Conservatives Cite Progress in Fight Against Liberal College Bias

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - When Roger Custer came to Ithaca College in upstate New York three years ago, he was confronted by a campus he described as a bastion of liberal activity.

From a politics department stacked with liberal-minded professors to a student government that adopted an anti-war resolution last fall, Custer told a packed audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference he has witnessed more than his share of liberal bias.

Just last week, he said, Ithaca College was ready to support a staff member's trip to Iraq with the group Code Pink: Women's Pre-Emptive Strike for Peace. Four campus offices committed $2,000 without knowing it was going toward the anti-war movement.

The staff member ended up withdrawing her request after the campus newspaper raised questions about the voyage, but Custer said it was the latest in a long list of liberal activities at his campus.

Ithaca College is not alone. Conservatives heard tales about other campuses, including Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania, where sophomore Charles Mitchell said every day poses new challenges.

Mitchell said the struggles are sometimes minor, such as problems reserving a meeting room or hosting a conservative speaker. But he said the toughest part is countering the liberal viewpoints of professors.

Despite the troubles facing conservative students, the speakers at Friday's gathering said progress was being made.

Scott Stewart, national chairman of the College Republicans, said the future is bright. Since taking on the job in 1999, the number of college chapters has more than doubled from 409 to 1,148.

College students are also energizing the conservative movement, he said, accounting for about half of the participants at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which is now in its 30th year.

"There are so many more students out working - pounding in the lawn signs, putting on T-shirts, passing out the literature," Stewart said. "They're doing the work that makes democracy happen and that wins for Republicans."

He credited college students for the November victories of U.S. Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, as well as successful voter registration efforts in South Dakota, where Republican John Thune came up 524 votes short in his race for the Senate.

Custer credited the Young America's Foundation for helping the Ithaca College Republicans bring big-name conservatives like Bay Buchanan and Reginald Jones to campus. Their visits set off a fury. The politics department refused to fund Jones' visit during Black History Month and a student wanted the college's Bias-Related Incidents Committee to condemn Buchanan's speech.

The Leadership Institute has also taken steps to help campus conservatives. At Bucknell, for instance, Mitchell said the institute played a vital role when the conservative newspaper came under attack for articles about free speech. At a forum that followed, conservative students were threatened for publishing "hate speech," and even criticized by a campus administrator.

Rich Moha, national director of the Leadership Institute's outreach efforts, said conservatives have made inroads on campuses, but now it's up to them to expose the liberal bias and do something to change it.

"We need to get the alumni who give money and fund these schools to realize what's going on out there," Moha said. "When alumni start calling and asking what's going on, these colleges will start switching their policies."

The more the news media begin reporting on these episodes of liberal bias, the quicker changes are to come, he added. Oftentimes, groups like the Leadership Institute and the Young America's Foundation get the ball rolling.

Both Bucknell and Ithaca appeared on the 2002 Top Ten Campus Follies by the Young America's Foundation. The list highlights the most shameful and ridiculous campus happenings.

For Custer, who is a junior at Ithaca, the incidents of liberal bias have served as a learning experience. He said conservatives should not fear the liberal viewpoints they encountered on college campuses.

"I've learned to be stronger in my conservative principles, and not be embarrassed or pretend that I'm not conservative," he said. "That's what they want you to do. They want you to be intimidated, but don't be intimidated. Stand up for your right to free speech, argue with them, debate them, lay out your principles, and most people will agree with you."

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