Subject: ON POLITICAL
REPRESSION (or " HOW THE GOALS JUSTIFY THE
METHODS ! ") : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN
INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS,
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The "free elections" in
In item A., Professor Richard Du Boff (
Item B. is a short
article by Kathy Lynn Gray, published in the Columbus Dispatch
In finally, in Item C., below, Professor Fred Lonidier (UCSD) has sent us an article from the Los
Angeles Times describing the ideological battles being fought on American
university campuses today, as neo-conservative ideologues continue to struggle
to win over student opinion at major universities across the
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Grenoble 3
from Professor Richard du Boff :
Subject: Inventing political violence
Inventing political violence
America created violent political Islam inadvertently as part of its Cold War strategy, says Mahmood Mamdani
I was in
difference? I suggest we look at the nature of the public debate in
public debate in the
Bernard Lewis, in contrast, makes a more nuanced claim. He says that there are good secular Muslims and bad fundamentalist Muslims, and that the west needs to distinguish between them. He identifies a secular point of view with western culture so completely that, for him, a secular Muslim is necessarily a westernized Muslim. A neoconservative guru, Lewis was a major inspiration behind the Iraq War.
Their differences aside, Lewis and Huntington share two assumptions. The first is that the world is divided into two - modern and pre-modern. Modern peoples make their own culture; their culture is a creative act and it changes historically. In contrast, they assume that pre-modern peoples have an unchanging, ahistorical culture, one they carry along with them; they wear their culture as a kind of badge, and sometimes suffer from it like a collective twitch. The second assumption is that you can read people's politics from their culture. I call these two assumptions Culture Talk.
of the Iraq War has turned into a crisis for theory. It is increasingly clear
that the designation of some Muslims as good and others as bad has little to do
with their orientation to Islam, and everything to do with their orientation to
Contemporary, modern political Islam developed as a response to colonialism. Colonialism posed a double challenge, that of foreign domination and of the need for internal reform to address weaknesses exposed by external aggression.
Early political Islam grappled with such questions in an attempt to modernize and reform Islamic societies. Then came Pakistani thinker Abu ala Mawdudi, who placed political violence at the centre of political action, and Egyptian thinker Sayyed Qutb, who argued that it was necessary to distinguish between friends and enemies, for with friends you use reason and persuasion, but with enemies you use force.
The terrorist tendency in political Islam is not a pre-modern carry-over but a very modern development.
Radical political Islam is not a development of the ulama (legal scholars), not even of mullahs or imams (prayer leaders). It is mainly the work of non-religious political intellectuals. Mawdudi was a journalist and Qutb a literary theorist. It has developed through a set of debates, but these cannot be understood as a linear development inside political Islam. Waged inside and outside political Islam, they are both a critique of reformist political Islam and an engagement with competing political ideologies, particularly Marxism-Leninism.
Let us remember that the period after World War II was one of a decades-long secular romance with political violence. Armed struggle was in vogue in national liberation and revolutionary movements. Many political activists were convinced that a thoroughgoing struggle had to be armed. The development of religious political tendencies that glorify the liberating role of violence is a latter-day phenomenon. Rather than a product of religious fundamentalism, it is best thought of as both religious and secular, a sign of the times.
The late Cold War
That said, we are confronted with a singular question: How did
Islamist terror, a theoretical tendency that preoccupied a few intellectuals
and was of marginal political significance in the 1970s, become part of the
political mainstream in only a few decades? To answer it, we need to move away
from the internal debates of political Islam to its relations with official
reached a momentous point in 1975. The year the Americans were defeated in
feature of the new phase of the Cold War was the strong anti-war movement
administration of Ronald Reagan raised proxy war from a pragmatic response to a
grand strategy, called the Reagan Doctrine. Developed in response to two 1979
revolutions - those of the Sandinistas in
Doctrine also turned on a second initiative, one that involved a shift from
"containment" to "rollback", from peaceful coexistence to a
determined, sustained and aggressive bid to reverse defeats in the
Evil is a
theological notion. As such, it has neither a history nor motivation. The
political use of evil is two-fold. First, one cannot coexist with evil, nor can
one convert it. Evil must be eliminated. The war against evil is a permanent
war, one without a truce. Second, the Manichean battle against evil justifies
any alliance. The first such alliance, dubbed "constructive
engagement", was between official
It is through
"constructive engagement" that official
fruit of constructive engagement was
engagement was a period of tutorship for official
It is worth
drawing some lessons from the history of terror after
Rollback on a global scale: Afghanistan
The Afghan war
was the prime example of "rollback". In the history of terror during
the last phase of the Cold War, the Afghan war was important for two reasons.
First, the Reagan administration ideologized the war
as a religious war against the evil empire, rather than styling it a war of
national liberation such as that it claimed the Contras were fighting in
Reagan administration privatized war in the course of recruiting, training and
organizing a global network of Islamic fighters against the
theology recast Islam around a single institution, the jihad; it redefined the
jihad as exclusively military and claimed the military jihad to be an offensive
war entered into by individual born-again devotees as opposed to defence by an Islamic community under threat. The jihadi madrasahs in
Afghan jihad, right-wing political Islam was an ideological tendency with
little organization and muscle on the ground. The Afghan jihad gave it numbers,
organization, skills, reach, confidence and a coherent objective.
Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of
Government, Department of Anthropology and
from Kathy Lynn Gray :
copyright, January 2005
that would restrict what university professors could say in their classrooms
was introduced yesterday in
Marion Sen. Larry A. Mumper's "academic bill of rights for higher education" would prohibit instructors at public or private universities
from "persistently" discussing controversial issues in class or from using their classes to push political, ideological, religious or anti-religious views.
Senate Bill 24 also would prohibit professors from discriminating against students based on their beliefs and keep universities from hiring, firing, promoting or giving tenure to instructors based on their beliefs.
Mumper, a Republican, said many professors undermine the values of their students because "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who attempt to indoctrinate students.
"These are young minds that haven't had a chance to form their own opinions," Mumper said. "Our colleges and universities are still
filled with some of the '60s and '70s profs that were the anti-American group. They've gotten control of how to give people tenure and so the colleges continue to move in this direction."
Joan McLean, a
political-science professor at
"This is not the kind of democracy we think we're spreading when we hear President Bush's words. What we're celebrating is our ability to not control information."
The language of Mumper's bill comes from a 2003 booklet by conservative
commentator David Horowitz that lays out how students can persuade universities
to adopt the "bill of rights." The booklet says it is "dedicated
to restoring academic freedom and educational values to
The issue has gone national.
Students for Academic Freedom, a group based in
On the other side, the American Association of University Professors, which has thousands of members at hundreds of campuses, argues that eliminating controversial issues from courses waters down academic freedoms.
Mumper said he's been investigating the issue for
months and has heard of an
"I think the bill asks that colleges and universities be fair in their approach to their education of students," Mumper said. "They need to have their rights defended and need to be respected by faculty and administrators."
"I see this so-called bill of rights, the platform that he has constructed, as one that would explicitly introduce into college and university appointments a kind of political litmus test," she said.
Mumper said he will "push this all the way" so that it's approved by either the legislature or by individual universities.
When a similar
proposal was considered in the
from Professor Fred Lonidier :
Subject: An OpEd in the L.A. Times last Friday
Brian C. Anderson
copyright, January 2005
AMID THE IVY
(Right on Campus Conservatives begin to infiltrate the left's last redoubt)
BY BRIAN C. ANDERSON
Throughout 2003 and into
2004, a surge of protests roiled American campuses. You probably think the kids
were agitating against war in
The principle, the protesters observed, was just that governing university admission practices: rewarding people differently based on race. Indignant school officials charged the bake-sale organizers with "creating a hostile climate" for minority students, oblivious to the incoherence of their position. On what grounds could they favor race preferences in one area (admissions) and condemn them in the other (selling cookies) as racist? Several schools banned the sales, on flimsy pretexts, such as the organizers' lack of school food permits.
The protests shocked
the mainstream press, but to close observers of
But the left's long dominion over the university--the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed--is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn't coming from the schools' faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It's coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy's elite gatekeepers.
There have always been conservative students on campus: More than a half-century has passed since a just-matriculated William F. Buckley published "God and Man at Yale," lamenting his alma mater's secularism and launching the author on his now-legendary career. But never has the right flourished among college kids as it does today.
The number of
College Republicans has almost tripled, from 400 or so campus chapters six
years ago, to 1,148 today, with 120,000-plus members (compared with the College
Democrats' 900 or so chapters and 100,000 members). College Republicans are
thriving even on elite campuses. "We've doubled in size over the last few
years, to more than 400 students," reports Evan Baehr,
the square-jawed future pol heading the
organizations, ranging from gun clubs (Harvard's has more than 100 students
blasting away) to impudent newspapers and magazines, are budding at schools
The bustle reflects a general rightward shift in college students' views. Back in 1995, reports UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, 66% of freshmen wanted the wealthy to pay higher taxes. Today, only 50% do. Some 17% of students now value taking part in environmental programs, half of 1992's percentage. Support for abortion stood at two-thirds of students in the early 1990s; now it's just over half. A late-2003 Harvard Institute of Politics study found that college students had moved to the right of the
overall population, with 31% identifying themselves as Republicans, 27% as Democrats and the rest independent or unaffiliated. "College campuses aren't a hotbed of liberalism any more," institute director Dan Glickman comments. "It's a different world."
Youthful attitudes are volatile, of course, but this rightward trend may intensify. In a mock election run by Channel One, which broadcasts in public schools, 1.4 million high school students re-elected George W. Bush in a landslide, with 55% of the popular vote and 393 electoral votes--greater than the 51% of the popular vote and 286 electoral votes he actually won.
Today's right-leaning kids sure don't look much like the Bill Buckley-style young Republicans of yesteryear. "Conservative students today will be wearing the same T-shirts, sneakers and jeans that you find on most 19-year-old college kids," says Sarah Longwell of the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which promotes the Western intellectual tradition on campuses. Jordana Starr, a right-of-center political science and philosophy major at Tufts, tartly adds that you can spot a student leftist pretty fast: "They're the ones who appear not to have seen a shower in some time, nor a laundromat."
campus conservative is comfortably at home in popular culture, as I've found
interviewing 50 or so from across the country. A favorite TV show, for
instance, is Comedy Central's breathtakingly vulgar cartoon "
Yet the opinions of these kids are about as far from the New York Times as one gets. Affirmative action particularly exasperates them. Chris Pizzo, a political science major who edits Boston College's conservative paper, the Observer, points to wealthy Cuban-American friends from his native Florida, "raised with at least the same advantages and in the same environment that I was," yet far likelier to get into the top schools. Where's the justice in that?"
Worse still, many students argue, preferences carry the racist implication that blacks and Hispanics can't compete on pure merit--an implication that holds minorities back. "Affirmative action has a detrimental effect on the black community, whether or not we're willing to admit it," says Jana Hardy, a biracial recent Claremont McKenna grad now working in urban planning.
The war on terror,
full-fledged on board with the
On cultural issues,
the students had clearly reached their own, sometimes idiosyncratic,
conclusions. Yale senior Nikki McArthur (a big Metallica
fan) is, like most of the students I questioned, ardently pro-life--"but
not because I necessarily think that an embryo is a full human being."
Rather, she argues, "I think that a culture in which abortion is widely
accepted is one in which people have a wrong understanding of children and sex.
Children should not be considered burdens." Jordan Rodriguez, a
rugged-looking Evangelical Princeton undergrad, Deke
pledge president and hyperachiever--he was varsity
baseball and editor of the literary magazine at his
Many of the students,
especially the women, value getting married and raising a family with a fervor
that would thrill the Family Research Council. "I'm an old-fashioned
girl," avers Cornell's Miss Stewart. "I think it's wonderful when a
mother can spend the majority of her time devoted to her child's early years. I
plan to do just that."
Yet for most of the conservative students I interviewed, traditional values did not extend to homosexuality. Though few support gay marriage, fewer still want the Constitution amended to ban it, and most are OK with state-sanctioned civil unions for gays. "I don't buy the prevalent argument that recognizing gay unions would undermine the institution of marriage," says Vanderbilt sophomore Anne Malinee, the strongly pro-life editor of the Vanderbilt Torch, the school's conservative monthly. "Of all the issues selected officials could be focusing on, why this?" Similarly, Bucknell history and economics major Charles Mitchell, culturally conservative in
many respects, isn't worried about gay marriage. "I believe that homosexuality is a sin, because that's what the Bible says, but I also believe that if two people of the same sex love each other and can get a priest to marry them, the propriety of that is none of the state's business."
What accounts for the growing conservatism of college students? After 9/11, many collegians came to distrust the U.N.-loving left to defend the nation with vigor. As of late 2003, college students backed the war more strongly than the overall American population. Notes Edward Morrissey, "Captain Ed" of the popular conservative blog Captain's Quarters, these kids "grew up on . . . moral relativism and internationalism, constantly fed the line that there was no such thing as evil in the world, only misunderstandings."
Suddenly, on 9/11, this generation discovered that "there are enemies and they wanted to kill Americans in large numbers, and that a good portion of what they'd been taught was drizzly pap."
Yet a deeper reason
for the rightward shift, which began well before 9/11, is the left's broader
intellectual and political failure. American college kids grew up in an era
that witnessed both communism's fall and the unchained
since I was a kid," one student observed in
an online discussion. "I look around and don't see any discrimination
against minorities or women." Left-wing charges of
The destructive effects of "just do it" values on the family are equally evident to many undergrads, who have painfully felt those effects themselves or watched them rip up the homes of their friends. They turn to family values with the enthusiasm of converts. Even their support of homosexual civil unions may spring from their rejection of the world of casual hookups, broken marriages and wounded children that liberalism has produced. "Heterosexuals have already done a decent job of cheapening marriage on their own," observes Vanderbilt's Miss Malinee.
Conservative ideas take on even greater allure for students when the authorities say they're verboten. From pervasive campus political correctness--the unfree speech codes, obligatory diversity-sensitivity seminars and school-sponsored performances of "The Vagina Monologues'--to the professorate's near-uniform leftism, with faculty Democrats outnumbering Republicans by at least 7 to 1 (at Williams, it's 51 Dems to zero Republicans), everything aims to implant correct left-wing attitudes in student brains.
"There's a natural and healthy tendency among students to question the piety of their teachers," Penn history professor Alan Kors noted a few months back. "And for so long the pieties, dogmas and set of assumptions being taught on college campuses have been found on the far left." Says Daniel Flynn of the Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that trains young conservative activists: "The intention of many in academe is to evangelize left-wing ideas, but in effect what they're doing is often the opposite: piquing interest in the other side."
Katherine Ernst, a
perky, blond and diminutive recent
'Oil, oil, oil, they're poor, we take advantage of them, it's really complicated, blah, blah, blah.' It was something that I and many other
students living in
our financial-district dorm really enjoyed," Miss Ernst says acidly.
"The worst professor I ever had, though, was for a course in
administrative law," she recalls. "Every class--no
exaggeration--included at least five references to 'Bush was selected.' "
A final straw for Miss Ernst came when a professor--"a for-real
communist"--walked out of a class he was teaching "to take part in
some stupid protest march." So there you have it, says Miss Ernst:
"You pay thousands and thousands and the prof
takes off to carry a 'no justice, no peace' sign around
Bucknell grad Tom Elliot (profiled in a 2003 New York Times magazine article on young conservatives) experienced "quite a bit" of hostility in the classroom. "I was constantly singled out and made to look ridiculous--responsible for the right-wing ideas being lambasted by the professor that day," he observes. Tufts' Jordana Starr listens to her media-and-politics professor berate conservatives week after week: President Bush's re-election is the "apocalypse," Mr. Bush is an evil draft dodger, ad nauseam.
The leftism that so angers these students includes the hey-ho-Western-civ-has-got-to-go theories that inform college courses from
coast to coast. "In too many classrooms," says former education secretary William Bennett, "radical professors teach their students that Western thought is suspect, that Enlightenment ideals are inherently oppressive and that the basic principles of the American founding are not 'relevant' to our time."
College course catalogs often read like satires. Want to study English lit at, say, Penn? Freshmen take introductory classes like "Secrecy and Sexuality in the Modern Novel," taught by--no joke--Heather Love. In the course description, Ms. Love explains that "many of the books that we consider 'great literature' "--note the obligatory postmodern scare quotes--"are noted as much for what they don't say as for what they do." Deconstructing Herman Melville and other dead white males, Ms. Love promises to uncover "what, if anything, they are hiding" about homosexuality, pederasty and incest.
first-year students. Ms. Love's upper-level course "Theories of Gender and
Sexuality" focuses on "reproductive rights; pornography, 'sex work'
[prostitution], and free speech; . . . and transgender activism," among
other themes that seem to have zilch to do with English lit. Other English
majors get to explore "postcolonial literature" with
Want to learn history at Brown? "Europe from Rome to the Eighteenth Century," taught by Prof. Amy Remensnyder, will chart "the complex divisions" of various groups within European societies "according to gender, class, and ethnicity," the holy trinity of postmodern intellectuals. "In the end," says Mr. Bennett, "the central problem is not that the majority of students are being indoctrinated (although some are) but that they graduate knowing almost nothing at all. Or worse still, they graduate thinking that they know everything."
A student, conservative or otherwise, who doesn't buy into the West-is-the-worst line can "have an awful time of it," says Harvard junior Jordan Hylden. "It is quite difficult in fields like literature, anthropology, the social sciences and even religion to even be informed," he complains. "It's like an ivory echo chamber, where only the 'right'--subversive, anti-Western--ideas get a hearing." Small wonder that enrollments in such fields have plummeted. The percentage of undergrad degrees in the humanities, nearly 21% in the mid-1960s, fell to 12% or so by the '90s and has never climbed back up.
Some conservative students
stuck in a left-wing echo chamber keep their real views to themselves and
parrot the "correct" line, fearing that otherwise they'll get a low
grade. One earnest
A 2003 survey by the Independent Women's Forum found that anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of students had felt forced to check "their intellectual and philosophical honesty at the door in order to get good grades." A brand-new American Council of Trustees and Alumni survey finds that half of all students--not just conservatives--at the top 50 colleges say that profs frequently inject their political views into courses, and almost one-third think that they have to agree with those views to get a good grade.
Such self-censorship may become rarer, thanks in large part to several national organizations whose efforts to bring diversity of thought to academe are starting to pay off. These groups help create right-of-center student clubs, and they sponsor conservative talks--giving students the self-assurance to express conservative views publicly and fostering campus dialogue. "There is no coercion or imposition going on," Bucknell's Mr. Mitchell editorialized in the Washington Times. Rather, a demand for conservative ideas "is simply being met by, you might say, intellectual entrepreneurs."
Perhaps most significant is Students for Academic Freedom, founded in 2003 and already boasting 130 campus chapters. Its key initiative is a campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights, which enjoins universities not to deny tenure or fail to hire teachers solely because of their "retrograde" conservative politics, and to ensure that teachers keep their classes from becoming left-wing propaganda sessions. "What I've set out to do is to try to restore the educational principles that were in place before the
generation of '60s leftists infiltrated the university
and corrupted it by transforming it into an ideological platform,"
explains founder David Horowitz. Legislation enacting variations of the bill is
on the move in 19 states. In
In lobbying for the bill of rights, SAF publicizes horror stories that its chapters gather: a Spanish instructor telling his class, "I wish George Bush were dead"; a public policy prof telling a student headed for a conservative conference in Washington, "Well, then, you'll probably fail my course"; a law professor proclaiming, "We all know that the 'R' in Republican stands for racist"; and a criminology teacher who asked students on a test to explain why George Bush is a war criminal, and then gave an "F" to a student who answered that Saddam Hussein, not Mr. Bush, was the monster. Mr. Horowitz says that conservative kids have usually just
accepted such classroom demagoguery. "They're conservative, and their disposition is to suffer: 'That's just the way colleges are,' " Mr. Horowitz says. "What I've done as an ex-radical is to encourage them to see the injustices done to them as injustices--and do something about it."
Needless to say, the
university establishment is downright angry about SAF's
campaign--all the more so because it turns the left's own language of
"diversity" and "rights" against it. The liberal American
Association of University Professors, in textbook Orwellian fashion, declares
the Academic Bill of Rights a "grave threat" to academic freedom. In
The idea of
intellectual diversity seems to be catching on even where the Academic Bill of
Rights hasn't yet appeared. Consider
should be self-evident that a faculty that speaks with unanimity on some of the most divisive issues of the day is not fulfilling its duty."
SAF helps college kids resist classroom demagoguery, but where can a student go for teaching that doesn't ignore or denounce conservative ideas or traditional learning but instead explores them sympathetically? Some students look to the new conservative media--talk radio, Fox News Channel, the blogosphere. "Excluding one great economics professor, I learned more from listening to Rush Limbaugh every day than from all the NYU professors I've had," says Katherine Ernst, not really joking. Several students told
me that they read National Review Online and FrontPage daily as reality checks on their classes.
But if a student is
really lucky, he'll find a prof
survives but thrives in academe. Mr. George has sparked passionate intellectual interest among students. "Prof. George's stamp on our intellectual formation is unmistakable," confided one. Students particularly admire Mr. George's approach to intellectual debate. "For our papers," says Duncan Sahner, the intensely serious editor of the Princeton Tory, the campus's conservative magazine, "he stresses the need to engage in what he calls the 'strongest possible lines of counterargument.' Straw-man parries, he says, only hurt conservatism." Moreover, Mr. Sahner adds, "His interactions with those who disagree with him are great examples of professional courtesy."
Mr. George has also helped students expand their intellectual horizons through his fast-growing, four-year-old James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, a model of liberal education in the old-fashioned sense. It runs high-level lectures by such conservative thinkers as Justice Antonin Scalia and Harvard political theorist Harvey Mansfield, as well as such notable liberal scholars as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Michael Sandel. The program also enables Mr. George to appoint half a dozen visiting
Madison Fellows, whose ranks have included such conservative lights as political scientists Angelo Codevilla and Hadley Arkes.
"All of a sudden," says one
Since few schools--and even fewer elite schools--boast such profs and programs, other national groups have rushed in to supply some of what's missing. The Virginia-based Young America's Foundation sponsors more than 200 university lectures a year by leading conservatives such as Mr. Horowitz, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes and antifeminist critic Christina Hoff Sommers. Every year, thousands of students attend YAF's conferences on the principles of a free society, some held at the
Reagan Ranch in
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, founded in 1953 but reinvigorated in recent years, is perhaps the biggest force fighting the left's campus domination. It sponsors hundreds of conservative campus lectures a year, rooted in "the enduring Western intellectual patrimony" of political and economic liberty, limited government, the rule of law, moral truth and personal responsibility. ISI's talks are usually more highbrow than YAF's: regular speakers include classicist Victor Davis Hanson and historian Forrest McDonald.
Another key initiative from ISI: a series of short student guides, written by first-rate scholars such as John Lukacs (on history) and Gerald Bradley (on constitutional law), that show undergraduates how to educate themselves in the traditional academic disciplines. Hundreds of thousands are now in print. In addition, ISI provides a guide to colleges that, among other features, warns college applicants about the schools that are particularly PC and shows them how to find teachers committed to scholarship rather than
indoctrination. Says Roger Kimball, whose pioneering "Tenured Radicals" exposed the left's campus stranglehold 15 years ago: "ISI is an indispensable ally in the fight against spurious claims to 'diversity,' 'tolerance,' and 'enlightenment' in the university, while also providing a beacon that serious students and scholars can follow with genuine profit. As Voltaire said about another supremely important fixture in the universe, if ISI did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it."
One of ISI's biggest boosts to campus conservatism has been to
expand the number of right-leaning student publications. For some $1 million a
year on printing costs and journalistic training, ISI now boasts 85 or so
member publications at schools ranging from elite
conservative critic Paul Cantor on popular culture, as
well as the latest installment of a satirical column written by "The
Stinky Hippy" (a recurring complaint of right-of-center college kids). An
autumn issue of the Stanford Review mock-reported on "The Penis Dialogues:
A journey of self-awakening . . . and penises"--but also editorialized with
sharp intelligence about "Musharraf's
Deception" in the war on terror. The campus left has greeted these
publications with outrage. In 2003, at
the second-best conservative student paper in the country--published a spate of anti-PC articles, until university president Roy Nirschel charged that the paper had "crossed seriously over the lines of propriety and respect," "flirted with racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric," and--you guessed it--created a "hostile environment for our students and community." The school froze $2,700 in campus funds granted to the paper. It was a "death blow" for the Hawk's Right Eye, says editor Jason Mattera, silencing it for the year.
Student leftists, sometimes with the support of school officials, regularly try to shut down or shut up conservative student publications, practicing what civil libertarian Nat Hentoff calls "free speech for me and not for thee." A few years ago, for instance, Cornell's dean of students stood side by side with leftist students as they torched copies of the Cornell Review, which had run an article mocking Ebonics. An official university spokesman defended the burning as "symbolic." In 2003, Campus magazine reports, the liberal-controlled SUNY-Albany student association, solely for political reasons, nixed student activity funds for the right-leaning College Standard Magazine--this, after the magazine had already faced months of harassment from the campus left, including disruptions of its meetings by radical groups, thousands of copies stolen, and defacement of its display stands with anticonservative threats. The magazine's staff, claiming discrimination against their conservative ideas, won a 10-month court battle against the school to have funding restored. Of course, conservative kids face the same social pressures that all college students do. So how do they fare on the campus social scene? It varies by school. Students I interviewed who attended Southern schools said
that right-of-center kids were in the majority
and set the tone. Harris Martin, a University of Georgia history major who
estimates that over 60% of students there tilt right, says, "The culture
is a distinctly Southern conservative one--hunting, football, big trucks and
SUVs, camouflage, old baseball caps, fishing, country music and Southern
rock." At Clemson in
The more politically
correct culture prevailing at other schools, especially the Ivies, can be a
problem for conservative students. Several
But for all the
anxiety of the
and I used to spend hours watching old episodes of The West Wing," says Yalie Nikki McArthur. "She is as liberal as I am conservative, and we always had little political debates during the commercial breaks."
students must also deal with the coed dorms and hookup sex,
drink-till-you're-blitzed parties, and general civilizational
chaos of life at many schools--vividly described by author Tom Wolfe in his new
novel "I Am Charlotte Simmons"--that liberal educators abetted and
encouraged when they rejected any in loco parentis
duties decades ago and began to celebrate the idea of college being a time of
"experimentation" and "growth." For some libertarian kids
on the right, the social scene is A-OK. "Say what you will about us, we
like to party!" enthuses "conservative libertarian" Ruben Duran,
fair share of sex, alcohol, rock 'n' roll. Not so much drugs, though," he adds helpfully. But for some conservative students, especially those from religious backgrounds, the bedlam can be unsettling.
Harvard's Jordan Hylden, a conservative Protestant, finds Mr. Wolfe's characterization of campus life "depressingly correct." As well he might, given the dean-supervised tailgate party for the Harvard-Yale football game this November, so out-of-control with drunkenness, drugs and nudity that it made headlines in the Boston Herald. "Today's university is without morals or guiding principles, except one," Mr. Hylden contends: "to follow in all things the ideal of 'to thine own self be true.' Individual desires,
whatever they are, are affirmed, and the denial of these desires, by yourself or by another person or group, is the greatest possible evil."
students feel considerable pressure to "grow." Jennifer Mickel, a pretty
something like this: 'I don't have time for a relationship, so of course I hook up.' And I can count on one hand, among the thousands of students I've met, those who refrain from drinking regularly."
Helping students resist such pressures are a growing number of vigorous student religious groups, preaching moderation. College campuses nationwide have seen a "religious upsurge" over the last decade, the Christian Science Monitor reports. MIT is now home to 15 Christian fellowship groups--"a pretty stunning development for a university . . . where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus," notes the Boston Globe, making the typical liberal assumption that one can't be both
an Evangelical Christian and rational. A new UCLA survey found that three-quarters of college juniors say that religious or spiritual beliefs have helped develop their identities, and 77% say that they pray.
leaders of these groups can set examples for younger students, as
simpler for us to avoid blurring the line between acceptable and unacceptable levels of drinking, but also to make others feel more
comfortable who might not want to drink." Conservatives still have a long, long way to go before they can proclaim the left's control over the campus broken. The professorate remains a solidly left-wing body, more likely to assign Barbara Ehrenreich than
Milton Friedman, Michel Foucault than Michael Oakeshott, and nothing, not even David Horowitz's indefatigable activism, is going to change that soon. Nevertheless, thanks both to enterprising students and groups like ISI and SAF, the left's iron hold on academe is beginning to loosen. Anyone who cares about the education of our children--and the future political discourse of our country--can only cheer.
is senior editor of City Journal, in whose Winter issue this article appears,
and author of "
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE