For instance, Warren Treadgold of St. Louis University recently published a book titled The University We Need: Reforming American Higher Education, in which he called for a university that is “traditional in character but not specifically ‘conservative’ in politics”—which sounds good. And yet, in a recent blog post, Treadgold wrote about the need for such a new university to “hire the right people,” and described those people in this way: “From what I know of the best conservative scholars, if they were hired and supported at a leading conservative university, they would be delighted to produce research combating multiculturalism, radical feminism, identity studies, the diversity doctrine, the idealization of victimhood, socialism, sustainability, and postmodernism.” It’s hard for me to see how a university composed of such people would not be “specifically ‘conservative’ in politics,” though I suppose that would depend on how you define conservative.

But what I find more concerning about Treadgold’s model university is how self-consciously polemical he wants it to be, how strongly he wants it to define itself by what it opposes. He warns, in martial language, of “moderates afraid to combat the leftist ideas that have devastated higher education,” and avers that “only a conservative research university could free conservative scholars to combat leftist ideology.” I think Hess and Bell do a much better job of emphasizing what such a new university would be for: academic freedom, the freedom to explore potentially conservative ideas without fear of reprisals from the guardians of unwritten—and perhaps, these days, actually written—orthodoxies.