March 10, 2014
Another day, another report on "gender inequities" in STEM fields. Early Academic Career Pathways in STEM: Do Gender and Family Status Matter?, just released by the American Institutes for Research, begins by summarizing the familiar litany of laments: not enough women on STEM faculties, and the few there "are more likely than men to be in lower academic ranks and work at less prestigious institutions" than men and receive an insufficient "level of recognition, career affirmation, and resources."
Ho hum. This report, however, does contain one interesting finding: "Not only overall, but regardless of marital and parental status, significantly higher proportions of women than men had secured academic versus nonacademic positions upon earning their STEM PhDs." 79% of women began their careers in academia, the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in its discussion of the new report, while only 67% of men did so.
The fact that a higher proportion of women than men with new STEM Ph.Ds are choosing academic careers, even if they are young mothers, ought to produce some reconsideration of the vast flow of funds now devoted to analyzing and removing the various "barriers" that are thought to turn them away.
Typical of these programs is the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program, in which NSF has invested "over $130M," whose goal "is to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers." In addition to the ubiquitous "implicit and explicit bias,"one of the barriers -- which the ADVANCE program refers to as "external factors" -- to be overcome is the "differential effect of work and family demands" on women STEM academics. The new American Institutes for Research study, however, finds no such "differential effect" in choosing in choosing an academic career. Any disadvantage from being married and having children, it concludes, exists "for both men and women."
Or take another NSF program, Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a program I discussed here a week or so ago that is devoted to encouraging "underrepresented minorities"(URMs) to prepare for and enter "academic STEM careers at all types of institutions of higher education," in large part so that they can provide "role models" for other URMs to choose academic STEM careers.
If women STEM graduates are already choosing academic careers disproportionately more than men, is this plethora of gender-based proselytizing programs really necessary?
Someone should do a major study -- and make no mistake: it would be a major project requiring extensive research -- of just how much money the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other government agencies and private institutions spend each year -- not on producing more science, technology, engineering, and math but trying to socially engineer the STEM workforce. Add to that sum the amount spent on studies and reports pointing out the "inequities" that demand such spending and in not too many years the result would probably be enough to send a woman to the moon.
is an excerpt from remarks by Professor Robert Paquette, co-founder of
the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization,
on winning the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom, Friday,
March 7, at the CPAC convention in Maryland. The award is sponsored by the
American Conservative Union Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley
At many of the most prestigious liberal
arts colleges in the United States, departments of English no longer require of
its majors the reading of Shakespeare; departments of history mandate that its
majors take multiple courses in non-Western history but have either no
requirement or a token requirement for American history. Faculty,
administrators, and trustees have openly betrayed the finest traditions of
liberal arts education by passing off the swindle known as the open curriculum,
which, in truth, means the no curriculum, as something somehow worthy of a
$60,000 per year price tag.
I have lived in the belly of the beast of
higher education for 33 years as a practicing historian. The animating
principles of that great experiment in republican government, I tell my
students, centered on the defense of limited government, voluntary exchange,
private property, and civil freedom. Does anyone in the audience tonight
believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these
days with a deep and abiding appreciation of the worth of these principles?
Or is it more likely that a substantial number of students graduate able to
parrot one or another fashionable and distortional discourses of oppression in
which we see--and here I paraphrase from any number of listings in college
catalogues-- the intersections of class, race, gender, and sexuality.
For the Doubting Thomases, I
say perform this simple experiment: Go to the home page of the website of
any elite college or university in the United States. Activate the
search engine by plugging in such words as social justice, sustainability,
diversity, multiculturalism, sexism, racism, Marx, activist, and identities.
Total the references. Now perform a similar search for, say, conservative,
entrepreneur, Western civilization, Shakespeare, Judaic, Aristotle, and
Christian. Get the point.
A major theme of my Duke
lacrosse blog has been the almost complete lack of accountability for
statements and judgments on the case made by academics and journalists. Duke's
trustees awarded the institution's feckless president, Richard Brodhead,
another five-year term. No fewer than four members of the Group of 88--the
faculty who rushed to judgment in a guilt-presuming ad--left Duke for more
prestigious positions at other schools. (The most recent such announcement came
a mere two weeks ago.) Imagine the fate of professors in the politically
correct academy who had rushed to judgment against more favored groups on
The media experience was
similar. Selena Roberts, the sports columnist who drove much of the Times' guilt-presuming message, was
hired away by Sports Illustrated. (Roberts,
for those with short memories, compared
members of the lacrosse team--"a group of
privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to
belie their social standing as human beings"--to "drug dealers and gang members
engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.") And
Duff Wilson, the chief reporter for the Times'
hilariously one-sided news coverage, went on to become associate editor for Reuters' global enterprise
unit--and, almost incredibly, an adjunct professor at Columbia's School of Journalism, where he'll have the opportunity to influence the
next generation of journalists.
But a lack
of accountability for politically correct campus-related reporting is hardly
confined to the Duke lacrosse case. Take, for instance, the case of Katie
Baker. A few months ago, I critiqued Baker's odd Newsweek reporting about
one of the earliest California legislative efforts to weaken campus due
process. In her article (a hard-news piece, not an op-ed), Baker repeatedly
described accusers as "sexual assault survivors" or the "victim"--suggesting
that she believes that the mere filing of a complaint indicates that a rape
occurred. She also passed along, without critical comment, a highly
controversial Justice Department claim that college women are four times more
likely to be sexually assaulted than the rest of the population. Skepticism
about what the government says doesn't appear to be Baker's forte.
It turns out that the presentation
in the Newsweek piece reflected
Baker's basic beliefs about due process and sexual assault. She had come to Newsweek from Jezebel, where
she labeled the Wall Street Journal's
James Taranto as a "prolific woman-hating troll."
(Those in the reality-based community on this issue know Taranto as author of
perhaps the single best exposé of the effects of a lack of due process on
campus, in his column about Auburn.) For good measure, Baker described Taranto
as a "cockroach," and added--in all caps--"HE IS THE WORST."
Reflecting her commitment to
open intellectual exchange, Baker announced that she was "not interested in
engaging with Taranto."
(or, perhaps, because of?) this record, Baker has just been hired by BuzzFeed. Her
task will be "to cover
criminal justice and other legal and social issues related to college
campuses," and assisting another reporter in the publication's "rape culture
process, it seems, be damned.
March 7, 2014
you stop and think, it's unfair to the many writers at the New York Times who produce columns that don't have an ideological
edge, to tar them with the brush that is rightly applied to its overwhelmingly
unfair and unbalanced editorial pages. Just because the most conspicuous part
of a newspaper is terribly slanted is not a good reason to think badly of the
rest of it. Guilt by association is always a bad, illogical practice.
occasions that introduction is a recent New
York Times piece by writer Eduardo Porter, "The
Bane and the Boon of For-Profit Colleges." Because many liberal politicians
(most notably Iowa's Tom Harkin) have had knives drawn against for-profit higher
education, you might expect that the Times
would take the same stance, but Porter's article is not a hit piece at all.
begins by interviewing Marc Jerome, vice president of Monroe College, which has two campuses
in the New York area. The college is indeed a business, founded 80 years ago by
Mr. Jerome's grandfather. It is emphatically not a degree mill. Porter notes
that more than 90 percent of recent graduates tracked by the school either
continued their education or found employment. (Many well-known, non-profit
colleges couldn't match that record.)
irritates Mr. Jerome is the way for-profits have been singled out for hostile political
attack. Some certainly have scammed gullible students, but not his school.
"Targeting only for-profit institutions and exempting nonprofit institutions
with poor outcomes is ultimately more harmful to the students the
administration is seeking to protect," he states. Clumsy federal regulations
meant to solve one problem (the fact that many students who enroll in
for-profit colleges don't graduate and find "gainful employment") are likely to
have the unintended consequence of harming students who will be lured into
non-profits that will be worse for them.
piece doesn't quite articulate the crucial point, although readers might find
it between the lines: There is nothing necessarily bad about for-profit
education, nor anything necessarily good about non-profit education. In both,
the problem lies in the way we subsidize education.
Friedman often said that when people spend their own money, they're much more
careful than when they spend someone else's money. That's just as true about
education as anything else.
students are mostly spending other people's money through grants or seemingly
benign government loans, they are far less careful about getting good value than
if they were spending their own money. Schools
offering good educational value for the dollar, like Monroe College evidently
does, will do fine in a system without easy federal money. Degree mill scams, on the other hand, will
wither and die, for-profit and nonprofit alike.
has written a commendably fair and balanced piece. Some Times writers do that, just as some for-profit colleges are good
One of the biggest challenges MOOCs
face is facilitating community and conversations among students. The MOOC I'm
taking, "Introduction to Sustainability," has three main kinds of discussion forums
where students can start conversation "threads" and respond to others: 1) one
for general discussion in which people post about anything they think is relevant;
2) video lecture forums where students respond to each individual lecture; 3) forums
devoted to each week, sorting comments by syllabus chronology rather than by recurring
The comments range from
self-interested (an advertisement for one student's start-up wifi provider) to
helpful (advice to Mac users whose operating systems can mess up some comment
formatting) to inquisitive (does cap and trade reduce carbon emissions?). When
I started a thread asking students if they thought environmental devotion was
an ethical duty that trumped economic analysis, I found that the act of writing
and citing sources made my question and its responses more thoughtful than
either one might have been otherwise. But I also found that the anonymity of
the Internet can make it easier for some to ignore civility. The three
discussion "conduct standards" in the forum instructions remind students to be
polite, be sensitive, and post appropriate content. (Nothing about a student's
duty to post true statements or logical arguments, incidentally.)
This week, Professor Tomkin is
giving extra credit to those who post a recommendation for a particular
environmental policy and who respond to other people's recommendations.
Usually, though, there's no reward for commenting; to post or not to post is up
to the student. This lack of incentive makes conversations worse than they
might be in person, where professors' expectations and the instinct to defend
one's opinions can drive students to participate. Online, everything depends on
the student's own initiative. But that laissez faire policy also creates better
outcomes than in most online courses, where students complete trivial
commenting exercises yet have little interest in their distant classmates. In
the MOOC, students comment only when they have genuine questions. Thus there
are fewer discussions, but the students who participate care more about
That can also mean, though, that
more students are posting questions than are responding. Indeed, most of the posts
have been viewed by about 30 students, according to the running counts shown
next to the thread titles, and many have only one post, the original question,
per thread. Several have two to five posts as a couple of students interact. The
longest thread I've seen has 46, and the second longest, 30; that thread was
titled "I'm finding the quizzes difficult. How about you?"
Professor Tomkin himself is beyond
the students' reach, though at the end of each week we get an email from him recapping
that week's content and summarizing what he considered the most interesting
student exchanges. There are notices
posted on the course page reminding us that "the instructor is not able to
answer emails sent directly to his account" and "all questions should be posted
to one of the above forums." Instead, a
number of "community TAs" from the University of Illinois monitor the forums and
post occasional responses.
(This is Part 3 of Rachelle De Jong's series on taking a MOOC. You can find Part 2 here and Part 1 here.)
March 6, 2014
Cross-posted from See Thru Edu
is some sort of poetic justice or perfect symmetry in the recent discovery that
a Duke University student is paying her tuition by working as a porn star.
There are certainly schools with more Bacchanalian social structures than Duke;
many of its students are quite serious about their educations and have enough
self-respect to avoid the worst campus excesses. But Duke's recent
sex-scandal-ridden history, featuring incredibly weak administrative
leadership, makes it the perfect place for yet another such humiliation.
libidinous atmosphere was first hinted at in Tom Wolfe's novel, I
Am Charlotte Simmons, published in 2004 (although Wolfe denied his
fictitious Dupont University was based on Duke, the many parallels and
coincidences were hard to ignore). It became the poster child for campus
licentiousness in 2006 when a scandal erupted over a stripper who
falsely accused lacrosse
team members of rape. The school's response, from president
Dick Brodhead to the Gang of 88 faculty members, was to vilify the
accused students and paint targets on their backs, even though there was
considerable evidence that the woman was lying. (Questions raised then
regarding her mental instability were recently confirmed when she was convicted
of murdering her boyfriend.) Brodhead eventually had to apologize for siding
with the stripper and the radical faculty members, but his reputation as a
cowardly follower of the worst faculty elements was cemented.
2008, a Duke
performance by the
"Sex Worker's Art Show" led to national exposure of the exceedingly raunchy and
antisocial antics of a travelling troupe of strippers and prostitutes. (Due to
that exposure, the Art Show no longer tours college campuses.) The performance
was partially paid for with school funds under the control of the administration.
was followed by the Karen Owens
scandal in 2010. Owens
was a Duke student who created a PowerPoint presentation describing in
cringe-inducing detail her numerous sexual liaisons with athletes. She showed
it to another student who put it on the web for public viewing, where it went
viral. The derision directed toward the Duke community was so great that
Brodhead again leapt into action, this time by admonishing the student body in
a weakly worded email, asking them to behave better.
him appear even more ineffectual, Brodhead's tepid attempt at leadership
coincided with a campus visit by a so-called "sex educator"--again, partially
paid for by funds distributed by his administration--who encouraged young women
to experiment sexually with wild abandon. The expert offered such common sense
advice as suggesting that it was okay for a young woman to go home with a
complete stranger from a bar as long as they could "gaze longingly into each
others' eyes," and that American children should begin having sex as early as
puberty, "like they do in Europe." In fact, such "educators" regularly appear
on the Duke campus, with the administration offering both funding and its
Continue reading "Will Duke President Address Latest Scandal?" »
Rutgers's faculty and campus
newspaper are offering one final lesson for its seniors: don't engage with opposing views.
On the recommendation of its Board of Governors, New Jersey's flagship public university has invited
Condoleezza Rice to address the graduating class of 2014. Dr. Rice, of course,
is both an accomplished scholar and dedicated public servant. Her life story is
remarkable--born and raised in the Jim Crow South, she rose to become Stanford
University's provost, President Bush's national security advisor and America's
first female African-American secretary of state. By any reasonable standard,
she is a fine choice for commencement speaker.
This hasn't stopped members of the Rutgers Faculty
Council from adopting
a resolution urging the university to rescind its invitation. For them,
Rice's role in the Bush administration renders her persona non grata. Rutgers' Daily Targum agreed, proclaiming
"we just don't feel comfortable having politicians as commencement speakers at
Even taking the editorial board at its word, a
no-politician standard is ludicrous. Would the Targum oppose President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren
(who was granted an honorary degree from Rutgers in 2011 with little protest) as
possible commencement speakers because those on the right may find them
Note that the invitation to Condoleezza Rice has already been extended. As the C.
Vann Woodward Report observed, "Once an invitation [to speak] is accepted
and the event is publicly announced, there are high risks involved if a
University official ... attempts by public or private persuasion to have the
invitation rescinded." Why? Because it sends the message that being shielded from
those with whom you may disagree is preferable to hearing what they have to
say--a notion antithetical to the pursuit of truth that is the heartbeat of a
Of course, Secretary Rice is unlikely to touch on
politics in her address. What the Faculty Council is really saying is that pursuing
certain policies can render an individual unfit to speak at Rutgers, no matter
what that individual says. This is rank political discrimination at its worst.
Thankfully, Rutgers's administration is standing firm. The university is
showing that when a principled administration and Board of Governors work
together, they can serve as bulwarks for academic freedom.
March 5, 2014
This is an excerpt from an essay in The American Conservative by
Patrick Deneen on the Harvard Crimson column by Harvard senior S.V.
Doctrine of Academic Freedom" which argued for dispensing with longstanding
commitments to "academic freedom" in favor of what she calls "academic
What is particularly telling in Ms. Korn's article is that
she identifies perhaps the one conspicuous conservative professor on the
Harvard campus for censure, Harvey C. Mansfield (even as she quotes him
quite severely out of
context). When thinking of who should be silenced at Harvard, she can only
think of one person, a single conservative octogenarian. Her call for
"censorship" of conservative views on campus is at this point almost wholly
unnecessary, since there are nearly no conservatives to be found at Harvard, or
on most college campuses today (the University of Colorado has gone so far to
create a Chair in Conservative Studies, since there was no other way to locate
a conservative on that campus). Her call is actually much less controversial
than it appears at first glance, since it effectively describes the de facto political
and social condition on most college campuses today.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has
been under heavy fire for running James Taranto's February
10 column criticizing the double standard in campus policies that treat the
man as a criminal and the woman as a victim when they have drunken sex--widely
and egregiously misinterpreted
as "if a drunk woman is raped, it's as much her fault as the rapist's." On
February 24, presumably for balance, the Journal
op-ed by an anti-sexual violence activist defending the government-backed
campus crusade against (broadly defined) sexual assault. In a stroke of unfortunate irony, the
activist who delivered the message was in the media spotlight a few years ago
as a rape victim advocate--and, back then, she was defending a notorious rape
The February 24
column by Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the board of the National Alliance
to End Sexual Violence, is a fairly unremarkable recycling of talking points. Johnson
Hostler asserts that acquaintance rape is a "scourge of college life," with one
in five female students becoming a victim of rape or attempted rape. (Her source is the 2007 Campus
Sexual Assault Study--which, apart from its dubious criteria for defining
sexual assault, included non-penetrative unwanted sexual contact.) On the bright side, she seems to steer clear
of the rhetoric that brands the average male college student a rapist, instead asserting
that serial sexual predators who deliberately target incapacitated women "often blend into their schools and student communities with
ease." Of course, if that's the real
problem of college sexual assault, it's not clear why the average college male
must be terrorized with dire warnings that he could be an unwitting rapist if
he fails to ascertain that his apparently willing partner is sufficiently sober
(or sufficiently enthusiastic) to consent.
Rewind to 2006, when the sensational rape allegations
against members of the Duke University lacrosse team were playing out in the
headlines across the country--and when revelations of factual problems with the
alleged victim's account of the events began to raise questions about the rush
to judgment. Johnson Hostler, then executive director of the North Carolina
Coalition Against Sexual Assault, was quoted extensively in a Cybercast News Service story on April 20 lamenting the critical media coverage:
said the woman is being "re-victimized" by the public examination of
her account of the evening's events, and the scrutiny will
"absolutely" discourage future rape victims from coming forward out
of fear of embarrassment.
Johnson Hostler also
brushed off the suggestion that three young men facing charges in the case
might be facing a painful ordeal if unfairly accused:
think they'll be glorified if they're found innocent," she said. "The
sensationalism of this case will go to another level if they're found
added that a not guilty verdict would "allow people to say, 'See, women do
cry rape,'" a reference to the fable of the boy who cried wolf.
The same day, Johnson
on the Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor,
where she reiterated her conviction that the woman had indeed been raped and saying
that her role was "to support a woman or any victim that comes forward to say
that they were sexually assaulted." When
O'Reilly asked, "Even if they weren't?", Johnson Hostler replied, "I can't say
that I've come across one that wasn't."
Certainly, a sexual
assault counseling service should provide support to any person who reports an
assault without investigating the veracity of the claim. However, it's certainly a leap from such
support to publicly defending the absolute truthfulness of any rape claim, denouncing
the media for having the gall to investigate facts that don't match the
"victim's" story, or transparently suggesting that a not guilty verdict would
be bad for women.
Johnson Hostler also asserted at the time that a not-guilty verdict "won't tell
us anything" about the players' actual innocence or guilt, the actual outcome
of the case--a full dismissal of all the charges--was a strong statement of their
It is possible, in
theory, that Johnson Hostler's views have evolved since 2006. Or, more likely, this is precisely the kind
of guilty-by-fiat ideology she would like to see enshrined on college campuses
far beyond Duke.
One would think that
taking such a spectacular drubbing in the Duke case would severely undercut Ms.
Johnson Hostler's credibility as a spokeswoman for rape victims. But evidently, being a warrior against "the
rape culture" means never having to say you're sorry.
March 4, 2014
The "White House Task
Force To Protect Students from Sexual Assault," an initiative that thus far has
elected not to engage civil liberties groups, invited public comment on its
work and the issue of the administration's response to campus sexual assault
allegations. Below is the comment that I submitted:
Since the Task Force has invited public
comment, I write to express my concerns with the administration's lamentable,
consistent, efforts to weaken due process protections on campus. (For the
record: I write as an Obama supporter in both 2008 and 2012.) The anti-due
process crusade began in 2011, when the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a
"Dear Colleague" letter holding, nearly four decades after its enactment, that
Title IX required colleges to substantially weaken the already weak due process
protections for students accused of sexual assault on campus. Now, through the
rule-making effort for an update to the Violence Against Women Act, the
administration is attempting to make permanent this unfortunate change.
Although a number of civil liberties groups,
most prominently the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE),
challenged the provisions of the "Dear Colleague" letter from the start, the
OCR has proven frustratingly unwilling to publicly explain why Title
IX requires colleges to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard in sexual
assault cases or to allow accusers to appeal not-guilty disciplinary finding.
Nor has the OCR even remotely defended its proposition that Title IX justifies
the agency's strong suggestion that colleges forbid accused students from
cross-examining their accusers, despite the obvious threat to due process
caused by such a policy.
Based on statements and policies adopted by
defenders of OCR, however, there appear to be two purported justifications for
the OCR's action. The first is procedural: that civil actions represent the
most appropriate analogy for campus sexual assault hearings, and therefore the
civil standard of preponderance-of-evidence is appropriate.
This line of argument misunderstands the
basics of most college disciplinary processes. As a statement from FIRE
recently explained, "those facing civil
penalties in real courts under the preponderance standard are afforded many
fundamental protections that are typically absent from campus tribunals,
including impartial judges, unbiased juries of one's peers, representation by
counsel, mandatory 'discovery' processes to ensure that all parties have access
to relevant information, restrictions on unreliable evidence like hearsay or
prior bad acts, and sworn testimony under penalty of perjury." Tellingly, while
the OCR has championed the preponderance-of-evidence threshold for students
accused of sexual assault, the agency has declined to demand that universities
guarantee any of the above procedures for accused students.
The civil-suit comparison
also misunderstands the current effects of expulsion. Thirty or forty years
ago, in an era in which many people still blamed the victim for sexual assault,
college rapists could and often did flourish later in life. (Recall the
experience of David Wu, whose college girlfriend accused him of attempted
sexual assault in 1976, and who was disciplined by Stanford, but who
nonetheless went on to be elected to Congress from Oregon.) But in the current
environment, the effect of a guilty finding extends well beyond simply needing
to find another school. Few colleges, for entirely understandable reasons, will
accept as transfer students an undergraduate who has been deemed a rapist by
his previous institution. Even those accused students who manage to graduate
college will find jobs that require background checks (a common phenomenon in
our security-conscious times) foreclosed to them in the future.
For actual rapists, of
course, this fate is a highly insufficient punishment, since even if they're
expelled from school and lose future employment opportunities, they won't go to
jail. But for the falsely accused (and convicted), an incorrect disciplinary
judgment will have a shattering, lifelong effect. That fate applies even to
those convicted for offenses that campuses describe as sexual assault but that
few people off campus would recognize as such. At Occidental, for instance,
affirmative consent can sometimes not be a defense against a rape charge, since
the college holds that in sexual intercourse, "'Yes' may not always mean, 'Yes.'"
Or take Yale, whose definition of intimate partner violence includes "economic
abuse" between roommates. Yet on their transcripts, students convicted under
such standards would nonetheless be branded as rapists.
If weakening due process made
it more likely that college disciplinary tribunals would reach the truth,
perhaps the change would make sense. But the OCR has presented no evidence that
such an outcome is related to adjudicating cases by a preponderance-of-evidence
The OCR's second rationale
appears to revolve around an unusual definition of safety--a hunch that actual
victims will be more likely to report allegations of sexual assault to campus
authorities if they believe it more likely that the proceeding will end in a
guilty finding. While it's conventional wisdom that victims will be more likely
to report sexual assault cases if they are treated with respect by authorities
and if they are confident that authorities will properly investigate their
claims, I'm not aware of any study that suggests victims calculate the odds of
success at trial before reporting a crime. And even if such a study existed,
lowering the burden of proof to encourage more reporting of what remains a
criminal offense is repugnant to American traditions.
In the event, it's hard to
credit the OCR with an ostensible commitment to safety, given the agency's
recent settlement with SUNY. Common sense would indicate that the best way to reduce
sexual assault on campuses is to tighten working relationships between local
law enforcement and the campus community. Such an approach wouldprovide positive assurance to victims (that
their accusation will be considered seriously) without in any way undermining
due process. Hopefully, more victims of crime on
campus would feel comfortable enough to file police reports--ensuring that
trained law enforcement officers, as opposed to untrained academic
administrators, actually investigate sexual assault cases. Since campus
disciplinary panels lack subpoena power, can't override HIPAA restrictions to
analyze the medical evidence that's often critical to sexual assault cases, and
do not generally employ trained law enforcement officers, they are almost singularly
ill-equipped to conduct investigations of what remains a criminal offense.
Continue reading "Task Force Comment" »
February 28, 2014
years, efforts have been made, legal and illegal, to get around the provisions
of California's Prop 209. That's the 1996 measure that prevents consideration of
gender, race or ethnicity in public education, employment or contracting. But
for many weeks, it has seemed likely that the overwhelmingly Democratic
California legislature would vote to exempt education from the law. That
would open the door to race, ethnic or gender quotas, which would reduce the
high student percentage of Asians (and women too, perhaps) at UCLA and
Berkeley, the two flagship state universities. Now a movement is under way by
the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, to persuade Asian-American state
legislators to change their votes on the new measure, known as SCA 5. Yesterday,
the PAC noted that one assemblyman will not vote for SCA 5 with others expected
to follow. "It has been reliably leaked" with others to follow. The PAC site
said the State senate will not proceed without more hearings, presumably
because of the PAC's opposition. "So the dam has been broken," said the PAC.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article
this week was headlined "Minority
Male Students Face Challenge to Achieve at Community Colleges," and it
discussed various successes and failures in that eponymous arena. Particularly intriguing was this passage:
And instead of offering small,
"boutique" programs for minority students that attract just a few
dozen students, [one expert] said, colleges should extend programs like
mandatory study-skills classes, learning communities, and tutoring to all
students. Minority students will benefit disproportionately from such strategies,
she said, but they won't feel embarrassed by participating or feel that they're
being singled out as "at risk."
thought of this in light of President Obama's announcement yesterday of his new "My Brother's Keeper" program, which is
racially exclusive and aimed at the same "at risk" young men of color. The
White House, by the way, uses "of color" to include Hispanics (which is not
a nonracial group) and to exclude Asians (which is), but that's a story
for another day.
and putting aside the constitutional and Civil Rights Act problems of the
president's new program, what kind of a message is being sent when one or two
racial/ethnic groups are singled out for special treatment because they are so
likely to screw up? Or should it be assumed instead that they are being
singled out because The System is so stacked against them?
I'm not sure which message is worse. How difficult would it have been for the
president to have designed the new program so that it was open to at-risk youth
of all colors -- the way even the Chronicle of Higher Education, for Pete's
sake, apparently acknowledges makes more sense?
Are American colleges really the best in the world? One
group that really matters--the business leaders who want to hire college
A recent poll conducted by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation
found that while 37 percent of business leaders believed that the United States
has the best system of higher-education, a sizable 32 precent disagreed. More
significantly, one-third of the survey's participants disagreed with the
statement that American higher-education provided students with "the
skills and competences that my business needs."
In contrast, university adminstrators are far more
optimistic. When Inside Higher Ed asked administrators whether their
institutions succeed at "preparing students for the world of work,"
55 percent said that their schools were "very effective" and 40
percent said they were "somewhat effective." Unfortunately for
students, it's not the opinion of their deans and provosts that matters, but
that of the managers who make hiring decisions.
Fortunately, there's a silver lining--somewhat. The Gallup
poll shows that the despite their misgivings, business leaders will continue to
hire American graduates. 57 percent "strongly disagree" that they
should hire foreign-born workers due the failings of American higher education.
Only 4 percent said they "strongly agree" that they should. This
statistic will reassure the higher-education establishment; however, if the
doubts of business leaders continue to grow, it's hard to imagine them
hiring under-prepared Americans forever.
February 27, 2014
Last week, in the first post
of a series chronicling my experiences in the University of Illinois-Urbana
Champaign's MOOC "Introduction to Sustainability," I noted the Darwinian
structure of the course. Now more than half-way through the class, I tweak that
statement slightly. Survival of the fittest isn't the right metaphor to
describe the winnowing of MOOC students. It's more like survival of the most
The MOOC isn't hard. Each week, I watch approximately 45
minutes of video lectures broken into 5- or 10- (sometimes 15-) minute segments,
each beginning with the reintroduction of Prof. Jonathan Tomkin and ending with
an ad for the UI's digital media program. The lecture would flow much better in
intact segments, but the short lengths are intended to appeal to those with short
attention spans or crunched schedules. I've found that I spend about 1.5
minutes for every 1 minute of footage, adding extra time to pause and take
notes--a task that's harder when the lectures are scripted to make every word
From there I read 1-3 assignments, ranging from Economist articles to UN population
studies to chapters from Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation,
the open online textbook that Tomkin helped compile and write. (I admit that
I'm biased against the textbook: It
cites charts from Wikipedia pages.) This takes about 3-5 hours, depending on
the texts. Initially I completed the reading before watching the lectures,
expecting the lectures to expound upon the texts and challenge me to consider them
in a new light. Two weeks' confusion corrected that mistake. For the most part,
the lectures introduce the readings, summarizing what Professor Tomkin deems
most important and hinting at what he intends to quiz everyone on. If I want to
analyze the texts, or the lecture, for that matter, I must do it myself, or
head to the discussion boards.
The online discussions vary. Sometimes they're lively,
but I haven't had great luck getting any conversations started. Luck seems to
be a relevant factor: much depends on who else happens to be perusing the
discussions and whether they were already wondering the question you've asked
and are inclined to give your comment a thumbs-up. The most "liked" comments
get the most attention. (More on the topic of communication and student
interaction next week.)
At the end of each week's content, I take two quizzes. Knowing
there's no way to enforce a ban on notes, Prof. Tomkin often asks minutely
specific questions and directs students to return to the text and look up the
answers. Often, he assigns another 1-3 readings within quiz questions taken
from these extra texts. This makes the quizzes surprisingly (and painfully) long--often
taking double the time of the lectures.
The toughest part is being diligent when there are no
classmates present, the professor is out of contact, and the grades don't count.
(This is Part 2 of Rachelle De Jong's series on taking a MOOC. You can find Part 1 here.)
speech has finally returned to Modesto Junior College. One can only hope that
other schools will follow suit.
September, MJC students Robert Van Tuinen and Megan Rainwater attempted to
hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside MJC's student center. It was
Constitution Day, after all, and Van Tuinen and Rainwater hoped to
educate their fellow students. Within ten minutes, however, campus police
ordered them to stop, since "students were prohibited from distributing
materials without prior permission." When Van Tuinen balked, an MJC
administrator told him that he had to register for his event days in advance
and that his event could only take place in a defined "free speech
the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Peter Bonilla wrote in
a letter to MJC's administration, such a policy was clearly unconstitutional.
Both case law and the California Education Code say that colleges cannot require
students to either request permission to distribute printed material or confine
free speech to "single small area of campus." MJC failed to address FIRE's
concerns, and it took a lawsuit from a D.C. law firm and FIRE to convince
MJC to end its unconstitutional policies. The college settled on Monday.
to FIRE's efforts, MJC students can now exercise their First Amendment rights
in "areas generally available to students and the community," including "grassy
areas, walkways, and other similar common areas." This is certainly great news
for defenders of free speech. However, it's sad that MJC's commitment to free
expression stems from a fear of financial loss--not principle.
February 25, 2014
In a major victory for academic quality, CUNY students'
ability to complete their degrees in a timely fashion, and basic common sense,
New York Supreme Court judge Anil Singh has
dismissed a lawsuit filed by the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff
Congress (PSC), seeking to eliminate the Pathways curricular initiative. (I
wrote about the Pathways
fight previously.) Even more important, Judge Singh's decision affirmed the
principle of shared governance,
rejecting the PSC's demand that the faculty be the sole source of curricular authority
A quick background: Pathways was the final initiative of
former chancellor Matthew Goldstein. Long an advocate of making CUNY more of an
integrated university, Goldstein acted after widespread student complaints with
intra-CUNY transfers, in which CUNY students from one CUNY college found their
general education credits rejected by another CUNY school, forcing them to
re-take introductory courses. Goldstein also wanted to find ways to limit the
overall credits CUNY schools devoted to gen-ed classes (which are often taught
by adjuncts) to allow students to take more upper-division electives, including
from topics outside their major that might nonetheless interest them
Given that the union--whose leadership is trapped in the
intellectual climate of late 1960s Cornell or Columbia--opposed
every major proposal by Goldstein to improve quality at CUNY, it came as
little surprise that the PSC resisted Pathways as well. PSC campus officers
pressured faculty not to cooperate with the initiative, and the union even
rigged a plebiscite with ballots that presented only the union's arguments.
Even then, almost 40 percent of the faculty abstained from the vote; and
CUNY-wide faculty committees designed a new curriculum, which the trustees then
PSC president Barbara Bowen wasn't done, however; the
union filed a lawsuit claiming that adoption of Pathways by the Trustees
violated the CUNY Bylaws, since the faculty has sole power over curriculum at
CUNY. The PSC reached this peculiar argument even though the Bylaws explicitly
state that the Chancellor has the power "to initiate, plan, develop and implement institutional strategy and
policy on all educational and administrative issues affecting the university,
including to prepare a comprehensive overall academic plan for the university,
subject to the board's approval."
While the Bylaws did not
sustain the union's claim that the faculty possesses sole authority on
curricular matters, neither did New York State law. To the contrary: the state's
education law gives the Trustees, not the faculty, "control of the educational
work of the city university"--a power that rests "solely" with the Board of
Trustees. Ironically, Judge Singh observed, the major New York case cited by
the union "firmly rejected" the PSC's erroneous interpretation of the Trustees'
Since the union had neither
the Bylaws nor state law on its side, Judge Singh described the PSC's case as
"devoid of merit."
Even if the PSC's case had merit--which, to reiterate,
Judge Singh said it didn't--poor lawyering eliminated any chance the union had
of victory. Given the plain wording of the bylaws, the PSC had no chance of
prevailing on that aspect of its claim. But the union also alleged that passage
of Pathways violated a 1997 settlement between CUNY and the union on an
unrelated issue. Alas, as Judge Singh noted, to have effectively raised that
claim, the PSC would have needed to have filed a lawsuit within four months of
Pathways' passage by the Board. Instead, for reasons the union has never
explained, the PSC waited nine months to file its lawsuit. Whether there will
be any accountability for what amounts to a massive waste of the faculty's dues
moneys seems doubtful.
The union has created a special website devoted to Pathways.
As of the time of publication, that website contained no mention of Judge
February 24, 2014
An update regarding the issue of campus
due process and sexual assault allegations in California:
FIRE has a powerful
statement condemning SB 967, the California bill designed to codify (and go
beyond) the anti-due process approach of the OCR's "Dear Colleague" letter. FIRE
correctly observes that while campus
administrators "are neither qualified nor equipped to respond properly to
sexual assault allegations," the California legislature seems intent on
entrusting "them with still greater responsibility. Injustice will inevitably
be the result."
The statement calls into question the sponsors'
impartiality, noting that the bill repeatedly uses the term "victim," as if the
mere leveling of a sexual assault allegation makes someone a victim. FIRE also
notes that while SB 967 purports to mandate adjudication of campus sexual
assault claims according to the standard of civil litigation, unlike accused students on campus, civil
trials feature "impartial judges, unbiased juries of one's peers,
representation by counsel, mandatory 'discovery' processes to ensure that all
parties have access to relevant information, restrictions on unreliable
evidence like hearsay or prior bad acts, and sworn testimony under penalty of
perjury." Finally, FIRE observes the
impossibility of enforcing the bill's "affirmative consent" standard.
Hans Bader echoes these sentiments in a letter to the Sacramento
Bee, observing that the bill's allowance of anonymous sexual
assault complaints would effectively deny accused students all right to cross-examine
The sponsors of the bill, however, have shown no signs of
backing down--though they're struggling to offer a consistent argument. The
measure's chief sponsor in the California Senate, Kevin de León, recently expressed his pleasure that
there was now "more attention on this pressing issue - Sexual assault
is 'a crime; it's a simple, straightforward crime.'"
Yet his bill treats sexual assault as
anything but a "a simple, straightforward crime." It mandates conviction
through a preponderance of evidence standard--unlike all other crimes in
California. It defines sexual assault on campus (the "affirmative consent"
standard) differently from the state's general sexual assault statute,
which contains no such provision. It remains silent on whether students accused
of sexual assault on campus have a right to an attorney--a right that would be
constitutionally required if campus sexual assault were, in fact, "a simple,
According to one of the bill's
co-sponsors, however, none of this is problematic: Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
recently approvingly tweeted an article from Ms. that
claimed SB 967 will make California a "national leader" on how state
governments should legislate on campus sexual assault claims.
To date, no member of the California
legislature has expressed opposition to SB 967.
February 21, 2014
By now, Ms. Sandra Y. L. Korn must be wondering whether
she picked her words wisely. On Monday,
February 17, Ms. Korn, a Harvard senior, published an essay in The Harvard Crimson, titled "The
Doctrine of Academic Freedom," with the explosive sub-head, "Let's give up
on academic freedom in favor of justice."
The Crimson has
now posted hundreds of comments, almost all of them disapproving. And Ms. Korn's article has attracted
attention well beyond the quad, as in Bill
Zeiser's article in The American
Spectator. There doesn't seem to be
much need to add to the growing string of put-downs. Refutation, however, is another matter.
Korn's argument is simply summarized: The freedom of faculty members to pursue
research and to teach has some value, but these activities always and
everywhere reflect political considerations.
A university community rightly has its own political values and when a
faculty member violates them, he should be silenced. "Academic justice" is more important than
Korn unabashedly upholds the priority of opposing "racism,
sexism, and heterosexism" as campus priorities and cannot imagine any valid
reason for compromising this "rigorous standard" for anything as porous as
"academic freedom." She cites various
examples of opinions that she believes the Harvard community could and should
appropriately quash. These include the
late Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein's views on the
heritability of I.Q. and the ("hateful") views of an Indian scholar about
Muslims in India. Professor Harvey
Mansfield may have "the legal right" to publish statements about "ladylike
modesty," but Ms. Korn would "happily organize with other feminists on campus
to stop him from publishing further sexist commentary under the authority of a
Harvard faculty position." She
recommends that those who favor an academic boycott of Israel bypass academic
freedom objections and focus on academic justice instead.
Continue reading "Academic Justice and Intellectual Thuggery" »
February 19, 2014
Monday, a columnist at the Harvard Crimson came
out against academic freedom, because it often interferes with "something I think much more
important: academic justice." Her name is Sandra Y.L Korn, class of 2014, and
she is unwilling to tolerate research that threatens her political goals. She
writes: "If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism,
why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name
of "academic freedom?" Indeed, why should any university allow any research it
disagrees with politically? As one Crimson commenter pointed out, Korn's anti-intellectual
notion could be put in the language of a conservative religious college:
"If our university community opposes evolutionism, why should we put up
with research that counters creationism simply in the name of "academic
essay picks up two familiar but still minor threads of thought on the modern
campus: that left activism is more important than actual study and research,
and that censorship will be justified to bat away incorrect intellectual work. Since Korn believes
she is living in "a campus environment dominated by rape culture--a culture that
systematically legitimizes and excuses sexual violence," that would mean working
to stop research that might challenge the idea that Harvard legitimizes rape. So
much research to eliminate. So little time.
February 18, 2014
In a recent string
of tweets, Lindsay Rosenthal, formerly of the Center for American Progress
and now at the
Ms. Foundation for Women, compared concerns about insufficient due process
protections on college campuses to the heavily partisan efforts to impose
increased voter restrictions or to level fact-free allegations of "anchor
babies"--a comparison, she added, that only those embedded in "privilege" could
fail to recognize. When I pointed out to her that--quite unlike "anchor
babies"--a wave of federal lawsuits had been filed alleging violation of due
process, including from plaintiffs whose background in no way indicated
privilege, Rosenthal announced that she would "no longer consent" to continuing
Rosenthal's arguments might have been dismissed as the
rant of a thin-skinned extremist--but for a newly-introduced
bill in the California state assembly. Introduced by Democratic senators Kevin de Leόn and Hannah-Beth Jackson and Democratic assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, and co-sponsored by Democratic senators Jim Beall, Noreen Evans, Cathleen Galgiani, Fran Pavley and Norma Torres; and Democratic Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez and Das Williams. The measure, called SB 967, seeks to mandate a vision of due process even more
hostile than the OCR's "Dear Colleague" letter by linking due process matters
to uncontroversial proposals that virtually colleges already have adopted in
one form or another.
uncontroversial, elements that led Fresno
Bee to hail SB
967 on the grounds
that it would force colleges to "put rape victims first." It contains such
provisions as requiring campus governing boards to cooperate with "on-campus and community-based organizations to make services
available to [alleged] victims." It holds that consent can never occur when an
accuser is asleep or mentally or physically incapacitated. (Does any
jurisdiction, anywhere in the country, hold otherwise?) The bill even contains
one unequivocally positive element, requiring California's public colleges to
develop a protocol for "medical forensic examinations and coordination
with the forensic examiner." Few, if any, colleges even mention an expectation
that an accuser receive a medical examination as part of her case.
Yet whatever benefit
might come from the medical examination provision is more than overcome by SB
967's hostility to due process. The measure seeks to codify as California law
the terms of the OCR's "Dear Colleague" letter, requiring all California public
colleges to use the preponderance-of-evidence threshold in branding a student a
rapist. (Imagine the outcry from many traditionally Democratic constituencies
if these same legislators proposed an across-the-board reduction in the
standard of guilt to 50.01 percent.) Following the Yale pattern, SB 967 also seeks to order all
California public colleges and universities to establish procedures "procedures
for anonymous reporting of sexual assault"--seemingly making sexual assault the
only violent crime that California permits the accuser to have the shield of
Continue reading "A Deceptive California Bill on Campus Rape" »
the college classroom have a "carrying capacity"?
term refers to the theoretical maximum population that a
particular environment can nourish (or carry) for an extended
period. I've been learning about it in "Introduction to
Sustainability," an eight-week MOOC
offered on Coursera by the University of
taking the MOOC both because I'm interested in the sustainability dogma on
college campuses, and because I'd like to know if higher
education can adapt to a digital environment as fluidly as humans
adapted to the Ice Age. Can the classroom intellectually nourish masses
of students? What are the limiting structures that have kept
classrooms small, intimate, and discussion based--and are those
structures important? Over the next several weeks, as I work
through the MOOC, I'll write a series of short articles
chronicling what I find.
thoughts so far: The MOOC is semi-Darwinian--not just in content, but in
form. The completion rate for "Introduction to
Sustainability" remains to be seen, but it's clear the course offers none
of the retention-conducive amenities of a brick and mortar
institution with live, accessible advisors and professors. If I
quit the course now, nobody but Coursera's automated email
system that sends weekly reminder emails would know or care. We
shouldn't be surprised when MOOCs dwindle to fractions of their original
the MOOC weeds out the least-committed students, it also
admits greater numbers. I don't mean underprivileged or
nontraditional students, who are significantly underrepresented in surveys of MOOC users. When perusing
the introductory get-to-know-each-other forums (my first
assignment for this MOOC), I randomly selected a handful of my thousands of
classmates and found only one traditional college student, a young
woman who was studying "social work and community organizing" at a private
college in Wisconsin. I did see a number
of working professionals, though, including a New York
businessman starting a sustainability-inspired restaurant, a denizen of DC
prepping for grad school, and a man from
Bangalore, India, hoping to improve his prospects of
the working professionals, my own post on the
introductory forum highlights another subgroup that MOOCs reach:
latecomers. I told my classmates I was starting the course three weeks
late and playing catch-up, something I probably couldn't have done
in a regular class.
But here it
mattered little whether I started late or on time. Past (but not future) MOOC
lectures and quizzes are available online at the student's convenience. Perhaps
they're too convenient; I could have taken all my quizzes without watching the
lectures or reading any assignments, if I'd wanted to.
only inconvenience of taking the MOOC at my own pace? I missed a
few early discussion forum threads, the opportunity to
join Coursera Signature Track (whereby I could
pay Coursera toverify my identity and award me a "verified
certificate" if I passed the course), and the deadlines to receive credit for
the first few quizzes (which I took anyways). To catch up with
the others, I could watch fifteen-minute segments of lectures over dinner
and read my assignments online late at night.
Cross-posted from Open Market
"The Wandering Dago food truck wants to park and sell food at
various events on New York State property. The state says no, because the name
is offensive. Does that violate the First Amendment?" The answer is probably
yes, says UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh at
this link. He recently discussed the free-speech issue in a pending
court case called Wandering
Dago Inc. v. N.Y. State Office of General Services. The mere fact that
a business's name is politically incorrect, or offends some patrons, is not
reason enough to ban it, as an appeals
court ruled in holding the name "Sambo's" protected in Sambo's Restaurants Inc. v. City of
Ann Arbor (1981). Of course, if it is offensive, the business
may lose customers as a result, especially if its name does not appeal to
patrons' sense of humor.
Commercial speech is not the only speech that government officials
seek to restrict when it offends certain listeners. Such restrictions are
common in universities, even though the Supreme Court has indicated that free
speech is nearly as broad on campus as in society at large (in its decisions in
Papish v. University of Missouri
Curators, Healy v. James, and Rosenberger v. University of Virginia).
For example, Arizona State University has expelled
a fraternity for a racially offensive Martin Luther King Day
party off campus. "Many condemned
the students' actions at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity party, which included
partygoers wearing stereotypical hip-hop clothes and posing with hollowed-out
watermelon cups, according to photos posted on the Internet." While offensive,
this expressive conduct appears to be protected by the First Amendment, under
court rulings such as Iota
Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University, 993
F.2d 386 (4th Cir. 1993) , which overturned a
university's discipline of a fraternity for a racially and sexually
offensive fraternity skit that the university claimed created a "hostile
and distracting learning environment" for blacks and women.
As USA Today
"Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute in
Washington, D.C.," which operates the First Amendment Center, stated
that "the Constitution protects the students' right to dress in the manner
they did as well as their offensive comments." Similarly, "Robert
Shibley, senior vice president for the Foundation for Individual Rights in
Education, said choosing a party theme is an expressive act, intended to
communicate a message and is therefore protected by the Constitution."
Moreover, the fraternity's offensive expression did not appear to
be aimed at minority students, much less any particular minority student,
which undercuts any suggestion that the party was harassment not protected by
the First Amendment. In 2010, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction
over Arizona State quashed
a racial harassment suit against a professor over his recurring
racially-charged anti-immigration emails, citing the First Amendment and the
fact that the emails were not targeted at any particular Hispanic
complainant. (See Rodriguez
v. Maricopa Community College, 605 F.3d 703 (9th Cir.
Moreover, if it occurred off campus, that also undermines any
claim that the fraternity's expression was racial
harassment in violation of the federal statute banning racial
discrimination in education (Title VI), even assuming that Title VI could
somehow supersede the First Amendment, which courts have
indicted it does not. (See
Post, Inc. v. Board of Regents, 774 F. Supp. 1163, 1177 (E.D.
Wis. 1991)). Courts have generally held that even serious misconduct off
campus, such as assaults, do not create a hostile learning environment on
campus, even when the assault was committed by an agent of the university,
like a professor (see, e.g., Lam v. Curators
of University of Missouri, 122 F.3d 654 (8th Cir. 1997).
February 14, 2014
Is majoring in the liberal arts a
bad economic decision? Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly don't think so. In their
study for the Association for American College and Universities (AACU),
they show that liberal arts majors enjoy comparable long-term career prospects as
students who obtain degrees in more "useful" fields. Students who study the
liberal arts do about as well as most college graduates in terms of annual
salaries and employment rates. Furthermore, more than 21 percent of
liberal arts and humanities graduates work in the top five professions in terms
of annual salaries.
The authors also point to recent
surveys showing that employers place a high value on the critical thinking and
learning skills that the liberal arts cultivates. Eight in ten employers agreed
that "all students should acquire broad knowledge in liberal arts and
sciences." In fact, almost 30 percent of employers surveyed said they wanted
employees to have a range of knowledge and skills applicable to a wide range of
Recently, however, liberal arts graduates
pay for their brain candy when it comes time to look for a job. Even those who
value the liberal arts would have to agree that these are not the best of times
for advocating a liberal arts education to the parents and students having to
make big decisions investing in college and what to study. The Great
Recession exposed the vulnerability of a liberal arts education to a remarkable
The "worthless" image of the
liberal arts is not entirely without foundation. Fully 9.4 percent of recent
graduates in the liberal arts and humanities (22 to 26 years old) were
unemployed during the recession, according to a Georgetown University study
last May. The average salary of recent liberal arts graduates was just $31,000.
Faring not much better were recent graduates in Biology, nearly 8 percent
of whom were unemployed. Like liberal arts majors, the employed biology grads
also earned an average of just $31,000.
Another important reason that
liberal arts degrees might be considered worthless is that you need a
graduate degree to make them less worthless. In fact, graduate degrees
make all majors far more useful in the job market. Turns out that if one plans
on going to graduate school, studying the liberal arts and sciences as an
undergraduate is actually useful. Compared to a 9.4 percent unemployment rate
for recent liberal arts graduates, just 3.9 percent of those with graduate
degrees in the liberal arts are unemployed, which compares favorably to most
other graduate degree majors, including accounting, mathematics, and
engineering, according to the Georgetown University study.
Still, the annual earnings for
those with advanced degrees in the liberal arts are a comparatively low
$65,000. By contrast, an advanced degree in engineering yields an average
salary of $106,000, accounting MBA's earn an average of $90,000, and an advanced
degree in math will earn someone about $20,000 a graduate degree in the liberal
Clearly, the Association of American
Colleges and Universities and other advocates of a broad liberal education are
putting the best face on such economic realities. If one is willing look beyond
immediate employment prospects and considerable salary differences, and
consider the lifetime value to individuals, employers and communities, then
even the most ardent critics would probably concede that the liberal arts
aren't completely worthless.
February 13, 2014
could we not expel a student based on an allegation?" That astonishing question
at a conference on how colleges respond to sexual assault issues by Amanda Childress, Sexual Assault Awareness Program
coordinator at Dartmouth. According to Inside Higher Ed, Childress continued: "It
seems to me that we value fair and equitable processes more than we value the
safety of our students. And higher education is not a right. Safety is a right.
Higher education is a privilege."
Give Childress credit for candor--even the campus spokespersons for
increasing the number of guilty findings in campus tribunals usually aren't so
bald in their disdain for basic principles of due process.
Childress' jarring remarks coincided
with news that Dartmouth had promoted her, and given her additional power over the college's
sexual assault policies. Last Friday, the college announced that
Childress will head the newly-created Center for
Community Action and Prevention, which Childress said would "be the focal point
on campus for Dartmouth's sexual assault and violence prevention initiatives"
and "drive the College's mobilization efforts around preventing sexual violence
and increasing the safety and well-being of all members of our community." (All members, it seems, except students
facing unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault.) Incredibly, Dartmouth
theater professor Paul Hackett suggested that despite Childress' appointment,
the college isn't going far enough on the issue.
To reiterate: one of
the nation's elite colleges thinks it's a good idea to enhance the power of a
figure who wonders about the propriety of expelling possibly innocent students
based solely on an allegation.
doubtless will resurface if Dartmouth, like nearly a dozen colleges and
universities, faces a lawsuit from a student railroaded out of school after experiencing
his school's brazen procedures. The latest such lawsuit came against
Swarthmore, already infamous for a Title IX accusers' complaint on absurd
grounds that its procedures (which include a prohibition on accused students
from even talking about the case with
an attorney) is too unfair against the accusers.
lawsuit, first reported by Philadelphia, shares similar characteristics to suits filed against
Vassar, St. Joe's, and Xavier--but with one interesting twist. According to the
filing, the accuser waited 19 months to file her charges (she never went to
police or had a medical exam); the weakness of her case was such that even
Swarthmore's biased disciplinary system didn't bring charges against the
accused students. But two weeks after the Title IX complaints, Swarthmore
reopened the case--and within less than a month, had completed its
investigation, held a hearing, and completed the expulsion. The lawsuit alleges
that Swarthmore failed to respect what passes for due process on the campus; the
student's attorney claims that Swarthmore didn't give the student a right to
respond in writing to the charges, among other things.
February 12, 2014
Many more high-school seniors are taking Advanced Placement
exams, but the results are discouraging: the number of students scoring less
than 3 on the exam has more than doubled, and racial and ethnic gaps in scoring
are persistent. Inside Higher Ed reported details yesterday, under the
heading "AP Growth and Inequities,"
on new data released by
the College Board.
The number of low-income students taking these exams nearly
doubled since 2003, from 514,000 to more than one million. Sub-3 scores--3 is
the minimum required for college credit--grew from 182,429 to 395,925 in the
Participation and Success Rates by Race and Ethnicity
% of High School Seniors
% Taking AP Exams
% Scoring 3 or Higher
The headline at Inside Higher Ed was "AP Growth and
Inequities," signaling that the editors regard any variation among a
group's proportion of high school seniors, its proportion of all AP test
takers, and its proportion of those scoring 3 or higher as inequitable,
no doubt caused by visible or invisible barriers.
In other depressing news, the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a new
study by the National Bureau of Economic Research on the characteristics of
student loan borrowers who default. Race, it appears, is the most important
Among the individual and
family-background characteristics, only race is consistently important for all
measures of repayment/nonpayment," the study found. "Ten years after
graduation, black borrowers owe 22 percent more on their loans, are 6 (9)
percentage points more likely to be in default (nonpayment), have defaulted on
11 percent more loans, and are in nonpayment on roughly 16 percent more of
their undergraduate debt compared with white borrowers. These striking
differences are largely unaffected by controls for choice of college major,
institution, or even student-debt levels and post-school earnings.
According to the Chronicle's account, "The paper suggests
that, given the relatively lower incomes of black families, decreased
levels of parental support could partly explain black graduates' higher
That may be true -- the paper may suggest that and that
suggestion may be accurate -- but it may also be merely hopeful gloss since the NBER summary states that its researchers took "individual/family
background characteristics" into account along with other variables.
The study is available here for $5.
February 11, 2014
Speaking at the nation's largest community college (Miami
Dade), Senator Marco Rubio proposed some very specific ideas on higher
education that deserve serious consideration.
Rubio recognizes that our federal student financial
assistance program has enabled colleges to raise fees: "these hiked tuition
rates....form a free subsidy for colleges...which use the funds to finance a
myriad of non-academic pursuits." Rubio proposes to simplify the process of
obtaining aid, getting rid of some of the Byzantine complexity and moving to
allowing income tax deductibility for college expenses. Good, but pretty routine.
But Rubio then makes four specific proposals. First,
dramatically improve information students receive about the likely costs and
benefits of various majors at different colleges. He and Senator Ron Wyden
proposed this a year ago, but nothing has happened. Why not? President Obama proposed
something similar several years ago. Why shouldn't college graduates be given
information such as "the average earnings of a graduate of the University of
Illinois majoring in sociology is $41,000 five years after graduation, but
those earnings average $74,000 for electrical engineering majors" (I made up those
numbers for illustrative purposes).
Second, Rubio proposes making loan repayment
automatically a fixed percent of one's income.
If you have a $40,000 loan and make $35,000 a year, perhaps you will repay
$3,500 a year, but if you make $50,000 a year, your payments will be $5,000
(and you get out of debt sooner). While income contingent loans are not a new
idea (and quite common in other nations), Rubio wants to make it the standard
mode of repayment. Again, this is not too different from some Obama ideas.
I have somewhat mixed views on this proposal. On the one
hand, some flexibility in loan repayment is highly desirable. But there is a
political temptation to enact a maximum repayment time limit, effectively
leading to loan defaults for those taking low paying jobs after
graduation. Unless carefully done,
income contingent loans implicitly subsidize resources going into areas of study
with little economic utility as measured by labor markets. The fact that we
charge the same interest rate on all student loans, regardless of the income
repayment probabilities of the student, shows federal lending programs violate
good financial practices -contributing to high default rates. The loan program really needs more radical
revision -and probably in the long term privatization. As Rubio himself notes,
it is a prime culprit in the tuition inflation which is the root cause of the
rising burden of attending college.
But Rubio hits a home run with his third new proposal. He
wants to create a framework where investors can buy equity in students as
opposed to lending to them. In effect, students sell stock instead of bonds in
themselves. Under these Income Share
Agreements (ISAs), a student agrees to pay the investor a certain percent of
his or her income for a fixed number of years -say five percent for 10 years in
return for a $15,000 investment in college costs. If the student ends up making $125,000 a year
well before 10 years are up, the investor makes a huge profit; if the student
makes only $30,000 a year, the investor likely loses on the student. The risks
of borrowing move to the investor away from the student.
For ISAs to work, they need to be free of federal
regulation. The only role I see for the Feds is to assure that legal
impediments such as tax discrimination are removed. Already several
entrepreneurs have experimented in limited ways with them. While no panacea,
ISAs are a financially responsible approach that imposes no burden on taxpayers
and reduces anxieties to students needing financial support.
Finally, Rubio notes that "we have a broken accreditation
system that favors established institutions while blocking out new, innovative
and more affordable competitors." He wants to promote on-line education, the
use of standardized tests to demonstrate competency, and a new, competing
on-line accrediting agency approved by Congress. While I worry about the
federal role, the concept on the whole is highly appealing.
February 9, 2014
An unusual article appears in the Education Life section of Sunday's New York Times. The headline is disturbing:
"If She Can't Stop Him, YOU CAN. Bystander intervention may be the best hope to
reduce sexual assault on campus."
The strong implication here, and in the article, is 1) that rape is out
of control on our campuses, and 2) that women, confronted by so many would-be
rapists, can't do much about it, or shouldn't have to. So, 3) bystanders appear
to be the best hope of intervening to save women from rape.
The article lists a few possible rape-averting interventions: turning on
the lights or the music off at parties, spilling a drink on the guy, or perhaps
saying to the potential rapist, "This woman doesn't want to talk to you, but
there's another woman downstairs who likes you." (There would be no other woman
downstairs). According to the article a female friend might say to the rape
target, "Here's the tampon you asked for," thus decreasing the sexual ardor of
the nearby rapist-to-be.
This a very bleak view of men and not a very positive one of women
Women are depicted as fragile flowers, so passive and unable to cope with campus parties
that they need outside protectors playing weird tricks to ward off sexual
assault. The article, like the feminist campaign behind it--from college skits
to an advertising effort--has nothing to say about how women might take action
themselves, such as not getting blind drunk in the company of solo males they
don't know well.
President Obama has signed onto the call for male protectors, announcing
on January 22, "Bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in and stop
it." Nothing wrong with that, of course. It used to be known as "chivalry." But
the absence of advice to women operating in the boozy campus hook-up culture is
remarkable. The suggestion that women should avoid getting drunk at parties would
come under the heading of blaming the victim.
What is the evidence that rape is so out of control on campus? Feminists
cite studies estimating that approximately one of five female college students
will be sexually assaulted. This appears in The
Times article as "nearly one in five women is sexually assaulted during her
college years." Can this be? That would mean as many as two million of the 10
million women now on campuses either have been raped or will be raped. That's a
rate far higher than our most dangerous urban areas. If the rape rate were a
tenth that high, the National Guard would be a permanent presence on campus.
The Times article also
swerves around the ambiguity of so many sexual encounters in the boozy hook-up
culture of the modern campus. Many couples are too drunk to remember who did
what, with what consent. Morning-after regrets can be reconstructed as rape, and
on some campuses, the definition of rape has been broadened beyond recognition.
As KC Johnson reported
here, at Yale "actual or threatened physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or
economic abuse" can count as sexual assault. So a remark or withholding of a
loan could count as a serious sexual offense.
President Obama who accepts the factoid that one if five women will be
raped at college, has appointed a panel to make recommendations on what to do
about campus rape. Members announced so far are Democratic appointees of the
administration. Nobody from the ACLU or FIRE to protect the rights of accused
males and guarantee fair procedures. Since the feminists calling for harsher
anti-rape measures are an important part of the Democrats' base, it's all the
more important that this panel is seen as a broad and fair one.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center, coordinating with the National
Association of Scholars, hosted an event last Thursday continuing the
conversation regarding the NAS' comprehensive
report on what Bowdoin does (and does not) teach. The event, in which I participated,
focused on the theme of global citizenship.
In his dismissive response to the NAS report, Bowdoin
president Barry Mills proclaimed that--even as the college's mission
statement promises to train students in "effective citizenship"--Bowdoin
actually is "committed to preparing our students to become global citizens."
While he has never quite explained what constitutes global citizenship, Mills
has favorably quoted philosopher Martha Nussbaum on the point. In the event,
such a goal (on which the college, intriguingly, hasn't formally updated its
mission statement) relieves Bowdoin of any linkage between the school's mission
and ensuring that the college is staffed with professors whose research might
involve topics related to the foundations of American citizenship in history,
the law, or literature.
NAS' Peter Wood opened the conference with a theoretical discussion on
the nature of global citizenship. For the audience (around 120 attended, in the
aftermath of a major snowstorm in southern Maine), he reiterated some of the
key points of the Bowdoin report. Wood described Bowdoin's curriculum as based
on a "clouds of confetti" approach, in which requirements were minimal and the
organizing principle of too many classes (and what requirements exist) seemed
to be to present the United States as a "uniquely oppressive place" where the
weak are undermined, through a curricular obsession with themes of race, class,
and gender. Wood intriguingly expressed his belief that Bowdoin represents a
pattern in which too many universities seek not to understand the world as it
is, but instead to structure a curriculum that will confirm campus doctrines on
such matters as multiculturalism and social justice (of a particular type).
Bowdoin's emphasis on global citizenship, in this respect, reflects broader
developments in the academy.
The Hudson Institute's John Fonte suggested that perhaps Mills'
celebration of global citizenship reflected an admiration for transnational
organizations such as the EU or the UN, and that he sought to bring such
bureaucratic values to Bowdoin. Fonte quoted from former AHA and OAH president
Linda Kerber, who had urged colleges to structure their curricula around
creating new types of transnational citizens; he also referenced the work of
NYU's Thomas Bender--which, as I've argued
elsewhere, uses an imaginary interpretation of the historiography to try and
radically redefine how U.S. history is taught at the high school level. Bender
celebrates transnationalism on the grounds that "some of the most innovative
and exciting scholarship in American history has been framed in ways that do
not necessarily tie it to the nation-state -- work on gender, migrations,
diasporas, class, race, ethnicity, and other areas of social history." In other
words: Bender wants to use such themes as transnationalism and global
citizenship to impose the tyranny of the current pedagogical majority in
teaching U.S. history. I suspect that Bowdoin's Mills and the faculty he
represents operate from a similar mindset.
ACTA's Michael Poliakoff opened his remarks by noting that the NAS
report had exposed how Bowdoin had no requirement for either U.S. history or
U.S. literature (even as it does have diversity requirements). He commented on
the peculiarity of Mills' claim that Bowdoin seeks to train students to
participate in the "global economy" without requiring its students to take even
a single course in economics. What's occurring at Bowdoin, Poliakoff argued, reflects
national patterns in which students seem to graduate from college with limited
areas of knowledge, even as the United States spends far more per student on
education than most other Western democracies. Like Wood, Poliakoff stressed
the importance of an enhanced core curriculum.
Boston College professor Susan Shell presented at least a somewhat more
optimistic take on the current state of affairs in higher education, urging the
audience and her fellow presenters not to give up on the faculty entirely. (I'm
more pessimistic, but I hope she's right.) Shell argued that a greater problem
in the campus climate is administrators, who use such themes as "global
citizenship" as a way to facilitate their control over the faculty; she called
on reformers to make sure that they involve faculty in their efforts. Shell
also strongly challenged the manner in which Bowdoin's Mills had envisioned
global citizenship, offering instead an interpretation based on Kant's writings
that suggested a far greater respect for national sovereignty.
Herb London delivered the conference's keynote address. London said that
observers of higher education need to look closely at what's said on college
campuses today; he specifically cited the global citizenship idea at Columbia.
Instead of current fads, London advocated more emphasis on Western civilization
and great books; absent such rich content, he perceptively observed, colleges'
proclamations about teaching "critical thinking" amounts to little more than a
cliché. London lamented the increasing fragmentation on college campuses, and
worried that we're moving toward a system--as humanities essentially
self-immolate--in which business students and their concepts will come to
dominate student attitudes.
(By the way, my talk focused on the nature of U.S. history instruction,
building off some of the themes in my
series here at Minding the Campus.)
What's next at Bowdoin? Absent some increased activity by key
stakeholders (trustees, interested alumni), it's hard to see any improvement regarding
the issue raised in the NAS report. Certainly President Mills, a fierce
defender of the status quo, won't be addressing the questions.
February 7, 2014
Karen Straughan, a soft-spoken Canadian activist, gave a controversial
speech last night at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her topic was, "Are Men
Obsolete? Feminism, Free Speech and the Censorship of Men's Issues." This is
not a favored topic at Ryerson. Last March, the Ryerson Student Union banned
the formation of any campus group dealing with men's issues because such
"groups, meetings, events or initiatives negate the need to centre women's
voices in the struggle for gender equity." The student union, without debate,
also pushed through a resolution rejecting "the concept of misandry [anti-male
prjudice] as it ignores the inequity that exists between men and women."
"It's the Marxist thing," said Iain Dwyer of the Canadian Association for
Equality (CAFÉ), sponsor of the Straughan talk. "The world is divided into
oppressors and the oppressed and you can't let the oppressors talk." CAFÉ was
due to pay an $1800 security fee to cover damage that might be done by
protesters at the talk. A sponsor agree to pay the fee, but then the president
of Ryerson, Sheldon Levy, waived the security fee on grounds that it interfered
with free speech. Last year protesters pull fire alarms, shouted "rapists" and
tried to drown out a talk at the University of Toronto by Warren Farrell,
author of several books on men. Last night's talk took place without incident.
An excerpt from the Straughan speech:
I'm not going to bore everyone here with a mindboggling array of statistics to
prove that men are not, in fact, obsolete. Anyone can go look at the census
bureau's labor statistics and observe that it is almost entirely men who keep
the lights on, the water running and the planes from falling out of the sky.
Our comfortable, mostly smoothly operating, safe, orderly existence is built
and maintained almost entirely by men. Suffice to say that if all men walked
off the proverbial job, at work and at home, for three days, we would be three
years cleaning up the mess. It takes a particular brand of narcissism to be
able to sit in a climate controlled office building, or stand up on a stage in
front of a national audience, and declare that the class of people who comprise
90% or more of the individuals who built and maintain the whole shebang, are
candidates for the scrapyard.
February 5, 2014
Yale has released the latest
of its biannual reports regarding sexual assault claims handled through the
university's due process-unfriendly disciplinary system. The report testifies
to some interesting changes, strongly suggesting that Yale adjudicates sexual
assault claims less on a principle of justice and more out of a concern with
avoiding negative public relations.
The background for this new release comes in Yale's
previous report, which appeared in September and was penned (as were all
previous reports) by Yale Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler. Like other
Spangler offerings, it offered hints of the Orwellian nature of sexual assault
proceedings at Yale while going out of its way not to describe the specific procedures under which accused Yale
students were tried.
But "activists" and some sympathizers in the media, such
as Huffington Post's Tyler Kingkade, seized
on another element of the September report: despite claiming that several
men had committed sexual offenses, Yale hadn't expelled any of the offenders.
There was, of course, a good reason for this: Yale's extraordinarily broad
definition of sexual assault meant that the university was deeming as rapists
people who no jurisdiction anywhere in the country would consider guilty of
anything approximating rape. In these instances, the "punishment" might have
actually fit the "crime."
At the time, the university defended itself by releasing
"scenarios" that only proved Yale had redefined the term sexual assault beyond
all recognition. (Cathy
Young brilliantly illustrated the point.) But it's clear that the
activists' complaints generated results.
The new Spangler Report contains two important items.
First, it revealed that during the past six months, the university has not
handled one sexual assault case through the "informal complaint" procedure.
("During this reporting period (July 1 - December 31, 2013), there were 0
informal resolutions pursued through the UWC.") This is an enormous
change, since past Spangler documents had suggested that many, and in some
semesters most, of Yale's cases were handled informally.
At first blush, the move might seem an advance for due
process rights. Under the "informal complaint" procedure, the accused student
lacks the right to introduce evidence of his innocence. Instead, the process is
designed to give the accuser maximum control of what passes for the judicial
process. In such a "court," conviction is all but assured once a complaint is
But in the changed environment caused by the activists'
August criticism, the "informal complaint" procedure had one major drawback:
punishment options are limited. So Yale can almost at will designate students
as rapists--this is the "procedure" that affected
former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt--but the punishment is the designation,
seemingly to make the accuser feel better about her situation.
With boosting punishment (seemingly) Yale's chief new
goal, the "informal complaint" procedure has effectively been set aside. Its
replacement, the formal complaint procedure, gives a handful of rights to the accused
student, but bows to the OCR preponderance of
evidence standard, allows conviction on a 3-2 vote of a panel specially chosen
from the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, severely limits the
ability of the accused student to call witnesses, and doesn't even require the
panel to take into account "reports and evidence collected by law enforcement
bodies." Why, it seems, let the facts get in the way of the preferred outcome?
Punishment is the order of the day in the
cases handled through the formal complaint procedures. Over the past six
months, all but one student was convicted (and even he was given an order to
stay away from his accuser). The other cases are either pending or led to two-
or four-term suspensions, with two accused students electing to withdraw rather
than contest through procedures that are all but rigged.
Yale's Title IX coordinator was unusually
busy over the past six months, handling 50 complaints, most of them allegations
of sexual harassment. Some of these complaints involved (alleged) conduct that
would fit into the commonly understood definition of sexual harassment. But
others highlight the unusual atmosphere at Yale and most college campuses. One
male student, for instance, is now under investigation because a female student
claimed he "paid unwanted attention to her." And several students were
investigated on the basis of either third-party or anonymous reports.
the pattern that professors as well as students are vulnerable to the
university's Orwellian procedures, there's this item: "An anonymous individual [emphasis added]
reported that a male faculty member made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature
and engaged in other inappropriate conduct to several staff members. The
respondent was suspended pending the investigation, which is ongoing."
So a Yale faculty member was suspended
solely--at least according to the Spangler document--on the basis of an anonymous
complaint. Even if the professor is ultimately exonerated, this move
exemplifies the remarkable, unchecked power given to virtually anyone on the
Yale campus to commence a witch hunt against a male student or even faculty
member who has crossed the accuser.
And, finally, the case from the current
report that (unintentionally) best reveals the Kafka-esque environment that now
prevails at Yale. Spangler indicates that "an anonymous [graduate] student
reported that a [graduate] student, who was not identified, made inappropriate
remarks of a sexual nature."
The investigation, Spangler informs us, "is
January 30, 2014
Columbia president Lee Bollinger has announced a new commitment to transparency in reporting sexual assault cases on campus, and used the occasion to reveal a new university website detailing revised sexual assault procedures at Columbia. The new policy's specifics won't come as any surprise.
As has almost become routine, Columbia's policy violates basic principles of due process and fairness--even as it promises to treat accused students with "respect, dignity, and sensitivity throughout the process." A student accused of sexual assault receives five days' notice ("whenever possible") to prepare for the hearing. Once the hearing commences, he can't have an attorney present (though, unlike Swarthmore, Columbia's willing to concede he can "seek legal advice outside of the process," given that "information collected in this process may be subpoenaed in criminal or civil proceedings"). He has the right to make an opening and closing statement, no longer than seven minutes, but can't cross-examine his accuser, or directly question any witness.
The accused student is judged not by a jury of his peers but instead by a three-person panel consisting of two administrators and one student "chosen from a specially trained pool of panelists." Columbia doesn't reveal what this special training entails, but based on the Stanford experience, in which the special training consisted of provisions such as the suggestion that an accused student presenting his case logically was a sign of guilt, the provision (which is absent in other Columbia disciplinary processes) doesn't inspire confidence. And the accused student can be branded a rapist based on a 2-1 vote, with the two-person majority reaching its decision on a preponderance-of-evidence (50.01 percent) threshold.
Columbia also allows punishment before the tribunal reaches its verdict, and, remarkably, in cases where the university has concluded that no probable cause exists to believe the accused student committed an offense. A student accused of sexual assault can be subjected to such "interim measures" as "restrictions from areas of campus, and/or removal or relocation from the residential areas." The former restriction could have the effect of preventing an accused student from attending classes. And Columbia even reserves the right to impose a penalty--euphemistically described as "other forms of remedial, community-based efforts such as educational initiatives and/or trainings"--against those students for whom, after a university investigation, no "reasonable cause" exists to justify an allegation of sexual assault. Actual innocence, according to this provision of the school's new policy, can still result in a form of punishment. Columbia joins Swarthmore in this Orwellian outcome.
Bollinger's newfound commitment to transparency sounds unobjectionable in theory. But given the lack of commitment to due process and fairness in his own university's overall policy, it's hard to take seriously the president's willingness to undertake "a delicate balancing of confidentiality and transparency." As Patrick Witt discovered at Yale, "confidentiality" can often be the only real protection in a process that's rigged from the start. (That is: university tribunals can deem an accused student a rapist without providing him with a meaningful opportunity to defend himself, but since the verdict isn't public, the punishment is at least somewhat mitigated.) But while university procedures often promise to protect confidentiality, clear violations of that promise, as Witt discovered, aren't investigated.
Another university seemingly uninterested in the "delicate balancing of confidentiality and transparency" is the school that Bollinger formerly led, the University of Michigan; earlier this week, reports revealed that former Michigan placekicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled from the school after a university tribunal had found him guilty of a sexual offense (which he allegedly had committed in 2009). Yet Michigan's policy states that such information is supposed to be publicly shared "only on a need-to-know basis"; the Michigan Daily report on the issue cryptically states that the paper "did not obtain these documents from the University." Will Michigan undertake an inquiry into who violated the need-to-know policy in the Gibbons case?
My guess is such an inquiry will occur at about the same time Columbia provides meaningful due process to students accused of sexual assault.
Continue reading "The Innocent Can Be Punished in Columbia Sex Cases" »
National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has a new State
of College Admission Report that "provides a detailed look at
some of the long-term trends observed in data collected by NACAC over the last
ten years" as well as "a recap of some shorter-term observations." For some
unstated reason its release has been delayed, but the Chronicle of Higher
Education has published a summary.
the Chronicle's article are the report's survey findings that "[a] majority of
colleges attribute little or no importance to students' race and ethnicity or
first-generation status when reviewing applications.... Roughly a quarter of
colleges," it notes, "ascribed at least moderate importance to applicants' race
and ethnicity and first-generation status as 'contextual factors.'"
Chronicle seems to think that these findings -- although they will surprise no
one familiar with the contours of college admissions -- suggest that all the attention devoted to
racial preferences is inappropriate. "In a nation fixated on a handful of
hyper-selective institutions," it argues, "the findings are a reminder that not
all colleges are the same; how applicants are selected varies from campus to
campus. Continuing debates about the role race should play in admissions might
be relevant to one admissions office but not to another."
of course. But does anyone concerned about race preferences in admissions
really need reminding "that not all colleges are the same"?
the Chronicle, and perhaps the authors of the report, I think that the report's
findings confirm rather than question the appropriateness of affirmative
action's critics' concern with race. If "roughly a quarter" of the nation's
colleges "ascribe at least moderate importance" to a candidate's race and
ethnicity, then virtually or even literally all selective colleges do, and some
must ascribe more than moderate importance to those factors.
the Chronicle's reporting, there now seems to be some and perhaps growing
defensiveness among college admissions personnel about race preferences. For
example, the Chronicle quotes David A. Hawkins, NACAC's director of public
policy and research, who insists that "No institution makes a decision based
exclusively on one of these contextual factors. All of these contextual factors
have some bearing, but they are clearly secondary to the academic credentials."
are common defenses of race preferences, but they are misleading to the point
of being false. Any institution that rewards race to any degree in its
admissions admits some students who would not have been admitted but for their
race. That of course doesn't mean that the admissions office looked only at
the race of those students, but the fact that those students would not have
been admitted but for their race undermines the relevance and even the accuracy
of the assertion that no decision is "based exclusively" on race.
other side of that racial coin is that when race preferences are awarded, to
any degree, some students are denied admission who would have been admitted
but for their race, and that number can be quite large, as demonstrated here,
and especially here.
The fact that some of those excluded students might have been admitted if their
grades or test scores had been higher does not change the fact that when race
is the determining factor in the admission of some students, it is the
determining factor in the exclusion of others, despite all the twaddle about
race and ethnicity being merely "contextual factors."
January 29, 2014
Cross-posted from E21
delivered a mixed performance on higher-education issues in his State of the Union address. As college tuition
continues to grow, debt loads increase, and delinquency and default rates on
that debt rise accordingly, it's more important than ever that students come
out of college with promising employment prospects.
that end, we should welcome the President's recommendation that companies help
create community college programs that train students for the workforce. The
private sector should assist in building a labor force that is prepared for the
21st century labor market. This is better than elected officials determining
which fields of study are "useful" or lucrative, and privileging students in
those fields with lower tuition or more generous aid. These companies have
better senses of the skills needed today.
the President's comments on the most pressing problem in American higher
education--student debt--were underwhelming. He noted that "We worked with
lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning
college degrees than ever before."
the President is correct to assert that his administration changed the federal
loan program by removing federal insurance for lenders of student loans and
making the federal government the primary direct lender of these loans, it's hard to argue that the loan system has been substantively reformed. For one,
total student debt outstanding and the average individual debt load have grown
considerably over the past few years. These trends persist because the
President and Congress have not done enough to ameliorate the root cause of the
recent debt explosion, namely, the growth of college tuition coupled with the
lingering effects of the Great Recession.
Tuition growth results
largely from the federal loan program, which dispenses awards based
on differences between students' financial needs and their costs of attending
particular colleges. Colleges therefore have carte blanche to raise tuition,
knowing that the federal government will make up a large part of what students
order to fix these distorted incentives the federal government must change the
way it dispenses loans. It must ensure that colleges are not insulated from the
consequences of raising tuition, and that they suffer when too many of their
students cannot repay their loans. In that vein, the President has proposed a
plan to rate colleges on their affordability, socioeconomic diversity,
graduation rates, and alumni earnings, and to then provide more generous aid to
schools with higher ratings.
still waiting to hear what the President's plan will actually look like, but
its rough sketches are not terribly promising. The new system will not
drastically reduce debt loads because it will reward better-performing schools
and not punish poorly-performing ones. It seems to maintain most of the
perverse incentives that have caused the debt growth. To make college a more
worthwhile investment for everyone, but especially for students like Estiven
Rodriguez, the "son of a factory worker" whom the President showcased, both the
President and Congress will need to do better.
January 28, 2014
studies say two things about the liberal arts. They're very important...and
they're in a parlous
out why they're in trouble, ACTA looked at America's finest liberal arts
colleges in our new report, Education or Reputation? In addition to classic
ACTA topics such as general education and academic freedom, we report on a host
of measures of schools' intellectual seriousness and management competence,
including student academic engagement, grade inflation, faculty teaching loads,
spending priorities, and the campus party culture. Consider:
the average endowment of these schools is almost $1 billion, elite colleges
raised tuition and fees 6.2% to 17.1% above inflation over the last few years,
a time when many families were cutting back on expenses.
single institution except for the military academies requires a foundational,
college-level course in American history or government. Only two require an
economics course; only five require a literature course.
of cutting costs to lower tuition and help students graduate without crippling
debt, half of the institutions allowed administrative spending to grow faster
than instructional spending.
these schools have seen explosive grade inflation. From 1960 to 2000, Williams
College saw its average GPA increase by .66 (on a 4.0 scale), Wellesley's by
.82. Vassar's jumped from 3.12 to 3.48 in
less than 20 years.
these institutions paid their presidents base salaries of $400,000 or more to
run colleges that typically have fewer than 2,000 students. These presidents
are paid as well as--or better than--President Obama.
are a host of other challenges, from poor academic engagement (many students'
weekly academic work amounts to considerably less than a full-time job) to
speech codes and a culture of intellectual conformity.
or Reputation also examines a remarkable study of management-track employees
conducted by Bell Labs throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The study found
that liberal arts majors progressed through Bell's management ranks more
rapidly, and in greater proportions, than employees with other academic
backgrounds. A more recent study finds that, by the peak of liberal arts
graduates' careers (when they are aged 56-60), these graduates earn salaries
highly competitive with those of graduates who hold pre-professional degrees.
rigorous, broad based liberal education is still a powerful preparation for
career-long accomplishment. The trouble is, today, many students at "liberal
arts" colleges receive only a shadow of that education. ACTA's report--which
concludes with recommendations for across-the-board reform--points the way
January 27, 2014
following is a letter to Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of
Michigan, and other campus officials by two student leaders of a campus
We are writing to you
to voice our concerns about the state of the intellectual climate on campus.
Last week, Provost Pollack addressed an email to the University of Michigan
community which affirmed "both the university's" and her "own strong commitment
to diversity and to creating a welcoming and inclusive community." We applaud
this effort. We question however, as any student who has spent time on this
campus must do, what exactly are meant by "diversity" and "inclusiveness." If,
by these two much abused terms, you mean primarily race, gender and religion,
then we'd ask that you qualify your future statements about these matters to
"diversity and inclusiveness within a narrow set of parameters." If however,
you meant to affirm your commitment to diversity as it is properly defined
- a condition of being composed of differing elements or qualities -
we ask that you question whether your administration has done an adequate job
at promoting such diversity, and whether Provost Pollack's email
did not leave out gaping holes in the diversity program of the university.
As students at the
University of Michigan, we have become keenly aware that there is a
general under representation of libertarian and conservative
views on campus. Nearly every course we have taken has been taught from a
liberal perspective by a liberal professor. This is troubling not because
liberalism is being promoted on camus, but because of the general lack of
opposing viewpoints students have access to. A campus ought to be a free
marketplace of ideas where students can reevaluate and refine the beliefs that
will shape the rest of their lives. If all schools of thought are not more
equally represented, many students may never encounter them in fair setting.
For a university that prides itself on its supposed liberal values, this is
unacceptable. Moreover, it is dishonest.
We would ask that you force students to take courses that fairly represent
libertarian thought, as you have done so with other course requirements, but we
could not do so without forfeiting our character as libertarians. Rather, we
ask simply that you make these courses available, that, for example, the free
market school of thought be entered into the economics curriculum to be taught
by competent and fair free market professors; that history courses taught from
perspectives other than the postmodern be made available; that for every course
on race and ethnicity, there be a course on intellectual diversity which
includes liberal, conservative and libertarian cultural and political ideas.
We ask, additionally,
that an increased budget be developed and extra curricular programs created to
help foster this intellectual diversity outside of the classroom.
This would allow students from across the disciplines to engage in fair minded
and open discussion with their peers about all ideologies, not just those that
the university sanctions.
As a public
institution, it is your obligation to represent all schools of political and
cultural thought - and to better reflect the diversity of views in our state.
Please live up to this duty, and to the standards you claim to have set for
Derek Magill and Cody
Young Americans for
On January 9th, Minding the Campus
and the Manhattan Institute hosted Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit
fame) for a lecture on his recently released book, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.
C-SPAN was there to film his talk, and has just made it available online here
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is on the warpath
again. The Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette reports that the OCR
has launched an investigation of Penn State. And while Penn State is an
institution that is hardly deserving of sympathy, given
the exposés of the Freeh Report, the OCR's move has to raise eyebrows.
The Penn State episode is distinctive in at least two
respects. In what appears to be a first--at least in the recent round of
inquiries--the OCR has acted on its own initiative, without waiting for a
complaint from campus "activists." And the OCR has explicitly cited Penn
State's sexual assault procedures as justification for this highly unusual
move. "Our initial review of Penn State's sexual harassment policy," the OCR
wrote, "compounded by a dramatic increase in the number of forcible sex offenses
occurring on campus as reported by the university itself, raised legal concerns
that compelled us to investigate."
What, then, are the specifics of the Penn State policy that "compelled"
OCR to "investigate"? A reader of the Post-Gazette article--or, indeed, other
coverage of the matter--would be excused for assuming that the procedures must
be tilted strongly against the accuser. But, as is customary in such cases, the reverse is
When an allegation of sexual assault is filed, a Penn
State administrator conducts a preliminary investigation. If he or she deems
the allegation credible, a hearing (which "will take place as soon as
reasonably possible") is convened before a five-person board. The accused
student is guaranteed only five days to prepare his defense, though the
university can grant more time. The accused student doesn't have a right to an
open hearing, and can only bring a lawyer if he simultaneously faces criminal
charges--and even in these circumstances, the lawyer can't speak in the hearing.
The university bluntly informs accused students that it does not employ "formal
rules of process, procedure, and/or technical rules of evidence, such as are
applied in criminal or civil court." Virtually the only protection given to the
accused student is the right to cross-examine his accuser--a practice, to be
conceded, the OCR strongly discourages. That said, Penn State sides with OCR on
evidentiary standards. A five-person panel called the UCB, judging on a
preponderance-of-evidence (50.01%) threshold, can deem the student a rapist.
And the accuser can appeal a not-guilty finding.
While Penn State (unlike, say, Yale) defines sexual
assault in a normal fashion, it also indicates its appreciation for a
politically correct approach to the problem. Sexual assault, according to a document
posted on the university's Women's Center website, is "the extreme
expression of a continuum of sexist behaviors" including "from sex-role
stereotyping and sexist remarks."
Perhaps the most remarkable element of the Penn State
policy is its "Special Protocol for Crimes of Violence." Under this section,
which applies to all sexual assault hearings, "the victim will be allowed to
attend the entire portion of the UCB hearing"; "the victim may question all
witnesses and the accused student"; the "victim may be assisted by a University
Advisor"; and the "victim may also be supported by a victim advocate."
Note the wording here. While the "UCB hearing" is
occurring, Penn State's own wording holds that a sexual assault accuser is already "the victim," before the UCB has
even made its finding. And yet, according to Penn State, all of this confirms
the university's promise of a "right to fair and equitable procedures" to all
The OCR considers the procedures described above so
egregiously violative of the accuser's
rights that the office has, on its own, opened an inquiry. This is a
breathtaking move even for an agency that has distinguished itself since 2011
for its hostility to due process rights for students accused of sexual assault.
January 22, 2014
The National Institutes of Health is worried
that it, or somebody, is discriminating against blacks. According to a long
article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, NIH "shocked itself in
2011 with a study that found a wide race-based variance in its grant awards,"
and it is still struggling to explain that variance.
That 2011 study, by University of Kansas
economist Donna Ginther, found that from 2000 through 2006 the agency approved
29% of the applications from "white scientists" (were Asians white for this
study?) but only 16% from black scientists, who accounted for only 1.4% of all
applicants. The study reached no conclusion "about whether the wide racial
discrepancies were due to bias in the NIH system, lower ability among black
applicants, or a combination of those factors."
Appalled by these results and what NIH
director Francis S. Collins described as "[t]he well-described and insidious possibility
of unconscious bias," NIH ordered "bias-awareness training" for it "top
leaders" and promised to conduct thorough research on its methods of awarding
research grants, research that has "proven to be difficult" because of "legal
and scientific challenges."
Nevertheless, according to the Chronicle,
"the NIH is now moving ahead with a strategy aimed more at strengthening the
nation's cohort of minority scientists than at rooting out any internal biases
against them." It created a new position of chief NIH officer
"scientific-work-force diversity," whose director, Roderic I.
Pettigrew, rather predictably proclaimed that "we aren't where we want to
be" regarding minority scientists.
NIH also created new grants to mentor
minority students at institutions receiving less than $7.5 million a year in
NIH grants and with at least 25% of their undergraduates receiving Pell grants.
That is in addition to "dozens of programs to help minority students at major
universities" already in place, "including a $60-million a year program of
grant supplements designated for minority researchers."
All this race-based activity by a government
agency raises two fundamental questions not addressed in the Chronicle article:
Why is it necessary, and Why is it legal?
It is certainly necessary for the NIH not to
discriminate against minorities, but why is it necessary to discriminate in
favor of them? The only justification for race-based preferential treatment
that has survived Supreme Court review is "diversity," i.e., that whites,
Asians, and others must be exposed to the "difference" embodied by blacks and
Hispanics in order to get a good
education. But how, as I have asked here
will having a few more black mathematicians or engineers "enrich research and
scholarship"? To whom will they provide exactly what "diversity"? Despite the
NIH having a new officer in charge of "scientific-work-force diversity," these
programs, like so many "diversity" efforts, have nothing at all to do with
diversity and everything to do with simply targeting blacks for preferential
treatment to get their numbers up.
And even if having more black (or Hispanic or
Asian or Hmong?) scientists is desirable, how can targeting aid on the basis of
race without even the camouflage of "diversity" be legal? Justice Powell's
opinion for the Court in Bakke held that
"Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic
origin is discrimination for its own sake. This the Constitution forbids."
Justice O'Connor endorsed and echoed that view in her Grutter
majority opinion ("That would amount to outright racial balancing, which is
patently unconstitutional"), also quoting Justice Kennedy's similar assertion in
his opinion for the Court in Freeman v. Pitts
("Racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake"). And twenty years ago
the Fourth Circuit held that the University of Maryland cannot offer racially
restrictive scholarships. (Podberesky
v. Kirwan, 38 F.3d 147 (4th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 2001
Perhaps at some point the NIH will explain
what "reason other than race or ethnic origin" it has for devoting strenuous
efforts and millions of dollars into producing more black scientists. Even less
likely, perhaps at some point someone in or out of Congress will ask.
previously about the scandal at the University of North Carolina, where for
several years, students (who were disproportionately members of UNC athletics
teams) took no-show courses in the Department of African and Afro-American
Studies. UNC has, not altogether convincingly, maintained that the scandal is
solely an academic scandal and is solely confined to the department's former chairperson
and an administrator.
However, the scandal has now
expanded. The Raleigh News & Observer
that Michael McAdoo, a former UNC football player, charged that academic counselors
from outside the Afro-American Studies Department had urged football players
like him to take courses in the department. Then, a university researcher named
Mary Willingham went
public with allegations that more than half of a sample of 183 UNC
student-athletes couldn't read at above an 8th-grade level.
The university furiously
responded to the Willingham allegations. University administrators--including
the UNC chancellor and provost--demanded Willingham 's data set, and then
challenged her findings publicly and in a meeting of the faculty. And then they
suspended Willingham , claiming that she had violated Institutional Review Board
(IRB) protocols by revealing confidential data about UNC students.
This story deserves
attention for three reasons. First, as I've noted before, it speaks volumes
about the relationship between some "diversity" departments and the schools
that have created them. What does it say about the culture of the Afro-American
Studies Department that these sorts of no-show courses ever could have been
slotted? (Imagine a Chemistry Department giving dozens of no-show students A
grades.) And why did the university not respond to the scandal with a more
thorough investigation of the department's hiring and curricular practices?
It's hard to imagine that if this scandal had affected a "traditional"
department, the department could have been as unaffected as the Afro-American
Studies department appears to have been at UNC.
Second, Willingham's fate
raises some troubling questions about the power of IRB's over humanities and
social science research projects. IRB's originally were created to help prevent
exploitative or even harmful research with human subjects, mostly in the hard
sciences, but have tremendously expanded their scope in recent years. My
Brooklyn College colleague, Mitchell Langbert, has cautioned
about the threats IRB's pose to research that challenges conventional
wisdom--that is, IRB's can provide a mechanism for colleges and universities to
exercise editorial control, even censorship, over research whose conclusions
administrators don't like. We still don't know the full story at UNC, but it
seems at least possible that Willingham was suspended not for violating IRB
protocols but because the university wanted to silence her, and the IRB route
was the easiest strategy.
Finally, the continued press
coverage almost has to create doubts about the credibility of UNC's leadership.
Since this story first broke, the university has consistently maintained that the
Afro-American Studies affair was an academic, not an athletic, scandal; and
that even though UNC considers itself an elite academic institution, it sees no
problem with simultaneously running an elite athletics program, even though
many elite athletics recruits don't have good academic backgrounds. That
version of events is becoming harder to maintain with each new revelation from
Chapel Hill. At what point will the trustees step in and demand some
As things stand now, the
university has become a laughing-stock.
January 20, 2014
The MLA meeting of the delegate assembly to
debate the resolution criticizing Israeli policies has received ample
publicity, including Cary Nelson's vehement opposition in the Wall
Street Journal and the Chronicle
of Higher Education. Nelson's statement elicited a reply
at the Chronicle by one of the sponsors of the resolution, Bruce Robbins of
Columbia University, the title reading "Procedure, Politics, and the MLA
Resolution." It contains an assertion that is worth scrutinizing, for it
goes to the heart of one of the fundamental dividing lines between left-wing
thought and conservatism of the classical-liberal type.
One of Nelson's central complaints was that the person presiding over the
meeting, MLA vice president Margaret Ferguson, lacked standing to do so, as she
had already declared her support for
the "U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel." Nelson
judges it a clear conflict of interest and claims that it clouds the results of
"She should have recused herself," he writes. "She didn't.
If members of the staff or Executive Council had known about the
conflict, they should have urged her to step down from running the meeting.
The process and the vote were compromised. The vote should be voided."
Robbins takes up this charge and nullifies it as follows:
"Nelson writes that Margaret Ferguson, chair of the Delegate Assembly, has
signed a petition in favor of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against
Israel. What difference does that possibly make? Human beings, if
they are sentient and morally sensitive to the world around them, take
positions. How could someone climb to a position of public eminence
without having spoken forcefully and left a trail of opinions? Where
would you go to find a presiding officer who had never done so? (Would
you want one if you could find one?)"
This is a remarkable statement and a symptomatic one in that it doesn't address
the specific case at all. Robbins mentions Ferguson's "proper
disinterest and neutrality" later in the post, but here he raises the
issue of Ferguson's position to a generalized condition, the presence of
political opinions in all intelligent and thoughtful individuals. It
follows the standard leftist principle that we are all political in one way or
another, even in our seemingly objective judgments. Of course, Ferguson
has an opinion, how can she not? Robbins blurts, as if that settled the charges
in Ferguson's favor.
But the issue isn't whether a person has political opinions or not, but rather
whether that opinion interferes with a person's ability to remain impartial
when the occasion demands. If we avoid the general point and focus
specifically on Ferguson's conduct during the meeting, then we have a different
question on the table: whether she did anything to bias the discussion. Robbins
quickly says that she does not, and I haven't seen any clear evidence that she
did, and in my limited contact with Ferguson she strikes me overall as a fair
person. But we should question the principle offered here: So what if
she's taken a stand? We all do it, and if that disqualified you, then
nobody could ever take charge of anything.
This is an obtuse conception. It never touches the question of fairness
and impartiality. As a practical matter, if a controversial issue comes
up on which one has already declared a firm opinion, and one has to preside
over the debate, not join one side or another, one should withdraw until the
debate ends, then re-assume the podium and move on to other things. But
Robbins apparently considers this practical step which is commonly taken all
the time an imposition.
This is, in fact, consistent with the leftist outlook that he and others in the
MLA share, which doesn't raise issues of fairness because fairness itself is a
myth. (Robbins was one of the editors of Social Text duped by Alan Sokal
into publishing postmodernist gibberish as trenchant philosophy of science.)
Leftists connect sensitivity and thoughtfulness with the possession of
opinions about the world, and they go so far as to assert that the effort not
to act upon those opinions only forces one's biases underground where they
operate in subtle and misdirecting ways. It's the old argument against
enlightenment objectivity, knowledge always conditioned by human interests.
Here we have a crucial division between leftists and conservatives. The
latter don't believe fairness is possible, and so they don't worry much about
procedures, proprieties, political conflicts, and personal investments.
Once in a committee meeting at Emory when we denied a theater professor's
request that her course be cross-listed with English because only a few of the
works on the syllabus were originally written in English, one of the profs
worried about how the theater professor would take the rejection. I
replied, "It's not personal--we have a simple rule of 50 percent English."
She answered, "No, it's VERY personal."
A conservative doesn't know how to answer this interpretation of rules and
procedures. We think they are objective, that they are the basis for
smooth and fair operations. Leftists believe they are political and,
therefore, malleable. One tactic is to pose the question from the other
side: "Would you be so blithe about a past opinion if the presider had declared
openly against any boycotts or resolutions against Israel?" But that
would not alter this procedural divide.
By now the arguments for and against
"diversity" are so numerous, so heatedly argued that squabbling pro-
and anti-diversifiers have become the academic equivalent of the prisoners who memorized their joke book and
hence no longer need actually to tell the jokes; simply stating "No.
14" or "No. 36" is sufficient. (As an example, I am particularly
fond of this discussion of reasons 1 through 10 to
In a context where all the well-worn arguments
are met by all the well-worn rejoinders, perhaps the best way to see how
thoroughly the cloud-seeded mantra of "diversity" has rained on the
entire academic parade is to look at its operation where it is not under
attack, and thus not reflexively defended.
Consider, for example, "Making Sense of the Diversity Statement,"
an advice column written by "academic career coach" Karen Kelsky on Vitae,
the Chronicle of Higher Education's "online career hub"
and on her own advice blog, The Professor Is In. "The diversity statement,"
she writes on Vitae, "is quickly emerging as the fifth
required document of the typical job application, along with the CV, cover
letter, teaching statement, and research statement. And because it's of such
recent origin, nobody has the foggiest idea what it's supposed to do
(including, I suspect, the requesting search committees themselves)."
Thus, she concludes, "advice is needed," and she proceeds to give it.
"A diversity statement," she begins, "can take
several different angles."
It can address how you deal with a diverse
range of students in the classroom. It can address how you incorporate
diversity into your teaching materials and methods. It can also address how
your personal background has equipped you to deal with diversity among your
students. Beyond teaching, it can discuss how you administratively support
diversity among staff and faculty. And it can consider how you address
diversity in your own research and writing.
So this is a lot of angles to choose from, and
you don't have to choose just one. You can combine several.
This is indeed "a lot of angles,"
but one acute angle is obviously missing. It never seems to have occurred to
The Professor to mention an angle critical of "diversity." Any angle
of opposition, in short, must not be acute, must in fact be so obtuse as to be
beyond the pale of possibility.
The fact that this angle is missing is no
criticism of The Professor. Since "diversity" in higher education
tolerates no dissent, to suggest that one could criticize "diversity"
in a job application diversity statement would be rather like encouraging an
astrologist to apply to an astronomy department.
For a different sidelong glance at "diversity" today,
take Howard University (as I did here last fall.) The latest news from Howard is that students
there are angry over what could be described as a mistaken, inadvertent
outbreak of "diversity" of a different sort.
A branch of Giant, a grocery store
chain in the Washington, D.C., region, produced a circular to promote
shopping by Howard University students returning to campus from break. The ad
ended up offending many Howard students, Washington Business Journal reported,
because it features a white woman and Howard is a historically black college. A
spokesman for Giant said that "unfortunately an incorrect stock photo was
used in the ad and we apologize for this oversight."
Howard, of course, doesn't fit the
"diversity" paradigm. "Diversity," in the patois of higher
education, almost always merely denotes the number of blacks and Hispanics --
the higher the proportion of blacks and Hispanics, the more "diverse"
the institution. The trouble is that by this definition Howard is perhaps one
of the most diverse institutions in the country, which on the face of it makes
no sense since according to the most recent data I have seen its students
are 96.14% black, 0.39% Hispanic, 0.34% white, 0.25% Asian/Native
American/Pacific Islander, and 0.01% American Indian or Alaska Native.
President Eisenhower has been ridiculed for proclaiming that "our form of
government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith,
and I don't care what it is," but his observation seems to capture
perfectly our current "deeply felt religious faith" in
"diversity," whatever it is. If the Obama administration really
believes, as it asserted in its Fisher brief, that "the effort to promote
diversity is a paramount government objective," how can it justify
continuing to give a quarter of a billion dollars a year to an almost perfectly
un-diverse institution that experiences news-making anger over an inadvertent
picture of a virtually non-existent white student?
Either the administration doesn't mean what it
says about diversity, or to it "diversity" really does just mean
January 17, 2014
Some updates on two of the Title IX lawsuits filed by
male students accused of sexual assault and disciplined through college
In the Vassar
lawsuit, discovery has commenced, and Vassar has until February 3 to turn
over material to Peter Yu's attorneys. Presumably this material will include
documents on the shadowy organization--the Interpersonal Violence Panel--under
which Yu was prosecuted. (The Vassar website declines to provide details of the
panel's procedures, unlike other aspects of the college disciplinary process.)
Discovery also should reveal the identities of the three faculty members on the
tribunal that deemed Yu a rapist (based on a preponderance of evidence),
allowing Yu's attorneys to explore whether any or all of the tribunal members
had preexisting relationships with the father of the accuser, who's a Vassar
Meanwhile, in the Brian
Harris lawsuit against St. Joseph's, FIRE filed an amicus brief challenging
the argument of St. Joe's that the court should defer to OCR's judgment (as
outlined in the "Dear Colleague" letter, which FIRE with understatement terms
"an immensely controversial document") regarding proper campus procedures in
sexual assault cases.
FIRE argues that while the OCR dramatically shifted
policy with the "Dear Colleague" letter, it never solicited public notice and
comment, a violation of normal procedures that means its provisions are
"invalid and due no deference." Yet, as FIRE argues, St. Joe's used the "Dear
Colleague" letter as one if its defenses, essentially asking the court to
conclude that an invalid rule should be deemed legally "mandatory."
Even if the court were tempted to defer to OCR, however,
FIRE urges it not to do so, since "the Dear Colleague letter poses
constitutional problems and fails to account for existing law." For instance,
the letter's disapproval of cross-examination, FIRE correctly argues, seems to
violate the due process clause. Finally, FIRE argues that the "Dear Colleague"
letter is simply unpersuasive, since "it is not reasonable to conclude that
lowering the standard of evidence employed in sexual harassment and sexual
violence adjudications will result in either a reduction of instances of sexual
assault or more just outcomes."
In response, St. Joe's urges the court to ignore FIRE's
brief, since suggesting the "Dear Colleague" letter is critical to the
university's claims is a "spurious and an intentional misreading of the
University's brief." This, of course, the same university that previously had
informed the court that it was "mandated"
(emphasis added) to follow the provisions of the "Dear Colleague" letter. Now,
however, St. Joe's has retreated, as "The University invokes the 'Dear
Colleague' Letter only as a further
support that its policies were not just clearly stated and followed in Mr.
Harris' case, but they are consistent with federal government guidance on the
subject." The university's backtracking on whether it was or was not mandated
to follow the "Dear Colleague" letter raises some doubts about its good faith.
A final note: despite his consistently sympathetic
portrayals of accusers who have filed Title IX complaints against schools like
UNC, Occidental, and Swarthmore, Richard Perez-Peña (and his colleagues at the New York Times) still haven't mentioned
either the Vassar or the St. Joe's lawsuits.
Readers of the New
York Times might be forgiven for experiencing a bit of whiplash. Last year,
when Brooklyn College's political science department voted to officially
support an event demanding a boycott of Israeli academics, the Times hailed the department as a heroic
defender of academic freedom. Earlier this week, however, the
paper portrayed the department as persecuting a "respected scholar of labor
history," seemingly for ideological reasons.
Some background: for many years, in addition to the
courses it offers on campus, Brooklyn College has run a program called the
Graduate Center for Worker Education. Based in Lower Manhattan, the program offered
courses to students who mostly had no connection to Brooklyn College. According
to evidence presented by CUNY, the longtime director of the program, a
political science professor named Joseph Wilson, committed myriad financial
improprieties, ranging from taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra
salary to using the center's money to purchase a TV set for his daughter.
The Times could
have framed this story in many ways. It might have used Wilson's downfall to
look more closely at the program's curriculum. In an era of widespread advances
in educational quality at CUNY, the worker education center stood out as
resisting the reforms championed by former chancellor Matthew Goldstein, and
clinging instead to the discredited ideological fads of the 1970s. (The Times hails this approach as reflecting
the center's "idealistic mission.") Did Wilson's apparent willingness to flout
the rules carry over to the curriculum that he oversaw? For that matter, what
courses did the program actually offer? The Times
doesn't say, perhaps because the answer would be inconvenient for the
article's frame. Were the courses of graduate-level quality, or was Wilson fleecing
his students of their tuition money in the same way he allegedly fleeced the
taxpayers? Again, The Times doesn't
The Times also
might have used the article to praise CUNY's willingness to investigate
malfeasance in its own ranks. Reading between the lines of the article, as soon
as CUNY found out about Wilson, the institution turned to an outside
investigator who uncovered massive wrongdoing, and CUNY then moved to correct
the problem. Wilson, through Times reporter
Ariel Kaminer, doesn't challenge most of the investigation's findings, though
he has some quibbles around the edges.
However, the Times implies
that Wilson has been persecuted for ideological reasons by what Kaminer terms
the "ascendant faction" of the college's political science department. Who
belongs to this "ascendant faction"? What do they believe? Why did they dislike
Wilson? Kaminer can't be bothered to answer any of these questions; there's no
indication from the article that the Times
even attempted to interview any
members of this amorphous "ascendant faction." Nor does Kaminer provide any
reasonable context for this alleged ideological jihad. Given that--again--this
department officially supported speakers who advocate a boycott of Israeli
academics, and given that the new director of the program, Corey Robin, appears
to be just as ideologically extreme as Wilson, it's hard to see any broad
ideological crusade here.
Despite not having any evidence for the preferred
framing, Kaminer concludes the article by quoting without comment from a
delusional Wilson e-mail, in which the disgraced professor offered some "key
rebuttal points": "There is a long history of
political persecution in the US, (and CUNY/BC) including the government
frame-up of Angela Davis, the Black Panthers, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, W. E.
B. DuBois prosecution, the frame-up of countless civil rights and labor
leaders, and mass firings of CUNY faculty during the McCarthy era. This attack
is part of that detestable history."
A latter-day W.E.B. DuBois! It seems as if, at least when
reporting on CUNY affairs, the preferred Times
editorial slant is that there are no enemies on the left. In fact, the only enemies are those the Times invents.
January 13, 2014
Cross-posted from Open Market
rates are not the same for different racial groups, and student misconduct
either. The Supreme Court ruled
many years ago that such racial disparities don't prove racism or
unconstitutional discrimination. But in guidance issued
week by the Justice and Education Departments, the Obama
that it will hold school districts liable for such racial disparities
under federal Title VI regulations. (Title VI bans racial
discrimination against students). In the long run, the only practical way for
school districts to comply with this guidance is to tacitly adopt
quotas in school discipline. This will result in increased school
violence, discrimination in discipline against white and Asian
students, an increased racial achievement gap that harms black students,
and more white flight from inner-city schools. It will also affect higher
education, since Title VI disparate-impact rules apply to colleges and
universities as well.
administration made very clear that it viewed such racial disparities,
which exist in virtually all school systems, as generally being the
product of racism by school officials, not "more frequent or more serious
misbehavior by students of color." Moreover, it also made clear that even
if the school district proves itself innocent of racism, it will still be held
liable for "racially
disparate impact" - non-racist conduct
that unintentionally has a discriminatory effect on a racial group, even though it
of all races alike - unless the school district shows that its discipline
not only furthers an important educational purpose, but also does not lead to more
suspensions of minorities than other (more ideologically-fashionable) methods
of discipline that the government views as equally effective.
officials like Attorney General Holder do not like harsh discipline of minority
students, such as out-of-school suspensions or referrals to law
enforcement, for things like "schoolyard
fights" or "threats"
to teachers that have not yet culminated in a physical
attack. But such suspensions are often necessary for learning and
school safety: "in 2012
Senate testimony," Cato Institute education researcher "Andrew Coulson
pointed out that. . . compared with the alternatives, the use of
out-of-school suspensions appears to improve the learning environment for other
(non-disciplined) students by protecting them from disruption."
Liberal academics believe that schools should focus on trying to gently
rehabilitate offenders through "reparative"
or "restorative" methods,
instead of using strict punishments like suspensions aimed at
deterring such offenses from being committed in the first place. But
that excessive focus on rehabilitation is myopic: while
"research shows that out of school suspensions do no good for the suspended
student academically," "they
do appear to benefit the rest of the school, presumably by making it easier
for teachers to teach the non-disruptive children."
Continue reading "Obama Administration Demands Racial Quotas in School Discipline" »
January 10, 2014
The victories in the fight to reform higher-ed are often dispiriting because they
remind us of the enormity of our challenge. Today, the Foundation for Individual
Rights in Education (FIRE) announced that it had successfully pressured the
University of Colorado to reinstate a course that CU had cancelled on the
grounds that the professor, Patti Adler, had engaged in "harassment" during one lecture. Her crime? She'd asked her teaching assistants to depict the living conditions of sex workers by dressing up as prostitutes. Never mind that the dress-up was completely voluntary, or that
the faculty who had reviewed the course voiced no objections. CU's Office
of Discrimination and Harassment deemed the lecture a "risk," and gave the Adler the option of either retiring or staying on but not
teaching the course.
to the efforts of a coalition of free speech groups, including the National
Coalition Against Censorship and the American Civil Liberties Union of
Colorado, Adler is back on campus and plans to teach the course in the upcoming
semester. We should we grateful for their hard work. However, it is unfortunate that restoring common sense to our campuses requires as much work as it does.
Earlier this week, the great classicist Victor Davis Hanson
made a few
familiar complaints about American higher education: Colleges cost too
much, depend too much on low-paid adjunct professors, employ too many
administrators, and engage in political advocacy, rather than liberal education.
However, he added some over-the-top rhetoric. Colleges, in his estimation, have
"gone rogue and become virtual outlaw institutions." This language is
Let's begin by admitting that Hanson's worries, though
familiar, are also proper. Let's also admit that colleges and universities, in
their quest for tuition revenue, sometimes compromise themselves by, for
example, admitting students who are likely to land in debt without ever
obtaining a degree. But it takes more than that to justify Hanson's radical charge
that colleges and universities have "gone rogue."
In order to arrive at his conclusion, Hanson, I am sorry to
say, takes polemics to the very edge of propagandizing. So he trots out, as if
representative, the "recent graduate in anthropology with a $100,000
loan." He uses this example to bolster
the conclusion that "few graduates have the ability to pay back the principal"
on their debt, so that students can expect to be enslaved to student loan
usurers for life. But as Meta Brown of the New York Federal Reserve has documented,
39.9% of student loan borrowers have less than $10,000 in debt. 3.7% have
$100,000 or more, and I doubt anthropology majors represent a big part of that
sample. Median student loan debt in 2012 stood
at $12,800 (though the mean was considerably higher). The New York Fed is
hardly an apologist for higher education, and the reports its researchers
publish express great concern, even alarm, about student loan debt and its potential
effects on the economy. Unfortunately, Hanson discredits that legitimate
concern by distorting the truth about student loan debt and attributing the
complex problem to higher education outlaws.
In a similar vein, Hanson calls out tenured full professors
for having the "best sinecure in America." Not satisfied to claim that full
professors make a good wage for doing very little, he adds that the "associate
or full professor [enjoys] a lifelong right of selection of his classes." I
don't know whether that is true or not at Harvard and Yale, but it certainly
isn't true at any of the several colleges and universities where I've worked.
It is unfortunate, but not atypical, that populist critics of higher education
do not seem to notice that richly endowed private colleges and public
universities, with their climbing walls and lazy rivers make up a small
proportion of a diverse higher education sector.
Hanson has presumably given up on reforming higher education
from within, since he cannot possibly hope to help conservative or moderate allies
within academia by depicting them as complicit with an outlaw enterprise.
Perhaps with some justification, he has determined that "root and branch"
reform is unlikely to come from those whose livelihoods are bound up with the
present system. Still, even in the debate that takes place outside of academia,
conservatives should not be content to attribute higher education's woes, whose
causes are complex, to cartoon villains. It's possible, in what passes for higher
education policy debate, that these conservatives will be taken seriously, but
they won't deserve to be.
January 9, 2014
From Newsweek (via
Inside Higher Ed) comes
news of an unusual, but excessively limited, proposal from California Assemblyman Mike Gatto.
In response to events at Occidental, Gatto says he'll
introduce a bill requiring colleges in California to report some claims of
sexual assault to police. This is an excellent idea--trained law enforcement
officers, not campus administrators, should investigate criminal offenses. But
the Gatto bill contains a critical exception. He says that colleges will have
the right to keep the police in the dark if that's what the accuser wants.
In this respect, the Gatto bill, if adopted, would place the
force of law behind the idea that it's OK for a public institution (in this
case, a university) not to cooperate with law enforcement in investigating a
serious criminal offense. The practical result of Gatto's proposal would be to confine
at least some California students to the Alice-in-Wonderland environment of too
many campus disciplinary tribunals. At the least, therefore, his measure could
mandate that colleges provide meaningful due process when accusers veto taking
a case to the local police.
Take, for instance, the
procedures at Occidental, whose handling of allegations of campus sexual
assaults Gatto says prompted the introduction of his bill. "Due process" at the
college means that a male student can be found guilty of sexual assault even if
a female student said "yes." The accused student cannot have access to a lawyer
in a disciplinary proceeding. The college has the right to withhold relevant
evidence, even if exculpatory, if the college concludes the material might
violate federal privacy guidelines. And the disciplinary officials have the
right to allow an accuser to testify behind a curtain, or via Skype.
If Gatto (who has a J.D. from Loyola) is as interested in
fairness as he claims, he should amend his measure to address such matters.
The Newsweek article,
penned by Katle Baker, also exemplifies the one-sided way too many journalists
cover the issue of campus sexual assault allegations. Baker liberally quotes
from accusers, who she dubs "sexual assault survivors" or "victim[s]," even
though there's no evidence in her article that the accusers even filed police
charges, much less saw their cases brought to trial with guilty verdicts.
Indeed, both of the accusers to whom Baker spoke explicitly said that they didn't go to the police. How the Newsweek reporter determined they were
"sexual assault survivors," therefore, remains unclear.
Baker also uncritically cites a Department of Justice
report to college women are four times more
likely to be sexually assaulted than the rest of the population." If true,
she's buried the lede (the item comes well down in her column) and Gatto is
ignoring the issue--by this telling of events, violent crime is all but rampant
at most universities, and legislators such as Gatto should consider legislation
that would designate campuses high-crime neighborhoods, with the additional law
enforcement officials that normally come with such a designation. That Gatto
doesn't seem interested in such a move, and that Baker doesn't seem interested
in exploring the logical extension of her "factual" claim, suggests that
neither really believes the argument that violent crime against women on campus
is so much higher than in the general population.
January 8, 2014
Thanks to the American Studies Association's recent vote
for an academic boycott of Israel, the field of American Studies has been under
a microscope. Prior to the boycott resolution, perhaps no one would have
noticed the conference
on "Transnational American Studies," sponsored by the Center for American
Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut. It is taking place
as I write.
I cannot hope to surpass Jeffrey Goldberg's send-up
of the conference. Let me limit myself to putting it in context.
Transnational American Studies is founded on a sensible
observation: In order to understand American culture and history in its
complexity, it may be helpful to consider how the United States is seen from
the outside, how its culture and history has been shaped by those of other
nations, and what it has aspired to do, and actually done, on the world stage.
Globalization may be a buzzword, but it is reasonable to suppose that the study
of American culture and history, or for that matter the study of any national
culture and history, must have an international dimension.
Of course, students of American language and literature
had not simply neglected that dimension before American Studies scholars
"discovered" it in the 1980s. This recent transnational move in American
Studies was directed against what American Studies scholars took to be a
chauvinistic, whitewashed, view of American history. As John Carlos Rowe, a supporter of the ASA
boycott who has written extensively about the field of American Studies,
the push for transnationalism was influenced by "ethnic studies, feminist,
Native American, and gay/queer scholars," who insisted upon "the historical
reality of slavery and racism, Chinese Exclusion, Japanese Internment, genocide
against native peoples, economic and political marginalization of Chicano/as
and Latino/as, exclusion of women from full civil and political rights,
persecution of lesbians and gays, and the religious persecution of Catholics
and Mormons and Muslims." Because of this focus on American crimes, the
internationalization of American Studies came to be closely connected to anti-colonialism.
The same internationalism that could potentially assist us in understanding
American culture and history has been wielded as a weapon to strike at imperial
America and Israel, its "settler-colonial" ally.
Continue reading "Redwashing, Pinkwashing, and Hogwash in Beirut " »
January 7, 2014
There is a mini-argument amongst some academic bloggers over the
way UC-Riverside's English department scheduled job interviews at the Modern Language
Association's annual convention. As Megan McArdle recounts
at Bloomberg, Riverside emailed applicants
to schedule interviews only five days (!) before the convention was to start in
Chicag). For some applicants, that might have meant a flight close to
$1,000 (not to mention lodging), a huge bill for a graduate student or fresh
PhD, especially given the long odds on eventually winning the job.
The initial story on Riverside's communication was published
on Jan 2 on Inside Higher Ed and
evoked lots of angry comments. They were anticipated by this
denunciation, dated December 20th, which termed Riverside
professors "Overlords," "elitist and out of touch," and "unconscionable," along
with a few f-words.
Tenured Radical, a blogger who uses a name that lost its edgy
irony 20 years ago, criticized
that response by noting that it might not have been the English
department's fault. Perhaps funding didn't come through until late, she
suggests, or an affirmative action officer delayed the process.
But Inside Higher Ed blames
the committee --
using a new system for reviewing applications -- discovered two weeks ago that
some applications had been read by only one search committee member, and others
hadn't been read at all. The committee tried to catch up, but was still behind.
Applications had only started to be reviewed November 25, and there just wasn't
enough time, she said ["she" is the head of the search committee].
Ah, one month, not "enough time," applications
left unread, a "new system" . . .
And then the department chair, Deborah Willis,
adds this condescending note which seems perfectly calculated to infuriate
every person who has ever failed to earn a regular job or even get an
The job search
is, especially for entry-level positions, a stressful, challenging, exhausting
process, and I can understand why job seekers would be upset about anything
that makes it more stressful. We all have a lot of sympathy for our applicants
-- especially since we've all been through it ourselves. But the big problems
are the things that make the job market so terrible in the first place --
budget cuts, dwindling support for public universities, the increasing reliance
on adjunct faculty, etc. The timing of an interview request seems pretty minor
in the great scheme of things.
Does Willis not know that for a graduate student or recent PhD,
getting an interview and finding a job is, precisely, the "great scheme of
things"? She seems to act out every allegation of entitlement and
incognizance that the adjuncts have leveled against tenured professors for
But nothing will come of this. Neither the errors of judgment and slack
organization by the professors nor the warranted indignation of the aspirants
nor the sympathy of outsiders changes anything. As someone said in
conversation recently about the drawbacks of the professorate: "Doesn't
matter--they have the jobs."
McArdle ends her commentary on precisely this realization:
It's hard to see any alternative
to fix the problem, however. The fundamental issue in the academic job
market is not that administrators are cheap and greedy, or that adjuncts lack a
union. It's that there are many more people who want to be research professors
than there are jobs for them. And since all those people have invested the
better part of a decade in earning their job qualifications, they will hang
around on the edges of academia rather than trying to start over. Such a
gigantic glut of labor is bound to push down wages and working conditions.
When you have many, many more qualified people than there are
positions for them, and when they have spent their 20s preparing to become teachers
like those have had since they were 18 years old and won't give up on the
profession until something forces them to, then they will continue to be
disregarded. It's a seller's market, and if the buyers (the job
applicants) are willing to endure dismissal and condescension on the slim
promise of that golden tenure-track post, then it will continue.
January 6, 2014
Last summer, when a flurry of reports and commentaries declared a
material crisis for the humanities, many commentators denied the claim, for
statement entitled "The Humanities Aren't Really in 'Crisis'" (note the
But the bad news keeps coming. Last week, Inside Higher Ed reported,
"History Jobs Down 7.3%." Data from the American Historical Association show
only 686 openings, a reversal of the small increases posted from the previous
two years and far below the pre-recession tally of 1,064 jobs.
The trend matches that of the Modern Language Association, the
story notes, which recorded a significant drop in job openings in English after
years of gains. While tenure-track openings rose 101 slots to 729 in
2010-11 and another 28 slots in 2011-12, for 2012-13 they slipped down to 713,
way below the 1,244 openings in 2007-08.
Nevertheless, programs continue to churn out several hundred more
PhDs than the academic job market can take. To ameliorate the problem,
the MLA and the AHA have devised an initiative
to develop alternative job markets for PhDs, funded by the Mellon Foundation. Cynics
might regard this project as simply a way to keep unnecessary graduate programs
afloat, but there may be an interesting consequence to them. If, over
time, an alternative job market is created, researchers might examine which
candidates landed those jobs. What knowledge and skills did they
possess? In which subfields did they specialize? Were
race-class-gender-sexuality expertises favored, or more traditional foci?
It could be an experiment in off-campus interest in historical and literary