Thursday, July 28, 2016 | Subscribe

Surprising diversity in “citadel of conservatism”

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.”