College politics

Politicized colleges are alienating students and their bill-paying parents, writes a college consultant in the Washington Post.

Recently, I was advising an Eagle Scout who was justifiably proud of his accomplishment and wanted to highlight it on his college applications. But I worried that the national Boy Scouts’ stand against homosexuals as scout leaders might somehow count against him in the admissions process at some schools. So I suggested that he get involved in an AIDS hotline to show his sensitivity to an issue often linked to the gay community.

Once students led political battles on campus. Now it’s the professors who are talking politics, while students want to get an education that leads to a job, writes Steven Roy Goodman.

Update: Stanley Kurtz follows up with an idea for a solution: Set up alternative programs that serve as enclaves for moderates and conservatives.

The problem with Columbia’s Middle East-studies program is less the behavior of any given professor than the absence of alternative points of view. If Columbia had a place for professors who supported American and Israeli policies, and not merely for faculty who bitterly opposed them, not only would we have real debate, but students would feel less intimidated.

The faculty holds the power of grades and recommendations. One’s ability to go on to post-graduate work depends on not offending one’s professors. Once moderate and conservative students know they can get recommendations from professors who are broadly sympathetic to their views, students will have less to fear from leftists. And having lost their monopoly, politically correct professors may even begin to compete for students. That would make fairness to students of all views more likely.

Setting up an alternative program worked at Princeton, Kurtz writes.

Thanks to Allen in Comments for the Kurtz link.

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  1. We often hear about the politicizing of campuses. In fact, it seems that the only news we hear from college campuses deals with the outspokeness (did I just make up a word?) of a particular instructor.

    How easy is it to forget that colleges were originally for learning, not for proselytizing. Students have many choices of colleges to attend, fortunately, and this problem will eventually be dealt with by the market. My own home campus, The University of Colorado, is facing a decline in attendence due to its reputation for proselytizing on the liberal arts campus. Those who want to go to college to learn, have decided that there are other places that they can do so, and for a lot less money.

  2. It’s news. You don’t hear about the barns that don’t burn down.

    Turns out, there’s a relatively simple solution to the problem of a highly polarized staff. Stanly Kurtz has a column about it….

    Turns out that all you need is a bit of competition. If your Mideast studies department is shot through with limp-wristed jihadists then you open a Foreign Affairs department that’s headed by a scholar who doesn’t subscribe to the “we got what we deserved” school of thought on 9/11.

    A good deal of the power of the politicized profs is due to students having nowhere to run. If you disagree with the prof you can damned well keep it to yourself because he is it as far grades, an advisor or recommendations are concerned. Piss him off and he can screw you over big-time.

    But if the school opens a department with a similar area of study, but without the liberal bias, suddenly students have a choice.

    Although it’s too early to know for sure it’s a seriously gratifying thought that the solution to a monopoly of professorial power is professorial competition.

  3. allen,

    I used to work at the University of Leiden, which adopted the “professorial competition” solution to linguistics. Instead of having a Chomskyan monopoly over one linguistics department, UL had two departments, Comparative Linguistics (non-Chomskyan) and General Linguistics (Chomskyan). The two departments even had separate sections in the library! Guess which department I worked for.

  4. What I would like to see is not “alternative programs that serve as enclaves for moderates and conservatives”, but programs with as little political bias as possible, and some tolerance for dissenting viewpoints.

    Trust a powermongering hypocrite to preach for alternatives and tolerance of dissent when just a poor struggling student – and then for authoritarian mind-control when a professor, dean, chancellor, or president!

  5. Maybe it’s a function of advancing years but I prefer the workable compromise to the unattainably pure.

    If you can come up with a way to create a program “with as little political bias as possible” go for it but putting the opposing forces in convenient juxtaposition to each other, convenient for the students that is, strikes me as both workable and highly gratifying.

    I can hardly think of anything that’ll result in more in the way of hysterics among arrogant and preening professors then the knowledge that, right across the hall, is someone who’s neither impressed by your credentials or your conceits and can act as a safe haven for the previously powerless students. Makes me grin just thinking about it.

  6. BadaBing says:

    This sort of competition sounds fine, but it ain’t gonna happen any time soon. The Left owns education just as it owns MSM, and students naturally gravitate toward the Left. Conservatives are villified as “mean-spirited,” “racist,” “reactionary” or worse. It’s a stigma that has served the test of time, and college students want to be perceived of as compassionate and progressive. They may be nasty, binging, and spoiled moral reprobates, but worshipping at the altar of diversity, tolerance, and multi-culturalism offers them all the righteousness their psyches need to keep on keeping on. Just how powerful is the mind control of Leftist indoctrination at elite and not-so-elite universities? I know of Vietnamese students whose parents or grandparents suffered in Communist re-education camps and who fled their government’s tyranny only to come here so their kids can eat up neo-Marxist and post-modernist dogma like a dog eats its own vomit. And these kids are true believers. The Left is virulently antagonistic to critical thinking. To allow it would be the Left’s undoing. It’s reached the point of being a vicious cycle. Leftist America-hating grad students become the profs of tomorrow, when a new crop of indoctrinated ideologues will be raised and nurtured in the Ivory Tower bubble. The Leftist hold is far more powerful than a handful of conservative students selling cookies in mockery of affirmative action. The Leftist stranglehold on education is why the president of Harvard will soon be out of a job.

  7. Why won’t it work? It’s not likely that a college president or board will put political purity above organizational survival. Even if they do they’ll only do so until the first school of a similar mindset collapses.

    Maintaining a united front against the tsunami of globalization and perfidious capitalism is one thing but watching your career evaporate is another. I don’t have a high enough regard for most of these lefties to credit them with the courage to stand up to moderate discomfort in defense of their views let alone make some substantive sacrifice.

    For the bulk of these parlor pinks the first time their new Volvo is put at risk is the last time they’ll use the word “never”. That’ll leave the very few dedicated idealogues nicely silhouetted.


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