.

She added that she is against the very idea of trying to group into strict political sects. “I don’t like the labels of liberal and conservative,” she said. “Someone might be liberal on one issue but not on another.”

When asked if the university makes any efforts to create a diversity of political ideas within the classroom, she answered, “we’re looking for cultural diversity because our student body is so diverse. Intellectual diversity happens on its own.”