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US colleges need affirmative action for conservative professors

As a devout Democrat, I can't believe I'm saying this, but Bill O’Reilly is right. Universities should institute affirmative action for conservative professors, so all the professors aren't overwhelmingly liberal, as the recent national elections confirmed.

By Jonathan Zimmerman / December 13, 2012

On March 2, then-Princeton University economist Christina Hull Paxson is applauded by then-Brown University President Ruth Simmons before Ms. Paxson is introduced as the 19th President of Brown in Providence, R.I. Op-ed contributor Jonathan Zimmerman says that 'at Brown, 129 faculty members gave to Mr. Obama, and just one staff member...donated to Mr. Romney....The only way to change that imbalance, for the moment, is to actively and affirmatively seek out conservative faculty.'

Stephan Savoia/AP/File


New York

Bill O’Reilly is right. As a devout Democrat and a frequent O’Reilly critic, I never imagined I’d write that sentence. But last week, the conservative Fox news talk-show host said something that makes real sense to me: Universities should institute affirmative action for conservative professors, so all the professors don’t think the way I do.

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No, we’re not the wild-eyed Marxists that Mr. O’Reilly and other right-wing pundits sometimes make us out to be. But we are overwhelmingly liberal, as the recent national elections confirmed. At the eight Ivy League schools, for example, a whopping 96 percent of faculty and staff who made campaign donations gave to President Obama’s re-election bid.

At Columbia University, 650 employees wrote checks for the Obama campaign, while only 21 made donations to Mitt Romney. And at Brown, 129 faculty members gave to Mr. Obama, and just one staff member – that’s right, a single individual – donated to Mr. Romney.

It’s not just an Ivy League thing, either. At the University of Wisconsin, only 4.5 percent of faculty and staff donations since 2011 have gone to Republicans. At the University of Connecticut, just 3 percent of campaign donations went to the GOP.

Is this a problem? I think it is. And might a conscious hiring effort on the part of universities – that is, an affirmative action program – help remedy it? I think it would.

To see why, have a look at the Supreme Court’s landmark 1978 affirmative action decision, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The ruling barred such quotas for minorities, ruling that race and ethnicity could be used as a “plus” factor – but never as the only factor – in university admissions. The Bakke decision upheld special consideration in admissions for racial and ethnic minorities, on the grounds that “diversity” would enhance universities’ intellectual life.

In his opinion, Justice Lewis F. Powell quoted the Court’s 1967 ruling in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, which struck down mandatory loyalty oaths for public school and university teachers and other state employees. “The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through a wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection,'" the Keyishian decision declared.

Powell also cited in his ruling a 1977 article by William G. Bowen, the then-president of Princeton University and one of the nation’s most articulate defenders of affirmative action. According to Mr. Bowen, as quoted by Powell, a racially diverse university would help students “to learn from their differences and to stimulate one another to reexamine even their most deeply held assumptions about themselves and their world.” The passages from Bowen that Powell references included the observations of a Princeton graduate student, who stated that “people do not learn very much when they are surrounded only by the likes of themselves.”


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