Essay Blaming Colleges for Republican Disapproval Was Dishonest

To the Editor:

Your decision to print Peter Wood’s piece, “Colleges Are to Blame for the Contempt in Which They’re Held” (The Chronicle, July 12), was an unfortunate editorial choice. Right-wing outfits like those represented by Mr. Wood serve a simplistic, intellectually vapid purpose which allows them to conveniently select stories about students or faculty behaving poorly in a specific moment and generalize that such actions are indicative of what happens at institutions of higher learning nationwide.

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2013-2014 the U.S. had over 3,000 four-year colleges and over 1,600 two-year colleges. Given the sheer number of colleges and college students in the nation, it is inevitable that there will be an occasional incident such as the unfortunate response at Middlebury directed towards conservative theorist Charles Murray. The problem is that outfits like Mr. Wood’s exacerbate the myth that virtually all students and faculty are burning the midnight oil to muffle the opinions of conservatives. This is a bald-faced lie, of course. Likewise, Mr. Wood’s claim that colleges are held in low esteem is false. The Pew poll cited in his piece showed that the majority of Americans believe that colleges and universities are a positive thing for the country. Only a majority of Republicans — the group of voters presently led astray by Donald Trump and his fact-free form of politics — is on the wrong side of the question.

I am fortunate to serve as the faculty advisor for our chapters of the College Republicans and Young Democrats. I would also gladly serve as sponsor and advisor for a Libertarian or a Green Party club on campus should students seek to organize them. I have also helped bring guest speakers of all political persuasions to campus to engage our students. Ideological diversity and respect for the views of our citizens is essential in the free marketplace of ideas on campus. However, Mr. Wood’s piece merely serves to promote the dishonest notion that our institutions of learning are hotbeds for radicalism and political anarchy.

Nathan R. Shrader
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Director of American Studies
Millsaps College
Jackson, Miss.

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