It’s old news: College professors, including those at the University, skew politically to the left.

According to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, people who listed the University of Michigan as their employer have contributed a total of $125,298 to the presidential candidates. Of that, Republican candidates received $27,113. Democratic candidates got $98,185. That’s kind of a big difference. Of the money that went to Democrats, Hillary Clinton trounced all the GOP hopefuls combined with $34,394, and Barack Obama did even better, raising $55,887, twice as much as the Republicans. Of 492 contributions by University affiliates, 52 went to Republicans and 450 to Democrats.

Of course, those filings reports are an inexact measure for several reasons – the Democratic race has lasted longer, for one – but they paint a generally accurate picture.

Still not convinced?

A steady parade of surveys shows that professors are overwhelmingly liberal, most of which inspire their share of vitriol on conservative blogs. And it may be somewhat telling that my biological anthropology professor chose to illustrate a point about evolution with an image of a modern day primate next to an eerily similar photograph of President Bush.

So there’s a demonstrable liberal slant in academia. But does the disproportionate number of Democrats as opposed to the number of Republicans in the faculty have any effect on the quality of our education?

I think it does.

Did you ever get the feeling in Ann Arbor that either Clinton or Obama – judging by campus support, probably the latter – is sure to rout John McCain by 50 points in November? Did you ever get the sense that there is only one acceptable view on affirmative action? On withdrawal from the war in Iraq? On abortion? That – if they actually exist – the people who don’t support gay marriage live millions of miles away in some red state that hasn’t yet experienced the benefits of evolution?

There are some pockets of conservatism on campus. Some academic departments have more conservative professors than others, and there are a handful of student groups that try to counteract liberals’ campus chokehold. Still, the majority of liberal professors largely sets the agenda on campus. They attract more liberal professors – not because they discriminate in the hiring process but because conservatives don’t apply for jobs. They attract more liberal students. They even produce some liberal students – not by indoctrinating their classes with Paul Krugman’s talking points or trashing Republican leadership at the beginning of every lecture on astronomy but by establishing a culture in which a certain set of views is more accepted than another.

I’m liberal myself. When I came to the University four years ago I was an uninformed conservative, but campus has changed my mind. That’s a wonderful thing.

But now I find it hard to find conservative viewpoints to balance my own. If this university has taught me anything, it’s that I’m probably wrong. So naturally I want to be exposed to more right-wing rhetoric. An odd thing for a liberal to say? Maybe, but you should feel the same way. At the very least hearing conservatives’ misguided convictions will strengthen yours.

George Will, the columnist with whom I disagree on just about everything, put it this way: “(Colleges) cultivate diversity – in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.”

I’m not suggesting that the University begin an affirmative action program for the same people who voted for the ballot initiative to ban race- and gender-based preferences in 2006. I’m also not blaming the faculty or the administration or the student body. It’s simply unfortunate that conservatives self-select themselves out of the faculty, because we need their viewpoints here.

Even when they’re spectacularly wrong.

Karl Stampfl was the Daily’s fall/winter editor in chief in 2007. He can be reached at

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