When Robert Zimmer separated from his wife and disclosed to trustees that he was romantically involved with a faculty member, the University of Chicago president gave rise to a host of thorny issues. How will conflicts of interest be resolved? How long will Zimmer’s estranged wife remain in the presidential residence, where official university functions are still taking place? And, more broadly, how might Zimmer’s own credibility be affected by his decision to date a professor on the campus?
Theories abound about why academics are more liberal than are average citizens. Some blame bias, arguing that conservative scholars are denied positions. Others see self-selection at work, with academe attracting more liberal individuals, while conservatives are more likely to opt for other careers. Still others see some sort of socialization going on in graduate programs or early faculty careers, such that the young academic emerges on the left. And there are numerous other theories.
As a small Christian college in St. Paul, Minn., Bethel University seems like the kind of place where sharing would be commonplace. A recent plagiarism case on the campus, however, has plunged the college into a debate over the difference between collegial exchanges of course materials and the outright stealing of fellow professors’ ideas.