February 23, 2006


Princeton Tilts Right (MAX BLUMENTHAL, March 13, 2006, The Nation)

[T]here is another side to [Robert P.] George, less tolerant, ferociously partisan and intimately connected to wealthy organizations that wish explicitly to inject their politics into the universities--a side better known by Beltway Republicans and right-wing Christian activists than on the long green lawns of Princeton. He's been a presence at the White House over the past five years, stopping by no fewer than five times to counsel George W. Bush on such issues as the faith-based initiative, what he calls "Catholic social ethics" and Supreme Court nominations. He also serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, where he has worked to obstruct federal funding of stem cell research, and he helped write an amendment on behalf of the White House calling for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

With access and top-rank academic credentials, George has become a sought-after right-wing pundit, penning columns for National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and recently guest-blogging on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination battle for the Family Research Council, the Christian right lobbying outfit that planned a series of televised rallies for Bush's judicial picks called "Justice Sunday."

George has brought his conservatism to bear at Princeton through the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, an academic center he founded in 2000 "to sustain America's experiment in ordered liberty." On the surface, the program appears modeled after institutions like Princeton's Center for Human Values and New York University's Remarque Institute. However, it functions in many ways as a vehicle for conservative interests, using funding from a shadowy, cultlike Catholic group and right-wing foundations to support gatherings of movement activists, fellowships for ideologically correct visiting professors and a cadre of conservative students.

George's program has become the blueprint for the right's strategy to extend and consolidate power within the university system. Stanley Kurtz described the plan for National Review this past April: "Princeton's Madison Program is a model for solving the political-correctness problem in the academy as a whole. We may not be able to do much about tenured humanities and social science faculties at elite colleges that are liberal by margins of more than 90 percent. But setting up small enclaves of professors with more conservative views is a real possibility."

The creation of the Madison Program would not have been possible without the acquiescence of Princeton's administration, which, after permitting its establishment, has embraced it. In doing so, Princeton has become a testing ground for the latest phase in the right's effort to politicize the academy. And while George maintains that his agenda at Princeton is above politics, even his friends describe him as a savvy right-wing operative boring from within the liberal infrastructure. As an article in Crisis, a conservative Catholic magazine then published by George's ally Deal Hudson, pithily put it in 2003, "If there really is a vast, right-wing conspiracy, its leaders probably meet in George's basement."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2006 4:01 PM

Judging by the arch, conspiratorial tone of this piece, it was piped in from the mirror universe where Spock has a beard--and universities are objective sources of learning entirely free of ideology, right?

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at February 23, 2006 4:13 PM

Taking back the judiciary is utterly trivial compared to the momentous effort that would be required to pull the academic world back to sanity.

Posted by: b at February 23, 2006 4:23 PM


If the folks running Washington keep hiring from the Patrick Henry's of the world we can create an alternate academia.

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2006 4:27 PM


Pull? Perhaps a better verb is displace. It will be a monumental effort, as you note. But remember, much of the academic world is providing an enormous (if unaware) assist.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 23, 2006 4:31 PM

More unreality. That's what happens when your magazine is basically a trust-fund baby.

Posted by: Twn at February 23, 2006 4:56 PM

Sorry, but no. The idea that a single conservative professor, even someone as brilliant and forceful as Robert George, can "tilt" a university like Princeton to the right is preposterous. This article (from The Nation) simply highlights the complete intolerance (and paranoia) of the Left to any conservative voices on campus. I have written about this issue twice. Princeton is a thoroughly leftwing institution, as any non-liberal alumni (myself included) will tell you. See my article "Princeton's Feminist President," on AmericanThinker.com. Moreover, the notion that isolated cells of conservatives can successfully counter the dominant leftwing agenda of schools like Princeton is, I think, deeply misguided and ultiamtely self-defeating. See my article "Reclaiming Higher Education From The Left," also on AmericanThinker.com.

Posted by: Steven M. Warshawsky at February 23, 2006 5:05 PM

The changes must come from the students with the help of sympathetic alumni. The faculty and administration with very few exceptions will fight kicking and screaming to the end.

Posted by: erp at February 23, 2006 5:10 PM

"funding from a shadowy, cultlike Catholic group and right-wing foundations to support gatherings of movement activists, fellowships for ideologically correct visiting professors and a cadre of conservative students."

Yep, no ideologically correct professors on the left, and no cadre of leftist grad students.

Let's all pretend that centers for "gender studies", "peace" and the like don't exist on virtually every campus and that they don't serve a function much more ideological than anything George has tried at Princeton.

Of course, those lefty political indoctrination centers aren't funded by "shadowy" orgs. The Left doesn't need them, they've got the Ford Foundation, the Mellon, Fulbrights, etc.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 23, 2006 5:35 PM

Why try to tilt liberal universities to the right anyway - there are plenty of conservative universities of renoun out there - it is a matter of focus. No one in my part of the country has any respect for a Harvard degree - you'd get more respect to say you are a high school dropout.

Posted by: Shelton at February 23, 2006 5:48 PM

I'd hire someone from a respectable midwest christian college like Bethel University before someone from Harvard. (And no you don't need to be a Christian to attend.)

Posted by: Gideon at February 23, 2006 6:12 PM

We are here talking about the same Princeton that gave an endowed, tenured chair to Peter Singer, aren't we?

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 23, 2006 7:23 PM

Shelton, where are these "plenty conservative universities of reknown" of which you speak?

Posted by: erp at February 23, 2006 7:30 PM

Princeton has become a testing ground for the latest phase in the right's effort to politicize the academy.

Two questions:

1.) So up until now, the academy hasn't been politicized?

2.) Do these guys have any idea how funny they sound?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 23, 2006 7:56 PM

you could wipe every ivy league uni off the map, and it wouldn't harm the country a bit. not like they are important in the way MIT is.

Posted by: toe at February 23, 2006 8:13 PM

This is a silly topic anyway. The only credibility the academic left has is with a portion of the student body and of course themselves. Most people don't take them serious.

Posted by: mike at February 23, 2006 8:54 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of some of the big guys like Notre Dame and Baylor which do have their fair share of liberals with emphasis on the word fair. They also have moderately conservative administrators and BODs, and an overwhelmingly conservative student body. Their size and budget also give the students more opportunities than some of the smaller liberal arts colleges that are famous for their conservatism.

Posted by: Shelton at February 24, 2006 10:03 AM