The Decline and Fall of The King’s College
The King’s College in New York City, my alma mater, has functionally shut down. The school has lost its accreditation, is not offering classes this fall semester, and has let go of essentially all faculty and staff. In their announcement, the Board of Trustees made sure to note that the school is not officially closed, and the Board has continued to tease a potential “strategic partnership” with another college that would allow it to stay afloat and maintain its identity, presumably with some significant restructuring. I loved my time at King’s, and I’m saddened by its decline; it’s hard to overstate just how formative the school was to my mental, academic, and spiritual development. As a Christian liberal arts school in Manhattan, King’s offers an enticing contrast in the world of higher education: instead of inviting students to leave home for a sleepy college town, The King’s College is mere doors away from the New York Stock Exchange. The school does not have a campus, but takes up several floors of an office building; instead of dorms, students live in apartments scattered throughout the city, and instead of fraternities and sororities, the school has a House system (à la Hogwarts). Namesakes for the houses include Winston Churchill, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, Sojourner Truth and other influential Western leaders. The school requires every student to take courses in politics, philosophy, and economics, regardless of major, and the curriculum is far more rigorous than the curricula of many other Christian colleges. Many students score internships at prestigious financial and media firms, launching careers in New York City post-graduation.
So why is this dynamic institution going under? The fact is that the school has suffered from a wide range of issues, from financial struggles to ideological tensions. The financial issues are much easier to document and offer a tangible explanation of why the school will not be able to continue operating. A recent New York Times article cited COVID-19 restrictions, a lapse in major donor funds, and a consistent operations deficit as reasons for the school’s collapse. Be that as it may, the difficulties King’s is facing aren’t just financial. The ideological issues the school suffers from are just as tangible as its financial woes. It’s important to draw attention to these dynamics, as they are what ultimately prevented the school from successfully solidifying its identity in the same way as Hillsdale and Liberty University, two schools that are enjoying rising enrollment rates, enormous endowments, and freedom from government funding. As leftist ideologies continue to seep (or flood) into schools across the country, King’s untimely demise offers several lessons for other Christian institutions looking to survive the ongoing cultural wars.
What is happening at King’s is not unusual. This trend of leftward infiltration and subsequent erosion was recognized and formalized by the British historian Robert Conquest, who posited that “any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.” Conquest himself cited the Church of England and Amnesty International as examples, and in the days of ESG and DEI standards, it’s not hard to think of other contemporary cases. My own corollary to Conquest’s adage is this: Christian institutions are able to withstand this leftward collapse longer than their secular counterparts by virtue of their political makeup. Christian institutions are filled with conservatives, who are statistically more likely to be conservative. Colleges like Hillsdale or Patrick Henry College won’t succumb to this trend because conservatism is baked into the DNA of the schools. Likewise, my own employer, Salem Media, will remain immune to this leftward decline, because the company works to “serv[e] the nation’s Christian and conservative communities.” In a similar vein, the Acton Institute, a think-tank based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will be able to maintain its conservative essence, as it exists “to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.”
King’s College, though an explicitly Christian college, suffered from an influx of progressive ideologues that ultimately undermined the ethos and mission of the school. Many incidents highlighting this cropped up over the years, including in the fall of 2019, when the House of Ronald Reagan unilaterally changed its name to the House of Honor after recordings were released of the then-President making derogatory remarks. In a statement, the House president declared that “it is the firm conviction of our team that our House deserves a namesake who embodies our values, whose name we can all be proud to bear, and that Ronald Reagan is not that name.” Public comments from students celebrating the decision were featured in the school newspaper, and many called for abolishing the houses of Winston Churchill and Susan B. Anthony as well. (The school eventually overrode the student leadership and vetoed the name change.) In another incident during my time at King’s, the school gave a transgender student honorary status in a female house after he transitioned midway through his time at the school. Many students and at least one professor added pronouns in their LinkedIn and Instagram bios (some identifying themselves as nonbinary), and another professor publicly voiced his support for New York City’s restrictive vaccine mandates and expressed his desire to “salt the earth so [the Republican Party] never comes back.” Additionally, groups of students regularly participated in New York City’s pride parades and founded an exclusively “Black and Latinx” student organization.
In a college with 500 students at any given time, it only takes a few students and faculty to impact the culture, erode the ethos, and undermine the identity of the school; maintaining the integrity of any institution is not easier just because it is small–it is all the more difficult and requires a more diligent effort by those tasked with leading and running the institution. Students and professors with pronouns in their bios highlight this pattern of appeasement to a destructive, anti-Christian ideology, and as Robert Conquest points out, this ideology comes for any and all institutions not willing to take a political–not merely a religious– stance.
In order to adequately protect our schools and culture from continued degradation, we must expand the reach of our Christian and conservative institutions which will act as cultural counterweights, willing to fight and uphold our values. Christian and conservative students, parents, professors, and donors alike should all take stock of how they are equipping themselves and others to fight for the future. A Christian and conservative school in the heart of New York is exactly what the city needs, but this school must be prepared to stand up for itself. Other schools looking to maintain their influence should heed Conquest’s advice and take a stand.
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