I am increasingly convinced that a mass defunding of public higher education is coming to an unprecedented degree and at an unprecedented scale. People enjoy telling me that this has already occurred, as if I am not sufficiently informed about higher education to know that state support of our public universities has declined precipitously. But things can always get worse, much worse. And given the endless controversies on college campuses of conservative speakers getting shut out and conservative students feeling silenced, and given how little the average academic seems to care about appealing to the conservative half of this country, the PR work is being done for the enemies of public education by those within the institutions themselves. And the GOP has already shown a great knack for using claims of bias against academia, particularly given the American yen for austerity.Honestly given how the average liberal arts professor feels about Republican legislators, it's a marvel that many states provide any funding for higher education at all.
Meanwhile, in my very large network of professional academics, almost no one recognizes any threat at all. Many, I can say with great confidence, would tell you that they don’t want the support of Republicans. There’s little attempt to grapple with the simple, pragmatic realities of political power and how it threatens vulnerable institutions whose funding is in doubt. . . .
In 2010 I wrote of Michael Berube’s What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?, “the philosophy of non-coercion and intellectual pluralism that Berube describes and defends so well isn’t just an intellectual curiosity, but an actual ethos that he and other professors live by, and which defends conservative students.” I grew up believing that most professors lived by that ethos. I don’t, anymore. It really has changed. For years we fought tooth and nail to oppose the David Horowitz’s of the world, insisting that their narratives of anti-conservative bias on campus were without proof. Now, when I try to sound the alarm bells to others within the academy that mainstream conservatism is being pushed out of our institutions, I get astonished reactions – you actually think conservatives should feel welcomed on campus? From arguments of denial to arguments of justification, overnight, with no one seeming to grapple with just how profound the consequences must be. We are handing ammunition to some very dangerous people.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Partisan Bitterness and Higher Education Funding
Polls show that American conservatives have an increasingly negative view of universities, and Freddie de Boer is worried that academic leftists are goading Republican lawmakers into slashing their funding: