- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

As the new president of Hillsdale College in eastern Michigan, Larry Arnn, 48, has his work cut out for him. The 1,139-student liberal arts institution was traumatized last October when its president, George Roche III, resigned amid rumors of a sex scandal that shocked conservatives around the country. The board settled on Mr. Arnn, a historian and president of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank near Los Angeles, as the 12th president of the 156-year-old school.
Mr. Arnn, who began his job June 1, has devised a stricter rule for staff whereby adultery is grounds for dismissal. Here are excerpts from an interview conducted Tuesday by Culture page editor Julia Duin.

Q: A year ago today, your college was rocked by a scandal. Did your admissions take a dip as a result?
A: It's about the same. The full-time equivalent is down nine students from last year, but half of that is attributable to an increase of the amount of students studying in Europe. I was told the immediate reaction on admissions on the bad publicity about the college was a small decrease in the number of applications and a small increase in the number of early deposits. The freshman class this year was budgeted for 323 and we have 324.
Q: Why did you take the job?
A: They're paying me more than I'm worth, but not incredibly huge amounts of money. The college is old and great. Colleges are terribly important and this particular college has a fabulous record of service to the nation, which it was built to serve. And so, what could be more fun, better or more important than to help make that college, with its principles and its unique independence from government control (editor's note: Hillsdale accepts no federal funds), to make it better still?
The cause for which it stands is the cause that has always been most important to me in my professional life; the college was built to study and teach the things people need to know to be citizens in this free government. It was built around the principles of the United States, by people who believed in those principles. That's why it was the first [college] ever to write in its charter that it accepts men and women, black and white, alike.
It's a great cause. One of the things that's gone wrong with our country is that liberal education has gotten messed up in very fundamental ways that has an impact on public life in America. Here's a place that has been sticking to its own mission for a long time. I think the place can grow stronger yet.
Q: What changes will you make?
A: I'm going to talk more explicitly and often about the building of the college and its old principles and about the connection between its old principles and its current situation with its battles with the federal government over funding. I'm going to connect its refusal to count its students by color with the principles the college was built to serve; the principles written in the Declaration of Independence.
The federal government is a big industry to force us to do things. It so happens that Frederick Douglass, one of the greatest Americans ever to live, came to speak at Hillsdale. He said a beautiful thing: "The question is raised, what shall we do for the freed man? The answer is: Nothing. If he can't stand up, then he will fall down. And by that means, he will learn how to stand. You must make no law for or against him as a particular class. You must treat him precisely as you treat yourselves."
Q: You have no idea how many minority students are enrolled?
A: We don't know how many we have. We work hard to keep our tuition low. Tuition is $13,600. If you add in room and board, it's $19,600. Look at the competition. We're among the lowest in the country in private liberal arts colleges. Our faculty salaries are in the top quartile. Our student-teacher ratio is 11-to-1.
Q: Sounds like you've got quite a donor base.
A: We raise a lot of money and we keep costs under control. The college has an endowment of around $200 million.
Q: Are you going to investigate any of the accusations surrounding your predecessor?
A: The fellow who came before me did a very good job for a long time in most respects. He deserves and has the college's thanks. He was accused by members of his family of some very bad things. The college will not be associated with those things. He denies he did those things. He has denied consistently he did them. The college was advised a year ago by its attorneys including among them William Webster, former head of the FBI that it lacked the powers to investigate these things. The point is, George Roche retired from the college amidst this incident. He doesn't work there anymore. We're going to make sure we have policies in place that protect the campus from behavior like that, including a major revision of the honor code.
Q: Do you think he was guilty?
A: Don't know.
Q: Is Hillsdale strictly secular?
A: It's nondenominational. It's not church-related.
Q: Chuck Colson has criticized the college, saying you can't be pro-family and pro-traditional values without having a religious base. He felt Hillsdale ought to have an official connection to a church. Has there been any discussion of that?
A: Christian life thrives at Hillsdale and will continue to do so. I am participant in it. You said without a religious base, there is no way to be pro-family and pro-traditional values. That is not true. We do know morality from two sources: reason and faith. It just so happens they agree. In a liberal arts college, you have to study both sources. And we do at Hillsdale, we always have.
Q: Colson would say that even natural law has to have theological backing.
A: It's the old position of the college, including its founders and of the Christians who founded the United States of America that you can know murder or adultery are wrong by reason. And faith teaches the same thing. An important early American Christian, Samuel West, said, "We want not a special revelation to tell us right from wrong. We are born with the knowledge of that." That, by the way, is stated in the book of Romans, in the first chapter.
Q: You had a whole Nazi regime which taught there were reasons the state could commit murder. And you have an administration here in Washington that has redefined adultery. You can twist reason any way you want to.
A: Also faith.
Q: Faith in what? Did Hillsdale's founders have a denomination?
A: The college was founded by freewill Baptists. In decades past, the affiliation with the freewill Baptists withered away. The college has in its articles of association a special commitment to the teachings of the Christian faith. We have a Christian studies center. We are serious about that. I go to chapel with the kids all the time. There is in fact a college that teaches the goodness and importance of the family and of the morality surrounding the family, that is not affiliated with a church. That college would be Hillsdale.
Q: You are Episcopalian?
A: I am. I go to a "continuing Episcopal church" in Hillsdale: Holy Trinity parish.
Q: Why are you dining with groups of 10 Hillsdale students twice a week in the college cafeteria?
A: If you have them at your house, which we do, then it's kind of formidable and formal. If you eat with them, what they eat every day, it gives you an enormous moral authority. If I'm in town, I eat there three, four times a week.

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