Campus Conservatives Duke It Out

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Cary, N. C.—Although at least one professor at nearby Duke University thinks that they are not too bright, conservative students at the school, who are plentiful, and faculty members, who are not, have found some ingenious ways to get their point across.

This year, the school refused to support the College Republican chapter’s “Students for Bush” effort, while the university willingly supported “Students for Edwards” and “Students for Nader” campaigns. Undeterred, a large group of the College Republicans wore their “W” t-shirts to a Duke home game, gaining national exposure via network television by cheering on one of the most televised college basketball teams in recent memory.

When Duke’s establishment expressed outrage at this bit of audacity, the CRs were undeterred. “We pointed out that we were wearing Duke blue,” CR advisor John Plecnik, a law student, noted.

I pointed out to John that their stratagem was eerily reminiscent of a ruse that the Solidarity labor union movement had to resort to in its effort to topple the Polish Communist government headed by General Jaruzelski. Union supporters would wear Solidarity t-shirts to soccer games that were televised. Could the College Republicans at Duke be up against the same sort of dictatorial adversary that the Solidarity supporters in Communist-controlled Poland faced?

“I’ve heard students say, ‘When I wrote a communist paper, I got an A; when I didn’t, it wasn’t so great,’” Plecnik told the audience at a conference here. Nonetheless, Plecnik remains upbeat about the CRs’ civil war with Duke’s administration.

“You can be quoted next to a university president in a news story even if you are a law student because we live in a horse race society and they [reporters] want to get both sides.”

For his part, Michael Munger, the chair of the Departments of Political Science, Economics and Public Policy, is equally sanguine about the prospects for balance at what seems like an overwhelmingly liberal campus. “My department is 25 percent Republican,” Munger points out.

In two decades of teaching, Munger has faced more daunting imbalances. His other teaching positions were at Dartmouth, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It is the fervent belief of the left that it is wrong to hire conservatives,” Munger concludes.

And Munger has noticed some interesting results when liberal students come in contact with conservative ideas. “I had a teaching assistant say that once her liberal teacher gave the pro-life view just for balance,” Munger remembers.

“It was infuriating,” the teaching assistant told Munger. “We knew that it was wrong but could not figure out why. It sounded so plausible.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.