University of Colorado courts conservative thinkers

by Thomas Hardesty
Posted 3/05/13, 01:58 pm

In a few months, the first Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy will walk through the doors of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Jon Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., suggests the conservative might need some extra protection on the liberal campus, at least on the first day.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the National Guard has to escort that person into the building,"  he told The Washington Times.

The visiting scholar program is an attempt by UC Boulder to shed its reputation for far-left liberal bias, a label it may deserve. 

According to a poll by retired professor Ed Rozek, of the 825 faculty members on the Boulder Campus, a meager 23 were registered Republicans.

UC Boulder hopes the program will help dispel myths of liberal bias, but reaction from conservative higher education critics has been mixed. 

George Leef, director of research at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, is hopeful for the program, but he’s not willing to acknowledge victory yet. 

“A scholar on campus is not only a benefit to conservative students, but a benefit to the non-conservative students as well,” he said. “They could get talks that would conflict with liberal notions.”

Leef pointed to the James Madison Program at Princeton University, which offers visiting fellowships for scholars studying constitutional law and political thought, as an initiative to diversify political inclinations on campus that has flourished.

Other conservative critics are afraid the very name of UC Boulder’s initiative will further the mindset that non-liberal thinkers are rare, or worse, “freaks.”

John Andrews, head of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University told The Colorado Observer he is excited at the prospect of major funds being brought in for conservative teaching, but “this almost plays into the hands of the overwhelmingly left-liberal domination of CU, because it treats conservative thought as sort of an oddity, a zoo exhibit, or the focus of an anthropological field trip.”

Caldara has similar concerns. “It's distressing that a free-market conservative has to become a freak sideshow act at a college. What this says is that it's so difficult to find real intellectual diversity on a college campus that we have to go out and hunt somebody down," he told The Washington Times.

Whether or not UC Boulder’s initiative labels conservative scholars as “freaks,” Leef said the need for other mindsets is very real, adding tha the worst injustice of America’s higher education system is that the faculty is overwhelmingly left-wing, and they have no problem with using the classroom as a platform to promote their ideas.

The conservative professor selected to challenge those ubiquitous liberal arguments will start next fall, and many will be watching to see how CU Boulder students respond. According to Leef, if all goes well, it’s likely similar programs will pop up as conservative donors decide intellectual diversity is a worthy investment. 

Thomas Hardesty

Thomas is a recent graduate of Indiana State University who teaches high school and writes part time for WORLD. He and his wife live in Clinton, Indiana.

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