By Dane Carey
When I came to K my freshman year, I tuned into Fox to get the news. I quickly found myself in unfamiliar territory. Coming to this hornets’ nest (pun intended) of crazy liberals was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I can’t say that I have joined my peers in their political views, but after four years at K, I will leave standing straight up and down, instead of falling over to the right. Without K, I have doubts that I would have ever diverged from my old friends at Fox news.
When I talk to my politically liberal friends, I realize that very few have reconsidered the ideas and opinions they held when they walked onto campus their freshman year. My liberal classmates seldom have their ideas challenged by students and teachers with opposing thoughts. Not only do an overwhelming majority of students subscribe to liberal ideology, but when I tried to think of the number of faculty members that teaches from a conservative viewpoint (or even a moderate view, for that matter), I struggled to come up with any professors. That is not a “liberal arts education”, that is a politically liberal education.
The politically liberal professors at the college are an extraordinary asset. They have been invaluable to my college education. Unfortunately, though, the same types of professors do not exist on the politically conservative side. Who will provide the liberal students with information that they don’t already know? How can liberal students have their thoughts challenged? Conservative professors would force my liberal classmates to defend their own politics, which in turn would either sharpen their opinions or prompt them to reconsider their own preconceived notions.
Every student at K has an interest in the reputation of the institution. Surely we all prefer that K be thought of as a place where intelligent students gather to sharpen their own beliefs by exchanging ideas with peers of all opinions. It helps no one if consensus opinion holds that the college merely provides a niche education designed to incubate and promote liberal thought. That view delegitimizes K as an institution, and it delegitimizes me as its student. Combined efforts toward balancing the faculty would bring enormous benefits at little cost and would not be unprecedented. Many large and famously “progressive” schools are making a concerted effort to recruit and include conservative thinkers to their faculty – why not K? Harvard has taken steps to decrease the liberal takeover by hiring conservative professors at the university to join forces with Harvey Mansfield. Yale has Donald Kagan. Princeton has Robert George. Stanford became affiliated with the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank that has attracted prominent Republicans such as Condoleezza Rice and Edwin Meese to Palo Alto. The controversially conservative professor, John Yoo, was brought in by UC Berkeley. Even our bigger, more well-known rivals (though I’m not sure they know we’re rivals) in Ann Arbor are grudgingly increasing their conservative professors.
The other thing I have come to realize is that conservative alumni from K are alienated and ignored. Why aren’t the very successful conservative alumni being celebrated? Why don’t we see conservative speakers at K? Not only is this an insulting action towards our conservative alumni, it is also a serious forfeiture of resources. This liberal agenda limits career opportunities for K grads and reduces funding from, to be frank, the moneymakers. Why do we think our endowment has suffered within the Great Lakes Colleges Association?
I think we need to take active steps to live up to our claim to be a liberal arts institution. In the meantime, smaller changes can be made. The political science department can offer a course on conservative political thought. More resources and attention can be allocated to conservative groups on campus. These are only minor steps, though. The administration needs to reform its strategy. We would all undoubtedly be better off for it.