Thursday, March 02, 2006

Follow-up to Stuntz

One striking comment in the Bill Stuntz (Harvard-Law) article I linked to earlier is his argument that while universities are decidedly leftist in some sense, they are conservative in a sense that is really important:
Most Americans think of universities as a bastion of the political left, and in one sense they are. But in a deeper sense, institutions like Harvard embody a particularly blind sort of conservatism: All change causes discomfort, and so must be resisted. In this deeper sense, Summers was and is very much a man of the left--the best kind of left. Good for him. Harvard's governing board has now chosen, publicly and emphatically, the status quo. Bad for them, and before long, bad for all of us.

This is exactly right. And I think that it actually cuts partially to the heart of the debate about whether academia is decidedly liberal or not. Many on the Right (and Left, such as Peter Schuck of Yale Law) argue that is while many who can speak from the comfort of tenure say "move right along, nothing to see here." This is the impression I get from many academics. They don't even want to acknowledge the problem despite the overwhelming evidence (e.g. from the empirical research guys at Northwestern Law), and usually without any bad intentions on their part. A friend of mine told me recently about the debate between Peter Schuck and Jack Balkin at the Yale Federalist Society on Tuesday about conservatives in legal academia. Balkin apparently seemed quite reluctant to admit that there is a problem.

Now, I don't mean to pick on Balkin here. He's a good guy. But, I think that his reluctance to admit to a problem that seems evident to almost everyone on the outside of the academy is a reflection of the exact thing that Stuntz was talking about in the TNR piece. I am not sure that Stuntz intended his commentary to apply to this particular issue as well, but I think it does quite well.


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