College Guide


March 01, 2012 5:02 PM Rick Santorum, Maligned Conservative College Student

By Daniel Luzer


Rick Santorum, presidential candidate and holder so many weird ideas about college, would like you to know that he was totally punished for being a conservative in college.

The punishment must not have been terribly severe, since he only got more conservative over time.

In a radio interview this past weekend in Michigan, Santorum claimed his grades suffered because of a liberal bias at Penn State, his alma mater:

“I’m very careful about the colleges and universities our children go to,” Santorum said. “There are schools, I went to one — Penn State — that’s one of the liberal icons, unfortunately it’s gotten a lot worse. I can tell you professor after professor who docked my grades because of the viewpoints I expressed and the papers that I wrote, there’s no question that happened.”
“Your grades suffered because of your views at Penn State?” [Charlie] Langton asked.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Santorum said. “I used to go to war with some of my professors, who thought I was out of the pale, these are just not proper ideas. This is not something that’s not unusual, folks, I know this may be a surprise to some people … There is clearly a bias at the university.”

Several things are worth noting here: 1. Penn State is not that liberal. 2. Rick Santorum (shown above as a Penn State senior in 1980) wasn’t that conservative in college.

Santorum neglected to say who, when or how he was punished for being conservative. He also didn’t elaborate on what political positions he was espousing back in the late 1970s that were so controversial. This was a time when common GOP stances included support for ending price controls on natural gas, opposition to the influence of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, and encouraging a balanced federal budget.

This means Santorum’s claim is probably a lie.

That being said, his grades may have been docked in college, but probably not for his conservative political opinions. As Alex Pareene writes at Salon, “Maybe Santorum’s grades were actually docked because he is dumb.”

Yes, perhaps Santorum’s professors gave him low grades on examinations and papers because his work was sloppy and his positions were poorly argued. Professors are supposed to correct students when they’re mistaken. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer