- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

The link between conservative professors advising UNC Board of Governors

In the last few weeks, the UNC Board of Governors has been looking for advice on promoting intellectual diversity and civil discourse on campuses.

Specifically, the board has looked for that advice from two prominent conservative professors [1] from private schools whose work and academic centers are funded by conservative foundations openly engaged in a political culture war.

Regular readers of the Progressive Pulse will remember James Otteson, professor at Wake Forest University, from a previous piece by Rob Schofield [2].

That piece concentrated primarily on Otteson’s connections to the Koch Brothers’ Charles Koch Foundation.

It’s also worth looking at Otteson’s connection to the Thomas W. Smith Foundation [3].

The Smith Foundation counts among its board members James Piereson [4], the former director of the John M. Olin Foundation [5].

Piereson and the Olin Foundation are two interesting links between Otteson and Robert George, the conservative professor from Princeton hosted by the board at its meeting last week.

While heading up the Olin Foundation, Piereson wrote a very frank 2005 essay [6] about the best ways for conservative funders to establish “beachheads” of conservative thought at universities, to maintain outside influence on them and circumvent concerns about academic freedom – all to promote conservative values and ideals and bring the “house of cards” of traditional academia crashing down.

Critics of the UNC Board of Governors’ recent direction on these issues – which includes a number of student and faculty groups – say if the board is actually concerned with intellectual diversity and civil discourse, it may need to cast its net a little wider than the most conservative professors and programs they can find,┬áset on private university campuses, funded by private conservative organizations.