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Addressing Perceptions of Liberal Bias A Concern For New UNH President

Professors shouldn’t allow their political beliefs to contain students in the classroom, the new president of the University of New Hampshire said.

James W. Dean Jr. said he thinks claims of liberal bias in universities are overblown, but he acknowledged that most professors are liberals and that many people criticize American universities for the way they treat people with non-left-wing views.

“It’s certainly a perception that’s out there about universities across the country,” Dean told Foster’s Daily Democrat. “I think that people make a little bit more of this than it really is.”

Dean said he finds it hard to believe that there’s much discernible political bias among science professors, but he acknowledged that “some corners” of humanities and social science are left-leaning.

“Having said that, a university can’t ask people about their political belief when we hire them. That’s illegal,” Dean said. “It is true that there are more professors in the world who would self-identify as ‘liberal’ than would identify as ‘conservative.’ Having said that, there’s lots of conservative professors here on campus. What you don’t want is for professors, whatever their political beliefs are – conservative or liberal or somewhere in between – to create an atmosphere in the classroom where students’ ability to learn and express themselves are really constrained by that. My sense is, we do a reasonably good job of that.”

But Dean said he plans to ask students how they view liberal bias at UNH.

“That’s one of the things I want to talk to students about – do they ever feel as if they’re uncomfortable because they can’t express their opinions,” Dean said. “So far I haven’t seen any of that. But it’s early, and I still have much more to learn.”

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