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The Liberal University: Our Demands By: Robert Locke
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 04, 2001

DAVID HOROWITZ’S current Think Twice campaign has exposed the anti-American rot at many of our universities. But it would be a mistake to fixate on the anti-Americanism issue alone and ignore the vastly systematic way in which American academia works liberal mischief. They have a gigantic social machine working to push society to the left. Let’s review how it works in case any conservatives still don’t think the universities matter:


1. They serve as a vast training and recruitment system for the hardcore liberal activist class. They systematically expose all young people to leftist ideology, show them a community and a culture they can join, select out the most promising ones, and plug them into a network that can give them a political career. And of course, they show them how this system works, enabling it to be replicated by the next generation.

2. They finance the development of liberal ideology. A political movement that aspires to run the whole of society must have answers about everything. It must have books and experts on every area of policy. In an intellectually sophisticated nation like the United States, this requires a large amount of trained academic labor. Best yet, the fact that liberalism is fashionable means that people volunteer to do this labor for free or for very low salaries.

3. They impose leftist propaganda on the average student. Even where they do not convince people of the truth of hard-left ideas, they redefine where the center is by making extreme ideas seem normal. After all, that nice professor says so. They also make leftism cease to seem shocking to educated people by sugar-coating it with the naivete and warm memories of their college years.

4. They place the prestige of some of the most revered institutions in our culture on the side of liberalism. If Harvard believes that X, then X is respectable opinion, even if not actually true. They help form a social matrix in which liberal views are part of the required characteristics for social acceptance and prestige. They establish the tacit equation that "educated" means "liberal" in advanced social circles.

5. They employ large numbers of liberal intellectuals. Many of these people would be unemployable otherwise and would have lost interest in ideology. Many of them use their university employment not only as a venue for developing leftist ideas, but as a financial base for extra-curricular leftist activities and as a resting-spot between stints in liberal governments. Universities also serve the role of credentialing and identifying the key liberal intellectuals so leftists know whom to follow.

6. By offering academic employment to liberals only, they encourage scholars of other political dispositions to become liberals. They discourage conservatives from pursuing scholarly careers. (They have succeeded thereby in destroying a generation's worth of what should have been the conservative intellectual class. As a result, the conservative intellectual class is dangerously lacking in depth, dependent upon amateurs (like yours truly), and susceptible to manipulation by moneyed interests like the business press. Its very narrowness, however, gives it a certain coherence that makes it ten-to-one more effective in straight polemic. This is why the closer you get to pure head-to-head arguments, be it on talk radio or the floor of Congress, the more conservative the outcomes. This also may have something to do with the fact that conservatives grow up having to defend their ideas and liberals don't.)

The paucity of conservative ideas in academia means that academic liberalism there does not have to contend with opposition and therefore is free to assume a much more virulent form than it would if restrained by the need to compete with a visible alternative. Thus academia is a petri dish for growing the most virulent strains of ideological anthrax. (Ironically, to some extent this helps us, as it causes liberalism to pervert itself into the Rococo form of Political Correctness, which is so loony that it turns the public against liberalism.) By maintaining an artificial left-wing Disneyland in which leftist ideas are held to be normal and the rituals of leftism are acted out on a daily basis, they accustom even apolitical and right-of-center students to seeing such things as normal, even if not good. They provide a model of a society run on leftist principles and make it seem (thanks to the fat subsidy of the university by the real world) as if such a society could actually work. This accustoms students to this kind of environment and makes them accept political correctness when it is imposed on them later in life in the corporate world.

So there's the problem; I hope this is enough to convince conservative readers that it is worth trying to do something about it. Either we do, or we will face the indefinite leftward drift of our society as each new graduating class is more liberal than the last. (People are sometimes mystified why this happens, or they just assume it's a law of nature. It isn't.) And please remember that we're not just talking about the narrow field of government policy-making here; the universities drive the full breadth of our culture now that almost the entire cultural elite is university-educated.

So what do we want instead? Some have suggested the depoliticization of the universities in the sense of outlawing politics on campus. Many universities in fact once had restrictions on student politics; overthrowing these was what the "Free Speech Movement" at Berkeley was nominally about. But this is clearly impossible if we take free speech seriously. Instead, we should demand ideological even-handedness or balance. Our adversaries will no doubt accuse us of "attacking academic freedom" by disputing the right of liberal academia to propagandize as it damn well pleases and shut up whomever it doesn't agree with. But in fact, they are the ones who are suppressing academic freedom by repressing conservative scholars and enforcing one-sided views. We are fighting for real freedom in academia. Therefore, our specific demands should be:

An end to denials of free speech. This includes a whole gamut of things, from speech codes to destruction of political literature to devious policies, like bogus security concerns, designed to keep conservative speakers off campus. And when students rather than the administration try to deny someone’s right to speak, the administration has a duty to discipline the brownshirts rather than winking and letting them do their dirty work. The administration has a positive duty to maintain an environment conducive to free speech, even if this comes, like all serious values, at some cost.

2. An end to intimidation of conservative students and faculty. Many of the students and faculty who are conservative are intimidated out of expressing their views. There must be no negative grading of students who express conservative ideas in the classroom, in written work, or in extra-curricular activities. There must be no retaliation against faculty who express such views: no firings, no unrenewed contracts, no undesirable assignments. There must be no abuse of the civil rights and sexual harassment laws to punish those who question leftist dogma by criminalizing the expression of certain opinions.

An explicit public commitment to the idea that a university should embrace all political points of view, and not just be a shill for the left wing of the Democratic party. The prestige and resources of the university must not be used one-sidedly to promote only left-wing causes, as they frequently are now. This includes the funding of research, the sponsorship of conferences, the hiring of faculty, and the use of university facilities for outside activities.

4. Even-handedness in school funding and support of extra-curricular activities with political ramifications. Student groups like the College Republicans etc. must be treated equally with the College Democrats. The same goes for groups, like environmentalists and ethnic organizations, that nominally claim to be bipartisan but are in fact tilted.

5. An end to liberal bias in faculty hiring and tenure decisions. In politically-oriented departments like History and Political Science, an approximate equality in the numbers of left-of-center and right-of-center faculty.

6. An end to the pushing of propaganda in the classroom. A professor’s job is to teach, not to promote his political views. An end to curricular decisions driven by the desire to promote certain political views through gender studies, ethnic studies and the like. An end to the replacement of traditional academic requirements and core curricula by politically-correct "multicultural" requirements.

7. An end to racial preferences in admissions and faculty hiring. An end to lower standards for minority groups. Full disclosure of average test scores and grades by race.

8. An end to politically-motivated policies concerning discipline and the administration of student life. For example, no sexual-harassment codes based on radical feminist ideas. No organized indoctrination of students during orientation or at other times. No use of the housing system to promote identity politics.

9. A balance between Republicans and Democrats on the Board of Trustees. Open and effective oversight by the trustees of issues of political balance at the university.

10. An end to lies and misleading statements about these issues by the administration. At many universities, they have denied their misconduct, offered implausible and disingenuous excuses, and refused legitimate requests for information.

The best thing you personally can do to help achieve these goals is to do what David Horowitz, some alumni, and I did for our own alma mater, Columbia University: establish a conservative alumni association and start monitoring and pressuring the administration. Take a look at www.columbiacons.net to see what we have done. You only need a few people and a website to start; in our experience, things will build naturally from there. And yes, it does matter: simply putting the administration on notice that they are being watched and their conduct publicized, has an effect. We’re friendly with the conservative NY Post, and they know it. Administrations hate bad publicity.

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