Godfathers on Campus

Godfathers on Campus

by Suzanne Levine

Ever wonder how the term “politically correct” became a fashionable assault weapon against progressive thinking on college campuses?

It’s no accident. It’s part of a well-funded conservative marketing campaign to “win the next generation” and stigmatize, and redefine as bigotry, the academic inclusion of non-Western ideas, historically disenfranchised groups, environmental responsibility and cooperative methods for resolving conflicts.

“The right has falsely presented itself as an oppressed minority on campus in order to undermine the progressive gains of the past three decades,” says Dalya Massachi, co-editor of a new 52-page report, “Guide to Uncovering the Right on Campus,” published by the University Conversion Project (UCP), a national clearinghouse for campus activism based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The UCP report traces tens of millions of dollars spent by right-wing groups to dominate the campus political climate, including the funding of more than 100 conservative campus publications that reach more than a million students.

“This is the first time that these activities have been exposed as a nationally coordinated effort by a few wealthy right-wing foundations and organizations,” Rich Cowan, co-editor of the UCP report told On the Issues. “The groups have trained and sponsored thousands of conservative campus activists and journalists.”

Deep pockets include: the Carthage, Scaife, Olin, Coors, Bradley, and Richardson foundations, all of which have a long history of funding right-wing organizations. Three national conservative student organizations receive over $500,000 a year from these foundations: the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, Washington, D.C., the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Bryn Mawr, Pa., and the National Association of Scholars, Rutgers, N.J., a conservative faculty network.

The right’s “send money” strategy effectively fools some of the students some of the time. A nationwide survey compiled by the UCP reveals a growing student distaste for political involvement and an increasingly repressive climate for students and faculty attempting to address such social issues as sexism, racism, homophobia, environmental destruction, and militarism. However, the UCP report finds that most students surveyed want more money spent on education, not war; most women are not abandoning their careers; and multiculturalism and gay rights are gaining acceptance.

The study kicks off the UCP’s ten-month Right Wing on Campus Alert campaign. The group, founded during the Gulf War to promote peace activism and investigative journalism on campus, will be present on more than 100 campuses to help student activists uncover the outside funding of conservative organizations seeking to undermine their aims. For more information, contact the UCP, PO Box 748, Cambridge, MA 02142.