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Letter: Higher education is not an ‘academic marketplace’

The News on Oct. 20 published an opinion piece lamenting the lack of conservative voices in higher education. The writer, Richard Vatz, argued that despite higher education’s support for the “academic marketplace,” there have been “increasing and unremitting effort to eliminate conservatives” in United States universities.

First, the choice of the “academic marketplace” is a misleading metaphor for what transpires during the hiring of faculty as well as evaluation of faculty’s performance of their research and teaching duties. This is more “business-speak,” like the unfortunate use of “provider” in health care, that seeks to recast the roles and functions of a profession strictly from an economic perspective.

Vatz’s use of “academic marketplace” implies a kind of competition where progressives try to stamp out conservatives and their ideas. A more accurate description of what transpires in U.S. higher education is that faculty attempt to employ reason (and rational methods) to ascertain and teach truth in some form (often in the form of some type of data). While this description of the ideal is not always met, hiring and evaluation of faculty depend upon evidence that faculty can conduct research and teach in a reason-based – not liberal or conservative – manner.

Scott T. Meier, Ph.D.


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