It's not just Republicans who feel increasingly sour on colleges and universities – Washington Examiner

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It should come as no surprise that Republican distrust in institutions of higher education is on the rise, but that trend isn’t isolated to supporters of the GOP.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows negativity towards colleges and universities among self-identified Republicans has increased sharply since 2015, a revelation that’s received some attention in the press, while also documenting a rise in distrust with those institutions among the general population.

Here’s how Pew interpreted the Republican responses in a report on the poll, which was taken among 2,504 adults in June, published on Monday:

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.
As recently as two years ago, most Republicans and Republican leaners held a positive view of the role of colleges and universities. In September 2015, 54% of Republicans said colleges and universities had a positive impact on the way things were going in the country; 37% rated their impact negatively.
By 2016, Republicans’ ratings of colleges and universities were mixed (43% positive, 45% negative). Today, for the first time on a question asked since 2010, a majority (58%) of Republicans say colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, while 36% say they have a positive effect.

That constitutes a fairly dramatic swing.

But among all adults, not just self-identified Republicans, Pew found 36 percent also say colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country — that’s up 10 percent since 2010. Similarly, the percent of all adults who say colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country has declined from 61 to 55 percent in the same time period.

Pew’s 2015 survey was taken in September, before the University of Missouri descended into chaos driven by progressive student protests. Those demonstrations at Mizzou spawned similar protests at schools around the country, where students began presenting their administrations with radical lists of demands to resolve alleged crises of racial and sexual equality.

Around Halloween that year, Yale students were caught on camera berating a professor over his stance on holiday costumes. In February of 2016, a violent mob of students and faculty members at California State University, Los Angeles, physically blocked access to a Ben Shapiro lecture coordinated by the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.

The subsequent fall semester was splintered by the presidential election in November, an event that amplified tensions on campuses before and after Trump’s victory. In early 2017, a riot at the University of California, Berkeley, that resulted in a campus-wide lockdown over an anti-liberal speaker even caught the president’s attention. When the university proceeded to cancel Ann Coulter’s scheduled lecture on campus in the spring, the story became a major national news item as well.

Another such news item exploded after a professor was hospitalized during a demonstration against author Charles Murray that turned violent at Middlebury College last spring.

Note that between 2015 and 2016, Republican negativity increased 8 percent, and by 13 percent between 2016 and 2017. Overall, that marks a 21 percent increase in negativity in only two years. The 10 percent increase among all adults over the past decade should be even more alarming to leaders in higher education.

It’s possible that greater media focus on campus stories, driven by the events in 2015 and the press’s interest in stories related to Trump, explains the spike in negativity between 2016 and 2017. It’s also possible that Republicans perceive an escalation in the severity of liberal bias in higher education, with almost the entire academic community positioning itself against the Republican president and both Berkeley stories receiving comparatively high coverage in the national media.

For all of those reasons and more, the academic community should note that while trust is not crumbling nationally at the same rate as it is among Republicans, faith in colleges and universities is declining steadily among the general population as well.

The potential consequences of inaction? Right along with national trust in academia, the New York Times reported this week that enrollment at the University of Missouri has declined 35 percent over the past two years.

Mizzou’s administration reportedly acknowledges the school’s problems can be traced directly back to the protests of 2015.

Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.