Top Ten Academic Lobbyists
1. Association of American
2. Texas A&M University
3. Warburg Pincus
4. Boston University
5. Corinthian Colleges
6. Assoc. of Private Sector
7. California State University
8. University of California
9. University of Texas
10. Career Education Corp.
What Has Happened to the AAUP?
By Peter Wood
I was part of two "debates" at the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
in Washington, D.C. last week. I place the word "debates" in skeptical quotes
because..., well, you'll see.
The AAUP is, of course, the organization that nearly a century
ago established in its Declaration of Principles the most
authoritative concept of academic freedom in American higher education. The 1915 Declaration,
issued under the presidency of John Dewey, went through several revisions, most
notably in 1940, in which it retained its sober spirit and sense that academic
freedom is inextricably bound up with intellectual and professional
Then, sometime around 1990, the wheels came off the old
AAUP and the organization began issuing pronouncements that made clear that it
was more concerned with political advocacy than academic integrity. Since that
time, the National Association of Scholars has been a persistent critic of the
AAUP's frequent descents into mere rationalization of professorial privilege. NAS has also taken numerous occasions to
restate our admiration
support for the original Declaration
of Principles. Continue reading...
College Students Live Like Kings, College Grads Like Paupers, Via Meadia, June 18
A Massive Open Online Administration, Joseph Asch, Dartblog, June 18
Regilding the Ivory Tower, David Mihalyfy, Inside Higher Ed, June 18
Making Commencement Great, C.K. Gunsalus, Inside Higher Ed, June 17
A Bizarre Conference at CUNY, James Kirchick, Tablet, June 14
Tenure's Fourth Rail, Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, June 14
MORE COMMENTARIES >>>
June 17, 2013
Two recent academic-tinged scandals in college athletics
seem saturated in political correctness.
At the University of North Carolina, some
student-athletes (as well as some non-athletes) benefited from taking no-show
classes. The university brought in former governor Jim Martin to conduct a
blue-ribbon review; Martin's report indicated that the problem was solely on
the academic side of things, and the controversy was supposed to go away.
All of the no-show classes came from a single
department--African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies. The UNC website
currently indicates that 14 professors teach in the department. (Some have joint
appointments with other departments.) Then-department chairman Julius Nyang'oro was forced into retirement,
but there's no indication that the department suffered in any way: it wasn't
placed into receivership, it doesn't appear to have lost any faculty lines, and
apparently the department's budget wasn't reduced.
UNC consistently described the event as solely an
academic scandal--and yet took no meaningful action against the department that
violated all academic norms. Would the administration have been so passive if
the offending department had been biology, or computer science?
In the event, the latest exposé in the case from the
Raleigh News & Observer gave the
lie to the UNC administration's assurances. N&O
Dan Kane uncovered newly-released e-mails--e-mails that the Martin
Commission either did not see or simply ignored--showing that Nyang'oro "had a
cozy relationship with the program that tutored athletes, even as UNC officials
had "said the Academic Support Program
for Student Athletes did not collaborate with Nyang'oro or his department
manager." UNC officials were either unreachable or simply misled (claiming that
the e-mails had no new information) in response to Kame's queries.
If the scandal had affected biology or computer science,
rather than a center of campus political correctness, would an apparent attempt
to cover up the extent of the wrongdoing have occurred?
Another type of athletics-related academic scandal
surfaced a few days ago at Harvard. Each year, the NCAA releases an APR
(academic progress rate) for all Division I athletics programs. To avoid some
form of sanctions, teams need a minimum score of 925 (on a 1000-point level) over
a four-year period. This is a very low threshold, and normally
only catches a handful of poorly-funded teams. (UConn basketball's
postseason ban last year was a rare exception to this pattern.)
Normally, and for unsurprising reasons, Ivy League teams
do very well in the APR. Take, for instance, Brown's most
recent figures for its men's teams:
991 (football), 989 (men's basketball), ice hockey (1000). Harvard is
similarly high--except in one sport, men's basketball, which won the school's
first NCAA tournament game this season. The rolling four-year average was 956,
by far the lowest in the Ivy League. The annual APR's were even lower--as the
statistical site NYCbuckets noted, the annual APR has dropped three
years in a row, with it ranking at a sanctions-level 914 and 925 in the two
most recent years. By comparison, the APR for the men's basketball
team at the University of Kentucky was 963.
There's been no indication that Harvard's
diversity-obsessed president, Drew Faust, has any problems with the academic
performance of the team, helmed by the school's only African-American coach,
Tommy Amaker. Indeed, just last month, the
Harvard Foundation conferred upon Amaker the Harvard Foundation Leadership
Award for Outstanding Leadership in Harvard Athletics and Excellence in
Fostering Character, Integrity, and Intercultural Cooperation in College
If the Harvard golf team had the lowest APR in the
league, and had a lower APR than a national program not exactly known for its
academic rigor, would President Faust have remained silent?
June 12, 2013
In the ideal world, academic unions stand as guardians of
academic freedom. In the real world, too often they cling to the status quo,
resisting needed reforms, opposing meritocracy, and working to stifle campus dissent.
Then there's the CUNY faculty union (the Professional Staff Congress), whose
leading figures act as if their goal in life is to give all academic unions a
The PSC's latest gambit has been to rally opposition to
Pathways, the CUNY-wide general education program proposed by just-retired chancellor Matthew
Goldstein, designed to ease intra-CUNY transfers and enhance students'
opportunities to take a diverse array of upper-division electives. Given
that the current union leadership opposed every attempt by Goldstein to improve
quality at CUNY, it came as little surprise that it opposed Pathways as well.
But the disingenuousness of the union's conduct on this issue has been
Even though debates over curricular requirements would
seem well beyond the purview of a union, the PSC organized a plebiscite to
express "no confidence" in Pathways, resulting in a 92 percent triumph for the
union's position. (Perhaps a 99 percent tally was perceived as slightly too propagandistic.) Sadly, the results
from this ballot--which amounted to little more than a push poll--were
uncritically accepted by some
in the media, even those
who usually cover CUNY matters with rigor.
The rigging of the ballot procedures began from the
start: the original ballots identified the professor's name, sending a message
to untenured faculty that they could face retaliation if they didn't vote the
union's way. The oppressive atmosphere that the PSC leadership has cultivated
extended even to the ranks of the tenured; the most widely circulated critique
of the union's position came from a pseudonymous e-mail penned by a senior
faculty member, who concluded that "the union's
leadership is uninterested in constructive dialog
about anything," but declined to give his name for fear of retaliation.
Such arguments appeared nowhere on the
ballot, which included language presenting only the union's
arguments against Pathways, with no counter from faculty who supported the
initiative. (So much, it seems, for academic dialogue and the importance of
robust intellectual exchange.) Lest adjuncts have a chance to vote their
self-interest--Pathways will give them a wider array of courses to teach, thus boosting
their CV's and aiding their search for permanent employment--the union excluded
adjuncts from voting in the plebiscite. Finally, having narrowed the electorate
and presented one-sided ballot language, a PSC "organizer," John
Gergely, contacted professors individually to pressure them to vote
against the administration. (Faculty dues pay not only Gergely's salary but
that of other "organizers" and even an "organizing coordinator"--although what
they organize is unclear, since all full-time CUNY professors automatically
have dues deducted from their paychecks, regardless of whether they join the
Even then, a small minority voted against the union's
position, while almost 40 percent of faculty members simply abstained. So: in a
contest rigged in almost every manner, only a bare majority of all professors
actually cast ballots in favor of the union's position. The plebiscite campaign
was an embarrassment, even by the current union leadership's authoritarian
standards, and should have received no weight. That it did, from any quarters
in the media, is most unfortunate.
June 11, 2013
Higher Ed reporter Allie Grasgreen has a piece today lionizing the
students who've filed Title IX complaints to minimize the already weak due
process protections for students accused of sexual assault on campus. (Richard Pérez-Peña covered this exact same topic and in some
instances the exact same people, albeit
in an even more fawning fashion, a few weeks ago.) I've previously noted
Grasgreen's tendency to produce articles that read as if they're a press release from the OCR rather than a work
of independent journalism, and this item is little different.
You can read
the article here. But two points of tone and substance. On substance,
here's how Grasgreen describes the path of Andrea Pino, a UNC student who filed
a Title IX complaint against the school. (Pino claims that UNC's procedures, which
among other things prevented accused students from being represented by
counsel and from presenting evidence that might "otherwise infringe the rights of other students," unfairly
treat accusers.) "After being
raped at an off-campus party in March 2012, Pino felt let down by the people
and policies that were supposed to protect her (an academic adviser told her
she was lazy when her experience impacted her performance in the classroom;
other students told her reporting the rape wouldn't do any good; her resident
assistant wasn't supportive). At first, she didn't think she had any recourse."
It's possible, if unlikely,
that Pino's resident advisor wasn't "supportive." But in a politically correct
environment such as UNC's, it's all but inconceivable that an academic advisor,
told by a student that she had been raped, would then turn around and call the
student "lazy." Grasgreen gives no indication of having interviewed either the
resident advisor or the academic advisor to confirm Pino's story; apparently,
she saw her job as simply accepting Pino's portrayal of events. Similarly,
Grasgreen bypasses the question of why Pino seemed focused on reporting the
alleged crime to university officials rather than to the police. Wouldn't
reporting the attack--and trying to get a rapist off the streets--be the first step
of someone seeking "recourse"? Once again, the article simply accepts (without,
it seems, any attempt at verification) Pino's version of events.
On a matter of tone: a bit later in the piece, Grasgreen
mentions that the OCR's efforts have attracted criticism, most recently as a
result of the University of Montana "blueprint." Her article describes FIRE as
having "waged war on the Montana
settlement." I didn't realize that press releases, interviews, and op-eds
constitute waging "war."
She adds that FIRE has "said
OCR's stance threatens the due process rights of alleged perpetrators." It's
true that FIRE is always concerned with due process, and that due process
rights were central to FIRE's response to the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter. But
FIRE's central criticism of the Montana blueprint has been that it
imposes a national speech code, and in such a broad fashion that it essentially
makes everyone on campus an "alleged perpetrator." The article downplays the
speech code concerns by noting that OCR
"responded in a letter" (actually, it
in an e-mail) "in late May, arguing that its rules 'do not require or
prescribe speech, conduct or harassment codes that impair the exercise of
rights protected under the First Amendment.'" Generally, e-mails to concerned
citizens carry less weight that a formal legal settlement promulgated by both
OCR and the Department of Justice.
I realize a higher-ed
reporter must stay on good terms with sources, and in the contemporary academy,
on matters relating to sexual assault procedures, those sources tilt very
heavily in one direction. But surely it's worth giving the appearance, at
least, of objectivity in coverage.
For forty years I labored in the groves of Academe as
professor and dean. Though I learned many lessons in this four decade period,
three of them are worth noting.
NYU, the place I called academic home, transformed itself
from a "commuter school" into a "world class university"
with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai and with students attending from every
corner of the globe. Clearly reputations count, but questions emerges from this
change: do the proliferation of "portals" influence the quality of
the offerings? Is more better? And can one argue that having "academic
stars" on and off campus, who rarely teach, benefit the academic
Second, the Academy in general has gone through a
metamorphosis. Despite a claim to fairness and openness which is ubiquitous
across the academic landscape, most campuses have acquired an orthodoxy that is
rarely challenged. It would be hard to espouse much less gain acceptance for
ideas like Christian belief adherence, sexual abstinence, dominion over nature,
pro-life acceptance, opposition to gay marriage, Absolute Truth, to cite
several examples. Should one challenge the orthodoxy, tenure is likely to be
denied and chastisement, in the form of rejection, likely to follow.
While liberal views prevailed at most campuses before the
1960's, there was a willingness to entertain "other," oppositional
points of view - a reason why I sought a career in academic life in the first
place - that standard is no longer the case. The outrage displayed over
McCarthyite imposed conformity in the 1950's has been converted into the
acceptance of the herd of independent thinkers who populate the campus today.
Last, arguably the most profound change, is the evolutionary
belief that everyone should go to college. It is as if George Washington
Carver, who argued for practical skills, lost a debate to W.E.B Dubois, who
maintained a belief in higher learning for African Americans, except that this
debate occurred on the national stage for all Americans. Mass higher education
has changed the face of the Academy in several respects. Not only is
"diversity" the calling card for admissions' officers, but government
spending has exploded. Higher education has close to a $500 billion annual
price tag attached to it and student loans are presently $690 billion (roughly
$25,000 per student).
By contrast in 1970 Pell grants didn't exist and
student loans in the aggregate were at $7 billion. Now President Obama contends
every American should commit to at least one year of post-secondary education.
Who will pay this bill and what are the intended and unintended consequences of
enjoining his proposal?
Obviously the bills will be absorbed by taxpayers in one way
or another and Obama's intention is to offer opportunity for Americans in
pursuit of employment. However, the unintended consequences are far more
As Bill Bennett (Bennett's Hypothesis) noted, increased
government expenditures lead inexorably to increases in tuition, a cycle that
leads to a need for more financial assistance. I contend, in what might be
described as London's Law, that easily available money for higher education in
the form of Title 4 grants and Stafford loans has democratized education,
creating the impression everyone can and should go to college. The net effect
is that many unqualified students enroll and rigorous academic standards have
suffered. Instruction gravitates to the level of visible ability, thereby
lowering standards across the board. Hence, easy money yields less intelligence
than would otherwise be the case.
Yes, almost every professor over 50 would agree with this
proposition, but it cannot be said. Nor is it easy to claim college isn't for
everyone. It isn't, but try telling that to grandma who wants to see a
grandchild with parchment in hand. This condition alone explains in large part
why a nation with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate will soon have 1.5 million
well paid computer engineering jobs left unfilled. We don't produce students
with the skills for these positions; we don't maintain rigorous standards and
we spend too much for too little received in the way of performance outcomes.
This week's Chronicle of
Higher Education has a story
on diversity in higher education that begins, "Despite decades of antidiscrimination
policies and affirmations of equality, there's still little racial and ethnic
diversity at the top at many of the colleges."
And last year, as legal
challenges to affirmative action were building, the Board of Directors of the
American Council on Education issued a firm
statement entitled "On the Importance of Diversity in Higher Education"
that justifies affirmative action on the grounds that it "enriches the
educational experience" and "challenges stereotyped preconceptions" before
concluding, "the diversity we seek and the future of the nation do require that
colleges and universities continue to be able to reach out and make a conscious
effort to build healthy and diverse learning environments that are appropriate
for their missions."
A few months earlier, President
Barry Mills of Bowdoin College issued a statement on liberal education that
included the following
As for affirmative action, my own view is that this is a
necessary practice that has opened the doors of educational opportunity to many
who never dreamed of being able to attend college--folks representing part of
"the 99%" in America who are looking to better their lives and the lives of
their families. I will be writing more over the coming months on the importance
of considering race and economic means in the admissions process.
Now, there are
factual objections to each of these statements. The Chronicle
story, for instance, opens with the assertion that "The Ivy League's senior
leadership is overwhelmingly white and heavily male," but only a few sentences later notes that in
executive, administrative, and managerial positions, women hold "a
majority of such jobs at five of the eight Ivies" (five of the eight Ivies have
female presidents, too). Likewise, the ACE rationales for affirmative
action are debatable, as recent and oft-discussed research by Richard Sander
and others have demonstrated. And Mills's assertion--because of
affirmative action "many who never dreamed of being able to attend college" can
now do so--is patently ridiculous, for most colleges in the United States are
not selective in admissions.
But it's time to drop
these factual and logical objections and opt for a simpler, more direct
response to certain campus leaders who insist on the necessity of affirmative
action in admissions and hiring. History has shown that reasoned
arguments against affirmative action make no difference to people who support
it. They are committed to it for reasons that often go beyond empirical
and logical grounds, including liberal guilt and white guilt, and guilt that
searches for expiation through policy is never going to be satisfied.
condition of race matters in the U.S. calls for a different approach.
When white male President Mills pledges to press for race-based affirmative
action, the right reply is this: "Well, then, sir, you must resign your post
immediately and call for Bowdoin to hire a racial or ethnic minority in your
place." Keep it simple and direct. Every white
male board member of the ACE should receive a message to step down. Let's
ask white male campus leaders to stand up for their own principles and do the
thing they want everybody else to do. When white women acquire a
disproportionate number of jobs in campus leadership, yet still call for more
diversity, they, too, should be asked to withdraw.
This is the logic of
affirmative action, and if diversity proponents who are white follow it to its
conclusion, they should relinquish their positions as soon as possible.
June 9, 2013
Quite a few
people have built careers in higher education around the supposed need to study
how different groups compare, and when the inevitable disparities are
discovered, setting up programs to address the "underrepresentation problem."
To get a sense of just how deeply ingrained such thinking is, consider this
piece from Inside Higher Ed, "The
Deceptive Data on Asians."
In it, we
learn that a recent study by ETS and a group called the National Commission on
Asian-American and Pacific Islander Research in Education has demanded that
colleges and universities collect and report disaggregated data about
Asian-American students "as much as possible."
such data because Asians have been cast as "the model minority" and therefore
beyond the purview of all our "affirmative action" policies. Once you
disaggregate the data, however, you can find all kinds of imbalances and
inequities that cry out for attention.
If you look
at the charts in the story, you see that there are huge differences in
educational attainment between students with different Asian ancestries. For
example, those with Hmong ancestry have much lower educational levels (only
14.7 percent having earned a B.A. or higher) than do those of Taiwanese descent
(74.1 percent). Now we can see that there are serious problems that have been,
in the words of Professor Robert Teranishi of New York University, "overlooked
we need more "outreach" to the groups that are "underrepresented."
sake of argument, let's take this idea seriously. The disaggregation proposed
doesn't go nearly far enough. Colleges and supposed to report, e.g., "Sri
Lankan" as a category, but Sri Lanka is a badly divided country with
considerable inequality among its five main ethnic groups:
the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, and Veddah. It's likely that there
are imbalances lurking in the data for Sinhalese Sri Lankan-American students
and Tamil Sri Lankan-American students. Don't we need to find out?
forget the possibility of sub-dividing those groups to find still more inequalities.
reading that report, college administrators are no doubt envisioning the
prospect of creating new programs and offices to run them. UC-Berkeley's Division of Equity and
Inclusion might, for example, expand to address the needs of students of
Laotian, Bangladeshi, and Filipino heritage, and maybe even the more
"disadvantaged" groups of Taiwanese once they've been identified. The
disaggregated data could be the investment capital for a new growth industry.
suggest that we welcome the study as an occasion to reflect on the folly of
grouping people according to race, ethnicity, social class, religion, or
anything else, and then assuming that any group differences indicate problems
we must solve. Relatively few Americans of Hmong ancestry have earned college
degrees, but there are no official barriers to prevent more from doing so. The
existence of the array of educational opportunities in California and other
states is known to those people and if most don't think that more education is
best for them, that's fine. If and when more of them want to attend college,
they'll do so.
are often used as the excuse for government meddling. That's true for
unemployment, trade, housing, and emphatically so with regard to education.
Putting students into smaller and smaller pigeon holes on the basis of their
background is unnecessary and divisive. Time to stop doing so.
June 6, 2013
in Homer's Odyssey, orders himself
tied to the mast of his ship so he can hear the beautiful song of the Sirens
without risking the usual gruesome fate of those who sail too close to the
lesson - if you know you are going to make a bad decision you should tie your
own hands to prevent it - is one that Washington should heed when it comes to
student loan interest rates. There are now at least six
different proposals to deal with the scheduled interest rate increase from
3.4% to 6.8% for some student loans. Fortunately, four of them are trying to
applying Odysseus' lesson, though unfortunately, the other proposals are
getting much more attention.
is more than a little bizarre, since policymakers have not determined whether
the government is making or losing money on student loans (the current numbers
do not answer this question accurately)
and how much we want to (and can afford to) pay to subsidize student loans. In
other words, policymakers are arguing over the best route to take, despite the
fact that they have no idea where we are right now or where we're trying to go.
Predictably, this results in a political circus, as exemplified by two recent
first is Senator Elizabeth Warren's proposal to lower the student loan interest
rate to 0.75% from 3.4% (scheduled to increase to 6.8% next month). The
ostensible rationale is that 0.75% is the rate the Federal Reserve charges
banks for lending at the discount window. This is a seriously flawed idea.
Three key determinants of the interest rate for any loan are the length of
loan, the chance of defaulting, and how much collateral is pledged. Loans from
the Fed discount window are often for one night, are given to the same "lenders"
who have a long histories of repayment, and are required to have collateral
contrast, student loans are typically not repaid for at least a decade, have no
collateral pledged, and result in a 13.4%
default within three years. Why anybody would think discount-window loans and
student loans should have the same interest rate has stumped most analysts. Brookings
Chingos and Beth Akers said it best when they concluded: "Sen. Warren's proposal should be quickly
dismissed as a cheap political gimmick."
Continue reading "Let's Tie Our Hands on Student Loans" »