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Hillsdale Col­legian

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.

  • Acci­den­tal­Catholic

    This was great a read this morning. I appre­ciate your candor and self-dep­re­cating humor. I am con­fident that it carries you through much of the heavy classes the NYT reporter wishes he had been exposed to even though he’d never admit it as he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Sadly.

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    Con­sider that “true con­ser­vatism” is clas­sical lib­er­alism in judging what is or isn’t “con­ser­vatism”.

    That indi­vidual rights including gender identity are still part of the dialog at Hillsdale tells me the school has a ways to go. Lit­erally, not caring one way or the other on how an indi­vidual chooses to live their live is the true Con­ser­v­ative position.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I think you are probably right. Unfor­tu­nately, the school doesn’t really follow much of the clas­sical liberal stuff anymore, they are way more inter­ested in NRx  — not even kidding, check out some of the English pro­fessors (Smith, Whalen, Stewart in history). This crew doesn’t want freedom from oppression, they want the freedom to oppress!

  • Camus53

    “…we could have been stuck with this headline: Bill Buckley said con­ser­vatism peaked in 1980.’

    It did. And Barry Gold­water the real father of modern Conservatism…the man who lit­erally authored the bible on the subject…warned not just his Repub­lican party but America was facing ruin by the forces of the reli­gious extreme right. The late 70’s into the early 80’s was the end…of so many things…true Con­ser­vatism being one.

    And oh, BTW that new gleaming “chapel” going up on campus…the rewriting of the college’s “mission” to include further clar­i­fi­cation and emphasis on being a Christian institution…is but one more example that yes indeed the music too has died at the school…a long, long time ago.