Are university professors really that liberal? My experience with four years in engineering school suggests that my math, science, and engineering professors more or less stayed out of politics. If anything, I would say that they were all over the map on their political identity, but probably leaning towards conservative politics (on average). So where do the universities get their reputation for being so liberal?
I would say from the humanities, in particular in the faculties of psychology, sociology, and political science. Most of these professors believe in well thought out social policies are necessary to better society. And this contrasts with most libertarian thinkers who believe that governments should stay out of social policy altogether. So universities in general are branded as "liberal" even though maybe 10% of their professors are true liberals.
So how did these professors in the humanities become so liberal? Could it be that they have read a lot? Especially in their subject field? Do they not write papers that are subject to panels of their peers? One does not become a Ph.D. in sociology by watching Fox News.
These professors have studied failures and successes of various progressive policies over the past 150 years. They believe that minimal government intervention usually means a society that has great difficulty in moving forward. They see when the masses are unhappy, they tend to find a charismatic leader, revolt, and overthrow governments. If governments are not able to proactively engage with their society, they don't last long. So these professors have adopted liberal politics in which government is more intertwined with the people than libertarian thinkers would like.
Let's take a look at those who oppose liberal professors.
Rather than conducting a study on reasons for poverty and designing policies around those reasons, the real solution is just to cut off all forms of social assistance. The able-bodied recipients will just find jobs. The less than able-bodied will turn to family or charity. If they can't get support, too bad. No Ph.D. is required to reach this conclusion.
For those cut-off recipients who turn to petty crime to fund themselves, just hire more police officers and build more jails. Common sense, right?
Rather than building a comprehensive addiction centers, just tell those with addictions to stop doing what they are doing if they want a better life. This would sure cost a lot less.
For those citizens who find themselves in dysfunctional neighborhoods, well, if they can't afford to move out, they get what they deserve. So simple!
To be fair, many progressive causes have been tried and found not to work very well. I just might be working in one of them. I work at local college and help students who did not get a good high school education. They are in their mid 20s or older and see their lack of education is holding them back in life. So they make the sacrifice in time and a little money. I say "little money" because the provincial government is covering most of the expense of their upgrading education.
I would divide my students into three groups. The first group are very committed in their studies and have arranged their life for academic pursuits. I have helped many of them move on to nursing, engineering, IT, social work, trades, and other faculties. This first group becomes more productive citizens. The second group also give a reasonably good effort. But after two or three semesters, they realize the long path they still have to travel. They usually return to similar work they were doing before. But with greater literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills, they can perform this work a little better, which helps the overall economy. And maybe they finally find a promotion or two in their working life. And the last third really don't do much with their education. For different reasons, they just occupy some class rooms for a semester or two, then fail themselves out.
To a critic of progressive causes, my occupation is worthless to society because of the obvious one-third failure rate. But for those students who got a hand-up, they have taken the government's investment in them and used it wisely: for themselves, their family, their community, and eventually government coffers as education usually means paying higher taxes later in life. The value of my occupation all depends on what angle one is using.
Is the government really getting value for its investment in my students? I really can't say. I'm not sure the economic models are sufficiently strong enough to predict the benefits of upgrading education. I suspect the politicians of the past have deemed adult education is a good thing and allotted some funding for it. And current politicians have left that funding in place. We have had some adjustments in our budget over the years, but I'm too far down the hierarchy to really know why.
I think my occupation is typical of progressive causes. There never can be a 100% success rate. For example, treatment for addictions usually has less than a 20% success rate. And more resources in a school in a low income neighborhood may be a great difference for a few students, but inconsequential for many. It's really hard to accurately measure a lot of these benefits. Despite this
I think if the liberal professors were more honest with the public in that their solutions are only their best, albeit educated, guesses. And they could tell us that not all best guesses work out. Then maybe we might take a different approach to using the knowledge of human nature provided by the humanities.