Remember this ratio: 23:1. That’s the ratio of the number of registered Democrats for every registered Republican on the faculty in academic departments at UNC-Chapel Hill that address political and social issues. The findings are from a 2016 article in Econ Journal Watch and included in a recent opinion piece in the News and Observer by Michael Jacobs where he explained why the imbalance is not good for the institution or students.
That UNC Chapel Hill faculty is dominated by Democrats and liberals is not news. Many would have guessed so. What you may not know is that the problem is as bad as it is. The study pulled data from forty schools, many of the top academic institutions in the nation. Twenty-nine of the schools were private; eleven were public. UNC had the third highest ratio among the public institutions listed. Only UC-Davis (25.8:1) and the University of Maryland (26:1) had higher ratios, than UNC-Chapel Hill.
Also, worth noting is that UNC ratios were significantly higher than other public institutions like UC-Berkeley (14.3:1), UCLA (8.8:1), Penn State (6:1) and Ohio State (3.2:1). Moreover, UNC Chapel Hill ratios were even higher than notable private institutions like Harvard (10.1:1), Yale (16.4:1), Stanford (11.1:1) and Duke (11.4:1).
Although, far from a scientific study (Twenty other institutions – both public and private — were excluded because state laws did not allow such information to be shared), UNC’s ratio certainly grabs the attention.
It is interesting to note that in this recent period of student demonstrations on campus, the campuses grappling most with free speech issues and disruptions on campus – U.C. Berkeley, Middlebury et al, are also colleges with little balance on the faculty.
The larger question is: What can UNC-Chapel Hill do to correct the imbalance? It’s not an easy problem to correct. If an institution is weighted on one side of the political spectrum, a certain amount of self-selecting probably already occurs amongst individuals seeking to join the faculty. Some schools (Colorado) have sought to redress the imbalance by creating endowed “chairs” in conservative studies. That’s a start, but some critics say that may only memorialize conservatives. A far better solution is for UNC-Chapel Hill to commit itself to intellectual diversity and take real steps to make itself a more appealing place for scholars of all political stripes. Providing a healthy environment for civil discourse is one step all sides can agree on. If UNC-Chapel Hill is serious about addressing the lack of intellectual diversity on campus, there will be meaningful steps that follow.