FROM OUR ESSAYS
By Robert Weissberg
The cosmology of ideas to fix America's supposedly troubled higher education abound. Some resemble comets--small amounts of rock and frozen toxic gas that periodically appear, light up the sky and then vanish only to reappear decades later. Today's comet-like elixir is directed at the NCAA's Division I men's basketball tournament ("March Madness").
The facts are simple enough. First, basketball players are disproportionately African Americans (60%), especially among teams making it to the final four. Second, graduation rates of blacks are shockingly low, far below that of their white teammates. At Kansas State University, for example, all the white players are on the path to graduation compared to 14% of the black players. To be sure, a few teams (e.g., University of Illinois, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt) graduate all players and some graduate more blacks than whites (e.g., Boston University, Northern Colorado), but the gap is generally large (91% vs. 59%) and is growing.
The typical inference is that universities are exploiting African Americans. Schools recruit these often underprivileged youngsters while the school profits handsomely from their contribution, their "workers" often leave school without a diploma. That a handful will have a brief professional career (and even then, rarely in the big bucks NBA) cannot justify the exploitation and, in a sense, the exaggerated lure of the NBA only adds to the dishonesty.
Continue reading "Arne Duncan Succumbs to March Madness" »
By Russell K. Nieli
Older readers know how the leading American universities, which had risen to world-class status by the 1930s and 1940s, were upended by the traumatic campus events of the late 1960s and their aftermath. Riots and boycotts by student radicals, the decline in core curriculum requirements, the loss of nerve by university presidents and administrators, galloping grade inflation, together with the influence on research and learning of such radical campus ideological fads as Marxism, deconstructionism, and radical feminism all contributed to the declining quality of America's best institutions from what they had been in the middle years of the 20th century.
Added to these 60s-era trends (some of which have mercifully waned) came two further developments which are still very much with us today and which moved the elite universities further away from the pursuit of excellence and merit which was their greatest achievement after the Second World War: the competitive sports craze and the affirmative action crusade. To these two anti-meritocratic developments, we might add a third: the policy of granting huge admissions boosts to the sons and daughters of alumni -- a practice found almost nowhere else in the world and outside America would be likened to bribery or shady political payoffs.
Minding the Campus readers probably need little instruction on the corrupting effects of the racial balancing game played by almost all our elite universities. The typical African- American and Latino student who gets admitted to the most elite colleges and universities in the U.S. (median admit) has a substantially lower achievement record in terms of high school grades and SAT scores, not only than his white and Asian classmates, but even those white and Asian students at the middle-level of his institution's pool of rejected applicants. The academic achievement gap between the admitted white and Asian students and those designated as "underrepresented minorities" is often huge, in statistical terms often exceeding a full standard deviation (equivalent to a 600 vs. a 700 on each of the sections of the SAT exam).
Continue reading "Why Caltech Is in a Class by Itself" »
By Cathy Young
Connecticut's Quinnipiac College, best known for its political polling, is now at the center of the newest round in the controversy over Title IX and women's sports. In a trial that opened last week, a federal judge must decide whether competitive cheerleading should count as a sport for gender equity purposes. The case illustrates the complexities -- and some would say, the inanities -- of the debate over gender and college athletics.
In March 2009, Quinnipiac announced that it was eliminating several athletic programs, including women's volleyball, due to recession-related budget cuts. On the other hand, the school added a new team to its women's sports roster: a competitive cheerleading squad. Women's volleyball coach Robin Sparks and four team members sued claiming a violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving any federal funds. The team got a temporary lease on life pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Judge Stefan Underhill has granted the suit class action status, so that, if violations are found, remedies could be ordered for all current and future female athletes at Quinnipiac.
Last year's budget cuts did not spare the male athletic teams at Quinnipiac. Men's golf and outdoor track were dropped along with women's volleyball, with no reprieve or reversal. (As for men's volleyball, the college never had it in the first place.) Other men's teams were forced to downside their rosters -- in the case of soccer, from 29 to 23 players, much to the coach's disgust. Some would say that, when two men's teams are cut while women lose 11 slots on the volleyball team and gain 30 on the cheer squad, it is not the women who should be complaining.
Of course, the question is whether competitive cheering is a "real sport" or not. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) still does not recognize it as a varsity sport, though there is a push to change that next year. Still, college cheerleading in the 21st Century has come a long way from the stereotype of sexy girls shaking their booty and boosting the boys: it requires high levels of athleticism and technical skill and features national competitions. Most of the young women on Quinnipiac's cheer squad are top-grade gymnasts.
Continue reading "The Ongoing Folly of Title IX" »
By KC Johnson
In October 2006, 60 Minutes offered a searing examination of the Duke lacrosse case. Reported by the late Ed Bradley, the broadcast exposed then-Durham D.A. Mike Nifong for what he was: an unethical prosecutor advancing a non-existent case to secure the votes of African-Americans he needed to win an upcoming Democratic primary. The broadcast also represented a public relations low point for the Duke administration. Speaking to Bradley, Duke president Richard Brodhead declined to condemn Nifong's behavior. Nor did he question the dubious and in some cases unprofessional conduct by his own university's "activist" faculty members.
Brodhead, instead, targeted the victims of the prosecutor's and his faculty's misconduct: his own students. With a pronounced smirk, he defended Duke's actions by accusing the lacrosse players of having engaged in "highly unacceptable behavior."
More than two years after Brodhead's ill-fated introduction to the national media, Duke has made a reported eight-figure settlement with the three falsely accused lacrosse players. The university also settled lawsuits with former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and the family of a lacrosse player who suffered grade retaliation from an anti-lacrosse Duke professor. Duke still faces a civil rights lawsuit filed by the unindicted lacrosse players, and the university recently learned that its insurance carrier is refusing to cover any defense or settlement costs arising from the lacrosse case.
Continue reading "Was Nan Keohane Worse Than Brodhead?" »
By Donald Downs
Is it just me, or have others noted that "Big-Time College Sports" (basketball and football, primarily) have recently taken yet another leap into a qualitatively different zone? In my neck of the woods, we have the very controversial new Big Ten Network, which hopes to make gobs of money from advertisers if cable companies ever come around to accepting it. And presently we are witnessing an enhanced version of the national game of Coaches Musical Chairs, with coaches jumping to new schools that offer them packages in the previously unimaginable realm of 3-4 million dollars. And if you have had the pleasure of attending a major college football or basketball game in recent times, you no doubt will have been bombarded by a new level of advertising accompanied by relentless appeals for funds.
Observers have debated the propriety of Big Time College Sports in institutions of higher learning for a long time now, and I do not wish to contribute to this growing literature. I must confess that I am a life-long basketball and football enthusiast. I played a year of college basketball, and I can tell you off the top of my head who beat whom (and by how many games, if it was a series) over the last 50 years in the championships of the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA Division I Basketball, as well as the A.P. Division I college football champion. (I kid you not.) To me, this knowledge is far from constituting "trivia;" it's championships we are talking about, after all. So my concern (even chagrin) at the present state of Big Time College Sports does not derive from an anti-sports attitude.
Continue reading "College Sports - A Very Useful Fetish" »
By K.C. Johnson
[Robert "K.C." Johnson is the indefatigable chronicler of the Duke non-rape case, turning out a thousand words of brilliant reportage and analysis a day for more than a year on his Durham-in-Wonderland site. On the Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren writes" "If bloggers were eligible for Pulitizer Prize... I would nominate Brooklyn Professor K.C. Johnson... No self-respecting journalist would think of writing anything long and evaluative on the Duke case without first checking "the blog of record," Durham-in-Wonderland."]
On April 6, 2006, 88 members of Duke's arts and sciences faculty endorsed a full-page ad published in the campus newspaper, the Chronicle. The professors suggested that men's lacrosse players had triggered a "social disaster" by holding a spring-break party. The faculty members unequivocally asserted that something "happened to this young woman," accuser Crystal Mangum. And, in the aftermath of anti-lacrosse rallies featuring banners reading "Castrate" and "Time to Confess," the Group of 88 said "thank you" to the protesters "for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."
Continue reading "Duke Lacrosse And The Professions of Diversity" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
More evidence to shatter the NCAA's diversionary talk of the preeminence of academics for college athletes, from the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription only, alas):
The NCAA started a Web site last year, NCAAStudent.org, to illustrate how its athletes balance sports with their academic responsibilities. And in Mr. Brand's speech here, he said the main difference between college and professional sports was that "those who participate in our athletics events are students, and students first."
But even the NCAA's athletes don't believe that's true. According to an NCAA survey of 21,000 players, the majority view themselves more as athletes than students.
It's no wonder. Major-college football players reported spending an average of 44.8 hours a week practicing, playing, or training for their sport, the survey found, with golfers, baseball players, and softball players not far behind.
44.8 hours a week spent athletically - there's a conventional nine-to-six job spent in sport. Then add fifteen hours of classes. Where's time for study afterwards? I'm not really sure where to find it. The article continues, pointing out that one in five college athletes in the survey stated that their sports commitments prevented them from choosing their preferred major. Additionally, as the NCAA has raised academic requirements for play, "academic advisors have seen an increase in athlete's choosing certain majors." Read "easier" majors. Sound like the cart pulling the horse? Exactly.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Variety reports that HBO has acquired the rights to Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson's Until Proven Innocent. After our featuring the authors here in New York, we're surprised it took this long for a screen deal. Our prodigious influence aside, the Duke case fully merits a fuller media treatment, and there's no better account to use than Until Proven Innocent.
I'm curious as to what exactly HBO is going to do with the story. The story notes that they "will develop a movie exploring the dynamics of racism and class issues that made the case a national story." There's obvious cracking legal/political thriller material here, but the "dynamics of racism and class issues" here run so thoroughly contrary to the usual television themes, it's a wonder how HBO will possibly handle it. Will they put the group of 88 in?
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Senator Grassley, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, has turned his attention to the tax status of collegiate athletic programs - wondering "what gives the IRS comfort that they have met the requirements of being a charity."
The Chronicle furnishes Grassely abundant cause to wonder, reporting that athletics donations now amount to more than a quater of funds received by some universities:
The fresh concerns came in response to a Chronicle article, published online last week, suggesting that contributions to sports programs are eating up an ever-larger share of donations to colleges, and that some athletics programs entice donors with perquisites like free seats on teams' charter flights.
"When I hear stories about top donors to college athletic programs getting a free seat on the team plane," Mr. Grassley said in a written statement, "I wonder what the public gets out of that. We need to make sure that taxpayer subsidies for college athletics-program donations benefit the public at large."
Grassley's very right to wonder about this. The second Chronicle article is sure cause for alarm, detailing sophisticated athletics fundraising operations operating independently of University development departments. Its unclear what if any benefit these increasingly self-contained operations are providing schools, and good cause to examine their tax status accordingly.
Continue reading "College Sports Bonanza" »
Posted by John Leo
K C Johnson, on his web site Durham-in-Wonderland, has written about 850,000 words over the past 18 months on the Duke lacrosse scandal. It has been an astonishing, brilliant effort -graceful, accurate, penetrating and fair. Because of the terrible performance of the mainstream press, Johnson's blogging quickly became the gold standard of reporting on the case. As one blogger said last January, nobody would think of writing about the subject without checking with KC first. If bloggers were eligible for the Pulitzer Prize, Johnson would have won hands down. (Asterisk here: of course those voting for the Pulitzers represent the papers that failed so miserably in covering the non-rape case.)
Every now and then, Johnson supplies a list of worst performances, such as the ten worst columns or the ten worst editorials on the case. Now he has produced, over three days, his list of the 32 worst statements made by anyone.
Wendy Murphy, an adjunct law professor and an unsually appalling talking head for MSNBC, surprised many of us by making the list only twice, getting as high an Number 11 for saying "I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child." (Several winners assumed guilt and speculated on why the accused were such monsters.) Another surprise is that New York Times writers achieved only two listings - one by sports columnist Selena Roberts, the other by the worst of all reporters to cover the case, sportswriter Duff Wilson.
Rabid professor Grant Farred (Number 5) argued that white Duke students who registered to vote in Durham were engaged in "secret racism," because the X made by voters on the ballot is "the sign of the white male franchise, itself overridden with the mark of privilege, oppression, slavery, racism, utter contempt for black and native bodies."
Michael Nifong accounted for 8 of the 32 listings., including Number 1: "If I were one of those (defense) attorneys, I wouldn't really want to try a case against me either." Johnson may have been unfair to include Nifong in the competition. Expecting amateur quotemongers to compete with a pro like Nifong is like telling a Little Leaguer to go strike out Babe Ruth.
Number 2 was the always-wrong Duke president Richard Brodhead, who said a month after the story broke: "If (Finnerty and Seligmann) did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough." Johnson comments: "We know now that 'whatever' Finnerty and Seligmann did: they attended a party they had no role in organizing and they drank some beer."
Johnson is, of course, co-author of the brilliant new book on the case, Until Proven Innocent co-written with Stuart Taylor, Jr., one of the best columnists and legal writers in the country. To order the book, go to Amazon and be patient - the publisher has been slow in supplying more copies.
Posted by John Leo
Things you might not know about the Duke non-rape case if you haven't read the new book "Until Proven Innocent" by Stuart Taylor, Jr, and KC Johnson:
* Collin Finnerty did not beat up a gay man in a homophobic rage outside a Georgetown bar in 2005, as much of the news media reported. Finnerty was one of several males involved in a beery confrontation. He pushed one of his antagonists but he did not hit anyone, gay or straight.
* Duke administrators were outraged that the lacrosse team had held a stripper party, but no such outrage greeted the more than 20 such parties held at Duke during the 2005-2006 academic year. Duke's famous basketball team held one two weeks before, drawing no apparent criticism.
* Tara Levicy, the nurse who reported on the condition of Crystal Mangum after the alleged rape, shrugged off the absence of physical evidence of assault and the lack of lacrosse-player DNA with a feminist slogan: "Rape is about power, not passion."
* Michael Nifong, whose parents had gone to Duke, was known for his hatred of Duke University and its students. According to Patsy McDonald, a law school classmate, he also had a "deep-seated antipathy to lacrosse players."
* Sergeant Mark Gottlieb, who took over the case for the Durham police "hated Dukies and had an ugly history of abusing them, according to allegations by Duke students who dealt with him before the lacrosse case surfaced." Gottlieb had jailed three times as many Duke students as the three other police supervisors in the area combined. In one case he jailed a female Duke student and a female friend and put them in a cell with a blood-covered, drug-addled woman who said she had stabbed someone. The charge against the two women was that they had failed to prevent a 19-year-old from taking a can of beer from a cooler during a party at their home.
* The news media churned out negative opinions of lacrosse players at Duke and other elite schools (Newsweek: "strutting lacrosse players are a distinctive and familiar breed on elite campuses... the players tend to be at once macho and entitled (and) sometimes behave like thugs.") In fact, the authors write, the Duke players had no record of racism, sexism, violence or bullying. They studied hard, got good grades, and showed respect and consideration for minorities, women and workers who served the team. They also had a good record of community service, especially with a reading program that targeted black and Hispanic children.
* The notably fair and accurate journalists who covered the case (a short list) included Dan Abrams of MSNBC, Chris Cuomo of Good Morning America, Kurt Anderson of New York Magazine, Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes and the first New York Times reporter, Joe Drape, who was taken off the story shortly after concluding that the alleged rape looked like a hoax.
Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case
Free Inquiry? Not on Campus