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Hiding In Higher Ed: Christians And Conservatives In The Academic Closet

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

For a long time Christians and conservatives could say the leftism of most college professors doesn’t matter: Students weren’t paying attention. This year we’ve found that many have paid attention. The evidence: Socialist Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won the votes of millennial college graduates.

While the Sanders success is fresh in our minds, this summer is the time for Christian or conservative alumni of just about every state and secular private college or university to make a firm resolution: ‘I will not donate to the general fund, no matter how good a season the football team has this fall.’It’s also the time for state legislators to refuse to pay the salaries of professorial propagandists.

One new book, “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University” (Oxford), paints a sad picture of academic bias and conservative cowardice at major universities. Authors Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn tried hard not to discourage conservative kids from going to graduate school, but quotations from numerous closeted right-of-center professors tell the story.

Here are some: “I just bite my tongue. ... I just deliberately lie.... I learned I should keep my mouth shut.... It is dangerous to even think [a conservative thought] when I’m on campus, because it might come out of my mouth.... [It’s] exhausting.... You’re not greeted, your greeting isn’t returned in the hall, graduate students are urged not to work with you.”

The rare pro-life professors seem to have it the worst: “If some people saw me coming, they’d walk the other way.” A pro-life literature professor at a large state university had to do some quick thinking when a colleague spotted the bumper sticker on a car he drove: “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” News of the heresy spread through the department, but the professor partially saved himself by saying: “It’s my wife’s car. I would never in a moment think that as a male I could tell my wife what [to do].”

Exceptions occur, but conservatives who publish still perish. They often receive lower wages than their liberal counterparts. Even nice guys finish last: One professor said, “I really thought that if one spoke in a civil way [and] introduced points of view that were underrepresented in the academy, that you would get some credit for that. You don’t get any credit for that.”

What’s a conservative or Christian professor to do? One solution is to hide as a graduate student to get a job, hide as an assistant professor to get tenure, hide as an associate professor to get a full professorship, and hide as a full professor to get an endowed chair. But that’s no way to live -- and once you start it’s hard to stop.

Shields and Dunn quote one literature professor’s observation that those who hide on the road to a full professorship have “fifteen years of acculturation into cowardice and furtiveness. Suddenly you’re 38 years old and now you’re going to be [bold?] It doesn’t happen. People are tired. They have kids. They’ve got bills to pay. They want life to be nice.”

The authors offer modest suggestions. They say “liberal professors and the administrators of universities should make it clear that they welcome conservative perspectives.” But many don’twelcome conservative perspectives, and if they did, their socialist colleagues would harass them. Organizations with self-perpetuating boards of directors can readily become corrupt. Most university faculties are self-perpetuating. Many are rancid.

My own sense, as a University of Texas professor who was open about my beliefs: Christians and conservatives need to be strong and courageous. That’s easy for me to say, because once I started editing WORLD in 1992 academia was not central for me. Even so, I left my tenured professorship in 2007 only after four little Olaskys became big.

We need Christian professors like Mike Adams, a University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor who became a Christian in 2000 and didn’t hide it: Turned down for a well-deserved promotion in 2006, he fought and won a seven-year legal battle. We need alumni who donate only to support particular professors. We need legislators to fund scholarships for excellent students to use at any college or university. Those who believe in Christ specifically or liberty generally should not support the enemies of both. 

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