Chris Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University, recently expressed concern that universities are perceived “right or wrongly, as blue dots” in a politically divided America and thus said that universities must be concerned with political diversity. Some other university leaders have also cautiously suggested that the academy may put out the welcome mat for the right. Nevertheless, there is reason for doubting that political diversity will be increased or discrimination against conservatives and libertarians ended in the elite university setting. The causes of political imbalance and of discrimination are entrenched and are unlikely to change soon.
The Harvard Crimson reports that 98 percent of political donations made by the Harvard Law School faculty goes to Democrats. This disproportion suggests that the lack of political diversity at elite law schools is no better than when I reported on it in my own study ten years ago. As the Anglican church was said to be the Tory party at prayer in nineteenth century England, the legal academy today remains the Democratic party at play.
Already comments dismissing the import of the study are to be found on the internet, such as the observation that the donations at Koch Industries may be similarly one-sided. That misses the point. The concern is not about the political donations per se, but that their distribution suggests that intellectual atmosphere at schools like HLS is politically insular. Lawyers, as Alexis De Tocqueville said, are the political aristocrats of American society, and our elite law schools importantly shape their education. Moreover, law school professors play a large role in the production of new legal ideas and reforms.
There are, no doubt, many reasons for such gross ideological imbalance. One that is little discussed is network effects.