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  • Students Establish Conservative Coursework at UVA

    1/14/2010 4:47:09 PM Posted by Roger Custer

    University of Virginia student activists Wes Siler, Rick Eberstadt, and Keenan Davis are working to start a new UVA class specifically devoted to conservative ideas.  The conservative perspective, the students say, is under-represented at many public universities.  The students believe that a newly-implemented course on conservatism will do much to balance the spectrum at their own university.UVA

    “The idea originally came about when we found out that our university annually sponsors a class called Modern Liberalism,” said Wes Siler. “We thought, ‘Why not balance the spectrum and have a class devoted to Modern Conservatism as well?’”

    The students are part of a conservative club at the University of Virginia which is called the Burke Society. The club, which boasts more than 40 members, is openly devoted to the study and distribution of conservative ideas. It was from their association in the Burke Society that Siler, Eberstadt, and Davis discovered that there was a large amount of interest in receiving a conservative education.

    “We’ve been working with Young America’s Foundation to bring conservative speakers to the University of Virginia for years now,” said Siler, who was the second president to lead the society. “Our members have enjoyed them so much that we thought about doing something more consistent, something that meets during the week.”

    The proposed syllabus of the course, which was written by the students with help from several professors, features readings from a wide variety of conservative and libertarian authors. Such names as Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Fredrick Hayek, Milton Friedman, and William Buckley pervade the reading, as well as speeches by former presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. These authors and public figures, the students say, represent a canon of political and social thought that does not receive serious consideration in much of academia today.

    “We spent many hours considering the trajectory that conservative thought followed,” said Keenan Davis, one of the students who helped construct the syllabus, “mainly over the last century. Our course focuses on the rise of different conservative movements within their historical context, comparing and contrasting their themes and origins.”

    Though the students worked with several professors to construct the syllabus for the class, they gained the majority of their faculty support after the students publicly proposed their idea to the student council and had it rejected.

    “Within 24 hours of publicizing our idea to the Student Council, we received responses from 11 different professors who heard about the rejection and were eager to support our endeavors,” said Eberstadt.  “This showed us that just as there is a high demand from many students to receive a conservative education, there is also a high demand from many professors to give it.” 

    With renewed support from students and professors alike, the members of the Burke Society believe that they will be able to convince the administration at the University of Virginia to officially sponsor the course by the Fall of 2010.  The students hope to use the university’s student-initiated course system to request the course and display the large support they have received from teachers and students alike. Even if the student council rejects their proposal a second time, the students will ask professors to teach in their spare time and hold the class anyway.

    “We have teachers, students, a syllabus, and several available classrooms so how can this not be considered a class?” said Siler. “The only thing we are missing now is tests.”

     

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