The sheer public spectacle of near-riots has forced some college administrators to take a stand for free expression and provide massive police protection when controversial speakers like Ben Shapiro come to campus. But when Mr. Shapiro leaves, the conditions that necessitated those extraordinary measures are still there. Administrators will keep having to choose between censoring moderate-to-conservative speakers, exposing their students to the threat of violence, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on every speaker. It’s an expensive treatment that provides only momentary relief from a symptom.
What then is the disease? We are now close to the end of a half-century process by which the campuses have been emptied of centrist and right-of-center voices. Many scholars have studied the political allegiances of the faculty during this time. There have been some differences of opinion about methodology, but the main outline is not in doubt. In 1969 the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education found that there were overall about twice as many left-of-center as right-of-center faculty. Various studies document the rise of that ratio to 5 to 1 at the century’s end, and to 8 to 1 a decade later, until in 2016 Mitchell Langbert, Dan Klein, and Tony Quain find it in the region of 10 to 1 and still rising.