I certainly hope that, as a graduate student in economics, Matthew Gagnon is more careful in reporting his research than he has been in writing his recent opinion piece. He cites a UCLA survey to support his belief that U.S. college faculties are becoming more “liberal,” but only includes trends up until 2014.
Quoting from the 2016-2017 edition of the UCLA survey he cites, we read, “That proportion [of faculty reporting “liberal” views] steadily increased leveling out in 2010–2011 with roughly half of faculty (50.3 percent) reporting liberal views. Since then, the proportion of faculty identifying as liberal has actually decreased by two percentage points. The public seems to hold the notion that there is an increasing trend related to the proportion of faculty who identify as liberal. However, our data indicate that this is not the case — for decades faculty have leaned toward the liberal side of political orientation.”
So yes, university faculties have long identified as somewhat more “liberal” than not, but the proportion doing so has not, according to this study, been rising alarmingly.
Furthermore, the definition of who is “liberal,” having been co-opted by conservatives in my opinion, has become ever less truly progressive as the conservative movement has shifted ever further to the right.
In other words, in order to self-identify as conservatives, faculty members would have to embrace views that are far to the right of those who called themselves conservatives a few decades ago.
It is not the university faculties who have changed; it is the political playing field in the U.S. on which they stand which has shifted. The center line of this ideological field has been drawn in the direction of extreme right-wing views, as illustrated by the radical decisions recently passed down from the (illegitimately, in my opinion) right-wing-packed Supreme Court.