IN THE FALL OF 2001, I spoke at a large public university in the eastern United States, which will remain nameless to protect the innocent. It was one of more than 30 colleges I had visited during the school year and, as usual, my invitation had come from a small group of campus conservatives who also put together a small dinner for me at a local restaurant. Our conclave reflected the current state of conservatism in the American university. Not only were our numbers small, but there were no deans or university administrators present, and only one professor. Open conservatives are an isolated and harassed minority on today’s college campuses, where they enjoy little respect and almost no support from institutional powers.
Although I am a nationally known public figure—author of books that have been best-sellers and nominated for a national book award, a Fox News contributor and one of America’s 100 leading “public intellectuals” according to a recent study of the subject, at these dinners, which normally precede my campus speeches, the absence of administration representatives is wholly predictable. (In nearly 200 campus appearances, I can think of only two exceptions.) When I spoke at the University of Michigan to 1,000 students, there were three university vice presidents in the balcony, but none thought to introduce himself to me. Occasionally a professor will attend these dinners, but rarely more than one. My experience as a conservative is not unique. By contrast, if I were an anti-American, radical like Angela Davis, deans of the college would wait on me and professors would confer academic credits on students for attending my appearances. On many occasions my speech would be an official campus event.
Angela Davis—a lifelong Communist zealot with no noticeable scholarly achievement—is a celebrated campus figure (there is even an “Angela Davis Lounge” at the University of Michigan) and thus can be expected to attract the attention of like-minded peers now entrenched in university administrations. But the same disparity would be discernible between a less well-known leftist and almost any comparable conservative. It reflects the fact that while conservatives often make up a large proportion of the student body on American campuses—and in some cases even a plurality—conservative professors and administrators are notably hard to find. Not only are the overwhelming majority of college professors fashionably “liberal,” most faculties have a strong contingent of hard leftists whose views are extreme, and whose concentrated numbers make it possible for them to dominate (and even define) entire academic fields. These faculty activists are also available to be sponsors of an impressive array of radical campus political groups, which—if the university is large enough—may receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from general student funds.
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