December 1, 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Jack Goldsmith & Adrian Vermeule: Elite colleges are making it easy for conservatives to dislike them.

First is the obvious progressive tilt in universities, especially elite universities. At Harvard, for example, undergraduate students overwhelmingly identify as progressive or liberal and the faculty overwhelmingly gives to the Democratic Party. Even Harvard Law School, which has a handful of conservative scholars and a new conservative dean, is on the left end of law school faculties, which are themselves more progressive than the legal profession.

Second, the distinctive progressive ideology of elite universities is relentlessly critical of, to the point of being intolerant of, traditions and moral values widely seen as legitimate in the outside world. As a result, elite universities have narrowed the range of acceptable views within their walls.

Third is the rise of anti-conservative “mobs,” “shout-downs” and “illiberal behavior” on campus, as New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes it. Conservative speakers of various stripes are being harassed and excluded with increasing frequency. “Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas,” noted former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Harvard address a few years ago. Harvard is actually somewhat better on these issues than many universities — it hasn’t had anti-conservative mobs, and it has been relatively respectful of conservative speakers. But even at Harvard, the pervasive progressive orthodoxy chills conservatives’ speech in the classroom and hallways.

Fourth is the public contempt of so many university academics for those who fund their subsidies. Paul Krugman, an emeritus professor at Princeton University now at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, as well as a New York Times op-ed columnist, offered a self-described “deep thought” in reaction to a Washington Post article about rising conservative anger at American universities: “Maybe conservatives are turning against learning because learning is incompatible with modern conservative ideology.” Krugman’s statement was a mere tweet. But in our experience it reflects an attitude that is widespread at elite universities.

Yep. Plus: “Conservative politicians and their constituents hear, on the one hand, that government owes universities a continuance of largesse and, on the other, that conservatives are ignorant, unworthy or corrupt. This sounds suspiciously like special pleading by an intellectual elite that wants to indulge in social criticism at the expense of the criticized, in both figurative and literal senses.”

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