RALEIGH — Bias, left-wing or otherwise, is difficult to quantify. One way to measure it is to look at the nature of the lectures and panel discussions hosted by universities to see what perspectives are emphasized.
The Pope Center tracked these events at North Carolina colleges and universities during the past semester. This wasn’t a formal study, but rather a regular monitoring of the lectures posted on university websites from January through May 2011.
There were some edifying events — for example, solid historical discussions of civil rights and practical seminars on innovation — but those were outnumbered by a multitude of lectures with a decidedly leftist tilt.
The lectures can be categorized into four broad areas: sex, oppression, innovation, and green.
Few subjects receive as much attention on the lecture circuit as sex. Here is a by-no-means-exhaustive sampling of sex-related events:
• Feb. 14 at Davidson College: “The Sexual Politics of Meat.” During the speech, Carol J. Adams explored “the relationship between patriarchal values and meat eating by interweaving the insights of feminism, vegetarianism, animal defense, and literary theory.”
• April 14 at Elon University: “Bursting the Heteronormative Bubble Discussion Group.” Participants discussed “the silence faced by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, as well as straight allies, as a result of harassment, prejudice, and discrimination.”
• April 20 at UNC-Chapel Hill: “Sex(ism), Identity and Intimacy in a Pornographic Culture.” Speaker Gail Dines used “examples from pornography, magazines, television shows, and movies to explore how masculinity and femininity are shaped by a consumer-driven image-based culture.”
Various racial, religious, and gender-oriented advocacy groups are competing for attention on college campuses these days. Here are a few illustrations:
• March 16 at UNC-Chapel Hill: A lecture by “Ground Zero mosque” imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on religious toleration in and toward Islam.
• Feb. 24 at N.C. State University: “The Price of Education in Little Rock,” commemorating part of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.
• April 13 at Elon: “Vocalizing Modern Sex Slavery.”
• April 15 at Elon: “Day of Silence & Bar-B-Queer.”
It may not be easy being green, as Kermit the Frog tells us, but it certainly is popular on North Carolina campuses. “Green,” in this sense, refers to political activism and scholarship intended to fight human-caused global warming (or climate change). It’s often mixed in odd combinations with feminism and social justice efforts. Here’s a handful of “green” events:
• Feb. 24 at Appalachian State University: “It Has to be Climate Sustainability: Let the Debate Begin!” a lecture by Uchita de Zoysa, a “leader in advocating for social and economic justice and urgent action to address the causes of climate change.”
• Feb. 28 at Appalachian State: “Really Inconvenient Truths: Gender Climate Change and the Environment,” given by Joni Seager, “an early pioneer in bringing feminist perspectives to bear on global environmental policy and analysis.”
• March 1 at Wake Forest University: “The Greening of Feminism.” Sponsored by the School of Divinity, four experts explored “ecological theology.”
Innovation-themed events fell into two categories — practical and political. In the first category were lectures given by individuals with ample credentials for giving advice. Here are two:
• April 27 at N.C. State: A lecture by Louis Foreman, CEO of Edison Nation, a company that helps inventors bring their products to market, on the importance of innovation and how to achieve it.
• March 10 at UNC-Chapel Hill: “Losing Your Innovation in 10 Easy Steps,” by patent attorney Michael Meehan.
The second category consisted of lectures calling for the government to encourage innovation:
• Jan. 25 at Duke University: “Hitting the Reset Button on Energy Policy.” A panel of scholars of varying political backgrounds asked for $25 billion in federal funds to “accelerate energy innovation.”
• April 13 at UNC-Chapel Hill: Stories of Progress: New Media to Highlight Global Issues,” promoted “public-private partnerships for global health.”
Not all events made it onto college website calendars. For instance, some students at UNC-Chapel Hill hosted National Review editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg in April, but his lecture didn’t make the university’s website.
Still, the events presented here give a sense of what’s “hot” at the cutting edge of academic interests. What’s “hot” includes a focus on oppression, government intervention, the environment, and sex.
Duke Cheston is a writer and reporter for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (popecenter.org). Former Pope Center intern Ashley Russell provided research assistance for this story.