It has become blatantly apparent college campuses are openly hostile to conservative points of view. Most notably, conservative firebrands Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter have been forced to cancel scheduled appearances at the University of California-Berkley due to threats to public safety.
Critics of these cancellations have said this goes against the idea of the university as a place where free speech can flourish, and that speech one doesn’t like should be countered with more speech.
But the question is, when was the last time that was true? When was the university really a place where all viewpoints, especially conservative, were not just tolerated but encouraged?
The ideological right has two forces working against it.
First, it’s no secret institutions of higher education are playgrounds for the modern left. Your typical college professor is left of center and tends to view the world as a place that just needs the proper plan in place. They postulate these ideas in the classroom. They devise ways to apply classic literature like Plato’s “The Republic” to societal problems.
Basically, it’s the idea that the power of the people is greater than the power of the individual and it just takes the proper plan to harness and unleash that power. The problem with that is it undermines the individual.
The other force working against the conservative or the Republican point of view is the way colleges and universities are funded. Schools, both private and public, receive massive amounts of money from the government. Conservative philosophy would dictate the less growth of public spending and less burden on the taxpayer, the better.
The Democratic politician sees it very differently. The more spending on higher education, the more benefit it will have economically. Therefore, colleges tend to prefer Democratic politicians to Republicans.
Those reasons aren’t the direct cause of rioting at Berkeley over conservative speakers. But it does nurture an environment that could lead to hostilities aimed at conservatives.
What can be done?
One idea that has been floated is having the National Guard accompany conservative speakers to these campuses. Just as John F. Kennedy federalized the National Guard in 1963 leading to George Wallace’s stand at the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama, Donald Trump could do the same thing.
Just as Kennedy was acting to protect the civil rights of Vivian Malone and James A. Hood, Trump would be acting to protect the civil rights guaranteed by the First Amendment allowing conservative individuals the right to free speech.
However, taking such a radical action wouldn’t alleviate the fundamental problem of conservatives being shut out at universities and colleges.
Even in bright-red, conservative Alabama, academia still functions from the liberal perspective.
As a young, budding right-wing journalist hopeful running the college newspaper at the University of South Alabama, the biggest pushback for my not-fully-evolved opinions came from the faculty.
I once had a professor refer to me to her class as a “neo-con asshole.” That’s hardly an environment that fosters the free exchange of ideas.
It’s going to be the norm in higher academia for the foreseeable future, most likely. Certainly there are pockets here and there. You’ll have a conservative professor here or there that slipped through the cracks somehow. Those are few and far between.
At some point, perhaps it will take Americans realizing these taxpayer-funded institutions have been completely hijacked by a far left-wing ideology. They’ll realize that the government student loan program allows for schools to build these elaborate campuses and pay salaries to faculty and staff that are above the national average.
All of this is on the backs of students left behind with thousands of dollars of debt for a degree that in many cases is worthless.
Until this is realized and the public shows it is willing to act, you will have this largely left-of-center apparatus continuing to function as it does.
Even at that stage, conservatives will not likely be able to conquer academia.
Often you hear some commentators long for the day when conservatives and liberals were equally pitted against one another, but is there evidence this era ever existed?
Conservatives have their turf — talk radio, Fox News, Christian evangelicals. Liberals have their turf — mainstream media, Hollywood and, of course, academia. It doesn’t seem likely their staked-out portions of society are ever going to change politically. Liberal talk radio has been tried and has failed. Democrats always underperform among Christian voters. Likewise, conservatives always struggle to get their message out through pop culture. And the same will go for academia.
Academia, however, seems to be a very prized element of the left. Everyone has to have a college education, right?
If I were an academic, I wouldn’t get too comfortable.
A lot of things go in cycles. There’s no question there’s a higher-education bubble, as the price of tuition has far outpaced anything else in modern economics.
Is it sustainable for college and universities to maintain this borderline Marxist element and continuously raise the price for a four-year liberal arts degree? Only time will tell.