My name is Robert Kelchen, but many students and faculty who know me at the University of Wisconsin-Madison often introduce me as “the conservative guy” or “my Republican friend.” I am used to this sort of introduction after being in Madison for four years; after all, I can count the number of conservative or libertarian doctoral students who I know on two hands. I have been told several times in the past by fellow students that I am the first right-leaning person with whom they have ever interacted on a regular basis. Prior to the passage of Act 10 (the law that restricted collective bargaining), I was one of the few students at the university to request a refund of the portion of the Teaching Assistants’ Association dues that went toward political or ideological activities. This also meant that I had to give up my right to vote on issues germane to collective bargaining (the primary purpose of the union), but it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make. During the protests at the Capitol throughout the spring semester, I did my best to stay out of the fray and keep very quiet about my personal opinions.
Sara asked me for my thoughts on the recent New York Times article about why there are so few conservative students in graduate school. I had to consider the offer for a while, as making this post would make my political leanings more publicly known and could potentially affect my chances of getting a job in two years. However, I just could not pass up the opportunity to comment on this article in the newspaper of record for American liberals–and the same paper that ran a front-page article about Sara being one of a new generation of less politically-oriented professors.