As someone who came to Hillsdale College unaware of the school’s conservative leanings, I was at first shocked to see Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher monumentalized on the quad. The New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm told me he felt the same way the night before he left Hillsdale.
Eckholm said this as he sat in the upstairs apartment of my house. I had invited him over via Twitter. He said he liked music, so I threw a Modern Baseball album on the turntable. A friend who was 21 bought a six pack of Bell’s White Winter Ale for himself and the reporter. We talked.
Eckholm told us that he had been sent to Hillsdale after the Trump election to find out why seven professors at a small Midwestern college would be listed as part of Donald Trump’s intellectual squad. When he arrived and sat in on some of the classes, he saw that rumors he had heard about Hillsdale as a Trump-haven or a GOP training school were not true.
My friend and I asked what would be in his piece: Would he skewer the college for not taking federal funds? Was he going to make a big deal out of our lack of LGBT initiatives? Did Dr. Arnn ask him about the Good?
Like a good reporter, Eckholm did not really answer our questions. He only said he liked our school, our commitment to the classics, and that most of the students around here are courteous and well-dressed. He didn’t like that we don’t participate in affirmative action, and he seemed unsure about the success of the college’s charter school initiative.
But that was then. The article is published now, read and over-analyzed by nearly everyone on campus. Though it sets up a tension between the school’s commitment to freedom and the skin color of the people it regularly admits, that’s a cute and classic Times criticism. Neiman Marcus-clad liberals pitch that puke onto the page every day.
The real story came only after the Times published Eckholm’s article. Some people here were upset the article mentioned “the gay thing.” Others were pleased the Times recognized our school with a feature-length article.
Read the story however you wish — it doesn’t really matter. The Times found a liberal arts college, sent a reporter to talk to people, and then somewhere in the editing process, lost any meaning in the piece to the world of ideology.
And it’s not just the Times that does this. It’s us, too. Someone posts a Townhall article about sexual conduct on Facebook and then everyone’s a pundit unwilling to engage in meaningful debate. Charity and community give way to pride and arrogance.
We’re lucky the Times can’t see past the Staten Island Ferry. We’re fortunate that it’s Black History Month — a great news hook for the non-affirmative-action college about to get a Frederick Douglass statue!
If the Times weren’t so obsessed with its own world view, it could have written some terrible — and true — things about Hillsdale.
Consider this headline: Hillsdale, a school that celebrates the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the man who rose from the racist ashes of the Barry Goldwater campaign and defeated Russian communism, but whose successors failed to instill his ethic in the hearts of Americans.
We’re lucky the Times doesn’t know enough about William F. Buckley to realize that “progeny of Buckley” may not be the compliment they thought it was. If they knew that Buckley was disappointed in his progenies, we could have been stuck with this headline: Bill Buckley said conservatism peaked in 1980. In the minds of Hillsdalians, 1980 is just around the bend.
We could talk and spit until we get lockjaw, but unless we give up our ideologies, nothing will change. The New York Times is liberal organization focused solely on gender, race, and identity. Hillsdale College is a conservative organization stuck on a set principles that — while mostly good, true, and beautiful — are often just upheld as the holy relics of the days of when Gordon Gekko was going to make Bud Fox rich.
Sometimes our two camps can meet in a dinky apartment on East Fayette Street, but even then we’re too busy grooming ourselves to conduct a coherent conversation.
Mr. Rowan is a sophomore studying history and journalism.