Campus Group a Cornerstone of Conservative Movement
Washington--One of the most influential--and least publicized--of the organizations forming the intellectual framework on which the Heritage Foundation was built held a celebration here last week.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc., a nonprofit foundation dedicated to fostering conservative thought in schools and colleges, sponsored a testimonial dinner for the historian Russell Kirk. Mr. Kirk is the author of The Conservative Mind, a 1953 book that is considered the pre-eminent treatise on modern conservativism.
The dinner was a celebration of the accomplishments of both Mr. Kirk and the Bryn Mawr, Pa., institute, which since 1953 has been introducing college students to the traditions of conservative philosophy.
Several officials of the Reagan Administration, and of the public-policy research organizations that support its views, have praised the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (isi) for its contributions to their education.
Edwin J. Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation, one of several organizations that co-sponsored the dinner, said in a recent tribute:
"Were it not for [isi], I would not have gained the philosophical underpinnings that are necessary for one to develop political knowledge and understanding....I would not have been aware that there existed like-minded people on campuses across the country."
Other prominent conservatives who have participated in isi projects include: Richard V. Allen, assistant to President Reagan for national security affairs; Representative Philip M. Crane, Republican of Illinois; Charles L. Heatherly, executive secretary in the Department of Education; Representative Phil Gramm, Democrat of Texas; Donald J. Senese, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement in the Education Department; and Representative Jack Kemp, Republican of New York.
Mr. Heatherly and Mr. Senese both expressed gratitude, in a recent publication listing isi "alumni," for the institute's influence on them.
"isi literature and seminars were the key factor in my intellectual voyage to conservatism....[The] influence on students of my generation was far greater than generally recognized, and I for one will be grateful always," said Mr. Heatherly, who is a former regional director of isi
Likewise, Mr. Senese said: "[isi] influenced my career and helped to direct me to college teaching."
Another isi alumnus, the former Heritage Foundation policy analyst Lawrence Uzzell, recently paid a different kind of tribute to the institute, saying, "It's a measure of the importance of isi that Ronald Reagan's first speech [when he began campaigning for the Presidency] in 1977 was at a conference of isi"
The little-known organization, whose motto is "to educate for liberty," actually began as a libertarian society; its original name 28 years ago was the Intercollegiate Society of Individuals.
The organization was founded by William F. Buckley Jr., who served as its first president, and other young conservatives--the same group that founded the Young Americans for Freedom and the Philadelphia Society.
During the politically turbulent 1960's, when many students turned to the politics of the left, students such as Mr. Feulner met in small groups to discuss the merits of more traditional philosophies and to read isi's quarterly flagship publication, The Intercollegiate Review. (Mr. Feulner, who said he first participated in an isi program in 1961, is now a contributing editor of the magazine.)
Today, isi, with grants from the same philanthropic sources that support the Heritage Foundation, operates numerous educational programs. These include on-campus seminars and lectures for college students, affiliated college-student associations, summer seminars on economics education for secondary-school teachers, an average of 10 annual college scholarships, and numerous scholarly journals.
The institute claims to have 30,000 active members, including alumni, who represent 350 colleges and universities. Donald E. Atkins Jr., the organization's eastern director, said isi is most active on the campuses of small, politically conservative liberal-arts colleges; he cites such institutions as Hillsdale College in Michigan, Claremont College in California, and Rosemont College in Pennsylvania. But participating students, he said, have also come from much larger institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. Although most of institute's programs and publications are directed toward college students, the economics program has trained 1,100 high-school teachers since it began in 1973, Mr. Atkins said.
He pointed to a five-day program run by the institute expressly for teachers. Called "The Role of Business in Society," it is based, Mr. Atkins said, on the premise that high-school students and teachers do not understand the free-market system. The program teaches the theory that the welfare of society is entwined with that of business and the economy.
The seminars are taught by conservative economists, such as James Gwartney of Florida State University, author of an introductory economics textbook, Economics: Private and Public Choice, that is currently popular in schools. Another lecturer is the business historian Robert Hessen of Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is the author of the book, In Defense of the Corporation.
In some of the universities where the economics-education seminar is held, academic credit is offered for participation, Mr. Atkins said. The economics-education program costs participants only $35, including room and board. Most costs, said Mr. Atkins, are underwritten by isi and a local co-sponsor.
Three economics-education programs were held this past summer, for example. One, at the University of Chattanooga, was co-sponsored by the university and the Center for Economic Education in Chattanooga.
Another, at Stanford University, was underwritten by the Hoover Institution. The third, at the University of Colorado, was paid for by the university and the Colorado Council on Economic Education.--E.W.