Researcher Speaks Out on Lack of Ideological Diversity at Universities

September 20, 2019 Updated: September 20, 2019

In the growing climate of political correctness and progressive thought on college campuses across the United States, just how politically one-sided has it become for top tier schools?

At the University of California—Los Angeles, ranked number one out of the top public schools in the United States, the overwhelming majority of faculty lean left politically. According to an open secrets document showing donations to political causes by faculty in the University of California system, in the 2016 election 71 percent (or $5,003,285) of political donations went towards Democrats, while only two percent (or $169,235) went to Republicans.

The situation has become very concerning for those who value ideological diversity, according to retired researcher and epidemiologist James Enstrom.

Dr. Enstrom, who worked at UCLA from 1973-2010, spoke with the Epoch Times about his experience with the university and its policy changes over the years, which led to his ousting in 2010.

“I have a PhD in Physics and a Master’s in Epidemiology, but I came to UCLA [in 1973] because I had decided to do something more practical in [my field],” he said.

Enstrom previously worked under Nobel Prize in Physics winner Melvin Schwartz, who served as his dissertation advisor at Stanford University.

“This gave me the training of the rigor of science,” he said. “I still remember the looks he would give me. I had scanned tens of thousands of photographs looking for different particle tracks. I could have screwed the whole thing up if I wasn’t careful. You learn how to do science so you come up with honest results.”

In 1975, Dr. Enstrom published a study that found Mormons in California had lower cancer rates than did other Californians. Enstrom had acquired funding for his study from the American Cancer Society.

“I came up with an idea of studying Mormons as a model for public health because of their church doctrine, called the word of wisdom, where you have a number of health-related factors, like not smoking, not drinking, not using drugs, strong family, strong education. These are all factors that play into having a healthy life,” he said.

Enstrom caught the attention of Lester Breslow, who at the time was Dean of UCLA’s School of Public Health, because of his study on Mormons.

“I was able to get a post-doc at UCLA and was able to start my study, going from a post-doc into a research faculty position in 1976.”

Enstrom stayed in this position for 36 years while working directly under four consecutive deans. Many people in the department, however, didn’t like his credentials or the fact that he was studying Mormons, even though he, himself is not a Mormon.

“The Mormons were politically incorrect in 1973. They are very conservative, so that put a label on me.”

In 1992, the American Cancer Society decided to stop funding his research, leading him to reluctantly turn to the tobacco industry for funding. In 1996, Enstrom requested that the tobacco industry provide him with funds to conduct research into the health effects of passive smoking. From 1997 to 1998, he received three tobacco industry grants, the combined value of which was $700,000; most of this money was dedicated to studying passive smoking.

The fourth dean Enstrom worked under, Linda Rosenstock, was the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Public Safety under President Clinton and took the mantle of Dean of the School of Public Health from 2000-2012. Under her tenure, Enstrom says, the department became more politicized.

In 2004, he was removed from his position and forced to find another position in the department.

“The dean started scrutinizing me because I was publishing politically incorrect stuff,” Enstrom said, referencing his research into how the conservative Mormon lifestyle led to longer life expectancies.

“The school was upset because I was opposed to the aggressive environmental agenda in California. I was a low-level person, but I was making too many waves and they don’t want dissent.”

Enstrom, already on uneasy footing with the university, then published research that contradicted the EPA’s stance on the impact of fine particulate matter on mortality.

Enstrom remained in his new role until 2010, when the School of Public Health announced that it would not be rehiring him because his research was “not aligned with the academic mission” of the school.

“I went through internal appeals at UCLA. I was doing it on principle. I could have retired. I spent one year with no salary. [I said] that I’m not going to end my career because they don’t like what I’m doing. They’ve got to have a valid reason. I had a long record at UCLA and it was a good record.”

After a journalist wrote an article on his termination, it garnered significant media attention. With the help of a powerful legal team, including the FIRE Legal Network, the ACLJ, and David French, Enstrom was able to appeal his termination, which continued his contract until 2012, but without a salary.

Enstrom’s legal team was able to reach a settlement with the school in 2015 that allowed him to use the title “retired researcher” and continue to access university resources.

“It’s because of the belief in science that I continue this. This is not easy to do,” he said.

Enstrom is not the only faculty member who has been ousted from the University for his political beliefs. In 2017, Professor Keith Fink, who taught in the department of communications, was terminated for his conservative political beliefs.

Enstrom remains active in campus-related activities, striving for more ideological diversity. He acts as an informal advisor for the Bruin Republicans and the Republican Alumni Association from UCLA.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Ian Henderson
Ian Henderson
Ian Henderson is a contributor to Shield Society, former director of outreach for The Millennial Review, and former development coordinator for PragerU.