Traditionally, college campuses have been a hub of liberalactivity, busy with protest rallies, poetry readings and filmscreenings on topics ranging from the evils of the Coca-ColaCorporation, to the danger of beauty ideals within mass media.
Despite all the politically correct language and efforts tomaintain diversity of opinion in the classroom, there is one groupon university campuses whose members are claiming they remainunheard: young conservatives.
Reagan-loving, flag-toting, tax-hating conservatives come in allshapes and sizes, and there remains a strong presence of the Rightwithin America’s university communities.
“They are the silent majority,” James Justin Wilson, programofficer for a conservative group called Collegiate Network,claimed.
Stirring up the otherwise placid air of liberal ambivalence,college conservatives have been coming out of the woodwork toestablish student groups such as College Republicans, as well as anarray of conservative student newspapers across the country.
Luckily for them, these young conservatives have an abundance ofresources at their fingertips.
A plethora of organizations exist for no other reason than tofund such student groups within universities, pushing to spreadconservative politics and ideals on what they view as highlyliberal campuses. Among these organizations are Young Americans forFreedom, Young America’s Foundation, and the LeadershipInstitute.
PSU’s own Portland Spectator is funded by a similar group: TheCollegiate Network (CN), a branch of a conservative organizationcalled the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).
Founded in 1953, ISI is “designed to educate for liberty,”according to the group’s mission statement. The organizationattempts to “further in successive generations of American collegeyouth a better understanding of the economic, political, andspiritual values that sustain a free and virtuous society.”
ISI has volunteer representatives on upwards of 900 campuses,and over 50,000 faculty and student members across the U.S. Theyalso organize over 300 educational programs on campuses yearly.
An offshoot of ISI, CN attempts to sustain conservativepublications within university communities, Wilson explained.
“The Collegiate Network seeks to support alternative press oncampuses in an attempt to balance the pervasive atmosphere ofdeclining curricular standards and the politicization of Americanclassrooms,” he said.
Through CN, ISI offers operating grants in an effort to “assiststudent publications where universities either cannot or will not,”the organization’s website said. “When alternative publications doreceive student fees, they are typically awarded with suffocatingrestrictions disabling publications from serious investigative workor voicing unpopular opinions. Grants are intended to subsidizefree speech on campus by way of promising and enduring publicationsat our nation’s finest institutions.”
Additional resources offered by CN include annual editors’conferences, trainings, internships, resource materials, as well ascontinued support from staff.
One interesting tradition perpetuated by the group is that ofthe Campus Outrage Awards, otherwise known as the “Pollys.”
Created to highlight what members of the organizations see asextreme liberalism within universities, the awards are given for avariety of reasons, including “outrageous events, kooky courselistings, politicized textbooks, totalitarian student groups,intolerant administrators, and illiberal faculty,” the websiteexplained. “Anything, in short, that violates the spirit of liberallearning.”
The 2004 Polly Award winners include first place winner YaleUniversity, for “Sex Week at Yale,” a series of events held at theprestigious university which included a porn-star keynote speaker.The second place winner was the University of California, Berkeley,for spending $31,000 in student fees to defeat a racial privacyinitiative that would have prohibited the state from collectingrace-related information on educational admission forms.
Other winners include a student who falsely claimed to be avictim of a hate crime, students and staff who were angered by acardinal’s anti-gay statements, and the chair of the Dukephilosophy department for making the statement: “If, as John StuartMill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there arelots of conservatives we will never hire.”
“The national press routinely turns a deaf ear toward theoutrageous excesses of politically correct students, faculty, andadministrators in higher education,” the informational websitesaid. “Radical campus activists continue to undermine thetraditional curriculum, implement speech codes that persecutepolitically incorrect students, enforce group-identity politicswith sensitivity seminars, and treat students with adouble-standard emanating from a multiculturalist perspective.”
Sarah Longwell, CN senior program officer, said that the Pollysare in fact a constructive, necessary tradition.
“The intention is, I guess, in some ways to take the Lefthead-on,” She said. “They’re not to piss people off, but an attemptto highlight the radical elements. They define just how far the baris being pushed.”
Members of CN and ISI claim that within the current atmosphereon college campuses there exists an extreme liberal bias,perpetuated by students, administration and faculty alike.
“Everyone is in marching lockstep on campuses right now,” Wilsonsaid.
This, they argue, undermines the very foundation of a”traditional liberal education”: Dialogue and the sharing ofideas.
Wilson argued that despite biases perpetuated within and aroundthe classroom, there are options available to students to seek outalternative information. A perfect example; publications such asThe Spectator which “can debunk or at least offer alternativeopinions on the salient bias,” he explained.
Longwell echoed Wilson’s sentiments, pointing out that dissentplays a vital role in any academic setting.
“They actually carry out the fundamental purpose of a liberaleducation,” she explained. “If students are only being exposed toone idea, then liberal education has failed.”
One concern raised by liberal opponents is regarding the issueof private funding, and what restraints that might put on student’sabilities to determine content within each individualpublication.
However, Wilson stressed that CN plays absolutely no role indetermining what perspectives can be represented withingrant-funded publications. Though, he explained, CN does reservethe right to cease funding a publication if it begins to “stray toofar beyond” what CN deems appropriate.
In fact, Wilson went so far as to claim that private funding isvital for the success of most conservative publications. Though TheSpectator is one of the few exceptions (the publication is part ofPSU’s Student Publication Board, and receives student fees to helpdefray production costs), most publications sponsored by CN areentirely independent from the universities they are critiquing.
This allows students to participate in honest assessment”without fear of retribution” that might rob them of preciousfunding or support, Wilson explained.
And the number of such independent publications is quicklygrowing, Longwell stressed.
Since its inception approximately 25 years ago, CN hasexperienced a significant amount of growth. The 30 publications CNfunded 10 years after it was established has grown to include 85individual papers and magazines across the nation today.
The group noticed a strong surge of interest soon after 9/11,and Longwell attributes that to the increase of liberal anti-waractivism that took place at the same time.
“We’ve seen campus activism reach the highest it’s been sincethe 1960s and the Vietnam era,” Sarah said. “That’s part of whathas added steam to the conservative movement.”
Now stepping up to become the new radicals, students to theRight have been attempting to challenge the institutions of whichthey are a part, and prompt their fellow students to, well …actually think about what they are being told.
“If the Pollys and student magazines incense people, that’sokay,” Longwell said. “Because rather than students just acceptingideas from professors, people are challenging them to make anargument, fulfilling the purpose of a liberal education. ‘Ok, fine,that pisses you off, then make a better argument.'”
|“The principles of a freesociety”
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute says it works to instill anunderstanding and appreciation for America’s founding principles.These six values represent the core beliefs inherent in ISI’smission and its activity, according to the organization’s Website:
The rule of law
Free market economy
– From www.isi.org
|Is it something in thewater?
According to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, whichhas been tracking the attitudes of incoming freshmen at hundreds ofcolleges nationwide since 1966, student conservatism is increasingin many areas.
– Excerpted from “The Young Hipublicans,” by John Colapinto, TheNew York Times Magazine, May 25, 2003.