Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
The Politics of Higher Education
September 19, 2003
Help wanted: Professor with Ph. D. in Nuclear Physics to do research
and teaching: Professor in Classical Literature, Ph. D. required, to
teach graduate students: brain surgeon to continue research and do some
teaching. All must be highly experienced in their fields. Tenure
doubtful, low pay scale. Apply University of Colorado. Oh yes, must
be conservative right wing Republican and never, never, never have said
a single negative word about George Walker Bush.
This is, as we have all noticed, a strongly Republican state. But we
few Democrats can't afford to go to sleep even when the legislature is
not in session. In Colorado, Republicans control the House, the Senate,
the Governor's office, both Senators and five of seven House seats. But
apparently that is not enough. Now they want the Universities.
The Republican leadership is already plotting to make an effort next
year to implement the "Academic Bill of Rights." This is the
brilliant idea of David Horowitz, an outspoken Los Angeles
Conservative. Governor Owens, John Andrews and other top Republican
legislators met this summer with Horowitz to discuss a bill that would
require Colorado colleges and Universities to seek more conservatives in
faculty hiring and in inviting speakers to the University.
It is pretty far beyond my imagination to believe that a nuclear
physicist would have time to influence the politics of his students, or
that he would have any interest in doing so. But the possibility
worries the Republicans in the Lege.
This is such a silly idea that it is hard to write about it seriously.
For one thing, the Lege has a pretty low opinion of higher education to
start with. The institutions of higher education don't rate very high
on the financial scale. Betsy Hoffman, the bruised and battered
president of CU, reported that the university has lost $223.9 million in
state funding during the last three years.
True, statistics show that there really are more Democrats than
Republicans teaching at CU. Maybe one reason is that Republicans
generally head for business and the professions where the money is and
the tax breaks are. Democrats are more likely to become teachers. And
as Ed Quillen reminds us, if you are college professor you might have
noticed that the Democrats generally support more funding for higher
education than Republicans do. That might mean a pay raise and some
better equipment for one of the labs.
This whole idea isn't as simple as Horowitz seems to think. Ideas
change as we grow. Todd Gleason, dean of CU College of Arts and Science
at CU pointed out that even if someone is found to be faithful to the
ideology of the moment, that may not be satisfactory over the long
hall. He added, "Parties evolve over a real short period of time. A
tenured professor of economics hired for his conservative
balance-the-budget views in 1992 likely would be (gasp) a Howard Dean
supporter today." Remember, Whizzer White was appointed by Jack Kennedy,
and Hillary Clinton was a "Goldwater Girl" at Wellesley. And let's face
it, I was a Republican until Nixon.
David Milofsky, a professor of English at Colorado State University said
that the idea of choosing faculty members for their politics is "right
out of Nazi Germany." Not even Joe McCarthy tried that one.
CU is being criticized for having only liberal guest speakers. Hmmm.
Recently they have entertained Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, Charlton
Heston, George Bush, Sr. and Dinesh D'Souza, to name a few. That really
only leaves Karl Rove and the President himself, both of whom are hard
to schedule out here in the boonies.
Gail Schoettler wrote last week, "Playing politics with colleges and
universities will wreak havoc on our children's education. It is time
for the mind police to deal with the serious problems facing our state,
not with forcing their own narrow ideology into the minds of children."
Guess the best we can do is hope the kids can learn to think for