ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Changing Face of Undergraduates

April 23, 2005 by ACTA

City Journal editor Brian Anderson's new book, South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias, is a trenchant and timely analysis of how the rise of conservative mass media marks a major revolution in both the quality and tone of political debate in this country. Anderson devotes chapters to conservative talk radio, the FOX News Channel, conservative book publishing, Comedy Central's irreverent anti-PC cartoon South Park, and the blogosphere. He also devotes a riveting chapter to the college campus, arguing that even as the professoriate remains overwhelmingly liberal, the student body is gradually becoming increasingly conservative.

Anderson notes that six years ago, there were only 400 campus chapters of the College Republicans, whereas today there are 1,148 chapters with over 120,000 members; by contrast, there are only about 900 College Democrats chapters, serving about 100,000 members. Noting the increasing popularity of conservative student organizations such as gun clubs and right-of-center student publications, Anderson observes that over the past decade there has been a "general rightward shift in college students' views":

Back in 1995, reports UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, 66 percent of freshmen felt that the wealthy should pay a fatter chunk of taxes. Today, only 50 percent do. Some 17 percent of students now think it's important to take part in an environmental program, half the percentage that did in 1992. Support for abortion stood at two-thirds of students in the early 1990s; now it's just over half. A late-2003 Harvard University's Institute of Politics study found that college kids had moved to the right of the general population, with 31 percent identifying themselves as Republican, 27 percent as Democrats, and the rest independent or unaffiliated. "College campuses aren't a hotbed of liberalism anymore," Dan Glickman, director of the Institute of Politics, commented about the findings of the survey. "It's a different world." (141)

Anderson suggests that the rise of campus conservatism has much to do with the palpable failure of the Left to confront the post-9/11 world intelligibly. He also notes that when the prevailing campus orthodoxy is liberal—as evidenced by the speech codes, mandatory sensitivity training, and politically one-sided curricula that have become all too common features of the undergraduate experience—conservatism begins to look like a radical, even subversive stance.

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