Colleges have been perceived as liberal bastions for decades, but the latest round of campus culture warring—beginning around 2014 and continuing through the present day—has had a sudden and dramatic impact on conservatives’ perceptions of the Ivory Tower. According to a new Pew survey, Republicans saw colleges and universities as having a “positive effect on the way things are going in the country” by about a 20 point margin until 2015. In the last two years, however, GOP esteem of America’s higher education institutions started to collapse. Today, Republican [sic] 58 percent of Republican voters say colleges have a negative effect on American society, compared to just 36 percent who say they have a positive effect.Writing for the American Interest, Jason Willick explains the current dynamic well:
Most campus lefties will probably look at these numbers as evidence that Republicans are even more anti-intellectual than they thought, and that the #resistance against them needs to be taken up a few notches. This would be a big mistake. The homogenization of leftwing views on college campuses, and the obvious hostility to conservative ones was bound to produce a backlash from conservative voters. That backlash has been wrapped up in class conflict between a highly-credentialed professional class and a working class that finds higher education and the well-paying jobs it provides to the elite increasingly out of reach.And, more importantly, the conservatives hold the purse strings:
Meanwhile, Republicans control an overwhelming share of America’s statehouses, and so have unprecedented power to defund and restructure public higher education. And Congressional Republicans could restrict the flow of student loans that academia depends on or subject massive university endowments to ordinary tax rates (most are currently exempt). In other words, America’s higher education system, as currently structured, depends on consensus support from both parties. If universities continue to torch their reputation with the right, they may find that some of the privileges and resources and social prestige they have become accustomed to will go up in flames as well.This is why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is feuding with the UW system; he'd prefer more money go into undergraduate instruction and less into the scholarly research that fills the obscure journals of academe. He's not wrong in wanting that, and he doesn't particularly care whether the denizens of the UW system excoriate him about his preferences, since they would find another thing to complain about if he weren't digging in their sandbox.
I'm not sure if the Pew survey is correct, but there's little question academe is full of leftists. And as a parent with one child a year away from graduating from a liberal arts college, and also about to send a second child off to college, it's a bit of a conundrum. There are only a couple of explicitly conservative colleges in the country, but my kids never seriously looked at those schools. We haven't been trying to steer the decisions our kids make; as it happens, one school which has had significant issues with protests and outright fakery in the reasons for the protests, was on my daughter's list, but she has already eliminated that school on other grounds. All of the schools on her list are to the left, but at least two are ranked highly for ensuring free speech and avoiding the shouting down of opposing views. My son's school is liberal, but the college president, on my son's orientation day, explicitly said "we must listen to conservative voices" and asserted that conservative views had a place on campus. And her promise has held true. It's a start.