Surprising diversity in “citadel of conservatism”

by Evan Brune on September 20, 2012

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One-third of Hillsdale College faculty call themselves Republicans, a quarter call themselves Democrats, and a fifth call themselves politically independent, according to a survey conducted by The Collegian.

“There is a considerable range of opinion amongst the faculty. There are plenty of liberals, ” said Paul Rahe, professor of history and a registered Republican since Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

The anonymous survey was conducted last week. Of the 77 faculty members who responded, 34.8 percent identified themselves as Republican. Democrats accounted for 26 percent, independents made up 20.8 percent, and Libertarians were 9.1 percent.

“There are also considerable differences among those who aren’t liberal,” Rahe said. “There’s more division and debate here than you’ll find on any other college campus.”

On other campuses, 70.8 percent of professors identify themselves as Democrats, according to a 2007 study by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. The study also found that 20.8 percent of professors called themselves Republicans and 8.5 percent regarded themselves as independents.

Some Hillsdale professors expressed more apathy about their political ideologies. Professor of Biology Dan York identifies as “totally non-political” and tends to vote on issues rather than political parties.

“I believe in the power of the free market and personal responsibility for one’s own life,” York said. “There are so many similarities between the free market system and ecosystems: when things go wrong with either, I strongly feel it is best to just leave them alone to work out the problems without trying to over-manage them.”

A number of faculty members also declined to speak on the topic, stating that it was not their place to espouse their personal political opinions. But several of the anonymous responses even included extra notes from the professors:

“All I want from a candidate is environmental and fiscal responsibility,” said a Democrat. “Since this is not found anywhere in today’s political climate, I am stuck with the party that causes the least damage.”

A Republican was similarly unenthusiastic about the choices: “I lean Republican, and I intend to vote for Romney. But, in reality, I don’t like the ‘Stupid Party’ much better than the ‘Evil’ Party.”

Others expressed their passion. “Down with the Fed! Ron Paul Revolution!” a Libertarian wrote, circling the backwards “love” in “Revolution.”

Despite the range of responses, Professor of History and Kirk Chair Brad Birzer, who considers himself a Libertarian, said there is an overall unity.

“We have a great faculty, and I think we see each other for the best in that person,” he said. “I’ve never seen any demand to conform politically.”

 

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