LINCOLN Reid Preston gave out red Republican goods this month in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student union pens, sunglasses, bottle openers.
As treasurer of UNLs College Republicans, the freshman from Lyons, Nebraska, cares about todays political scene. Asked if Democratic professors have badgered him with liberal messages, Preston said they havent.
Even a professor of political science, who might reasonably be expected to share his own views, was pretty much in the middle, Preston said. For the most part, he was really good at not having any biases at all.
Many Republicans nationwide say they have lost faith in colleges and universities and now view them as havens of liberal indoctrination. In a comparatively short period, national surveys show, Republicans generally have shifted from a positive opinion of higher education to one of distrust.
But a 2018 campus culture survey done by the NU system, and World-Herald conversations this month with 19 students at UNL and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, found minimal concern about professorial political proselytizing.
Conservatives nevertheless have reason to be suspicious. Not only do college faculties lean liberal, they tumble leftward. Whether that has any effect on teaching and learning isnt clear, but there isnt good evidence that anyone is being indoctrinated. Most of the 19 students said politics rarely, if ever, comes up in classes.
High-profile incidents of dismissive or contemptuous treatment of conservative students convey the notion that such episodes are commonplace on college campuses.
Outside the same student union 2 years ago, a liberal graduate student-lecturer berated a sophomore who was recruiting for the conservative Turning Point USA. The student captured still photos of the lecturer flipping her off and recorded some of the diatribe on video.
The images swept the nation and gave conservatives a gotcha moment. The incident proved, they said, that conservative students are bullied on college campuses. Some Republican state senators in Nebraska demanded changes at UNL, and the student-lecturer wasnt invited back for the next school year.
Harvey Perlman, former chancellor of UNL and now a law professor there, said that if professors strive to sway Nebraska students toward liberalism, theyre doing a bad job, considering Republican domination of state politics.
If the concern is somehow that left-leaning faculty will twist the minds of their students, it hasnt seemed to work, said Perlman, who switched from Republican to Democrat after the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Most of us are fairly careful when discussing issues that divide people.
David Randall of the conservative-libertarian National Association of Scholars doesnt see it that way. Randall, director of research of the New York-based organization, said liberals, or progressives, have bent higher education toward a social justice mission that aims to liberate groups from oppression.
This results in a teacher thinking its appropriate to rebuke a student for her political perspective, Randall said. In effect, there is a radical monoculture growing in higher education, he said.
Of the 19 students interviewed by The World-Herald, seven said they were Democrats, six said they were Republicans and the rest were independent, libertarian or apolitical.
The Pew Research Center found last year that 59% of Americans who lean Republican responded that colleges have a negative effect on the nation's direction, up from 35% in 2012. Among Democratic leaners, 67% had a positive view the same percentage as in 2012.
Molly Patrick, a UNO junior with a multidisciplinary major, said professors havent imposed their politics on her. Were just worrying about facts and stuff, said Patrick, a libertarian from Fremont. Some Republicans might think theyre liberal notions, but theyre just facts.
Noah Floersch, an independent from Omaha, said he has some conservative views and hasnt been lambasted with liberal political messages from professors. Floersch, a UNL junior, said his family leans to the right.
I dont feel like Ive been forced one way or another, but I definitely think my scope has broadened, said Floersch, a marketing major.
Sixty Andrews, a senior UNO political science major from Omaha, said he doesnt hear professors uttering contempt for Trump. Professors allow us to offer our opinions whether we agree or disagree with any political leader, he said.
Andrews, a Republican, said higher education has a beneficial impact on individuals and society.
I cant get my students to turn in their assignments on time, (so) Im certainly not going to impact their view on who to vote for, said Darren Linvill, an associate professor of communication at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Nationwide surveys indicate many college faculties are overwhelmingly liberal or Democratic. The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found in its latest survey (2016-17) that 48.3% of faculty members identified themselves as liberal compared with 11.7% who said they were conservative.
Further, that survey of more than 20,000 full-time undergraduate teaching faculty members at 143 colleges indicated the percentage of liberals has grown from 36.8% in 1998-99.
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A report published four years ago by Econ Journal Watch found that at 40 universities, many elite schools like Harvard and Stanford, 3,623 professors had registered as Democrats and only 314 as Republicans. That ratio is about 11.5 to 1. The study looked at faculty members in economics, history, journalism, law and psychology.
Conservatives know this and dont like it. The Pew Research Center found last year that 59% of Americans who lean Republican responded that colleges have a negative effect on the nations direction, up from 35% in 2012. Among Democratic leaners, 67% had a positive view the same percentage as in 2012.
A Gallup poll in 2017 found that only 33% of Republicans have a lot of confidence in higher education. Fifty-six percent of Democrats answered that question positively. The Gallup poll found that the biggest reasons for Republican lack of confidence were the belief that they were too political and pushed their own agenda.
UNLs Richard Duncan, a registered Republican and professor of law, said that when there is little diversity in political thought at colleges, theres no reason to have a lot of confidence in them. And UNL could use more such diversity, he said.
That said, Duncan is in his 41st year at UNL and said the institution is a really good place. He said that for the most part, its a university where conservatives and progressives can mingle and find their views respected.
An NU campus climate survey published in 2018 found that 90% of students believed liberals felt free to express their views on campus and 75% believed conservatives had the same freedom.
Robert Reason, an associate dean at Iowa State University, said the presence of liberal indoctrination is just not shown in any of the research.
Reason said that during faculty recruitment, Ive never had a conversation about someones political views. He described himself as a moderate Democrat.
Many say a big reason for the disparity is that liberals select careers in higher education because there are like-minded people in it. They say conservatives are more likely to join the private sector.
Clemsons Linvill said studies have found that students become slightly more liberal while in college, but that a similar change also takes place among young adults who dont go to college. Linvill, who said he is registered as an independent, has studied political bias in higher education and said its largely fallacious.
Linvill said in one report that there has been a growth of conservative groups with a stated mission to expose political bias and abuse in higher education. This has contributed to widespread publicity of episodes where bias was evident, he said.
Julia Schleck, an associate professor of English at UNL, said through an email that the partisan divide over higher education has been deliberately engineered by conservative media.
Schleck, who leans to the left, said negative coverage in those outlets over the past five years has produced the slump in Republicans opinion of higher education.
Randall, at the National Association of Scholars, said conservative students have created groups like Turning Point USA because of the nonstop propaganda thrust at them by liberal professors.
The Harvard student newspaper two years ago said in an editorial that the school needs more diversity of political viewpoints. The editorial said 83.2% of the universitys arts and sciences faculty identified themselves as liberal in the papers survey, compared with 1.5% who said they were conservative.
These statistics do not reflect America, the piece said. And, it said, the statistics probably contribute to declining faith in American colleges.
Rain clouds and a bit of a rainbow roll over the sky in Millard on Aug. 16, 2016.
The sun sets behind a center pivot located north of Red Cloud, Nebraska, on Thursday, July 27, 2006.
Storm clouds hide the sun as it sets over Nebraska's Sand Hills on July 7, 2009, near Thedord, Nebraska.
A summer storm passes north of Rose, Nebraska, on Sunday, June 10, 2007.
A rainbow forms over U.S. Highway 12, just east of Valentine, Nebraska, as storms roll over the area on July 25, 2017.
The sun sets behind an approaching storm as a car heads west on U.S. Highway 34 near Union, Nebraska, on April 24, 2016.
Icicles form on vines in downtown Omaha on Feb. 24, 2017.
Railroad tracks are illuminated by the setting sun on May 3, 2017, east of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
The sun sets behind Chimney Rock on May 3, 2017.
Members of the Boats, Bikes, Boots & Brews group head to shore as the sun sets after an evening out on Lake Zorinsky on April 22, 2015.
Icicles hang from the horse carriage parking sign in the Old Market on Jan. 15, 2017.
Wheat, ready for the combine, is silhouetted by the setting sun as the wheat harvest on the Lagler farm near Grant, Nebraska, was in full swing on July 7, 2005.
A layer of fog covers the Missouri River near the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge on Feb. 5, 2015.
A setting sun creates a pink haze on a windmill and the Sand Hills southwest of Rushville, Nebraska, on Sept. 22, 2007.
Pigeons scatter at sunset as the St. John's steeple is silhouetted against the Woodmen tower in downtown Omaha on Oct. 3, 2014.
The sun bursts behind the clouds over the North Platte River east of Bridgeport, Nebraska, on July 26, 2006.
Steve Jobman, a farmer south of Minatare, Nebraska, cuts alfalfa after sunset on June 2, 2004.
Wheat waves in the wind in a field west of Dalton, Nebraska, on July 18, 2001.
The moon rises over the northern cross of the St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha on Feb. 10, 2017. On this night, there was a full moon, a lunar eclipse and comet 45P passed by the earth.
As the wind speed picks up, a woman holds onto her hood while crossing 16th Street along Dodge Street in Omaha on Feb. 24, 2017.
From left: Melody Borcherding, Kseniya Burgoon and Michael Beltz scoop out a vehicle on Jan. 23, 2018, in Norfolk.
Jeff Bachman harvests soybeans and prepares to transfer them as the sun sets on a field near Ayr, Nebraska, on Oct. 19, 2008.
As the sun sets, sandhill cranes arrive to roost in the Platte River at the Rowe Sanctuary & Iain Nicholson Audubon Center south of Gibbon, Nebraska, on March 12, 2008.
A pair of sandhill cranes pass in front of the moon shortly after sunrise at the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, Nebraska, on March 13, 2012. Sandhill cranes, which mate for life, can live between 20 and 40 years.
A windmill is dwarfed by storm clouds near Crawford, Nebraska, on May 3, 2017.
An early November storm system rolls through the Great Plains, but Omaha only receives rain, which collected on freshly-fallen leaves on Nov. 11, 2015.
Cattle head up to a well to get a drink at the end of the day near Sparks, Nebraska, on Aug. 21, 2015. Smoke from the wildfires in the western states created a haze.
The moon rises above the corn as farmers harvest the last of their fields in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa on Nov. 5, 2014.
Two riders help round up part of the 750 head of cattle branded at the Lute Family Ranch, located south of Hyannis, Nebraska, on May 12, 2005. Mick Knott, who runs the ranch, owns about half the cattle, and the Lute Foundation owns the rest. The work started about dawn and finished about noon.
The rising sun illuminates a tree and a windmill in a snow-covered field located on U.S. Highway 20 between Rushville and Chadron, Nebraska, on March 1, 2017.
The College Home Run Derby was held at TD Ameritrade Park and was highlighted by The World-Herald's annual Independence Day fireworks display on July 2, 2015.
Fog rises from the Missouri River and covers the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge on Jan. 5, 2010.
The weekend's perfect weather colored the clouds at sunset south of Wymore, Nebraska, on Oct. 23, 2004.
Deer chill out at Chalco Hills Recreation Area on Feb. 22, 2018.
A leaf is covered in a dusting of snow near 138th and Hickory Streets on Dec. 18, 2014, in Millard.
A runner emerges from the edge of the rising sun on Sept. 11, 2015, at Zorinsky Lake Park and Recreation Area in Omaha.
Nearly 45 minutes after sunset, an orange and blue glow is seen setting behind the Omaha skyline flanked between trees in Council Bluffs on Jan. 11, 2018.
Rain drops collect on a flower following early showers on May 10, 2017, in Millard.
The promise of rain is fleeting for the seven windmills on the Watson Ranch north of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on U.S. 71 on May 16, 2004.
A crescent moon sets behind the UNO bell tower on Nov. 6, 2013.
Ralph Remmert is depicted in the mural "Fertile Ground" near 13th and Mike Fahey Streets in north downtown Omaha on June 19, 2017.
Ralph Kohler, 94, keeps his eyes to the sky for ducks and geese as the sun rises over his hunting pond east of Tekamah, Nebraska, on Nov. 30, 2011. Kohler has been a professional guide for most of his life, and he is preparing for the spring season.
The sun rises over St. Paul Lutheran Church, located three miles north of Republican City, Nebraska, in March of 2004.
Geese are silhouetted in the color and clouds as the sun sets at Zorinsky Lake on Feb. 21, 2016.
The sun rises on Chimney Rock on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, near McGrew, Nebraska.
Cranes walk through the shallow water of the Platte River shortly before sunset near The Crane Trust, which is close to Wood River, Nebraska, on March 13, 2012. The river provides cranes with a safe place from predators for rest at night.
A bespangled vest awaits a rider during Nebraska's Big Rodeo on July 25, 2013, in Burwell, Nebraska.
Horses stand in the snow on Feb. 22, 2018.
Residents of the Nebraska Panhandle enjoyed unseasonably mild temperatures and cloud cover on Aug. 12, 2004.
Members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association hold their hats as 2013 Miss Burwell Rodeo Olivia Hunsperger passes by during the opening ceremonies on July 27, 2013, in Burwell, Nebraska. "This may be a small town, but it's got a big rodeo, and it's got a really big heart," Hunsperger said.
A break in the clouds highlights downtown Omaha as seen from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, as severe storms passed through the Omaha Metro area on June 5, 2014.
John Wanief waits for the bus in a shelter at 120th Street and West Center Road as cold rain pours down in Millard on Nov. 11, 2015.
Flocks of waterfowl fill the sky as the sun rises over Ponca, Nebraska, on March 3, 2018.
A red tail hawk perches on a light stanchion backed by the moon and overlooking the property near the Indian Creek development in Omaha on Feb. 27, 2018.
A woman walks with two dogs in Memorial Park near Dodge Street as many sledders go down the hill in Omaha, Nebraska, on Feb. 2, 2016. MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD
The sun sets over Sidney, Nebraska, on June 2, 2015.
The rising sun shines on a snow-covered hill located north of Chadron, Nebraska, on March 1, 2017.
Storm clouds are illuminated by the setting sun as people exit a football camp in Lincoln on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Sharon Vencil walks her dogs, Blackie and Whitie, along the Field Club Trail on March 6, 2018, in Omaha.
The morning sun burns off a layer of fog just north of the Chimney Rock.
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