Since 2005, a committee composed of several faculty members, alumnae, and students has met every spring to begin work on selecting a conservative speaker to invite to Scripps for the following year. All of this is made possible by the generosity and drive of Elizabeth Hubert Malott (Class of 1953 and Trustee from 1996-2003). Mrs. Hubert Malott cherished her time at Scripps and valued above all else the new ideas, philosophies, and horizons that she was exposed to during her four years at the college. According to her daughter, Liza Malott Pohle, Mrs. Malott’s vision for the conservative speaker series was, “facilitating informed debate, inspiring curiosity and intellectual inquiry, and offering students opportunities to explore topics of national and international interest with visiting speakers offering conservative points of view.”
The committee meticulously plans a rigorous schedule of events for each guest to participate in while spending time at Scripps and the other 5Cs. The Malott series is unique among college speaker programs because it engages each guest in a full day of activities and functions: the honored speaker takes a full tour of the campus and engages in a small group discussion with hand-selected students who are familiar with the speaker’s work. Additionally, the speaker gives a public address in the evening and then attends a reception dinner with student leaders. Previous speakers in the series have included political strategist Mary Matalin (2006), New York Times columnist David Brooks (2011), actor, writer, and conservative pundit Ben Stein (2012), and world-renowned syndicated columnist and author Charles Krauthammer (2013). Peggy Noonan, a conservative speechwriter under the Reagan administration, spoke last year. The speakers consistently walk away from their experiences on campus impressed and hopeful for the future of our undergraduates. For the past few years, the Malott Public Affairs Program has focused on bringing young women to campus in an effort to further inspire the Scripps community from a conservative perspective.
The importance of such a campus speaker series as the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program has never been clearer. As student bodies across the United States become progressively more liberal with every passing admissions cycle, it is crucial that active conservative pundits, be they journalists, politicians, authors, or strategists, continue to make appearances on campuses. They offer a perspective and experience that differs dramatically from the ubiquitous liberal dialogue of the American higher education system. A 2012 poll showed that only 10 percent of college professors identified as conservative (and this number is dropping) and 0.4 percent identified as “far right.” By contrast, 50 percent of college professors identified as liberal and 15 percent identified as “far left.” With a clear lack of conservative thought taught at colleges today—let alone small liberal arts colleges in Southern California—there has never been a more important time for students to be educated across party lines. Even if the students in question ultimately decide to disagree with the opinions of the speakers, it is important that students have an opportunity to hear all sides of the story directly from the source—which too often they do not.
During my time at Scripps so far, I have been exposed almost exclusively to points of view that range from leftist to so leftist that they make Southern California look conservative. I have only been assigned readings by Ward Churchill, Amy Hollywood, Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, and others like them. There is hardly room for Alexis de Tocqueville, let alone Russell Kirk and Ayn Rand. In my introductory classes, I am not only expected to align with the extremely liberal views of all of my Professors, but also to go about defending these views furiously in written assignments, lest I be graded down for complacency. My experience with Core I is a good example of a course where the extremely linear dialogue taught by my professor offered no space for disagreement from students. I maintain that, though it masquerades in the course catalogue as a class that teaches “critical thinking,” in reality it is anything but that. This semester, I am having a somewhat similar experience in my seminar class on Gender and Religion at Pomona. The extremely ‘academic’ dialogue I’ve been offered provides notions about gender as we know it being entirely molded by society, and the ‘West’ acting as the ultimate evil colonizer of the world. There is no room for disagreement with the likes of the renowned Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies scholars within the world of modern day academia.
Although at times the institution-wide attack on conservatism (in class, in guest-lectures, in the divestment movements across all the campuses) that I have experienced since beginning college has been hostile and disheartening, in reality it has encouraged me to strengthen my own depth of knowledge with regard to my personal beliefs. For all of my beliefs that fall toward a more centrist, or leftist political stance, I am applauded and encouraged. For my other opinions, I have been given the really unique opportunity to think about them more critically than I ever have before. As someone who has lived her entire life aware of the conservative political perspective and some of what it might entail, when I walk out of classes I know that there is always another side of the story worth pursuing. Only after hearing every available perspective do I feel informed enough to formulate an opinion of my own—surprise, most days I am still a conservative. My point, however, is that as young minds we are entitled to the autonomy that is required to decipher for ourselves our own opinions—something that Claremont takes away from us by presenting only one half of the available dialogue.
Ultimately, the problem with having such a one-sided academic environment on our campuses is that students, whether liberal, conservative, or anywhere in the middle are simply not being given the full story on any political matter. I implore liberal-minded students to attend Mrs. Bush’s talk to listen to opinions that differ from their own. Political discussion and debate are an integral part of any classroom environment. But first, students must be at least somewhat informed about both perspectives. By way of the Malott Speaker Series, Scripps presents the conservative side of the debate to the public. It is undoubtedly a valuable experience—every now and again—to hear an eloquently articulated opinion that is not your own, in an effort to stay as fully informed and cognizant as possible.