How politically diverse is the Cornell University faculty?

Not very, according to a study done by The Cornell Daily Sun, the student newspaper. By dollar volume, 96.62% of political donations during 2011-2014 went to Democratic candidates or related PACs, and just 2.76% to Republicans or related PACs.

By number of donors, rather than dollar amount, the contrast is equally stark.

There were only 15 faculty members who donated to Republicans, out of a total of 323 faculty donors, or 5 percent. There were a total of 1628 faculty at the university as of 2013, but there is not reason to suspect that the 323 donors are not representative of the total.

I was one of the 15, which might make me part of the smallest minority on campus.

The Daily Sun reports, Cornell Faculty Donations Flood Left, Filings Show:

Of the nearly $600,000 Cornell’s faculty donated to political candidates or parties in the past four years, over 96 percent has gone to fund Democratic campaigns, while only 15 of the 323 donors gave to conservative causes.

The Sun’s analysis of Federal Election Committee data reveals that from 2011 to 2014, Cornell’s faculty donated $573,659 to Democrats, $16,360 to Republicans and $2,950 to Independents. Each of Cornell’s 13 schools — both graduate and undergraduate — slanted heavily to the left. In the College of Arts and Sciences, 99 percent of the $183,644 donated went to liberal campaigns. The law school demonstrated the strongest conservative showing, with nearly 26 percent of its approximately $20,000 worth of donations going to Republicans.

I was quoted extensively in the article (my full written interview is at the bottom of this post):

Prof. William Jacobson, law, one of the 15 Republican donors, said that he found the statistics “completely predictable.”

“Academia in general leans heavily liberal, and that likely is compounded at Cornell because Ithaca itself is a progressive bubble, surrounded by reality, as the saying goes,” he said….

“If we value professors not just for their research and publications, but also for the role they serve in mentoring students, then the lack of political diversity among the faculty is a University failure,” he said….

Jacobson said he believes this lack of diversity is actually most damaging to liberal students, who leave college without having to defend their views and enter a world where “Republicans control both houses of Congress and most state legislatures and governorships.”

“Such homogeneity in thought process at the professorial level is not conducive to intellectual rigor. That harms liberal students more than anyone, because they have a comfort zone of political acceptance which does not exist in a real world,” he said. “Over the years, I have observed that openly conservative students have to be better prepared for argument than their liberal counterparts and that process prepares them for life better than being intellectually coddled.” …

Jacobson called on the administration to recognize the value and necessity of diversity of thought in Cornell’s faculty.

“Diversity at Cornell focuses on gender, race and ethnicity as a proxy for intellectual diversity. That is inadequate as an objective matter because it has not resulted in a diversity of political thought,” Jacobson said. “If Cornell truly believes that diversity of thought fosters the educational experience, then it should include political diversity in its mandated diversity goals.”

Cornell Campus Cayuga Lake

As fascinating and insightful as my comments were, I found much more interesting the comments of some liberal professors, who eschewed the need for diversity of political opinion among faculty, or even the need to present students with a balance of views in the classroom.

One professor in the English Department insisted that only Democrats believed in science:

Other professors asserted that Republicans often have ideas that are “anti-science” or “anti-intellectual,” which can make them an unpopular presence at elite universities.

“It is not surprising that faculty at Cornell find the anti-scientific rhetoric of many in the Republican Party to be troublesome,” Prof. Kenneth McClane, English, said. “Many of us here are scientists — we believe in global warming, since we believe what the research tells us.”

Another said Ted Cruz would not be permitted to teach at Cornell:

[Prof. Richard Bensel, government] echoed this claim, saying that recent Republican debates have illustrated the deviation of “mainstream conservatives” from views that are widely accepted by intellectuals at reputable universities.

“I think many mainstream Republicans have views that are anti-intellectual and anti-science,” he said. “There are candidates who are creationists, don’t believe in climate change and claim that Obama’s a Muslim. Ted Cruz, for example, should not teach here.”

The Cornell Government Department, according to the article, has zero conservative or moderate professors, with the only two having left:

Prof. Emeritus Isaac Kramnick, government, explained that there were one or two conservative professors in the government department in the 1960s and 1970s, but both had already left.

The lack of any moderate or conservative voices in the Government Department apparently is a good thing to some professors:

Bensel said that while he would support adding a conservative to the government department, he does not believe Cornell is obligated to supply students with all points of view.

“Our job is not to mold the minds of young students — they’ll go out into the world and do that for themselves,” he said. “Cornell does not have to be a banquet that offers every viewpoint.”

Prof. Andrew Little, government, said that while it would be “nice to have more balance,” he would not advocate compromising the quality of Cornell’s professors, which he suggests would be the effect of seeking out Republican faculty.

“Placing more emphasis on diversity of political beliefs when hiring [would] almost certainly require sacrificing on general quality or other dimensions of diversity,” he said.

None of this surprises me.

The rigidity and self-righteousness of the academic left is as present at Cornell as at many universities.

[Update – Per the comment section, the math has been corrected! That’s why I became a lawyer, not an accountant!]


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