Monday, June 21, 2004

Faculty bias: What does the research show? 

Courtesy John Ray: There are not many good studies of faculty attitudes, but this one by M. Reza Nakhaie and Robert J. Brym in 1999 does a fair job of researching the question through survey research.
American research suggests that class origin and current class position have no effect on liberalism and civil-libertarianism, but they do have an effect on attitude towards faculty unionism. Discipline and ethno-religious effects are observed in the American surveys, and ethno-religious effects are also evident in Canadian research on the relationship between higher education and political attitudes.
Trying to straighten up the findings on the American and Canadian academics, they run their own tests. They find that, unlike results from the 1970s, younger faculty now tend to be more leftist. Female faculty are more liberal than male. Like almost all the studies, they find that business and engineering faculties are more conservative than those in the humanities, arts, social sciences or education. Comments Ray,
the only subgroups that averaged below 3.5 (i.e. were slightly Rightist) were professors of accounting, finance and mechanical engineeering. Professors in all other disciplines tended Left. The most far-Left group was, of course, the sociologists -- the most meaningless of all the disciplines. I taught in a university school of sociology for 12 years so I have some cause to know the emptiness of most sociology. Leftism sure is pervasive in academe.
His essay on leftist elites merits reading.

One interesting note: This research showed that while none of the other attitudes derived from family background, there was a tendency for faculty whose fathers were from working class backgrounds to support faculty unions. Now I wonder: If family background is a predictor of success in academia, wouldn't those working-class faculty tend to be at less selective institutions like SCSU, where faculty union activism is pervasive and pernicious?