Before reaching age 30, Katie Pavlich is already a news editor, a New York Times bestselling author and a Fox News contributor. But during a debate over whether to give College Republicans at UNC-Chapel Hill money to bring her and Ann McElhinny, a filmmaker and investigative journalist, to campus, student government leaders argued against the funding, calling these women “non-intellectual,” “non-academic” and “unreliable,” according to The Daily Caller.
The College Republicans asked for $8,000, which was cut to $3,000. This is less than the $5,100 given to the Siren Womyn Empowerment Magazine, a feminist organization, and the $4,000 for the UNControllables, an anarchist group. It’s also far less than the $12,000-plus the College Republicans received last year.
Some in student government might find benign ways to explain the budget process, but it will be difficult to explain away the student leaders who called McElhinny and Pavlich “non-intellectual.” If Pavlich were a liberal journalist, MSNBC contributor and New York Times bestselling author of a book on climate change, for example, it is difficult to imagine student government leaders using the term.
The budget cut wasn’t the end of the story. Realizing the need to get conservatives on campus, UNC students successfully launched an online fundraising campaign and raised enough money to pay for the speakers.
But it also should be a wake-up call for conservatives around the country. We must not concede campuses. We must encourage greater intellectual diversity on campus today and support the outside groups and individuals who are working to bring about a change in campus culture.
Conservatives have seen study after study on the heavy skew of campus staff. Campus Reform, which bills itself as a higher education watchdog that “exposes bias, abuse, waste and fraud on the nation’s college campuses,” reported that 96 percent of the faculty and staff members at Ivy League colleges who contributed to the 2012 presidential race donated to President Barack Obama.
The Daily Princetonian reported that of the 157 university faculty and staff members who donated directly to the presidential candidates, only two of those donations went to Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama received over $169,000; Romney, $1,901.
We also see a disparity in the people universities invite to speak to students. The annual commencement speakers survey by the Young America’s Foundation revealed that 62 liberals and 17 conservatives were scheduled to speak at the 2013 commencement ceremonies for the top 100 universities as listed by U.S. News and World Report.
We cannot count on universities to provide intellectual diversity on campus. That makes outside opportunities – such as listening to speakers and participating in club activities – critical.
The good news is that students themselves are eager for such opportunities. Groups for conservative students like the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) are growing. Students are looking for a chance to discuss ideas left off college syllabi.
In fact, conservative campus organizations that bring in voices not often heard in the classroom are doing universities a service. Even those who disagree with a conservative speaker can learn something by listening to the speech, evaluating the arguments and trying to come up with tough questions.
Consider the case of Katie Pavlich. Young women on campus, regardless of their ideologies, should be inspired by her story. Here’s a young woman who, after graduating from college, started writing for an online publication. As a result of her insightful news coverage, she was invited on some TV shows to discuss her analysis. Her hard work led to the opportunity for her to write a book, and that book ended up on the New York Times bestsellers list. With all of the talk of the need for more role models for women, shouldn’t coeds be encouraged to listen and learn from Pavlich’s experience?
Promoting intellectual diversity on campus shouldn’t be just a conservative cause: Hearing a wide array of ideas benefits students and the learning environment overall. Yet conservatives must make this cause their own and support the students and organizations on and off campus who are working to give conservative views a fair hearing.
Karin Agness is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.