One student’s initiative in countering campus radicalism has spawned a student movement.
Karin Agness [pictured], a student at the University of Virginia, created the Network of Enlightened Women (NEW) to counter the radical feminist dogma offered by university organizations who claimed to speak for all women on the Charlottesville campus. Agness and students who shared her views often felt silenced by feminists.
“We embody the most dangerous threat to the feminists,” she said.
That an organization of conservative women did not exist at Virginia did not faze Agness. “Would an organization for conservative women not work or had it not been tried?” she asked herself prior to organizing the club.
Agness, despite the success of the organization, has not earned the respect of the Women’s Resource Center or campus feminists. “You should see the feminist hate mail I receive all the time,” she said.
At NEW meetings, students “discuss the challenges facing women” from a conservative perspective. In contrast to the “feminist agenda” of the Women’s Resource Center, NEW has hosted conservative speakers such as Steven Rhoads and Christina Hoff Sommers. Rhoads, a professor at UVA, is an expert on sex differences and recently wrote Taking Sex Differences Seriously. Sommers, currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has written The War Against Boys and other books.
“[Sommers] definitely challenges the women’s studies departments,” Agness said. Sommers came to UVA as an alternative and antidote to the “Vagina Monologues,” a play frequently performed on Valentine’s Day at colleges and universities.
By bringing conservatives to campus, NEW hopes to expose students to conservative views, which they do not hear in Virginia classrooms. “College students are not being taught about conservative values,” she said, encouraging students to make an effort to seek out conservative views.
In order to make conservative views more accessible, NEW sponsors “conservative women of the week” during which members learn about conservative women of note.
NEW also has a book club that features conservative titles. Recent selections of the club have included Russell Kirk’s The Politics of Prudence and Dinesh D’Souza’s Letters to a Young Conservative. “We challenge the dominant discourse at UVA,” Agness said.
“The more criticism [I receive] the more of a threat I am to the feminists.”
Agness spoke in Washington, DC on June 9 at the summer conference of the Eagle Forum, the advocacy group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. Chapters of NEW are forming on other campuses, most recently at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA.
Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.