Saturday, May 26, 2018

Extremely conservative Stanford graduate complains that there aren’t enough extreme conservatives on campus (Michael Simkovic)

Few would consider Stanford University left-wing.

Stanford University hosts the controversial, conservative Hoover Institution.[1] Stanford has raised more than $40 million from conservative donors. Stanford is a major military contractor.  Stanford’s last acting president (and long-time provost) argued for affirmative action in hiring in favor of conservative faculty, deploying barely coded, neo-McCarthyist phrases like “the threat from within” to describe liberals on campus.  One very prominent Hoover Institution faculty member took the suggestion to heart, asking students affiliated with the College Republicans and Turning Point USA (which maintains "watchlists" of liberal faculty) to help him dig up dirt on a 20 year old Stanford student who the Professor thought was too liberal.  (The Professor wanted help "grinding [leftists] down" and wished to "intimidate them.")  (See also here, here, here, and here).[2] 

Some conservatives want more.

A recent Stanford law graduate and self-described “hard man,” Martin J. Salvucci, writing in the National Review, recently compared Stanford to Czechoslovakia under Soviet domination. Czechoslovakia was invaded by 650,000 heavily armed soldiers from the Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact states in 1968 when Czechoslovakia sought to become Social Democratic rather than Communist (i.e., leftist, but not authoritarian).

The Stanford graduate—who recently worked at Skadden and Klee Tuchin—explains that from his perspective, attending Stanford entailed a level of suffering just like living in a totalitarian satellite state, except that he has “nicer stuff.”

The problem, apparently, is that there are not enough committed right wing ideologues on campus:

"An almost unspoken agreement seems to exist among many students that all of us will soon be fabulously successful, so long as everyone remains a “team player” and nobody rocks the boat too earnestly. Political, moral, and religious convictions are, for the most part, accessories best deployed for instrumental purposes, rather than values to be espoused or explored for their own sake."

If this description is accurate, then it sounds like Stanford law students are well prepared for the restraint and decorum that will be expected of them at the elite law firms, banks, and corporations where many of them aspire to work.

The recent graduate also complains that the Dean of Stanford, M. Elizabeth Magill, has not endorsed his view that there should be an increase in official efforts to promote conservative views on campus.  Because of this, he accuses her of being a “gutless bureaucrat.”

Mr. Salvucci’s views highlight that ideology is a matter of perspective. For those who are sufficiently extreme, even a conservative, corporate institution in Silicon Valley, like Stanford, can seem as oppressive as life under Soviet rule.

Given the timing of Mr. Salvucci’s post—after graduation but before admission to the bar—Mr. Salvucci may be attempting to set up a test case to challenge California’s Bar’s character and fitness requirement, which mandates “fairness . . . and respect . . .”

I doubt that the bar will take the bait.

But Mr. Salvucci’s classmates and colleagues may enjoy ribbing him about this for years to come.


[1] Hoover is a think tank which selects and funds its research fellows based on their ideology and political experience. This is routine in the think tank world, but is widely condemned within academic institutions, which are supposed to select scholars based solely on the merits, regardless of politics.

[2] The Stanford professor rationalizes these activities by arguing that he was concerned about efforts to schedule counter-programming to compete with controversial political scientist Charles Murray's talk, which resulted in the talk being lightly attended.  He goes on to argue that he was defending "free speech"--which to him apparently means shielding conservative speakers from competition for students' attention.

UPDATED 7/2/2018 to include Hoover faculty member Niall Ferguson's efforts to dig up opposition research on liberal students.

Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Humor, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink