The Center for the Study of Popular Culture has some interesting articles on the spectrum of political opinion represented on elite campuses (campi?). This article, “One Last, Lefty Lecture” argues that graduation speakers are much more likely to be Democrat/Liberal rather than Republican/Conservative. The article demonstrates, in fairly convincing fashion, that the ratio of left wing to right wing speakers is more than 10 to 1. Better yet, they provide a listing of all the speakers and how they were characterized. Here is the section on Williams.

1994 Michael S Dukakis       Governor    L
1995 Bernice Johnson Reagon  Composer    L
1996 George Bush             President   R
1997 Grace Paley             Author      L
1998 Yo-Yo Ma                Musician    N
1999 Christopher Reeve       Actor       L
2000 George J Mitchell       US Senator  D
2001 Robert E Rubin          Cabinet     D
2002 Morris Dees             Lawyer      L
2003 Eric Lander             Scientist   N

2D, 5L, 0C, 1R, 2N

Looking at this list optimistically, it is nice to note that Williams (unlike both Amherst and Wesleyan) has at least one Republican/Conservative. Because of the inclusion of former President Bush, Williams also does better than the average elite school with a 7:1 ratio.

Looking at this pessimistically, it is sad to see Williams not doing a better job of providing balance. Of course, a sample size of 10 isn’t enough to draw serious conclusions, but I don’t recall graduation speakers being too right wing in the 1980’s. A good out of sample test going forward will be to see how Williams does over the next 10 years. If they fail to invite any of the three recent Republican governors of Massachusetts or any leading Republican Sentors and Cabinet Secretaries, it will probably be fair to conclude that there is as much bias at Williams as anywhere else.

Whether or not this outcome is a good or bad thing is a topic for another day.

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