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National Association of Scholars

NEW YORK – May 1, 2014 – The National Association of Scholars (NAS), which works to foster intellectual freedom in America’s colleges and universities, called today for a renewed commitment among colleges and universities to the principle of intellectual diversity.  The call came in response to the recent news that Bowdoin College President Barry Mills had unexpectedly tendered his resignation and that the college would soon be searching for a new president.

In 2013, the scholarly association released an in-depth examination of Bowdoin, What Does Bowdoin Teach? which presented Bowdoin as typifying elite liberal education.  The study found a distinct absence of intellectual diversity on campus.

For example, the study noted that only four faculty members out of 182 identify as “conservative,” and 100 percent of faculty contributions to a presidential candidate in 2012 went to Barack Obama.

Dr. Peter Wood, president of the NAS, said, “Bowdoin will set its own criteria as it searches for a new president, but if the college desires, as it says it does, intellectual diversity, then it must find a president who is committed to intellectual diversity. To this end, the NAS offered the following suggestions: 

  • Evaluate candidates’ records of defending unpopular points of view, especially views that the faculty do not share.
     
  • Ensure that the search is genuinely controlled by the trustees. If the search is largely delegated to the faculty, it will filter out any candidate who has a serious commitment to intellectual diversity.  That’s because the faculty have a vested interest in preventing any challenge to the ideological status quo on campus.   
  • Ensure that the search looks beyond the usual sources of candidates.  A new president picked from the administration of a similar college is likely only to reinforce ideological conformity, not confront it.
     
  • Emphasize fund-raising and ethnic diversity less and education more.  The college should find someone who has a real and abiding commitment to the liberal arts, as opposed to someone versed in the contemporary platitudes about the liberal arts. That person should also understand that college is about a lot more than preparing students for careers.” 

Concluded NAS chairman, Herb London, “What we need now are college presidents who recognize the need to restore to campus the diversity of ideas without which the search for truth and the West is a dead letter.” 

Image: Bowdoin President Barry Mills

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