Virtually every academic working in an Australian university is today being force-fed a steady diet of views that are widely accepted by those on the political Left and yet widely rejected by those on the political Right. For instance, their university administrations will tell them how wonderful ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ goals are. Indeed, most will have to sit through some sort of online indoctrination modules, answering trite little multiple-choice answers at the end where the ‘correct’ answer is the Left-wing progressive’s preferred answer (and where any school child of average IQ could guess the expected choice). Now conservatives like me would say that the whole Diversity bureaucracy – and you would be stunned to learn how much is spent on this in our universities – should be dismantled immediately. I believe in merit. Hire the best person regardless. But under the guise of ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ university administrations bring to bear factors other than merit.
Most often what happens is that they take some favoured academic position or student course opening and they begin by looking at the percentage of some favoured group in the wider population. Then they aim to recreate that same level or percentage for the favoured group in these job positions or student places. This, of course, is the essence of identity politics. You define individuals in group terms by characteristics they share with others in the wider population. And notice that the key characteristics are such things as one’s type of reproductive organs or of skin pigmentation, never political viewpoints. Notice as well that if simply hiring on merit achieved these identitarian outcomes (as is sometimes implicitly suggested) there would be no need for the huge Diversity, Equity and Inclusion bureaucracy in the first place.
While we’re at it, readers can notice as well that these sort of implicit identitarian quotas are not just restricted to favoured groups, they are also used only for desirable jobs and places. For instance, on some reckonings men hold about 95% of the jobs which lead to deaths on the job. Highly dangerous jobs in other words. You won’t hear identitarian quota-pushers say, “Hey, not enough women are dying as roofers so we need to equalise things and get more women into these jobs.” Not just because that’s a stupid attitude but because these quota-pushers only focus on corporate board positions, top end professorships, MP pre-selections and the like.
Of course, I could make the same sort of point about how Left-leaning our universities are across a whole host of topics and values. Who thinks any Australian university administration is not wholly behind The Voice – the proposed constitutional amendment that would give Aboriginals a separate body to make representations to Parliament? Or wasn’t against former Prime Minister Abbott’s turning back the boats? Or didn’t go all in supporting lockdowns? The list goes on and on and lines up just about perfectly with the views of Left wing political parties, not Right wing ones.
Which might explain for readers a couple of depressing bits of recent information. Start with last year’s Harvard University poll undertaken by the student newspaper the Crimson. They polled Harvard professors in Arts and Engineering about their political orientation. The results were astounding. The poll found that just 1.4% of Harvard academics said that they were politically conservative or very conservative. And remember, in the recent midterm election over half of voters for the House of Representatives voted Republican. And note, too, that this was an anonymous survey and that it polled Engineering profs who are more likely to be conservative than most any other part of the university. That tells you just how incredibly monolithically orthodox anglosphere universities have become, remembering that Left-wing progressive views are today’s campus orthodoxy. Consider the above-mentioned Voice proposal here in Australia. I’m a law professor who has published widely on Australian and anglosphere constitutional law matters. I’m against the Voice. My best guess is that across the whole of Australia’s dozens and dozens of law schools there might be at most four other law professors teaching public law who share my ‘No to the Voice’ view. That’s in the whole country! So is the idea so self-evidently terrific or is there just almost zero viewpoint diversity on our campuses?
Here’s more bad news. A recent survey in Britain, by the Legatum Institute, found that 35% of British academics self-censor but that for conservative academics that figure jumps up to 75%. As for students at university, the Legatum survey found that 25% said they self-censor but that jumped up to 59% for conservative students. And it found only one in 10 academics anonymously identify as Right-of-centre. When former High Court of Australia judge Robert French did his Report for the former Coalition Government and concluded that there was no free speech problem on Australia’s universities he was right. But only in a technical sense. When there is so little viewpoint diversity and so few conservatives on campus, and many of those few feel the need to self-censor, of course anyone looking at university policies and free speech legal cases won’t find a problem. What would a Left-leaning academic ever want to say that would incline a probably just as Left-leaning university Vice Chancellor to want to bring the university’s Code of Conduct down on him or her? It’s hard to think of anything at all that could cause those with Left-of-centre views any problems. But if you were a junior academic who thought the daily genuflections about Acknowledgements of Country – the now pervasive Aussie practice of acknowledging that Aboriginals were the ‘traditional owners of the land’ without any such genuflectors offering to give up their homes or cottages – were patronising and condescending, would you feel you could say so or refuse to perform them? Or if you thought lockdowns were thuggish and despotic and counterproductive? Or if you thought vaccine mandates were wholly illiberal? Or if you thought being asked to trumpet support for climate change was against the latest scientific data? Or if you favoured stopping the boats or questioned the new trans orthodoxy? Or if you agreed with Peter Ridd at James Cook University? Or maybe if you believe the Voice is a terrible idea that will divide Australians by race and trigger a high chance of judicial activism? Could you say that without hurting your promotion prospects? Or would you just self-censor? Or maybe leave academic life and contribute to the collapsing viewpoint diversity at our universities? I think we all know the answers to those questions.