The most recent release of the Heterodox Academy Guide to Viewpoint Diversity at today’s colleges and universities reveals that many of the worst offenders, or those institutions with the least diversity of opinion on campus, are among the top 150 in the U.S. & World Report’s rankings of the best colleges and universities.
Five schools that appear prominently in the U.S. & World Reports rankings scored poorly in terms of diversity of views welcomed on campus: New York University, Northwestern, Harvard and UC-Berkeley and the University of Oregon. Note: The HxA guide ranks schools on a scale of 1 to 100 (the higher the score, the greater the viewpoint diversity). U.S. News & World Reports ranks colleges from 1 to 150 based on academic reputation, faculty resources, student selectivity, graduation and retention rates and even alumni giving.
Here is a look at the 10 schools with the lowest HxA score:
How could the best turn out to also be the worst? Rankings depend on what standards are employed in order to gauge relative value. A quick glance at the methodology sections of both websites reveals that the HxA Guide measures the extent to which each school encourages heterodox opinions, including those typically held by students with more traditional and conservative backgrounds, while the U.S. & World Report ranks schools based on generally accepted indicators of academic quality, reputation and pedigree (so that graduates stand a better chance of securing a job post-graduation).
The authors of the HxA Guide deny that their rankings can directly measure campus climate or institutional culture. However, they believe that the scores can give prospective students a general sense of whether more traditional or right-of-center views will be accepted, tolerated or outright rejected by the campus community as a whole. In the HxA Guide authors’ words,
“The Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges aggregates all the information we can find on the degree to which each school is likely to be a place that welcomes diverse viewpoints and open discussion about politics and politically charged social issues. In developing the scoring method and weights, we tried to put ourselves in the place of a high school senior who is applying to colleges and who wants to avoid the “walking on eggshells” culture of fear that many students are now reporting.
Where should a curious, open-minded student apply? Which schools should she avoid? We have no way to measure campus culture directly, but we have gathered together in one place all the publicly available sources of information that will help you to make an informed guess. … Schools with high scores are the ones you should apply to if you want to maximize your odds of attending a school that welcomes intellectual diversity and dissent.”
Why is it important to measure viewpoint diversity on college campuses? Diversity, as I’ve explained in a past article on Intellectual Takeout, is a contested concept. Unfortunately, it’s been narrowly defined by most higher ed institutions to include sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and disability status, but not diversity of perspectives, viewpoints and ideologies.
Which are the best colleges and universities to attend for maximal viewpoint diversity? According to HxA, “the colleges that seem to offer the best hope for encountering viewpoint diversity are three of the ones comprising Claremont-McKenna (Pitzer, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps Colleges), along with Haverford College, and Washington and Lee University.”
So, check out the HxA Guide before deciding where you or your children will attend college. It could turn out that what you once thought was the best option turns out to be the worst.
Shane Ralston is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University Hazleton. You can read many of his other articles at his academia.edu page.