“In recent years, many political commentators and academic administrators have extolled the virtues of intellectual diversity in higher education. Hamilton’s President Wippman has sometimes joined this chorus, writing about the need for “thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints” and “respectful dialogue across political boundaries” in a 2019 letter to The New York Times. While such sentiments are welcome, the dearth of right-of-center faculty and speakers at Hamilton and other liberal arts colleges deprives students of the opportunity to genuinely engage ideas other than those they already accept. The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization is the sole significant institution at Hamilton that does something about this problem. When I or other students desired a respite from the college’s monolithic political atmosphere, we knew we could attend one of the AHI’s colloquia, consult with any of the highly knowledgeable scholars associated with it, or pick up a copy of the AHI-sponsored student publication Enquiry. For those already sympathetic to conservative or libertarian ideas, the AHI has served as a source of inspiration—and for those critical of such beliefs, it provided a rare chance to debate people with an alternate political philosophy.
We ought to support the AHI not merely because it exposes students to less commonly held positions, but because it does so in a particularly thoughtful, articulate manner. Conservatives today often fall prey to one of two errors: they either water down their views, hiding much of what they truly believe in order to gain acceptance from liberals and moderates, or seek out the left’s ire for its own sake, prioritizing attention and shock value over nuance and original insight. AHI President Robert Paquette and the other AHI scholars deserve credit for their refusal to indulge in either sin. Instead, they uphold the virtues of intellectual sophistication and courage by publishing articles and hosting talks which contribute usefully to our discourse, whether or not they spark controversy. I personally experienced the AHI’s integrity in my interactions with Dr. Paquette and AHI fellows. When I wrote columns for Enquiry or discussed politics with people at the AHI, I could trust that I would be judged not on the popularity of my ideas, but on the skill with which I expressed them.
Besides writing for Enquiry and attending the AHI’s events, I also took classes with three scholars affiliated with the institute: Robert Paquette, David Frisk, and Douglas Ambrose. All three of them exposed me to new, interesting aspects of history and politics through engaging lectures and readings. Their tutelage also improved my writing immeasurably, helping me to sharpen a skill which I now rely on as a graduate student in philosophy. Without them, many students, including myself, would have gained much less from their time at Hamilton. By supporting the AHI, you can help them continue to enrich the educational experience Hamilton offers. Hopefully, their success will also serve as a model for other institutions attempting to effectively bring additional perspectives to their campuses.”
-Steve Falco, Hamilton College, Class of 2019
“The discussions we engaged in over philosophy and history . . . were some of the most enlightening and captivating discussions I have ever had in my academic career.”