24. The Conservative Critique of the Liberal Campus

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
April 28, 2014

24. The Conservative Critique of the Liberal University

Columbia’s problems in the aftermath of 1968 campus disruptions not unique to CU;
Disruptions widespread and in several cases more violent:

1969 — Harvard/Cornell/Stanford/MIT – building occupations/removals by police
Both Harvard and Cornell drop ROTC programs;  can their discredited presidents
Stanford + MIT cut loose labs doing secret research for military
May  1970 – Kent State [4 killed; 9 wounded] — Jackson State [2 killed; 9 wounded]
500 campuses closed following US incursion into Cambodia
Yale – hosting Black Panther trial in New Haven

Fall 1970  UWisconsin  — Army Mathematics Research Center [1 staffer killed; 3 injured]

1972 commencements – BC/CU’s first uneventful ones since 1968

Four years given over to restoring a measure of peace on campus
Cops off campus/CU off the frontpage….

Two other aspects of the budgetary slog back to financial stability

1. Protracted budgetary squeeze occurs at same time University compelled to address
charges of gender discrimination in faculty hiring of women and salaries of women faculty

Numbers put together by Columbia Women’s Liberation (CWL) – CU didn’t keep them by gender…
Pre-1970 – Few women on faculty; those there often paid less than the men
CU told to correct both or forfeit access to federal funding – McGill sets out to do so

2. Impact of CU’s financial troubles on Barnard College
BC less immediately hurt financially by 1968 and aftermath – not running annual deficits
Campus not messed up; Already heavily tuition-dependent ; not so on federal research$
Paid its faculty less; had them teach more….  Able to keep a modest rate of tenuring when
CU virtually stopped promoting junior folks (Foner/Cole)

But in search for savings and increased revenues, CU came to conclude that Barnard  was something of a freeloader; paid little or nothing for important services and benefits attributable to their affiliation;

Library; gym; heating; medical insurance….

Three proposed “claw back” strategies:

1. McGill and his budgeteers — Make Barnard pay for Columbia services at what it would cost
Barnard if CU not next door:
—  BC library costs compared with those of 7 Sisters
BC  response —  Not costing CU that much to provide library access (last seats in a plane…)

2. Dean of Graduate Faculties – George Fraenkel — Make Barnard part of the push for faculty
consolidation/elimination of redundancies…
Make classes taught on one side of Broadway open to students on the other
– expand x-registration across the board to increase class size and decrease # of classes/faculty

How many Chaucer scholars need on MSH??  CU/CC/GS/TC/BC….
How many promotions for young American historians??
1973 – Agreement to make Barnard promotions meet CU specifications/standards – and CU needs – subject to university-wide Ad Hoc Tenure Reviews overseen by CU provost
Merge Barnard faculty with that of Columbia….

3.  Hamilton Hall — Make believe Barnard not there and simply go ahead and admit women to solve CC’s admissions problems, increase size of College w/o lowering standards.
Dean Peter Pouncey in 1975 – fired

McGill – Not on his watch going to destroy Barnard by taking CC co-education —

Barnard response
New president – Martha Peterson out in 1975 after eight years (Trustees thought too accommodating
with McGill??)
New president – Jacqueline Mattfeld – musicologist/MIT/Brown provost
More a real academic/scholar than Peterson —
Won early faculty backing with campaign to achieve salary parity with CU;
Dealings with CU tense – McGill throws up his hands and BC trustees tell president she is not
to interact with CU administrators
JM then informs faculty that they should not either…..
Spring 1980 – BC trustees terminate JM – some budgetary double dealing??
Tells trustees faculty compensation overall up 4%;  but faculty getting 6%??

Acting president – 31-year old Ellen V. Futter (BC 1971) – attorney at Milbank, Tweed….trustee since 1974

Dealings with new CU president – Michael Sovern – one year attempting  to make CC as co-educational in practice as the other Ivies – with BC faculty teaching CC/Lit Hum….
Three problems for Barnard:
Barnard women faculty concerned that they would be consigned to doing the teaching that CU faculty not interested in doing;

Most Barnard classes would have to be made up mostly of CC men;

BC Trustees not –or not any longer – ready to enter into this institutional death spiral…

Problems for Columbia:
Not a clear-cut announcement of going co-educational;
Would not deal with CC’s bottom-of-every-class problem of selectivity;

Xmas 1980 — Sovern informs Futter of CU decision to have CC admit women in 1983;  a “deal” struck to allow
January 1981 — Barnard to come away with something (modest change in the Ad Hoc tenure process)

1970s – tough decade for Columbia
1980s – tough one for Barnard
Its nine-decade virtual monopoly over the training of women undergraduates over;
CC new alternative – and certainly at first a more attractive one for applicants;
Barnard having to develop a different rationale for choosing it – than Columbia;
Columbia has to come around to the point that no benefit to it to beat up on Barnard;

Early tensions between BC and CC women reduced? (Hannah McCaughey, BC ’89)???
Many more BC departments in good relations with CU counterparts than 2 decades ago;
relatively few disputed tenure cases … new arrangements less given to provostial vetos
Barnard does not take up much of PrezBo’s agenda or time….

Best of both worlds….??
A women’s institution for and about  and by (mostly) women
Location in a recovering/safe/seemingly (under Bloomberg) flourishing NYC
CC the 3rd/4th most selective college in the country; Barnard the most selective women’s college in the country

Life’s good??

Come back to the local story  later, time permitting….


The Conservative Indictment of the “Liberal” University

The overwhelmingly critical/dismissive reaction to Wm. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1951)
If Yale godless and collectivist, what of Harvard and Columbia??
No backing from academics, journalists, clergy, foundations, organized labor, politicians

Academic intellectuals doubted the very existence of a “conservative” ideology ever taking root in US;
In 1950s, the handful of conservatives (some ex-Leftists) almost entirely without an institutional base;
National Review

Wall Street?? —
The churches?
Mainline Protestant churches politically liberal (Reinhold Niebuhr, National Council of Churches);
Catholic clergy – most bishops gearing up for Vatican II
Jews – Decidedly liberal – especially on race (as members of NAACP; Legal Defense Fund)
Evangelical churches/ministers – not politically engaged (Billy Graham an exception)
Foundations – Ford Foundation?       No Heritage Foundation/No Free Enterprise Inst/No Koch Brothers
Washington Think Tanks – Brookings Institution
Editorial pages of some papers –  Time/Newsweek/networks…. [No Fox News/no Limbaugh…]

Since early 1930s seen as acceptably liberal/leftist in politics and culture – any conservative campuses??

Early attack on academes’s prevailing politics – its liberalism – more often from the left:
Randolph Bourne; à for its Cold War liberalism ; Mario Savio (“Clark Kerr, a well-meaning liberal”)
Mark Rudd on Ad Hoc Faculty Group;  New Left on academy’s cautiousness in challenging the authorities – Norman Mailer on the storming of the Pentagon….professors not up front at the barricades….

The shift to becoming a target for criticism from without from the Right a late 1960s development:
1. The academy’s outspoken opposition to American military involvement in Vietnam;
raised questions about academe’s patriotism    [haven for draft dodgers]  Hardhats revolts

2. Its embrace, however belated, of the integration of blacks into mainstream America
by way of providing young blacks with preferential access/”quotas”  to universities

3. Is embrace, however belated, of the women’s movement – and its quick alignment with
“Free Choice” in the wake of Roe v. Wade

A general charge — Academe’s  “I’m smarter than you are” elitism
Academe’s utter dismissal of Barry Goldwater – overdone??
Out of ’64 campaign à Ronald Reagan

1968 election – Nixon narrowly beats Humphrey

1972 – Nixon swamps McGovern (Northwestern PhD in history) – Mass. alone in backing Dems.

Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew – “nattering nabobs of negativism”
Norman Podhoretz


Inside academe – Second thoughts
By some senior faculty with second thoughts about behavior of other faculty during campus unrest;
too quick to side with the disrupters? Too cavalier about /indifferent to the need to defend
universities as valued institutions?

Some shook by rise  of anti-Israeli/Pro-Palestinian  sentiment – or absence of understanding
the threat posed  by Arab opposition — on campus in wake of the 7-Day War;

Some willing to endorse Nixon’s re-election in 1972
Free enterprise economists – Milton Friedman and Chicago colleagues….

Among wanna-be academics – confronting a “PhD surplus” that universities and colleges could not begin to absorb – especially when under pressure to make room for women and blacks
— some take to driving cabs; others retread as lawyers or Wall Streeters;
some drawn into politics – and not generally as liberal Democrats

Students – The rise of student conservatism on campus;
Dartmouth Review
Defenders of Israel;  Right-to-Life supporters; Return-of-ROTC-to campusers….

In keeping with shifts in the national political mood since the late 1960s to the 1990s —

1968 – 1992 – 6 presidential elections – Republicans won 5 of them; Nixon much more liberal than Reagan;  George W. P. Bush less a conservative than George W.
Decline of unions as a political force;
Rise of conservative think tanks; conservative media
Shift in Supreme Court to the right after Roe v. Wade
Evangelicals into national politics and university-building:
Oral Roberts University, Liberty University,

American universities as un-American, or  certainly less pro-American than other institutions:

1. The battle over heretofore privileged  “western civilization” courses; especially at Stanford and Yale – not at Columbia   [ “Major Cultures” requirement]
[Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind)
Dinesh D’Souza

2. Resistance to reinstating ROTC programs even in the wake of 9/11; and then basing the opposition on the military’s  “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which many Americans considered quite permissive and some opposed as endorsing/privileging  gay rights;
3. The openness of universities to pro-Palestinian, anti-anti Iranian activity; anti-Israel advocacy — David Horowitz, Campus Watch

4. Most recently: The universities’ reputed cover-up of the extent of sexual violence occurring on campus (akin to the coverup charges made against Catholic bishops)

5.  The universities’ continued identification with “affirmative action,” especially favoring blacks,  when many Americans see doing so unfairly discriminating against non-blacks [legacies, Asian Americans,  economically margin white applicants] who also want in to these universities

Last updated: April 26, 2014

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