Canada: Going Blue-Has Prof's Seeing Red
Barry Artiste, Now Public Contributor
University Students looking at getting into the Halls of Political Power join Fraternities, The Conservative Club and it's Blue Banner of Tory Conservativism, which has seen declining membership in the last decade or so seems to be making a resurgence in popularity with some students and a recent recruitment advertisement may have Liberal Left Professors seeing Red.
Liberal Thinking Professors since the radical 1960's some say are molding Canada's young minds over to the Liberal Red Banner of Ideology. This new Blue strategy may see a equalization of Ideology.
My Final Thought
Having a Military School Education, Tory Blue was the Norm, no other choice required.
Be blue at your school
It hasn't always been cool for university students to join the campus Conservative club. But the Tories are trying to change that with a cheeky new ad campaign.
Andrew Mayeda, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, January 05, 2008
Once considered redoubts for political pariahs, Conservative campus clubs are enjoying a resurgence at Canadian universities and colleges, emboldened by a cheeky ad campaign that encourages students to "freak out their profs" and join the federal party.
Campus-club presidents say membership has increased since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office nearly two years ago. The Conservatives' ascent to power in Ottawa, they say, has had a multiplier effect on campus, enabling clubs to attract centre-leaning students who had not previously identified as conservatives.
The surge is evident at Queen's University, a blue-chip school in Kingston. Despite the university's strong Tory roots, membership in the campus club sank to the low double digits at the start of the decade, when the country's two main conservative parties were still divided.
But more than 200 members now subscribe to the club's e-mail list, and club events can attract as many as 40 people on a "good day," said Alex Bednar, president of the Queen's Campus Conservatives.
"Conservatives almost used to be seen as pariahs. People are now seeing us as a more viable option. The more politically ambitious kids are joining, because they see what's happening in Ottawa," said Mr. Bednar, a 21-year-old history major.
The recruitment drive has been boosted by a series of ads rolled out by the federal Conservatives that poke fun at what they perceive as the left-wing bias at Canadian academic institutions.
One ad shows a woman in glasses, with a blue tagline that says, "Freak out your prof. Join the Conservatives." It declares that professors who grew up "questioning authority" of becoming advocates of "consensus."
"The best way to freak out your prof is tell them that you believe in bucking the establishment, thinking with your own mind, and yes -- 'questioning authority.' In other words: Tell them you're a Conservative."
In another ad, a white board at the front of a lecture announces the day's lesson: "Group Think." All the students in the class have thought bubbles above their heads containing red quotation marks, except a lone student at the back whose thought bubble shows a blue question mark. The tagline: "Question authority."
Conservative party spokes-man Ryan Sparrow said the goal of the ads is to "play against stereotypes" about Conservatives.
"Everyone always stereotypes the Conservative party as a party supported by big institutions," said Mr. Sparrow. "But the reality is, if you go into a university, I bet if you did a survey of professors, they would very much not be conservatives."
The "ivory tower" has long been a favourite target of conservative pundits, who charge that faculties are stacked with left-wing intellectuals who romanticize the civil-liberties movement of the 1960s and that university courses are imbued with socialist ideology masked as "postmodern" theory, especially in the humanities and social sciences.
A 2004 study by Stanley Rothman of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, found that academics are five times more likely to identify as liberals than as conservatives. The study polled more than 1,600 undergraduate faculty members from 183 schools.
Although few such studies have been done in Canada, student conservatives say the left-wing slant is palpable.
"I think there's a bias no matter where you go. It's not easy being a conservative," said Andrea Khanjin, 19, president of the University of Ottawa Campus Association, which boasts roughly 300 members. "Some people don't know where they stand on the political spectrum. Sometimes it's a lot easier to identify with the Liberals, because it's so broad."
But academic administrators insist that most professors encourage a diversity of political viewpoints.
Bruce Feldthusen, vice-president of university relations at the University of Ottawa, said he hasn't seen any evidence of political bias among faculty members.
"There is no more independent position in the world than being a university professor. There is no central guiding mind hiring people of any political stripe," said Mr. Feldthusen.
He called the Conservative ad campaign an attempt to "demonize" academia.
"This demonizing of institutions is all too common in American politics, and not very helpful here. We've seen the demonizing of the courts here in the last few years. Are we going to do the universities next?"
In addition to the ads, the Conservatives have launched a website, www.cpcenergy.ca, that explains how youth can receive party updates by text- message or buy "swag" such as T-shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with the party logo.
The party also has a "national outreach co-ordinator" who liaises with campus clubs and oversees a paid internship on Parliament Hill. Many recruits now see campus clubs as gateways into the corridors of power in Ottawa, where young Conservative political staffers now proliferate.
"I can't think of anyone on the Hill who didn't come through a campus organization or was at least involved somehow in university," said Kasra Nejatian, a former president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association who worked for Jason Kenney while the Conservatives were in opposition.
Some believe the party still suffers from the lack of a formal youth wing, such as that of the Liberal party. The former Canadian Alliance party also did not have youth wing, based on the principle that all party members are equal. After the Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives, the new party narrowly defeated a motion to establish a youth wing.
"It's unfortunate because the party is in government and could be using this opportunity to create a powerful and dynamic youth movement that will sustain it for years, particularly when they are out of power," said Adam Daifallah, co-author of the book Rescuing Canada's Right, which argues that Canadian conservatives need to step up their efforts to engage the "next generation."
But some young Conservatives say the lack of a youth wing enables students to focus on policy, not politicking. Because the Liberal youth wing can send delegates to the party's leadership convention, Liberal campus clubs tend to be more "aggressive" and "politicized," said Mr. Bednar.
"A lot of people are turned off by that. We try to keep things more relaxed."