So ARE Colleges Liberal?

H/T: Andrew Hartman

Among some conservatives, it is a simple truism that American colleges have swerved dangerously to the left.  But have they?

We’ve reported lately on news from the National Association of Scholars, who reported that universities had been taken over by liberal bias.  And news from Colorado, where conservative politicians pushed a program to bring a real live conservative scholar to the Boulder campus.

Conservatives insist on it.  But do college campuses really lean left?

In a recent review for The American Prospect, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen offers concrete answers from Neil Gross’s Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? 

Turns out there are more registered Democrats among the professoriate than among the general public, 51% versus 35%.  But “liberal” doesn’t necessarily track evenly with “Democrat.”  A more interesting 8% of professors identify as “radical.”  Gross concludes that some 50-60% of professors can fairly be identified as “liberal,” compared to 17% of the general public.

Gross concludes, however, that this liberal lean does not turn American universities into doctrinaire re-education centers.  Professors tend to sort out their political from their professorial interests.  As Ratner-Rosenhagen puts it,

Why Are Professors Liberal provides evidence that college does not make students more liberal. Rather, time at the university gives students analytical and rhetorical resources to strengthen the political leanings they had when they entered. While it is true that college graduates tend to be more liberal than those their age who didn’t attend college, college-goers tend to be more liberal than their non-college-going peers. So it’s a wash.

As Ratner-Rosenhagen writes, the book offers a careful and moderate set of conclusions sure to anger both liberals and conservatives. Sounds like it is worth a read.