Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, has an essay in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal suggesting that institutions of higher education pursue a sort of “affirmative action” to ensure that conservative and traditionalist viewpoints are represented on their campuses in a sustained way:
The issue, however, isn’t whether the occasional conservative, libertarian or religious speaker gets a chance to speak. That is tolerance, an appeal to civility and fairness, but it doesn’t take us far enough. To create deeper intellectual and political diversity, we need an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.
Such an effort can take many different forms. In 2013, Wesleyan decided to join Vassar College in working with the Posse Foundation to bring cohorts of military veterans to campus on full scholarships. These students with military backgrounds are older than our other undergraduates and have very different life experiences; more of them also hold conservative political views.
Wesleyan is expanding this program to include teachers, as well as students, with military backgrounds, as well as instituting more right-wing course content. One might also suggest expanding courses in other ways — requiring some sort of course in a trade, for example, or theology taught by an actual religious person.
Although I agree with Roth’s general suggestion, the notion of “affirmative action” isn’t the right approach. What he’s really talking about is improving the product that universities offer, presenting a full range of intellectual perspectives and giving students a more-thorough education. One wouldn’t say that a university needs an “affirmative action” program for mathematicians; one would simply say the university needs to hire more.
Frankly, I don’t expect this idea to catch on in a broad way. On some level, it seems to me, progressives understand that conservative ideas have an intellectual appeal, and when that is mixed with a confident sense of rebellion in an otherwise uniform liberal context, it can be irresistible to the young adults whom progressive professors believe a university’s purpose to indoctrinate and a refuge for those whose values they wish to undermine.
In other words, I think the Leftists who’ve dominated the American campus and turned it into the country’s bleeding edge of liberal fascism want it that way, even as it undermines their value proposition.