Wanted: Conservatives (Not)

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

You can get an idea of what conservatives on America’s college campuses are up against by looking at a recent want ad posted on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville site.

The ad reads:

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR – Political Science – Ph. D. in Political Science required. Strong background in major conceptual, theoretical, and methodical approaches to comparative politics. Expertise sought in one of the following areas: Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East. Candidates must show promise of excellence in research and graduate and undergraduate teaching, and bring a strong cross-national perspective. Apply with a cover letter, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a detailed curriculum vita, and a brief writing sample to: Dr. Robert A. Gorman, Chair, Comparative Politics Search Committee, Department of Political Science, 1001 McClung Tower, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0410.

And what is a “cross-national perspective” and who is Dr. Robert A. Gorman? To get an idea, we went to the professor’s home page.

“Dr. Robert A. Gorman is a professor of political theory at The University of Tennessee,” his web site reads. “He enjoys teaching courses and ancient, medieval, and modern thinkers.”

So far, so good. Then we find out the range of thought that he considers viable.

“Professor Gorman is also the author of six books and numerous articles dealing with what scholars often label critical theory,” his web site explains. “This work encompasses a wide range of topics, including phenomenology, hermeneutics, methodology, structuralism, Marxism, democratic socialism, modernism, and post-modernism.”

“These somewhat abstract theories can powerfully impact our everyday lives.”

No doubt. But, what of capitalism, conservatism, libertarianism, objectivism and liberalism in all its forms—classical, neo, and modern?

“Professor Gorman is interested in how philosophy informs humanity’s timeless search for justice,” his web site informs us. “He hopes that his published work and his teaching will inspire others to join the quest.”

This quest takes us through the writings and works of Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Michael Harrington. Adam Smith, John Locke, Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand don’t make the trip itinerary.

Search committees, such as the one that Dr. Gorman heads, play a decisive role in choosing candidates to fill college and university teaching positions. Candidates who do not get past them do not get hired.

On the other side of the podium, students do not hear from search committee rejects either. If the rejected applicants are conservatives, as many search committee casualties tell us they are, that rejection, in turn, robs the student of an intellectual diversity most collegiates come to expect of a college education.

When those expectations are dashed, with them go the last chance of getting all points of view, and the facts that support them, in the lecture hall.

So, to come back to the want ad, conservatives who want to teach political science at UT-Knoxville have to make it past Dr. Gorman. It’s a real roll of the dice.