A Rolling Stone in Boulder

Special thanks and a shout out are owed this morning to the several Power Line readers who turned up Friday afternoon at the University of Colorado, Boulder for my lecture on “Is ‘Conservative Environmentalist’ an Oxymoron?”  And kudos also to the university administration.  There had been rumors that two different student groups were thinking about protesting my appearance, and perhaps disrupting it.  I was fully prepared for the pie-in-the-face treatment—this has happened to Bill Kristol and others—and was all ready to complain if it wasn’t lemon meringue.  But the administration worked behind the scenes to meet with dissenting students and ask them to turn up instead and ask tough questions rather than create a spectacle.  And so they did.  And they heard something they’ve never heard before, starting with my favorite provocation: “The environment is much too important to be left to environmentalists; they just screw everything up.”

This visit was all part of the process I referenced briefly here the other day—the long-suffering effort at the University of Colorado to bring a conservative point of view somehow to a campus that is perceived as being monolithically liberal or radical.  This effort has been stewing for a long time, I learned, but reached a tipping point with the Ward Churchill debacle a few years back.  (Which meant that I had to take care to be specific with my Churchill references while on campus.)

So we’ll see what course this takes. The problem of liberal-left bias in higher education is more complicated than often comes to sight.  It’s not always the case that conservatives are excluded from academia by mean liberals, though I’ve got a lot of horror stories about active hiring bias, and if you want to see a riot in Boulder, just try floating the suggestion that they ought to recruit two conservatives.  Some of the story is self-selection bias among conservatives, for whom academic life comes in down around option #12 or #15 in the rank order of attractive career paths.  I know that was my feeling coming out of graduate school 25 years ago. The best example of this is George Will: Ph.D from Princeton, M. Phil from Oxford, who found journalism a much more attractive option than academia.  For one thing, he gets to write for normal human beings, instead of cranking out journal articles written in academese for an audience of 50 readers as part of the tenure process.

Responses