Liberals have ruled the roost in higher education for decades, using their dominance to transform America’s colleges and universities into institutions of leftwing indoctrination; institutions where conservatives and Christians are not welcome. But recently liberals have suffered two setbacks that might well threaten two of their most cherished concepts: 1) Affirmative Action in admissions, and 2) Leftwing control of the tenure granting process. Long time observers of higher education are watching to see if recent events in the courtroom are just aberrations or if they signal the beginning of the end of leftwing discrimination on college and university campuses.
During the 1960s, intellectual conformity began to take precedence over academic freedom in higher education, creating a wave of academic totalitarianism that is bad for students, faculty, educational institutions, and America. Since the 1960s it has become commonplace for conservative and Christian students and faculty to have their views suppressed in ways ranging from minor harassment to serious intimidation. Few things can undermine the quality and purpose of higher education more effectively than coerced intellectual conformity. Academic freedom and intellectual diversity are the heart and soul of higher education. They ensure freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry; freedoms that have been conspicuously missing on college campuses in America for decades.
In 1976 I began a career in higher education that now spans 38 years. As a conservative and Christian, I have often been a duck out of water when interacting with colleagues. Predictably, my views run counter to the prevailing presuppositions of my liberal colleagues, but never so much as when we discuss two contentious issues: Affirmative Action and the tenure granting process/academic freedom. When it comes to college admissions, the support of leftwing professors and administrators for Affirmative Action has long been virtually unanimous. The dominant Left in higher education not only supports Affirmative Action, but has bought into it as one of their sacred cows. My take on Affirmative Action, on the other hand, has always been that it institutionalizes the very problem it was intended to solve: discrimination on the basis of race. I hold that college admissions should be based on just one criterion: merit.
I have argued with liberals long and hard—but to no avail—that the most qualified applicants to colleges and universities should be the ones admitted, and that race, gender, and national origin should not be factors in the admissions process. Colleges and universities provide athletic scholarships on the basis of merit. Why should admission to the classroom be different? The minute factors other than merit are considered, politics and personal bias enter the picture followed close on by discrimination on the basis of factors that should not even be considered. Of course my view of Affirmative Action has long been a minority view among my colleagues. In fact, my opinions on Affirmative Action are not just unpopular among leftwing professors and administrators they are widely ridiculed, disparaged, and belittled. Unwelcome truths are often treated in this way.
Although my views on Affirmative Action make me a pariah among liberal college professors and administrators who operate in the fantasyland that higher education has become, it appears that many Americans who live in the real world agree with me. In 2006 citizens of Michigan voted by a 58 percent majority to ban the use of Affirmative Action as an enhancement factor in college admissions. The Michigan law bars public institutions of higher education from giving “preferential treatment to any individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” Similar legislation has also been enacted in Texas. Of course those who use Affirmative Action to justify discriminating on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin challenged the Michigan law in court. Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court—in a 6-2 decision—ruled that the people of Michigan (and other states) have the right to choose whether they wish to continue the use of Affirmative Action in college admissions. In other words, the citizens of Michigan and Texas who voted to ban Affirmative Action won.
In another setback for liberals, conservative and Christian professor Mike Adams won a federal anti-discrimination court case against the University of North Carolina-Wilmington after he was denied tenure on the basis of his worldview. Adams is a professor of criminology and a popular columnist for the conservative publication Townhall.com. Adams was able to show that he had become the target of leftwing colleagues after he converted from atheism to Christianity and when he began to share his views as a conservative columnist. Not only did the court order that Adam’s application for tenure—denied in 2006—be granted, the University was also required to give the professor $50,000 in back pay. The Adams case was a major victory for conservatives and Christians who for decades have been discriminated against by leftwing university faculties and administrators.
Only time will tell if these two setbacks for liberals signal the beginning of a new day or turn out to be aberrations. One can only hope that narrow-minded liberals who for so long have interpreted academic freedom to mean the freedom to agree with them will finally be forced to realize that the concept is a two-way street and that universities are stronger and better when this is the case. Here is what the American Federation of Teachers has to say about academic freedom:
“Faculty and professional staff must be able to exercise independent academic judgment in the conduct of their teaching and research. Academic freedom is important because society needs ‘safe havens,’ places where students and scholars can challenge the conventional wisdom of any field—arts, science, politics or whatever. This is not a threat to society; it strengthens society. It puts ideas to the test and teaches students to think and defend their ideas.”
Further, one can only hope the Adams case will be precedent setting and that institutions of higher education will learn a lesson from the case. However, I am not holding my breath. My suspicion is that even as I write this column, liberal faculty members and administrators are rushing to revise their tenure requirements to include purposely subjective criteria such as collegiality and peer relationships. If institutions of higher education are allowed to apply such dubious criteria, liberal faculty members will be able to continue denying tenure to conservative and Christian professors by simply claiming they don’t get along with their peers or to put it in more academic terms, they lack collegiality.
Conservatives and Christians who are interested in what is happening in higher education should celebrate these two rare victories. But at the same time, we should remain on guard and not stop working. These two victories—though important—are just skirmishes in a much larger battle that still rages, and the future of America depends on conservatives and Christians winning.