University bias: chicken or egg?

What clearly bothers conservatives is the fact higher education seems to create liberals.

Conservative Republicans, not being content to control large portions of the media and corporate structure of this country, have recently started taking aim at the so-called “liberal bias” that exists at universities such as this one. David Horowitz, a former far left-wing radical turned far right-wing radical, has taken the lead in calling for an “Academic Bill of Rights” that seeks to eliminate this liberal bias. (Horowitz is no stranger to controversy on college campuses, being the person behind large ads on reparations for blacks taken out in college newspapers.) In “University’s bias needs correction,” (opinion, Sept. 16) Bryan Freeman is obviously carrying water for Horowitz at the University, based on his column on Sept. 16. 

To decry the University, or most other universities, as “bastion(s) of liberal ideology and marketplace(s) devoid of competition,” is laughable. What conservatives are clearly bothered by is the fact that higher education seems to create liberals, not the other way around.

Although this isn’t always the case, nor does it logically follow that education makes people into Democrats, there are many reasons why “mainstream” conservatism might never be popular on college campuses. Thus, the “problem” that people such as Freeman and Horowitz see is not a problem at all, any more than it is a “problem” that ESPN does not show opera.

First, the University’s very makeup is going to preclude many kinds of conservative thinking. People engaged in the serious study of biology, geology, anthropology, paleontology, astronomy and other disciplines are not going to be well-served by notions that the Earth and the rest of the universe magically popped into existence 6,000 years ago, or other literal interpretations of the Bible, which are sincere beliefs held by many conservatives.

Similarly, on campuses where women often make up the majority of students and people are free to live their lives as they see fit, conservative notions of gender roles or belief that homosexuals are second-class citizens are somewhat quaint, to say the least.

Finally, economic conservatism (as well as the “anti-capitalism” that Freeman thinks is rampant) are mainly absent in economic classes, as professors point out both the great benefits of a free-market system as well as the structural problems that come with the same system.

 Second, the “liberal tilt” that supposedly exists on campus, (especially in hiring procedures, as Freeman argues) simply does not manifest itself in my experience. As a graduate with a degree in political science, I had plenty of classes where there could be evidence of one ideology being favored over another by the instructors. In fact, most of my instructors took careful pains to be as neutral as possible, and in no instance did I ever see an instructor insult or otherwise denigrate a student with a conservative viewpoint (though we students insulted each other).

In all the classes that I was a part of, we had lively debates where students of all opinions had a chance to argue their viewpoints. Conservatives rightly have much more of a chance to share their viewpoints at the University than if I were to go to a Northwestern Bible college and start questioning the literal interpretation of the Bible or the Ten Commandments.

While there are certainly instances where instructors might go over the line, these are isolated instances that are best dealt with on an individual basis.

Finally, what really tickles my funny bone are some of the possible “fixes” for this alleged liberal bias on campus. One of the strangest is the notion that colleges need some sort of “affirmative action” for conservative viewpoints on campus!

For conservatives to resort to affirmative action, something they consistently argue against for minorities, women or any other class of people other than themselves, is quite amusing. For people who are simply interested in gaining power, however, the hypocrisy isn’t that unusual.

 A university is founded upon intellectualism and the free exercise of the mind above all else. Any kind of rigid anti-intellectual ideology, whether it is liberal or conservative, has no place on campus. Unfortunately, the black-and-white, one-perspective-only ideology that some conservatives have is antithetical to an institution that seeks all facts and all viewpoints.

Universities don’t need to make special accommodations for conservatives; conservatives need to accept that at a university, as in life, reality is not black and white, and sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong.

Nathan Hunstand is a University alumnus. Please send comments to [email protected]