Christopher Rufo suggests states establish a “conservative center” in public universities

Rufo: “A policy you could pursue is .... to have a conservative center that is independently governed within the University of Michigan or the University of Texas”

Video file

Citation From the April 5, 2021, livestream from Hillsdale College, streamed on YouTube

CHRISTOPHER RUFO (SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE): I talk to be people in red states. How do we deal with this horrible problem of our public university system? I don't know, you're the state legislature. You pay for it, you pass appropriations bills for it, it's under your jurisdiction, and every day – every year you just write a blank check to the public university system. These are public universities that should reflect and transmit the values of the public. And the representatives of the public, i.e., state legislators, have ultimate power to shape or reshape those institutions.

And so, we have to get out of this idea that somehow public university system is a totally independent entity. That practice is academic freedom. A total fraud, that's just a false statement, fundamentally false, and that you can't touch it or else you're impinging on the rights of, you know, the gender studies department to follow their dreams, you know? I mean, it really is that simple. And legislators, you talk to me like, oh yeah, I didn't think about that – because it's such in the background of our experience. We accept it as a given. We accept it as the status quo that we can't even examine.

But I think legislators are starting -- in Florida they're doing it, in Texas they're doing it. They're starting to say, hey, wait a minute. Why is every taxi driver, short-order cook, and plumber in my state paying six-figure salaries for a Diversity and Inclusion Department at a public university? Where these folks are making three, $400,000 a year. And you look at their job description -- it's undiscernible what they do.

I mean it's, you're funding private political activism with public dollars. So states can say no more public dollars for that. You can take it away.

I think another thing that states can do and should do is saying, well, we're actually going to open a new branch of our public university system. Let's say the flagship, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Conservatives, let's say, have both branches and the governorship in Michigan, for example. A policy you could pursue is would be to say we're going to have an independent board of directors appointed by the governor and we're going to have a conservative center that is independently governed within the University of Michigan or the University of Texas. And then you create a magnate for conservative professors. You create a bit of debate within the university, you create a variety of perspectives, you create a diversity of courses, and you're creating a separate patronage system.

Some people don't like thinking about it that way. But guess what? The public universities, the DEI departments, the public school bureaucracies, are, at the end of the day, patronage systems for left-wing activists. And as long as there's going to be a patronage system, wouldn't it be good to have some people representing the public within them?