This is an excerpt of my article in the current edition of Wisconsin Interest magazine, published by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
It was not that long ago minority conservatives and their more mainstream allies with a libertarian bent, both students and faculty, won a 10-year-long battle for, of all things, the right of free speech on campus.
Now the victors of that battle are struggling, as one professor puts it, to "build up the tiny chorus" of conservative counter-voices to the liberal hegemony.
The irony is that the 50 students and faculty picketing at the Memorial Union Theater in Madison one evening in October 2007 were the beneficiaries of that free-speech fight. The picketers had a special message for 19-year-old Sara Mikolajczak as she entered:
"Racist, sexist, anti-gay / right-wing bigot go away."
The UW political science major was the target of the reactionary rhyming because, as chair of the College Republicans, she brought in conservative David Horowitz to speak about the mistreatment of women in Middle East dictatorships.
"I've been called names before," Mikolajczak recalls. The problem with the Horowitz event, sponsored by the UW-Madison College Republicans, "was the death threats and the rape threats."
Not from Muslim students but from the liberal-progressive contingent. A month later, Chancellor John Wiley sent the college student a $1,300 bill for the police security she required.
... The Report of the Equity and Diversity Committee of the College of Letters and Sciences, September 2007, addresses ethnicity, gender, and race but not intellectual diversity.
I put this question to Letters and Science Dean Sandefur and Assistant Dean Lucy Mathiak: Does it not differ greatly whether the black academic you hire is Thomas Sowell or Cornell West? Are you getting the same "woman's experience" from Nancy Pelosi and Anne Coulter?
Both seemed puzzled that political perspective - not partisan politics, but the intellectual grounding it represents - should be a factor in hiring faculty.
"It is a shame the university is so blatantly biased toward liberal views," says Stephen Duerst, a junior majoring in political science and history. He says he's developed a survival sense about what will play and not play with his liberal professors.
Mikolajczak makes the same point: "I knew when to hold my tongue and when my comments would be welcome, which was infrequently."
Retired UW-Madison music professor Bill Richardson observes: "Students today who are conservative are the rebels, the counterculture."
... The pervasive liberal culture forced (Mikolajczak) to dig deep, to use her education to marshal her arguments. "You have to be able to defend yourself," she says.
That, of course, works both ways. Which is the real tragedy of a one-party campus. Mikolajczak expresses pity for what she describes as the typical, tongue-tied liberal who bought into the content-free vapidity of "hope and change." It is no wonder that they resort to sloganeering.
"I realized they have to come up with name-calling because they can't defend their own ideas," she says.
In Restoring Free Speech, political science professor Donald Downs quotes Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, who says, "The most successful tyranny is not one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities."
Downs reflects: "You'd be amazed at how many of my liberal students tell me they agree."
Visit Professor Downs' Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy.
Out in the Althouse
Ann Althouse has picked up my tale at her popular blog, prompting 53 comments from her army of followers -- almost all of them supporting my conclusions.
One of them is a doctoral candidate in the humanities at UW-Madison:
... In classes, the professors will openly lecture about their political beliefs -- always extremely liberal, and always with the assumption that every single person in the seminar shares the same political perspective. If there is anything that will turn you off of academia, it is the hypocrisy of the open-minded liberal: freedom of speech for me, but none for thee.
I knew it was going to be a very liberal setting when I applied to my program, but I had no idea the extent of it until I was actually in class. I have two (yes--TWO) conservative friends in a department of over 80 graduate students, and we have been all but silenced on many occasions by people who cannot even back up their own beliefs. ...
My professors ranged from the extreme Left to the studiously apolitical. If I was taught by a single conservative, he or she kept it well hidden.
The question isn't how Liberal is it? It's how rabidly Leftist is it?
Now that college faculties are nearly 100% composed of left wing radically, "peer-review" has the same importance that "Imprimatur" had during the Inquisition. ...
Perhaps The Shadow knows
Don't bother trying to count up the number of agencies, boards and commissions created under the new health care law. Estimating the number is "impossible," a recent Congressional Research Service report says, and a true count "unknowable." [Washington Post: 08-03-10]
The subject was partial birth abortion
On Sept. 26, 1996, in a debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate, two senators, Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) were asked if killing a baby that had slipped entirely from the birth canal would still be a "choice" that the mother (which she indisputably would then be) had a constitutionally protected right to make.
Neither senator said "no." Feingold said it would be up to the woman and her doctor. Lautenberg agreed. We have a record of this 1996 exchange only because of C-Span. Congressional Record, supposedly a transcript of what is said on the Senate floor, was altered. One can understand why. [George Will: Newsweek 07-31-10]