What to do about Rick Santorum? Write a column.

By Diego Ruiz

Emails: over 200. Online comments: over 1,000. Facebook shares: over 2,200. Brian Rosenberg’s “What to do about Rick Santorum?” column, posted to the Huffington Post one week ago, reached many in the Macalester community and beyond. Rosenberg argues that, although college presidents usually have good reasons to remain apolitical, the GOP presidential candidate’s views on science and higher education have created a situation where “stating publicly that I [Rosenberg] am appalled by the views of Rick Santorum is not only my right but my responsibility.” In an email exchange with The Mac Weekly, Rosenberg explained why Santorum’s views are a “direct assault,” on higher education, how his column is not an attack on conservative ideology, and the feedback he’s received so far from readers. The Mac Weekly: How did the opportunity to write for the Huffington Post come about? Why did you decide to accept this offer, despite already having a large workload? Brian Rosenberg: I was invited to write for the Huffington Post by the editor of the College page, after she had read something I had written, I believe for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I agreed because I enjoy writing and because I believe strongly in the value of the public intellectual. I try only to write columns when I actually have something that I think is worth saying, and not on any regular schedule. What made you decide to write a column about Rick Santorum? When did you make this decision? It was actually rather a spur of the moment decision provoked by some of Mr. Santorum’s recent comments about science and higher education. These seemed to me comments to which it was necessary to respond. Mostly, your columns relate more directly to issues in higher education. Your only other explicitly political column was about Grover Norquist. What is it about figures like Norquist and Santorum that has compelled you to pen columns about them? My reasons were different in the two cases. Norquist’s position on taxation seems to me simply to be an instance of very lazy thinking (there is only one way taxes should ever go, down, under any set of circumstances). Santorum’s views are a direct assault on things that should matter to any college president, like access, science, and clear thinking. Much of the political discussion on campus over the last couple of years has focused on how to allow conservatives a place in dialog on a campus dominated by liberals. Additionally, a number of alumni have said that they are disappointed by the left-wing turn Macalester has taken since they graduated. Was it a difficult decision to write a column that might alienate some conservative members of the Macalester community? In some ways yes, but if one reads the column with care, one should see that it is not an attack on conservative ideology but a critique of a particular set of extreme views on education and of a very careless use of language. What feedback have you received so far about your column? How does it compare to previous columns? This one has clearly provoked the most widespread response. The overwhelming majority of respondents on Huffington Post or directly to me have been positive, but certainly not all of them, and some of the most impassioned have been negative. But that’s fine–one should not expect to engage in public discourse on important matters without provoking disagreement.