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Conservative Speakers Widely Shunned at Graduation Ceremonies

Obama speaks at ASU

It's not enough that Democrats have command of some key real estate in Washington. This month, they've also got the ear of just about every college student in the country.

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White house chief of staff Rahm Emanuel all have multiple invites to be keynote speakers at graduations this spring.

And while President Obama is pulling a hat trick at Notre Dame, Arizona State and the U.S. Naval Academy, you won't see one of that last institution's most famous graduates on stage anywhere this year.

John McCain ... Sarah Palin ... Mitt Romney ... Rudy Giuliani ... they aren't on anyone's program in 2009. Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich? Persona non grata, thank you very much.

So whatever happened to conservatives?

Education watchdogs say it's nothing strange for conservatives to be shunned from the academy, and that the one-sided invitations have become a permanent fixture of the ivory tower.

"The colleges have been transformed," said David Horowitz, whose organization, Students for Academic Freedom, tracks ideological bias on campus. "They're now these partisan institutions. They're not going to change."

Horowitz ran a study in 2003 that looked at commencement speakers at 32 top institutions in the U.S. for the previous 10 years. He found that liberals and Democrats were favored over conservatives by a ratio of 15-1. And then he stopped counting.

"It's permanent. It's not going to change, partly because there's so little attention being paid to it," he told FOXNews.com.

A few conservatives have gotten invites this year, though you could probably cram them all into a compact car.

Gov. Bobby Jindal will be addressing Loyola University, Louisiana Tech, and Grambling State University, all located in his home state of Louisiana. Sen. Richard Lugar will be the keynote speaker at Ball State University, which is located in his home of Indiana. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, will be addressing USC.

Conservative speakers are often big targets for protest. Students and teachers literally turned their backs on President Bush during his annual addresses, and an English professor even resigned when Condoleezza Rice spoke at Boston College in 2006.

This year hasn't been much of an exception -- and the protests have started well before the pomp and circumstance.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay who's running for governor of California as a Republican, canceled her speech at UCLA's Anderson School of Management in the wake of protests over her support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state.

Conservative Ben Stein was uninvited as speaker at the University of Vermont because of his views on evolution. He was replaced by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean .

J. Harvie Wilkinson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, is facing fire at the University of Virginia Law School, where he'll be speaking May 17. Students have objected to his views on issues like affirmative action and detentions of enemy combatants.

But the furor and froth have gone both ways this year. President Obama's coming address at Notre Dame has set off students and faculty at the Catholic university. And Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, withdrew as commencement speaker from St. Vincent's College in Pennsylvania after a Catholic bishop criticized him for his support of funding groups that provide abortions overseas.

Conservatives, whose campus woes look to continue for the foreseeable future, may find a kindred spirit in at least one Cabinet member who seems to have fallen out of favor with the campus crowd.

Notably absent from the stage this year is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who would seem like a hot property in a year defined by the financial crisis. Geithner, who President Obama joked is being treated like a fire hydrant by the big dogs in Washington, isn't making the rounds at any universities.