Battle over ‘wokeness’ at Christian colleges isn’t just about politics, it’s about dollars
Detroit Free Press
July 30 2022
For decades, Hillsdale College and Grove City College mirrored each other.
Fiercely independent, neither takes any federal dollars, including government-backed student loans, in order to be exempt from most federal rules.
Located in bucolic settings — Hillsdale in agricultural southern mid-Michigan and Grove City in the hills of western Pennsylvania — one feels smarter simply by stepping on the carefully groomed campuses with spectacular academic buildings, chapels and residence halls. Both have reputations as bastions of conservatism.
But the last two years have started to push the two apart, at least in the minds of their core markets.
Hillsdale, to the delight of conservatives and the consternation of liberals, has continued to burnish its conservative credentials. It has worked closely on education matters with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
“The college’s belief in genuine classical education and its deep admiration for the principles of the American Founding, as espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, has made it a target for those who oppose such challenges to the status quo of what is now taught in most American institutions of higher education,” Hillsdale spokeswoman Emily Davis told the Free Press, adding that Hillsdale wants all students, not just those in Michigan, to have a quality education. “Hillsdale College has been dedicated to pursuing truth and defending liberty since 1844 and has no plans of retreating from that noble effort.”
And while Hillsdale alumni, students and faculty have been supportive of the college, alumni, students and faculty at Grove City have been engaged in all-out-war over whether it is woke.
The two schools represent the newest battle in Christian higher education, one that isn’t centered on theological issues such as creationism or who is God, but rather on whether Donald Trump won the last election or whether Black people are still targeted by systematic racism in America. It’s about politics brought to campus, witnessed by students who arrive as self-styled culture warriors, armed with smartphones and social media.