Columnists, Higher Education, Jon Caldara

Caldara: Conservatives to be occasionally seen but not heard at CU

Ideological diversity is so rare in the ranks of higher education they on occasion bring a conservative professor in for show and tell to teach the kids what these near-extinct creatures look like.

Kinda like in grade school when someone from the zoo would bring in a monkey or sloth for the kids to gawk at.

My alma mater, the University of Colorado at Boulder, does this with their visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization.

Ideological diversity is so rare at CU that to give our kids even the smallest chance to witness a conservative, private individuals (bless ‘em) have to donate money to fly one in.

The army of leftist professors and faculty that run every part of CU are paid for by your tax money and your kid’s tuition. In order for your kid to have the tiniest exposure to conservative thought, people have to donate enough money above and beyond that to make it happen.

I’ve met and interviewed nearly all of the visiting scholars over the years of this program. I always ask them, “So, how do all the progressive professors and faculty treat you” and wait for the same response. Invariably the answer is, “Oh they’ve been surprisingly nice and supportive, and we’ve had some great conversations.”

Of course, they’ve treated you fine! You’ll be gone in less than a year! You are no threat to the massive systematic imbalance of leftist thought on campus.

In the bullying, bureaucratic power struggle in the fortresses of higher ed, tenured staff run everything including, for all intents and purposes, the administration and regents who are supposed to run them.

Some freak conservative who parachutes in for a year is nothing more than an entertaining weekend guest and absolutely no threat to their power structure. And “power structure” is the right term.

After three adept conservative presidents, Hank Brown, Bruce Benson and now Mark Kennedy, and years of Republican majorities on the Board of Regents, CU still has to rely on outside donations to get a conservative teacher on campus.

And this from a school that jams “diversity” indoctrination down the throats of all students. In higher ed diversity is about what’s between your legs not what’s between your ears.

CU gives the illusion as a safe harbor for untested or even unpopular ideas. In reality it is only safe harbor for leftist ideas. I offer the tenured ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill as exhibit A.

The most recent visiting scholar in conservative thought, John Eastman, recently expressed an unpopular legal opinion — Kamala Harris is ineligible to be vice president because her parents were living in the U.S. on a visa when she was born and therefore “merely temporary visitors.” This is a valid constitutional issue that has yet to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, of course he was pilloried for it.

He wrote on his constitutional argument in an op-ed for Newsweek magazine, with his friend Eugene Volokh taking the other side. (In a shocking and unrelated story, there is still a Newsweek magazine.)

Progressives, showing their love of ideological diversity, immediately condemned Eastman’s expression of his idea as racist and xenophobic.

Newsweek quickly knelt to the cancel culture with an apologetic editor’s note, “But to many readers, the essay inevitably conveyed the ugly message that Senator Kamala Harris, a woman of color and the child of immigrants, was somehow not truly American…All of us at Newsweek are horrified that this op-ed gave rise to a wave of vile Birtherism directed at Senator Harris.”

CU Chancellor Phil Distefano needed to calm the outrage from his professionally offended CU staff. In an email to faculty he wrote, “Even if he did not intend it, Professor Eastman’s op-ed has marginalized members of our CU Boulder community and sown doubts in our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.”

A law professor puts forward a legal argument and the institutional pillars of the First Amendment, higher ed and the press, feel they must apologize for it?

To Newsweek’s and CU’s credit they didn’t remove the op-ed or the visiting scholar. But they both slapped the Scarlet Letter of scorn, shame and isolation on him.

The message is clear. Conservatives are to be seen, not heard.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tan in Denver.

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