Opinion

Damned Right Republicans Don’t Trust Colleges

Liberals are crowing over the Pew poll results released Monday showing that a majority of Republicans think colleges have a negative impact on the nation. The data, they think, affirms their belief that conservatism and ignorance are pretty much the same thing. I mean, how could anyone be against college?

Well, how could anyone be against law enforcement?

The answer is one of the nation’s largest minorities. A survey last year, also from Pew, found only a third of African-Americans have a positive stance toward local police.

It’s preposterous to suppose conservatives are against education and blacks are against safety. Rather, conservatives object to today’s American colleges, their values, and the way they’re run. Similarly, African-Americans would welcome a police presence they felt treated them equally and fairly.

The reasons black people have come to distrust police have been widely discussed. But to look at social media, liberals are mystified why Republicans would dare come out against college. Here are two representative Tweets:

 

But Republicans aren’t inherently anti-intellectual or “against education.” Here’s proof these results are due to current trends and not hostility to learning: in the last year alone, the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning conservatives who say colleges have a negative effect on the country rose sharply from 43 percent to 58 percent.

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That development shouldn’t be surprising, given high-profile campus dust-ups in the last 12 months:

  • Speeches by conservative firebrands like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were canceled by major universities;
  • A liberal professor at a public college in Washington State was widely condemned on campus for refusing to leave on a “Day of Absence” in which campus activists demanded white people exile themselves;
  • A speaker at Middlebury College in Vermont was shouted down and violently attacked, with a professor who supported him suffering serious injuries;
  • Silly arguments at Yale over “culturally appropriate” Halloween costumes turned into a disgraceful campus-wide power struggle; and
  • Campus reactions to Trump’s election went way beyond disappointment and anger as professors canceled classes and student demonstrators burned effigies of the president-elect and even the American flag.

But the main explanation for Republican alienation from colleges goes far beyond ongoing campus unrest. Conservatives aren’t mostly reacting to the strident demands that universities rewrite their histories and kowtow to the latest liberal fashions. Nor are we fixated on speech codes and trigger warnings and space spaces and our own supposed “micro-aggressions” and “white privilege.”

The main problem is that on most college campuses today, Republicans are the prototypical villains. The demonization festers because many students are never exposed to open advocacy of conservative ideas. After all, right-leaning students are cowed into silence and Republican professors are… wait, there aren’t any Republican professors.

That’s barely an exaggeration. Fewer than four percent of professors at liberal arts colleges describe themselves as conservatives. Republican presence at research universities isn’t much better. In some departments, it would be impossible for an open Republican to be granted tenure.

(I had a bit of exposure to that dynamic when as a graduate student at NYU my advisor, under instructions from the department chair, forced me to apologize for criticizing a faculty-sponsored evening to honor Cesar Chavez.)

Why should we be blamed for our negative opinions of an institution that excludes us at best and hates us at worst? Would you tell African-Americans to get over their mistrust of police because, like education, law enforcement is a positive good?

Republican alienation from universities has real-life consequences regarding state subsidies, college fundraising, student recruiting, and more. Instead of attacking conservatives for not valuing colleges, Democrats should get to work fixing our colleges to make them institutions all Americans value.

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at [email protected].