For all the talk of left-wing bias in academia, little notice has been given to the right's growing influence on America's college campuses. As part of the conservative message machine's decades-long project to spread its ideology, the right currently pumps over $35 million a year into college campuses, funding speakers, backing conservative papers, and pampering young leaders with internships and job opportunities.
In the past month, however, two promising organizations have emerged to aggressively counter the right's operations and promote progressive values on campuses and beyond.
The Center for American Progress officially launched its Campus Progress initiative in February, and has already created significant media buzz with its "Name Ann Coulter's Next Book" contest (the winning submission was "Roosevelt: Wheelchair-Riding, America-Hating Terrorist"). Campus Progress currently provides funding to fourteen progressive college papers nationwide, sponsors film screenings and lectures by CAP fellows and progressive leaders, and in July, will host a national student conference in Washington. (In addition to providing speakers to the lecture circuit, The Nation will be co-sponsoring the student conference.)
The Roosevelt Institution, America's first national student-run think thank, also emerged this February. Independently launched by students at Stanford University, the Roosevelt Institution hopes to counter the far-reaching impact of right-wing think tanks-- such as Stanford's own Hoover Institution--with fresh progressive ideas and policy suggestions. Instead of seeing student papers such as Jenny Tolan's thesis on AIDS in Africa filed away, the Roosevelt Institution is ensuring that these findings are brought to the attention of the public.
"Progressive students are already generating smart, bold ideas in their classes everyday," Kai Stinchcombe, president of the think tank, told the Stanford Daily. "The Roosevelt Institution fills a huge, but relatively simple, need by providing an infrastructure to forward those ideas to the public, to influence the decision makers." The institution has grown rapidly since its inception, opening branches at Yale, Columbia, Middlebury; dozens of other schools have chapters underway.
The campus left looks more organized and unified than it has been in decades.
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Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker, and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.