Ideological diversity not apparent in Nevada higher education

Patrick Gibbons

Nevada’s universities this year faced real budget cuts – and by real, I mean they saw an actual decline in expenditures from the previous year. With fewer dollars coming in, the universities are not filling open positions. Some individuals even worry that qualified faculty will flee to universities in other states (although few states appear immune to budget cuts this year). Worse, some are worried that the universities might lose racially and sexually diverse faculty.

There can be no doubt that racism, and other -isms, still exist in America today. But the real culprit behind the racial inequality that persists has more to do with the fact that minorities are more likely to get a substandard education from our public school monopoly than whites. The quality of your education goes a long way in helping to generate the skills necessary to succeed in life.

Your skin color, or even sexual orientation, makes no difference in how competent you will be at your job – any job. Racial and sexual differences may provide unique perspectives on some things some of the time, but the same is true for political diversity, and that is not represented very well at most universities.

Typically, academics argue that racial and sexual diversity provide great benefits to the university’s intellectual climate, but somehow, ideological diversity has no importance at all. Such reasoning has no intellectual basis, because it is merely an excuse to avoid looking at how un-diverse academia really is.

Universities claim to love diversity, but often in the world of open minds, the faculty appears to think a lot alike

Looking at federal campaign donations from 2008 and 2010 at Open Secrets (analysis completed August 4, 2010), I compared donations from UNR and UNLV faculty to Republican, Democrat and independent candidates and affiliated organizations. Political campaign donations are an imperfect proxy for the ideological makeup of Nevada’s universities, but it most likely provides a close approximation.

I found that, between UNLV and UNR, 91.7 percent of all donations and 91 percent of all dollars donated went to Democrats and their affiliates. Based on this data, UNR appears to have virtually no political diversity. At UNR, 98.8 percent of donors sent money to Democrats while 98.2 percent of the dollars went to Democrats. UNLV was “more” diverse, but not much – 84.6 percent of donations and 85.9 percent of dollars donated from UNLV faculty went to Democrats.

Sometimes diversity initiatives are taken too far and lead to preferential treatment and discrimination

These results are similar to what University of Arkansas professor Dr. Jay P. Greene found when he examined political contributions at the nation’s top 10 universities during the 2008 campaign cycle. Dr. Green found that 87 percent of donations at these elite universities went to Democrats while 91 percent of the dollar value of the donations went to Democrats.

Universities claim to be places of diversity and open-mindedness, but this is not true when it comes to political affiliation or ideology. I’m not suggesting affirmative action for Libertarian and Republican professors, but the universities should be more honest about how diverse they actually are. Universities should work hard to ensure ideological minorities are heard on campus and prevent the dominant (if not, at times, intolerant) left wing from issuing a heckler’s veto on right-of-center speakers, events, protests or clubs.

Finally, we should consider whether the lack of ideological diversity among university faculty is due to selection bias, peer pressure, political litmus tests, intolerant discrimination or some other factor.