This article was originally published by Salon on June 15, 1998.
It’s graduation time on America’s college campuses. As these rites of passage scroll across C-SPAN, it’s also a time to reflect on the near total dominion of the left over our institutions of higher learning — a political control of academic life unprecedented in the history of our democracy.
Typical was the ceremony at the University of Michigan, whose invited speaker was racial extremist Mamphela Kamphele, a leader of South Africa’s “black consciousness” movement. The four previous graduations at Michigan featured Hillary Rodham Clinton, Children’s Defense Fund President and friend of Hillary Marian Wright Edelman, liberal cartoonist Cathy Guisewite and leftist educator Johnetta Cole. By contrast, notable conservatives like Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, thinker and writer William F. Buckley, bestselling novelist Tom Clancy and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were passed over not only by Michigan but by all 3,000-plus colleges and universities across the land.
Even greater political bias was revealed in university hiring practices. As the Wall Street Journal noted recently, the number of registered Democrats on the faculty of the University of Colorado exceeded the registered Republicans by 31-1. There was not a single Republican or conservative at Colorado in the English, psychology, journalism, philosophy, women’s studies, ethnic studies and lesbian and gay studies departments. This in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 100,000 voters and account for six of the eight members of its congressional delegation.
Based on my personal experience, I would guess this situation is fairly typical of colleges across the land. At the 75 college campuses I have spoken at in the last few years — in every region of the country, at state schools, private schools, religious schools and technical schools, I have found that the number of professors who are conservative in their outlook usually amounts to a mere handful. And I found them to be more isolated, more hesitant to express their views and more restricted in their opportunities for scholarly advancement than communist and pro-Soviet professors were in the McCarthy period.
Of the 75 colleges at which I spoke, only three invited me officially. By contrast, communists like Angela Davis and racial extremists like Kwame Ture (the former Stokeley Carmichael) and the Nation of Islam’s infamous Khalid Muhammad are regularly asked to speak by university administrators and student governments, and paid handsome sums to do so. This spring, Davis, whose reported fee is $10,000, was the featured official speaker at the University of Chicago’s Martin Luther King Day commemorations. Conservatives like myself, by contrast, have to rely on small conservative student groups for invitations and off-campus organizations for expenses. Wherever I go, I ask the students who invite me how many conservative professors are available to be their official campus advisors. Their answers invariably are: two or three. That is, two or three who are willing to identify themselves openly as conservatives.
This situation did not happen by accident. It is the result of calculated political hiring practices, systematic exclusion and an atmosphere of political intimidation to a degree seen only in communist, fascist and theocratic dictatorships. In this case, however, the state is not the enforcer of political orthodoxy. It is leftist faculty members.