Dr. Mike Adams represents a breed that, by any objective set of criteria, is worthy of a spot on the Endangered Species List: the outspokenly conservative college professor. At the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington, where he teaches criminology, Dr. Adams has won a reputation as a thorn in the sides of politically correct administrators and faculty.
Last year, he recalled, UNC-Wilmington withdrew recognition from the campus chapter of the College Republicans (CRs) after the group refused to incorporate into its rules a school-written antidiscrimination policy that included the term “political affiliation.” The CRs, for whom Dr. Adams serves as faculty advisor, pointed out the absurdity of requiring a Republican group to admit registered Democrats.
After being prohibited from meeting on campus, the CRs decided to take their case to the court of public opinion, said Dr. Adams, who maintains his own web site at DrAdams.org. The CR president appeared on local talk shows and secured the aid of an attorney. In addition, the CRs took advantage of their right under North Carolina law to obtain a list of the school’s major donors, whom they then contacted. UNC-Wilmington suddenly found itself in a public-relations jam, and shortly thereafter the university agreed to restore recognition to the group.
Dr. Adams is not alone in his resistance: as he notes with pride, several UNC students have begun to swim against the PC tide on campus. He gave several examples in a speech delivered at the Eagle Forum Collegians Summit last week.
Another conservative success story Dr. Adams pointed to was that of Stephanie Evans, president of Carolina Students for Life at UNC-Chapel Hill. Evans had been “fed up,” Dr. Adams explained, with her school’s official Carolina Women’s Center (CWC), which regularly used its website to promote abortion and other liberal causes. Noting that the CWC was looking for groups to take part in its Women’s History Month event, Evans asked for permission for her pro-life group to participate.
“Don’t call us; we’ll call you” was the response from the CWC, Dr. Adams reported. After repeated attempts to join the event, Evans decided to take a different approach. She carefully compiled a file of the radical activism the university-funded CWC had engaged in—including broadsides against President Bush—and presented her findings in a letter she sent to the university’s dean, provost, and board of trustees. Dr. Adams reproduced the letter in the column he writes for Townhall.com.
After initial denials—which Evans debunked with her compilation of CWC documents—the administration was forced to confront the issue. The CWC was ordered to place a link to Carolina Students for Life on its web site and to provide providing equal time for campus pro-lifers when discussing the abortion issue.
UNC’s Greensboro campus was the site of another victory against political correctness, Dr. Adams reported. CRs at that school, displeased with their university’s funding of an annual Gay Pride Week on campus (the celebration featured such events as a “gay prom” and “drag queen day”), asked for equal funding to hold an event called Morals Week. When the university turned them down, the CRs took their case to the general public. After receiving what Dr. Adams termed an “unprecedented black eye” in the court of public opinion, the university reversed course and agreed to fund Morals Week.
In addition being a columnist, Dr. Adams is the author of a recently published book: Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor (Harbor House, 2004). When not teaching, he frequently gives speeches on and off campus. In fact, the same CR chapter that put together Morals Week also invited him to give a speech at UNC-Greensboro in February.
Shortly before the speech began, however, the university decided to cancel its funding of the event on the grounds that Dr. Adams was too controversial. Then, just minutes before he was due to speak, the CRs were forced out of the room they had reserved in advance and into to a smaller, less desirable room, Dr. Adams recalled.
One day before his speech, Dr. Adams said, UNC-Greensboro hosted another speaker, one it apparently deemed more mainstream: pornographic actress Tristan Taormino, the self-described “poster girl” for a practice that is best left unnamed. Billed by the university as a “sexual health expert,” Taormino gave a speech on “safe sodomy” that was cosponsored by the school’s Wellness Center and Office of Student Life. Unlike Dr. Adams, Taormino was paid $3000 for her talk.
After Dr. Adams described these events in his online column, the university was deluged with thousands of e-mails, letters, and faxes, he said. Responding to the outcry, administrators initially claimed that they hadn’t known about Taormino’s career in the pornography industry when they invited her. After Taormino confirmed that she had in fact discussed her occupation with university officials, the university stated that it probably would not invite her to speak again.
“We will do better in the future,” Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan wrote in a statement, although she sounded less than apologetic about the university’s decision to fund Taormino’s speech in the first place: “The university invited her to speak for the best of reasons—to protect our students. She gave a presentation on safer sex and the response by students who heard her was entirely positive. Not one complaint.”
Having helped to put so many UNC administrators on the defensive, Dr. Adams delights in his role as a campus gadfly, so much so that he plans to write another book soon, this one tentatively titled How to Win Friends and Irritate Liberals.
Dr. Adams says his survival in the politically correct environment of academia is largely due not to tenure (which he has been granted) but to his high profile in the world outside the ivory tower.
There are very few conservative professors who are so willing to stick their necks out, Dr. Adams observes: “There’s a lot of cowardice among college professors.” He reports receiving e-mail from fellow academics who agree with his stands but are unwilling to say so in public. Such timidity might have been understandable a decade ago, Dr. Adams allows, but today conservative professors have groups such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to support them.
For conservative students, Dr. Adams offers some advice: “Add to the marketplace of ideas rather than subtracting.” Dr. Adams urges conservatives to move away from simply complaining about the situation on college campuses and to engage in activism of their own.
Noting that political correctness garners significantly less sympathy in the public square than it does on campus, Dr. Adams encourages students to shine a public spotlight on the actions of their universities: “Get liberals to do stupid things…. Take photos and write about it,” he says. “They only win when we refuse to fight.”
Sean Grindlay is the managing editor of Campus Report.