Conservative women threaten colleges' liberal bias

For ten years, the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, has been fighting for intellectual diversity and pushing back against liberal bias on college campuses by forming book clubs for conservative women.

Judging by my recent experience at my alma mater, the University of Virginia, we still have a lot of work to do.

Earlier this month, I was invited by the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society to discuss the so-called “war on women” and ways that conservative policy proposals benefit women. I added a section to my speech about issues on which I think there is potential for unity among women across the political spectrum. On the whole, I was thoroughly impressed by the students’ informed questions and the spirit of discussion.

However, a few days after the event, The Cavalier Daily, the main campus student newspaper, misquoted my speech.

“Talks like mine give students the ability to learn about the benefits of right-wing beliefs,” the article quotes me as saying.

Except I didn’t say that. The reporter substituted “right-wing” for “conservative.”

There is a difference there and the difference matters, especially to an unwary audience expecting unbiased coverage of campus events. Characterizing NeW’s mission as “right-wing” evokes hostile views that discourage students from giving my point of view fair consideration.

I emailed the reporter and asked for a correction. I never heard back.

Switching “conservative” for “right-wing” is a great example of what bias in campus newspapers looks like. A student who didn’t attend the event and isn’t aware of how the media commonly covers conservative events to make them sound extreme might take this at face value and be less likely to join NeW.

Given this kind of journalistic bias, it’s no wonder that many conservative students don’t speak out on campus. This makes pushback from conservative groups on this type of treatment all the more important.

On campus and in our larger culture, it’s not always just overt, in-your-face bias confronting conservatives—it’s replacing one word in a quote, mislabeling a person or group, and deciding what gets covered and what doesn’t.

Some students recognize this problem on campus. Mallory Carr, a senior at Georgetown University, was just announced as the winner of the NeW Scholarship Essay Contest. In response to the prompt about the lack of intellectual diversity on campus, she wrote that “[c]ollege campuses, due to their insularity, have become more and more repressive of views differing from the approved script.”

“A dissenting woman is dangerous to the whole edifice they have managed to construct,” she continues. “For liberal college students, the only way to deal with the problem conservative women pose to their worldview is to silence them.”

It’s difficult to imagine the campus culture not having some impact on the relative unpopularity of the “conservative” label among young people. According to a Pew Research Center survey published in March, over the past decade, millennials have remained the most liberal (31 percent say their political views are liberal) and least conservative of the four generations studied and are the only generation in which liberals aren’t significantly outnumbered by conservatives.

Conservatives must continue to engage in debates on college campuses and challenge liberal bias.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KarinAgness and @NeWNetwork