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Report: New England Colleges Worst in Country for ‘Viewpoint Diversity’

A new study has found that New England colleges and universities, including prestigious Ivy League schools, are the most closed-minded in the country when it comes to entertaining a diversity of political and cultural viewpoints.

In late June, Heterodox Academy released an updated guide to colleges, which ranks institutions of higher education by their openness to “a diversity of viewpoints and a culture of free and open discussion.”

In his review of the study, political scientist Samuel J. Abrams discovered that “New England is by far the worst region of the country, especially for liberal-arts colleges, when it comes to campuses that support and maintain viewpoint diversity.”

“With Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Tufts on the university side and Williams, Wesleyan, Smith, Amherst, and Mount Holyoke on the liberal-arts college side, these schools reflect the politics of the region and were all at the bottom of the rankings in terms of viewpoint diversity,” Abrams noted.

Unsurprisingly, Harvard University, which has often found itself in the crosshairs of free-speech advocates, placed 103rd out of 106 schools in the Heterodox ranking. This spring, Harvard withdrew admission offers for at least 10 incoming freshmen after they discovered the students had posted what Harvard deemed to be “offensive” messages in a private Facebook chat.

Although many within the bubble of liberal higher education are unaware of the depth of their diversity problem, some are beginning to show signs that something is starting to register.

Wesleyan president Michael Roth recently wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he candidly declared that there is “no denying the left-leaning political bias on American college campuses.”

“In New England,” Roth stated, “where my own university is located, liberal professors outnumber their conservative colleagues by a ratio of 28:1.”

Roth went so far as to propose an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, “because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.”

He also praised the important work of Heterodox Academy, the very group that conducted the unflattering report underscoring the lack of diversity in New England higher education, lauding their efforts to combat “the destructive power of ideological tribalism.”

Wesleyan is not alone among Eastern colleges in its sense that something must be done to restore free speech, open discussion and a free flow of ideas to college campuses.

In late June, Johns Hopkins University announced a $150 million effort to “facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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