Academia has a well-deserved reputation as a citadel of the left, but conservatives made great strides on college campuses in 2005.
There are now nearly 700 active, independent conservative groups at colleges and universities in all 50 states. Students started nearly four dozen new conservative campus newspapers in 2005, bringing the total to 153.
Predictably, the advancing campus conservative movement draws a strong reaction from the entrenched campus left. The reaction comes in a variety of forms, from stringent speech regulations to outright violence. But it's always outrageous -- and never has it been more outrageous than in 2005.
Five examples of close-minded resistance stand above the rest.
#5: Stetson University bans student magazine because of "offensive" Jay Leno quote. When the denizens of the ivory tower start using buzzwords like "sensitivity," common sense is normally the first casualty. This was quite literally the case at Florida's Stetson University, where a conservative student magazine named Common Sense ran into problems for quoting "offensive" material from NBC's Tonight Show.
After Common Sense debuted this past fall, Stetson's Senior Vice President Jim Beasley sent a memo to editor-in-chief Frank Ganz complaining about the offensive quote. Beasley also groused about a photo featuring an unidentified dorm window with a rainbow flag and a superimposed question mark and demanded to preview each issue of Common Sense before distribution.
Ironically, this crackdown on conservative speech was done, according to Beasley, because of Stetson's commitment to "diversity" and "sensitivity."
#4: Bucknell University hunts political correctness. Major John Krenson spent a tour of duty in Afghanistan tracking down people who wanted to kill Americans. So when the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) announced he would be speaking on campus, they mentioned he had served his country by "hunting terrorists" in Afghanistan.
The phrase "hunting terrorists" struck a nerve with Bucknell's administration. Kathy Owens, executive assistant to the university president, called the BUCC leadership to her office to tell them the phrase was offensive.
For years, the BUCC has criticized the university's restrictions on free speech. Once again, the Bucknell administration helped them prove their point.
#3: Western Michigan professor gets pushy with conservative student. A leftist made national news with a bizarre salad dressing assault of Pat Buchanan at Western Michigan University last spring. But Buchanan wasn't the only conservative who had a run-in with that school's left wing.
Student Matt Hall, one of the event organizers, discovered Women's Studies Professor Edith Fisher had helped organize students to tear down signs promoting the speech. When Hall tried to recover his group's signs from the trash, Fisher tried to stop him, allegedly pushing him in the back and elbowing him out of the way. Fisher admitted to stealing the flyers and standing in Hall's way when he tried to recover them, though she denied pushing Hall.
Pat Buchanan tried to express his views at Western Michigan; he certainly didn't deserve a face full of salad dressing. Matt Hall tried to bring new ideas to campus, and he deserved a lot better, too -- especially from a professor.
#2: Mankato State University's student government shakedown. Some administrators will go so far as to put a student's academic career in jeopardy to advance an agenda. Just ask Adam Weigold of Minnesota's Mankato State University.
An outspoken campus conservative, Weigold ran into trouble when he won the student government presidency. Some administrators expressed concern his cabinet wouldn't be "multicultural" enough. Then the university applied some academic policies retroactively -- punishing Weigold for semesters that had been considered perfectly acceptable until the new policies went into place -- and placed him on academic suspension.
Showing all the subtlety of Michael Corleone, administration officials told Weigold any official appeal would be rejected and encouraged him to resign his position as student body president. They gave him an administrative run-around and even mocked his beliefs as a born-again Christian, telling that the suspension would be a good time to do mission work.
The left dominates many campuses, but Mankato State crossed a line by allowing that to affect a student's academic career.
#1: Siena College boots student for posting Bible verses. Some colleges don't even bother trumping up academic charges to enforce a suspension and simply punish political speech directly.
Steven Bierfeldt wanted to educate students at Siena College in upstate New York about the Catholic Church's views on homosexual behavior. So he posted relevant Bible verses pertaining to the subject on flyers around campus.
One would think that at a Catholic college, Biblical discussions are fair game. The administration disagreed when the head of the gay and lesbian student group filed judicial charges against Bierfeldt for posting the flyers.
For the crime of posting Bible verses, the nominally Catholic Siena administration suspended Bierfeldt from campus until the offended student graduated or left (she was, at the time, a graduating senior).
The suspension negated all Bierfeldt's credits for the Spring 2005 semester. And, not surprisingly, Steve didn't get his tuition check for that semester back.
Steve has since transferred. Siena has yet to apologize.