Although it may not come as too much of a surprise that the University of Connecticut, which is located in one of the most left leaning regions in the country, has a higher registered Democrat to Republican ratio, the extent of the disparity is particularly astounding. According to a new study published earlier this month conducted by the Econ Journal Watch, the University of Connecticut has a faculty registration ratio of 13 registered Democrats for each registered Republican, which is slightly higher than the national average.
The methodology behind this analysis involved examining publicly available voter registration records and than matching them to tenure track faculty members. Adjunct faculty and visiting faculty were consequently excluded from the study. Only the departments of law, economics, psychology and communications were included in the study.
Overall, forty different institutions were examined, and the average Democrat to Republican ratio was found to be 11.5:1. UConn in particular was listed as having the 21st largest ratio.
One particularly interesting correlation found by the study was that more prestigious a university was, as determined by US World News, the more likely it was to have a higher Democrat to Republican ratio. Institutions such as Brown (60:1), Columbia (30:1), Princeton (30:1) and Yale (16:1) all had particularly high ratios and all ranked in the top 15 most Democrat leaning universities.
One particularly point of contention raised by this study was that there are concerns that a high single party identification may stifle diversity of thought. Additionally, the left leaning nature of the Democratic party may make onlookers perceive that institutions of higher learning are inherently biased to the left.
According to UConn Associate Professor Shayla Nunnally however, the lack of partisan variation may not necessarily lead to the dire implication that classes themselves may be inherently biased by the party affiliation of the faculty that teach them.
“While biases may be introduced via ideological leanings, ultimately, we must ask, ‘How is it that we can account for faculty conscientiously including materials from both perspectives, so that students can debate alternatives and multiple perspectives?’” said Nunnally. “This is a larger concern, other than faculty's presumed ideological leanings based on partisanship.”
Although the researchers write in their analysis: “In our view, today the groupthink mechanisms continue to heighten the one-party nature of academia,” Nunally believes that partisan identification has not resulted in a shortage of academic perspectives.
“Expanding the boundaries of academic dialogue continues to be a dynamic process that affects faculty decisions about curricula and research, no matter the faculty's partisan or ideological views.” Nunally said.
Despite the likely Democratic overrepresentation in the institutions examined, the Econ Watch study has acknowledged a few factors that may have skewed their results. In particular, many of the institutions of higher learning that were analyzed are located in states that generally have a higher concentration of Democrats. Particularly, New England, California and the greater New York metropolitan area were the locations of several of the institutions sampled. They specifically believe that universities in much more conservative states are more likely to have less disparity.
UConn Political Science Department head Professor David Yalof also believes that the nature of Connecticut’s Democratic primary setup, where only party members can vote in primary elections, may also contribute to the seemingly vast over representation of Democrats in faculty positions.
“In a state like Connecticut where the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to win the general election in most cases, it is the Democratic primary itself where the real competition takes place,” Yalof said. “So given that fact, it would only be logical and strategic for even die-hard Republicans to register as Democrats in order to increase their influence over the final outcome.”
Yalof further adds that within the Department of Political Science, he is not aware of any issues with groupthink or a general environment of consensus.
“I have seen no such effect in my department.” Yalof said, “To be honest, I don’t even know where many members of the faculty stand on the presidential race.”
Fatir Qureshi is a staff writer at The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.