By Mason Votes Staff Writer Ethan Vaughan
America’s universities are far more middle-of-the-road than commonly believed. That’s the conclusion of paper co-authored by George Mason University’s Solon Simmons and Harvard University’s Neil Gross entitled The Social and Political Views of American Professors.
Simmons, who is part of Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, says that there are fewer radicals in the younger than in the older generation of university professors, which indicates that far-left-wing views in academia are declining.
“In general we find more liberals than conservatives among professors,” Simmons said. “That corresponds with literature going back to the ‘50’s. We’ve known that for a while. They’re not particularly radical, though. University professors tend to be left of center, but pretty pragmatic. They’re not really interested in overturning the current order.”
Simmons said that conservative critics of university culture have overstated to prevalence of extreme leftism in American colleges and he dismisses the idea that professors are indoctrinating their students.
“It’s always been the suspicion of many conservatives that there’s a Socrates effect,” said Simmons, “that these wise, older men and women are corrupting the young. The information I have seen shows that professors have little effect on converting people to different perspectives. They tend to frame views rather than convert others to their own views.”
Students agreed saying that while they acknowledged that some professors have been open about their beliefs, in general they felt the instructors were respectful of differing opinions.
“My college professors have been liberals and conservatives,” said Claudia Brito. “Each professor has their own views yet most of the time set aside their political preferences. My professors’ beliefs have made some contributions to my own political and personal philosophy. So far I have had good professors whose guidance and lectures have provided me with information that I was able to incorporate to my own beliefs. Their readings have been a great help and reference my own personal and political philosophy.”
Others said partisanship may play too large a role.
“Grading policies are highly influenced by [professors’ beliefs],” said Maria Tatarska who also said that her professors have changed her political views in the sense that they’ve made her aware of current events.
“I have become more familiar with political affairs, especially from the election.”