New York Times columnist Ross Douthat warned that American universities are in danger of losing funding for their programs thanks in part to the left-wing “ideological monoculture” on campus.
In a Saturday column for the paper, Douthat claimed that higher education in America is facing a period of “scarcer resources and sustained political conflict” thanks to two major trends in higher education hitting their apparent “limit.”
One of these trends is that a shift to more liberal ideas at colleges and universities has cemented the institutions into places where free debate is rare and radical politics are the norm, prompting donors and politicians to pull funding,
The columnist detailed the drying up of these trends, stating, “The first trend hitting its limit is the big higher-ed expansion — more buildings, more amenities, more administrators — that was made possible by a glut of students, in the millennial generation and from overseas, and also by easy credit and low interest rates.”
“The second trend,” he continued, “is the ideological transformation within the liberal university and the liberal arts — the shift from an environment where left-of-center ideas predominated but with a certain degree of diversity and free debate, to the Trump-era environment of default progressivism and D.E.I. loyalty oaths in hiring.”
Earlier in the column, Douthat pointed to the antisemitism found on major campuses in America as an example of the second trend hitting its limit. He wrote, “The furor around elite universities over their responses (or non-responses) to Hamas’s massacre in Israel has now inspired a group of white-shoe law firms to collectively demand a stronger response to antisemitism from leading law schools.”
Because of these circumstances, the author explained that colleges are “overbuilt for an age of declining birthrates and increasing global tensions.” Additionally, they are “much more out of step with crucial financial sources of support: for private schools, their donors; for public universities, Republican state legislators.”
Douthat acknowledged that Ivy League schools with “multibillion dollar” endowments will be able to weather the storm, however, he wrote, “just down the ladder from the Ivy League you have a lot of schools, big and small, that are going to be squeezed by shrinking pools of applicants no matter what, and especially squeezed if their funders decide that they don’t like supporting an ideological monoculture.”
This squeezing has already resulted in public universities in North Carolina pulling funding from their humanities programs and funneling that money to professorships in STEM programs.
Grilling the “left-wing professoriate” at these schools, the columnist declared that they “should have seen it coming.”
He quoted Bates College professor Tyler Austin Harper, a left-wing academic, who acknowledged the problem in a series of X posts he composed last week.
Harper stated, “This is what we’re witnessing – the dismantling of public higher ed in conservative states – and we’ve created the conditions for what’s going on at UNC. How did anyone think we could get away with being nakedly ideological for years without any chickens coming home to roost?”
“Universities have always been tacitly left-leaning and faculty have always been openly so, but institutions have never been this transparently, officially political. Almost every single job ad in my field/related fields this year has some kind of brazenly politicized language,” Harper said, adding, “Our society desperately needs the humanities, and a functional public higher education system more broadly.”
Douthat then proposed his solution to the squeeze, that academics should work with conservatives to save higher education. He wrote, “But it seems clear to me that academia should strongly prefer to negotiate with the conservatives who think the humanities need reform but should be saved — as opposed to just watching their programs get defunded and go dark.”
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