July 23, 2010

Just how liberal/left-wing is the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

David Blaska struggles to figure that out.

55 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

You must have a pretty good pulse on that Ann, given your observations over the years. What do you think?

MadisonMan said...

Incoming students should have to read that during SOAR.

Skipper50 said...

Having attended the U in the seventies, I can attest that things apparently haven't changed much, except for the worse perhaps. This is why I encourage all alumni to send their money elsewhere.

Daniel Fielding said...

By comparison, I think the Wolverines in Ann Arbor are more diverse intellectually. Thereis of course leftist bias, but, I am told that it is not as bad as in Madison, or Duke or Columbia or Berkeley and other radical leftist bastions

AllenS said...

I'm interest in The Althouse Woman thoughts on this.

WV: humph

That's what I thought.

AJ Lynch said...

I heard a Harvard science professor call in to a radio show yesterday. He warned parents to read the school curriculum before allowing their child to attend an Ivy League college. He said the curriculum would make it obvious that the Ivys are radical leftist institutes.

He said he would not let his own kids be indocrinated by the far left lib schools.

Sofa King said...

I'm proud to say I took classes taught by both Downs and Hunt. Both left an indelible impression on me.

Big Mike said...

Just how liberal/left-wing is the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

So far out on the left-wing loony fringe that they need to run up to Lake Geneva and borrow the telescope from the Yerkes Observatory to see the center.

roesch-voltaire said...

One reason there might be fewer "conservative" scholars in the humanities could be because they can earn far more money working at one of the many right wing think tanks like Heritage Foundation, or the American Enterprise Institute and not have to worry about tenure-- only in staying within the ideology framework--David Frum is a good example. That said, I work on the science side of the campus where we encourage and debate the evidence for evolution, or the ethics of using new genetic technologies like Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PDG), and students are encouraged to throughly explore the issues from all perspectives. Frankly Skipper the quality of knowledge and teaching that occurs on this campus ranks with the best; this last semester I saw students from my undergraduate class accepted at MIT, Michigan, and Stanford, among others, and of course you know that more CEO's originate from UW than from Harvard?

Pogo said...

My son is scoping out UWMadison. He is far to the right. We have talked about whether it will be worth attending a school where he'll have to shut the hell up in class and on campus for 4 years, when he knows he won't or can't.

LarsPorsena said...

"One reason there might be fewer "conservative" scholars in the humanities could be because they can earn far more money working at one of the many right wing think tanks like Heritage Foundation, or the American Enterprise Institute and not have to worry about tenure-.."

Of course! Why didn't I think of that?

Then, what are the total number of positions at 'conservative' think tanks as opposed to the number of employment opportunities at public and private universities?

Damn minuscule.

Oh! and by the way ,there are 'progressive' think tanks too in case you haven't noticed. Just as many as the conservative ones.

Original Mike said...

Pogo - If he's going into the sciences, I'd say he'll have little to put up with. I can't speak for the humanities.

(And please don't tell us he's going into "journalism"!) ;-)

Sofa King said...

Pogo: My experience is that so long as you stay out of sociology, English, journalism, or any "x studies" departments, ideological diversity is tolerated if not welcomed. Econ, engineering, business of course and even political science are all good picks.

mesquito said...

My professors ranged from the extreme Left to the studiously apolitical. If I was taught by a single conservative He or she kept it well hidden.

The Leftist were not at all shy about using great amounts of instruction time to emote about current events. Feminist, especially, seemed to feel licensed to do this.

Original Mike said...

"My professors ranged from the extreme Left to the studiously apolitical. If I was taught by a single conservative He or she kept it well hidden."

I can think of only one political comment I've made in 25 years of lectures. And even that was simply to point out something hilariously stupid I'd read in the New York Times the day after Bush beat Kerry.

There's simply no need or place for it in science courses.

George Grady said...

Pogo: It does help to have at least some classes in the sciences. It also helps to get out of the dorms as soon as possible.

mesquito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
roesch-voltaire said...

Lars- that observation did not originate with me, but I should point out that AIE alone lists over 70 scholars and fellows many of whom have had a major impact on politics in Wash DC-- far more impact that the Havens Center, for example.

mesquito said...

Original Mike, my scince courses were islands of maturity and sobriety in a sea of politicized debauchery.

My fist day at Enourmous University, an English instrucor announced to my class of 18 and 19 year-olds that he found it ironic that he was teaching in the ROTC building, given his "communist leanings." It went down hill from there.

mesquito said...

Is roesh-voltaire's position that American universities need not trouble themselves with intellectual diversity because the American Enterprise Institute will employ the conservatives?

Henry said...

What's the return on sociology research? Is it even positive? I'm serious. Check out Megan McArdle's dismantling of Elizabeth Warren's work on bankruptcies. Maybe we'd be better off without it.

Joe said...

"Just how liberal/left-wing is the University of Wisconsin-Madison?"

This is a trick question, right?

HKatz said...

If he's going into the sciences, I'd say he'll have little to put up with. I can't speak for the humanities.

Generally I think this is the case (also more opportunity for biased and subjective grading in the humanities), though from personal experience one of the professors I knew who injected the most politics into the classroom was a science prof; for example he made it a point to weave things in, as analogies/jokes/etc., into his talks. Sometimes he even gave a pre-lecture opening monologue related to politics (a.k.a. his contempt for Republicans).

And one of the best professors I had in terms of critical thinking and letting students argue their own opinions (provided they back them up) was an English lit prof; from some of his activities outside of class I knew that he was pretty far on the left politically, but in his class he actually taught the literature, the text itself, and not through some post-modern identity politics lens.

c3 said...

Is this a trick question?

Original Mike said...

"from personal experience one of the professors I knew who injected the most politics into the classroom was a science prof

And one of the best professors I had ... was an English lit prof; ... I knew that he was pretty far on the left politically, but in his class he actually taught the literature, the text itself, and not through some post-modern identity politics lens."


I think the relevant variable is character.

El Pollo Real said...

Just how liberal/left-wing is the University of Wisconsin-Madison

It's a given that certain already-mentioned departments are or were. I haven't been around there for sometime to know for sure.

I'm interested in whether that has "always" been true or whether it's a historical aberration due for correction. Given Wisconsin political history, University politics have long been progressive (in the LaFollette sense), but when & how LaFollette-friendly politics morphed into falafel-friendly politics is another question.

wv: "unizings" OK, now word verification is just fuckin' with us.

Triangle Man said...

I'm not sure what it means to assign a single value of left/right to an entity as large as UW. The article seems to focus on who gets invited to speak on campus, what they say, and how they are received. From a curricular perspective, it will depend entirely on what program is being discussed.

Ann Althouse said...

@Pogo Much of the focus of that (rather muddled) article is the Sociology Department.

HKatz said...

I think the relevant variable is character.

Agreed - though it's character mixed in with scope of opportunity. No matter how politically strident or biased the science prof was, it would've been difficult for him to exercise bias in grading an undergrad's problem set (vs. something like a humanities paper, especially on a politically charged topic). This isn't to say his lectures didn't get to be annoying, though he still taught enough science (and taught it well) to make it worth taking the class.

Trooper York said...

Well it depends on what you compare it with. I mean it is nowhere as liberal/left wing as the University of Havana.

Trooper York said...

Not that I have ever been there.(Shudder)

I am just going by the quality of the former students of yours who post here.

Joe said...

When discussing a Sociology, English, or oddly enough a Geography Department the question isn’t how Liberal is it? It’s how rabidly Leftist is it? There are NO, I’d venture a wild guess, department of that nature that are NOT “liberal” the only question is HOW Liberal. You might find a “moderate” Political Science Department, but Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter here (Sociology).

David said...

Liberalism remains a undergraduate fashion statement at a large percentage of elite colleges and universities. The humanities faculties at these schools are now so monolithic that they encourage the fig leaves of conservative tokenism. And interestingly the liberal tilt has now begun shifting the ground in the humanities at many large southern universities.

Mass opinion is swayed in the longer term by repetition, ridicule and shunning, all broadly employed to enforce the party line. The general result of this in a free society is some kind of backlash and counter movement. This certainly happens in the relatively free broader society. But in academic, control of hiring, promotions, funding, assignments and the intense and narrow social pressure of the small tribe make for reduced freedom.

It will take quite an upheaval for the pendulum to swing back in "elite" academia.

c3 said...

Joe;
Great minds

Joe said...

c3 said...
Joe;
Great minds


Such was my belief....

I couldn't believe the line hadn't been used upthread.

William said...

It is said that the military self selects for people with a conservative bent and that liberal arts self elect for people with a progressive bent. Maybe, maybe not. I can definitely say that I met more liberals in my time in the military than I met conservatives among the faculty of the liberal arts schools I attended.....This matters. I've read that over 70% of the American public have a favorable view of the military. About 20% hold such a view of higher education. Ultimately both institutions are supported by the taxpayer. If the larger public feels that higher education is all about cranky leftists gearing up the grievance mills, funding will diminish. For the health of their own institutions, leftists should be affirmatively recruiting conservatives.

Kurt said...

Regarding English departments, I'll never forget a remark made by a fellow student in a graduate seminar about literary theory 20 years ago at a southern university which is known for being rather conservative (but whose faculty is still pretty far left). "There is no room," he observed, "for a Republican English department."

Had I been bolder and less "studiously apolitical" in those days, I might have asked him about his very odd choice of words. "There is no room"? And why not? It certainly can't be that there are very many of them. I can think of maybe one, and that would be at Hillsdale College.

Michael said...

I went to large lefty institutions and majored in English with minors in History and Philosophy. I went through about ten years of teaching during grad school and afterwords and then joined the business world. I found that I fairly quickly shed many of my liberal opinions as I found they were false in the real world. I found, as well, that the financial world was less political, more open minded and certainly more cheerful than academia. I shipped my son off to a liberal arts college and I expect that experience will right any wrongs. Time and experience.

Irene said...

Michael, it's even more astonishing when one transitions from the business world back to academia.

sol said...

Now that college faculties are nearly 100% composed of left wing radically, "peer-review" has the same importance that "Imprimatur" had during the Inquisition. Papers are reviewed to see if they contain violations of Faith and Morals -- Radical Left Wing Liberal Faith and Radical Left Wing Liberal Morals. This is no secret.

It was not possible to both advance Science AND receive an Imprimatur during the Inquisition. The same is true today. We need a Reformation. We need a New America where learning is divorced from politics.

c3 said...

Well if its any comfort, all of my kids have gone to Arizona State (not that ASU is like Wisconsin)and have had these experiences with a variety of profs. They are fully cognizant of professorial biases and seem to have the ability to discount the biases and push back.

William said...

Cardinal Newmann observed that students learn more from their fellow students than they do from their professors. I don't know if the students are being indoctrinated so much as being bored. The leftist students generate a lot of smoke and noise because that's what leftists do. I'm not so sure that they are the real opinion leaders on campus.

LarsPorsena said...

@Irene:

"Michael, it's even more astonishing when one transitions from the business world back to academia."

Please expand.

Pogo said...

Son #2 hopes to go to business school.

He really enjoyed the atmosphere, and it's a nice town of course.

I don't worry for him about the students; he needs to learn how to deal with that. But if he can't talk in class for 4 years, that would be tough.

Maybe I'll have him read Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification before he goes, and tell him to just get used it.

Irene said...

Lars, I found the climate in the business world very open to many ideas--both from the right and from the left. People with different viewpoints fluidly tolerated each other. No one hid their perspective. During the 2000 election, for example, the water-cooler discussions were civil and thoughtful. After 9/11, there was a sense that everyone in the office was joined in a shared, patriotic spirit.

I find academia civil, pleasant, and professional. But many people in academia do assume everyone else is a liberal. If they learn otherwise, the reaction often is outright dismay.

edutcher said...

If they want to shake things up a bit, add a ROTC unit with a Ranger Challenge detachment or an NROTC with a Marine drill company.

When the campus chapter of the SDS tried selling VC savings stamps in the student union, Whiskey Company initiated a frontal assault with no prisoners.

roesch-voltaire said...

One reason there might be fewer "conservative" scholars in the humanities could be because they can earn far more money working at one of the many right wing think tanks like Heritage Foundation, or the American Enterprise Institute and not have to worry about tenure

Not quite. Humanities degrees are known in many quarters as, "'You want fries with that?' degrees". Most Conservatives want to actually make their own money rather than buy into the redistributionist thing.

El Pollo Real said...

There's a big 40th anniversary of a tragic left wing-inspired campus event this August.

Are there any official plans to
commemorate it?

damikesc said...

One reason there might be fewer "conservative" scholars in the humanities could be because they can earn far more money working at one of the many right wing think tanks like Heritage Foundation, or the American Enterprise Institute and not have to worry about tenure-- only in staying within the ideology framework--David Frum is a good example.

I guess that is a reason.

The REAL reason is that conservatives cannot get tenure. Period.

Your logic is like saying "Well, blacks don't play in the major leagues because they prefer to play in the Negro Leagues".

Irene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irene said...

(Link booboo.)

Not yet . . . but here's a front pagestory from yesterday's paper.

c3 said...

R-V;
One reason there might be fewer "conservative" scholars in the humanities could be because they can earn far more money working at one of the many right wing think tanks like Heritage Foundation, or the American Enterprise Institute and not have to worry about tenure-

So are you suggesting that left wing think tanks pay less than Universities?

galdosiana said...

Well, I've been a reader of this blog for the past three years, and this is the thread that made me decide to actually post for the first time.

I'm a doctoral student at UW-Madison in the Humanities, and as a conservative in this environment, I have to say it has been very difficult to tolerate some of the antics that go on around campus. I can tell all of you that, without a doubt, Madison is the most liberal university I have ever been to--as is the city itself. My boyfriend was a self-described "liberal democrat", but over the past three years here he has now changed to a "moderate", and he even voted against Obama in 2008. This environment will do that to you.

In classes, the professors will openly lecture about their political beliefs--always extremely liberal, and always with the assumption that every single person in the seminar shares the same political perspective. If there is anything that will turn you off of academia, it is the hypocrisy of the open-minded liberal: freedom of speech for me, but none for thee.

I knew it was going to be a very liberal setting when I applied to my program, but I had no idea the extent of it until I was actually in class. I have two (yes--TWO) conservative friends in a department of over 80 graduate students, and we have been all but silenced on many occasions by people who cannot even back up their own beliefs. It has been an extremely frustrating and disillusioning process, but it has made me even stronger in my resolve to teach my students to TRULY be open-minded. As a former debater, I look forward to allowing my college students the experience to challenge each other in an equal-opportunity learning environment.

If there's anything I've learned during my doctoral studies here, it is how NOT to teach. It's been rough keeping my mouth shut in classes, but at least I know that my own students will be able to speak freely without feeling judged and without having to deal with a completely slanted bias in my classroom.

Thanks for letting me vent a little. It's been rather therapeutic! (And also, thanks to Prof. Althouse for this great blogging community. I've really enjoyed all of you over the past few years...even the occasional troll or two! he he he...)

Azmodeus said...

If you think sociology departments are ideologically rigid, try going through school to become an educator. Education schools are notoriously conformist to certain political slants.

colleenfailey said...

the better question would probably be to ask how right wing is uw madison. i would imagine that any truly left wing, or liberal institution would be immediately shut down by the oligarchs. honestly, how left wing can you be in an extreme right wing country? thats like asking, how healthy is the salad at mcdonalds? chances are, it wont be very healthy if its a restraunt that caters junk food. ive traveled around several western countries, and i will make my assessment based on that. im also familiar with various eastern cultures. i can pretty much say that theres no such thing as a liberal/left wing place in the u.s.. london is largely regarded as a far right wing city, ruled by rogue hege fund hyenas, and it is far more left wing and liberal than uwm. this should give you some perspective as to how far to the right uwm, and america as a whole is. if you think about it, canada is regarded as being liberal by most americans. however, if you truly look at the policies of canada, they can be largely regarded as being far right. it doesnt matter what you look at, from the treatment of native americans, to canada's involvement and role in afganistan. now, uwm may be less right wing than other u.s. universities, but this does not by any means make it liberal, or left wing.

d7476c6a-f617-11e1-866e-000bcdcb471e said...

So, Columbia, Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn, Princeton, and just about every other top 30 school have a majority of liberal students and faculty. Could it be that....... there is a correlation between intelligence and liberal thought? Perhaps you can achieve further conservatism by not getting into an elite school, then you can always use the fact that they are "too liberal" as an excuse for your lack of attendance at a good school.