This isnt yet available on-line for non-subscribers, but in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stanley Fish has a typically interesting and slippery argument against attempting to impose political balance on the university. (Here, while Im at it, is an older column on the same subject that is available on-line.) There is "no correlation," Fish argues, between electoral politics and "the politics of academic disciplines." The liberal/conservative or Democratic/Republican divides do not, for example, track the hotly-contested divide between quantitative and qualitative political scientists. There are conservatives and liberals in both quant and "qual" camps (Ive never heard anyone say "qual" before, perhaps because we "quals" are beneath quant contempt).
I dont disagree with this. My allies on curricular or disciplinary disputes are not always those who vote the same way in elections. Of course, if I could only look for academic allies among those who voted the way I did, Id be a lonely and isolated middle-aged man, mumbling to himself in his office, instead of the powerful and respected institutional pillar that I am. (Uh, I am sitting in my office blogging, so perhaps Im further gone than I thought.)
Of course, it may be that academic politics matter more than "real" politics to us academics. I remember the dilemma faced by employees of Boston University who couldnt decide whether it was more important to get John Silber out of BU by electing him Governor of Massachusetts or to spare the citizens of the Commonwealth the fate that they were suffering on Commonwealth Ave. And theres the old adage about passions running high when the stakes are low.
But it strikes me that whats most interesting in Fishs argument is the claim that nothing of intellectual significance can be predicted by looking at a persons partisan affiliation. If the same argument holds for every other aspect of a persons background (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation), then Fish is making a very strong argument against affirmative action, not just for conservatives, but for any other ostensible source of diversity. If poltiical affirmative action politicizes the university, wouldnt race- or gender-based affirmative action racialize or "engender" the university?
David Horowitz may be more clever than I thought. Could he be using the red herring of academic diversity to maneuver academics into abandoning the diversity argument at the core of the contemporary case for affirmative action?
What think you, gentle (and not so gentle) readers?