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More than 80 percent of Harvard faculty respondents characterized their political leanings as “liberal” or “very liberal,” according to The Crimson’s annual survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in April.
A little over 37 percent of faculty respondents identified as “very liberal”— a nearly 8 percent jump from last year. Only 1 percent of respondents stated they are “conservative,” and no respondents identified as “very conservative.”
The Crimson distributed its survey to more than 1,100 members of the FAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, polling tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure track faculty on their demographics, academic life, and viewpoints on other issues, including Harvard governance.
The 111-question survey garnered 476 responses, including 333 that were complete and 143 that were partially filled out. The anonymous survey, a link to which was emailed to nearly every member of the FAS, was open from April 11 to April 26. The Crimson did not adjust the data for possible selection bias.
The first, second, third, and fourth installments of The Crimson’s 2022 faculty survey explored faculty views on sexual harassment, Covid-19 response, tenure, and University governance, respectively. This fifth and final installment examines the political leanings of the faculty and their positions on Harvard’s responses to climate change and the Ukrainian crisis.
When asked whether they would support increasing ideological diversity among faculty by hiring more conservative-leaning professors, only a quarter of respondents were in support. In contrast, 31 percent opposed hiring conservative professors to increase ideological diversity, while 44 percent of respondents said that they neither supported or opposed it.
Just over half of faculty respondents supported extra vetting for former Trump administration officials seeking appointments within the FAS, but a plurality opposed barring them entirely from these positions.
Around 56 percent of surveyed faculty indicated they strongly or somewhat support greater screening, while 19 percent of surveyed faculty are strongly or somewhat opposed to it. Nearly a quarter indicated they neither support nor oppose it.
More than 40 percent of surveyed faculty, however, disagreed that Trump administration officials should be barred from receiving appointments within the FAS altogether. On the other hand, 30 percent of respondents indicated they support barring former Trump officials from FAS positions, and 29 percent neither support nor oppose.
Last September, Harvard announced it will allow its remaining investments in the fossil fuel industry to expire, putting it on the path to eventually divest from the industry.
Since its founding in 2012, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard has been advocating for Harvard to pull its fossil fuel investments, holding numerous protests and taking legal action against Harvard. Fossil fuel divestment activists with Harvard Forward, an alumni campaign, also gained seats on governance boards in 2020 and 2021.
Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow has not publicly announced a timeline for the University’s withdrawal from fossil fuel industry investments.
A vast majority of faculty supported Harvard’s decision to wind down its investments in the fossil fuel industry, with 67 percent strongly supporting and 21 percent somewhat supporting the move.
However, 57 percent answered that they either somewhat or strongly disagree that Harvard is “doing enough to fight climate change.”
When asked to give feedback on Harvard’s climate action, many faculty respondents called for bolder action and more transparency about its plans.
One faculty respondent said the University could have made a more “fulsome, positive commitment to divest” but has not shown an interest in anything other than “maximizing return on investment.”
“It is a good step,” the faculty member wrote. “But [it’s] a belated step, executed in the most cowardly manner possible, which removes much of its teeth.”
A few faculty respondents said any action Harvard makes to divest from the fossil fuel industry will not make a significant impact on the state of climate change overall, while others argued that Harvard has no moral obligation to divest.
In addition to questions about climate change, the survey also polled the FAS two months after Russia initially invaded Ukraine on Harvard’s response to the war.
Four days after the invasion, Bacow denounced Russian Vladimir Putin’s “wanton aggression” and pledged to spread awareness and “speak against cruelty.” The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs also posted a list of resources on its website for affiliates affected by the crisis.
In March, a group of Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Kazakh, and American students garnered more than 650 signatories in a petition asking for academic and mental health support, financial aid, and immigration assistance. Two organiers said they did not receive a response from Harvard. University spokesperson Jason A. Newton had declined to comment on the petition.
In an April interview, Bacow defended Harvard’s response to the Ukrainian crisis, saying Harvard has “done a lot to try and help people understand where we’re at, the resources that we've made available to students.”
A majority of faculty respondents — 54 percent — neither agreed nor disagreed that Harvard has “adequately responded” to the ongoing war in Ukraine, with 26 percent supporting Harvard’s efforts. Meanwhile, 19 percent indicated they thought Harvard’s response was inadequate.
When asked for feedback on measures the University has taken in response to the crisis, many faculty wrote that they were unaware of such a response from Harvard.
Some respondents criticized what they saw as the bias in Harvard’s support for foreign countries in crisis. One of them called the University’s response “biased.”
“Why the outpouring of support for Ukraine but not other global humanitarian disasters (most of which occur in countries in the Global South)?” the faculty member wrote.
Other faculty members claim that Harvard is lagging behind its peer institutions in its support for displaced scholars. A few respondents said they did not believe Harvard should assume a political position in the geopolitical conflict.
Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
For its 2022 Faculty Survey, The Crimson collected electronic responses through Qualtrics, an online survey platform, from April 11 to 26, 2022. A link to the anonymous survey was sent to 1,182 FAS and SEAS faculty members through emails sourced in March 2022 from Harvard directory information. The pool included individuals on Harvard’s Connections database with FAS affiliations, including tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure track faculty.
Of those faculty, 492 faculty members accessed the link, and 476 participants answered at least one question. A total of 333 participants fully completed the survey.
To check for potential response bias, The Crimson compared respondent demographics with publicly available information on faculty demographics provided by the University — information regarding gender, race and ethnicity, SEAS affiliation, and ladder versus non-ladder status. Overall, the respondents to the survey were in line with the demographics of the broader faculty.
Of survey respondents, 42 percent identified themselves as women, and 25 percent identified themselves as faculty of color. Based on data in the 2021 FAS Dean’s Annual Report, women and faculty of color make up 39 and 26 percent of FAS faculty, respectively.
According to the report, 42 percent of the FAS are senior non-ladder, non-ladder, or visiting faculty. Among the respondents to The Crimson’s faculty survey, 49 percent indicated that they are non-ladder faculty.
Of faculty who were sent the link to the survey, 140 — or 12 percent — are affiliated with SEAS. In comparison, of respondents who indicated their divisional affiliation on the survey, 7 percent reported an affiliation with SEAS.
—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.
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