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Friday, November 2, 2007

History professors and that voodoo they do so well

A South Dakota blog that finds goblins and Democrats lurking under beds and behind college lecterns and invading newsrooms has helped uncover a whole gaggle of them in a complete takeover of the history department at the University of Iowa. It links to a newspaper column in the Duke University newspaper that claims that both Duke and the University of Iowa "made history" by having no Republicans on their history faculties. The column is an extended complaint about a well-credentialed scholar with right wing leanings whose job applications at the two institutions were rejected allegedly because he is a Republican.

The column states that there are 27 Democratic history professors at Iowa and no Republicans.

That statement hits a new mark in enterprise journalism. There should be something akin to a Pulitzer for coming up with statistics like that.

For more than 30 years I sat on faculty search committees and read through thousands and thousands of credential files. I sat on promotion and tenure committees and reviewed hundreds of credential files. These files contain details of applicants work histories, but there is no place in a credential file that shows an applicant's political affiliation. In fact, that is information that is considered inappropriate in a credential file. An applicant might choose to include political affiliation, but this is not information that would be included in a personnel file.

And as far as applications for jobs, even a college as small as NSU will at times receive a hundred or more applications for a single position. A job opening at a place such as the University of Iowa might well produce thousands for such a coveted position, and the credentials will be strenuously competitive. Out of hundreds or thousands who apply for a position, only one will land it. Rejection is a way of life in academe, and it is a matter of professional performance as a scholar and as a teacher, not a matter of personal preferences and affiliations.

As an alumnus of the University of Iowa, I would have grave concern if it required faculty to record their political affiliations on any official records. Professors are often asked to put curriculum vitae on file so that the public can know their professional histories and areas of work. But I have never seen one in which a scholar posted his or her political party. Neither is such information recorded in personnel files, which are confidential and not available for public scrutiny.

The only way I can think of that the political affiliation of the professors would be available would be to obtain a faculty roster and check the names with the county voter registration lists in the counties where they reside.

If the column writer at Duke did that, he deserves acknowledgment for his industry.

However, I wonder if he checks under his bed for Democrats at nights.


Anna said...

...and since when were political conservatives a protected class anyway?

Jason Heppler undoubtedly opposes affirmative action policies to boost the number of racial minorities and women in graduate programs/tenure-track faculty positions, but it seems like he's essentially proposing affirmative action for Republicans. It's bizarre.

David Newquist said...

Yes, the irony goes off into that zone where wingnuts fly.

Douglas said...

"Flying Irony" and "wingnuts"...Bill Flemings "wingnut" art for a poltical campaign comes to mind.

Not sure how he would draw "flying irony" however. It would probably be a heavier than air craft.

Conservatives just don't have enough to whine about. If the economy were better, perhaps the "rich" special interest would override the "intellectual" interest and more professors would be silly enough to support Republican administrations which typically slash funding for everything except prisons.

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