Universities are often seen as (and accused of being) hotbeds for progressive, liberal, or “leftist” thought. While in some manner they may be, a quick glance at the financial priorities of many universities reveals a different image: A 2013 New York Times article, “Humanities Studies Under Strain Around Globe,” reveals that the humanities – the home of historians, musicians, linguists, philosophers, religious scholars, thespians, and many other liberal dominated fields – are under attack, with funding reduced dramatically. In 2011, funding for the humanities was at less than 1 percent that of the sciences.
At my own institution, the University of Colorado at Boulder, $156 billion is being spent to renovate athletics. The Boulder Daily Camera article CU tuition hike funded raises for [CU Chancellor] Phil DiStefano, other top administrators reveals exactly what it says. DiStefano, who defended the presence of Milo Yiannopoulos on our campus with the tired “free speech” cliche, was given a $49,000 bonus. At my alma mater, Northern Arizona University, the language arts building was a dilapidated old brick pillbox, while the Franke School of Business (no home for liberals) operates out of a sleek, new castle of metal beams and fiberglass. It’s a clear pattern that athletics gets more funding than academics at many universities, and merely walking into the building of a finance or business school on campus reveals that much more wealth goes into those areas. Universities are not the bastions of leftism that we sometimes suppose.
Nevertheless, there are some to whom this “radical leftist” institution is a prime target. Breitbart News editor Charlie Kirk, 23, founded Turning Point USA in 2012 as a conservative student group dedicated to promoting “free markets, fiscal responsibility and limited government” on university campuses. Beyond that superficial description, TPUSA hosts Professorwatchlist.org, a McCarthyist project aiming to “expose” and “document” professors who “advance a leftist agenda in the classroom.”
Here’s where things get interesting: TPUSA was the organization pushing Milo Yiannopoulos onto campuses. Now that Milo has fallen because he was recorded promoting sexual violence against children, TPUSA wants to quietly drop that buck. Unfortunately, TPUSA still has prominent speaker Ivan Throne, a self-described psychopath and narcissist who promotes “pick-up artist theory,” a thinly veiled normalization of sexual manipulation by men of women, who is scheduled to speak at the Western Regional Conference on March 18th and 19th in Denver, CO. Other speakers promoted by TPUSA (though who may not be at the conference) include Tomi Lahren, a professional troll; Alex Epstein, a self-knighted “philosopher” and follower of Ayn Rand; Nick Adams, who’s list of accomplishments includes endorsing Chuck Norris for president; Lawrence Reed, an august, venerable economist of the bankrupt Austrian economic tradition; and a cadre of other intellectuals from the Cato Institute and other right wing think tanks.
A Truth Revolt article, “Turning Points USA Mobilizes Young Conservatives,” barely mentions that Kirk received “some start-up funds from millionaire investor Foster Friess [an evangelical christian activist]”. How much? Hard to say, but given (1) the rapid growth of the group – according to the Truth Revolt article dated to 2015 there were 800 chapters, and TPUSA’s website currently says over 350 chapters across the U.S. – and given that (2) Kirk lived in his parent’s basement for the first three years of the organization (suggesting that his personal funds were woefully inadequate to start a project like this), this necessitates a large donation. Members can apply for an activism kit and TPUSA HQ will send them – for free– an entire package for tabling, postering, literature to distribute, and all sorts of other resources. TPUSA’s activism includes “affirmative action bake sales” where they charge white people more for cookies than colored people; “Union hotdog stands,” where two stands are set up, one “union” and the other “right to work,” and the former charges $25 per dog, the other $2; “build your own safe spaces” where people are handed crayons and stuffed bears; and other dishonest and hypocritical propaganda techniques.
A leaked text conversation, discussed in an article at The Lantern titled “Leaked documents, audio: Conservative Turning Point USA quietly funding student government campaigns across U.S,” reveals that one of TPUSA’s primary strategies is to get conservative leaning students into positions in student government. This would, presumably, allow for greater influence of conservative ideology over the university culture. At the University of Colorado at Boulder (my current university) the president of the College Republicans, Christopher Kohl, is a member of TPUSA and is the Legislative Affairs Chair in the student government.
As troubling as TPUSA is, they are more gentle than Identity Europa, which is an almost openly fascistic student organization, promoting white nationalism: the idea that white people need a safe space to be white, and that that space needs to be an entire nation. Modestly describing themselves as, “A generation of awakened Europeans who have discovered that we are part of the great peoples, history, and civilization that flowed from the European Continent,” Identity Europa is responsible for a slew of posters around college campuses. These posters usually have “Reclaim your heritage” or “Be Great Again” boldly plastered over a picture of Michelangelo’s David or some other piece of classical art.
Their website includes articles promoting race realism from largely discredited academics as J. Phillip Rushton (criticized for trying to use a non-scientific pornographic book in his study of race and sex differences), Kevin MacDonald (who was formally dissociated from California State University for his thinly veiled anti semitism) and Renaissance Project founder Jared Taylor, who went on record after Hurricane Katrina saying that “when blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears. And in a crisis, civilization disappears overnight.” Books like Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone and Guillaume Faye’s Why We Fight, also available through the Identity Europa website, encourage a reactionary mode of thought: That civilization used to be great, and we can make it great again.
This is a battlefield that socialists and leftists of all stripes must meet, contest, occupy and seize. Our university-student comrades might want to look into joining or founding your own leftist or socialist student group to try and combat the right’s infiltration. The original axiom behind the antifascist movement was: Don’t let the fascists have the streets. Our motto must be, don’t let the fascists have the academy. The universities are centers of information, research and education, they cannot fall to the forces of reaction. There needs to be revolutionary spaces on campus, and they won’t be built unless we do it.