Skepticism that high-ranking colleges are more woke

From Rob K. Henderson: Why Young Women Are Becoming More Liberal Than Young Men: The Gender-Equality Paradox.

Students are more liberal at higher ranked schools (vs. lower ranked schools)

The higher up the college rankings you go, the larger the political gender divide gets

I keep seeing this repeated as if it’s a truism. I am skeptical.

What does it mean to be liberal? Wokeness and neoliberalism are both ‘left’ on the political spectrum, yet quite distinct otherwise. I posit that elite-students are more liberal in the neo or classical-liberal sense, like Larry Summers, and less like Ibram X Kendi. It’s possible for students to poll as democratic/liberal on surveys, yet still not be woke. Neoliberals are similar to democratic-socialists on many cultural/policy issues, such as LGBT rights, decriminalization of drugs, abortion access, and irreligiosity/secularism.

The student body for elite schools is less woke than the staff. Woke professors and other staff get most of the media attention, but the students are indifferent even if they identify as liberal. They just want the credential and the job opportunities it entails, not to walk-out for Gaza or debate pronouns.

Students from low-ranking colleges may be more inclined to assimilate wokeness for career purposes. Elite grads can still fallback on their elite credential instead of having to fully-assimilate wokeness. In other words, wokeness is a result of having fewer career options and worse prospects. Imagine earning a humanities degree from a low-ranking college and trying to get your foot in the door; what choice do you have but to become woke if that is what is required? It’s not like you have many options.

Higher-ranking schools, geographically, tend to be clustered in ‘blue areas’, which can also explain the unipolarity of left-wing politics. It would be more accurate to control for geography and demographics in comparing the politics of high-ranking vs. low-ranking schools. I think the results would be the opposite, with low-ranking schools having a more woke student body even within blue states. I find it hard to believe that Merritt College–a low-ranking community college in Oakland with a predominantly-black student body–is less woke than UCLA or Stanford.

Low-ranking schools have been hotbeds of woke protests, notably Evergreen State College in 2017, which according to US News and World Reports ranks “#69 out of 120 Regional Universities West”. However, unlike higher-ranking school protests, protests at low-ranking colleges get less media coverage, so one may be inclined to underestimate how woke they are. A protest or alleged antisemitism at MIT or Harvard is naturally going to attract more media and Twitter attention compared to the same protest at ‘No-Name U’.