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The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is a non-profit organization in the United Statesmarker that opposes multiculturalism and affirmative action and seeks to counter what it considers a "liberal bias" in academia. The NAS describes itself as "an independent membership association of academics working to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges and universities."

Originally called the Campus Coalition for Democracy, the National Association of Scholars was founded in 1987 by Herbert London and current president Stephen Balch with the goal of preserving the "Western intellectual heritage". The group's stance on race and gender issues has been controversial; in 1990, the opening of an NAS chapter at Duke Universitymarker led to a major dispute among the university's faculty over allegations that the NAS promoted racism, sexism, and homophobia.

NAS has been funded extensively by politically conservative foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. Prominent board members of NAS have included conservatives Jeane Kirkpatrick and Irving Kristol.

Issues and journal

The National Association of Scholars opposes campus speech codes, which they argue violate the First Amendment. The NAS strongly objects to racial and gender preferences in college admissions and hiring, but states that it does not oppose all forms of affirmative action. Time Magazine called NAS the "faculty opposition to the excesses of multiculturalism." The NAS describes its main work as the defense of "the core values of liberal higher education." William A. Donohue, NAS board member and leader of the politically conservative Catholic League, writes in American Conservatism: an Encyclopedia that the NAS wishes "to foster renewed respect for the proposition that rational discourse and scholarship are the basis of academic life" and to emphasis "the Western commitment to freedom and democracy." These contentions are questioned by Jacob Weisberg, who states that NAS is "prone to conflating its admirable ideals with far less compelling political prejudices."

The NAS' quarterly journal, Academic Questions, publishes articles and interviews on higher education, with a focus on the perceived excesses of political correctness in academia. In a review in The Times Literary Supplement, Jonathan Rauch noted the journal's ideological tone, writing, "Though written mainly by scholars, it is a missionary journal, not a scholarly one." Rauch concluded: "If at times hectoring, Academic Questions is that rare and useful thing among journals—a live wire."

Membership, affiliates, leadership

Membership in the National Association of Scholars is open to "current and former college and university faculty members, administrators, and trustees; current graduate students; and independent scholars" who pay a yearly fee. Membership includes a subscription to Academic Questions. According to the association, it has affiliates in 46 states, as well as in Guammarker and Canadamarker.

Stephen Balch, a former associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the co-founder of the organization and chairman of the board of directors. Balch received a 2007 National Humanities Medal from U.S. President George W. Bush for his "leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions in higher education. His work on behalf of reasoned scholarship in a free society has made him a leading champion of excellence and reform at our nation's universities."

Peter Wood is the president. The advisory board of the NAS has included several notable individuals. Jeane Kirkpatrick was a United States ambassador and adviser to Ronald Reagan. Chester Finn helped to form the conservative movement's education policies. Irving Kristol, founder of the neoconservative movement, "characterized multiculturalism as 'a desperate strategy for coping with the educational deficiencies and associated social pathologies of young blacks.'"


Since its founding, the NAS has been in the midst of numerous controversies in higher education. It was an early critic of political correctness, engaged the American Association of University Professors over some of its policies, and complained to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Lamar Alexander, who ruled that the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools eliminate its diversity standard. NAS's stands have led critics to label NAS "conservative", a "group of reactionary scholars" and "a leading vehicle for the conservative attack on multiculturalism and political correctness",

The NAS denies that the views it advocates are conservative. Instead, the NAS describes itself as "liberal," referring to classical liberalism. NAS executive director Peter Wood writes: "Both Left and the Right produce their share of intellectual obtuseness. The NAS is not a partner with either. We are not a political organization, but a body of scholars who hope to sustain a vision of the university as a fundamentally good institution that deserves to be sustained."

Chapters of the NAS have been involved in a number of campus controversies related to affirmative action and multicultural studies programs. According to People for the American Way, NAS faculty at the University of Texas, Austinmarker blocked the inclusion of civil rights readings in an English course; the readings had been proposed to address concerns about racial and sexual harassment on campus. In 1990, the NAS had placed an advertisement in the Daily Texan (the University of Texas student newspaper), calling for the rejection of a proposed multiculturalism curriculum that was to be implemented into an English course at the University of Texasmarker. Simultaneously, the NAS encouraged a successful campaign to defund the university's Chicano newspaper.

In 1990, a Duke Universitymarker chapter of the NAS was formed by James David Barber, a political science professor and former head of the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International. The new chapter provoked "a sometimes bitter debate" about the NAS stances on race and gender, and on whether academic freedom should extend to what NAS critics viewed as intolerance. Stanley Fish, chairman of the English department at Duke and a long-time target of Barber's criticism, wrote a letter to the University's student newspaper, The Chronicle, saying that NAS "is widely known to be racist, sexist and homophobic." In an interview with the Durham Morning Herald, Barber called Fish "an embarrasment to this university for his gross insult to this organization." In response to the NAS chapter formation, a larger group of faculty formed "Duke Faculty for Academic Tolerance". The dispute was covered by the New York Times.

Also in 1990, the Harvard Universitymarker community debated the presence of the NAS. Writing in The Harvard Crimson, Martin L. Kilson, Jr. acknowledges some "overzealous behavior by supporters of ethnic studies and women studies" but states that the NAS was an "overkill neoconservative response." In Kilson's view, NAS had succumbed to "anxiety and maybe phobia" of left-wing elements espousing multicultural causes. He asks, "why shouldn't persons on our campuses go to great lengths to avoid the tag "racist"? Or the tags "homophobic," "sexist," "anti-Asian," etc.?"

In 2001, it was reported that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education had paid the National Association of Scholars $25,000 to generate a report on several Colorado universities with education programs. The NAS report criticized diversity curricula and recommended that the University of Colorado's education program be suspended and new admissions to other programs be halted. University of Colorado, Boulder dean William Stanley resigned in protest of what he called "teacher-bashing" by the NAS, while regent Bob Sievers deplored "anti-teaching, anti-C.U./Boulder, anti-women and anti-minority bias." Questions were also raised regarding why money was paid to a "right-wing" organization like the NAS rather than to a group "with credentials in teacher education."

In September 2008, the New York Times published an article entitled "Conservatives Try New Tack on Campuses," which described the NAS as intensively and successfully lobbying for a section of the Higher Education Act of 2008 which provides federal funding for programs which emphasize "traditional American history, free institutions or Western civilization". The article makes the case that NAS and allied organizations are seeking to advance conservative causes by attaching conditions to university donations.


  1. National Association of Scholars From the website of People for the American Way. Accessed July 17 2008.
  2. Who We Are, from the National Association of Scholars website.
  3. Campus Life: Duke Scholars' Group, Accused of Bias, Divides Faculty. Published in the New York Times on October 21 1990; accessed June 4 2008.
  4. ""Anti-PC activists trade war stories at Harvard", Anthony Flint, Boston Globe, 12 April 1994, p.22
  5. Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics. People for the American Way, Washington, D.C., 1996
  6. Olson, John. "Academics in Opposition." Time, 1 April, 1991
  7. Catholic League website
  8. Donahue, William A. "National Association of Scholars," in American Conservatism: an Encyclopedia. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2006.
  9. Weisberg, Jacob. "NAS - Who are These Guys Anyway?" Lingua Franca Apr. 1991: 34-39
  10. The Times Literary Supplement, Jonathan Rauch, "Academic Questions" [1]
  11. NAS Who We Are
  12. NAS Affiliates
  13. National Endowment for the Humanities Medal Announcement
  14. NAS Contact Us
  15. Bob Campbell, Colorado Springs Independent, "State Education Commission Coming Under Fire," 24 May 2001 Accessed 04 June 2008.
  16. Chicago Cultural Studies Group, "Critical Multiculturalism," in Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (David Theo Goldberg, ed.) Blackwell Publishers, 1994
  17. Feldstein, Richard. Political Correctness: A Response From the Cultural Left. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  18. Wood, Peter. "Media Opacity." 4 December 2007.
  19. Getman, Julius. In the Company of Scholars: the Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education. Austin: University of Texas P, 1992.
  20. Buying a Movement: Conservative University Programs and Academic Associations, from the People for the American Way website. Accessed June 4 2008.
  21. Martin L. Kilson, The Harvard Crimson, "Keep the National Association of Scholars Away From Harvard" 11 December 1990. Accessed 04 June 2008.
  22. Dave Curtin, Denver Post, "CU dean resigns, rips state," 08 April 2001. Accessed 4 June 2008

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