William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WHAT!  IS THIS HAPPENING? – AT 9:40 A.M. ET:  As readers know, we regularly chide the academic world, or what remains of it, for its hard-leftist leanings.  Conservatives on campus have more anonymity than guests in the Witness Protection Program. 

But wait.  There may be hope.  One university, perhaps feeling guilt, or more likely feeling the sting of withheld alumni gifts, is taking a token step to try to show some academic respectability.  From the Washington Times:

BOULDER, Colo. | Coming soon to the University of Colorado at Boulder, what many had assumed was an extinct or at least endangered species: the conservative professor.

The famously left-wing university is on the cusp of selecting a “visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy,” a first-of-its-kind post aimed at embedding a prominent right-wing intellectual on campus as a conservative-in-residence for one or two years.

The idea is to increase intellectual diversity on campus, but the reaction from both sides of the political spectrum has been mixed. While liberals grumble about the wisdom of playing ideological favorites, conservatives worry that the program treats conservative scholars as some sort of exotic “freak show,” said Jon Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute in Golden, Colo.

“It’s distressing that a free-market conservative has to become a freak sideshow act at a college,” said Mr. Caldara, a CU graduate who lives in Boulder. “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.”

Other conservatives argue that the program — a kind of ideological affirmative-action program — is better than nothing. Relying on the administration or faculty to bring in more conservatives through the hiring process has been a colossal failure, said Mike Rosen, a conservative columnist and talk-show host on KOA-AM in Denver.
“Some conservatives have raised these objections, but what’s the alternative?” said Mr. Rosen, who serves on the 10-member selection committee. “This is at least an effort to mitigate some of that problem. If there’s going to be any progress at all, it’s going to have to be done in stages.”

He said that there are a few conservative professors on campus, but they tend to teach apolitical subjects like mathematics, and thus lack the megaphone that the visiting scholar will have. A 2008 survey by CU professor emeritus Edward Rozek found that of 825 faculty members, only 23 — 2.7 percent — were registered Republicans.

COMMENT:  I'm for the program.  It's the basic rule of sports:  Put points on the board.  It's a foothold.  If successful, the program could catch fire and be emulated elsewhere.  Whoever is appointed at Colorado will have to have a strong stomach, for he or she is likely to be subjected to insults and ridicule.

When I was in college, conservative professors were prominent, if not in number, then certainly in importance.  At my university, the University of Chicago, Milton Friedman held court.  So did George Shultz, who later become secretary of of labor, secretary of the Treasury, and secretary of state.  There was no shortage of conservative texts and thought.

Today, some college administrators make the lame excuse that they can't "find" conservatives for their faculties.  Well, that may be true.  Conservatives were made to feel more than unwelcome in the tumult of the late sixties, and that hasn't changed.  Why would a conservative want to go into a profession where he or she is unwelcome, or even unemployable?

We'll follow what happens at Colorado. I'd love to monitor the reactions of students.

February 18, 2013