For years I have claimed that the lack of ideological diversity among the Williams faculty (all left, no right) is a problem and that something ought to be done about it. My favorite concrete example is the lack of faculty members who agree with, say, Republican policies and are willing to defend those policies in campus debate. (Vaguely related discussions here and here.) Note James McAllister’s comment that “it goes without saying that there should be more political diversity among the faculty at Williams.”

Recall this discussion and Lowell’s claim that

He [Professor Kris Kirby] related that he had to keep his views entirely to himself, and was told to read and subscribe to certain newspapers and magazines and not even hint at his political affiliations.

I checked this story with Professor Kirby. He clarifies as follows.

The gist of Lowell’s recollection is mostly correct, but he has mixed together two different points. I did keep my views entirely to myself, but not because I was advised to do so. I had seen (on separate occasions) a senior faculty member make positive comments about a leftist job candidate and disparaging comments about a Republican student in department meetings, and these comments yielded assent from other faculty members. As a non-tenured libertarian these and other subtle signals scared me. I thought it prudent to keep quiet.

The point about the magazines was related but different. There is a presumption here that all faculty share the same political beliefs. It rarely occurs to us to wonder whether a Republican joke, for example, might not be appreciated by everyone in the audience. When I first arrived on campus a kindly old professor gave me advice on which local newspapers were worth subscribing to. He noted disapprovingly that some people up here “take the New York Times,” but recommended against it because it is “too conservative.” My point was that it never even occurred to this professor that I might be conservative (I’m not) or even to the right of the New York Times.

I have seen little in the way of outright political discrimination at Williams. Most faculty are fair-minded people. But the near-unanimity of left-liberal belief allows for a presumption of agreement that inhibits the expression of diverse political views more than the faculty realize. This was the real point of my anecdotes.

If McAllister thinks that the College needs greater ideological diversity among the faculty and Kirby notes that the “near-unanimity of left-liberal belief” is a problem, can we all agree that there is something wrong at Williams? Whether anything could be done about this, and at what cost, is a separate question. But the first step in any recovery is admitting that you have a problem . . .

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