New York Times: Colleges Should Embrace Intellectual Diversity

The Associated Press

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni argued that universities need to do a better job of embracing Trump-minded students, in a column that was published on Saturday.

According to a survey by the education website Inside Higher Ed, a large chunk of universities around the country have consciously committed themselves to recruiting more students from rural areas. 30 percent of universities told Inside Higher Ed that they were committed to recruiting students from poor white families. Only 8 percent said they were committed to recruiting politically conservative students.

Bruni zoned in on the schools who have yet to establish a commitment to intellectual diversity. One faculty member at a progressive institution told Bruni that the lack of engagement with conservative thought and Trump supporters has lead to troubling stereotypes about Trump’s base.

“The idea that the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth is really so extraordinary, and yet I think that’s largely what people in the academy think,” said Jean Yarbrough, a conservative professor of political science at Bowdoin College who voted for Trump last November. She claims that her fellow faculty members view last year’s presidential election as “an illegitimate election, so they’re not worried about their being out of touch with America.”

“After the election I sensed, from talking to leaders of colleges, a lot of soul-searching about the fact that college presidents and students assumed that one thing was going to happen on Election Day and it did not,” Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Ed, said in a comment to the Times. “Some people woke up the day after the election and realized that every surrounding county voted in a different way than the college did.”

Despite the issues with ideological conformity on campus, Bruni highlighted some of the universities that have made efforts to embrace and even promote conservative thought.

The University of Colorado, Boulder, announced in 2013 that they would establish a “visiting scholar in conservative thought” position, which would bring someone new from the political right to the faculty each year.

Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, wrote earlier this year that “to create deeper intellectual and political diversity, we need an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.” Roth announced that Wesleyan would commit itself not only to admit at least ten military veterans each year but that they would offer a course on the philosophy of free enterprise.

Bruni finished his column with a clarification. “I’m not suggesting that colleges normalize Trump, validate everyone who backed him or make room for the viciously bigoted sentiments he often stoked. But there’s inquisitive, constructive territory short of that,” he finished.

 

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