Letters to the Editor

It's absurd to say UNC's faculty is too liberal

A steady stream of visitors and students visit the Old Well on the University of North Carolina campus on October 13, 2017.
A steady stream of visitors and students visit the Old Well on the University of North Carolina campus on October 13, 2017. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The following Sunday forum is in response to “The UNC-CH faculty is overwhelmingly liberal. That’s not good.” (Apr. 27).

World views

Michael Jacobs’ message is totally absurd. In sum he contends that even if a university’s faculty is diverse, being comprised of a mix of teachers of “every nationality, race and gender,” if the majority of them are teaching the same “world view,” there is still no real diversity.

He appears to equate Democrats with “liberalism” and, therefore of the same “world view.” Jacobs seems to suggest that before a university recruits a new faculty member it should determine the candidate’s “world view,” i.e. “familiar with the wider world that exists beyond major cities and college towns.” And he seems to be saying that more Republicans, not Democrats, meet this definition.

While I agree that most Republicans are more “conservative” than most Democrats, they are not less intelligent, although they may have less “... familiarity with the wider world” and be less inclined to adopt environmental and other social concerns.

Finally, for Jacobs to invoke prayer as the (best?) way to improve the balance between Democrats and Republicans is unfortunate indeed. Let’s save prayer for far more important things like happiness, equality, love, and well-being.

Steve Bernholz

Chapel Hill

No conspiracy

Empirical studies show with hard data that people who really have an interest in advanced education are more liberal . It’s also worth noting that in the last couple of decades conservative disdain for and suspicion of the expertise assumed with advanced degrees and an academic career have grown, making it even more difficult for those of a conservative bent to enter teaching careers without having to defend the choice to family and friends, especially given the high cost of getting to a PhD.

I point all this out to push back against the notion that academia is one big conspiracy to exclude conservative thought from the classroom. There is some of that, but it’s far from being all that.

Also, there is evidence there is some conspiracy in the opposite direction that is deeply disturbing. Note the recent scandals at schools where the Koch brothers bought unprecedented influence over faculty appointments. What we should want with any faculty appointment is someone selected for excellence in their discipline and the ability to teach, not for their political loyalties.

Ronald M. Garrett

Morrisville

Intelligence

Regarding the letter to the editor “Academic ego” (May 2): How refreshing to hear a voice of reason that is not overshadowed by living in Chapel Hill. I agree that the quote, “Doesn’t he understand that academics are liberal because that is the way intelligent people think?” is ignorant in its lack of logic.

I only regress on this subject to point out that if there is a more intelligent person in this country than Dr. Thomas Sowell or a more practical intelligence than Dr. Walter Williams I am left in ignorance. These men prove over and over again the folly of what is now called “liberals” as opposed to free thinking people of my educational era who were liberal.

Eugene M. Simmons

Raleigh

Diversity?

According to Michael Jacobs, the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill consists, overwhelmingly, of registered Democrats. To hear him tell it, they obviously are, by virtue of political affiliation alone, doctrinaire “liberals,” lurking behind every lectern, column and shrub on campus, sedulously brain-washing the youth of our state.

The problem, according to Jacobs, predominates in university departments that deal with “political and social issues” (thereby conceding, presumably, that the sciences are not susceptible to political infection – though one wonders when it comes to the prevalent “conservative” take on “climate-change”). A first question, unanswered by Jacobs, is how he knows any professor, Democrat or Republican, is skewing the subject matter of his teaching in either a liberal or a conservative direction. Is he actually monitoring what transpires in relevant classrooms?

He likely has no idea what his faculty colleagues are actually espousing in class, but a species of “guilt by association” apparently suffices for his purposes. If, as Jacobs necessarily is suggesting, simple political-party registration must be among the criteria for judging the professional bona fides of a candidate for faculty membership, then a quota system – affirmative action for Republican scholars – is the only possible way to achieve his touted “critical mass of nationally-recognized conservative scholars.”

Welcome to the brave new world of mandated faculty “diversity.”

Dick Robinson

Chapel Hill

Founding liberals

It is essential for the survival of the US that education be maintained as the liberal enterprise it has always been in the US. Our Founding Fathers, liberals all, understood that and, despite many disagreement among themselves, always agreed on the necessity of good, public, education as a bulwark against tyranny.

The single unchanging quality of liberalism, all the way back to ancient Greeks, is commitment to expanding individual liberty, requiring a restless search for new information on how that can be accomplished. Liberty, democracy, education, science, common defense, and control of a greedy rich few are always connected in that view.

Our Founding Fathers would see the current takeover of professorships of economics in public universities by the financial services industry as contrary to that public purpose.

M. B. Hardy

Raleigh

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