The editorial is a refreshingly reasonable voice in the ongoing culture and free speech wars that are roiling America’s college campuses. The editors of the Hoya do not demand that a circus act like Milo Yiannopolous be allowed to come and disrupt the campus, or that the left continue its dominance of the country’s universities.
Instead, they make a straightforward case that the dearth of conservative professors at Georgetown is leaving students unprepared for the genuine diversity—that is, the diversity of thought—that is part of the real world. Georgetown’s homogeneity, they argue, is leading to an atrophying of their skills for debate and reasoned argument. In other words, without conservatives, they have no one to test their ideas against.
“One of the hallmarks of higher education is the opportunity to understand and grapple with a wide range of ideas,” the editorial notes. It goes on:
Yet, Georgetown falls short on its commitment to this ideological diversity in the makeup of its instructional corps. The university must work to remedy its lack of politically conservative professors by considering a diversity of viewpoints when hiring instructors, from assistant professors to those with tenure, and by ensuring that no bias exists against conservative educators in the hiring process.
The editorial cites a 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal by John Hasnas, who wrote that Georgetown faculty search committees often blackball conservative candidates. The Hoya editors also cite the Higher Education Research Institute, whose research has shown what even the Washington Post called “a dramatic shift” in recent years toward hiring faculty that leans left. In 1990, forty-two percent of college professors identified as liberal or far-left, according to the HERI survey data; by 2014, that figure had risen to nearly sixty percent, while only twelve percent of professors identified as conservative.
The Hoya concludes with several essential points, worth quoting in full:
- A robust exchange of ideas requires students and faculty to have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds, to expose ourselves to myriad viewpoints. Only by having our views challenged can we refine our own stances, learn how to best justify our arguments and hone our critical thinking abilities.
- Moreover, the absence of true ideological diversity on our campus is problematic for all students. Allowing one specific political ideology a monopoly on our campus can foster dangerous levels of intolerance for contradictory beliefs. The results of permitting such ideological homogeneity have been witnessed at college campuses nationwide, including at Middlebury College, where violent protests erupted in response to a speech by author Charles Murray, and at the University of California, Berkeley, which has become a battleground for free expression.
- The imbalance of ideological diversity in our faculty disadvantages students of all political persuasions: Liberal students fall into the trap of groupthink, while conservative students feel alienated by the absence of faculty supportive of their political ideals. Both sides lack an adequate model of reasonable, academic, respectful debate that professors often provide for their students, leading us to become more entrenched in our own ideas instead of learning how to disagree reasonably.
In the current climate, when too many conservative “speakers” who trade in insult and invective descend on universities to posture for the cameras while a smug left seems intent on keeping campuses no-debate zones, the Hoya’s simple request that Georgetown University hire qualified conservatives to be part of the staff is one that more colleges and universities should heed.