Imagine if conservatives in academia could safely 'come out'

A few days after the 2004 election, Gabriel Rossman went for a job interview with the UCLA sociology department. Rossman was finishing a doctorate at Princeton, and his research on how ownership affects mass-media content was a good fit for a school in the entertainment capital. He got the job as an assistant professor.

But he also got a warning about academic culture. At a dinner following his day on campus, two of his future colleagues started ranting about George W. Bush’s re-election. One called it “a referendum against the Enlightenment.” Rossman smiled and nodded, never letting on that he’d cast his ballot for Bush.

Rossman’s story appears anonymously in “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University,” just published by Oxford University Press. He agreed to break cover because, he said, “I have tenure.” In an interview, he noted that staying in the intellectual closet doesn’t require actively lying, merely letting colleagues assume that everyone shares the same political views.