Viewpoint diversity in American higher education - AEI

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Event Summary

On Thursday at AEI, a panel of academics met to discuss the experience of conservative professors on campus and the role faculty play in addressing the campus political climate.

Claremont McKenna’s Jon Shields began with commentary from his book, “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University(Oxford University Press, 2016). He highlighted the lack of conservative professors in the humanities and social sciences, which is problematic for progressing research and strengthening education. In response, AEI’s Samuel Abrams shared his attempts to foster a competition of ideas in his classroom, including introducing conservative ideas through a historical lens. He argued that the faculty, rather than the students, have shifted hard left.

The conversation that followed touched on a variety of topics. Panelists discussed the prevalence of confirmation bias and the necessity of including all ideas to avoid decline in the quality of research and education. They contemplated the risks of overstating the current campus climate, and they disagreed about whether the campus climate will lead to tangible societal change. In addition, panelists considered the ability of conservative professors to be open about their politics, and they deliberated the danger of the growing association of speech with violence.

— Rebecca Ritchie

Event Description

Academia in the United States is generally politically progressive. We have seen evidence of this in student efforts at elite colleges to silence conservative speakers such as Heather Mac Donald and Charles Murray. In his book “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University” (Oxford University Press, 2016), Claremont McKenna’s Jon Shields reminds us that we cannot consider these efforts without taking into account that conservative faculty members are a minority on most campuses.

What role should academics play in the political dynamic on campus? Will campus politics continue straying to the left, or can it find its way back to a free exchange of ideas? Join AEI and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy for a discussion about political partisanship in American higher education and faculty’s role in addressing these issues.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


3:45 PM

4:00 PM
Pete Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy
Ryan Streeter, AEI

4:15 PM
Jon Shields, Claremont McKenna College

4:25 PM
Samuel J. Abrams, AEI

4:35 PM
Panel discussion

Samuel J. Abrams, AEI
Gerard Alexander, University of Virginia
Eliot Cohen, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
James Gimpel, University of Maryland
Samuel Goldman, The George Washington University

Pete Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy

5:30 PM

6:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Rebecca Ritchie at [email protected], 202.862.5919.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Event Speaker Biographies

Samuel J. Abrams is a political scientist with interests in political behavior, sociopolitical culture, and research methods. He is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, professor of politics and social sciences at Sarah Lawrence College, and a faculty fellow with New York University’s Center for Advanced Social Science Research. He has published numerous articles and books on public opinion, Congress, religion and society, and polarization. He is currently completing two book projects: a large-scale study of partisanship and society and an examination of polarization and the division or lack thereof in American society. His research interests involve the understanding the current red/blue divide in the United States, Jewish community political and electoral behavior, and ideology and partisanship. He was recently named as one of the United States’ “40 under 40” professors. He received his A.B. from Stanford University and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and is an alumnus of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Program on Inequality and Social Policy.

Gerard Alexander is an associate professor of political science in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on the conditions of democratic consolidation in advanced industrial countries, especially in Western Europe. His first book, “The Sources of Democratic Consolidation” (Cornell University Press, 2002), argued that the key right-of-center political movements formed long-term commitments to democracy only when their political risks in democracy became relatively low as left agendas moderated across time. His current research concerns factors affecting the size and role of government in selected cases in Western Europe and the United States and how they influence conservative attempts at reform of welfare states. Dr. Alexander received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

Eliot Cohen is Robert E. Osgood Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He directs the strategic studies program and the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, which he founded. He has twice won the Johns Hopkins SAIS Excellence in Teaching Award. For 10 years he led the National Security Studies Program, a Johns Hopkins SAIS partnership with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in providing executive education to general officers and senior Defense Department officials. From 1982 to 1985, he was assistant professor of government at Harvard and assistant dean of Harvard College. In 1985 he became a member of the Strategy Department of the United States Naval War College. In February 1990 he joined the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in July 1990 he was appointed professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. From April 2007 through January 2009, he served as counselor of the Department of State. Dr. Cohen is the author of “Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War” (Free Press, 2011), winner of the Society of Colonial Wars annual book award, and the Huntington prize-winning “Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime” (Anchor, 2002), among other books. He is coeditor of “Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies” (Oxford University Press, 2002) and “War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age” (Columbia University Press, 2002). In 1991–93 he directed and edited the official study of air power in the 1991 war with Iraq. For his leadership of The Gulf War Air Power Survey, he received the Air Force’s decoration for exceptional civilian service. His articles have appeared in numerous scholarly and popular journals, and he is the author of several widely used case studies for senior military and executive education. In 1982 he was commissioned in the United States Army Reserve. His service included several years as military assistant to the director of net assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has also served as adjunct professor at the United States Army War College, where he advised the Advanced Strategic Art Program, and was a member of the Defense Policy Advisory Board and the National Security Advisory Panel of the National Intelligence Council. He is a member of the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Committee on Studies of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a special adviser on foreign and defense policy to the presidential campaign of Governor Mitt Romney. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard College.

James Gimpel is a professor in the Department of Government & Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. His areas of interest include political geography, voting and opinion, political campaigns, and the politics of immigration policy. He has written recent articles on the mobilization of volunteers and donors in political campaigns and on the redistribution of the electorate through population mobility. His ongoing research involves the study of campaign contributions and new uses of geographic analysis tools to study politics and policy. He consults regularly with political campaigns, interest groups, and 527 organizations on political mobilization and the evaluation of campaign tactics. He served as editor of American Politics Research, a peer-reviewed political science journal, for eight years and worked on Capitol Hill in the US Senate for two years. Dr. Gimpel holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Samuel Goldman in an assistant professor of political science at George Washington University, where he leads the Politics & Values Program. He is also the inaugural director of the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. Before coming to George Washington, he was a Tikvah Postdoctoral Fellow in Religion, Ethics & Politics at Princeton. His research focuses on the theological sources of political ideas. He has published on figures including Tocqueville, Spinoza, and Leo Strauss, and he is completing a book about Christian Zionism in American thought. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Goldman is a contributing editor at The American Conservative. His writing has appeared in National Review, Modern Age, New York Magazine, First Things, The New Criterion, and other publications.

Pete Peterson is a leading national speaker and writer on issues related to civic participation and the use of technology to make government more responsive and transparent. He was the first executive director of Common Sense California, which is now the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership. He has also consulted on several projects with local governments and has directly facilitated public meetings. He cocreated and co-facilitates the training seminar “Public Engagement: The Vital Leadership Skill in Difficult Times,” which has been attended by more 1,000 municipal officials, and the seminar “Gov 2.0: What Public Officials Need to Know.” Mr. Peterson created and is the executive editor of the blogs inCommon and Gov2.0Watch. He writes widely on public engagement for a variety major news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as numerous blogs. He contributed to the edited volume “Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America” (New Atlantis Books, 2014). He is a public affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution. He serves on the leadership councils of the Public Policy Institute of California and California Forward and on the steering committees of the University Network for Collaborative Governance and the Institute for Local Government. He was the Republican candidate for California secretary of state in 2014.

Jon Shields is associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of “The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right” (Princeton University Press, 2009) and coauthor of “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University” (Oxford University Press, 2016). His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Weekly Standard.

Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy studies at AEI, where he oversees research in education, American citizenship, politics, public opinion, and social and cultural studies. Before joining AEI, he was executive director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Streeter has had a distinguished career in government service, which includes being deputy chief of staff for policy for Indiana Governor Mike Pence, special assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush at the White House, and policy adviser to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Outside of government, he has served as a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and as a research fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is the author of “Transforming Charity: Toward a Results-Oriented Social Sector” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the editor of “Religion and the Public Square in the 21st Century” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the coauthor of “The Soul of Civil Society: Voluntary Associations and the Public Value of Moral Habits” (Lexington Books, 2002); and a contributor to the Stephen Goldsmith book, “Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship” (Hudson Institute, 2002). In addition to his many television and radio appearances, which include BBC News, CNBC, and Fox News, Dr. Streeter’s articles have been widely published in outlets including National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The Washington Post. Dr. Streeter has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Emory University, an M.A. from Northern Illinois University, and a B.A. from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

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