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Studies on Faculty Bias Are Severely Flawed, Says Study

Studies that indicate college faculty members are liberals who pound a liberal ideology into the minds of impressionable college students rely on flawed methodology, according to a new assessment of faculty bias studies. Those studies also exclude community-college faculty members, which should further raise questions about the veracity of these studies, say officials with the American Federation of Teachers, which commissioned the review.

“Faculty Bias: Science or Propoganda?” by AFT consultant John Lee looked at eight studies that determined a liberal bent in academia to see if the studies met the minimum criteria for research standards.

The analysis found that none of the eight reports met the standards required for a legitimate research study. Several authors speculate about their research implications, writes Lee, but the speculation is based on their perspectives and not as a result of their research.

“Passing off personal opinions is not science,” says Lee.

“Objective research is essential, and clearly, that is not what we find in the studies analyzed in this report,” adds AFT President Edward J. McElroy. “It doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal. Bad research and inaccurate characterizations are a disservice to academia and to the students who are its central concern.”

Take for example the 2005 study “How Many Ward Churchills?” which attempts to prove colleges are overrun by professors like the University of Colorado professor who argued American foreign policy contributed to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In it’s study, the American Council on Trustees and Alumni reviewed course descriptions from the top 12 private universities and top 13 liberal arts colleges in the country as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

“This is not a representive sample of higher education in the country,” writes Lee. “But at least a list [of schools] is included.”

According to Lee, the study’s researchers focused on courses that had certain key words: racism, discrimination, gender politics, gay issues, oppression, women’s studies and White studies, among others. The study says all Americans “… should be outraged by the one sided, doctrinaire perspective that, too often, today defines the college experience.”

But Lee found that “Nothing in the material they report supports these conclusions.”

In Stephen Balch’s “Words to Live By: How Diversity Trumps Freedom on Academic Websites,” the author used the search engine Google to measure the frequency of the following terms: diversity, equality, freedom, liberty and democracy. The AFT report says the “research is inadequate to support conclusions.”

“The inherent complexity of Web sites and contextual uncertainty of words render the results implausible,” writes Lee.

Dr. William E. Scheuerman, an AFT vice president added: “Higher education professionals teach. They don’t preach. They are committed to academic freedom and to the free exchange of ideas in the classroom.”

Diverse staff reports


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