A new poll finds that nearly half of students at 50 leading American colleges say professors frequently inject political comments into classroom discussions, even if those comments have nothing to do with the subject being taught.

Commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the survey also found 29 percent of students feel they have to agree with a professor’s politics to get a good grade.

According to the survey:

  • 48 percent of students report campus presentations on political issues that “seem totally one-sided”;

  • 46 percent say professors “use the classroom to present their personal political views”; and

  • 42 percent fault reading assignments for presenting only one side of a controversial issue.

The survey, which was conducted before and after last month’s presidential election, found a partisan streak among college professors.

Sixty-eight percent of the students reported negative remarks in class about President Bush, while 62 percent said professors praised Sen. John Kerry.

“Students pay hefty tuition to get an education, not to hear some professors’ pet political views,” said Anne Neal, president of ACTA, in a statement. “When politics is relevant, multiple perspectives should be presented. The classroom should be a place where students are free to explore different points of view. They should not feel they will be penalized if they think for themselves.”

The ACTA survey was conducted by the Center for Survey Research & Analysis at the University of Connecticut at the 50 colleges and universities top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

The organization pointed out that last week, the Princeton, N.J.-based National Association of Scholars released a study showing that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among professors at some top-50 schools is as high as 9 to 1.

“The lack of intellectual diversity on our college campuses is clearly a problem,” said Neal. “We believe boards of trustees have the responsibility to ensure that students are exposed to a free and open exchange of ideas and are encouraged to think for themselves.”

According to ACTA, most of the students who participated in the survey majored in subjects like biology, engineering and psychology – not normally politically oriented courses.

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