I'm not pushing any political views with this post but the article below caught me funny today. There is mention of UC Berkeley in it.
It's an opinion in The Harvard Crimson:
It's an opinion in The Harvard Crimson:
Conservatives Keep Cool
Short-sighted liberals help reinforce the appeal of the right wing
Published On Thursday, April 10, 2008 11:54 PM
By LUCY M. CALDWELL
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I happened to wake up last Friday in the wee hours of the morning when my phone buzzed, notifying me of e-mail. Thank goodness I did, for what I discovered as I willed my eyes open around 3:15 a.m. was an urgent message from the Harvard College Democrats. In an email sent by Samuel B. Novey ’11, the student group’s Communication Director, the Harvard Dems called on its rival organization, the Harvard Republicans Club (HRC), to denounce the tactics of Republican heavyweight Karl Rove, who was set to speak at the College the next afternoon.
Oh, the depravity of the HRC board’s invitation to Rove, former deputy chief of staff and a key adviser to President George W. Bush. According to the early morning press release, the Dems welcomed the visit of Karl Rove to Harvard only as a “historical reminder of the dirty and dishonest Bush campaigns, which stood in diametrical opposition to the spirit of an engaged democracy and exploited those petty qualities that represent the darker side of the American psyche: bigotry, dishonesty, and fear.” In fact, the Dems’ press release went so far to venture that the welcoming of Rove, who has been implicated in several media-driven political controversies in recent years, was inconsistent with the HRC’s purported goal of fostering intellectual growth.
All of this struck sleepy me as rather strong language to characterize the extension of a speaking invitation to a middle-aged man who has made his career as a brilliant political strategist (so much so, in fact, that when I woke up a few hours later, I thought I’d dreamt the entire incident). But not so, according to Dems President Jarret A. Zafran ’09. When I phoned him up earlier this week, he told me he had not been criticized at all for the press release, and that his statements “were pretty par for the course.”
Zafran stressed that the Dems’ press release had not been intended to squelch political debate. “It’s just a question of why [Karl Rove] of all people to invite,” he said. “People know the name but I don’t think they always know what these guys have done.” In fact, Zafran suggested to me that this denouncement was, essentially, “the same thing that happened on Columbia’s campus when Ahmadinejad came.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in case anyone’s forgotten, is the current President of Iran, who, in addition to favoring the dissolution of Israel and denying the Holocaust occurred, is anti-gay and anti-gender equality. The only equivalent denouncement conducted by the HRC that Zafran could think of was the club’s criticism of last year’s worker’s wages hunger strike led by the Student Labour Action Movement. But as Zafran conceded, that was a denouncement of a cause, not of an individual.
Though very little came of last week’s episode—the Rove show went on as the Dems huffed and puffed—the affair speaks to the state of conservatism at Harvard. Unquestionably, conservatives (and to an even greater extent, Republicans) are a minority on Harvard’s campus, yet they are able to garner attention—and moreover, to appear exceedingly reasonable—thanks to debacles like this one. More astute liberals realize this paradox. A member of the Dems, who wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid strain within his student group, told me he thought the denouncement had been “a missed opportunity” on the part of the Dems’ Executive Board to “pose some tough questions to Rove” as opposed to just stating criticisms of his character—a suggestion that came too late, perhaps.
This misstep on the part of the Dems is hardly unique to Harvard. An article in the Wall Street Journal in 2006 described the Republican scene at UC-Berkeley, historically amongst the most liberal colleges in the country. Despite the scant population of conservatives at Berkeley, the Berkeley College Republicans have managed to become one of the biggest groups on campus—with over 650 members, it is bigger than its rival group, the Cal Berkeley Democrats.
Being a conservative in college can be tough, and the absurdity of what HRC President Caleb L. Weatherl ’10 dubs the “typical liberal groupthink that dominates most college campuses” can make otherwise apathetic right-wingers care, further fostering a tender camaraderie among conservative students and faculty alike. This is a natural impulse, of course—when we feel as if something we stand for is under attack, we naturally perk up in its defense. That the Dems were not interested in upholding Rove’s right to speak and be judged on his ideas speaks to this pulse.
Weatherl chuckled when I asked him what the effect of the Dems’ press release had been, if any, on his group’s event. “I think to the extent that it actually had an effect—and I say that because I don’t think most people actually care about the Harvard College Dems putting out a denouncement about Rove—it was great publicity for the HRC and the event,” he said.
In other words, for conservatives at Harvard, this has ceased to be a story of martyrdom. Hilariously, when student organizations like the Harvard College Democrats pull stunts like last week’s, it’s a boon for conservatives. As Weatherl told me with a twinkle in his eye, “I appreciate the fact that the Dems are acknowledging the important work the HRC is doing on campus,” adding that he hopes the Dems will continue to issue such press releases. I hope so too, though maybe not so early in the morning next time.