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Notes from the Conservative Underground

Notes from the Conservative Underground


From college-funded sex-change operations to the supposed Republican “war on women,” conservative student groups nationwide are addressing tough issues—and taking on the stale groupthink that typically dominates colleges. With help from ISI, undergrads are publishing solid journalism, hosting top-shelf speakers, reading intellectual classics, and changing hearts and minds. Here are just four of the groups making an impact.

Building a Conservative Coalition
The Princeton Tory


At a mostly progressive elite college, the Princeton Tory is a beehive of intellectual resistance. A member of ISI’s Collegiate Network of independent student publications, the Tory frequently goes toe-to-toe with the liberal Daily Princetonian on everything from same-sex “marriage” to the meaning of education.

Tory editor in chief (and Intercollegiate Review contributing editor) Thomas Z. Horton spoke out when Princeton—rated one of America’s “Top 10 Trans-Friendly Colleges and Universities”—announced that its health plans would cover the costs of “sex-reassignment surgery.” Predictably, the Daily Princetonian’s editorial board praised the decision, calling sex-change operations “life-changing, and perhaps even life-saving.” Horton exposed the emptiness of this claim, citing a major study published in the medical journal General Psychiatry that concluded such surgery “confers no objective advantage in terms of social rehabilitation.”

The Tory also hosts speakers throughout the year, including fearless social critic Charles Murray—who discussed his bestselling book Coming Apart to a packed room of some one hundred students.

The Tory’s mission is to show that conservatism is “a vibrant, relevant philosophy that promises a better way forward.” Given how many bad ideas get defended by leftist grads of elite colleges like Princeton, the Tory is performing a genuine national service.


Tradition and Renewal


The University of South Carolina’s Euphradian Society


Intellectual tradition is alive and well in South Carolina, thanks in no small part to the Euphradian Society.

Founded in 1806, the Euphradian Society is one of America’s oldest college literary groups. But the society had gone defunct for several years until ISI student leaders Joel Iliff and Steven Vanderlip resurrected it in 2011. Just two years later, the Euphradian Society is one of the most active intellectual student groups in the country, hosting frequent debates, engaging classic texts, and bringing learned speakers to the University of South Carolina campus. The group has recently hosted ISI scholars like Robert Koons of the University of Texas, who examined the metaphysics of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and the University of Virginia’s Vigen Guroian, who spoke about why future businessmen must read the great works of literature.

With the help of ISI’s Collegiate Network, the Euphradians are crafting a new journal called The Orator, which will broaden the group’s impact on campus.


Conservative Feminists

Cornell’s Network of enlightened Women


Cornell’s Network of enlightened Women (NeW) chapter proves that feminism isn’t just for liberals.

NeW offers young conservative women—who are marginalized and stigmatized on many college campuses—a place to grow intellectually, make friends, and advance their ideas. The group is stirring things up at Cornell by debunking the myth of the Republican “war on women” and showing how conservative policies benefit women. To that end, NeW has hosted a number of prominent speakers with ISI’s help, including Who Stole Feminism? author Christina Hoff Sommers and CNN host S. E. Cupp.

In the spring, ISI student leader and NeW president Caroline Emberton appeared on a New York talk radio show to discuss NeW’s mission and offer her take on trending issues.


Intellectual Leaders



You might think of it as a football school, but Louisiana State University is also host to some leading conservative intellectuals—and now to a thriving student group dedicated to examining the principles of liberty.

ISI at LSU was founded in 2010 when ISI Honors Fellow Christine Pyle decided to bring the ISI intellectual experience back to her campus. Led by ISI faculty associate James Stoner, the group now meets every other week to discuss important books, including What So Proudly We Hail, an anthology edited by Amy Kass, Leon Kass, and Diana Schaub, and Redeeming Economics, John Mueller’s look at the “missing element” of contemporary economic thought.

ISI at LSU also draws large crowds to hear well-known speakers. Guests have included the late Czech president Václav Havel, author Peter Augustine Lawler (see p. 28), United Nations ambassador Martin Palouš, political scientists David Corey and Nicholas Capaldi, and the eminent conservative philosopher Roger Scruton.



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