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Leftism at UC leaves many with unbalanced education, study says

Especially in humanities, study of classics and rigorous analysis have been replaced by advocacy and teaching about minorities' grievances, a conservative group says. UC provost disputes the findings.

April 01, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • "It has reached an extreme where one couldn't not comment," John Ellis, a UC Santa Cruz professor emeritus in German literature and president of the California Assn. of Scholars, said in explaining why his group is releasing a study now on liberal academia stifling dissent.
"It has reached an extreme where one couldn't not comment,"… (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

The University of California is a hotbed of leftist faculty and politically correct thinking where many students are receiving a weak and unbalanced education, according to a report by a conservative organization of professors and administrators.

The study by the California Assn. of Scholars repeats objections conservatives have had for decades over what they see as an overwhelmingly liberal academia that stifles dissent. Especially in UC humanities departments, study of classics and rigorous analysis have been replaced by advocacy of a leftist agenda and teaching about the grievances of various minorities, the report says.

"It has reached an extreme where one couldn't not comment," John Ellis, a UC Santa Cruz professor emeritus in German literature and president of the association, said in explaining why his group is releasing the document now.

UC Provost Lawrence Pitts said he disagreed with the findings and insisted that UC allows plenty of intellectual debate. "UC's scholarly success nationally and internationally would not be possible if our faculty were doctrinaire and not subject to having their work forged in the marketplace of ideas," he said.

The study urges the UC regents to restore balance to the faculty and to insist on a full airing of ideas. University leaders should "proclaim that the campus ought to be a rigorous marketplace of ideas, and that this essential idea is betrayed when the campus becomes a sanctuary for a narrow ideological segment of the spectrum of political and social ideas," the study says. "They can insist that the students' need for a well rounded education may no longer be sacrificed to the faculty's drive for the comfort of ideological conformity and uniformity."

Robert Anderson, a UC Berkeley economics and math professor who is chairman of the systemwide faculty Senate, said the report "is short on facts, but long on innuendo and anecdotes. The University of California offers tens of thousands of courses each year, the vast majority of which are excellent. A few dozen anecdotes about courses that allegedly have significant flaws does not diminish that fact, much less support the report's sweeping claims."

The study looked at UC graduation requirements, course descriptions and class reading lists, and included interviews with students and faculty. It also cited, among other things, research done by others that examined the voter registration patterns of UC faculty and national tests of college students' knowledge and writing skills. Authors of the study say what's occurring at UC is also happening at many other institutions of higher education across the country.

The study, "Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," is available at the website of the parent organization, the National Assn. of Scholars.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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