Diversity at Princeton

When I attended Princeton about 20 years ago, it was always considered the most "conservative" of the Ivy League schools.  Once I attended the school for a while, I thought that was a hilarious description, given how leftist and socialist viewpoints seemed to dominate much of the campus discussion. 

Over the years since, I have come to understand that "conservative" in academia means that some non-leftist voices are allowed to remain on campus.  The line I used in the first paragraph accurately describes why Princeton was considered conservative - note that I said "leftists and socialist viewpoints seemed to domintate MUCH of the campus discussion".  In most academia, instead of "much" I would have said ALL.

LGF has a nice pointer to an article in the NRO on diversity at Princeton.  Again, the debate is not about how to balance the mix of professors.  The debate is whether there should be one conservative non-socialist non-hate-America professor on the Middel Eastern Studies staff, or zero.

Sam Spector, who wrote his senior thesis under Doran and also worked as a
research assistant to him while an undergraduate at Princeton, explains that
"the controversy really blew up because Doran's publications were seen as to
some degree supportive of the Bush administration's policies, which are needless
to say not popular with the majority of academics, particularly academics who
specialize in the Middle East and who believe that the U.S is the single
greatest force for bad and instability in the region."

Yet, while Doran's publications do challenge academic orthodoxies, they
hardly reflect the work of a far-right ideologue, and he is generally well
regarded among centrists. If anything, the overriding themes of his articles are
a qualified defense
of American power
and a view that Arab politics, and Arab problems, are more
about Arabs themselves than about Israel: As he argued in one essay,
"Palestine" has become a generic symbol of resistance to the West. These may
sound like fairly uncontroversial propositions to you, but in academic Middle
East studies they're far from it. If, as Michael Young has
, the major dividing line in the field is where one stands on the
"substance of Western power and its historical impact," Doran clearly takes a
minority "” and often-derided "” position.

Note what the other academics really want - total intellectual conformity and therfore avoidance of any disagreements:

More recently, several anonymous history professors told a student reporter that
Doran's getting tenure would create a rift between the NES department and

"We don't want him," said one professor, quoted in Princeton's daily student
newspaper, The Princetonian, in December. In the future, the professor
asked, are the two departments "going to be mutually supportive or are they
going to be antagonistic?"

...Sethi continues, "Several history professors said they consider a decision to
tenure or not to tenure [Doran] a litmus test for future cooperation between
Princeton NES and the history department. If Doran is tenured, two history
professors said relations between the departments could be severely damaged."

I am embarassed that my University has professors that appear afraid of intellectual challenge.  They want to create an echo chamber where they are surrounded by people who agree with them.  This is pathetic.  As an engineer, I was generally sheltered from all this professor-as-political-figure-rather-than-educator stuff, but one of my favorite liberal arts professors was Uwe Reinhardt.  In most every campus debate I can remember, Reinhardt was the token defender of free markets and private property against, well, most everyone else in the liberal arts faculty.  Reinhardt always seemed to revel in the challenge of pitting his ideas against others.  Today, academics seem to shrink from this challenge.


  • Warren,

    Great post. I had not heard of Dr. Reinhardt until recently. He was the keynote speaker at a convention I recently attended in Washington DC. He seemed like a very smart sensible guy although his topic was in the approaching train wreck that is the current US Healthcare system. In other words, he was the "problem" guy. His talk was followed by another keynote by Newt Gingrich who was the "solution" guy. Dr. Reinhardt's closing statements were very gracious towards Newt, but I sensed a bit of skepticism. I think Newt's ideas are sound. I am dubious that they are politically viable. Uwe was the scholar, Newt was the politician/policy pundit.

    Love your blog and congratulations on the 50,000 mark.


  • dave s

    The insurgents are also talking about the problem of over-reliance on adjuncts, which seems very positive to me.