Well-Funded Conservative Group Seeks a Foothold on Seattle Campuses
Jeffrey Hubbard was sent to Seattle to scope out the city's college campuses. His goal: To start as many conservative student organizations as he can. "You can view my job
as a rescue mission, to help conservative students level the playing field," he says.
Hubbard is a field representative for the Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Virginia–based organization that claims to have enrolled more than 67,000 students in its seminars and workshops since it was founded in 1979. The Leadership Institute's founder, Morton Blackwell, is a well-known conservative activist and member of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee, as well as a founding member of the secretive Council for National Policy—a think tank founded by Left Behind author and evangelical Christian minister Tim LaHaye.
Each year, through its Campus Leadership Program, the Leadership Institute sends 50 field representatives across the country to encourage conservative students to set up student groups and newspapers that "challenge liberal ideologies," according to Hubbard, who sees his task as monumental. The students Hubbard hopes to attract are those who feel their beliefs in free-market capitalism and traditional values make them a minority in bleeding-heart Seattle.
"Those of the leftist persuasion have had a stranglehold on the college campuses in the greater Seattle area for such a long time that it will be difficult to bring conservatives out," he says. He plans to accomplish that task by manning an information booth at university functions and contacting students via Facebook. For his 11-week stint in Seattle, he will be paid about $15,000. In 2006, the Leadership Institute reported revenues of just over $16 million.
Conservative campus groups welcome the Leadership Institute's efforts. "Hopefully they'll bring some conservatives out of the woodwork," says Auggie Eck, president of the UW College Republicans.
One of the Leadership Institute's accomplishments is a small conservative paper at SU called the Statesman, which depends heavily on the institute for its printing and distribution costs.
"Funding would have been a serious issue" in maintaining the Statesman if the Leadership Institute hadn't stepped in, says SU senior Chris Jay, who edits the paper. Jay plans to meet soon with Hubbard, who wants to make sure the paper hasn't changed direction since the Leadership Institute approved its $750 stipend.
Actually, the Statesman has hardly published anything at all—except for a web-only edition that consists entirely of commentary. And it hasn't exactly found an audience at SU. Ever since the publication stirred up controversy last year with its original moniker, the Chieftain, the paper hasn't made much headway on the SU campus. (Another paper that the Leadership Institute supports—UW's Right Turn ["Writing to the Right," Mahrya Draheim, Oct 16, 2003]—seems to have vanished completely.) But with the Leadership Institute's stipend, the Statesman's small staff doesn't have to worry about readership and advertising revenue.
Other school papers aren't so lucky. Across the country, student newspapers are scaling back and cutting pages in response to falling ad revenues. Earlier this year, Syracuse University's Daily Orange and Berkeley's Daily Californian cut their publication schedules to four days a week, eliminating the Friday paper edition. Joshua Lynch, editor-in-chief of SU's official student newspaper, the Spectator, says, "It would be really rough to see the Spectator go under and see something like the Statesman go on."
Lynch, who regards himself as a conservative, disagrees with Hubbard's characterization of SU as a school that ostracizes conservatives. "I don't think conservatives are at all singled out. If anything, they hide themselves," he says.
Sarah Jeglum, a former editor-in-chief of the Daily, UW's student newspaper, says she doesn't see the need for someone like Hubbard on campus.
"Conservatives don't need to be sent out here from across the country; people here are capable of speaking up for themselves," Jeglum says. "If students want to speak up, there are ways for them to be heard."
The Leadership Institute, which says it supports more than 1,000 student organizations across the country, hopes to boost the number of active college conservatives who support "free enterprise, limited government, and traditional values." The institute's website boasts of recent anti–gay marriage protests by field representatives and features video footage of institute-trained students protesting the Washington, D.C., handgun ban.
As the school year begins, Hubbard and his fellow field representatives will be walking around campuses around the country, where they'll do their best to rally Republicans and bring as many college conservatives as they can out of hiding.