The Conscience of a Campus Conservative

, John T. Plecnik, Leave a comment

My last column, “Forget Free Speech, Liberals Don’t Tolerate Campus Conservatives,” drew the ire and attention of thousands. Published online by GOPUSA and the Washington Times, it sparked still more debate on the issue of liberal bias on campus. Conservative professors from North Carolina, Wisconsin and across the country e-mailed their support. One celebrity endorsement came from former U.S. House Historian Christina Jeffrey, who currently presides over the South Carolina Association of Scholars. In her words, this past column was my “best ever.”

Still more students, parents and alumni stepped up, sending e-mails and notes, while weighing in on countless blogs and message boards. An Assistant U.S. Attorney, who read and enjoyed my column, even made a point of telling me that his office had jobs for law students like me. Thank you, Sir. And thank you, all. Together, we are big enough to beat liberal bias.

Of course, for every message of support, a legion of liberals gnashed their teeth. One angry reader just told me to “get a life.” Another insisted that I was a hypocrite for criticizing higher education without dropping out of school. And sadly, the next hundred-or-so arguments only got less intelligent from there.

However, one theme was clear from the holier-than-thou feedback of the liberal elite. The majority of them are still in denial. They refuse to believe that campus conservatives are anything more than a handful of rich brats and “Bible Belt” bumpkins. In their minds, we either drive to Duke in a BMW or spend our summers on mission trips. Not to knock luxury cars or spreading the Gospel, but in actuality, campus conservatives come from every walk of life. The money-hungry, nerdy stereotype of Alex P. Keaton, depicted by actor Michael J. Fox on the popular 80s sitcom “Family Ties,” has never been less germane than it is today.

Liberals also can’t stand the reality of our numbers. The 60s hippy generation represented a national movement, but campus conservatism is just a fad, right? There are over 200,000 College Republicans on campus, says College Republican National Committee Chairman Eric Hoplin. And, the College Republicans barely constitute the tip of the academic iceberg. Add in millions more conservatives that don’t like political clubs or vote Libertarian, and you begin to get the idea. Is it any wonder that America’s Leftist faculty has trouble dealing with my generation of students?

And make no mistake, America’s faculty is Leftist. Ever wonder what happens to all those failed, liberal politicians who espouse the famously unpopular tax and spend platform? They go straight for the ivory tower. Al Gore grew a beard and started teaching after losing Florida to then-Gov. George W. Bush. Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, dropped his imploding presidential candidate to be a fall fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Remember Johnny Edwards? After his embarrassing loss, the University of North Carolina decided to create a “Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity,” for the former senator and vice presidential nominee. Finally, who could forget the famed professor-politician, U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.)? As a member of congress, and Duke’s faculty, Price always has a job…even when he loses the popular vote.

Aside from these much-cited and sensational illustrations, the reality is that most professors are card-carrying liberals. Various studies and surveys indicate that faculty at elite schools, good schools, average schools, state schools, private schools and on down the line, tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. In many ways, contemporary campus conservatism is a response to these liberal professors and their collective attempt to proselytize my generation.

We resent the professorial endeavor to label conservatism as a disease. And, we refuse to let it go unanswered. On campus today, it’s considered acceptable behavior for a professor to plug liberalism in English 101, history or economics. It’s acceptable for universities to invite speakers like Ward Churchill, who compared the 9/11 victims to Nazis. It’s acceptable to ban conservative groups like the UNC-Wilmington College Republicans or UNC’s Alpha Iota Omega Christian Fraternity. Campus conservatives respectfully disagree.

And whether our professors like it or not, we have no intention of disagreeing quietly. We choose to air our dissent on Fox News and CNN, in the Washington Times and New York Times, and even in federal court. By necessity, campus conservatives are becoming columnists, commentators and First Amendment watchdogs. We are taking our case beyond the campus community.

And, the nation is taking notice.

John T. Plecnik is a 21-year-old law student at Duke University.