May 13, 2008

Is it a good or a bad sign when a university sees the need to hire a "Professor of Conservative Thought"?

This is the proposal for an endowment at the University of Colorado. Amusingly enough, the idea bugs liberals and conservatives:
"Why set aside money specifically for a conservative?" asks Curtis Bell, a teaching assistant in political science. "I'd rather see a quality academic than someone paid to have a particular perspective."...

[David] Horowitz fears that setting up a token right-winger as The Conservative at Boulder will brand the person as a curiosity, like "an animal in the zoo."...

"Like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, they're planning to study conservatives. That's hilarious," says [George] Will....

33 comments:

Roger J. said...

one would think that any decent history of political philosophy course would meet the requirement. Alas, present day academia sucks. Rather than kill the lawyers, lets kill the professors (present company excepted) and start over. Cheaper than endowing chairs and facing lawsuits from the victims studies people.

Toby said...

I'm sceptical that this would even provide a spot for conservative thought on campus. Unless the endowment agreement gets very specific about the scholarship of the individual who will hold the chair, what's to keep a more liberal hiring committee from appointing someone who specializes in harsh critiques of conservative thinkers? Because of academic freedom concerns, there's a limit to how specific an endowment agreement of this sort can be.

Henry said...

I assume that a Professor of Conservative Thought doesn't have to be a conservative. Margaret Mead wasn't a Samoan after all.

Surely one of the University's sociology or philosophy professors knows the topic. Maybe one of them will apply.

rhhardin said...

A professor of misogynist thought is also needed.

Chip Ahoy said...

Hahah → ∞

No wait, that's very sad and shows how bad things have become. I want my money back! Oh, that's right, haven't given them any. Have I? If I have, I want it back! And I take back my laugh to infinity, this isn't funny atoll. *grumbles*

This compels me to Photoshop®™ motorized floaty boats.

SteveR said...

You couldn't make something like that up. New this fall on NBC, a hilarious sit-com, Red in Blue, hijinks and laughs as ultra conservative Dr. Red Kneck sets up shop in the Poltical Science Department at the University of Colorado. Starring Tim Robbins.

PatCA said...

This is akin to the "U.S. Constitution Day" mandated in CA. Our illustrious faculty always put on a program questioning the constitution's legitimacy.

Hey, those who despise...er, criticize America love her best! Just ask Obama.

Anthony said...

When I was in law school, we had three openly conservative professors, one who described himself as a "Rockefeller Republican" (which in law school meant that he was a far right wing nut), an openly closeted conservative adjunct and a few who we suspected were conservatives but simply were afraid to come out.

The scandal every year was that the Federalist Society was the only group to recognize MLK Day.

George said...

Not unlike the recent front page story in the NYT about Karl Rove being a TV commentator.

Hackles are raised.

JohnAnnArbor said...

"Like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, they're planning to study conservatives. That's hilarious," says [George] Will....

Several years back, the NYT discussed the possibility of exploring more "conservative" topics. They were similarly anthropological about it. Although they did not recommend shots before NASCAR races, like that Dem congresscritter did.

Michael_H said...

"In fact, Mr. Peterson said it's not imperative that the new professor of conservative thought be an actual conservative."

Calling Kevin Barrett! There's a job opening at UC Boulder that you might find interesting.

Kevin said...


In fact, Mr. Peterson said it's not imperative that the new professor of conservative thought be an actual conservative.

"We hire lots of scholars of the French language," he says, "and they aren't necessarily French."


So the university could hire a doctrinaire leftist as the professor of conservative thought. Nice.

P. Rich said...

UC Boulder, UW Madison and UC Berkeley could have a run-off for most screaming radical leftist campus. The winner gets nuked. The losers slink off in shame, knowing forever they weren't radical enough.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Why set aside money specifically for a conservative?" asks Curtis Bell, a teaching assistant in political science. "I'd rather see a quality academic than someone paid to have a particular perspective...."

This, from the school that "hired a phony Indian with a masters degree in graphic design from a third tier college to a fast-track tenured position in ethnic studies" (from Orson Buggeigh at volokh.com)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In fact, Mr. Peterson said it's not imperative that the new professor of conservative thought be an actual conservative.

"We hire lots of scholars of the French language," he says, "and they aren't necessarily French."


Umm, maybe so but I think hiring an impression of a conservative would give you the same authenticity and depth of experience as observing a paint by numbers Monet vs a real Monet. One is not even close the other is the real thing.

These so called educated people have got to have some of the dumbest ideas.

somefeller said...

Umm, maybe so but I think hiring an impression of a conservative would give you the same authenticity and depth of experience as observing a paint by numbers Monet vs a real Monet. One is not even close the other is the real thing. These so called educated people have got to have some of the dumbest ideas.

If the university is hiring someone who is admittedly a non-conservative who is an expert on conservatism to have this position, that is not the same as observing a replica of an artwork versus the real thing. It is simply an example of hiring someone who is not part of a given group that is the subject of study who has expertise about that subject to be a professor on the topic of that subject. The analogy regarding non-French professors of French works. Yours fails.

It would seem odd for them to hire a non-conservative for this position, given that it would probably look bad for them to do so, unless the non-conservative they hired was someone like John Judis, Sam Tanenhaus or Rick Perlstein, and even then it would look like a "conservatives in the mist" experiment to a lot of people. The university (and conservatives in Colorado) would probably be better served by the university hiring a couple of more good business professors.

blake said...

But...wait, I thought there was no liberal bias on university campuses!

Michael_H said...

Sounds like a great teaching job for Bill Bennett.

Kirby Olson said...

I like the idea. It also points out how there aren't any at present, and how illiberal the kampus kommunists have been.

JohnAnnArbor said...

In fact, Mr. Peterson said it's not imperative that the new professor of conservative thought be an actual conservative.

And how many African-American (etc.) Studies Dept. professors aren't black?

I think the idea's silly, too, but no more so than ethnic studies departments, which are often advocacy organizations with blatantly discriminatory hiring policies.

Pogo said...

Not sure why they'd bother.

By their 'hate speech' criteria, his mere existence would be a violation against campus policy.

I hope they've upped their insurance commensurately. Expect a harassment lawsuit every time the professor's title is printed.

Moondog said...

Who in their right mind would take that job, your house would get egged and you'd be the whipping boy for every radical group on campus. It would have to be someone who likes a LOT of attention.

somefeller said...

It would have to be someone who likes a LOT of attention.

Mr. Horowitz, you have a call from the HR department at the University of Colorado. Shall I take a message?

Hell no, patch them in now! I've been waiting for a chance like this for years, ah, a steady paycheck and a pension plan...

peter hoh said...

Umm, maybe so but I think hiring an impression of a conservative would give you the same authenticity and depth of experience as observing a paint by numbers Monet vs a real Monet. One is not even close the other is the real thing.

One of my professors claimed that the leading authority on English grammar was a Swedish linguist who could barely speak intelligible English.

Considering the pay scale for starting professors and the right's continual criticism of academia, is it any surprise that few conservatives enter the graduate programs necessary to become college professors?

knoxwhirled said...

IMO, it's not just that universities are so left-wing, it's that in large part, they are totally impractical; most instructors "instruct" with no eye whatsoever to helping their students pursue a career.

For the $$$ you pay for a college degree nowadays, that's inexcusable. But professors are individuals who have gone out of their way to avoid having to look for a job ever again, so there you go.

Freder Frederson said...

UC Boulder, UW Madison and UC Berkeley could have a run-off for most screaming radical leftist campus.

Althouse is at UW Madison. UC Berkely employs John Yoo.

That's even without having to look anything up.

Freder Frederson said...

IMO, it's not just that universities are so left-wing, it's that in large part, they are totally impractical; most instructors "instruct" with no eye whatsoever to helping their students pursue a career.

What on earth are you talking about? Are you claiming that modern universities do not prepare engineering, computer science, geology, marketing, accounting, or business majors for careers in their chosen fields? Or do you expect English, Philosophy and History instructors to prepare students for a cubicle job on Wall Street? If so, you have a warped concept of education.

former law student said...

Back in the 80s, conservatives supported a flock of campus newspapers in order to get their viewpoints expressed on campus. They were weeklies or monthlies as opposed to the established dailies or weeklies. And they all were named "[School Name Here] Review". So, given this desire for conservatives' views on campus, why would conservatives not welcome professors of Conservative Studies?

Salamandyr said...

Implicit in this proposal isn't so much that conservatives are in need of affirmative action in the academy, but that conservatism is so alien to "normal" discourse that it is worthy of separation and study, much like cancerous cells, excised and examined under a microscope, separate from healthy cells.

If this catches on, this gives liberals the unique opportunity to "define the enemy". Much like atheists who love rail about how Christians should "really behave" liberal professors will get to be idealogical gatekeepers of not just their own liberalism but conservatism as well. Doesn't that sound ducky?

former law student said...

that conservatism is so alien to "normal" discourse that it is worthy of separation and study

OK, then, let's leave conservative thought to such influential intellectual centers as Hillsdale and Ave Maria.

Salamandyr said...

At least at Hillsdale and Ave Maria, Conservatives have control of their own message. Would you want those schools defining what "liberal" meant?

knoxwhirled said...

Or do you expect English, Philosophy and History instructors to prepare students for a cubicle job on Wall Street? If so, you have a warped concept of education.

Well, you're throwing out some extreme examples, there. I got an English degree the first time around; I certainly didn't expect to end up on Wall Street, but I sure as hell believed it would be more useful than it turned out to be. I think the English dept. should have required of me at least a year of "practical" English, such as technical or creative writing. Instead, I left college utterly clueless about lots of cool jobs I could have pursued. I wish I had known then about creative writing in advertising, or even editing and/or proofreading.

Perhaps you were more worldly at 18-21 than I was! But I think it's utterly irresponsible for universities to graduate students with an "education" that leaves them with no idea of either their earning potential or job satisfaction.

hdhouse said...

stop the presses...

Conservative and thought in the same sentence?

The text book is a "book of nothing" illustrated with crayons.

My Pet Goat indeed.