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Dr. Kaufman Brings Conservative Viewpoint to CU Boulder

Visiting scholar in conservative thought, policy feels at home in Boulder

November 13, 2017 | Colorado Arts and Science Magazine | Kyle Houseworth

Robert Kaufman, a veteran of the Conference on World Affairs, says the Trump presidency has fostered robust debate on campus


For Robert Kaufman, a professor at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy and the 2017-18 visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Trump presidency has made the “conservative” program on the “liberal” campus especially relevant.

Kaufman contends that Trump “shocked people out of complacency,” fostering open debates in his classroom. CU students are publicly protesting Trump’s policies, and in Kaufman’s classroom, students can voice their concerns and consider a conservative’s viewpoint.

“I thought my reception (at CU Boulder) would be worse due to the election of President Trump,” Kaufman says. “But that has not been the case at all.”

The visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy is a program set in place by CU Boulder’s Center for Western Civilization, Thought, and Policy. The visiting scholar is a conservative implant whose mission is to promote intellectual diversity on CU’s  campus, whose students and faculty tend to be left of center, by teaching classes and holding public lectures and seminars wherein conservative scholarship is the core of the content.

Kaufman, the fifth visiting scholar, believes intellectual freedom is critical to a university education and says the privately funded program provides an opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zones and view the world through a different lens.

“CU Boulder is a national example” of a commitment to intellectual diversity, Kaufman said.

“I have been received by the students and faculty with the utmost respect,” says Kaufman, and he doesn’t find that surprising. Kaufman has participated in the university’s Conference on World Affairs for more than a decade, noting, “Boulder is not alien to me.”

Additionally, he notes that he’s got a track record of teaching, speaking and studying with different-minded people. Kaufman taught at the University of Vermont for 12 years and participated in more than 120 panel discussions over that same stretch—many of them on liberal campuses such as Middlebury College.

The visiting scholar program seeks “a highly visible individual who is deeply engaged in either the analytical scholarship or practice of conservative thinking and policy making,” and Kaufman is both.

Kaufman is a political scientist specializing in American foreign policy, international relations, national security, presidential politics and elections. His most recent book is Dangerous Doctrines: How Obama’s Grand Strategy Weakened America.

While at CU Boulder, he is teaching “Special Topics: Prudence and the Art of Statesmanship” and “Modern Warfare: Terrorism, Ideology, and Identity.” Kaufman will also teach two courses in the spring of 2018 and present public lectures and seminars.

“Intellectual diversity is a key part of the overall diversity that CU values,” said CU President Bruce Benson, a vocal supporter of the visiting scholar program, in a recent email. “The (visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy) aims to add diversity of political thought to a place not typically known for it.”

“Our job is to teach students how to think, not what to think, and the program is one of the many ways that we do that at CU,” Benson continued. “It promotes dialogue and the open exchange of ideas.”

For Kaufman, this program is mirroring the “great awakening in American education” happening across the country, and he is both proud of the visiting-scholar title and grateful to the donors who make it possible.