restricted access 9. Do Universities Discriminate in Hiring?
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This chapter addresses the persistent criticism that universities discriminate against conservatives in hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions. Universities are most often said to discriminate in the humanities and social sciences (few contend that the sciences discriminate against conservatives, but conservatives are said to be hurt by affirmative action hiring requirements). Declaring that a leftist political culture has become self-perpetuating, a 2006 profile of American college faculty by Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco concludes its fairly representative analysis in the following terms: Some academic disciplines, especially in the social sciences and humanities , exhibit particularly persistent political behaviors. Recruitment, hiring, and tenure review processes have either failed to adequately prevent the political imbalance within disciplines or have actively perpetuated and deepened political unity.1 Science and engineering departments have been criticized from a left perspective for failing to recruit enough women and minority (other than Asian) students and for failing to hire enough women and minorities in their tenure ranks (notwithstanding the criticism from the right that they have to knuckle under to affirmative action).2 9 Do Universities Discriminate in Hiring? 163 ch09 6/30/08 10:48 AM Page 163 Background In order to evaluate the claims of discrimination in hiring, we need to see the broader historical context. If faculties are somewhat more liberal than they were, say, in 1984, this cannot be attributed solely or mainly to hiring practices. There are important trends in American politics generally that should be noted. The decline in the fortunes of the moderate northeastern Republican establishment is worth noting, as is the Republican Party’s growing dependence on a fundamentalist Christian base and a party strategy to capitalize on wedge issues. These features have contributed to making an already liberalleaning professoriate somewhat more liberal and less Republican. Professors, by nature suspicious of populist rhetoric and emotional appeals to the voters, had their preconceptions reinforced. Some of the rhetorical appeals, such as opposition to stem cell research and evolutionary theory, were seemingly targeted at the universities. Further, legal requirements for nondiscrimination in the treatment of women, gays, and minorities made faculty hiring more open to these groups. The addition of more women and minorities to hiring pools and eventually to faculty ranks meant that faculties began to reflect the attitudes of these more liberal groups. Just as Jews, once they joined the faculty of the elite universities after World War II, helped to produce a more secular and liberal atmosphere, the addition of women and minorities in the humanities and the social sciences nudged those departments toward new subfields of inquiry, pedagogical concerns, and social issues. The growing importance of women in the research universities is an especially noteworthy development. The sudden departure of women from the ranks of English and other humanities fields and their entry into the social sciences and the professions of law and medicine in the 1970s caused a temporary “crisis in the humanities,”and foretold how the emancipation of women could produce shifts in the academy. The return of large numbers of women over the course of the 1980s, in turn, caused this putative crisis largely to disappear.3 Women are now 52 percent of all undergraduates, and their preponderance in certain fields is higher than that. Women make up a majority of the students at most major medical and law schools today.Women in doctoral programs in English and in languages have registered strong gains, and they are on a path toward ascendancy and even dominance in a number of departments. The gains by women did not merely reflect the decisions made by hiring committees on campuses. Women have advanced, and continue to advance, because of broad demographic trends affecting not only the universities, but our entire society.Women are represented in large numbers in undergraduate 164 Do Universities Discriminate in Hiring? ch09 6/30/08 10:48 AM Page 164 programs, in graduate programs, in the ranks of the junior faculty, and increasingly in senior faculty positions as well as in the leadership positions of the professional associations. The presidencies of four of the eight Ivy League universities—Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Brown—are held by women. The significance of the growing role of women is difficult to assess fully, but higher education clearly has undergone notable changes as a result. How the major universities hire and promote faculty has to be understood in the light of such major social and institutional...