No Myth: Conservatives in Academia Suffer Discrimination

By on October 15, 2004

In a recent Sun column, (“Reclaim Your Victimhood,” Sept. 24), Danny Pearlstein, skeptical of the notion that conservatives in academia suffer discrimination, challenged conservatives “to send me concrete instances” of such. As the French would say, “chiche!” — dare accepted.

Pearlstein’s challenge was, at least from his perspective, ill-timed. For within 48 hours came a glaring example of anti-conservative discrimination at Cornell, courtesy of the Student Assembly(SA): The SA’s blatantly political attempt to defund The Cornell American, one of the very few conservative student groups on campus.

The attempted defunding was done in reliance on a newly-adopted, ex post facto resolution introduced by SA executive vice president Tim Lim, who just also happens to be … President of the Cornell Democrats.

Setting the stage for discrimination against conservative students is the utter domination of university faculties by liberals, to the exclusion of conservatives. Recent studies conducted by college Republicans at Cornell, Ithaca College and Wells College found that over 90 percent of faculty members studied were Democrats, Greens or Liberals. An analysis by Sun columnist Sara Townsley revealed that 96.8 percent of presidential campaign contributions made by Cornell faculty went to John Kerry.

The imbalance is worst in the very departments where political diversity matters most. Cornell’s government department has only one registered Republican. At Ithaca College, faced with the evidence that there was not a single Republican in the politics department she chaired, Prof. Asma Barlas boasted “we have a range of progressive views in our department.” Apparently for Prof. Barlas, intellectual diversity means spanning the spectrum from liberal to Maoist.

Liberals often claim that party registration is an unreliable indicator of political views. But if there are any Zell Millers lurking at Cornell, I surely haven’t seen them. To the contrary, I’d assert that faculty Democrats tend to be more liberal than the average party member. Two recent anecdotal examples support this: when I debated I.C. Prof. Zillah Eisenstein, she expressed the hope that Americans would “follow the example of Spanish voters.” Recall that Spanish voters were set to re-elect the conservative Prime Minister until Islamic terrorist train bombings killed over 200 innocent citizens and swayed the election to the Socialists.

At a subsequent Wells College debate, whom do you think Prof. Arthur Bellinzoni described as “the most dangerous man in the world” — someone who should be tried as a “war criminal”? Osama Bin Laden? Kim Jong-il? The Islamic terrorists who have beheaded innocents in Iraq or slaughtered hundreds of school children in Russia? No. To Bellinzoni, the incarnation of evil is George W. Bush.

How does liberal faculty domination translate into discrimination against students? When Wells Republicans last year published their study on the faculty’s political makeup, Prof. Jonathan Vawter responded with a campus-wide e-mail labeling Republicans “stupid,” and calling for “lobotomies” for all Republicans. Shortly thereafter, Wells’ version of the SA denied the Wells Republicans’ request for recognition as an official club, which would have qualified them for funding.

The Cornell American incident is far from the only example of anti-conservative bias here. In 1997, when some students took issue with articles in another conservative publication, The Cornell Review, they stole and burned hundreds of copies of the newspaper. The administration meted out no punishment for such blatant trampling of others’ free speech. To the contrary, as former Sun columnist Joe Sabia has noted, the only official reaction was an attempt by the Student Assembly (notice a trend here?) “to defund the Review, ban it from campus, and send all of its editors to the Judicial Administrator for sensitivity training.”

At Ithaca College, Time Magazine recently reported (“The Right’s New Wing,” Aug. 22, 2004) that “you don’t have to spend much time at the college to see that liberals run the place. It posted a website after 9/11 devoted almost exclusively to critiques of the U.S. The site includes the text of a talk by Professor Asma Barlas, who chaired the politics department last year, in which she blames ‘Jewish groups’ for ‘introducing modern forms of terrorism into the Middle East’ and suggests that capitalism ‘provided the breeding grounds for much of modern day extremism.’”

When Time asked politics professor Charles Santiago whether he assigned conservative thinkers, “he responded, completely without irony, ‘I am teaching Hitler.’”

Many college Republican guests on my TV show have stated that they and others have hidden their conservative light under a barrel for fear of retribution from professors who have harangued classes with their militantly liberal views. The situation at our local campuses is part of an unmistakable national pattern. For the documentation of innumerable incidents of anti-conservative bias in academia, I encourage readers to go to the web sites of Accuracy in Academia, www.academia.org, Students For Academic Freedom, www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education www.thefire.org/index.php

Here’s my personal Top Five gleaned from their pages:

* When student Jason Mattera questioned the tactics of gay rights activists in his school newsletter at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, the school cut off funding for the publication.

* Until public outcry forced the university to back down, white students at the University of Colorado at Boulder were barred from taking the popular School and Society course on Fridays. The school had reserved that class period for “students of color” in order to provide “a much safer and open environment.”

* California Polytechnic threatened engineering student Steve Hinkle with expulsion for the “crime” of posting a flier for a College Republican event.

* At Gonzaga University Law School, the Christian Pro-Life Law Caucus was rejected as an official student group because its requirement that its leadership be Christian was deemed “discriminatory.”

* Former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala, now President of the University of Miami, permitted the denial of recognition of a new conservative student group on the theory that the College Republicans speak for all conservatives, despite the fact that Miami recognizes six liberal groups.

I invite Danny Pearlstein and others who have denied the existence of anti-conservative bias on campus to join the fight for intellectual diversity and mutual respect. Until everyone’s rights are protected, no one’s truly are.

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Schools: Cornell University Gonzaga University University of Miami California Polytechnic State University University of Colorado at Boulder