Anatomy of an Intellectual Monoculture

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia employees who donated to Democratic Party candidates between 2017 and 2022 outnumbered Republican donors by an 18-to-one ratio, reports a National Association of Scholars case study.

Professors favor Dem candidates over GOP by a 24-to-one ratio, and staff by a 16-to-one ratio. The only sub-categories that came close to parity were “blue-collar staff (1.4-to-one) and sports team coaches (7-to-4). Twenty-one of 39 academic disciplines included not a single Republican donor.

Compared to other elite higher-ed institutions, the ideological imbalance at UVA is “moderate,” writes author Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor at Brooklyn College. At some institutions, it’s almost impossible to find any Republicans. However, the imbalance is getting worse, not better.

“In the past decade, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) politics, including expensive DEI officers, DEI compliance requirements, and litmus tests for professors have further skewed university cultures,” Langbert writes. “Identity studies departments, such as gender studies, have also influenced universities’ organizational cultures and personnel policies.”

UVA has seen especially rapid growth in its DEI bureaucracy, the size estimates for which range from 55 employees (UVA’s estimate) to 235 employees including student interns (Open the Books’ estimate). Under President Jim Ryan, UVA also has aggressively recruited “under-represented” minority faculty in fields that have skewed hard left politically.

One limitation of the study, which Langbert acknowledges, is that it doesn’t capture the political views of all employees, only donors. Unlike other states, Virginia does not require registered voters to identify a party affiliation. His UVA database encompasses 2,255 Democratic donors and 125 Republican donors in a university with 17,500 employees. 

Still, the NAS findings are entirely consistent with the Jefferson Council’s own research, which has documented a steady leftward drift in donors since the 1960s. As the heterodox Boomer generation of faculty retires, it is being replaced by professors who are almost uniformly left of center in their political orientation. Efforts at UVA by philanthropists like John Nau and Drew McKnight to rectify the imbalance by endowing professorships with the goal of promoting viewpoint diversity have been far outweighed by foundation funding sought by the Ryan administration to ramp up social-justice disciplines. The handful of conservative post-docs recruited by the handful of conservative professors as short-term instructors don’t get offered tenure-track positions. They wind up seeking employment at less prestigious but less ideologically monolithic universities.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by whopping majorities in every discipline, even fields traditionally thought of as “conservative,” such as business, engineering, medicine, and the classics. Seventy-one donors in education donated to Democrats versus one to Republicans. In the fields of English (62 donors), history (33 donors), religion (20 donors), and languages (41) donors, not a single faculty member contributed to a Republican candidate.

The power imbalance within hierarchical higher-ed structures is even more pronounced. Policies and practices restrict advancement opportunities for individuals who do not share the dominant ethos, Langbert says.

Summarizing work he has done in the fields of economics and industrial relations, he finds:

As one moves up the hierarchy in economics and the academic field of industrial relations the higher-ranked academics skew further left than do the lower-ranked academics. Thus, editors of journals are more consistently to the left than are published authors, and published authors are more consistently to the left than mere members of the American Economic Association or Labor and Employment Relations Association. That is consistent with organizational culture in which left-political affiliation is an important norm or standard, a litmus test for acceptability.

In the estimation of the Jefferson Council, the ideological filtering process is at work at UVA. The more each department becomes ideologically homogenous, inclined to groupthink, and disparaging of anyone with different views, the less likely it is to hire anyone who thinks differently. A vicious cycle sets in. Leftist professors take on similarly inclined graduate students. Seeing the writing on the wall, conservatives students are less likely to enter and persist through graduate programs. Leftists become more likely to earn advanced degrees and enter the tenure track. Over time, the pipeline of conservative scholars dries up.

The process is likely irreversible in many elite institutions. Whether UVA is too far gone to salvage is an open question.

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walter smith
walter smith
22 days ago

Too far gone seems the most likely answer.
Look at how averse UVA is to any criticism or open discussion or dissent.
Bert Ellis was character assassinated for … what? Thinking the Lawn should be respected? That Hira Azher, accorded an honor, should act like it? Jim Ryan could have stopped the character assassination. He didn’t. He didn’t because he wanted it to succeed. How dare anyone oppose King Jim! A coordinated hit – University Dems, Dem Party of Va, Student Council, Faculty Senate, UVA FOIA releasing texts that were not public business to smear him, the Cav Daily (Eva Surovell editor) and Va Senate, Dem leader also named Surovell….Anybody notice a pattern? Where was the respect the outcome of democracy crowd? Youngkin won and gets to appoint?

Shine a light on UVA and it uses its propaganda organs – including the Cav Daily – to re-assure the gullible that all is well at the intolerant monolith.

Examine the 4 pillars of what The Jefferson Council wants. Are you against an Honor System? Free speech and intellectual diversity? Respecting the Lawn and the Academical Village – World Heritage sites – the only school in the US so designated? Respecting Jefferson? It seems the Admin and the faculty all hate Jefferson – even though they get overpaid because of him! But UVA does not even present a fair accounting of Jefferson – instead it propagates lies…routinely and widely. Other than possibly disagreeing over Jefferson, what is to be opposed? But UVA is hostile. Hostile because UVA is no longer an educational entity. It has become a political entity. An indoctrination entity.

Those numbers do not happen by accident. And they are an incredible failure at all levels. The “President,” the BOV, the alumni and donors. A disgrace to what Jefferson intended. And what citizens of Virginia deserve.

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
21 days ago
Reply to  walter smith

Absolutely agree!

GRob
GRob
22 days ago

The college environment is the biggest problem with sending your child to college today. It is a progressive leftist indoctrination, now including antisemitism. It is no longer Plato’s academic environment encouraging critical thinking.
From the Professor John Ellis:
“The [college and university] hiring being done now is at the rate of about 50 to one [Leftist], not five to one or eight to one. So you’re going to wind up with a complete monoculture.
The academia is poisoning one profession after another. It’s totally poisoned journalism. It’s poisoned the teaching in the high schools because the high school teachers are all trained on college campuses, and we — the society needs to wake up and decide whether it really wants to pay these vast sums of money to support this apparatus.”
From Larry Arnn at Hillsdale College:
“The fact is that since the 1960s, the Left has increasingly controlled the tools of education, and it has used those tools to undermine informed patriotism, with the ultimate goal of transforming American government and society.”

Patrick Alther
Patrick Alther
22 days ago

While agreeing that some matters like the attacks on Bert Ellis and the anti-Jefferson spiel have crossed the line egregiously I would like to offer an alternative explanation as to why those in higher education have so overwhelmingly rejected the Republican Party. It is because the Republican Party has changed so drastically, become so anti-intellrctual to put in precise terms. It is no longer the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Eisenhower. And yes,Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Thanks to the Trump mindset it is no longer the party of intellectuals as Theodore S White stated in his classic The Making of the President 1960.
While I have been a lifelong Democratic voter there have been times when I have voted Republican or rooted for Republican candidates running in races outside where I lived. Senator John Warner for one. A conservative Republican but one who was intelligent, thoughtful and concerned for the common good.
Moderate and liberal Republicans no longer have a home in the party, or for that matter traditional conservatives , those who listened to William F Buckley Jr instead of the Rush Limbaughs, Tucker Carlsons and fundamentalist TV preachers.

walter smith
walter smith
22 days ago
Reply to  Patrick Alther

Seems like class-ism to me.
Must one be an “intellectual” to know that what is happening is toxic?
Maybe the hoi polloi were onto something before the “educated” caught on. Maybe the working people had to live under the consequences of the failed policies while the “educated” did not have to suffer those same consequences.
I think the reason we have Trump is because the “normies” are sick of the establishment Republicans who seem to want to lose less quickly, as opposed to defeating the Democrats, who are now not even sane – full on Marxist, destroy the country, abuse the power, engage in lawfare.
Substantively, you lived under Trump’s policies and are living under Dem rule now. Which is better?
Yes, Trump talks brashly. He eats his steak well done…with ketchup! Oh, the horrors! But the hoi polloi like him because they know he won’t betray them.

In 2016 I was for Cruz and he lasted to the end. So when it came down to the binary choice – Hillary who I knew was evil, or Trump who said some sane things, I chose sanity, and was pleasantly surprised. And he did this with unprecedented “resistance” even from within his own party, much less the opposition AND the media (but I repeat myself!).
John Warner opposed a different Democrat party. They weren’t bat fecal matter crazy. But this group is.

Didn’t Goldwater say something like this – Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Clarity77
Clarity77
21 days ago
Reply to  Patrick Alther

Patrick, is it the Republican Party that has changed or is it the democrat party that has “become so anti-intellectual?” Would you have thoughts on what I have posted here on the subject of being a true intellectual?

Do liberal democrats currently feel they have a home in the democrat party? Think Alan Dershowitz or the recently deceased Joe Lieberman, RFK, Jr., or more close to Virginia, Jerry Baliles who I counted as a good friend and who like John Warner worked across the aisle.

I would conclude the weight of evidence whether in tertiary education or national politics clearly points to the term intellectual being no longer applicable to anyone attached to the current democrat party as in its current form it requires and enforces conformity of thought which is antithetical to the very definition of an intellectual. You need look no further than present day Columbia, Harvard and yes UVA where I have observed personally repeatedly no allowance for conservative Republican thought in faculty sponsored events. UVA is in practice now a purposeful breeding ground not for intellectuals but rather for indoctrinated useful idiots. As this article clearly points out Republicans have not been allowed to be even present while leftist democrats have purposefully created a campus environment where now violence against Jewish students is not addressed and Ryan’s regime by its silence is complicit. Idiocy not intellectualism is self evident in practice by faculty democrat party adherents, not Republican.

What say you? Facts please.

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
21 days ago
Reply to  Patrick Alther

And the Democratic Party is no longer the party of JFK, Truman, Bill Clinton or even LBJ and FDR. It has become a fringe radical party, leading the country to socialism and anarchy.

Diane Metheny
Diane Metheny
21 days ago

It’s been this way in the Curry school for a long time (soft expectations). I was a grad student there in the 90s after earning my undergrad from UVA and was shocked at how low the bar was set to earn a 4.0. I’m not saying this about every degree program, just the one I was in (I didn’t finish).

Clarity77
Clarity77
21 days ago
Reply to  Diane Metheny

At Curry it goes back even further to the early ’70’s when it was well known campus wide that in order to give a boost to your GPA, Curry was the place to go for a “gut” as it was termed then. Grade inflation had already infected Curry whereas in the hard sciences where I was it definitely had not.

Grad school admission was not a level playing field given other universities that were purposefully not as rigorous as UVA when it came to grading. In a later conversation with John Casteen though he pointed out that UVA grads handily outperformed most other universities when it came to standardized grad school testing. That probably is no longer the case.

After the recent TJC conference I stopped in to what we knew as Alderman Library, and struck up a conversation with a student there. I asked, do they still sell in the Newcomb bookstore the “grades earned, not given” t-shirt? She just laughed and said no it’s too easy to get an A now at UVA. Just another aspect of what we used to know as Marxist useful idiots, posing now as intellectuals, have brought to UVA.

walter smith
walter smith
21 days ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Hey, but I thoroughly enjoyed Doc Payne and “Rehab Techniques”…and the A!

Clarity77
Clarity77
21 days ago
Reply to  walter smith

Absolutely Walter! And I too enjoyed that course as Doc Payne introduced us to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy which gave clarity and a framework as to living a life of purpose and fulfillment which I have and continue to enjoy. Much more transformative, enlightening and memorable than physics, organic chem, etc.

Patrick Alther
Patrick Alther
21 days ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Way back when I was attending the University the education school had a dubious reputation One story was that its faculty wanted to be addressed as Doctor So and So instead of Mr, Ms etc unlike all other professors with the exception of the Medical School I believe, who were fine with Mr(few female faculty in those days).Inferority Comp!ex in the ed school perhaps?

Clarity77
Clarity77
21 days ago
Reply to  Patrick Alther

A la Jill Biden? But I do not believe she graduated from UVA as they would have renamed Curry for her by now.

So it must be a national systemic issue in tertiary ed schools as to the inferiority complexes or just feeling a woke need to be seen as more intelligent than evidence would suggest in view of how poorly they have managed our national education system from primary to tertiary levels.

Come to think of it this current in your face grade inflation by woke DEI educators at UVA may indeed have originated back in the ’70s or even late ’60’s by way of the leftist hippies that stuck around university communities rather than moving on to get a real job. And of course delusions of grandeur in the form of being viewed as intellectuals sporting a PhD which they could then even be addressed as “doctor.” The human ego is a bizarre thing to observe, especially in current day UVA woke academia and will only get more bizarre as generational narcissism intensifies on national campuses.

There was a time when the Gentleman’s C was socially acceptable but that was a time long ago when adults were still present in university administrations. And when grades were in fact earned and not given. Sigh.

Clarity77
Clarity77
21 days ago

Intellectual monoculture is simply an oxymoron as to qualify as an intellectual by definition one must have the intent to entertain and allow for different viewpoints. Which is obviously not the case as this article relates currently in tertiary education.

The problem at its core is simply leftist Marxist ideology which now dominates what was formerly liberal ideology whose proponents still welcomed alternative viewpoints as an avenue to achieve the objective of sound reason based thinking.

Marxism in practice as we have seen in its history is intolerant of views that would in any way differ and by default creates idiocy as we are currently witnessing in practice which serve to achieve the Marxist objective to burn down institutions originally built on reason and truth.

Again, by way of an imposed monoculture which I would submit would better be described by the phrase useful idiot monoculture. Not an oxymoron.