Should Colleges Implement “Affirmative Action” For Conservatives?

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No one will soon mistake the New York Times’ Frank Bruni for a Trump-loving conservative Republican, but he is at least aware enough to emerge from his NYC liberal bubble every now and again, blink his eyes, and make some halfway-decent observations about the world. That’s more than can be said for many professors and administrators in the world of higher education, which – as Bruni points out in his recent column – is something that at least a few colleges are trying to fix.

Following the (shocking, surprising, omg the world is ending) election of Donald Trump last November, colleges across the country began to wonder…were they keeping their students trapped inside a liberal biosphere that bore little to no resemblance to the rest of the country?

“After the election I sensed, from talking to leaders of colleges, a lot of soul searching about the fact that college presidents and students assumed that one thing was going to happen on Election Day and it did not,” Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Ed, told Bruni in an interview. “Some people woke up the day after the election and realized that every surrounding county voted in a different way than the college did.”

In his article, Bruni points out that even before the election, at least a handful of colleges had noticed the ideological imbalance on their campuses:

In 2013 the University of Colorado, Boulder, welcomed its first “visiting scholar in conservative thought,” a teaching position created to bring someone from the right to the school each year. In 2015 Jonathan Haidt, a justly celebrated social psychologist at New York University, helped to found the Heterodox Academy, an organization that promotes intellectual diversity in higher education.

And a growing number of educators have been wondering aloud if there should be “affirmative action” for conservative professors, given the hugely disproportionate percentage of liberal faculty in the humanities and social sciences. They often conclude that outright preferences are a bad idea but that creating an extra position in, say, military history rather than gender studies would probably up the odds of adding a Republican to the lineup.

This is an idea long past its due date, and it would make a hell of a lot more sense than the ethnic version of affirmative action that these colleges currently engage in. Forget about the Trump election; the protesters shutting down free speech at UC Berkeley and other colleges demonstrate exactly what happens when you try to turn any space into an echo chamber for one point of view. Everyone eventually turns into an extremist when all they hear are the same opinions reflected back to them. Ideological diversity is at least as important as demographic diversity, if not much more so. If higher education in this country wants to avoid becoming a caricature of itself, a conservative hiring spree would be a good way to begin.