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Professors and Their Politics

edited by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons

Publication Year: 2014

Professors and Their Politics tackles the assumption that universities are ivory towers of radicalism with the potential to corrupt conservative youth. Neil Gross and Solon Simmons gather the work of leading sociologists, historians, and other researchers interested in the relationship between politics and higher education to present evidence to the contrary. In eleven meaty chapters, contributors describe the political makeup of American academia today, consider the causes of its liberal tilt, discuss the college experience for politically conservative students, and delve into historical debates about professorial politics. Offering readable, rigorous analyses rather than polemics, Professors and Their Politics yields important new insights into the nature of higher education institutions while challenging dogmas of both the left and the right.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-16

If journalists, op-ed writers, and reformers are to be believed, American higher education is in crisis. True, college and university enrollments are at an all-time high. But amid skyrocketing tuition costs, reports that undergraduates are studying—and learning—less than in decades past, moral scandals around college athletics and executive pay, rising international competition, and the appearance...

Part I: The Lay of the Land

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1. The Social and Political Views of American College and University Professors

Neil Gross, Solon Simmons

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pp. 19-50

In 1955, sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld set out to study how American social scientists were faring in the era of McCarthyism. Lazarsfeld employed interviewers from the National Opinion Research Center and Elmo Roper and Associates to speak with 2,451 social scientists at 182 American colleges and universities. A significant number of those interviewed reported feeling that their intellectual...

Part II: Explaining Professorial Liberalism

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2. Political Liberalism and Graduate School Attendance: A Longitudinal Analysis

Ethan Fosse, Jeremy Freese, Neil Gross

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pp. 53-81

Graduate and professional education—the training and certification of students beyond the baccalaureate level—is a crucial part of the American higher education enterprise. As of 2010, more than 1.8 million people were enrolled in graduate or professional degree programs in the United States. The number of graduate and professional degree students grew at a rate of about 4 percent per year...

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3. Nations, Classes, and the Politics of Professors: A Comparative Perspective

Clem Brooks

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pp. 82-108

Resurgent scholarly interest in the politics of the professoriate is a welcome development. Ideas matter, and knowing the specific groups and occupations that control their production and dissemination is important. Because of their institutional locations, professors are perennially poised to exert influence.
Should the professoriate be understood as a resource for left-wing ideologies...

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4. Political Bias in the Graduate School Admissions Process: A Field Experiment

Ethan Fosse, Neil Gross, Joseph Ma

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pp. 109-132

Because professors play an important role in imparting knowledge to the young, advising policymakers, and helping to steer national debates, much effort has been put into explaining why they tend to be on the political left, as the introduction and first three chapters of this volume show. Social-scientific theories of the phenomenon range widely, with some scholars highlighting the purported mismatch...

Part III: The Student Experience

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5. The Effect of College on Social and Political Attitudes and Civic Participation

Kyle Dodson

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pp. 135-157

By many accounts, the postwar expansion of higher education represents one of the most dramatic and socially significant transformations of the past six decades (Schofer and Meyer 2005; Walters 1986). The percentage of young Americans enrolled in higher education increased from approximately 14 percent in 1940 to over 60 percent in 2008 (Arnett 2000). Scholars have linked this expansion to an...

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6. “Civil” or “Provocative”? Varieties of Conservative Student Style and Discourse in American Universities

Amy J. Binder, Kate Wood

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pp. 158-188

In 2004 and 2007, members of the College Republicans on a campus we call Western Flagship University staged an eye-popping event called the Affirmative Action Bake Sale.1 The bake sale is a well-known piece of political theater that conservative students put on at many universities across the country, wherein members of right-leaning campus organizations sell baked goods at a higher...

Part IV: Formative Periods

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7. Naturalizing Liberalism in the 1950s

Andrew Jewett

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pp. 191-216

In the 1950s, Paul Lazarsfeld’s pioneering analysis of the American professoriate’s political commitments coincided with the consolidation of a substantial shift in those commitments. After the late 1930s, the political culture of the American academy changed as the Depression-era dynamics of economic recovery and antifascism gave way to a global struggle against communism. Most...

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8. Challenging Neutrality: Sixties Activism and Debates over Political Advocacy in the American University

Julie A. Reuben

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pp. 217-240

In 2003, David Horowitz launched the organization Students for Academic Freedom to rid the university of what he saw as political preaching (Horowitz 2007). Horowitz has used this group as a platform to lobby state legislatures to investigate charges of political indoctrination at public universities and to pressure colleges and universities to adopt the “Academic Bill of Rights,” a document...

Part V: Institutional Change and Its Limits

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9. Activism and the Academy: Lessons from the Rise of Ethnic Studies

Fabio Rojas

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pp. 243-266

The twentieth century witnessed numerous profound transformations of the academy, ranging from the rise of the American research university (Vesey 1970) to the global expansion of higher education (Frank and Gabler 2006) and its increasing integration with the for-profit sector (Powell, Owen-Smith, and Colyvas 2007). One important development was the proliferation of disciplines and areas...

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10. Rationalizing Realpolitik: U.S. International Relations as a Liberal Field

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson

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pp. 267-290

According to the traditional tale that international relations (IR) scholars tell their students in introductory courses,1 U.S. international relations ought to be among the most politically conservative of the social sciences. After all, the usual IR “lore”—“its ritualized understandings of the titanic struggles fought and challenges still to be overcome” (Ashley 1986, 259)—revolves around three supposed...

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11. The Merits of Marginality: Think Tanks, Conservative Intellectuals, and the Liberal Academy

Thomas Medvetz

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pp. 291-308

Since the 1960s, the loosely bounded organizations known as public policy “think tanks” have multiplied in many countries around the world (Garnett and Stone 1998; McGann 2012; McGann and Weaver 2000; Stone and Denham 2004; Weaver and Stares 2001). Although think tanks defy easy classification, the United Nations Development Program (2003, 6) defines them provisionally as...

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pp. 309-314

From one point of view, it is something of a surprise that we find ourselves today in a new phase of conflict over the form and direction of the American university. After all, seen as an industry, American higher education enjoys an advantage over its international competitors that is rare in this globalized era. In the most recent...

Appendix. Sample Student Emails

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pp. 315-316


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pp. 317-352

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pp. 353-356

Amy J. Binder is a professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools (Princeton University Press, 2004) and Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives (Princeton University Press, 2012, with Kate...


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pp. 357-365

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413358
E-ISBN-10: 1421413353
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413341
Print-ISBN-10: 1421413345

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 15 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881429745
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Professors and Their Politics

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • College teachers -- United States -- Political activity.
  • College teachers -- United States -- Attitudes.
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