How to Find a Conservative Faculty/Staff Advisor and What Traits to Look For
Most colleges and universities require student organizations to have a faculty or staff advisor in order to receive official recognition and all the benefits that come with it.
While there is no requirement in the 1st Amendment for an advisor, university administrations still impose this on students to stifle their free speech and organization. Nonetheless, the process of finding an advisor will help you find out who your allies (and opposition) are on campus and perhaps help you fight this burdensome imposition on free speech.
Considering that academia is generally dominated by the left, finding a good advisor for your conservative student group can sometimes be a challenge. The fact that many conservative faculty and staff keep their political opinions to themselves to avoid retaliation from co-workers makes the task even harder. This situation is very common in my experience working with newly organized conservative students.
In fact, many conservative student groups never get off the ground for the sole reason that no faculty or staff member will agree to be an advisor to the group. This frequent occurrence is a de facto suppression of free speech.
But fear not, for there are a few ways you can find the advisor you need:
- Ask your fellow conservative students for leads. Personal experience with a professor or staffer is the best way to get to know them and whether they would make a good advisor. Always meet with a prospective advisor in person first to get to know them.
- Ask advisors of other conservative groups on campus (if any). Maybe they will be willing to advise your group too.
- Research the political donations of faculty and staff on your campus. Use websites like CQMoneyline.com or OpenSecrets.org. Just search by employer/occupation and type in your university. Conservative faculty and staff may be quietly supporting conservatives with their financial contributions rather than their voices. While you're at it, publicize the overall results of your research by participating in the Deep Blue Campus project by blogging on your campus subsite.
- Do public activism specifically for the purpose of finding an advisor. I suggest wearing a sandwich board with messages asking for a conservative advisor and challenging the diversity of thought on campus. If you can't find one this way, you've also proven how lacking your campus is in intellectual diversity.
- Browse faculty profiles on department websites and CampusReform.org's Faculty Tracker. This method is a little tedious but can often produce results. Add very liberal and conservative faculty to the Tracker as you go along.
- If none of the above methods succeed, contact your Regional Field Coordinator (RFC) for further guidance and assistance. Your RFC will tap into the conservative network of the Leadership Institute. If nothing else, we will help you publicize the fact that your campus is hostile or unwelcoming to conservative groups. As a last resort, we can help you connect with legal foundations who can legally threaten a public university that refuses to recognize your student organization because you failed to meet their advisor "requirement."
What should you be looking for in an advisor?
Political Agreement: You want someone who is going to be on your side, not someone who disagrees with your mission and may actually work against you in the future.
Be wary of liberal professors who may offer to be your advisor for the sake of intellectual diversity or giving conservatives a voice on campus. They may just want to keep a close eye on you. From personal experience, I know that they may drop you as soon as they hear what the conservative voice has to say, especially if you are confronting the liberal bias and abuse of their colleagues (which you should be doing). They may even stab you in the back and sabotage your efforts just as you're getting off the ground.
Hands-Off Approach: Though you may have an advisor who agrees with your political principles completely, there is the danger that he or she may become too interested and involved in the organization, trying to do more than advise you. Some advisors will have trouble finding the fine line between advising and meddling.
Many conservative advisors may not know or embrace the benefits of confrontational activism. You want an advisor who is not going to oppose your confrontational tactics. Ideally, you need someone who is just there to sign the bureaucratic paperwork the university makes you do.
Tenure or Stable Position: If you are being an effective conservative group on campus, you will attract media attention, controversy, and the hatred and vitriol of liberal administrators, faculty, and students. They will do whatever is in their power to hamper and silence you, including pressuring your advisor to abandon your group. Your advisor may be threatened with cut in pay, denial of tenure, or other penalties for advising and supporting your conservative group. It has happened before in the past.
Therefore, if at all possible, get an advisor who already has tenure or some similar level of job security.