Yale boasts a “diverse community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni” according to its website. While Yale has taken a number of steps and implemented initiatives to address campus diversity with regard to race, gender, economic status and sexual orientation, it lacks diversity in one critical field: Political orientation. 

In 2017, News staffers Rachel Treisman and David Yaffe-Bellany reported that “nearly 75 percent of faculty respondents described themselves as ‘liberal’ or ‘very liberal,’ with only 7 percent [of the faculty] reporting conservative leanings.” In humanities classes where political discussions often arise, Treisman and Yaffe-Bellany found that “90 percent of faculty respondents described themselves as ‘very liberal’ or ‘somewhat liberal.’” In another article published in the News in 2019, Valerie Pavilonis and Matt Kristofferson cited computer science teacher David Gerlenter, who stated that “political diversity at Yale is low: ‘0%.’”

This lack of political diversity is so disturbing because it discourages political discourse. According to history professor Carlos Eire, “Yale’s liberal bent can choke productive discussion.” Preconceived notions that generalize Republicans are extremely detrimental, and in Eire’s words, “If everything you say is immediately invalid because you are not virtuous then there’s no dialogue.” Eire and Gerlenter’s beliefs are shared by other professors at Yale. English professor Mark Oppenheimer recognized that “the social cost that one would pay for having certain conservative views is very strong, and that that effectively is a form of censorship because to say people can say what they want, but they might pay for it by having far fewer friends, or being shunned, is not really to say that they can say what they want.”

An extremely liberal campus is not just exclusive to Yale – a 2024 first-year survey from Harvard found only seven percent of students identified as conservative, while an overwhelming 72 percent of students identified as liberal. In 2016, a nationwide study published in the Econ Journal Watch by Mitchell Langbert, Anthony J. Quain and Daniel B. Klein found that the ratio of Democratic professors to Republican ones was 12:1. The trend of majority liberal professors is even more concerning for schools in New England. In a 2014 study, political science professor Samuel J. Abrams and a fellow researcher from Stanford University found the ratio of Democrat professors to Republican ones in New England was 28 to 1.

The overwhelming majority of more left-leaning teachers in education has negative effects on the conservative students who learn in their classrooms. I talked with a conservative student from New England, who requested anonymity due to privacy concerns. She recalled feeling uncomfortable sharing her beliefs in a survey her history teacher gave her the day after the January 6 storming of the capital. “I didn’t want to reveal my beliefs, but since the survey was a grade for homework I felt I needed to complete it,” she said. 

While the capital insurrection was certainly a threat to American democracy and a unique occurrence, the suffocating class environment was not unique. In her history class, she revealed that there were many political debates, and every time one of these debates occurred, all she could do was “laugh along and pretend” with the liberal opinions being voiced, but she “looked at the 1 or 2 other conservative classmates with wide eyes.” She said that the classroom dynamics also permeated into her social life. Despite the fact that she “respect[ed] others’ opinions and agrees to disagree,” her “entire friend group went downhill because of politics.”

In another interview with a New England conservative student who also requested anonymity, he voiced many similar experiences. He recalled the political debates in his History and English classes: “When most people are voicing their opinions, and it’s all left-sided, I don’t feel comfortable voicing my opinions because it’s so one-sided. In my class, there were only 1 or 2 conservatives and no [conservative] really stands up for their opinion.” When asked about why no one stood up for right-wing beliefs, he responded that “If I were to voice an opinion, I would feel uncomfortable, they would attack me verbally, and not care that we are human.”

He recalled wanting to speak up, but decided against it because he felt nothing would be accomplished. He added that the risk/reward factor of him speaking up was just not worth it.

Self-censorship is very common among conservative students. Political science professor Eric Kaufmann from the University of London noted in his study that “ 7 in 10 conservative academics in the social sciences or humanities say they self-censor [in the U.S]. Over 90 percent of Trump-supporting academics wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing their views with a colleague, and 85 percent of their Democratic colleagues agree that Trump supporters should stay silent.”

The purpose of a discussion is to hear all sides of the conversation ,and if a learning environment lacks diversity, it becomes an extremely unproductive echo chamber. It is critical that in our day and age – where our political climate is so polarized – we can listen to the other side and be accepting of all ideas and beliefs, no matter how strongly we disagree with them.