The University of Chicago and William and Mary top list of universities fostering viewpoint diversity; Yale flunks miserably

The Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to maintaining viewpoint diversity as well as freedom of speech on college campuses, has taken the list of America’s top 150 colleges and universities and ranked them according to how well each meets the Academy’s aims of promoting or not suppressing viewpoint diversity. It’s really about whether these schools allow students to speak freely, express unorthodox opinions without demonization, and adhere to the Chicago Principles of Free Speech (see the link below; this is not the letter sent out by the dean to this year’s incoming students.) Here are the Academy’s criteria:

Our guide to colleges helps you evaluate schools on this question by integrating these four sources of information:

  1. Endorsed Chicago: Whether the university has endorsed the Chicago Principles on free expression
  2. FIRE Rating: Whether the school’s speech codes foster or infringe upon free speech. As rated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
  3. ISI Rating: Is the school a reasonably welcoming place for conservative and libertarian students? Obtained from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) guide to Choosing the Right College. (We presume that open-minded progressive students would prefer not to attend a school at which students who are not on the left feel unwelcome, and are less likely to speak up.)
  4. Relevant Events Since 2014: Events on campus that indicate a commitment by faculty, administration, and/or students to protect or restrict free inquiry and viewpoint diversity. We ignore events that involve just a few students or professors and focus on those indicating broader sentiment, norms, or policy.

And here are the ten best schools for viewpoint diversity, in declining order. The reasons for the rankings can be see at the site. The

  • University of Chicago
  • Purdue University
  • The College of William and Mary
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • George Mason University
  • Princeton University
  • The University of Florida
  • The University of Maryland at College Park
  • The University of Mississsipi at Oxford
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Three of the schools I was affiliated with are on this list: the University of Chicago, where I am now, William and Mary, where I went to college, and the University of Maryland, where I had my first academic job as an assistant professor.

Here are the bottom ten, with the worst one at the bottom:

  • The University of Tulsa
  • Yale University
  • Brown University
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rutgers University
  • University of Missouri at Columbia
  • The University of Oregon at Eugene

I went to Harvard for my Ph.D, and have been distressed at its authoritarian and Regressive Leftist tactics, such as handing out “social justice” placemats telling students how to address political and social issues, and President Drew Faust’s punishments levied on students who join single-sex “finals clubs” that have nothing to do with Harvard. It’s sad that so many of the bottom-ranked universities have high academic reputations, but those also tend to be those with the more Left-wing faculty and students who promote victim culture and the demonization of viewpoints different from one’s own.

And speaking of Yale, famous for its Halloween fracas a year ago, which shook up the University, remember Erika Christakis, once a teacher and head of a Yale Residential College, hounded out of office last year by Snowflake Students after she wrote an email urging students to think for themselves about Halloween costumes? On October 28, Christakis wrote a retrospective for the Washington Post called “My Halloween email led to a campus firestorm—and a troubling lesson about self-censorship.” It’s worth reading, especially if you followed the earlier controversy. Here are two excerpts:

The community’s response [to Christakis’s email] seemed, to many outside the Yale bubble, a baffling overreaction. Nearly a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband’s immediate removal from our jobs and campus home. Some demanded not only apologies for any unintended racial insensitivity (which we gladly offered) but also a complete disavowal of my ideas (which we did not) — as well as advance warning of my appearances in the dining hall so that students accusing me of fostering violence wouldn’t be disturbed by the sight of me.

Not everyone bought this narrative, but few spoke up. And who can blame them? Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters. Many students met with us confidentially to describe intimidation and accusations of being a “race traitor” when they deviated from the ascendant campus account that I had grievously injured the community. The Yale Daily News evidently felt obliged to play down key facts in its reporting, including about the two-hour-plus confrontation with a crowd of more than 100 students in which several made verbal and physical threats to my husband while four Yale deans and administrators looked on.

One professor I admire claimed my lone email was so threatening that it unraveled decades of her work supporting students of color. One email. In this unhealthy climate, of which I’ve detailed only a fraction of the episodes, it’s unsurprising that our own attempts at emotional repair fell flat.

. . . I didn’t leave a rewarding job and campus home on a whim. But I lost confidence that I could continue to teach about vulnerable children in an environment where full discussion of certain topics — such as absent fathers — has become almost taboo. It’s never easy to foster dialogue about race, class, gender and culture, but it will only become more difficult for faculty in disciplines concerned with the human condition if universities won’t declare that ideas and feelings aren’t interchangeable. Without more explicit commitment to this principle, students are denied an essential condition for intellectual and moral growth: the ability to practice, and sometimes fail at, the art of thinking out loud.

I don’t know how Trump’s election will affect the anti-free-speech trends on American campuses, but I can’t imagine it getting better, especially because Trump stands for much that these students (and me) are against. But if his victory has enabled or emboldened conservatives to speak out, we are only the better for it if we allow them to do so on campus.

h/t: William L.



  1. Posted November 10, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Glad to hear that Univ of Chicago topped that list! I worked there in the neurosciences department and loved the atmosphere. I didn’t have to walk on eggshells in fear of hurting someone’s feelings. We were intelligent adults that respected each other’s differences – we didn’t have to walk around with duct tape on our mouths just because we disagreed or if someone else’s choices wasn’t our cup of tea.

  2. Kevin
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised Stanford is not on some list upholding Regressive Leftist tactics. In particular, their shouts for religious pluralism are blind to the inconsistencies of every faith and that they typically enable the very inequalities they think they are fighting against.

    • eric
      Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Stanford is both somewhat conservative and 2/3 grad students by population. Both of those factors would mitigate against their student body being regressive left.

      • MMM
        Posted November 16, 2016 at 1:28 am | Permalink

        Recent comments by the U of Chicago president are even better. We all get stronger with increased intelligent discussions. Safe spaces are for the uninformed and will leave people ill equipped for the real world.

        Posted November 16, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

        The problem is the leftists control the faculty… And many immediately call anyone not “progressive” (or as I say regressive) a “racist, misogynist, sexist, any-ist” without further debate.

        1984 seems to be an instruction manual. Don’t belive it is happenijg? . See:

        Sound familiar?

  3. Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see the University of Florida, my alma mater on this list. Go Gators.

  4. eric
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how Trump’s election will affect the anti-free-speech trends on American campuses, but I can’t imagine it getting better

    As you say, it may allow conservatives who previously felt embattled to speak more freely.

    Though my doom and gloom thought is that if he reduces federal support to Universities, that will make them more dependent on tuition funding, which could in turn foster even more of an “the paying customer is always right” atmosphere amongst University administrations than we already have. Essentially increasing their willingness to go along with whatever craziness their student body wants.

  5. busterggi
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey now, I go through New Haven at least eight times a week and if you don’t think there isn’t cultural diversity at Yale then you aren’t paying attention to all the different ethnic restaurants around the area./

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted November 10, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Well! I hope you’ve never had the insensitivity to cultural appropriation to actually eat in one of them.

      • busterggi
        Posted November 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Not unless someone else picked up the tab. I respect sensitivities.

        • Posted November 10, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          Forgive me, busterggi, esp if I am wrong, but I think your dramatizing of a point of view, your speaking via a persona, mislef Ken Phelps.
          It seems to emulates Trump’s playing everyone throughout the campaign. I thought early on, Trump was trying to throw the election to Hillary. But it now appears he said what his disenfranchised audience (non-college-educated white males!) thirsted for in place of righteousness.
          They wanted no non-whites to be given governmental assistance, wh wld be “racism” in their eyes. Hence their growing hatred.
          Trump wld say anything that fit the role he was playing for this audience.

          • somer
            Posted November 10, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

            I think righteousness is all too often power and the “cajones” to enforce power and the status and identity that brings. I know Luther King did Not use it in that sense but historically its all too often used that way. Social stigma often revolves around relative status and power, and whilst I understand we do need social sanctions, terms like “righteousness” seem to glorify it. After all the “righteous” god never stops going on about what a “Lord” he is and how “powerful” he is and how he will make those who believe “rule with an iron rod” “many Nations” etc etc

            • somer
              Posted November 10, 2016 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

              the righteous god particularly goes on about how he will punish disbelievers – and in the Koran of course, theres even more (in terms of % of the book) about these things

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I just knew those poor little whiffenpoofs at Yale had lost their way.

    • Filippo
      Posted November 10, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if the Spizzwinks maintain their sense of direction.

      A nice version of “The Whiffenpoof Song” by The Lettermen. You will notice a bit of editing of the lyrics.

  7. Posted November 10, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink


  8. Hempenstein
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Good to see W&M up top for the same reasons as PCC(E). I had hoped that the reason I hadn’t heard about it whenever this comes up was because it was among the good ones.

    OTOH, when I got my PhD at Rutgers I was out on Busch Campus, basically the science and technology campus, and so pretty well removed from daily undergrad student life. And that was a long time ago, too. However, I can’t resist noting that the formal name of the place is Rutgers, the State University (of New Jersey). Back then one of my friends said it ought to be Ruptures, the Mistaken University.

  9. Steve Pollard
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    This led me to reflect on my own days at university in the UK from 68-72. It was a turbulent time, to say the least; but I don’t ever recall attempts to silence others even for their political views, let alone because their personal opinions might upset someone else. Part of the point of a university was (and surely still should be) to foster the free exchange of views, opinions and all the rest of it, and to give us the information to re-examine our own views in the light of that exchange. What on earth is the point of going to a place of higher education if you’re not prepared to be educated?

    • Richard
      Posted November 11, 2016 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      “What on earth is the point of going to a place of higher education if you’re not prepared to be educated?”

      I think that these days it’s simply to get a piece of paper which then qualifies the holder for a job.

  10. somer
    Posted November 11, 2016 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Wonder about the future if top universities keep pandering to this; especially in an environment of heightened political polarisation if a self righteous culture of PC ideology impervious to assessment of likelihood takes hold as a supposed bulwark against the Right it can only weaken the humanities and – possibly inject the spurious discourse of rapprochement between science and religion into the sciences as a way of keeping the religious on board.

  11. Posted November 14, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    CMU isn’t viewpoint diverse. Everything there is computational. 😉

    (I say that as a CMU alumnus.)

    Seriously, though, I guess it is comparatively open in the US sense, but it *was* difficult to actually *find* even Canadian style opinions around.

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