* The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done By John M. Ellis New York: Encounter Books, 2020. Pp. ix, 209. $25.99 paperback.
Since by now nearly everyone who cares about American universities knows that leftists have taken over most of them, why do we need another book on the subject? For several good reasons. Few people realize quite how bad things have become, what caused them to go so wrong, how bad the consequences are, and, most important of all, what might be done. The distinguished literary historian John M. Ellis has now provided an impressive analysis in this concise and readable volume. Retired from the University of California's "experimental" campus at Santa Cruz, a veteran of the post-structuralist and deconstructionist wars through his many books and articles, he knows who the murderers are and where the bodies are buried.
Ellis cites the many studies that have demonstrated the preponderance of leftists among American university professors but adds two points that are less well known outside universities. First, the imbalance is growing steadily worse. Along with other evidence, Ellis mentions a study of Stanford and Berkeley professors published in 2004, which found that "[t]he left/right party registration imbalance was 8 to 1 for full professors, but the figure for the two junior ranks [assistant and associate professors] taken together was an astonishing 49 to 1" (p. 33). Second, he notes that most universities no longer bother to disguise their embrace of leftism: "Up until about 2016, we commonly heard denials from the campuses that they were effectively one-party ecosystems where right-of-center voices were rarely heard. Those denials have now stopped. Instead, we now see an unashamed and quite open suppression of conservative voices" (p. 35). Today, candidates for jobs and tenure and promotion within the University of California system and a growing number of other institutions must demonstrate their commitment to "diversity" as defined by leftist identity politics and can expect their applications to be rejected if they refuse this loyalty oath, regardless of their academic qualifications.
Ellis explains how the enormous growth of universities and faculties in the 1960s "set in motion a shift from the 45 to 27 left/right ratio among faculty in 1969 to the virtual shutout of one side that we see today" (p. 28). Inevitably, as he says, "a huge expansion of faculty members ... will bring in many less able people who are not confident of their place in the fiercely competitive world of the university, and therefore more likely to be susceptible to fashionable attitudes and political currents" (p. 54). The many professors of this sort who were hired during the expansion that ended around 1970 were ready to welcome the assertions of post-structuralists and deconstructionists that factual truth, logical reasoning, and literary quality are nothing but fictional "constructs." These claims served as comprehensive excuses for those who got their facts wrong, made fallacious arguments, and wrote incomprehensibly. Moreover, as Ellis...