From Yale to the University of North Carolina, liberal academia is being challenged by a new generation of conservative leadership. Credible tales of professors grading down conservative students have always run rampant. Biased lectures remain the unremarkable norm. One variable has changed, however. Liberal academia lacks its traditionally receptive audience.
During the opening weeks of the Iraq war, professors were shocked by the absence of antiwar fervor among their pupils. Leading up to the 2004 elections, record numbers of undergraduates joined the College Republicans and other conservative organizations. Ingenious student protests, such as Berkeley’s affirmative action bake sale and Duke’s “W” (Bush) T-shirts (worn in Cameron Indoor Stadium during televised Blue Devil basketball), have garnered national attention and support.
This is not to say that all collegiate scholars are voting Republican. I simply state the obvious premise that our current student population is markedly more conservative than their counterparts in professorial and administrative positions. The differing generational perspective has caused noticeable friction between the scholars of past and present, and this ideological friction is the root cause of the upsurge in media attention to the subject of liberal bias on campus. Our professors’ passion for Marxism, Stalinism, multiculturalism, moral relativism, atheism, and the Democrat Party is no more profound in the new millennium than it was in the old. The sea change has occurred within a different body politic: the lowly freshmen.
Today, incoming students are challenging their professors’ supposed monopoly on wisdom. Where their predecessors might have acquiesced or even agreed, the modern student body has objected. At UNC-Greensboro, the resident College Republican chapter protested their school’s gay “Pride Week” by organizing their own “Morals Week” to run simultaneously. Joined by politicians and reporters, the College Republicans debated their liberal counterparts to a standstill.
At UNC, a Christian student was lambasted by his professor in a class-wide e-mail for expressing his personal belief that homosexuality is immoral. Back in the day, the poor fellow might have been without recourse, quieted by his own fear. However, the student fought back, and with the help of U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) the offending professor was punished for violating his civil rights.
More recently, UNC Chancellor James Moeser arbitrarily changed his university’s policy on the recognition of religious student organizations. He declared that limiting membership to one religious group is nothing less than sanctioned discrimination, and prohibited the practice. In line with his new policy, UNC refuses to recognize Alpha Iota Omega Christian Fraternity because the group declines to admit non-Christians. In the past, Chancellor Moeser might have had the final say, but today’s Tar Heels are not so easily silenced. The group has resorted to the courts and seeks an injunction against the new policy. Again, Congressman Jones has come to their aid, bringing national attention to the cause.
Recognizing Congressman Jones’ continued dedication to protecting the First Amendment rights of campus conservatives, at UNC and across the country, the Duke College Republicans created the Walter B. Jones Campus Defender Award. It will be presented annually “to the politician, professor or protester who best reflects [Jones’] legacy,” as “the chief defender of campus conservatives across Carolina.” A newly forming foundation (based in Charlotte, N.C.) has pledged to attach a $1,000 prize to the award. The first recipient of the award was Rachel Lea Hunter, a Republican attorney who promised to represent any victims of liberal bias on campus, in North Carolina. Hunter is currently running for Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The protest spirit of free speech is alive and well on the American campus, but unlike the hippie generation, we protest liberal academia. Campus conservatives, for lack of a better word, are cool. College Republicans have become the antiestablishment fraternity, and their membership levels have exploded. What could be stodgier or more conformist than supporting John Kerry for president, being antiwar and anti-American? The vast majority of authority figures on campus would wholeheartedly agree with you.
The hippie generation, now the keepers of the keys to the ivory tower, has become what it once hated most: the censor, the oppressor, “the Man.” Today, it is they who advocate campus speech codes to quiet the politically incorrect. It is they who force feed propagandized curriculum, with classes on race-privilege and pornography. It is they who seek to remake an unwilling generation after their own intellectual image.
Contrary to the lament of America’s professors, our student body never lost the passion of protest. We just changed sides.
John T. Plecnik is a 21 year-old law student at Duke University.