University of Missouri students couldn’t get a more Democrat-leaning group of faculty and administrators if they were being schooled directly by the Democratic National Committee.
That’s not an exaggeration, according to the numbers. Consider what a CampusReform.org analysis of political donations by MU faculty and administrators found in 2018:
- “98.4 percent of all Mizzou administrators who donated to political candidates or causes gave a total of $30,019.97 to Democrat politicians or Democrat organizations …”
- “Three hundred fifty-six faculty members, specifically, donated a total of $317,149.47 to politicians or political organizations. They contributed 97.6 percent of the money to Democrat politicians or organizations. Just 2.4 percent of donations, given by eight faculty members, went to Republican causes or politicians …”
“According to the records,” Campus Reform reported, “there was only one donation made by Mizzou administrators to Republican politicians or Republican organizations from 2017-2018.”
That’s nearly unanimous Democrat support – at the top university in a beet-red state. And it’s inarguably miles out of step with the state’s population and its political beliefs.
Moreover, if the University of Missouri were somehow transplanted to a deep-blue state such as Massachusetts, 98% in political donations to Democrats would still represent an astounding lack of ideological diversity compared to the general population: Even the state of Massachusetts is only 56% Democrat.
How can this happen? And what does it say about the University of Missouri and higher education in general?
It’s likely no surprise to those who’ve looked into the matter. Studies have shown that the vast majority of university professors nationwide are Democrats. A 2018 study of 51 “U.S. News” top-ranked liberal arts colleges found that the ratio of Democrat to Republican professors was nearly 13 to 1 (when excluding two military schools from the numbers). In some academic departments, the ratio was as high as 133-1 Democrats to Republicans.
“Faculty political affiliations at 39 percent of the colleges in my sample are Republican free – having zero Republicans,” writes study author Mitchell Langbert, associate professor of business at the Brooklyn College Koppelman School of Business. “78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.”
In the 2018 election cycle, MU employees overall who made political contributions to congressional candidates gave nearly 94% to Democrats and only 6% to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks campaign finance. In the 2020 election cycle, it was nearly 79% to Democrats, 10% to Republicans and just over 11% to others.
When looking at contributions to all federal candidates, MU employees gave more than 90% to Democrats in both election cycles.
At Missouri State University, according to Open Secrets, employees contributing to federal candidates gave in excess of 80% to Democrats in both election cycles.
When asked about the hyperpartisanship in faculty and administration campaign contributions, a University of Missouri spokesperson said he “can’t offer any responses regarding the private decisions of our employees.”
Yet, those overwhelmingly identical “personal decisions” beg the question: Is such vast ideological conformity affecting what is said and taught in classrooms? Are university administrators at all concerned about the lack of intellectual diversity in their institutions?
And why aren’t there any investigations into that lack of diversity by outside agencies or organizations? Should the Missouri General Assembly look into it?
Nationally, in a 2020 article about their study of top colleges and universities in 30 states, Langbert and a colleague write that professors’ overall Democrat to Republican donation ratio was 95:1. Among the thousands of professors sampled, Democratic donors outnumbered Republicans 2,081 to 22.
“I don’t have hard evidence that the extraordinary imbalance in political affiliation in universities is correlated to what goes on in the classroom,” Langbert tells The Heartlander, “but research about how beliefs influence behavior and perceptions suggests that it is unlikely that conservative views get a fair hearing, or much of a hearing at all, in American colleges.”
There’s an entire movement encouraging viewpoint diversity on college campuses, such as that of Heterodox Academy, a nonprofit advocacy group of academics.
While campus race and gender diversity has dominated discussions, “We really haven’t had a parallel commitment to ideological diversity – diversity of perspective, diversity of thought, diversity of philosophy,” professor Nadine Strossen of New York Law School says in a Heterodox Academy video.
New college students naturally struggle to fit in and to adopt “ways of being” in their new academic environment, Stern School of Business professor Jonathan Haidt says in the video. Universities should introduce them early on to the importance of viewpoint diversity and the perils of confirmation bias.
“We can put them in a mindset where they can actually not just tolerate real diversity, but actually welcome interacting with people who are different from them,” says Haidt, who helped form Heterodox Academy.
Glenn Loury, social science professor at Brown University, was once asked to speak to an incoming class at Brown. “We should be seeking to transcend our categories,” is how he summed up his message to students.
Ominously, though, Langbert doesn’t seem to hold out much hope for ideological change in higher education – and he makes a jaw-dropping suggestion as perhaps the only promising alternative.
“If political homogeneity is embedded in college culture,” Langbert writes, “attempting to reform colleges by changing their cultures seems a very tall order. The solution to viewpoint homogeneity may lie in establishing new colleges from the ground up, rather than in reforming existing ones.”