There is something mildly (but also informatively) ironic about Todd Zywicki (Law, George Mason) sounding the call for "intellectual diversity on campus," since Professor Zywicki, like his co-blogger Professor David Bernstein, teaches at the least intellectually diverse law school in the United States: George Mason University in Virginia. This is not a knock on George Mason; in fact, lack of intellectual diversity accounts for its phenomenal success, despite its relative youth, a point which casts a different light on the "intellectual diversity" blather: for the fact familiar to all academics is that intellectual and scholarly work often flourishes in an environment when like-minded individuals can work together. By adopting as its market niche "conservative/libertarian law and economics," George Mason has been able to attract a highly productive and accomplished faculty, who no doubt stimulate each other to do more and better work. There are, to be sure, some closeted liberals on the George Mason faculty, though they can be counted on one hand. For "intellectual diversity," George Mason throws in one Straussian and one mainstream conservative.
In fact, of course, the meaningless studies of political party affiliation of academics belie the reality, on which I've remarked previously: universities are the most intellectually diverse institutions in American society. Although there are fairly homogeneous places like George Mason, they are the exception that prove the rule. What other institution in American society is home to Marxists, democratic socialists, libertarians, and conservatives, as well as wishy-washy Democrats and Wall Street Republicans? This is all the more striking in light of the fact that in the overwhelming majority of academic disciplines political identification barely matters, as compared to technical skill and ability. Consider: classics, philosophy, physical anthropology, chemistry, computer sciences, mathematics, archaeology, physics, astronomy, engineering, linguistics, biology, psychology, sociology, even (in large part) economics. It is probably true that across all these fields, there are more "liberals" than "conservatives," but given the irrelevance, indeed invisibility, of political identification, the explanation can't be discrimination, conscious or unconscious. Far more plausible, as we've remarked before, is that it is some combination of self-selection and the simple, and so far undisputed, fact that it's hard to be intelligent and informed and take seriously the world view of, e.g., Bill O'Reilly or Tom DeLay, not to mention the pathological David Horowitz. Certainly the serious conservatives in the academy find this stuff embarrassing, yet what the political forces mounting an attack on the universities really want is precisely more of their kind of conservativism, as we've seen. It is true enough, if sad, that some far right academics are consumed with Schadenfreude at the prospect of a political purge of the universities, and so have a vested interest in misrepresenting what actually goes on at institutions of higher education--but that they are forced to do so by joining cause with transparently anti-intellectual right-wing talk show hosts says more about the academics in question than about the actual situation in the universities. American universities--with occasional exceptions like the law faculty at George Mason--feature an intellectual diversity not to be found in the mass media, in the leading law firms, in the halls of Congress, in the state legislatures, or any other central institution of American life.
That, of course, is why they are under attack.
UPDATE: "Intellectual diversity" is also the wrong label for what's at issue given the evidence adduced.