Monday, September 29, 2003

Conservatives on campus: Interesting article from Brooks that you linked, on conservatives in la academie, and it gave me a chance to look back on my undergraduate days (at least those I remember).

First, let me point out that I was as dumb as any 18 year old when I went to college and politics was way off my horizon. I started as a Criminal Justice major (wanted to join the FBI or something, as I recall, but I think I really just wanted to carry a gun) and had to take a course in American Political Systems, your basic Civics 101. How a bill becomes a law kind of stuff, which tells a lot more about typical high school preparation than anything else. The professor was Father John Putka (UD is a Marianist institution), who's political leanings line up pretty well with Justice Scalia. Now, I had just cast a vote for Bill Clinton ('92) and was careless enough to let him find out in conversation. And so was three months of abuse set in motion, always made his foil in class discussions. Of course, I lost almost all of them, but at the end of the term he asked me what my plans were and would I consider changing majors. Either he thought I was smart or he wanted someone he could pick on for three more years. I like to think it was the former, but he probably just had a quota to fill, in those nascent days of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

So I trudged through three sadly undistinguished years as a Poli Sci guy, getting decent grades but little else (I was, and still am, a horrible student). When I try to think about the politics of the department, it's hard to get past Fr. Putka, as he was the most outspoken of them all. Now that I think about it, most of the faculty were fairly moderate, perfect "compassionate conservatives," really. And there was plenty of opportunity for leftward leanings to come out. Mark Ensalaco taught Latin American politics, but I don't recall any defense of Catro, Danny Ortega, or Che, although there was some, justified, nagging of Reagan/Bush for the whole "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" stance south of the border. And nobody has ever made clear the failure of the Soviet Union better than Jaro Bilocerkowycz. He was no apologist for Marxism/Leninism, and he let us call him Bilo, which was important at 9:00 on Friday morning.

The highlights of every year were the guest speakers arranged by Fr. Putka. Ohio Representatives John Boehner (R) and Jim Traficant (D) were both regulars. I shared a match with Boehner and Traficant called me a racist over lunch in the faculty dining room, so I guess my days of Clinton support were pretty much behind me by the time I graduated (barely in the parental required four years, and thanks to the aforementioned Mark Ensalaco who let me do research for his book to get my last Poli Sci credit).

The point of this long (I apologize) reminiscence is that most undergraduates, I'd guess, don't face the much derided liberal bias in universities, at least not the way Brooks describes it. Maybe it happens more at big state schools, and I'm aware of the incidents where College Republicans face some ill treatment by faculty. But I think the types of kids who join College Republicans deserve a little rough treatment, at least to toughen them up a little.

I'm sure that what Brooks is talking about is more common in the graduate and doctoral levels, so I don't disagree with his point. Maybe I just don't believe that UD was all that different.

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