ways to limit their exposure to what
they considered to be politically correct
content by simply not taking those
courses. When we asked about grade
retaliation and efforts at indoctrination,
we were told that Eastern’s eminent
scholars would not stoop so low.
What is the role of outside
organizations in politics on campus?
The amount of money pouring into
conservative causes from outside
organizations historically has outpaced
money for liberal causes.
For example, the Young Americas
Foundation, a tax-exempt organization
founded in the late 1960s, boasted
more than $59 million in assets
with expenditures of approximately
$20 million in 2014. YAF fuels
the provocative style we found so
prevalent at Western Public. Another
organization, called the Leadership
Institute, had $30 million in assets in
2015, and spent nearly $14 million that
year supporting conservative students
online, on campus, and in their
training facilities in Arlington, Virginia.
The organization keeps a database of
leftist faculty and biased textbooks
on 2,000 campuses, and it has trained
tens of thousands of college students
to use advanced technology to get the
conservative message out.
A newcomer to the scene is Turning
Point USA, founded in 2012 by then-
20-year-old Charlie Kirk. Billing itself
as a “24/7-365 activist organization,” its
goal is to identify, train, and organize
students to promote conservative
principles. With the motto “Late to bed,
early to rise, work like hell and organize,”
Turning Point USA is responsible for
the Professor Watchlist, a database of so-called liberal and leftist professors.
There are a few organizations whose goals are to nurture civil disposition. One of these
is the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, founded in the 1950s by William F. Buckley. ISI
advertises itself as the premiere organization for the “best and the brightest” among
conservative students. It is not as rich as YAF or the Leadership Institute, but its
membership is illustrious and links conservative students who wish to be journalists with
high-profile outlets like National Review and Weekly Standard.
Political development — particularly for conservatives — is shaped not only by family
and college, but also by organizations committed to creating the next generation of leaders.
How can administrators and professors work to reconcile partisan divides on
I believe it is possible to minimize provocation between conservative students and
others, which is a fundamental concern at this time of heightened polarization.
Administrators must think about ways to create and strengthen organizational
structures that can help all students feel connected to their university and part of a
First, I would not advise leaders to bar incendiary speakers from campus, no matter
how hateful their speech may appear to be. It’s unconstitutional, impractical, and it
backfires. Second, the national organizations are not going away. It is not an option for
universities to plan for a future in which outside groups are not encouraging students to
What colleges and universities can do is bolster mundane organizational arrangements
on university campuses, like a lower student-to-faculty ratio, and if this isn’t possible
because of funding, then making sure there are more staff on campus — in residential life,
admissions, or administration — who are responsible for getting to know students and
who can serve as mentors and advisors. Such relationships bind students to campus, build
rapport, and help students who feel like cogs in a machine to become more integrated in
It also means getting rid of easy majors and challenging students to think of themselves
as members of an intellectual community of peers where they can try out and refine their
political ideas. It means more emphasis on engaged teaching, more office hours, more
faculty connection to students, more efforts at modeling what it looks like to critically
appreciate one’s campus. It means on-campus housing at public universities, which
anchors students in more diverse living situations.
There are also some things that conservative students should do, particularly those
inclined to provocation. As professors, administrators, and TAs need to be circumspect
about classroom practices, students also have to hold up their end of the bargain. If right-leaning student clubs choose to play gotcha politics, they aren’t going to make life easier
for themselves as a group or as individuals who could benefit from closer, more trusting
relationships with faculty. Conservative students should consider visiting faculty one-on-one, where they are likely to discover that most professors are interested in and respectful
of their ideas. One major commonality that we found among both Eastern and Western
students was the contention that they received a superior education to their liberal peers
because they regularly had their beliefs challenged.
If both students and faculty are open to engaging with beliefs other than their own, all
stand to learn more.