Contributions to Political Gridlock

Ideological diversity is important, even for the Kremlin on the Charles

The votes are in, and the school that Richard Nixon once called the “Kremlin on the Charles” is ready for Hillary.

Recent numbers published by The Crimson show that 91 percent of campaign contributions in the current election cycle from Harvard faculty have gone to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This data merely continues a trend: between 2011 and the third quarter of 2014, 84 percent of such donations went to Democrats.

We should first be clear that these numbers are not indicative of the entire faculty's ideological tilt. Only 81 faculty members have donated so far in this cycle, and the numbers released only show contributions in 2015. Given the scale of the Harvard faculty which boasts more than 2,400 individuals, the donations of three percent should not imply that 91 percent of all professors, lecturers, and researchers support Clinton. In this election cycle in particular, support for a Democratic candidate might not always predict party affiliation: after all, a recent poll indicated that 20 percent of Democrats might vote for Republican businessman Donald Trump.

Still, a trend is visible. Even if it isn’t 91 percent or even 84 percent, we should state the obvious: Harvard’s faculty leans left. In a nation that is reasonably divided between conservatives and liberals, 02138 is almost certainly more liberal than the average zip code. At a university that prides itself on the depth of its thought and the diversity of its population, that is a problem.

On this campus, issues of diversity and underrepresentation are rightly at the forefront. Whether over the racial challenges that Harvard schools still face, socioeconomic issues that impede access to higher education, or the hugely important gender- and sexuality-based obstacles that exist, we must continue to commit ourselves to opening our doors still wider. In short, we should value diversity in all its forms.


Tearing down obstacles and righting wrongs should be part of our basic humanity, but the role of diversity is not solely humanitarian. Part of Harvard College’s goal of providing a transformational experience necessitates the broadening of viewpoints that only can occur when students can interact with others of different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs.

To be clear, racial minorities, women, and Republicans have not had the same experience in this country. We have had one black president, no female presidents, and 18 Republicans. Conservatives have not traditionally experienced societal exclusion, been treated as second-class citizens, or felt excluded from the national conversation. Yet if we are genuinely to be committed to an education that broadens perspectives, our campus is poorer for its lack of ideological diversity.

In a country split roughly 50/50 between the parties, students should be exposed to both conservative and liberal positions. When the faculty is so deeply ideologically homogenous, at least in the general direction of their beliefs, this is more difficult. A political science or economics course is made less rich when no one is willing to speak up to defend half of the country.

Unfortunately, we fear that the perception of bias is sufficient to suppress conservative viewpoints. Regardless of whether the teaching staff shows any partisan proclivities in their grading—and we do not suspect they often do—the presence of a liberal professor and TF combined with a classroom full of generally liberal peers might be sufficient to keep a conservative student from speaking up in section. Thus, these campaign contributions numbers alone should worry us.

There are no easy solutions here, just as there are no easy solutions to any of Harvard’s diversity issues. Yet there are tangible steps to be taken. Professors should refrain from unnecessary digs at Republicans and encourage conservative viewpoints in their classroom discussions. Teaching fellows should lead sections that seek to explore both sides of partisan issues, and avoid demonizing all conservatives with a broad brush. Students, for their part, should speak their mind and be willing to listen to conservative perspectives with which they do not agree. Ultimately, this strengthens all of our educations, making us better students and better citizens.

In short, the Kremlin on the Charles could use a little bit of glasnost and perestroika.


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