Speaker talks about collegiate political bias

By Seán McGlone & Connor Mankouski – Editor-in-Chief & 1851 Staff

Chris Sweeney, author of “How Liberals are Ruining College.” Photo by Seán McGlone

On November 7, The Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion hosted “The Value of Perspective Diversity,” a discussion on political bias in educational contexts. The presentation was led by Chris Sweeney, the author of “How Liberals are Ruining College,” a recent article in Boston Magazine.

“To be totally honest, I was probably looking for a reason not to write this story,” said Sweeney at the beginning of the presentation. Sweeney’s original idea for the story came from a conversation with his boss where they discussed a New York Times opinion piece written by Samuel Abrams, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. In the article, Abrams suggested that there is a 28 : 1 ratio of liberal college professors to conservative college professors in New England.

Sweeney admitted that in speaking with Abrams, he looked for a reason to discredit the research. However, he eventually learned the ratio was found by using over 25 years of surveys given to college professors in the New England area about their political identity.

Sweeney said that while the title of the article may have suggested the story was being told from an exclusively conservative perspective, in fact it was meant to be objective. “I still do cringe a little bit at the headline ‘How Liberals are Ruining College’,” said Sweeney. “It’s such strong language.” The story was originally titled “One Side Fits All.”

After the story was released, Sweeney says he received a barrage of letters both in support as well as against the story. “My experience was everyone who read it, found what they wanted to find in it,” said Sweeney.

After the presentation, the floor was opened up for members of the Lasell community to discuss with Sweeney about the story and its main ideas. Topics included initial reactions, the impact of bias in the classroom affecting students experience and ways to possibly help fix the ratio of conservative and liberal professors in New England colleges.

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