What’s happened to Hillsdale lately reflects the compromises conservative institutions across the country have made following Donald Trump’s 2016 victory: They’ve accommodated themselves to the president.
Hillsdale’s ties to Trump have multiplied since the spring of 2016, when its president, Larry Arnn, a respected conservative wiseman, threw his intellectual weight behind the real estate mogul’s controversial candidacy. The school, which takes no federal funds, benefits financially from public ties to Trumpism: It advertises on Fox News and in Trump supporters’ inboxes. Its alumni fill prominent roles in the administration, from speechwriters to the chief of staff for Betsy DeVos. Former White House national security spokesman Michael Anton accepted a position at Hillsdale upon his recent exit from the West Wing.
This is not a trajectory that everyone welcomes. Alumni and students of Hillsdale strain to reconcile their college’s convenient accommodations to Trump with its permanent mission: to sustain and spread a coherent and inherently moral constitutional conservatism. Political clout helps keep it alive, but for Hillsdale to actually survive the current crisis on the right, many say, its academic commitments must always come first.