According to the 2013-14 Higher Education Research Institute Faculty Survey, just 7.8 percent of professors consider themselves conservative. Another 0.8 percent say they are on the far-right. They are outnumbered by the 17.2 percent of faculty who put themselves on the far-left, to say nothing of the 49.6 percent who consider themselves liberals. As we get into fields in which politics are most likely to be discussed, things get still worse. A 2018 study of top-ranked liberal arts colleges found not one registered Republican among the professors of the highly politicized discipline of anthropology in its sample.
In Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn worry about one effect of this disparity. It “deprives conservative student activists of mentors who might deepen their politics.”
If you want an idea of how that deprivation looks, consider Turning Point USA (TPUSA), founded in 2012 to build the “most organized, active, and powerful conservative grassroots activist network on college campuses across the country.”
But if it is not yet winning the attention of all that many students, TPUSA does have the attention of the Trump Administration. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos all graced the program of TPUSA’s High School Leadership Summit. During Sessions’ speech, the student audience, excited by the attorney general’s praise of their courage, chanted “Lock her up!” Sessions had said nothing about Hillary Clinton. Apparently, the chant is like a fight song to be sung whenever one feels in high spirits. There could be no more perfect example of the fusion of TPUSA and the Donald Trump administration.
TPUSA’s founder, Charlie Kirk exemplifies this same fusion. His Twitter feed, though it sometimes refers to higher education, consists largely of pro-Trump and anti-Democratic propaganda. “Conservatives are thankful to live in America. Liberals are angry they live in America.” “@realDonaldTrump economy strongest ever.” “12 RUSSIANS were indicted for hacking the DNC’s emails and HILLARY’S servers under OBAMA’s watch… And somehow this is TRUMP’S fault?” Kirk, who founded TPUSA fresh out of high school and who has preserved his objectivity about college by never attending, appears to have no special interest in or sympathy for higher education, except as a battlefield on which to fight the left.
Candace Owens, TPUSA’s communications director and herself a college dropout, is not satisfied to call for Hillary Clinton to be locked up. She has also called for the jailing of James Comey, Robert Mueller, and Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos, among others. The only thing they have in common: President Trump considers them enemies. She has shown her regard for rational inquiry by praising the conspiracy site InfoWars, though she seems to have given up appearing on it.
It’s disgraceful that so many Administration luminaries, including the Secretary of Education, are participants in this farce. It’s disgraceful that the Heritage Foundation is a sponsor. Nikki Haley, as Noah has observed, tried to make the best of her appearance by urging students to do more than “own the libs.” But the leaders of the organization, whose profile her presence boosts, teach their followers that owning the libs matters much more than college.
So yes, there is plenty of shame to go on around. But we should spare some of it for colleges and universities, who barely seem to care about their strong left-wing tilt. That indifference, while it can’t be said to have caused TPUSA’s loathsome intervention into the higher education landscape, has certainly made it easier.
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