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Not all of the activism taking place on college campuses is from the left. Small but well-funded right-wing political actions are bobbing up in the wake of progressive activity. A few examples:

  • Across the country, conservative groups are challenging the use of student fees to fund progressive campus organizations. Back in 1979, a student suit against Rutgers resulted in reduced funding for the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). Since then, similar attacks on the funding of progressive student groups have occurred on campuses from New York to California. In several states, the battle has moved to the legislature: In 1993, for example, a complete ban on student groups with an ideological agenda was beaten in the New Jersey legislature by only one vote.

    One right-wing paper published a poster of Bart Simpson shooting a slingshot with the words “Back off, Faggot” below.


  • Right-wing campus publications (many patterned after the infamous Dartmouth Review) have fought to roll back past progressive victories. Examples listed in a report by the University Conversion Project include: The Stanford Review promoting a movement to bring back the university’s Indian mascot, replaced in 1984 by the cardinal; the University of Iowa’s Campus Review publishing a poster of Bart Simpson shooting a slingshot with the words “Back Off, Faggot” below; Penn State’s The Lionhearted printing a cartoon of a bikini-clad body with the face of a female student who’d condemned misogyny in the school’s mainstream paper; the Dartmouth Review attempting to have the school’s sole gay studies course canceled; and staffers at MIT’s conservative journal Counterpoint trying to convince businesses to stop advertising in the school’s progressive paper. About 50 prominent right-wing campus publications are affiliated with the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, which, in turn, is supported by grants from corporations and conservative foundations. Last fiscal year, the Madison Center contributed $84,000 to network papers for operating costs alone.
  • In April, anti-PC student activists from around the country went to Harvard to ratify the Cambridge Declaration, a document attacking multiculturalism, affirmative action, and diversity seminars. Supporters described the event as the conservative equivalent of the 1962 launch of Students for a Democratic Society in Port Huron, Mich.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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