FROM OUR ESSAYS

The "Mismatch Thesis," Eye-Opening Research, and the Fisher Case

                                                      By KC Johnson

As the most important higher-education case in a decade makes its way to the Supreme Court--the Fisher case on racial preferences--UCLA law professor Richard Sander had an excellent series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy summarizing one critical argument that his research has helped to highlight: that even the ostensible beneficiaries often are harmed (or at the very least, not helped) by racial preferences in admissions. I strongly recommend Sander's three-part series, and thought it would be useful to summarize its main points.

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Posted on April 10, 2012 9:44 AM | | Comments (6)

The New VAWA--A Threat to College Students

                                              By Hans Bader

Cross-posted from Open Market.

Provisions are being added to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that could undermine due process on campus and in criminal cases, as civil liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and civil libertarians like former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer have noted. The changes are contained in a reauthorization of the Act that is likely to pass the Senate over objections from some Republican senators like Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has also objected to the lack of safeguards against fraud in the law and the misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. (Even if the Senate's reauthorization does not pass the House, programs set up by the 1994 law will continue to operate.)

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Posted on March 23, 2012 3:41 PM | | Comments (0)

'It's a Major Assault on Religious Freedom'

             By Kenneth A. Smith, President, Geneva College

Geneva_College_logo.jpgThe abortion-drug and contraceptive mandate issued by the Obama administration is a frontal assault on the freedoms given to every American by God Himself, and guaranteed in our Constitution.  If allowed to stand, the precedent will have been set that the government can, in fact, prohibit the free exercise of religion, by taking to itself the power to define what is and is not religious behavior, and by punishing those whose faith leads them to make decisions for themselves or their organizations that contradict government directives.

There are many in the press, however, who want to hijack this discussion and make it about a woman's "right" to contraception.  But this is not the central issue.  At the heart of the matter is whether the government can require religious organizations, or individuals, to provide services or engage in practices that violate their religion-based moral convictions.  That is why Geneva College, with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit, Geneva College v. Sebelius, in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA on February 21st.

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Posted on March 4, 2012 6:52 PM | | Comments (3)

Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

                                           By John S. Rosenberg

Pressure has been building for President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression by federal contractors, a move that might make the recent controversy over requiring religious institutions to offer contraception services look mild by comparison.

Metro Weekly recently reported on a strategy session in retiring Rep. Barney Frank's office attended by representatives of the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay and transgender equity advocacy organizations to organize a campaign for such an executive order. Shortly thereafter on Feb. 6 the San Francisco Chronicle's web site published a press release from the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school calling for a gay rights executive order, and the New York Times published an OpEd, "What Obama Should Do About Workplace Discrimination," by M.V. Lee Badgett, the Williams Institute's research director.

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Posted on March 2, 2012 7:59 AM | | Comments (0)

A Simple Solution to a Big College Problem--SURs

                                         By Andrew Gillen

What is the college graduation rate in this country? Correct answer: nobody knows. All the statistics you've read about are at best partial truths. We basically track graduation only for "traditional" students. The problem is that these "traditional" students are no longer representative - most college students are now "non-traditional": 38 percent of students enroll part time; some full-time students start again after some earlier post-secondary work; and a good many students who transfer to another institution are counted as dropouts. In fact some important news arrived today--one third of all college students transfer before graduating, so our statistics on college completion are even more unreliable than we thought.

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Posted on February 28, 2012 12:32 AM | | Comments (6)

Why They Seem to Rise Together:
Federal Aid and College Tuition

It's called "the Bennett Hypothesis," and it explains--or tries to explain--why the cost of college lies so tantalizingly out of reach for so many. In 1987, then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett launched a quarter century of debate by saying, in effect, "Federal aid doesn't help; colleges and universities just cream off the extra money by raising tuition." Now Andrew Gillen, research director of CCAP--the Center for College Affordability and Productivity--has tweaked the data and produced a sophisticated "2.0" version of the hypothesis. It's filled with heavy math, game theory and terms like "inelastic fairly vertical curves." You probably won't read it. We know. But it's important. So here are some smart people who have read it, and have something to say: Peter Wood, Hans Bader, Richard Vedder, George Leef and Herbert London.

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Peter Wood: They Are Insatiable

Long before I knew it was called the "Bennett Hypothesis" I knew that colleges and universities increase tuition to capture increases in federal and state financial aid. I attended numerous meetings of university administrators where the topic of setting next year's tuition was discussed.

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Federal Aid and College Tuition" »

Posted on February 20, 2012 9:53 PM | | Comments (9)

Is Investing in Community Colleges a Good Idea?

                                          By Charlotte Allen

obama-speech.jpgPresident Obama's fiscal 2013 budget contains an $8 billion program called the "Community College to Career Fund." It would encourage community colleges, in partnerships with employers, to train about two million workers for future jobs. Since there are about 1,045 community colleges in America, the program would amount to a grant--over three years--of a little under $8 million per institution. Not all the funds, however, would go directly to the colleges themselves; some would go to state and local governments to recruit participating companies, some to underwrite an online entrepreneurship training program, and some to underwrite paid internships for low-income community-college students.

Using federal grants, the colleges would set up "community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers," according to a White House statement. The career centers would specifically train students for employment in health care, high technology, and "green" industries--areas expected, at least in the predictions of the Obama administration, to grow substantially over the next few years.

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Posted on February 16, 2012 12:10 PM | | Comments (1)

What Has Happened to Academic Freedom?

                                     By Herbert I. London

Dr. London, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom on February 9 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation. These were his remarks on the occasion.
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It is with enormous humility and gratitude that I accept this award from the Bradley Foundation that has done so much to promote liberty inside and outside the Academy. I am particularly pleased to receive the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award since I remember with great joy our discussion of her very important essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards," which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Commentary.

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Posted on February 14, 2012 4:36 PM | | Comments (1)

A Bastion of American Values in the Arab Middle East

                                               By Judith Miller

American University of Beirut.jpgAs the Arab Spring uprisings transform the history and face of the Arab world, the American University of Beirut, the oldest and most prestigious private university in the Arab Middle East, is preparing to launch the most ambitious fund-raising campaign in its 145-year history.

The campaign will seek to raise more than $400 million dollars in five years - an unprecedented sum for AUB that is almost equal to its $480 million endowment. This is far beyond the reach of most other Arab higher educational institutions. At least $300 million of the money will be allocated to renovating and expanding AUB's hospital, one of the Arab Middle East's premier medical centers.

The fund-raising drive is being launched amid the sea-change in the Arab Middle East -- a period of intense passion and hope, strife and political alarm unseen in the region since the Arab nationalist upheavals and military coups of the 1950's.

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Posted on February 10, 2012 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)

A Campaign Against the Koch Foundation

By James Piereson

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There is an old saying in politics that "They don't scream unless you hurt them."  When your adversaries scream, it is a good sign that your measures have been effective. Judged by this standard, the Koch Brothers (David and Charles) have been very effective in recent years in advancing their causes of limited government and classical liberalism, much to the discomfort of liberal foes promoting business regulation, higher taxes, and ObamaCare.

The Koch brothers have been on the receiving end of non-stop attacks from liberal journalists and academics ever since Jane Mayer published a hit piece on them last year in The New Yorker purporting to show that their contributions were behind the rise of the "Tea Party" movement.  This wildly exaggerated claim was meant to cast the Koch brothers as great villains, but villains possessed of a satanic combination of power and tactical brilliance.  In a predictable course, Mayer's fairy tale was circulated by the columnists and editorial writers of the New York Times and from there through a network of second-level columnists and political magazines until at length it came to the attention of the credulous foot soldiers of the liberal-left who have kept the pot boiling in recent months with ever more inventive and exaggerated versions of the original lie.     
 
The latest controversy surrounding the Kochs arises from an article published last week in the St. Petersburg Times titled, "Billionaire's Role in Hiring Decisions at Florida State University Raises Questions."  The author insinuates that the Koch Foundation was trying to "buy off" the Economics Department at Florida State University through a $1.5 million grant (paid over six years) to hire new faculty and to support graduate fellowships under a program in "political economy and free enterprise."  Under the grant, a three-person faculty committee was set up to review candidates for the positions, including one member designated by the Foundation.  The paper suggested that by designating a member of the review committee the Foundation was undermining academic freedom by interfering in the faculty's right to appoint colleagues on the basis of professional competence.   

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Posted on May 16, 2011 10:46 PM | | Comments (24)

Quarantining the PC Pathology

By Robert Weissberg

ant.jpgLet's face it, our noble efforts to detoxify today's PC-infected university have largely failed and the future looks bleak. This is not to say that the problem is incurable--though it is--but it calls for a solution different from the current approach.  Here's how.

Begin by recognizing that all our proposed cures impose heavy burdens on foes. For example, demanding an ideologically balanced faculty means fewer positions for PC zealots to fill. Asking them to abandon anti-Americanism requires revising lectures and reading assignment, no small task for those working 24/7 for social justice. And the assignment may be beyond their intellectual abilities. Why should tenured radicals surrender life-time employment to prevent professorial abuses? In a nutshell, our side insists on painful reform from within, all of which have zero benefits to the PC crowd. Victory requires measures that appear as net benefits, not bitter medicine.

My solution arrived one day in a casual conversation with a fellow political scientist. He recounted that when his university initially proposed a separate Department of Women's Studies, the faculty objected.  Resistance was futile, however, and the separate department came to pass. There was, however, a silver lining in the defeat--with all the department's strident feminists exported to an autonomous homeland, intellectual life suddenly improved dramatically. No more silly quarrels about inserting gender into international relations, no more struggles over subtly-hidden, invisible sexism and so on. Civility and reason reigned.

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Posted on May 8, 2011 6:54 PM | | Comments (6)

Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

By Mary Grabar

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After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested  in teaching students to write and communicate clearly.  The group's agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting's 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against "marginalized" groups and restrict self-expression.

Even noted composition scholar Peter Elbow, in his address, claimed that the grammar that we internalize at the age of four is "good enough."  The Internet, thankfully, has freed us from our previous duties as "grammar police," and Elbow heralded the day when the white spoken English that has now become the acceptable standard, will be joined by other forms, like those of non-native and ghetto speakers.

Freed from standards of truth claims and grammatical construction, rhetoric is now redefined as "performance," as in street protests, often by students demonstrating their "agency." Expressions are made through "the body," images, and song--sometimes a burst of spontaneous reflection on the Internet.  Clothes are rhetorically important as "instruments of grander performance."  

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Posted on April 21, 2011 2:52 PM | | Comments (61)

Sexual Assault on Campus--Is It Exaggerated?

By Cathy Young

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Earlier this month, shortly after the announcement of a sexual harassment investigation targeting Yale University, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights issued a "Dear Colleague Letter" to colleges on the handling of sexual violence cases.  On the same day, April 4, Vice President Joe Biden kicked off a nationwide "awareness campaign" on schools' obligations toward victims in a speech at the University of New Hampshire.  But will this campaign truly help victims of sexual assault - or is it likely to trample on the civil rights of students accused of such offenses, and promote more panic and paranoia on campuses?

Some of the recommendations in the OCR letter are innocuous enough, such as providing a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sexual violence and an equal opportunity for both sides in such cases to present witnesses.  Others, however, are more troubling; indeed, former Education Department attorney Hans Bader concludes that the document "undermines due process and accuracy" in the quest for more convictions.  While these are convictions under campus disciplinary proceedings, not in criminal court, they are still likely to have grave consequences: not only expulsion from school, but the stigma of having committed a felonious act even if it is not prosecuted under criminal law.
 
Perhaps the most problematic of the OCR's recommendations is that sexual assault complaints should be adjudicated under the standard of "preponderance of the evidence," rather than the "clear and convincing evidence" standard currently used by many universities.  (In response, Stanford and Yale are already amending their procedural rules.)  As Bader puts it, "'Preponderance of the evidence' means that if a school thinks there is as little as a 51 percent chance that the accused is guilty, the accused must still be disciplined."  In his view, this requirement is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of federal law: In Title IX sex discrimination cases, the "preponderance of the evidence" standard is meant to apply to an institution accused of violating the plaintiff's rights, not to another individual accused of an offense.

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Posted on April 18, 2011 8:12 AM | | Comments (5)

In Praise of Ideological Openness

By Daniel B. Klein

Many people, some conservatives included, say we need to get ideology out of the college classroom. Some professors say proudly, "my students never come to know where I stand."
 
I practice an opposite approach. I tell students that I am a free-market economist, a classical liberal or libertarian.  And I am not suggesting that it is wrong to be ideologically reserved. Different styles suit different professors.
 
And of course some professors go much too far in pressing their ideological judgments and requiring conformity, even forms of activism. But we should not fall into simplistic ideals of neutrality and objectivity. There is an ethical high-ground in temperance, but that does not necessarily mean reserve and circumspection. One can open up about ideology without falling into intemperance. Here I meditate on some merits of being open about your own ideology, even somewhat outspoken, when teaching a college course.
 
When listening to testimony on financial regulation, we like to know whether the testifying expert has a vested interest. And we like to know if he has other sorts of commitments that might affect his interpretation and judgment.
 
An individual's ideological commitments are like his religious commitments, in that they run deep and change little. They suffuse his professional and personal relationships; they suffuse his sense of self. They are like vested interests, only deeper and more permanent. 

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Posted on April 15, 2011 8:58 PM | | Comments (11)

The Campus Left's Nostalgia Party - RSVP

By Peter Wood

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I head an organization, the National Association of Scholars (NAS), that is often accused by its critics on the academic left of nostalgia for days when higher education was an exclusive club for the privileged.  The accusation is false.  NAS focuses on the enduring principles of the university:  rational inquiry, liberal learning, and academic freedom.  True, there have been points in the past when these principles have been better observed than they are today, but our interest is in the future of the university, not its past. 

Thus I was eager to learn more when I heard that a group of professors had come forward to promote an ambitious "Campaign for the Future of Higher Education."  Alas, my excitement proved premature.  It turns out that the Campaign is mostly reactionary.  It was put together by an alliance of groups, mostly unions, fearful of current trends and desperate to halt developments that may well lead away from a recent epoch in which higher education was indeed "an exclusive club for the privileged."  The "Campaign for Higher Education" might be better titled, "The Way We Were."

In January the California Faculty Association (CFA), a faculty union, convened a meeting of seventy faculty members, representing several other unions and other organizations, including the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reported under the headline, "Faculty Groups Gather to Craft a United Stand on Higher-Education Policy," that the attendees agreed to take back to their memberships a document drafted by the CFA that "outlines a set of principles it believes should undergird higher-education policy over the next decade."  AAUP president Cary Nelson indicated that the principles would be presented publicly in April in a series of teach-ins.

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Posted on April 8, 2011 2:28 PM | | Comments (1)

There's No Such Thing as Intelligence?

By David Thompson

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One feature of academia's less reputable quarters is the imperative to shun the obvious and prosaic, even when the obvious and prosaic happen to be true. As Theodore Dalrymple noted in his review of Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society,

Intellectuals, like everyone else, live and work in a marketplace. In order to get noticed they must say things which have not been said before, or at least say them in a different manner. No one is likely to obtain many plaudits for the rather obvious, indeed self-evident, thought that a street robber cannot commit street robberies while he is in prison. But an intellectual who first demonstrates that the cause of an increase in street robbery is the increase in the amount of property that law-abiding pedestrians have on them as they walk in the streets is likely to be hailed, at least until the next idea comes along. Thus, while there are no penalties for being foolish, there are severe penalties (at least in career terms) for being obvious.

The obligation to be unobvious, if only for the benefit of one's academic peers, may help explain the more fanciful assertions from some practitioners of the liberal arts. Consider, for instance, Duke's Professor miriam cooke, who refuses to capitalize her name, thus drawing attention to her egalitarian radicalism and immense creativity. Professor cooke's subtlety of mind is evident in her claim that the oppression and misogyny found in the Islamic world is actually the fault of globalization and Western colonialism, despite the effects predating their alleged causes by several centuries. Professor cooke also tells us that "polygamy can be liberating and empowering" - a statement that may strike readers as somewhat dubious. It does, however, meet the key criteria of being both edgy and unobvious.

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Posted on April 5, 2011 3:28 PM | | Comments (8)

Fighting Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism

By Kenneth L. Marcus

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One day last March Jessica Felber, then 20, a Jewish undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, was standing on her campus, holding a placard bearing the words: "Israel Wants Peace."  At that moment, Husam Zakaria, a Berkeley student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, reportedly rammed Felber from behind so hard with a loaded shopping cart that she had to be taken to the university's urgent medical care facility.  This violent episode has become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the country, nowhere more so than in the "Golden State," which has become an epicenter for the New Anti-Semitism in America.  What makes this case different is that Felber fought back, charging this month in a federal lawsuit that UC Berkeley has ignored mounting evidence of anti-Jewish animus and should be held liable for the injuries she suffered.  Her  suit also contends that "physical intimidation and violence were frequently employed as a tactic by SJP and other campus groups in an effort to silence students on campus who support Israel".

Sixty miles or so south of Berkeley along the Pacific coast, University of California Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin makes a similar case against her own employer.  For several years, Rossman-Benjamin has spoken out against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism at the University of California, but she insists that the problem is not limited to a few rogue students:  "Professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UCSC promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior," she insists, "much of which is based on either misleading information or outright falsehood."  Rossman-Benjamin describes an atmosphere at Santa Cruz in which taxpayer-supported, university-sponsored discourse that "demonizes Israel, compares contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, calls for the dismantling of the Jewish State, and holds Israel to an impossible double standard - crosses the line into anti-Semitism..."  Like Felber, Rossman-Benjamin is fighting back.  The Santa Cruz whistle-blower filed a civil rights action with the U.S. Department of Education's powerful Office for Civil Rights, arguing that UCSC has created a hostile environment for Jewish students.  Last week, OCR sent a powerful signal to academia when it informed Rossman-Benjamin that it is formally opening an investigation of her claims.

The Jessica Felber and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  Over the last decade - since 9/11 and the start of the Second Intifada - there has been a persistent drumbeat of allegations by students and professors at many university campuses across the country.   It is true that most Jewish students will not face these problems, particularly if they avoid visibly associating themselves with the Jewish state or with Jewish institutions.  Moreover, the reported incidents are disproportionately concentrated in coastal states and on highly politicized campuses, especially in California.  Neverthless, problems are continually arising even on campuses like Indiana University which do not seem to fit the profile. In its widely read 2006 report on "Campus Anti-Semitism," the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that anti-Semitism had once again become a "serious problem" at many post-secondary institutions nation-wide.  In numerous cases, Jewish and Israeli students, particularly if they are outspoken supporters of Israel, have been physically accosted or confronted with a mix of classic anti-Jewish stereotypes and "progressive" anti-Israel defamations.  While it is difficult to quantify the extent of the problem - in part because of the dismal state of reporting on this issue - there is much support for the conclusion that Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg reached in  their book, The Uncivil University; i.e.,anti-Semitism has now become systemic throughout American higher education,   even on the quieter  campuses.  Since 2006, the problem has only gotten worse, as old-fashioned bias has entered into the university-centered international campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

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Posted on March 28, 2011 4:27 PM | | Comments (4)

No Longer Academic: When Activism Is on the Curriculum

By Mary Grabar
 
howard_zinn.jpgHoward Zinn, the late self-described "socialist anarchist" history professor and mentor to the New Left, would have been proud of the way the Wisconsin protests rolled along.  The weeks-long sit-in of the Wisconsin state capitol building--heavily populated by teachers and students--exemplified the kind of "participatory democracy" his associate Tom Hayden promoted in the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the SDS.  For Zinn, education was a key component of  "guerilla warfare with the system," as he wrote in SNCC: The New Abolitionists in 1964.  In 2009, he told students at the University of Wisconsin, "the best kind of education you can get is when you're involved in social struggles for a cause."  Zinn himself acted as provocateur to his students at Spelman and Boston University, encouraging them to act as subversives to the U.S. government and to their school's administration.
 
Much of the public may want to leave the New Left to ancient history and simply cast their work in the humanities as the activities of eccentrics with little impact on day-to-day life.  Politicians and citizen groups leave curriculum development to the credentialed.  But behind ivy-covered walls changes instituted in the intervening decades were played out in Madison.  The standards of scholarship have been overturned, with overt political agendas replacing scholarly academic subjects, and "direct action" replacing scholarly modes of inquiry.  As a result, students today feel they are on a moral mission; they follow the lead of activist professors who flatter them with the idea that they are "critical thinkers," while they guide them into mandatory "civic engagement" activities.  The new pedagogy of foundationless (anarchic) "critical thinking" and (democratic) "collaborative learning" make disrupting the legislative process seem like part of the school day.   
 
A guest post titled "From the Occupied Capitol," by University of Illinois-Champagne graduate student Michael Verderame, in the Chronicle of Higher Education provided an apt example of the New Left's influence.  Verderame joined a hundred other Illinois Graduate Employees Unions members in Wisconsin.  His post from inside the capitol resonated with the self-righteousness and self-congratulation of memoirs of 1960s veterans, especially Bill Ayers in Fugitive Days. "We went there in support not just of public workers in Wisconsin, but of the very idea of collective bargaining," Verderame wrote.  He and fellow protestors wanted to "build on [the] energy" already in the occupied capitol, to support "union brothers' and sisters' rights."  They formed a human chain around the capitol building.  He had scrawled a contact number on his arm in case of arrest, "a surreal experience for someone who's never had a speeding ticket."  At the end of the protest day, some protestors choose to leave, but several stay inside, "understanding that they were risking their own liberty to do so."  Starvation was averted: "we were heartened to see food and supplies go in, as well as additional press."  Word came at 7:00 p.m. that no one would be arrested--another close call.  Such melodrama reflected protest signs in Wisconsin as well as those I've seen in Atlanta, likening Governor Scott Walker to Mubarak and Hitler. 

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Posted on March 14, 2011 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)

A Double Shock to Liberal Professors

By  Russell K. Nieli

haidt200.jpgSocial psychology has long been a haven for left-wing scholars. Jonathan Haidt, one of  the best known and most respected young social psychologists, has heaved two bombshells at his field--one indicting it for effectively excluding conservatives (he is a liberal) and the other for what he sees as a jaundiced and cult-like opposition to religion (he is an atheist).

Here he is on the treatment of conservatives:

I submit to you that the under-representation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering. ... We should take our own rhetoric about the benefits of diversity seriously and apply it to ourselves. ... Just imagine if we had a true diversity of perspectives in social psychology.  Imagine if conservative students felt free enough to challenge our dominant ideas, and bold enough to pull us out of our deepest ideological ruts. That is my vision for our bright  post-partisan future.

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Posted on March 9, 2011 2:47 PM | | Comments (26)

Politics and the Demise of the Humanities

By Perry L. Glanzer 

"But when humanism became the servant of the political or university establishment it lost its vitality and, indeed, its credibility...
         Willem Frijhoff discussing 16th century humanism in 
         A History of the University, Vol. II (Cambridge U Press), p. 45
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The crisis of the humanities officially arrived on October 1, 2010. At least this is what Stanley Fish claims in the <em>New York Times</em>. The fact that SUNY Albany's president announced the demise of the university's French, Italian, classics, Russian, and theatre programs on this date hardly appears to be a significant omen, but Fish believes this event possesses deeper symbolic importance. It represents the empirical reality that numerous scholars have already observed: the humanities are withering away in higher education. 
 
What will revive them?  As a consistent postmodernist, Fish suggests politics should be the answer, by which he means "the political efforts of senior academic administrators to explain and defend the core enterprise to those constituencies---legislatures, boards of trustees, alumni, parents and others---that have either let bad educational things happen or have actively connived in them."  In a follow-up column Fish specifies that this political solution also includes begging the state to provide more money for the humanities. 

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Posted on February 27, 2011 6:18 PM | | Comments (3)

The Odd Cold-War Center at NYU

By Ronald Radosh

rosenbergs.jpgMany universities have set up centers to examine the history of the Cold War. The Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D. C., for example, created an offshoot called The Cold War International History Project. That institute has over the years hosted many conferences, with panels of scholars representing all points of view. Two years ago, I was an active participant in a two days session at the CWIHP about Soviet espionage, that was based on the new book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America.

The sponsors were fully aware of contending views on the issue of the role of Soviet espionage in America during the Cold War and carried out the meeting with great fairness. Compare that with the Tamiment Center at New York University, which cares little for fairness, academic rigor or diversity of views. Its inaugural event four years ago, "Alger Hiss and History," left no mystery about its agenda. As I wrote in the New Republic, the conference

was intended to resurrect Old Left myths about the innocence of those accused during the so-called Red Scare in the 1950's, and in particular, to re-open the case to prove Alger Hiss' innocence. The only reason Hiss was indicted, their announcement made clear, was to "discredit the New Deal, legitimate the Red Scare, and set the stage of Joseph McCarthy." Mark Kramer, who heads a similar Cold War center at Harvard, commented that the meeting "consists of diehard supporters of Hiss whose attempts to explain away all the new available evidence are thoroughly unconvincing."

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Posted on January 25, 2011 5:25 PM | | Comments (1)

What Else Do Professors Do? They Teach.

By Jonathan B. Imber

Teaching periodically reaches the public's attention, as in a recent statement by a group of scientists about the failure of research universities to train their students to be good teachers. The New York Times ran a report on a study published in Science that led its lead researcher to contend: "I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge," said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. "I think that we're tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval." This undoubtedly prompts teachers to feel more pressed to teach "to the brain." Is learning finally "all about retrieving"? And the veiled acknowledgment that students might fare better by being tested more regularly, a staple of language learning, for example, can now be imagined as one more panacea for our cultural ADD. I do not think Professor Karpicke and his associates are off-base, I think they are tinkerers at the base of a vast cultural inheritance of teaching and learning that deserves its own acknowledgment.

When my graduate advisor, Philip Rieff wrote Fellow Teachers, which began as a lecture/conversation he conducted at Skidmore College in the early 1970s, few were prepared to read about the vocation of teaching---not about how to teach. The latter has become the ball and chain wrapped around the ankles of so many teachers. No reputable institution of higher education today is without a teaching and learning center. (Curiously at my own institution, it is called the Learning and Teaching Center, suggesting that many carts (i.e. students) are entitled to go before the horse in keeping with a consumer-driven logic that drives up the cost of everything.) Fellow Teachers marked an important point of departure in the culture wars that spread throughout many institutions, first in the American university. It had been preceded a year or so by Robert Nisbet's equally important The Degradation of the Academic Dogma. Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind upped the ante considerably, by then, already fifteen years later, but also by then, the arguments had assumed a life of their own far beyond the university as they do today.

I do not mean to disparage the craft of teaching. The Socratic Method, for example, is intended to engage students effectively in a public setting, insisting that they learn how to think on their feet. A film illustration of this made Orson Welles's early collaborator, John Houseman, the cultural icon of teaching as Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase. The film celebrated the autocratic, distant figure in authority who could drill and humiliate while teaching the law. The film's final scene marked, however inadvertently, the end of that kind of figure. Kingsfield's best student folds his final grade report into a paper airplane and sends it into the sea without opening it. For him the encounter with such an inspiring teacher counted more than the final grade. What more needs to be said today about how much has changed?

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Posted on January 23, 2011 11:29 PM | | Comments (0)

Could the Feds Tell College Students What to Do?

By John Rosenberg

Women-in-Science.jpgIf the Obama administration's argument that Congress has the authority to require every individual to purchase health insurance is upheld by the Supreme Court, many students may be in for a big surprise.

Yes, students. The administration argument, briefly, is that access to affordable health care is so essential to both personal and national security that individual choice of when or even whether to purchase insurance must be subordinated to the government's authority to regulate the health care market. Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce is so pervasive, the administration argues, that it necessarily includes the power to require individuals to participate in that market, and to fine them if they refuse.

Here's how Judge Henry Hudson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia summarized the government's argument, on his way to rejecting it:

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Posted on January 13, 2011 3:17 PM | | Comments (0)

No Labels = No Thinking, and No Fighting for Principles Either

By Mary Grabar

no%20labels.bmpWhat a different scene at Columbia University in the last month of 2010 from the glory days of the 1960s, when student radicals took over the campus! On December 13th, mild-mannered students with pleasant smiles nodded in agreement with establishment politicians and political strategists at the "No Labels" conference. As political analysts have pointed out, the repeated pleading for "bipartisanship" and for moving not "left or right" but "forward" was an attempt to obscure the losing message of Democrats and nervous Republicans in the 2010 elections.

But the phrases of "moving forward" and "compromise" were refrains in a song familiar to more than 300 college students from across the country gathered on campus. At the microphone, these students demonstrated their docile acceptance of the "no labels" pedagogy of "consensus-building," "conflict resolution," and "civil discourse." When explaining "why" they were there, they echoed the words of the organizers and said they were tired of "hyper-partisanship." Then they "pledged" to "speak out against this hyper-partisanship" because "a win for one party is not necessarily a loss for another party." Sometimes making their statements with the timorous inflection of a question mark at the end, they raised---for some observers, at least-- the issue of intellectual decline, and spiritual and psychological decline as well.

Like many of my college students, these students displayed a reluctance to declare anyone--or any idea--a "winner." The notion of there being a losing side, whether in wiffle ball or a mock UN debate, has in effect been outlawed over the last few decades. In part this numb recessiveness is the work of campus "mommies," freshman composition teachers who instruct their classes to shy away from assertion and real debate.

Freshman composition was once known for teaching young adults how to defend a conviction with logic and evidence. Feminists saw the inherently competitive nature of this enterprise, and sought to replace it with the "maternal presence in the classroom," an Orwellian term in circulation at the University of Georgia in the 1990s, where I taught as a graduate teaching assistant. At the time, the English department, known as the last hold-out from the pernicious influence of the various schools of postmodernism, was being taken over by feminists who sought to root out the patriarchy in all its manifestations---including the freshman essay. The "maternal presence" trickled down into our annual fall orientation sessions where we were directed to implement the new strategies as "facilitators."

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Posted on January 6, 2011 2:58 PM | | Comments (0)

Honoring One of the Perpetrators at Duke


By KC Johnson

Each year, the American Historical Association---the nation's leading professional organization of historians---confers the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award, which "recognizes inspiring teachers whose techniques and mastery of subject matter made a lasting impression and substantial difference to students of history." At the 2011 annual conference (held January 4-7 week in Boston), the AHA will add recently-retired Duke professor Peter Wood to the Asher Award's list of "inspiring" teachers of history.

For those who followed the lacrosse case, Wood needs no introduction; he was among the most outspoken anti-lacrosse members of the Duke faculty. Wood's commentary, however, differed from that of other anti-lacrosse extremists, most of whose public remarks focused on assumptions of guilt about the criminal case (the Group of 88's statement) or race-baiting demagoguery. Wood, on the other hand, tended to use the lacrosse case to speak out about the character of students in his classes. He did so through a string of statements that contained stereotyped, malicious, or evidence-free things about his own students. That such a figure could subsequently win an award specifically designed for "inspiring" students in his classes is nothing short of astonishing.

Even before the lacrosse case broke, it was clear Wood didn't much like Duke students who played lacrosse. In 2004, he wrote to a dean complaining about lacrosse players allegedly missing one of his classes to attend practice. (He didn't mention that the players had acted appropriately and had received advance permission from the relevant dean.) After the false rape charges prompted a campus investigation of the 2006 lacrosse team, Wood expanded on his critique. But he gave an account of his (lacrosse-playing) students' classroom behavior that differed wildly from that of the other nine faculty members interviewed by the investigatory committee, and even Wood's teaching assistant declined to corroborate the Asher Award winner's version of his students' behavior. Wood also seemed to invent a past that never existed: the committee's report coldly noted that Wood's "more recent statements about the behavior of lacrosse players [in his 2004 class] have been significantly more negative than what he said in the letter he wrote in 2004."

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Posted on December 29, 2010 10:22 AM | | Comments (1)

Thoughts on Penn State

By Mark Bauerlein

As reported here, the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs at Penn State has revised the school's academic freedom policy and submitted a new version to the president for approval. The proposed changes include, the Introduction says, "Converting the list of restrictions on academic freedom into affirmative principles." To that end, the Committee has deleted the final two sentences of the old policy:

No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.

Apparently, the Committee regards the "privilege" noted here as a feature of academic freedom; likewise for license to introduce "provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects."

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Posted on December 18, 2010 11:20 AM | | Comments (2)

On Teaching Conservatism

By Jonathan B. Imber

hanks.bmpOne consistent challenge in teaching is remembering how little students really know and how much they think they know. This is not a putdown of students. On the contrary, it is a celebration of optimism in the best sense of the word, the same optimism that was supposed to have inspired Winston Churchill to observe: "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains." Apparently Churchill may have never said this, the original formulation about youth and optimism, and age and realism, being attributed to one of Alexis de Tocqueville's mentors, the historian and political intellectual, Francois Guizot (1787-1874) who concluded that "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), is said to have restated Guizot's aphorism: "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."

I cannot verify any of these aphorisms attributed to these important figures, but in one way it does not matter because all three speak to a common wisdom about youth and maturity with which most are familiar both in theory and in practice. One of the first lessons of conservatism is to observe how so much of what is familiar to us is not learned in school but rather in growing up in the worlds we live in day to day. Teaching students about the great intellectual tradition of conservatism in a liberal arts college in the northeast has been a personal and pedagogic mission for me for the past decade. If you ask me whether I am "a conservative" or whether I am "conservative" I will insist on at least an hour to explain myself. I ask students whether or not it matters that I profess a conviction about being conservative or being a conservative in order to understand conservatism. By professing to be conservative, does it mean that you automatically assume to know my opinions on everything from abortion to welfare policy, if I even have such opinions? Does it mean my teaching of the subject must inevitably be "biased," a term that has been wielded by both left and right against each other?

Or does it mean that I have a fiduciary responsibility, as a teacher, to present as best I can what those who profess to be conservative understand by that idea? Does it mean that you may learn something less about me than through me about what conservatism professes and how conservatives think? The first day of class I explain that I am a registered Republican (which remains an astonishing confession to more than a few of my colleagues), and I emphasize that my political opinions have been deeply informed by what I read. I tell the students that they have arrived in my classroom not to be turned into conservatives but to understand the relationship between their already developing convictions and what they read. If those convictions are "conservative" or "liberal" my aim is to strengthen both. Whether or not I believe conservatism is superior to liberalism or liberalism to conservatism, the second lesson to remember in my classroom is that disagreement is a good thing, especially when it is founded on principles and facts, neither of which points us always in the same direction in any sure way.

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Posted on December 13, 2010 3:19 PM | | Comments (2)

A Hard Case---Are FIRE and NAS Wrong about Jennifer Keeton?

By KC Johnson

KEETONX390.jpgHard cases make bad law. Nowhere is that legal maxim clearer than the case of former Augusta State counseling student Jennifer Keeton, who was removed from the counseling program because of her rather extreme anti-gay views. A lower-court judge upheld the university's actions. FIRE and NAS have filed a powerful amicus brief, penned by Eugene Volokh, spelling out the potentially damaging---extremely damaging---effects if this decision is upheld. At the same time, however, the evidence presented in the case strongly suggests that Keeton doesn't belong as a counselor.

The university's response to Keeton reflects the same sort of behavior seen in many education departments in the dispositions controversy---i.e., Orwellian re-education efforts to punish students whose views on controversial contemporary political or social issues conflict with those of the academic majority.

Keeton, a student in ASU's Counseling Education M.A. program, repeatedly expressed anti-gay views, both in and out of class. (These views were quite extreme; they included Keeton's support for "conversion therapy," and, according to the lower-court decision in the case, her admission that she would find it difficult to counsel gay or lesbian clients.) In response, as the FIRE/NAS brief notes, the Counseling department designed a "remediation" program for Keeton, which required her "attending three workshops, reading ten peer-reviewed articles, attending an unspecified number of activities such as the Gay Pride Parade(!), and writing a two-page paper each month." Perhaps most chilling, she also had to meet with her advisor each month to discuss the effect of these activities on her "beliefs."

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Posted on December 3, 2010 10:59 AM | | Comments (5)

Rigoberta's Revenge: The Implosion Of Anthropology

By John Rosenberg

menchu.jpgOne of my professors in college defined an anthropologist as "a sociologist in a tent." His comment was not a compliment --- he was a sociologist --- but it was true in ways that he did not have in mind.

Anthropology has always been a big tent, including as it does what one anthropologist calls "real scientists" as well as "fluff-head cultural anthropological types who think science is just another way of knowing." Similarly, according to Elizabeth Cashdan, chair of anthropology at the University of Utah,

some anthropologists might mine the language and analytical tools favored by such humanities as literary criticism, while others may be more likely to deploy statistical methodology as befits social science. Still others might rely on the biological metrics, hard data and scientific method used by natural scientists. "This is reflective of tensions in the whole discipline," said Cashdan, a bio-cultural anthropologist....

Now, however, that tent appears to be getting smaller; because of a revision in the American Anthropology Association's long range planning document, many anthropologists believe they are being forced out. Inside Higher Ed (from which the Cashdan quote above is taken) has a long article on "Anthropology Without Science," and a similar article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Anthropologists Debate Whether 'Science' Is a Part of Their Mission," begins by asking, "Is anthropology a science? Is it a coherent discipline at all?" One day earlier the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a long piece by Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars and an anthropologist himself, on "Anthropology Association Rejecting Science?"

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Posted on December 1, 2010 4:40 PM | | Comments (1)

Social Justice Art and Liberal Democracy

By Donald A. Downs

imagesCAFBEVA41.JPGMichelle Kamhi is the co-editor of the online arts review Aristos, and a mild-mannered, well-spoken New Yorker with a love of art and intellectual integrity. She is also the cause of a heated controversy that has broken out in the world of art education. The source of this conflict is an op-ed Kamhi wrote in the Wall Street Journal last June entitled "The Political Assault on Art Education." Presenting a condensed version of a longer piece she had written in Aristos in April ("The Hijacking of Art Education"), Kamhi took aim at a movement that merits heightened public scrutiny and discussion: "social justice art," a branch of the broader "visual culture" movement in art education. By thrusting this issue onto the stage, Kamhi has provided us with information about a disturbing trend in art education, and with an opportunity to hold a needed public discussion about education and the arts in a democratic society.

Art education is part of the educational mission regarding the young, which unavoidably entails making normative (and perhaps political) choices about the types of citizens we want to shape. But because liberal democracies are dedicated first and foremost to individual freedom and conscience (Lincoln said we are "consecrated" in liberty), state power and politics are limited. This means that art education in a liberal democracy will eschew the politicization of art, freeing the individual student to learn art for its own sake in a manner that cannot be reduced to politics and the state. This model of art education differs from the art education espoused by such thinkers as Plato and Rousseau, and various activists whose vision of art education is political, not aesthetic and individual. The "social justice" art movement points us decidedly in the direction of Rousseau than James Madison.

Just what is social justice art? In terms of definition and purpose, it is art in the service of such socially "progressive" causes as identity politics ("recognition"); greater equality through redistribution of resources; the environment; and critiques of the present social, economic, and political arrangements in the United States. The movement is propelled by a partnership between "art activists" and education school faculty, and it draws its inspiration from such sources as "critical theory" and the pedagogical theories of Paulo Freire. Freire's classic book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was written to address the severe repression of peasants in Brazil in the 1960s. Applying Freire's logic to the United States, education activists have come up with such concoctions as "Radical Math," which incorporates radical politics into, of all things, mathematics. (See Sol Stern's "The Propaganda in Our Ed Schools": http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/10/the_propaganda_in_our_ed_schoo.html ) The list of potential subjects for radicalization is vast; so enter art education.

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Posted on November 9, 2010 3:15 PM | | Comments (1)

The Propaganda in Our Ed Schools

By Sol Stern

Paulo_Freire.jpgRadical Math held its third annual conference in New York last weekend. Four hundred high school math teachers and education professors attended the conference on "Creating Balance in an Unjust World: Math Education and Social Justice." At thirty-two workshops on Long Island University's Brooklyn campus and in half a dozen city public schools, math teachers demonstrated classroom lessons to help students understand society from a "liberatory," anti-capitalist perspective. For example, one workshop demonstrated how student math projects could be used to "explore the distribution of wealth in the United States and imagine more socially just alternatives." Another showed how math problems could be structured to "empower and inspire students to change their world. This workshop will examine the Personal Proof Project, connecting Geometric proofs and activism." At the Radical Math conference I attended three years ago, University of Massachusetts Professor Marilyn Frankenstein proposed that elementary school teachers who truly care about social justice should instruct their students that in a "just society," food would "be as free as breathing the air."

The Radical Math conference can be viewed as a demonstration of Freirism in action. The organization faithfully follows the doctrines of Paulo Freire, the late Brazilian Marxist and "critical pedagogy" theorist. The official program for the conference I attended was emblazoned with this passage from The Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Freire's seminal work: "There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of our world."

In The Critical Pedagogy Reader, a widely used text in education school courses, Robert Peterson writes about how he plumbed The Pedagogy of the Oppressed as a young elementary school teacher in inner-city Milwaukee, looking for ways to apply Freire's theories to his own fifth-grade classroom. Peterson realized that he had to jettison what Freire dismisses as the prevailing "banking method" of education, in which "the teacher and the curricular texts have the 'right answers' and which the students are expected to regurgitate periodically." Instead, Peterson switched to Freire's "liberating" pedagogical approach, which "relies on the experience of the student. . . . It means challenging the students to reflect on the social nature of knowledge and the curriculum." Peterson seems to have succeeded, turning his fifth-graders into critical theorists and junior scholars of the Frankfurt School.

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Posted on October 26, 2010 3:56 PM | | Comments (1)

Sound and Fury---The Bayoumi Uproar

By Robert Cherry

bayoumi.bmpHow Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America---the controversial book assigned for freshman reading at Brooklyn College---is, in my opinion, an important but seriously flawed work, and one that should be read, but not as a sole required text for incoming English students.

In the book Brooklyn College English professor Moustafa Bayoumi decries what he sees as the pervasive bigotry that Muslim youth have faced since 9/11. After citing past groups that have been singled out for discrimination, including Japanese Americans during World War II, in an interview Professor Bayoumi concluded, "You would have thought that this would never happen again." A number of New York City newspapers condemned its selection as the required reading for all Brooklyn College freshmen. By contrast, the New York Times claimed that the condemnations were fomented primarily by outsiders and allowed Professor Bayoumi to respond to his critics. In this essay, I will discuss: the inappropriateness of its selection, the inaccuracy of many of Professor Bayoumi's generalizations, and the motivation for the position taken by the New York Times. An accurate assessment will find that Muslim Americans have been treated remarkably well by the American public and that Muslim Americans have a very positive view of their personal situation and experiences, undermining the victimization narrative that Professor Bayoumi promotes.

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Posted on October 22, 2010 3:50 PM | | Comments (1)

The Forty-Year Failure of American Sociology

By Jonathan B. Imber

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I hesitate to criticize sociology or sociologists. After all I am now at nearly a lifetime in the discipline, which I have taught for more than thirty years. But I would be dishonest if I did not acknowledge that throughout that time I have been a dissident in the field, a role, protected by tenure, which has challenged a complacency that some--mistakenly--now put at the doorstep of tenure. The problem for sociology was never complacency, but rather irrelevance, a misguided regard for political conviction rarely overcome by facts.

Consider divorce in America: it has taken sociologists forty years to conclude that divorce, in a strictly statistical sense, is not good for children. Many sociologists of my generation were at the forefront of arguing for more liberal divorce laws in the 1960s, and they devoted their careers to studying carefully the consequences of the social changes wrought. The news was not surprising, really. Kids adapt, no question about that, but adaptation is not the only lesson or goal in life. Divorced families are financially poorer; the children of divorced families do more poorly in school, and they suffer more from depression; and the list of collateral damages goes on.

The liberal sentiments of the 1960s did what J.S. Mill's critic, James Fitzjames Stephen, said Mill did in his time: "Strenuously preach and rigorously practice the doctrine that our neighbor's private character is nothing to us, and the number of unfavorable judgments formed, and therefore the number of inconveniences inflicted by them, can be reduced as much as we please, and the province of liberty can be enlarged in a corresponding ratio. Does any reasonable man wish for this?" Sociologists, once responsible for understanding the nature of moral and social life, grew silent in their regard for moral judgment, except as political judgment. Sociology as a field and through its professional association simply became a mouthpiece for progressive politics, sounding evermore peculiar to all but the most elite Americans still enmeshed in the daily problems and struggles of moral and social existence.

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Posted on October 21, 2010 12:14 PM | | Comments (2)

Academic Conferences: the Oppressed Versus the Oppressors

By Robert Holland

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About this time of year, faculty members seek relief from their stressful campus existence by flocking to such fun-filled destinations as Orlando and Las Vegas for their annual professional conferences. However, these workaholics never are far removed from their sociopolitical agendas, which are available for the world to see in workshop descriptions laid out in colorful conference programs.

The emphasis plainly is less on raising the professors' own levels of knowledge than on elevating the consciousness of students on the need for radical transformation of society along redistributionist lines. It is evident that political advocacy is not just an outside-the-classroom hobby for the professorial elite but rather a full-blown occupation.

The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) brings together K-12 teachers and university professors (largely from schools of education) to conduct a large pep rally annually for reshaping education according to multiculturalist dogma. NAME's 20th annual international conference will be held Nov. 3-6 in Las Vegas.

One of the keynote speakers will be Augustine Romero, director of a "student equity" and "social justice" project in the Tucson, AZ, public school system. His project, supported by NAME, may be about to run afoul of a new Arizona law prohibiting ethnic studies with a separatist and anti-American bent. The title of Romero's talk is "Countering Racism in the Time of Obama: Epistemology, Ontology, Intellectualism, Activism, and Academic Achievement through the Evolution of Critically Compassionate Intellectualism." (Pretentiously stringing together long words -- sometimes repetitively -- is a common practice at academic conferences. No points are deducted for absence of coherence.)

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Posted on October 18, 2010 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)

Toward Curricular Change in the Academy

                       By William N. Butos

This paper was prepared for yesterday's conference on "Capitalism on Campus: What Are Students Learning? What Should They Know?" The one-day event in New York City was sponsored by the Manhattan Institute's Center for the American University. Charlotte Allen, who writes frequently (and exceptionally well) for Minding the Campus, is preparing a report for us on the meeting. In addition to Dr. Butos, the conference featured Daniel Klein, professor of economics at George Mason; Jeffrey A. Miron, professor of economics and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard; Ryan Patrick Hanley, professor of political science at Marquette; Jerry Muller, professor of history at Catholic University; and Sandra Peart, dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. Howard Husock, vice president of the Manhattan Institute, served as moderator, and the luncheon speaker was Robert P. George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton.

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For all the hand-wringing about "diversity" by the professoriate and college administrators, one of the more striking features about the academy is the absence of intellectual diversity among instructional faculty, especially in the social sciences and humanities. For example, according to a study by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern, only a small minority of the economists surveyed (about 11%) could be considered "supporters" and "strong supporters" of policies associated with free-market principles. Using data from the North American Academic Study Survey of 1999, Stanley Rothman and his co-authors found that 72% of those surveyed considered themselves "left/liberal" while only 15% "right/conservative." Those categories reported in a 1984 study by the Carnegie Foundation were 39% and 34%, respectively, suggesting a strong swing to the left among college faculties since the 1980s.

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Posted on October 7, 2010 10:47 PM | | Comments (1)

ROTC Back in the News

By John Leo

Harvard President Drew Faust probably didn't expect criticism when she said she looked forward to reinstating the Reserve Officer Training Corps once the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is ended. But Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican and a lieutenant colonel in the state's National Guard, said he couldn't understand Harvard's priorities: how could the university maintain its four-decade ban on the ROTC while promoting the Dream Act, a plan to provide amnesty to students who are in the United States illegally? Why hold the ROTC hostage to a change in military policy?

The ban on ROTC at Harvard and many other universities is an artifact of the student anti-Vietnam protests of the late Sixties. In the spring of 1969, students at Harvard, led by members of Students for a Democratic Society, stormed and occupied University Hall. In the uprising, eventually beaten back by police, rioters burned down a Marine training classroom and demanded an end to any kind of military presence on campus. "ROTC must go because we oppose the policies of the United States and we oppose the military that perpetrates them," a statement by the students said, with clear intention of scapegoating its own military cadets for a war created and sustained by Washington politicians.

Once the rationale for banning ROTC migrated over to "don't ask, don't tell," the tactic remained, but with a different kind of scapegoating: blaming ROTC and the military in general for a policy created by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Opposition to "don't ask, don't tell" is widespread on campuses and sincerely held, but if Harvard and other campuses wish to dissociate themselves from discriminatory organizations it should blame Congress and perhaps refuse federal funding until DADT is dropped. Harvard's federal funding amounts to about 15 percent of its operating budget, so it's best not to look for an outbreak of moral principle here.

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Posted on September 27, 2010 6:48 PM | | Comments (6)

California's Most Anti-Semitic College

By Leila Beckwith

Anti-Semitic incidents are common at the University of California at Irvine, and the Muslim Student Union is the major perpetrator. Although not all the antisemitic events at UCI, detailed recently by Kenneth Marcus in Commentary magazine, can be traced to the MSU, those that can include physical and verbal harassment of Jewish students, posters of the Star of David dripping with blood, inversion of Holocaust imagery in which Jews are the new Nazis, and sponsorship of public speakers who accuse Jews of not being able to exist equally with other human beings, as well as accusations that Jews deliberately kill non-Jewish children for nefarious purposes.

For years, the UCI administration has ignored or condoned those activities. But the administration, finally, has sanctioned the MSU for an anti-Israel (not anti-Semitic) incident in which the union on February 8, 2010 continually disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Oren had been invited to speak by the School of Law, Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Democracy, seven student groups, and community co-sponsors. The MSU, in an organized campaign, planned beforehand, as revealed by emails and minutes of an MSU meeting anonymously sent to the university administration, deliberately disrupted the lecture. There were more than ten interruptions in which MSU members screamed slogans such as "propagating murder is not an expression of free speech" "killer" and "how many Palestinians did you kill?" As they did, other students shouted and clapped.

As the disruptions occurred, the Dean of Political Science and the Chancellor pleaded with the audience to be polite and courteous . They expressed shame and embarrassment for the university. They threatened the disrupters with arrest, disciplinary procedures, and suspension and dismissal from the university. To no avail. After the disrupters finished, a large group of student supporters stood up and marched out, where they continued to shout slogans, such as "Anti-Israel, Anti-baby-killing."

Eleven students, 8 from UCI, including the President and Vice President of the MSU, and 3 from UC Riverside, who had stood up, shouted out, and been removed by the campus police were arrested and cited for disturbing a public event.

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Posted on September 16, 2010 9:00 PM | | Comments (4)

The Mess of Mandatory Volunteerism

By Charlotte Allen

Only a federal bureaucrat could come up with an oxymoron this laughable: "Feasibility of Including a Volunteer Requirement for Receipt of Federal Education Tax Credits." A "volunteer requirement"? Come again? But that's what the Treasury Department said in a call for comments issued this spring on the idea of making community service--volunteer work for charity--mandatory for college students seeking to qualify for a higher-education tax credit made part of the $800 billion economic stimulus bill that Congress passed in 2009.

Fortunately, it turns out grammatical sticklers aren't the only ones who hate the notion of mandatory community service at the post-secondary level. So do many college administrators, who approve of community service and welcome the tax credits that may make their institutions more affordable but adamantly oppose combining the two. The problem is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requires the Treasury and Education departments to study the feasibility of forging exactly such a link.

The tax credit in question works like this: Students enrolled in college or some other form of post-secondary training can receive a credit for up to 100 percent of tuition, fees, and course materials up to $2,000 plus 25 percent of the next $2,000, for a maximum credit of $2,500 for each of four years of education. For those students who are too poor to pay income taxes, 40 percent of the credit is refundable. There is a phaseout of the credit for students whose adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples).

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Posted on August 15, 2010 9:34 PM | | Comments (2)

The Endless War Against 209

By Ward Connerly

More than thirteen years ago the people of California voted to end discrimination and "preferential treatment" on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin, in the public arenas of contracting, education and employment. The margin of the vote on the ballot initiative (Proposition 209) that enshrined the principle of equal treatment in the California Constitution was not a squeaker; it was a decisive 55%-45% margin.

In the years since that vote, most Californians have accepted the verdict of the majority and have adapted to a life of equal treatment without preferences for anyone. That is as it should be in a nation for which the principle of equal treatment is the centerpiece of our civic values system, and for which the "rule of law" is one of our most valued ideals. But, there are some who refuse to take "no" for an answer. Instead, they have used every means at their disposal to bureaucratically circumvent, legally challenge, or flat-out disregard the initiative's simple command of equality.

This week the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, 6-1, in a response to a lawsuit by white contractors against the city of San Francisco. Along the way, the court noted and dismissed various stratagems employed by the city to avoid the clear meaning of the law.

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Posted on August 5, 2010 9:36 AM | | Comments (1)

The Sad Transformation of the American University

By Herbert I. London

This is the slightly edited introduction to the author's new collection of essays, Decline and Revival in Higher Education ( Transaction Publishers ). Dr. London is president of the Hudson Institute, one of the founders of the National Association of Scholars, and the former John M. Olin Professor of the Humanities at New York University.

book_reg_B84A0192-DB43-AEA5-19F4316BB9740083.jpgWhen I entered Columbia College in 1956, the college had a deep commitment to liberal opinion. Father and son Van Doren (Mark and Charles), the recently appointed Dan Bell, my adviser named Sam Huntington, the legendary Lionel Trilling, and a brilliant lecturer named Amitai Etzioni graced the campus and, more or less, leaned left at the time, albeit over the years several had their political orientation change. Yet there was one constant: These professors eschewed orthodoxies, notwithstanding the fact that in a poll of faculty members Adlai Stevenson won the 1956 presidential sweepstakes hands down.

Different views were welcome. Controversy was invited. "Political correctness" had not yet entered the academic vocabulary, nor had it insinuated itself into debate and chastened nonconformists. I was intoxicated by the sheer variety of thought. For me this smorgasbord of ideas had delectable morsels at each setting. It was at some moment in my senior year that I became enchanted with the idea of an academic career.

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Posted on July 26, 2010 2:50 PM | | Comments (0)

The Short-Selling of For-Profit Education

By Charlotte Allen

The letter, dated June 17 and addressed to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, made serious allegations of wrongdoing in the already controversial for-profit education sector: that representatives of career colleges were trolling for students at homeless shelters, loading education debt onto a problem-beset population with poor prospects for academic success in order to funnel federal loan funds into for-profit coffers. Now it turns out that the letter was orchestrated by, and its very language prepared by a Dallas woman, Johnette McConnell Early, who was being paid to investigate for-profit colleges by an investment firm that might be hoping to turn its own profits by short-selling the colleges' securities.

Signed by Neil J. Donovan, president of the National Coalition for the Homeless, and 19 administrators of homeless shelters across the country, many of them church-affiliated, the June 17 letter contained strong language essentially urging Duncan to tighten its regulation of the for-profit sector (the department has been considering severe restrictions on federal loans to career-college students that would peg total debt to the average entry-level earnings in the job for which the students are training). The wording of the letter was ominous: It described recruiting at shelters as "a growing problem." It continued: "For-profit trade schools and career colleges are systematically preying on our clients," the letter continued, accusing the schools of "predatory conduct" in enticing shelter residents to run up un-repayable debt that ruined their credit ratings, turned off potential employers, and rendered the defaulting debtors ineligible for further federal student aid. The 20 signers pledged their "unequivocal support" for heavier government regulation of career colleges. Exactly one week later, on June 24, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the first of several planned hearings on the for-profit sector, which receives 23 percent of federal student loan funds although it enrolls only 10 percent of the nation's college students, and has been marked by high levels of loan default and relatively low graduation rates.

The letter to Duncan from the shelter administrators, which circulated widely and was posted on the PBS show Frontline's website, seemed yet more red meat for a Democratic Congress and presidential administration that already seems to regard with suspicion the idea of making a profit from higher education.

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Posted on July 22, 2010 3:43 PM | | Comments (0)

Seeing Academic Repression Everywhere

By Anthony Paletta

acrep1.jpgIn the epilogue of a new compendium volume, Mark Bousquet notes that, "In July 2007, the American Sociological Association reported that one-third of its members felt their academic freedoms were threatened, a significantly higher figure than the one-fifth ratio recorded during the McCarthy years." Sounds dire, doesn't it? Well not if you've spent the prior 500 pages learning just how fantastical the contributors' conceptions of academic freedom are.

The book is Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex, edited by Anthony J. Nocella, II, Steven Best, and Peter McLaren. It's a bad sign when the appearance of Bill Ayers, Ward Churchill, and Howard Zinn as contributors on a book cover leaves one still unprepared for how unfathomable its premises are. Academic Repression purports to demonstrate how corporatization and right-wing assaults have marginalized academic freedom and genuine liberal thinking at our universities. Really?

It's not at all unusual to see hand-wringing from the left over the state of academic freedom; it is unusual to see an essay collection that "asks whether the concept of academic freedom still exists at all in the American University system"(itals mine).

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Posted on July 19, 2010 3:06 PM | | Comments (2)

What Happened at Berkeley in November

By Donald A. Downs

4123344197_3c3696375a.jpgWe now have a long and fascinating report by the campus police review board on last fall's disruptive protests at the University of California, Berkeley.

The 128-page document, entitled "November 20, 2009: Review,
Reflection, and Recommendations,"
released in mid-June, is the product of months of yeoman work garnering volumes of evidence. It chronicles and evaluates responses to the events sparked by resentment over tuition increases and cutbacks in the wake of California's financial debacle.

Berkeley deserves credit for thoroughly investigating the situation. And the report is worth reading for many reasons, one of which is because it casts light on a dilemma that Berkeley and many other schools have been unable to resolve since the famous Berkeley "Free Speech Movement" of 1964 launched decades of illegal student protest: how to balance students' passions for social justice (and sometimes other motives) with the rule of law.

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Posted on July 8, 2010 1:21 AM | | Comments (3)

NYU's Perilous Adventure in Abu Dhabi

By Charlotte Allen

New York University will open its vaunted campus in Abu Dhabi this fall, and so far it does seem to be the best campus that money can buy---Gulf oil money, that is. The story of the NYU-Abu Dhabi linkup, the brainchild of John Sexton, NYU's strategically ebullient and relentlessly donor-courting and expansion-minded president, is a story of many paradoxes. The greatest paradox of all is that this first step toward creating what Sexton calls a "global network university" of NYU campuses all over the world is being entirely bankrolled by the government of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, which is a good thing for NYU because the university's $2.2 billion endowment (shrunken by nearly one-third in the recent financial crisis) is by far the smallest of any private U.S. university with the world-class ambitions that Sexton claims for NYU.

In fact, because NYU enrolls more than 50,000 at its various schools, its endowment works out to about a mere $50,000 per student, according to figures calculated in a recent Business Week article. (Harvard's $26 billion endowment, by contrast, amounts to $1.3 million per student, while Yale has $1.4 million per student and Princeton $1.7 million). The Abu Dhabi campus is a feat of Sextonian sleight-of-hand in which other people's petrodollars pay for what NYU hopes will be a boost in academic prestige without spending a cent of its own scarce money. NYU was happy to publicize Abu Dhabi's initial contribution of $50 million to the joint venture---a down payment on which NYU insisted as a condition of lending its name to the new university---but now neither the university nor the Gulf city-state will reveal how many more millions Abu Dhabi has sunk into the venture, but it must be plenty. Abu Dhabi has not only committed itself to a glitzy brand-new campus for NYU on Saadiyat Island about 500 yards offshore, but is bankrolling some of NYU's expansion in New York.

Back home at NYU's flagship campus at Washington Square, students complain about stingy financial aid packages that often leave them heavily in loan debt and more heavily reliant on poorly paid part-time faculty than any of the top-tier universities with which NYU hopes to compete. NYU's efforts to grow its campus in New York---by acquiring Greenwich Village real estate and demolishing what's there---have made enemies out of many of its neighbors, especially when NYU pulled down the historic Provincetown Playhouse, which it owned, in order to construct a new law school building (it did save some of the playhouse's facade and replaced the theater). The Abu Dhabi campus has also sparked protests among NYU professors over government policies in Abu Dhabi and other United Arab Emirates states that discriminate against gays (homosexual acts are crimes in the Emirates), Israelis (none of the Emirates has formal diplomatic relations with Israel and all frequently deny entry to citizens of the Jewish state), and the foreign guest-workers who form 80 percent of the Emirates' 4.5 million population but have little practical recourse against employers who confiscate their passports, house them in squalid camps, charge huge fees for their job, and pay them less than promised.

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Posted on July 6, 2010 12:37 PM | | Comments (2)

The Ongoing Folly of Title IX

By Cathy Young

Connecticut's Quinnipiac College, best known for its political polling, is now at the center of the newest round in the controversy over Title IX and women's sports. In a trial that opened last week, a federal judge must decide whether competitive cheerleading should count as a sport for gender equity purposes. The case illustrates the complexities -- and some would say, the inanities -- of the debate over gender and college athletics.

In March 2009, Quinnipiac announced that it was eliminating several athletic programs, including women's volleyball, due to recession-related budget cuts. On the other hand, the school added a new team to its women's sports roster: a competitive cheerleading squad. Women's volleyball coach Robin Sparks and four team members sued claiming a violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving any federal funds. The team got a temporary lease on life pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Judge Stefan Underhill has granted the suit class action status, so that, if violations are found, remedies could be ordered for all current and future female athletes at Quinnipiac.

Last year's budget cuts did not spare the male athletic teams at Quinnipiac. Men's golf and outdoor track were dropped along with women's volleyball, with no reprieve or reversal. (As for men's volleyball, the college never had it in the first place.) Other men's teams were forced to downside their rosters -- in the case of soccer, from 29 to 23 players, much to the coach's disgust. Some would say that, when two men's teams are cut while women lose 11 slots on the volleyball team and gain 30 on the cheer squad, it is not the women who should be complaining.

Of course, the question is whether competitive cheering is a "real sport" or not. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) still does not recognize it as a varsity sport, though there is a push to change that next year. Still, college cheerleading in the 21st Century has come a long way from the stereotype of sexy girls shaking their booty and boosting the boys: it requires high levels of athleticism and technical skill and features national competitions. Most of the young women on Quinnipiac's cheer squad are top-grade gymnasts.

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Posted on June 28, 2010 8:03 AM | | Comments (2)

The Wolfers Dig a Deeper Hole

By KC Johnson

Canis_lupus_portrait.jpgInside Higher Ed took a look at the controversy over the "Crying Wolf" project, in which a committee consisting mostly of academics will pay for works of "scholarly integrity" dealing with contemporary public policy issues. Scholarly "integrity," in this case, means reaching the conclusion before assembling the evidence.

Defenses of the Wolfers, alas, confirm critiques of the project. Take, for instance, the case of Michael Les Benedict. Much like Wolfer board members Tom Sugrue and Nelson Lichtenstein, Benedict is hardly a fringe figure in the academy. He has published numerous, well-regarded books on Civil War and Reconstruction Era political and constitutional history, and currently serves as AHA Parliamentarian. This background makes his defense of the Wolfers' project all the more troubling.

"Those who contribute to Crying Wolf," Benedict writes, "already have studied the subjects they will write about." Actually, nothing in the Crying Wolf manifesto lists such a prerequisite. Moreover, the decision to open the scholarship-for-pay project up to graduate students (few of whom, given academic realities, would have any publication records) suggests that having studied the subject in any depth isn't a requirement for payment.

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Posted on June 14, 2010 12:39 PM | | Comments (0)

Reshape Universities Because of "Stereotype Threat"?

by Roger Clegg

An Inside Higher Ed article yesterday by English professor Satya P. Mohanty of Cornell on "Diversity's Next Challenges" constructs an elaborate house of cards but then inadvertently knocks the whole thing down. The piece features, in particular, an argument suggesting that "stereotype threat"---the claim that fear of being judged by a stereotype can cause minorities to do much less well on a test than they should---requires that universities and all of society must be restructured before minorities can be expected to succeed.

Stereotype-threat research regarding test performance has been widely used and abused. But, whatever its merits, Professor Mohanty has extrapolated its claimed findings to a broader one, that the "culture of our campuses," indeed the entire "culture of learning," needs to be restructured with the aim of fostering racial trust. Merely admitting a diverse student body is not enough: We must "think about what our campuses feel like to those who come to learn." Campuses must be perceived as "trustworthy" by these students. And this means that campus culture must be "more open, democratic, and genuinely attentive to the experience of different social groups." Again, there must be a focus not only on admitting a diverse student body, but on "the campus as a learning environment for different kinds of learners."

Professor Mohanty then plugs the forthcoming book he has co-edited , The Future of Diversity (some of the arguments that follow here are fleshed out by the book's various authors, and the op-ed apparently endorses them). That future is important not only for the success of the university per se, but because "university campuses have a special role to play in building the future of our multicultural and diverse society."

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Posted on June 2, 2010 2:33 PM | | Comments (0)

The Politically Correct University and How to Fix It

By Robert Maranto

With various co-authors, University of British Columbia Sociologist Neil Gross has made a cottage industry of downplaying charges that academia is politically correct. Seemingly, the left's domination of social science and humanities departments is of no more concern than the fact, cited by Thomas Sowell, that in the 1990s, Cambodians ran 90 percent of California's donut shops.

Gross's studies appeal because they serve the psychological needs of professors. It is comforting to think that we smart folks just happen to surround ourselves with people who think just like we do. Gross assures us that there is nothing unseemly here. Collegiate single-mindedness is of course totally different from the groupthink that characterized the George W. Bush White House, to take a not quite random example.

In fairness, Gross and his colleagues have made some sound points over the years. For example, most academics do not think of themselves as political extremists but as centrists. Of course this is no surprise. People compare themselves to their peers, so liberal professors are indeed in the center or even the right compared to their colleagues on the far left. Some surveys indicate that a quarter of sociologists are self-proclaimed Marxists, meaning that there are quite literally more socialists in Harvard faculty lounges than in the Kremlin. It is not difficult to seem moderate or even conservative in such company.

Gross and others are correct to say that not all of the pronounced leftist tilt in the academy reflects discrimination. As Matthew Woessner and April Kelly Woessner point out in a chapter in my co-edited The Politically Correct University, conservatives value family life more than liberals; thus academically talented liberals are more willing to delay childbearing for the decade it takes to earn a doctorate, and more apt to leave their families and hometowns to attend PhD programs thousands of miles distant. Liberals may talk more about relationships, but conservatives seem less willing to jettison them for academic self-expression.

Yet to say that not all of the conservative under-representation reflects discrimination is very different from saying that none of it does. The Woessners also find that conservative undergraduates receive less mentoring from faculty. This too may explain why fewer conservatives apply to PhD programs, even though conservative and liberal undergraduates have identical GPAs. Similarly, a recent and much hyped Gross co-authored paper argues that conservatives eschew academic careers because of "typing," the stereotype that professors are liberal. As Steve Balch points out, much of this reasoning is circular. How exactly is the stereotype that professors are supposed to be liberal any different from stereotypes that women are not supposed to study science or that African Americans are not supposed to be chief executives? Wouldn't we find it offensive if a CEO explained an all white management team by saying that "African Americans don't type themselves as executives?"

Academia is a merit system based on publication, but one that works better for some than others. In The Politically Correct University Stan Rothman and Bob Lichter present evidence that professors holding socially conservative views must publish more to get the same jobs, with ideology having about one-third of the statistical power of one's publication record. Among professors who have published a book, 73% of Democrats but only 56% of Republicans hold high prestige academic posts. Both statistics and "lived experience" suggest that I am not the only conservative or libertarian professor denied a job or two. And it is no surprise that as the academic job market grew tight in the 1970s, ever more discriminating faculties became more ideologically homogeneous, hiring clones rather than peers.

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Posted on May 3, 2010 1:27 AM | | Comments (4)

The Cave-Dwellers of Shimer

By Robert Paquette

20071204_Shimer_color_trans_bckgrd.jpgOn 19 April, the board of trustees of Shimer College in Chicago, by an 18 to 16 vote, ousted Dr. Thomas Lindsay from the presidency after little more than a year of service. For sixty years, tiny Shimer (about ten faculty and 100 students) has touted itself as a Great Books college on the Robert Maynard Hutchins plan. Students converse about the content of texts with one another, guided by a professorial facilitator employing the Socratic method. The experience, it was believed, would "sustain a life-long passion for learning." Accordingly, Shimer constructed and reconstructed its mission statement to reflect---and to extend--- Hutchins's ideals. Since 1996, the ambitious Shimer educational experience purported to prepare students for "active citizenship," not just in the United States, but "in the world." After four years of matriculation, Shimer's graduates would learn to shun "passivity" for "responsible action" by moving "beyond either unquestioning acceptance of authority or its automatic mistrust."

Dr. Lindsay came to Shimer from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) where he served as deputy director and oversaw We the People, a well-regarded program designed "to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles." There he attracted national attention with impressive publications and lectures on how to teach the principles of the founding to the American people. Inaugurated as Shimer's thirteenth president In January 2009, he set to work trying to elevate an institution possessed of noble goals but gasping from slipping standards, radical egalitarian governance structures, a bare-cupboard endowment, and a long history of financial distress, including several bankruptcies. Re-accreditation itself was hanging in the balance. Dr. Lindsay expanded to thirty-four the number of sitting members on the board of trustees to include educators and philanthropists who could help Shimer out of its chronic fiscal woes. Raising money in good times requires persistence and long hours to persuade prospective donors. During a recession, the task can seem Sisyphean. Dr. Lindsay says he spent two out of every three days during his first year at Shimer on the road with tin cup in hand.

Many at Shimer made known their dislike of Dr. Lindsay from the outset. Despite his obvious relish for the Great Books, many saw him as an outsider with a suspicious agenda. They complained when they discerned that he might be moving to make the founding documents of the United States more central to a Shimer education. In The Federalist Papers, a work that Dr. Lindsay would have liked Shimer's undergraduates to read cover to cover, Publius devotes the majority of the eighty-five essays to the republican character of the Constitution. Of the two species of popular government, republicanism had refining, insulating features that democracy did not. In fact, in The Federalist Papers, the word democracy appears less than a dozen times and when discussed in its pure form draws a pejorative contrast. In a society composed of a small number of persons, Publius warns, the "citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction," and they "are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues" of others. One would be hard-pressed to find in the United States an institution of higher learning with a more radically egalitarian and democratic structure than Shimer's. Three faculty members and two students sit as voting members on the board of trustees. Shimer's representative assembly consists of all students, faculty, and staff, with one vote each. Dominated by activist students, the assembly has set itself up as the moral authority of the college, and members reference the Assembly's majority votes as if they were exquisite expressions of Rousseau's general will. When dissidents protested that Dr. Lindsay was not sufficiently steeped in Shimer's traditions read that he refused to kow-tow to the majoritarian voice of the predominant element in Shimer's Assembly.

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Posted on April 30, 2010 3:58 AM | | Comments (17)

A Dose of Poetic Justice at Cornell

By Cathy Young

During a conversation at an academic conference, a professor from an Ivy League school refers to two female graduate students as "black bitches." After the students report the incident, the professor apologizes -- but it takes another two months, and vociferous protests from the campus black community, for the university officials to acknowledge the issue publicly, announce mild sanctions against the professor, and state that an investigation was underway.

This is a true story currently unfolding at Cornell University. It is a story with a twist: the offending professor is himself black and teaches in the Africana Studies department, and the incident occurred at a conference on black intellectuals. And, in yet another twist that some have called karmic, the professor, Grant Farred, has now become a target of a rabid campaign that has all the hallmarks of a politically correct witch-hunt -- four years after he was at the forefront of a similar campaign at Duke University during the now-infamous rape hoax in which three white lacrosse team members were accused of assaulting a black stripper at a party.

Professor Farred's recent gaffe, while hardly commendable, seems to have been little more than a tacky attempt at humor -- humor which, compounding the irony, was probably rooted in the identity politics of black "authenticity" expressed through vulgar slang. Farred had invited the women, both of them his advisees, to a February 5-6 conference at the University of Rochester titled "Theorizing Black Studies: Thinking Black Intellectuals." The women arrived late, walking into the conference room in the middle of a panel. After the session ended, Farred came up to them, thanked them for making the drive to Rochester and then added, lowering his voice, "When you both walked in, I thought, 'Who are these black bitches?'"

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Posted on April 25, 2010 8:41 PM | | Comments (0)

Why the Great Books Aren't the Answer

By Patrick Deneen

For several decades, conservative critics of higher education have argued against trends toward the elimination of "core" curricula and with equal ferocity against their replacement by "distribution requirements" or even open curricula. They have, in particular, defended a curriculum in "Great Books," those widely-recognized texts in the Western tradition authored by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Mill, and Nietzsche, among others. This curriculum - preserved still in some of the nation's leading universities such as the University of Chicago and Columbia University - as well as at the heart of the longstanding Great Books approach of St. John's College - is seen as a bulwark against contemporary tendencies toward relativism, post-modernism, and political correctness.

More recently, even some faculty who would eschew the "conservative" label have sought to restore sustained study of the Great Books to some place of pride in the curriculum. Some twenty years after the height of the "culture wars" over the Western canon - during which the phrase "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go" was chanted on the Stanford campus - there seems to be a growing sense among some moderate faculty that the curriculum has become too fragmented, and that something valuable was lost in the politically-motivated elimination of a common core. Notably, at Harvard an ad hoc effort by some faculty to establish a Great Books track in the "Gen Ed" requirement was advanced before crashing on the shoals of Harvard's new fiscal reality (as well as the opposition of some faculty).

This reassessment has been most articulately argued by Anthony Kronman - a moderate liberal - in his recent book Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life. Kronman, a professor and former Dean at the Yale Law School, laments the abandonment of a serious engagement with the Great Books. Their neglect has led to the decline of an examination of "the meaning of life," an activity that he argues should be at the heart of the university experience. He praises a period in the history of American universities which was dominated by what he calls a worldview of "secular humanism." This period of "secular humanism" followed the widespread disaffiliation of traditionally religious institutions and preceded the rise of the modern research university and the concomitant rise of political correctness in the humanities. He urges modern institutions of higher education to adopt something like the Yale program in "Directed Studies" - in which he teaches - which requires students to engage in a concentrated study of the Great books ranging from Homer to Luther, from Machiavelli to Kant, from Plato to Nietzsche - over a two year span.

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Posted on March 31, 2010 8:04 PM | | Comments (13)

Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

By Joe Malchow

I once asked a pilot friend if he didn't tire of the lumbering, leviathan commercial airliner he flew. He surprised me by saying that a 747 can handle like a Lamborghini if ever it needed to.

A bit of that seems to be underway in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the new president of Dartmouth College, my alma mater, is responding with alacrity to the slackening economy. Even given the market's nosedive, Dartmouth possesses a substantial multi-billion dollar endowment and employs nearly 2,800 full-time equivalent staff and 450 faculty. That's a rather large organization---one now operating at a loss of $34 million.

But Dartmouth has one big asset: a group of Carl Icahnesque independent trustees who were elected by worried alumni in 2004, 2005, and 2008. These outsiders were vigorously resisted by Dartmouth---whose power establishment didn't want activist directors---but the outsiders' platforms of staunch fiscal conservatism and a leap out of the thicket of professional educrats won the day. After all, who needs a "Sustainability Director" or a "Dean of Pluralism"?

Alumni responded by their levels of giving, and Dartmouth's former president, historian James Wright, responded by resigning his post early. In that position, now, is Jim Kim, the Harvard doctor who has never been the head of a major organization but who has now been thrown into a parlous billet.

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Posted on March 29, 2010 8:59 PM | | Comments (2)

Hate and Free Speech at Wisconsin

By Donald Downs

A student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew an unusual and alarming advertising request for its online edition. The request to the Badger Herald came a few weeks ago from an agent for Bradley R. Smith, a notorious denier of the Holocaust and founder of the loopy fringe group, Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Unlike ads in the Herald's paper edition, online ads linger for a month, providing more opportunity for mischief.

Like some other controversies involving the Herald in recent years, this episode began, essentially, as an accident. The process involved in the placing of ads did not fully vet Smith's advertisement, which announced his mission and provided an Internet link to his group and other materials. The ad remained on line unnoticed for five days before persons at Hillel, the Jewish center, noticed it and urged the Herald to withdraw it

Many Jewish students had already felt aggrieved by the Herald because of another incident a few weeks before Smith's ad appeared. Anonymous sources had published threatening anti-Semitic remarks in the "Comments" sections that accompanied the paper's stories of incidents relating to a party at a Jewish fraternity. Alarmed, the Herald expunged these comments, but only after the damage was done.

Made aware of Smith's ad, the Herald's board had to decide what to do. The board of nine students votes independently, but the students consider advice given by faculty members who do not have voting power. Advisors (I am one) provide advice in a manner that is designed to preserve the independence of the board. At a meeting the board voted to do two things: keep the ad up, and produce an editorial, written by editor in chief Jason Smathers, making clear that Holocaust denial is a pernicious fraud that lies outside the bounds of rational debate. I supported these decisions as an advisor. The editorial was a sign that the board knew Smith's ad was different from the usual controversial ads.

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Posted on March 25, 2010 5:15 PM | | Comments (0)

Tell Me Again---Why Is He at Princeton?

By Charlotte Allen

Van Jones, the Oakland, Calif.-based radical activist and author who was forced to resign his post as the Obama administration's "green jobs czar" in September after it was revealed that he had signed a "truther" petition in 2004 calling for an investigation of President George W. Bush's supposed collusion in the massacres of Sept. 11, 2001, now has a new post: on the faculty of Princeton University.

Jones will be a visiting fellow at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public International Affairs for the 2010-2011 academic year, where he will be teaching a graduate seminar on environmental politics---quite a coup for someone who put his name onto a "9/11 Truth Statement" that aired zany government cover-up conspiracy theories worthy of the UFO festival in Roswell, N.M,--if not of a Michael Moore movie. The statement declared that the Bush administration "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war," and included such queries as: "Why did the Secret Service allow Bush to complete his elementary school visit [on 9/11], apparently unconcerned about his safety or that of the schoolchildren?" "Why haven't authorities in the U.S. and abroad published the results of multiple investigations into trading that strongly suggested foreknowledge of specific details of the 9/11 attacks, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of traceable gains?"

Jones's fringe-left career, which began with his arrest in one of the riots over the 1992 acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers for beating Rodney King (the riots left 53 people dead and wreaked more than $1 billion in property damage after six days of looting, arson, and assaults) has led critics to blast Princeton for welcoming onto its faculty someone almost as "nutty" (in the words of an editorial in Investor's Business Daily) as Ward Churchill, the former University of Colorado ethnic studies professor (since fired for plagiarizing from other scholars) who famously called the 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns." Jones once boasted that the Rodney King riots had made a "communist" out of him. He says he has since repudiated his youthful Marxism---but not enough to prevent him from issuing a thundering call, in a speech given just two weeks before he started his White House job last March, for forced redistribution of capitalist profits to minorities and Native Americans: "Give them the wealth!...No justice on stolen land!"

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Posted on March 18, 2010 3:33 PM | | Comments (5)

Recapturing the University: The Hybrid Alternative

By Robert Weissberg

In the contemporary battle within the social sciences between free market think tanks and liberal- dominated universities, the former labor under a huge disadvantage: they lack students. Think-tank based scholars may daily issue erudite policy analyses, write incisive op-ed columns galore, dominate talk radio, publish in widely admired magazines like City Journal but the half-life of these missives seldom exceeds a few days. By contrast, a professor typically has fifteen weeks, two to three times per week, for usually 50 minutes, to expound his or her views to a captive audience, two to four courses per semester, and over a thirty-five plus year career. Of the utmost importance, professors can compel students to read stuff and insist on minimal familiarity, a power unimaginable to even the most professional think tank PR department. That these students are of an impressionable age---the pedagogical equivalent of droit de seigneur-- and are hardly in a position to argue, only adds to this built in indoctrination advantage.

In graduate education the propagating-the-faith advantage multiplies, since most Ph.D. students will become tomorrow's teachers. Ideological domination can persist for decades, regardless of events. So, to use a depressing example, the Marxist analyses that first filtered into America's college classrooms in the 1960s are still going strong a half century later and can only continue on as the torch is passed from professor to Ph.D. advisees. Perhaps only centuries from now will Marxism go inert and like spent weapons-grade Plutonium, the last lead-brained but still radioactive Marxist professor will be entombed in a deep Nevada salt mine. And it may require additional centuries for him to be joined by ideologically exhausted feminists, deconstructionists, ethnic studies experts and all the rest.

This monopoly of early access cannot be overcome by think tanks churning out more reports, better public relations, or ensuring that every "important opinion leaders" receives a free copy of their sponsored research (which may not even be read). And keep in mind that professors get to students first (the droit de seigneur), so the glories of free markets, low taxes, and limited government etc. etc. must overcome years of prior exposure. It is no wonder that many free-market think tank scholars must feel like they are trying to push boulder up a mountain. They are---the professors got there first and designed the obstacle course terrain.

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Posted on March 15, 2010 11:47 AM | | Comments (2)

How the Campuses Helped Ruin California's Economy

By John Ellis

4409800624_179a583cf6.jpgAll across the country there were demonstrations on March 4 by students (and some faculty) against cuts in higher education funding, but inevitably attention focused on California, where the modern genre originated in 1964. I joined the University of California faculty in 1966 and so have watched a good many of them, but have never seen one less impressive that this year's. In 1964 there was focus and clarity. This one was brain-dead. The former idealism and sense of purpose had degenerated into a self-serving demand for more money at a time when both state and university are broke, and one in eight California workers is unemployed. The elite intellectuals of the university community might have been expected to offer us insight into how this problem arose, and realistic measures for dealing with it. But all that was on offer was this: get more money and give it to us. Californians witnessing this must have wondered whether the money they were already providing was well spent where there was so little evidence of productive thought.

The content vacuum with filled with the standby language of past demonstrations, and so there was much talk of "the struggle," and of "oppression," and---of course---of racism. "We are all students of color now" said Berkeley's Professor Ananya Roy, and a student proclaimed that this crisis represented "structural racism." (Why not global warming too?) Berkeley's Chancellor Birgeneau called the demonstrations "the best of our tradition of effective civil action." Neither Chancellors nor demonstrations are what they used to be. The nostalgia for the good old days surfaced again in efforts to shut the campus down by blocking the entrance of UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. It didn't seem to occur to anyone that the old "shut it down" cry was somewhat misplaced when keeping it fully open was what the present demonstration was about, but then this was not an occasion when anyone seemed to have any idea of what they were trying to achieve.

One group at UCLA stumbled into the truth, though it was a truth they did not understand. At Bruin Plaza a crowd chanted "Who's got the power? We've got the power." In its context this was just another slogan of a mindless day, but the reality is that those people do indeed have the power, and routinely use it in a way that makes them the author of their own troubles. Let me explain.

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Posted on March 11, 2010 2:14 PM | | Comments (25)

Is the Campus 45 Times as Dangerous as Detroit?

By Charlotte Allen

It's back: the "campus rape crisis." The latest all-hands-on-deck alarm comes from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit foundation based in Washington and specializing in what it describes as "investigative journalism about issues of public interest," which teamed up with the investigative unit of National Public Radio (NPR) to issue a report in late February pointing out---yet again--that "roughly one in five women who attend college" can expect to be a victim of rape or attempted rape by the time she graduates.

This extraordinarily high number, which translates into about 240,000 out of the 6 million or so women enrolled in four-year colleges during any given year, has been knocking around since 1987 (as Heather Mac Donald pointed out in a 2008 article for City Journal), when a University of Arizona Health professor, Mary Koss, first published a version of the statistic that was picked up in a Department of Justice study filed during the waning months of the Clinton administration. In other words, as KC Johnson pointed out in a post for Minding the Campus this past December, the average college campus is supposedly 45 times as dangerous for women as the city of Detroit, the highest-crime city in America, where the rape rate is only .06 percent.

Another problem with the CPI-NPR numbers: No police department or local prosecutor's office has reported a two-decade-long epidemic of rapes or attempted rapes on nearby college campuses. The rape-crisis people's explanation for this is simple: The vast majority of rapes and attempted rapes at colleges are never reported even to campus authorities, much less law enforcement---because the victims themselves are unaware that what happened to them was rape. The Justice Department's 2000 report maintained that 65 percent of college women who suffered sexual assault remain silent, a figure that the CPI inflated to "more than 95 percent" in its report. The CPI---and NPR---attributed the low reporting rates to the "failure" (as NPR writer Joseph Shapiro wrote) of schools and the U.S. Education Department to take significant steps to prevent, ferret out, or punish campus rape.

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Posted on March 9, 2010 6:52 PM | | Comments (2)

Anti-Apartheid Week - 2

Growing Anti-Semitism On The Campus

By Ron Radosh

The sad evidence that American campuses have been the site of rising anti-Semitism is truly an alarming phenomenon. Anti-Semitism has come from various sources: African-American student organizations; the Muslim Student Association at various colleges and universities, and the widespread movement on behalf of disinvestment in Israel, whose sponsors regularly compares Israel to South Africa, and advocate treating Israel today as the anti-apartheid movement treated South Africa decades ago.

But even more disturbing is the growing evidence that Jewish students are having a most confused response to this development. One has to look only at the announcement by J-Street- the self-described left of center antidote to AIPAC- that it would not call its campus chapters "pro-Israel" because that would limit their ability to gain members among Jewish students, as proof for how support of Israel is seen by many campus Jews as a position they do not wish to be identified with. The question that arises is what has happened to produce such sentiment?

Jewish students, like their non-Jewish counterparts, have grown up in a largely left-wing culture, in which the education they have received in high schools throughout the country, especially in the area of history or what used to be called civics, has been taught to them by teachers whose degrees are from left-leaning education schools. Or, perhaps, their teachers have been influenced by the view that the United States is the most evil nation in the world, which they in turn learned from people like Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky. It is therefore not surprising to find the names of familiar left-wing Jewish figures on the nation's campuses playing a prominent part especially in the disinvestment campaign. As Dennis MacShane, A Labour member of Parliament, put it in a 2007 Washington Post op-ed, "American universities have provided a base for Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said, among others, to launch campaigns of criticism against Israel, and the bulk of the West's university intelligentsia remains hostile to the Jewish state."

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Posted on March 3, 2010 4:27 PM | | Comments (0)

Anti-Apartheid Week - 1

How About A Real Campaign Against Abuses?

By Alan M. Dershowitz

IAW_2010poster_Toronto.jpgEvery year at about this time, radical Islamic students---aided by radical anti-Israel professors---hold an event they call "Israel Apartheid Week." During this week, they try to persuade students on campuses around the world to demonize Israel as an apartheid regime. Most students seem to ignore the rantings of these extremists, but some naive students seem to take them seriously. Some pro-Israel and Jewish students claim that they are intimidated when they try to respond to these untruths. As one who strongly opposes any censorship, my solution is to fight bad speech with good speech, lies with truth and educational malpractice with real education.

Accordingly, I support a "Middle East Apartheid Education Week" to be held at universities throughout the world. It would be based on the universally accepted human rights principle of "the worst first." In other words, the worst forms of apartheid being practiced by Middle East nations and entities would be studied and exposed first. Then the apartheid practices of other countries would be studied in order of their seriousness and impact on vulnerable minorities.

Under this principle, the first country studied would be Saudi Arabia. That tyrannical kingdom practices gender apartheid to an extreme, relegating women to an extremely low status. Indeed, a prominent Saudi Imam recently issued a fatwa declaring that anyone who advocates women working alongside men or otherwise compromises with absolute gender apartheid is subject to execution. The Saudis also practice apartheid based on sexual orientation, executing and imprisoning gay and lesbian Saudis. Finally, Saudi Arabia openly practices religious apartheid. It has special roads for "Muslims only." It discriminates against Christians, refusing them the right to practice their religion openly. And needless to say, it doesn't allow Jews the right to live in Saudi Arabia, to own property or even (with limited exceptions) to enter the country. Now that's apartheid with a vengeance.

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Posted on March 3, 2010 2:43 PM | | Comments (12)

Why Do Anthropologists Have Their Own Foreign Policy?

By Anthony Paletta

newaaacentlogo.jpgShould the American Anthropological Association "denounce the current human rights violations in Honduras" and "support Hondurans that... continue to resist the June 28, 2009 military coup in their country"? This question, put to a vote of AAA members, passed by a margin of 656-166 in online voting that ended last Friday. Taking a stand on a Central American coup may seem like an odd topic of concern for an academic organization. Increasingly it seems that no such organization is complete without a foreign policy of is own; from Iraq to Afghanistan to nuclear disarmament.

Organizations based on academic disciplines, traditionally balanced and detached from politics, have been sliding toward political advocacy since the 1960s. The American Anthropological Association was founded in 1902 to "promote the science of anthropology, to stimulate and coordinate the efforts of American anthropologists, to foster local and other societies devoted to anthropology, to serve as a bond among American anthropologists and anthropologic[al] organizations present and prospective, and to publish and encourage the publication of matter pertaining to anthropology". The relation of Honduran policy to this purpose remains unclear.

In 2006 the American Historical Association passed a resolution urging members to "do whatever they can to bring the Iraq was to a speedy conclusion." The resolution declared that "interrogation techniques at Guantanamo," "the re-classification of government documents" and other practices, were "inextricably linked to the war." It passed by a margin of 75% to 24%. The resolution flatly identified the war as a danger to the historical profession itself, asserting that the conflict and the Bush administration's related policies imperiled "the unfettered intellectual inquiry essential to the practice of historical research, writing, and teaching." On questions from the Iraq war to affirmative action to statehood for the District of Columbia and same-sex marriage, academic associations now regularly issue partisan resolutions that present opinions on contentious political issues as professional certainties.

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Posted on February 24, 2010 4:42 PM | | Comments (6)

How Corrupted Language Moved from Campus to the Real World

By Harvey A. Silverglate

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In some quarters I'm viewed as a lawyer with a professional identity problem: I've spent half of my time representing students and professors struggling with administrators over issues like free speech, academic freedom, due process and fair disciplinary procedures. The other half I've spent representing individuals (and on occasion organizations and companies) in the criminal justice system.

These two seemingly disparate halves of my professional life are, in fact, quite closely related: The respective cultures of the college campus and of the federal government have each thrived on the notion that language is meant not to express one's true thoughts, intentions and expectations, but, instead, to cover them up. As a result, the tyrannies that I began to encounter in the mid-1980s in both academia and the federal criminal courts shared this major characteristic: It was impossible to know when one was transgressing the rules, because the rules were suddenly being expressed in language that no one could understand.

In his 1946 linguistic critique, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that one must "let meaning choose the word, not the other way around." By largely ignoring this truism, administrators and legislators who craft imprecise regulations have given their particular enforcement arms---campus disciplinary staff and federal government prosecutors---enormous and grotesquely unfair power.

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Posted on February 23, 2010 1:20 PM | | Comments (13)

What Is The AAUP Up To?

By Donald Downs

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Cary Nelson, current president of the American Association of University Professors, has a new book dealing with academic freedom and its relationship to broader structural problems in higher education. No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom is interesting and important, but also frustrating. It provides remedies to the problems confronting academic freedom at the same time that it reflects some of the problems it purports to remedy. Nelson is compelled to criticize the nation's faculty members for their lackadaisical support of academic freedom at the same time that he feels obliged to vehemently defend higher education from critics who attack higher education for this very reason. Balancing these positions makes sense if one carefully distinguishes valid and invalid attacks, and Nelson often succeeds in doing so. But too often his defenses of higher education come across as special pleading for the professoriate as a class, thereby weakening his claims.

Once upon a time the AAUP was the nation's leading supporter of academic freedom. In recent decades, however, its prestige has slipped. A couple of years ago the Chronicle of Higher Education featured articles on this reversal of fortune, citing such matters as the AAUP's bureaucratic inertia, the association's perceived complacency about the chilling effects of political correctness, and broader trends in higher education that have made faculty members less knowledgeable and appreciative of the organization's efforts. Leaner and meaner, FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, founded in 2000 in Philadelphia) has replaced the AAUP as the nation's most vibrant fighter for academic freedom. FIRE is conscientiously non-ideological, but its eagerness to take on the policies of political correctness that suppress freedom has made it a favorite of the right in addition to the civil libertarian left.

Nelson's ascendancy to the presidency of the AAUP represents the organization's effort to regain its past glory. He is a prolifically published, self-proclaimed "radical" (for academic freedom and other causes), a claim that makes him a left-wing answer to FIRE in terms of commitment. Among Nelson's impressive list of publications we find Manifesto of a Tenured Radical and Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the Poetry of the American Left. Nelson's left-wing legacy is important to his arguments because his approach to academic freedom is steeped in a broader leftist framework.

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Posted on January 19, 2010 3:06 PM | | Comments (1)

Decoding Teacher Training

By KC Johnson

Thanks to the efforts of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education---and a rare, if welcome, instance of Congress standing up for students' rights in higher education---the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) abandoned its de facto "social justice" criterion. Yet while the development made it harder for Education schools to use "social justice" and "diversity" to demand ideological fidelity from students, the ideologues that populate such programs have hardly ceased their efforts. Only now they must take accountability for their actions.

A good example of the continuing problem is the renewed emphasis on "cultural competence"---a term, much like "dispositions," which is meaningless to anyone outside the academy but has a specific, and ideologically charged, designation to those familiar with Education code. Take, for instance, the Education Department at the University of Minnesota whose activities were exposed by Katherine Kersten in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Kersten uncovered a report prepared as part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, which is reorienting the U of M's teacher-training curriculum.

The intellectual interests of the report's authors not only preview the group's recommendations but also give a sense of what passes for the ideological mainstream in Education departments on the nation's college campuses. The work of Professor Tim Lensmire, who says that he uses the classroom to promote "radical democracy" through embracing "various progressive, feminist, and critical pedagogies," sets the ideological tone: Lensmire notes that his "current research and writing focus on race and education, and especially on how white people learn to be white in our white supremacist society." The report's other authors include Bic Ngo, whose research examines "the ways in which the education of immigrant students are shaped by dynamic power relations as they play out at the intersection(s) of race, ethnicity, class and gender" using "critical, cultural and feminist theories" to explicate "the role(s) of critical multicultural education"; committee chair Michael Goh, whose research explores "multicultural counseling"; and two non-tenure track figures, Mary Beth Kelley and Carole Gupton.

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Posted on November 30, 2009 12:42 PM | | Comments (7)

What Speech Is Protected?

By Naomi Schaefer Riley

Earlier this month a Maine parole commission accomplished what pleas from citizens and the governor of Massachusetts could not, in preventing the speech of a convicted terrorist at the University of Massachusetts. Widespread protest greeted an invitation by professors to Raymond Luc Levasseur, the leader of United Freedom Front, a violent anti-government group linked to some 20 bombings and the slaying of a New Jersey State trooper. What these protests could not stop, Levasseur's parole commission did. What was the University administration's catch-all defense of the event? Academic Freedom. The professors who invited Levasseur were entitled to host whomever they wanted in the name of "academic freedom and free speech."

We've seen this show before, of course. When a speech at the University of Nebraska by Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers was canceled last year, professors rose up crying that it was a violation of academic freedom. Of course, it's not only when visitors come that professors become interested in academic freedom. Ward "little Eichmanns" Churchill and Nicholas "a thousand Mogadishus" De Genova were also only exercising their academic freedom when they made their outrageous pronouncements. Arthur Butz, author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, has been teaching at Northwestern University for more than 30 years, regularly exercising his academic freedom, for instance by congratulating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his Holocaust denying views.

Despite what seems like some pretty wide latitude for faculty, the American Association of University Professors is up in arms about recent attacks on academic freedom. They announced last week that they are launching a campaign to fight back. "The right of faculty members at public colleges and universities to speak freely without fear of retribution is endangered as never before," the AAUP said in a newsletter called "Speak Up, Speak Out: Protect the Faculty Voice on Campus." The newsletter urged faculty and administrators to adopt policies that would protect faculty who speak up (and out) on academic matters, university governance, teaching, research, and, of course, issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with higher education at all. Cary Nelson, the AAUP president, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, breathlessly, "One is only willing to play Russian roulette with a certain number of the chambers filled."

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Posted on November 24, 2009 3:05 PM | | Comments (1)

Were The Students Journalists Or Advocates?

By Judith Miller

An intense controversy has erupted over the efforts of Northwestern University journalism students to discover the truth about a 1978 murder case. The government is attempting to wrest sensitive information from the former students. At the heart of that contentious legal move is a deceptively simple question: were the 30 students who spent three years studying whether a man was wrongfully convicted of the murder acting as journalists or investigators?

If the students were acting as working journalists, as Northwestern University and their professor, David Protess, who directs the Medill Innocence Project, assert, they would be covered by Illinois's media shield law, which would bar the state from forcing them to reveal confidential sources or produce working notes and documents relating to their inquiries. But if they were "criminal investigators", as Cook County prosecutors maintain, they would not be covered by the state's shield law, and Protess and the college could be held in contempt of court if they do not acquiesce to the government's sweeping subpoenas for any and all unpublished student videos of their interviews with witnesses, interviews, notes and emails relating to their investigation, their former students' grades, grading criteria, performance reports, class syllabus, and expense reports.

Vowing to resist the subpoena, Northwestern and Prof. Protess, backed by many media groups, have decried what they see as the government's unwarranted "fishing expedition" into their students' sources and efforts to secure information about them that might violate their privacy under Federal law.

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Posted on November 13, 2009 10:17 PM | | Comments (2)

Should J-Students Work For The Defense?

By Charlotte Allen

In May the Illinois State's Attorney's office issued a stunningly unusual subpoena. It asked for the student grades, grading criteria, class syllabi, expense reports, and even e-mail messages of undergraduates taking an investigative reporting class at Northwestern University. The class tied into the Medill Innocence Project, a program administered by Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism that gathers evidence aimed at overturning wrongful criminal convictions. Over the following months the journalistic world has seethed with outrage at what seemed to be a best a fishing expedition and at worst an act of retaliation against the students for coming up with evidence that could free 49-year-old Anthony McKinney, convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and serving a life sentence without parole for shooting a security guard named Donald Lundahl in the face during the course of a 1978 armed robbery in Harvey, Ill., a Chicago suburb. An Oct. 31 editorial in the Washington Post stated: "These subpoenas -- and the stunning overreach they represent -- should be quashed."

Perhaps they should---although on Nov. 10 the state's attorney's office filed a 54-page document, complete with signed investigative reports, in which the office alleged that the Northwestern students gave money to two of the witnesses they interviewed (for a reporter to pay sources is regarded as highly unprofessional), including $40 to buy crack cocaine to a man named Tony Drakes in exchange for a videotaped confession to the murder in 2004. The reports also stated that students had flirted with several male witnesses (including Drakes) who then gladly told them what they wanted to hear; and that the Medill school refused to give prosecutors access to much of the students' notes and tapes, including all records pertaining to student interviews with a second man, Robert Magruder. According to Drakes's videotape, Magruder was supposed to have fired the fatal shot at Lundahl. (Both Drakes and Magruder denied involvement with the murder in more recent interviews with state's attorney's investigators.) The state's attorneys argue that the students enrolled in the course weren't functioning as reporters gathering news but as investigators for their professor, David Protess, who also happens to run the Medill Innocence Project. The tapes and notes they produced didn't result in the students' writing any news stories, even for Northwestern's student paper, the state's attorneys say, but rather, went straight to lawyers affiliated with Northwestern's law school who are representing McKinney in his quest for a reopening of his conviction.

Furthermore, accompanying the students during the 2004 interview with Drakes (and apparently in charge of the interview, according to the state's attorney's office) was a private detective, Sergio Serritella, whose LinkedIn page describes him as the CEO of Tactical Solutions Group, a private-investigations firm in Chicago specializing in criminal cases. (The Medill school says that Serritella, who works on and off for the institution, was along only to provide security, as Drakes had served time for a different murder.) In short, says the state's attorney's office, the students, even though they were enrolled in a journalism class, weren't entitled to invoke the protection of Illinois's shield law, which allows reporters to keep their notes and sources confidential.

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Posted on November 12, 2009 7:02 AM | | Comments (14)

Deciphering Grutter V. Bollinger

By Edward Blum

As the saying goes, "fuzzy law begets controversy", and nothing has proven this maxim better than the Supreme Court's 2003 landmark ruling on "diversity" in higher education. Lacking clarity, the ruling has left individual institutions to interpret how to achieve diversity on their campuses, stoking never-ending conflict over race and admissions. However, a new lawsuit from Texas that is working its way up the appellate ladder---the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals took the case this week--- may compel the justices to clarify---and limit---how race and ethnicity may be used in the admissions process.

Some background is in order. Six years ago, the high court handed down a decision from a University of Michigan case that addressed the use of race as a factor in university admissions. In Grutter v. Bollinger, a challenge to Michigan's law school admissions practices, the justices ended a debate that had bedeviled college administrators for decades by permitting institutions of higher education to employ racial and ethnic preferences in order to create a "diverse" student body.

The Grutter opinion was significant in that it held that the creation of a racially diverse student body was so beneficial to the educational experience of everyone that there was a "compelling state interest" to lower the admissions bar for some applicants, and raise it for others.

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Posted on September 27, 2009 9:27 PM | | Comments (6)

Massad Got Tenure (Don't Tell Anyone)

By Judith Miller

Fourteen Columbia professors are protesting the university's apparent decision to award tenure to Joseph A. Massad, a controversial anti-Israel professor of Arab studies.

The professors are from the schools of law, business and public health. They expressed their concern in a five-page letter to the incoming Provost, Claude M. Steele. The letter asserts that the university's decision to guarantee Massad a life-time teaching post "appears to have violated" Columbia's own rules, thus raising profound questions about the university's academic integrity. The university's administration, weirdly, still refuses to confirm or deny that Massad won tenure, but yesterday the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department let the cat out of the bag---it announced a beginning-of-term party next week congratulating Massad on gaining tenure.

This week Provost Steele belatedly issued a polite, noncommittal response. In a four-paragraph "Dear Colleagues" letter to the fourteen professors, Steele, a former Stanford psychologist, says he would "welcome" a meeting to discuss their concerns. After he learns more about Columbia's tenure process, Steele writes, he may "want to make some changes in our procedures." But nowhere does he state that Massad has, in fact, been awarded tenure. Nor does he acknowledge that the professors raise deeply troubling concerns, that if true, go to the heart of what many regard as the core of a university's integrity.

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Posted on September 18, 2009 3:50 PM | | Comments (8)

We Should Applaud Stanley Fish

                      By Mark Bauerlein

In a recent interview with Mars Hill Audio Magazine, Stanley Fish insists on a distinction bound to vex his colleagues. Professors must remember, he says, the difference between academic judgment and political judgment. In a classroom situation, academic judgment is the application of academic training to materials within the purview of a discipline, for instance, an English professor deciding whether Satan is or is not the hero of Paradise Lost (Fish's example). A political judgment is the application of a professor's political values to, well, anything, such that a "conclusion about action in the world could be immediately drawn."

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Posted on September 8, 2009 11:24 AM | | Comments (5)

Not Your Grandparents' AAUP

By KC Johnson

AAUP president Cary Nelson recently e-mailed his membership about an important new venture for the academic union. Proclaiming "this is not your grandparents' AAUP," Nelson celebrated the work of the "Department of Organizing and Services," which had discovered "a faculty band from Ohio performing original songs about the ironies of current academic life."

Perhaps Nelson should spend less time thinking about new songs and focus more on the central task of "your grandparents' AAUP"---upholding the principle of academic freedom. In two recent, high-profile controversies, the self-described "tenured radical" has seemed intent on transforming the AAUP from an organization devoted to promoting academic freedom into a battering ram to perpetuate the groupthink that dominates so many quarters of the contemporary academy.

The first episode occurred in July, after NYU extended a visiting professorship in human rights law to Thio Li-ann, a professor at the National University of Singapore. The appointment generated understandable controversy after revelations that Li-ann, while a member of the Singapore parliament (a body not known for its commitment to human rights in any event), had wanted to continue criminalizing gay sex acts, on the grounds that "diversity is not license for perversity." Li-ann eventually decided not to come to NYU, using as an excuse the poor enrollment of her courses.

As the controversy brewed, Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik drew from Nelson a highly unusual conception of academic freedom:

Nelson also said that in a tenure decision, he would judge a candidate---however offensive his or her views on unrelated subjects---only on a question of whether the person's scholarship and teaching in his or her discipline met appropriate standards. But in a hiring decision (whether for a visiting or permanent position), he said, it is appropriate to consider other factors, and . . . professors can appropriately ask prior to appointments, [Nelson] said, whether hiring someone whose views on certain subjects are "poisonous" could limit "the department's ability to do its business."

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Posted on September 2, 2009 1:31 PM | | Comments (15)

The Poetry Wars

By Stephen Zelnick

Last semester, in an unguarded moment, I did what literature teachers should never do. I told a student her interpretation of a poem was wrong. From that moment I was regarded as an enemy to freedom.

I invited my students to engage with me in online debate on whether an interpretation could be wrong. What follows is their side of the argument. My arguments failed to dent their belief that a poem means whatever a reader thinks.

The debate erupted with Robert Browning's "Fra Lippo Lippi," where Browning, impersonating a Renaissance painter and with much complexity, presents his artist's credo.

My students resolved that complexity by leaping to conclusions. One young woman found the poem disgusting because the wayward monk enjoys a night out with the ladies. For her, this poem was just another male pleasantry purchased at women's expense. That was her personal feeling, and therefore, the class argued, a perfectly acceptable account of Browning's poem.

Another student, who disliked religion, saw Browning's objective to expose the monk's hypocrisy. Religion - he was ecumenical in his contempt - was a lie, and Browning showed how true this was.

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Posted on August 19, 2009 2:05 PM | | Comments (2)

It Was Just Blather

By Mark Bauerlein

In the Critical Theory Archives at UC-Irvine, deep in a file of the Stanley Fish Papers, is a statement on Duke University letterhead by Fish when he was Executive Director of Duke University Press. The statement isn't dated, but we can assign it to the year 1996, appearing as it does in response to the infamous Sokal Hoax.

Probably most Minding the Campus readers recall the episode. Alan Sokal, a physicist at NYU, objected to theoretical and postmodern critiques of science coming out of the humanities ("science studies"), and he wanted to test the actual scientific and mathematical knowledge of the critics. He submitted a paper to the editors of Social Text with the title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," and he filled it with tendentious assertions such as:

The content and methodology of postmodern science thus provide powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project, understood in its broadest sense: the transgressing of boundaries, the breaking down of barriers, the radical democratization of all aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural life.

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Posted on August 4, 2009 9:45 PM | | Comments (0)

Beware the Sensitivity Gestapo

By Frederick Fico

The trajectory of my career changed in late 2006, although I could never have recognized it at the time. I am a tenured full professor of journalism at Michigan State University. I was sitting in my office when a student dropped by and identified himself as the chairman of the MSU College Republicans. They needed a faculty advisor.

I had no problem giving the young man an enthusiastic "yes" to his request. And all I had to do was sign a paper.

By the fall of 2007, I was being investigated by the campus Office for Inclusion, charged with harassment and discrimination against students because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, political persuasion and weight (!).

What happened?

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Posted on July 24, 2009 4:19 PM | | Comments (7)

Card Check Comes To Campus

By Donald Downs

Labor unions have suffered a number of defeats in recent years, but they hope to regain momentum by gaining passage of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to secure votes for unionization, mainly through a mechanism called "card check." Card check would replace the traditional method of unionization by eliminating secret ballots when employees vote for or against unionization. "Card check" would allow the signing of cards without the benefit of secrecy, perhaps even in the presence of pro-union activists. Will employees actually make free, unfettered choices in the face of union organizers who present them with cards? Or is the "Free Choice Act" but the latest historical incarnation of Newspeak?

Card check is in some trouble in Washington, but similar policies are having more success at the state level. A prominent example is Wisconsin, which has recently enacted such legislation regarding the University of Wisconsin. The policy is part of a larger pro-union package in the state.

Recently Governor Jim Doyle signed the state's 2009-2011 biennial budget, which includes a provision that gives collective bargaining rights to over 20,000 UW System faculty, academic staff, and research assistants. As of this writing, the faculty members of all UW System schools except UW-Madison have passed resolutions favoring the right to decide on unionization. Madison will no doubt deal with this issue in the fall; but even if Madison faculty members vote to have the right to decide, it is not evident that they will ultimately vote to unionize, for reasoned arguments exist on both sides of this question.

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Posted on July 22, 2009 12:58 PM | | Comments (0)

The Texas Mugging Of Western Civ

By Barbara Moeller

Last November, Rob Koons, director of the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at the University of Texas, was abruptly fired from that position. In swift succession, the name of the program and its leadership was changed to conform more closely to the ideological tastes of the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts. It was reminiscent of the fiasco at Hamilton College, recounted by Roger Kimball here. The common elements are a tenured, leftist faculty who are ferocious in their pursuit of intellectual homogeneity and the blithe betrayal of donors, alumni, and students.

The College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) at the University of Texas has all of the problems that plague higher education in America, only more, bigger, and with a better football team. It forms its own self-contained and self-referential world of all varieties of leftist thought, with only the occasional intrusion of voices from the right side of the intellectual dial. It's a place where it's assumed that if you are a middle-aged woman, you voted for Hillary Clinton, and would be forgiven, because you were motivated by a sense of solidarity. It's a place where a professor can say, in all seriousness that some of his best friends are liberals, but they are "politically unreliable" because they aren't far enough left. And where Dana Cloud, associate professor of communications, can, without a hint of irony, assert on national radio that there are many conservatives at UT- just look in Aerospace Engineering!

Needless to say, this kind of intellectual conformity, enforced by political correctness isn't good for education generally. It is buttressed by hyper-specialization, so that even at a university as big as UT, a top tier research institution, there are no survey courses in European history, to name but one gaping hole in the course offering. Likewise, the requirements for graduation from CoLA are a Luby's buffet of choices, where your course in "India's Non-Conformist Thinkers" counts toward your general culture requirement, but a survey course on the world's major religions does not, because there is no such course.

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Posted on July 6, 2009 4:08 PM | | Comments (7)

Standpoint Theory Arrives At The Court

By Daphne Patai

One of the key contributions of second-wave feminism to the academy is what is known as "standpoint theory," which asserts that members of oppressed groups have special "ways of knowing" based on their group's unique experiences. The problem standpoint theory attempted to address is how to respond to the apparent monopoly of knowledge and power held by men (usually called "white men" in these discussions). Since women were for centuries excluded from education and professional activities, how could they gain traction for their views and rapidly enhance their present status?

The easiest way to deal with this problem is to consider the source of an idea an adequate gauge of its validity and significance. This is known as the "genetic fallacy," a form of ad hominem or ad feminam argument. Valorizing the viewpoints of hitherto marginalized groups is an obvious instance of this fallacy. It also discourages challenges to one's point of view, since any challenge can be represented as an attempt to demean that group's experience, out of which it presumably speaks.

In the more academic-sounding form of "standpoint epistemology," by which one's racial or sexual identity provides a person with experiences that define how he or she thinks, deference is routinely paid to the special perspectives of minorities. While not wanting to get embroiled in biological essentialism or in the view that acquired experiences are inherited (or transmitted through some sort of collective unconscious), proponents of standpoint theory have turned it into a staple of feminism over the last few decades, and it has been of great utility as well to other identity groups. Its objective, as feminist scholar Sandra Harding, one of the founders of feminist standpoint theory, puts it, is to unearth the special powers that women's lived experience can offer, the special knowledge that they can thus claim.

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Posted on June 23, 2009 3:10 PM | | Comments (1)

The Illinois Admissions Scandal

By Richard D. Kahlenberg

Illinois, the state where Senate seats are sometimes sold, has now scandalized higher education with the revelation that hundreds of applicants to the University of Illinois were placed on a special "clout" list, many receiving favorable treatment. According to a series of investigative reports by The Chicago Tribune, state legislators, university trustees, and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich successfully pressured University of Illinois officials to admit less qualified applicants, including a relative of influence peddler Antoin (Tony) Rezko.

Examining email correspondence obtained through the state Freedom of Information Act, the Tribune found that decisions to deny admissions were reversed through a secret appeals process following intervention by top officials. In some cases, notification of admissions for "clouted" candidates with dubious credentials were delayed until the end of the school year in order to minimize attention from more qualified classmates who were denied admissions. In the wake of the publicity, the university has temporarily suspended the clout list and Governor Pat Quinn established an independent panel to investigate the practice.

Illinois state legislators are not the first to push for special treatment in university admissions for favored candidates. In the 1990s, a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that then-California governor Pete Wilson, and other state officials and prominent citizens made requests on behalf of applicants to institutions such as UCLA and U.C. Berkeley. These applicants, who were placed on a special "VIP" list, had a significantly higher rate of acceptance than regular applicants. Indeed, between 1980 and 1996, more than 200 VIP students were admitted after initially being rejected.

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Posted on June 11, 2009 3:24 PM | | Comments (2)

War Over A Trojan Horse

By Robert L. Paquette

A few weeks ago, the Delta Phi fraternity at Hamilton College distributed on campus fliers welcoming students to attend "the 53rd annual Mexican Night" party. The invitation, which was intended to be symbolic of spring-break excursions to Cancun and other vacation spots south of the border, contained the image of a Trojan Horse in the shape of a Mexican pinata towering over an armed guard in front of a stout U. S. border fence. The words "Proper Documentation Required," a spoof of the usual language for proper identification at parties that serve alcohol, ran to the left of the image. In a flash, student activists and their faculty allies had mobilized in ginned-up outrage to protest this latest alleged example of institutionalized racism and to demand action by the administration and trustees on a laundry list of particulars that includes a speech code (masked as a "social honor code"), mandatory diversity courses, and the establishment of a multi-million dollar cultural education center to provide "safe spaces" for aggrieved student groups. Administrators competed with each other to see how artistically they could grovel to protesting students. Acting President Joseph Urgo and the college's "diversity ombudsman" called the fraternity to account and pressured its leaders to cancel the party. In an all-campus email, Urgo claimed to have extracted from the contrite fraternity leadership an expansive confession that the image not only "hurt and offended many members of the Hamilton community," but that it "trivializes a contemporary political crisis and reduces the complex history and culture of Mexico to a simple stereotype."

Urgo and other administrators then joined protesting faculty and protesting students in holding a candlelight vigil. Speeches, poetry, and spiritual songs of the Kumbaya variety expressed feelings of solidarity with the disrespected, vulnerable, and marginalized on campus and around the world. Fraternity leaders rained apologies from all directions to no avail. The dean of students, standing in like a kind of sacrificial lamb, bleated enough mea culpas to elicit God's forgiveness of a rash of mortal sins. Unforgiving students, however, led by a group called the Social Justice Initiative, followed by commandeering another faculty meeting. Looking anything but vulnerable and threatened, they seized the microphone and threateningly wagged the finger of blame at college officials for their "lack of response" and "lack of action" to the fraternity's benightedness. Dozens of sympathetic faculty, including leaders of the Diversity and Social Justice Project, signed on to a proposed resolution that would signal to posterity "Our profound appreciation and affection... for our international students and students of color who may have felt marginalized by recent events on campus." The faculty eventually passed overwhelmingly a resolution that supported the creation of a cultural education center on campus, that urged---Hamilton College's recently imposed open curriculum notwithstanding---mandatory "educational and programmatic initiatives" to intensify diversity training, and that directed administrators to expand the powers of existing harassment and grievance boards to "raise critical awareness of different forms of harassment." Stay tuned, for the full extent of the concessions by the guilt-stricken have yet to be determined.

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Posted on May 26, 2009 6:28 PM | | Comments (5)

Cornell '69 And What It Did

By Donald Downs

Forty years ago this week, an armed student insurrection erupted on the Cornell campus. I was a sophomore on campus at the time and later wrote a book on the events, Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University. To some the drama represented a triumph of social justice, paving the way for a new model of the university based on the ideals of identity politics, diversity, and the university as a transformer of society. To others, it fatefully propelled Cornell, and later much of American higher education, away from the traditional principles of academic freedom, reason, and individual excellence. "Cornell," wrote the famous constitutional scholar Walter Berns, who resigned from Cornell during the denouement of the conflict, "was the prototype of the university as we know it today, having jettisoned every vestige of academic integrity."

In the wee hours of Friday, April 19, 1969, twenty-some members of Cornell's Afro-American Society took over the student center, Willard Straight Hall, removing parents (sometimes forcefully) from their accommodations on the eve of Parents Weekend. The takeover was the culmination of a year-long series of confrontations, during which the AAS had deployed hardball tactics to pressure the administration of President James Perkins into making concessions to their demands. The Perkins administration and many faculty members had made claims of race-based identity politics and social justice leading priorities for the university, marginalizing the traditional missions of truth-seeking and academic freedom.

Two concerns precipitated the takeover: AAS agitation for the establishment of a radical black studies program; and demands of amnesty for some AAS students, who had just been found guilty by the university judicial board of violating university rules. These concerns were linked, for, according to the students, the university lacked the moral authority to judge minority students. They declared that Cornell was no longer a university, but rather an institution divided by racial identities.

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Posted on April 20, 2009 3:07 PM | | Comments (4)

The Situation at the New School

By James Miller

This is the text of an open letter about the student occupation and police intervention last weekend at the New School in New York City. It was sent to members of the New School community by James Miller, professor of political science and liberal studies at the school. Miller is a former member of Students for a Democratic Society and author of several books, including "Rousseau: Dreamer of Democracy" and "Democracy in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago." - John Leo

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Posted on April 14, 2009 3:00 PM | | Comments (3)

Why Students Flee The Humanities

By John Ellis

On February 25, 2009, an article by Patricia Cohen appeared in the New York Times: "In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth." Its thesis was a familiar one: an economic downturn will lead to a decline in the number of college majors in the humanities because in hard times enrollments shift toward majors with direct vocational utility. The article could have been written 25 or 50 years ago---the phenomenon it talks about is well known. For example, English majors made up 7.59% of those graduating with bachelor's degrees in 1968, but as the stock market bottomed in the early 1980's following the Carter economic debacle, that number had sunk to 3.7%. But Cohen's article is not just a tedious rehash of well-known ideas from the past: it has a more serious flaw. For while this argument could have been and in fact was made at many times in the past, it can not be made today. And that is because the humanities have undergone a profound change that makes Cohen's entire argument meaningless.

Let's look first at the statistics. As the economy improved dramatically during the 1980's, the figure for English majors rose with the economy, reaching 4.7% by the end of the decade. But now the familiar pattern broke down: as the economy continued to get stronger, the figures for English majors began to go in the opposite direction, the first time this had happened. By 1995, English majors had declined to 4.3% of all bachelor's degrees, and by 2005 they had gone down to 3.7%, the same figure that was seen at the economy's bottom in the early 80's---except that the economy had now been booming almost continuously for 20 years.

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Posted on March 9, 2009 3:48 PM | | Comments (8)

Lose A President To A Coup And You Will Fail

By John Silber

The recent attempts to drive Robert Kerrey from the presidency of The New School are reminiscent of how Larry Summers was driven from the Harvard presidency in 2006 and, further back, how controversies, real and specious, roiled American campuses in the 1960s and 1970s. If the Trustees of the New School are at all tempted to give in to demands for Kerrey's head, these previous academic power struggles ought to send them one clear message of warning: lose a president to a coup and you will fail in the governance of your campus.

The complaints against Kerrey ought to sound familiar to anyone who has watched university reform in action. Kerrey is accused of being an autocrat and of putting fiscal concerns ahead of academic needs. He is lambasted for his politically-incorrect views on America's wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

In December the New School Faculty voted 271-8 to express no confidence in him and his chief financial officer. At the same time radical students occupied Kerrey's office; they have since demanded that Kerrey resign and that they be given a role in picking the next Provost. The students also threaten to shut the campus down if their demands are not met by April 1.

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Posted on February 26, 2009 4:14 PM | | Comments (0)

Stanley Fish And The Storm In Ottawa: Seven Professors Say What They Think

Denis Rancourt, a professor of physics at Ottawa University, an anarchist and a backer of Critical Pedagogy, may be the most dramatic example of a politicized teacher yet seen in North America. He believes that college instruction is an instrument of oppression and that his proper job is to combat this oppression by ignoring what he is supposed to be teaching---physics and the environment---and instead promoting radical political action in his class. Over the weekend, Stanley Fish posted a blog on Rancourt at the New York Times website that attracted a good deal of attention. So we asked several professors to write brief reactions to Rancourt and Fish.

- John Leo

Peter Berkowitz

In Save the World on Your Own Time, his 2008 polemic about higher education, Stanley Fish harshly criticized professors who use the classroom to advance political agendas. Professors, he insisted, have a contractual duty to pursue academic purposes in their teaching, to transmit knowledge and refine students' intellectual abilities. Academic freedom was well-defined and narrow: it protected a professor's right to discharge his academic duties without political interference. For professors to use academic freedom as a cover to inculcate in students moral and political doctrines was, in Fish's eyes, a gross abuse.

Or it was in the summer of 2008, when his book came out. Unfortunately, in his exploration of the case of University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt, Fish indicates that in the winter 2009 the meaning of academic freedom in his judgment is not a matter of right, duty, and the proper understanding of academic life and the university's mission, but rather reflects a clash between narrower and broader views of academic freedom.

To be sure, Fish's relativizing conclusion is in tension with his unflattering portrayal of Professor Rancourt. On the one hand, he concedes that Professor Rancourt's granting an "A+" to each of his students, his refusal to teach courses he has been assigned by his department and for which students sign up, and in the courses he chooses to teach his urging students to engage in political activism represent instances of how "some academics contrive to turn serial irresponsibility into a form of heroism under the banner of academic freedom." On the other hand, Fish treats Rancourt's conception of academic freedom---"the ideal under which professors and students are autonomous and design their own development and interactions"---which Rancourt invokes to justify enlisting students in the quest to transform society and save the world, as a legitimate, if broader, conception of academic freedom that can only be defeated by "an essentially political decision."

Underlying Rancourt's pedagogy, Fish notes, is the "belief that higher education as we know it is simply a delivery system for a regime of oppressors and exploiters." But this moral judgment does not change the parameters of academic freedom. And it is no more a defense against Rancourt's being fired by the university for failing to do the job for which he was hired than it would be for an executive at Exxon Mobil to hold that because oil is polluting the planet, he is entitled to collect his salary while feeding false information to his superiors and encouraging his subordinates to subvert the company from within.

Nor is Rancourt's appeal to Socrates a convincing support for his freedom, against university requirements, to refuse to give students grades. What Rancourt overlooks and Fish fails to point out is that Socrates was not a university professor, did not take money to teach, and taught the obligation to respect, not to subvert, custom and law.

Although there are alternative conceptions of freedom, there is only one conception of academic freedom that is well-grounded in the principles of liberal education and the historic mission of the university. It is the conception forcefully defended by Stanley Fish in Save the World on Your Own Time. Regrettably, by suggesting that Denis Rancourt's rank politicization of the classroom reflects an alternative conception of academic freedom, as opposed to a perversion of academic freedom, Fish lends dignity to a fraudulent claim.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His writings are posted at www.PeterBerkowitz.com.

Jonathan Imber

Cases about academic freedom are bellwethers for larger social and cultural unrest. They always have been, all the way back to the First World War with the founding of the AAUP. When Arthur O. Lovejoy was dismissed from his position at Stanford University for simply defending a colleague's right to criticize the university, he joined with others in making the case that universities have a special responsibility to allow as full and open debate about all things as possible. Of course, Lovejoy and his colleagues would never have confused lack of collegiality or failure to teach one's subject as defensible in terms of academic
freedom.

The problem with Stanley Fish's assessment is that it has very little to do with the everyday indignities that beset colleges and universities as the result of colleagues who do not do their jobs and thus make everything more difficult. Instead, Fish is taken in by the exotic cases to make otherwise ordinary points. The ordinary points are quite clear: the oversight of faculty at most colleges and universities takes for granted a great deal of good will on both the part of faculty and administrators (most of whom have been faculty). When that good will is tested, it is usually about decisions made by administrators, not about anarchist physics professors. It is impressive in its own way that so much time was given to a person who clearly understood that being paid for his insubordination was likely to be challenged at some point. I suppose Fish's point is that there will always be some case where somebody tries to defy gravity.

But the real lesson is how much our institutions of higher learning depend on a basic trust given in particular to those of us fortunate enough to have what others see as "job security." We owe the public an explanation of what we do and why we do it. Most of us cede this responsibility to our presidents and deans, but in the end, it is the faculty who have the power and responsibility to determine this. We should not become a conspiracy against the laity, especially in times like these.

Jonathan Imber is Professor in Ethics and Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College

Daphne Patai

It's hard to see why Stanley Fish is hot and bothered by the Rancourt case at the University of Ottawa. After all, it's merely an extreme example of a routine event - a professor's political grandstanding and exhibitionism of his impeccable leftist credentials. What's unusual is only that Rancourt did suffer the consequences of his professional irresponsibililty. The real story here, however, is that so many professors, especially in the humanities and social sciences, routinely and with far less drama than Rancourt contrive to treat their classrooms as staging grounds for their political commitments. In many cases they announce this without embarrassment - look at the mission statements and job ads for various identity programs, in which activism (of a certain type only, of course) is routinely promoted as an academic goal. This is so much the norm these days that only truly egregious cases, such as Rancourt's, or Ward Churchill's, evoke strong reactions and censure. It's very rare for a professor to be charged with incompetence. There's almost no such thing in higher education these days, least of all over manifesting political biases.

To the contrary, the real threat to education these days is far more likely to come from the shutting down of free speech by means of university policies aimed at inhibiting "harassment" (sexual or racial primarily), which has many professors watching their every word. Look at Brandeis University, which last year found Professor Donald Hindley guilty of "racial harassment" and placed a monitor in his classroom! His offense? To discuss the word "wetback" as a racial slur in his Latin American Politics course! FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, keeps track of the sorry state of free speech on America's campuses, and has had to go to bat for many of the accused (see its website at www.thefire.org). Where political correctness rather than genuine education has become a norm in American universities, why be surprised that professors feel free to indulge their biases? Most of them, of course, are a bit less blatant about their agenda than Rancourt obviously was.

As for the guaranteed grades of A+ -- that too is noteworthy only because it takes to an extreme a pervasive problem in education: grade inflation. The only surprise is that a university administration actually acted in the Rancourt case. Competence seems rarely to be questioned and all kinds of partisan distortions of education are promoted and even celebrated. So we should thank Rancourt for having taken standard professorial actions to an extreme and thus calling attention to a persistent reality that is rarely addressed.

Daphne Patai is Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Amitai Etzioni

Stan Fish does here what he does so well: he takes one odd case and builds a general theory on its peculiar facts. I wish he would be more of a sociologist. Look at the thousands of tenured professors (a declining number by the way). See how often they are under attack for being too liberal, too anti-Israel, even too conservative. Realize that although most people in society do not have their kind of protection---it serves a free society well to have several thousands who are so privileged, just as it is served by having some judges who have tenure.

True, some abuse their tenure (typically not by outlier behavior but by doing little work). Such abuses are largely handled through informal social pressures which Fish confuses with coercion. And when things get really bad, some of the abusers have their tenure revoked. Given that the world around us is collapsing and we are at war, maybe Professor Fish can use his privileged position to worry about even greater threats to our freedoms, well-being, indeed sanity.

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at The George Washington University

Mark Bauerlein

Stanley Fish's ruminations on academic freedom are always stimulating, but in this case his example is a no-brainer. A physics professor whose classroom posture aims to undo the institution and invalidate his own grades doesn't pose difficult questions about duty and freedom. No arguments about oppression and exploitation can turn his dereliction into an academic outlook. The very distance between his expertise, physics, and his subversive role-playing makes the case too easy.

What about fields, though, that close the distance, for instance, the composition instructor who believes that student writing will improve only when students question authority, including the authority of teachers and schools to evaluate them? What about education schools that explicitly profess to convert students into "change agents"?

In other words, academic freedom gets fuzzy when adversarial, radical, revolution, and other ideological goals are admitted as legitimate aspects of disciplines themselves. In these cases, we look not to the conduct of wayward instructors hijacking classrooms--a rare enough happening. No, we look to entire fields and subfields and departments that have made political agendas a normal functioning of research, hiring, peer review, graduate training, and undergraduate instruction. And that condition, unfortunately, isn't as rare as it ought to be.

Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory University

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Posted on February 10, 2009 8:06 PM | | Comments (6)

Universities, Individualism, and David Brooks

By Donald Downs

In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks raised an interesting and important question. Drawing on a recent book (largely neglected) by Hugh Heclo entitled On Thinking Institutionally, Brooks critiqued a report on education that a Harvard University faculty committee issued a few years ago. According to the report, "the aim of a liberal education is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them find ways to reorient themselves."

Brooks observed that this logic "is deeply consistent with the individualism of modern culture, with its emphasis on personal inquiry, personal self-discovery and personal happiness." The problem is that this way of living neglects the important role that tradition and institutional custom play in providing order and a sense of duty that give meaning and form to life. Brooks quotes Heclo: "In taking delivery, institutionalists see themselves as debtors who owe something, not creditors to whom something is owed."

Brooks points to the erosion of obligation and responsibility in the banking profession as one example of the problem, among many. "Faith in all institutions, including charities, has declined precipitously over the past generation... Lack of institutional awareness has bred cynicism and undermined habits of behavior. Bankers, for example, used to have a code that made them a bit stodgy and which held them up for ridicule in movies like 'Mary Poppins.' But the banker's code has eroded, and the result was not liberation but self-destruction."

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Posted on February 5, 2009 6:23 PM | | Comments (0)

Why I Left Academia

By Anonymous

In March 2008 I reluctantly made the decision to leave academia. After six years in graduate school and three years as a professor, it was clear to me that the discrimination I faced was so pervasive that there would be no escaping it in the years ahead. Don't misunderstand what I write in the paragraphs that follow. I am not bitter, vengeful, enraged, or anything of the sort. My experience as a professor was disappointing and saddening, but not for me. I feel sad for the students and taxpayers. My leaving was the latest in a long string of departures that stem from the discrimination I describe below.

I was a good professor, well liked by students (third highest student evaluations in my department of 18), productive scholar (2 books, 6 articles, and 10 book reviews in two years while teaching a 4/4), member of a university committee, and the advisor to a campus organization.

The proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" occurred a week after I approached the university lawyer to notify him that I would be running for a seat on the county commission. As a political scientist, it seemed appropriate for me to have some experience in the subject I taught and loved. I also discussed my plan to challenge the incumbent US Senator in 2010. It may seem an ambitious endeavor, but ambition is something of which I have an abundance.

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Posted on February 4, 2009 4:00 PM | | Comments (4)

The Conspiracy Against Faculty Friendship

By Robert Weissberg

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help. - Epicurus (Greek Philosopher 341 BC-271 BC)


Though relatively tiny in number PC forces now exercise disproportionate influence across the university, even capturing entire departments. What makes this conquest especially noteworthy is the lack of resistance from academics, liberal and conservative, who know better and should have stood up and shouted, "Enough with this race/class/gender crap, we need people to teach Chinese or Japanese politics, not yet one more course about African Americans." Going one step further, where is the vocal outrage when the PC contingent accuses a fellow professor of "hateful insensitivity" by assigning the Bell Curve or his "heretical" remarks on colonialism? Outside the university this bystander unresponsiveness even has a name---the Kitty Genovese phenomena, named after a repeatedly stabbed woman who lay unattended for hours in an apartment building courtyard while "oblivious" neighbors ignored her screams (she eventually died). But, why would life-time tenured professors go deaf when the ninnies beat up on a colleague who, to be hypothetical, dare hypothesized a biological factor in male/female mathematical distinction? Rallying to his defense is hardly as dangerous as, say, trying to stop a Mafia execution. Callous indifference to the plight of those singled out for PC attack is critical to understanding what bedevils today's academy, and deserves an explanation.

The decline in friendship explains a lot---friends defend friends, even risk death, but without camaraderie, it is all too easy to run and "not notice." Friendship's role in helping others was made crystal clear following World War II when sociologist Morris Janowitz and others interviewed German POWs to assess their extraordinary unit combat cohesiveness. It turns out that small units like tank crews typically came from the same town and were kept together for the entire war. This bonding, plus the realization that cowardice would travel back home encouraged bravery---Hans would risks his life to save his friend, fellow Bad Homburger, Rolf, and this loyalty far outweighed abstract ideology. American units, by contrast, favored shifting personnel and mixed composition (recall WW II "buddy" movies where "Brooklyn" shared a foxhole with "Tex"). But with the war ending, and German units becoming hastily assembled hodge-podges, combat effectiveness collapsed and mass surrenders ensued. Hans would risk death for Rolf but not the newcomer Wolfgang from far distant Rostock.

Today's universities are almost organized conspiracies against such cohesion. Affirmative action consciously rips it apart (recall how in 1984 friendship was sabotaged to atomize society on behalf of Big Brother). The diversity fetish guarantees departments filled with strangers having little in common. Hiring newcomers who "will fit in" has been replaced with "is he or she sufficiently different enough to satisfy the Diversity and Outreach Dean." Departments grow to resemble modern grade- school earth science textbook role model pictures---no two young faces alike, a few disabled to boot, and numerous smiling representatives from "under-represented" groups hardly known for scientific achievement. Indeed, hiring a white male job candidate who will further cement social cohesion may require extra justification beyond "he is the best." Too many white males implies unacceptable "good old boyism."

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Posted on January 23, 2009 4:44 PM | | Comments (7)

Was Nan Keohane Worse Than Brodhead?

By KC Johnson

In October 2006, 60 Minutes offered a searing examination of the Duke lacrosse case. Reported by the late Ed Bradley, the broadcast exposed then-Durham D.A. Mike Nifong for what he was: an unethical prosecutor advancing a non-existent case to secure the votes of African-Americans he needed to win an upcoming Democratic primary. The broadcast also represented a public relations low point for the Duke administration. Speaking to Bradley, Duke president Richard Brodhead declined to condemn Nifong's behavior. Nor did he question the dubious and in some cases unprofessional conduct by his own university's "activist" faculty members.

Brodhead, instead, targeted the victims of the prosecutor's and his faculty's misconduct: his own students. With a pronounced smirk, he defended Duke's actions by accusing the lacrosse players of having engaged in "highly unacceptable behavior."

More than two years after Brodhead's ill-fated introduction to the national media, Duke has made a reported eight-figure settlement with the three falsely accused lacrosse players. The university also settled lawsuits with former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and the family of a lacrosse player who suffered grade retaliation from an anti-lacrosse Duke professor. Duke still faces a civil rights lawsuit filed by the unindicted lacrosse players, and the university recently learned that its insurance carrier is refusing to cover any defense or settlement costs arising from the lacrosse case.

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Posted on January 8, 2009 2:46 PM | | Comments (0)

Postmodernism's Dead End

By Charlotte Allen

This past April, Stanley Fish, the postmodernist English professor with a knack for parlaying whatever current well-compensated teaching job he holds into an even better compensated teaching job somewhere else (he's now a "distinguished professor" at Florida International University after stints---necessarily somewhat brief---at the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and the University of Illinois-Chicago) devoted one of his blog-posts at the New York Times to a rave review of a book yet unpublished in America, "French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co.Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States," by the French intellectual historian Francois Cusset.

The review was less about Cusset's book than about Fish himself and Fish's own ideas about the postmodernism: the notion, promulgated by the ur-postmodernist and Fish idol Jacques Derrida, and now the reigning orthodoxy in college literature departments across the country, that essentially there's no such thing as reality, and there's also no such thing as a "you" or "me" with sufficient rational ability to know anything about that reality. All we have are "texts" or "narratives" that may purport to tell us what is real (example: a scientific article) but are actually no more than self-referential expressions of ideology (such as belief in scientific progress). Fish wrote: "All we lose (if we have been persuaded by the deconstructive critique, that is) is a certain rationalist faith that there will someday be a final word, a last description that takes the accurate measure of everything. All that will have happened is that one account of what we know and how we know it --- one epistemology --- has been replaced by another, which means only that in the unlikely event you are asked 'What's your epistemology?' you'll give a different answer than you would have given before."

Fish continued: "When a deconstructive analysis interrogates an apparent unity --- a poem, a manifesto, a sermon, a procedure, an agenda --- and discovers, as it always will, that its surface coherence is achieved by the suppression of questions it must not ask if it is to maintain the fiction of its self-identity, the result is not the discovery of an anomaly, of a deviance from a norm that can be banished or corrected; for no structure built by man (which means no structure) could be otherwise."

Continue reading "Postmodernism's Dead End" »

Posted on December 19, 2008 4:48 PM | | Comments (1)

Still Tenured, Still Radical

Roger Kimball, editor of Encounter Books and co-editor of The New Criterion, delivered these remarks at a Manhattan Institute luncheon in New York City on November 19th. The occasion marked publication of the second revised edition of his influential 1990 book Tenured Radicals.

***

Joining so many old friends from the extended Manhattan Institute family inspires a feeling of what the philosopher Yogi Berra called "deja vu all over again." I know I have been here before, talking about something suspiciously similar to what I am going to be talking to you about today. I am counting on you to agree with me that novelty is a much over-rated commodity and to take consolation, as I do, in the observation of the Sage of Ecclesiastes that "there is nothing new under the sun."

When the first the edition of Tenured Radicals appeared lo, these many years ago, around the time movable type was coming into vogue, the American university, when it came to the humanities and social sciences, anyway, was essentially a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.

Well, that was then. In the meantime, some very talented people have weighed in on the problem. They have written articles and books about the university; they've organized conferences, symposia, and think-tank initiatives; they even managed to place scores of good people in various colleges and universities as a counterweight to the various intellectual and moral depredations I chronicle in Tenured Radicals. Today, two editions and nearly two decades later, we can look at the American university and what do we discover? That it is, essentially, a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.

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Posted on November 25, 2008 4:01 PM | | Comments (2)

Change Can Happen One Professor At A Time

By Mark Bauerlein

Of the many problems besetting higher education today, perhaps the most intractable is the incentives problem. On hundreds of campuses across the United States, thousands of college professors are being dragged away from their root educational mission. They serve as stewards of knowledge and trainers of citizens to come, but a binding demand makes them act otherwise. And the perverse thing about it is that the pressure comes from within.

Imagine yourself a newly-hired English professor at a university with a research dimension, however minor. You went into the field because you loved to read and a few books hit you hard enough to set a career path. As undergraduate days wound down, you aimed to share the inspiration, to expound and debate and teach the meaning of Dickens and Faulkner, and graduate school was the next step.

But graduate training shifted the focus. Instead of studying with an eye toward undergraduates in class, you came to recognize another audience: professors at conferences, on hiring committees, and in editorial offices. They, not freshmen, would decide your future, offer you a job, publish your work, and grant you tenure. Turning a wayward 19-year-old into a determined thinker might make you feel worthy, but it wouldn't show up on a resume or establish professional contacts. You needed to network and circulate, apply for grants and submit papers to journals, attend symposia. Every minute in office hours with students, you quickly realized, took away from securing a letter of recommendation from a name scholar or writing the final page of a conference talk.

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Posted on November 13, 2008 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)

Obama And The Campus Left

By K.C. Johnson

Apart from Barack Obama's call for students who perform national service to receive a college tuition credit, issues related to higher education received scant attention in the 2008 campaign. Yet for those interested in meaningful reform on the nation's college campuses, the election provides some intriguing possibilities---provided that Republicans move beyond the perspectives offered in the campaign and return to the higher education agenda articulated by conservatives and libertarians over the past 15 years.

On issues relevant to higher education policy, Obama was clearly the most centrist of the three major contenders for this year's Democratic nomination. John Edwards, who hitched himself to the far left of the party, surely would have been a paragon of political correctness. And before her reinvention as a tribune of the white working class, Hillary Clinton employed an often crude, gender-based identity politics.

A January New York Times op-ed typified how the Clinton campaign and its supporters reflected the excesses of 1970s feminism. Gloria Steinem (erroneously) rejoiced that "women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age."

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Posted on November 10, 2008 2:42 PM | | Comments (5)

What Can Be Done About Campus Decline?

By Roger Kimball

The following is an excerpt from Roger Kimball's introduction to the third edition of his classic book on the humanities, Tenured Radicals.

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One of the great ironies that attends the triumph of political correctness is that in department after department of academic life, what began as a demand for emancipation recoiled, turned rancid, and developed into new forms of tyranny and control. As Alan Charles Kors noted in a recent essay,

under the heirs of the academic Sixties, we moved on campus after campus from their Free Speech Movement to their politically correct speech codes; from their abolition of mandatory chapel to their imposition of Orwellian mandatory sensitivity and multicultural training; from their freedom to smoke pot unmolested to their war today against the kegs and spirits---literal and metaphorical---of today's students; from their acquisition of young adult status to their infantilization of "kids" who lack their insight; from their self-proclaimed dreams of racial and sexual integration to their ever more balkanized campuses organized on principles of group characteristics and group responsibility; from their right to define themselves as individuals---a foundational right---to their official, imposed, and politically orthodox notions of identity. American college students became the victims of a generational swindle of truly epic proportions.

What, as Lenin memorably asked, is to be done?

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Posted on October 20, 2008 3:49 PM | | Comments (8)

Can We Change The Campus Culture?

By Harvey Silverglate

People ask me when I got my first inkling that something was seriously wrong with the culture of our campuses of higher education. It was in the mid-1980s, and it had nothing to do -- yet -- with the post-modern corruption of the liberal arts, which was then beyond my professional interests and experiences. It had to do with free speech and due process.

I became a lawyer, after all, not an academic when I got my LL.B. in 1967. As a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer from the start of my legal career, I represented students in trouble with their colleges and universities. It was very soon after my graduation that I had my first big academic case - my law partners and I represented the undergraduates who had taken over University Hall and were unceremoniously dragged out by the baton-wielding municipal and state police. The students were all cited, in the Middlesex County (Massachusetts) Superior Criminal Court, with trespass on the property of The President and Fellows of Harvard College. (Even though they paid tuition for the privilege of being on Harvard property, they had refused an explicit order, delivered over a bullhorn, to vacate that particular administrative building where they had, much like squatters, taken up residence.)

Over a hundred students were charged. The mob was randomly broken up into three groups and scheduled for consecutive jury trials. When the jury acquitted all of the defendants put on trial in the first case (the jurors were apparently unpersuaded that all of the students were in fact building occupiers rather than observers in the wrong place at the wrong time), the district attorney (and Harvard) relented and allowed the others to avoid trial, and a criminal record, via a benign plea agreement.

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Posted on October 14, 2008 4:16 PM | | Comments (4)

Due Process Fades In Wisconsin

By Donald Downs

The Board of Regents and officials of the University of Wisconsin system have recently proposed two sweeping changes to the system's student misconduct codes. The first change is a new code covering student misconduct outside of university property (UWS 18). The second involves some major changes in the present Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Code, UWS 17.

There is nothing inherently wrong with periodic revisions of codes, for institutions need to adapt their rules to deal with changes in their environment. And no one argues that universities must abide by the same rigorous procedural standards as the criminal justice system. As the Supreme Court has consistently maintained over the years, the extent of due process depends upon the institutional setting.

That said, critics have raised some points that merit serious attention, especially about UWS 17. These concerns address both specific provisions in the reforms as well as broader questions about the state of universities today. Let me address just three of the specific concerns first.

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Posted on October 9, 2008 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)

The Battle Over Student Fees

By Donald Downs

The stage is now set for wide debate over mandatory student fees These are the fees that educational institutions or student governments assess students above and beyond the monies that pertain to tuition, housing, dining, and similar goods. Some of these additional fees typically fund extracurricular activities or needs such as medical services, crime victim services, transportation services, and the like. The more controversial fees cover students' expressive and associational activities.

At my school, the University of Wisconsin at Madison---a hotbed of such activity that is a model for other schools---mandatory fees currently amount to about $750 per semester. After an activist group abolished student government here in the early 1990s, students organized to establish a new form of student government in 1994-5, primarily to enable activist groups to gain access to student fees.

Objections to fees that support student expressive groups take three tracks.

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Posted on October 3, 2008 3:31 PM | | Comments (1)

What Is It About The Liberal Arts?

By Robert L. Paquette

Imagine for a moment that you are a senior professor at an elite college with a proud 200-year tradition in liberal arts education. You attend a monthly faculty meeting in the fall 2007 and find yourself for the first time in a quarter century surrounded by seventy or so undergraduate activists who are staging a demonstration for social justice. Several incidents that in all likelihood have little or no connection to the behavior of members of the community precipitate the protest. Faculty sympathizers move to allow one of the student leaders to speak. She issues demands that the college "must make a stronger commitment to diversity in ... structure, institution, and most importantly curriculum." The small college of 200 faculty and 1700 undergraduates, claim the students, needs to do more to promote diversity, although the campus already boasts a Diversity and Social Justice Project, Social Justice Initiative, Associate Dean for Diversity Initiatives, and Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Accessibility, along with a host of well-funded multicultural groups, with access, in aggregate, to hundreds of thousands of dollars of annual funding.

The lengthy student wish-list includes a place of their own, a "Cultural Education Center" that will educate the benighted in "systems of privilege and oppression" and provide a "safe space" in which to "privilege the experiences of non-dominant individuals." The faculty applauds the student initiative like trained seals. The discomfited president and dean of the faculty commend the protesting students for their "powerful and respectful demonstration." The dean, poor chap, who unwittingly doubles as a syndicated columnist for higher learning's lexicon of loonery, endorses diversity as the great "hedge against obsolescence," dismisses talk of political activism in the classroom, and speaks approvingly in the campus newspaper of the idea of "parallel safe spaces"---whatever the hell that means-- for the allegedly marginalized. The senior professor asks him point blank if he is concerned about the lack of intellectual diversity at the college, given that it hosted not one---that's right, not one---conservative speaker on campus during 2007-2008 academic year. In a word, he replies, "No." A few weeks after the faculty meeting, a breathless president, alluding to unnamed threats to inclusiveness, publishes a list of all the benefactions the college is providing and will provide in the name of diversity, a word that she, like her immediate predecessors, refuses to define with so much as a modicum of intellectual clarity. The activist students demand and receive a meeting with the board of trustees, a self-congratulatory, ostrich-like group, whose favored measures of judging the college's well-being revolve around the size of the endowment and the college's rankings in the annual educational issue of US News and World Report. One trustee comes to the rescue and antes up 4 million dollars to renovate an existing building for a new student center to serve as a kind of multicultural "hub" for "expanded collaboration among all student groups." Whether the renovated building will contain sacred spaces for the secret rituals of the diversity cartel remains to be seen, but don't bet against it. The building sits next to an impressive village of yellow buildings previously dedicated to student activities. Diversity, the president insists, "is not a problem to be solved, but "a fact and an ideal." Yes, a non-scholarly ideal, on which, it appears, you shower as much money as necessary to buy political peace and garner favorable headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Posted on September 26, 2008 5:13 PM | | Comments (2)

The Long Shadow Of The Sixties

By Mark Bauerlein


In every discussion of left-wing bias on college campuses, a good portion of faculty defenders come to the table with a blunt contention. There is NO bias, they insist. Sure, most humanities and social science faculty register Democrat, but it doesn't much affect teaching, and besides, campuses have their fair share of conservatism and libertarianism in the business school and upper-administration. Indeed, some add, the charge is but a concoction of fevered or cynical rightists, a weapon to dominate the classroom in the same way conservatives have AM talk radio. So, professors approach the issue not as a proposition to be examined, but an agenda to defeat.

It's a frustrating reaction, but campus critics shouldn't always chalk it up to faculty tactics and turf anxieties. Most professors who deny leftist bias believe what they say, and in fact maintain that the university has drifted well rightward in recent years. The notion certainly ticks off conservatives, who sense opposition down to the very first premises of several disciplines, but it's still worth taking seriously. And one of the best ways of doing so is to go back in time to key moments that signify in the eyes of the most defensive professors just how liberal the college campus used to be---and is no more.

I came across one of them awhile back while perusing old issues of the San Francisco Chronicle. The year was 1968, and the town across the bay was a battle zone. On August 31, a riot on the Berkeley campus left one police officer with a gunshot wound and 13 protesters in jail. Three days later, a story in the Chronicle bore the title, "A 'State of Emergency' in Berkeley." Youths lived under a curfew, and the city instituted a ban on public assemblies (largely ignored). A few miles to the south a trial had begun, flamboyant Black Panther leader Huey Newton facing charges of murdering a cop.

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Posted on September 17, 2008 4:40 PM | | Comments (0)

Want to Teach Here? Then Tell Us Your Politics

By Daphne Patai

It's hard to say just when universities ceased to believe that education was a worthwhile mission. But that they have done so is beyond question. Among many signs of this reality is the anxiety to redefine the university's task. After all, educators who no longer expect or demand serious intellectual effort from their students are bound to look elsewhere for ways to justify their existence and that of their institutions. Enter the language of "community engagement," "outreach," "social justice," and "equity" (to name just a few of the terms now used as rallying cries on many campuses).

If anyone has doubts that behind these grand terms lies the degradation of academic life, a look at procedures for recruiting new faculty is a good place to observe the university's priorities. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I teach, a document both sublime and ridiculous advises us how to go about determining if applicants have what it takes to work here. Along with the usual lists of questions that may or may not be asked, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity provides some crucial guidelines in a document titled Supplemental Search Instructions. I reproduce the final section of this document below:

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Posted on September 10, 2008 3:24 PM | | Comments (3)

A Guide To Campus Shakedowns

By Robert Weissberg

Observers of today's campuses have undoubtedly encountered a phenomenon that I will call "incidentism." Its principle characteristics are as follows:

First, a seemingly minor often obscure, innocuous event, e.g., a student newspaper cartoon, an off-hand remark by the school president, an invitation to a "controversial" outside speaker, among countless other possibilities, triggers boisterous outrage among groups claiming to be offended to the point of incapacitation. Rallies, marches, non-negotiable demands and all the rest predictably follow. Offended parties are almost always African American students, sometimes feminists, gays, even Muslims, but never conservatives. One might guess that sensitivity to "offense," like susceptibility to Tay-Sachs disease, follows ethnic/racial lines. Interestingly, that the triggering incident was a likely hoax, a silly misunderstood joke or even a misconstrued word like "niggardly" is irrelevant. Stating truth is, needless to say, also no protection. Anything suffices for those addicted to being offended.

Second, no matter how ridiculous or even false, the university's administration will treat matters "seriously." Typical are promises of yet more free benefits to help the injured party "heal the wounds" (e.g., mandatory campus-wide sensitivity training, additional faculty hires from "under-represented" groups, more role models and mentors, special "theme" centers where the vulnerable can feel safe, and on and on). At a minimum, the official Flak Catcher (to recall Tom Wolfe's Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers) will issue an official apology, promise an investigation, even suspend classes so student can attend workshops, and assure aggrieved victims that "this will never happen again."

Third, despite all the heartfelt official assurances an "incident" will soon occur, again. It is inevitable on today's campus. Rest assured, some professor will use improper terminology (e.g., colored instead of person of color); some campus restaurateur will slight a rowdy gay rights group or, to recall an outrage-provoking incident whose offensiveness still befuddles me, The Champaign, Il police department used the abbreviation "BM" for black male on their crime reports. These seem to average at least one per year per group, and nothing, absolutely nothing can make universities "incident free." These indignations are not like a frat party gone too wild, mere nuisances. They can entail hefty new expenditures ($50 million in the case of Larry Summers' off-hand remark about women and math) and sully a university reputation for "tolerance for diversity," an especially important cost if universities rely on state funds. There is also the ever-present threat of reputation-destroying violence if campus police over-react or rowdy outsiders join the fray. At a minimum and this is hardly trivial, a parade of incidents contributes to an unhealthy, freedom-killing paranoia---nobody, especially professors, risks triggering a confrontation, so better sanitize everything.

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Posted on August 19, 2008 2:32 PM | | Comments (0)

Mandatory Summer Reading (Yawn)

By Charlotte Allen

It's July, and there's one safe bet to be made about the 2.8 million or so new high school graduates who will be entering college as freshmen in just six or seven weeks: Few of them are likely to have even started reading the "one book" that the adminstrators at their chosen college have likely assigned them as summer reading. The freshman book programs, sometimes called "one book, one college" or "common reading," mostly date from the mid-1990s, and every year, it seems, more colleges and universities decide to require their incoming freshmen to read a novel or non-fiction work to be discussed in small groups during orientation week, which in many cases also features a campus visit by the book's author. The idea is to introduce 18-year-olds to college-level intellectual life before the fall semester officially begins and also to foster a sense of campus community based upon shared intellectual experiences.

As one might suspect on today's highly politicized campuses, days, the vast majority of freshman summer reading assignments have reflected not so much a commitment to fostering freshmen's intellectual growth---via, say, a literary classic or a seminal philosophical treatise such as Plato's Republic---as an effort to immerse them in the political cause du jour for liberal academics. Such recently published and distinctly left-leaning polemical works as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001), Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001), and most recently, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change (2006), former New York Times reporter Elizabeth Kolbert's gloom-and-doom treatise on global warming, are current staples of freshman summer programs. Such book choices have sparked off-campus political controversy---as when the public University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus in 2003 required its freshmen to read Nickel and Dimed, criticized for its superficial reporting (Ehrenreich typically spent a few weeks at a low-wage job, then walked out in a huff) and its predictably snarky take on capitalism in general and on Wal-Mart and other employers of the working poor in particular. What is most interesting, though, is the on-campus reaction of many freshmen to their summer reading assignments. It turns out that many of them aren't so susceptible to politically correct brainwashing as their college professors and administrators might think, and their responses to the more overtly politicized assignments have ranged from indifference to outright hostility.

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Posted on July 16, 2008 4:00 PM | | Comments (4)

If I Ran The Campus

By John Leo


If I ran the campus
I'd start out anew
I'd make a few changes
That's just what I'd do

Here's a simple suggestion
(Avoiding all fads)
I'd have some professors
Who teach undergrads

I hear you all snicker
I hear you all scoff
But I've got to believe
That many a prof
Would thrill to be meeting
A freshman or soph

TAs are beloved
They're always the rage
Because they all work
For a minimum wage
(But do students want teachers
Who are just their own age?)

Remedial classes
I'm sure is a must
For teachers who give
Only A or A-plus

They really must practice
At home, if they please,
Traumatically giving
Some Bs and some Cs

There's another idea
I can bring to fruition
I know how to cut
The cost of tuition

I really don't care
Whose waters this muddies
But I'd cancel all courses
Whose names end in "studies."
This could irritate
The fuddies and duddies


That's just a start
I'll do better than that
My curriculum changes
Will cut out the fat

No courses on Buffy
The Vampire Slayer
Or Batman and Robin
Who cares which is gayer?

No bongo or bingo
(Remember I said it)
No study of Yoda
No sex acts for credit

No Star Trek theology
No Matrix psychology
No queer musicology
I give no apology

If I ran the campus
I'd start out anew
I'd make a few changes
That's just what I'd do

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This originally appeared as part of the National Association of Scholars' "If I Ran The Zoo" series

Posted on July 7, 2008 2:12 PM | | Comments (9)

Those Thin-Skinned Professors

By Mark Bauerlein

Observing the sparring that has taken place between professors and conservative/libertarian critics outside the academy, many laypersons must wonder why professors grow so indignant over the criticism. They understand why professors disagree and want to defend themselves, but why so defensive? Why get mad? Other professions get chided - lawyers, doctors, politicians - and they respond, sometimes at least, with concessions and reforms, not "How dare you say that to us?" All-too-often, though, academics have acted with thin skins and prickly sensitivities, rarely to their advantage.

Several causes are at work here, but one of them is hard to discern if you haven't pursued an academic career, and it's insufficiently appreciated by outsiders.

It stems from a relentless truth of professional life for professors in the humanities and "softer" social sciences. The truth is this: when it comes to your status, you aren't judged by how much money you bring the university or how much your students learn. Instead, you are what others say you are. At each stage in a career, advancement depends on the words and opinions of teachers and colleagues. Entry into graduate school rested on the admissions committee, and every semester afterwards each seminar paper grade indicated whether you had a future or not. Three professors approved your dissertation and granted you a PhD. You went on the job market and a hiring committee liked your dossier, three professors in a hotel room at the annual convention smiled at your interview, and you won a tenure-track job offer. A couple of years later, two expert readers of manuscripts for scholarly presses liked your work and you got a book into print. When the department met to review your record, some senior colleagues in related fields approved of your research, teaching, service, and tenure finally arrived.

Each threshold seemed like life or death, the professors in charge rendering Olympian judgment. Their opinion meant everything, and it happened over and over for 12-15 years from the time you entered graduate school to the golden day of tenure. The scrutiny has a deep and long-term effect. No wonder professors come to think that opinions in public life carry the same weight. They rarely do, but academics have spent so many years in a gauntlet of appraisals that they've become touchy and wary. If a letter from an authority in the field carries so much weight in the cloistered spaces of an academic department, just think what a column on liberal bias by George Will in the Washington Post can do.

This is a mis-estimation of off-campus debate, of course, for public life allows for lots more criticism and raillery than scholarly exchange does. Furthermore, the recourse to "You don't understand what we do" doesn't work. The more academics slide into pique when ACTA issues another report on academic freedom, the more they yield the terrain to the critics. Too much time living in the shadow of judgment freezes them up or ticks them off when outsiders challenge their practice. Years of building a reputation renders them inept in ideological battles outside of professional zones. This is one cause of indignation, and until they overcome it, academics will remain in a rearguard posture in public life. And, in a regrettable corollary, within professional zones they will remain intractable and insular. Peer review was never supposed to work this way.

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Mark Baulerlein is a Professor of English at Emory University and former Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts

Posted on June 11, 2008 4:41 PM | | Comments (1)

Trainwreck At William And Mary

By Thomas Lipscomb

As the twelve-year tenure of popular President Timothy Sullivan drew to a close in the Spring of 2005, the search for his successor was well underway. Under the direction of the Rector of the College's governing Board of Visitors, Susan Magill, a political appointee whose day job was chief of staff for Virginia Senator John Warner, there were three finalists for the Presidency. Two of them were deans currently serving at the College, in education and law, and the dean of the law school at the University of North Carolina.

That was a tip off that something was drastically wrong with the search conducted by second- tier search firm Isaacson, Miller. If a management consultant is often derided as someone "who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you what time it is," a search firm that can come up with only one finalist for a position as President at a college like William and Mary who isn't already on campus can't be doing much of a job. And the idea of a dean in one of the most mediocre fields at any liberal arts college, education, being considered as head of a "public ivy" was bizarre. Magill was urged to cancel the search and hire another firm. She refused.

On of the search firm's complicating factors was that Magill and her Board had insisted that the three finalists be exposed in a public beauty contest to the College students and faculty who would have a voice in the selection. The best candidates quite often prefer to keep their considerations of other professional options private so they can keep their options open. That obviously was no problem for two deans already at the College or the expansive Nichol, who was perfectly comfortable running for Congress and the Senate and treating the faculty and students of the College to a South Texas cornpone charm offensive.

Nichol was selected to serve beginning in July 2005. His position was difficult. Sullivan, his predecessor, had been an alum of William and Mary, married to an alumna, a Vietnam veteran, a Harvard law graduate, a high official under Virginia's Governor Robb, a dean at the William and Mary's Marshall-Wythe Law School, and both popular and effective as a fund raiser and for his ability to get appropriations from the Virginia legislature. Fortunately Sullivan supported Nichol's candidacy. He had been Nichol's boss when Nichol had been head of a Bill of Rights Center at the W&M law school.

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Posted on June 5, 2008 7:41 PM | | Comments (2)

Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

By Jan Niklas Wolfe

The overwhelming majority of American catholic colleges won't be honoring public figures that flout church teaching at this year's commencement exercises, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, the conservative Catholic watchdog group. Of the hundreds of men and women who will be awarded honorary degrees by the nation's 225 Catholic universities this month, the Society labels only 6 as dissenters on key moral issues (abortion, as always, seems to be the biggie), down from 24 in 2006 and 13 in 2007, according to the Boston Globe.

As the Globe's Michael Paulson points out, pro-choice catholic politicians are the most obvious snubs. Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, all regulars on the commencement speaker circuit, will not be addressing a catholic college's graduating class this year.

Many catholic schools, particularly the smaller, more conservative institutions, seem to have genuinely taken to heart the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops advice from 2004 that "the Catholic community and the institutions which are a part of our family of faith should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

For schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College, which have large, politically diverse student bodies and faculties, as well as the prestige to lure big names if they want to, the move away from politicians as speakers may also be borne at least in part from a desire to avoid partisan rancor that detracts from the communal nature of commencement. Boston College, in particular, has drawn ire from all directions over its choice in partisan honorees in the past. Extending invitations to socially liberal honorees like Warren B. Rudman (1992) and Janet Reno (1997) has been panned by more conservative voices within the church, while attempts to honor Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice (2006) and Michael Mukasey (Law School, 2008) have angered pacifist Jesuits on campus and the more left-leaning lay faculty. It's not surprising that this year the school opted for the very non-controversial historian David McCullough.

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Posted on May 23, 2008 4:40 PM | | Comments (3)

NYU's Middle East Problem

By KC Johnson

This past winter, Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, a men's doubles team who captured the 2008 Australian Open championship, announced plans to enter the ATP tournament in Dubai. Normally, tennis players' schedules aren't big news. But Ram and Erlich are citizens of Israel, and the government of the United Arab Emirates prohibits holders of Israeli passports from entering the country. (Indeed, a UAE visa page can't even bring itself to concede that the country's name is legitimate: "Nationals of 'Israel' may not enter the UAE.") At the last minute, despite ATP rules that should have guaranteed both their entrance into the tournament and their safety while in Dubai, the duo withdrew - acting under pressure, it was widely believed, from the ATP tour and the UAE government.

Given the contemporary academy's professed celebration of "tolerance" and "diversity," at first blush it might seem inconceivable that a major research university would establish a co-equal branch of its institution in a country that discriminates on the basis of national identity. Yet NYU is planning to do just that. A university press release described "NYU Abu Dhabi," which will open in 2010, as "a major step in the evolution of NYU as a 'global network university."

The university, which the Abu Dhabi government will fund, "will be a residential research university built with academic quality and practices consistent with the prevailing standards at NYU's Washington Square campus, including adherence to its standards of academic freedom. The development of all the programs at the Abu Dhabi campus will be overseen by the New York-based faculty and senior administrators." And graduates will receive the same NYU degrees given to students who attend the university in Manhattan.

NYU Abu Dhabi is the handiwork of NYU president James Sexton, who sees the new university as a step ahead in globalization. It's also a step ahead for NYU's finances. The Abu Dhabi government has already given a $50 million "down payment" for the institution, with promises of more money to come - including assistance for NYU's endowment, which lags well behind that of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

In an interview with New York, Sexton came across as at best a naif and at worst an academic version of George W. Bush peering into Vladimir Putin's soul. The NYU president recalled an instant "electric" connection in which "the crown prince told me that he felt it in my handshake, in my eyes, in my aura at that first meeting... I knew right then and there that we had found our partner."

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Posted on May 20, 2008 4:02 PM | | Comments (1)

What Does 'Sustainability' Have to Do With Student Loans?

By Peter Wood

The student loan crisis - or near crisis; narrowly-averted crisis ; or postponed crisis - no one is sure - comes co-incidentally at a moment when many colleges and universities are once again repackaging their basic programs. The new buzzword, as John Leo has pointed out is "sustainability." I also recently tried my hand at unpacking this polyvalent idea. "Sustainability" sounds to the uninitiated as though it is about environmentalism, but it is much more. As I wrote in Inside Higher Education, many of the advocates of "sustainability" see it as an encompassing concept. It includes science, economics, and the social structure. And for many in the movement, the focus on social order is the basis for far-reaching attempts to advance "social justice" policies.

I doubt this development has come into focus for many parents or people outside the campus. The campus left learned with its promotion of the concept of "diversity" the advantages of packaging hard-core ideology in bland, feel-good terminology. Sustainability is another venture in this direction. No one can really be against sustainability (definition 1) - prudent use of resources with the needs of future generations in mind. But while most of us hear the word in that sense, campus ideologues are busy rearranging the curriculum and student life around "sustainability" (definition 2) - a condition that arises when capitalism and hierarchy are abolished; individuals are made to see themselves as "citizens of the world;" and a new order materializes on the basis of eco-friendliness, social justice, and new forms of economic distribution.

Sustainability (2) is an amalgam of environmental extremism, shards of Marxism, romantic utopianism, and identity group politics. It doesn't have a significant political following in America outside college campuses, and in that sense it is a fringe movement. But on campus it's everywhere. Hundreds of campuses now have sustainability officers, courses that promote the ideology, and most ominously, "co-curricular" programs run through student life and residence halls that attempt to "educate" students about their mistaken "worldviews" and bring them aboard this new ideological ark.

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Posted on May 14, 2008 5:34 PM | | Comments (4)

Unsustainable? A Defense Of ResLife At Delaware

By John K. Wilson

The Faculty Senate at the University of Delaware is meeting later today to discuss approving the controversial Residence Life (ResLife) proposal for educational programming in the residence halls. The faculty should approve the proposal, partly because it's a good idea, but primarily because academic freedom is endangered whenever voluntary educational programs are banned. Conservative critics of the program are demanding censorship of ideas they dislike, and the Faculty Senate at a free university must not participate in such repression.

The only relevant question is whether the ResLife program violates the rights of students by compelling them to participate or censoring their views. There is not even a shred of evidence that this is the case, and the program explicitly says otherwise. There is no compulsion to participate or agree, there is no grading, there is no threat at all to a student's academic progress or to a student's ability to remain in a residence hall. In terms of compulsion, there is no there there, and no amount of hyperbolic fantasizing about what might happen can change this fact. The fact that in the past there were some minor issues about intrusive questions being asked of students by RAs is irrelevant to the consideration of this current program.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) claims, "Saying that the programming will be optional is hard to swallow. After all, how can a freshman, first day on campus, opt out at a time of great social pressure to do the activities everyone else is doing, and without full knowledge of what the program really entails?" Easy: stay in your room, hang out with other people, and ignore what the ResLife staff does.

FIRE is infantilizing college students, treating them like dumb puppies who will follow administrators mindlessly if any programming is allowed in residence hall. This is demeaning and insulting to all students, since it presumes that students would be better off with nothing to do rather than running the "risk" of being pressured to attend an event.

It is the liberal content of the program that FIRE and other conservative critics object to. FIRE argues that ResLife's proposal is "soaked in a highly politicized social and political agenda." I agree. It is a politicized agenda. Virtually all intellectual activity has a politicized agenda, because important ideas are political. ResLife promotes social justice and civic engagement, and these are political values (albeit not very radical ones). I think these are good political values, and conservatives disagree, but that doesn't matter. If ResLife was proposing to promote abstinence and other conservative values, I might disagree with them, but I would never seek to ban any of their activities. Instead, I would express my views and organize activities that reflect my values. So why won't these conservative groups try counterspeech instead of suppression?

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Posted on May 12, 2008 10:24 AM | | Comments (2)

Unsustainable? No, Wilson Is Wrong

By Adam Kissel

[Read John K. Wilson's defense of Delaware ResLife here]

The University of Delaware Office of Residence Life has tricked another outsider, John K. Wilson, into believing that its proposal to run a highly politicized indoctrination program for over 7,000 students in the school's residence halls is actually just a free exploration of diverse views in a spirit of open debate. Anyone who knows the facts on the ground knows that this is not so.

For Wilson, "The only relevant question is whether the ResLife program violates the rights of students by compelling them to participate or censoring their views. There is not even a shred of evidence that this is the case." Not only is this dead wrong (there is plenty of evidence that students were compelled to participate and even had reports filed against them when they did not "correctly" participate), Wilson fundamentally misrepresents the proposal, last year's program, and the critics. The problem for his argument is that the evidence for indoctrination and mandatory participation is everywhere.

The ResLife directors are the same people who did everything they could to make students aware it was mandatory, while claiming to their superiors it was not. RAs were instructed to tell students that the programming was mandatory. RAs wrote, for instance, about floor meetings, "Not to scare anyone or anything, but these are MANDATORY!" Last year's 500 pages of documentation contain many strong assertions that every student "must" be reached with ResLife's agenda. ResLife advertised an "every-student" model as opposed to the traditional model of residence hall programming. Can ResLife now be trusted with highly politicized educational programming in the very place where students live, socialize, do work, and sleep?

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Posted on May 12, 2008 9:55 AM | | Comments (3)

Columbia's 68 Celebration: Only Radicals Need Apply

By Donald Downs

This past weekend Columbia University held a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Student Strike that shook Columbia and all of higher education. For a week, student activists occupied five buildings in protest of several policies, including ROTC's presence on campus, the university's relationship to the Department of Defense and the war in Vietnam, the intrusion of a new gymnasium into the neighboring African-American community, and a host of student power issues. After violent clashes between police and students brought the university to the precipice, the students won virtually all of their demands. Columbia and higher education in general have never been the same since those climactic events.

The actions of 1968 were of profound importance, calling for a thorough, critical examination in the light of the intervening forty years. Unfortunately, the panels and events over the weekend appear to have fallen short of this hope. Critical viewpoints were not showcased, and a feeling of nostalgia often held sway. Interestingly, this result was as American as apple pie.

We Americans are known for our penchant for nostalgia. We make fun of this sentiment all the time, but few of us are immune to its lures. It's a peculiarly American trait because it is the logical product of combining non-tragic (or anti-tragic) liberal sentimentality with the unavoidable interest in the past. We care about the past, but not enough to let it drag us down with the weight of tragedy. Reinhold Niebuhr, the renowned theologian and foreign policy thinker who taught at Columbia University's Union Theological Seminary from 1930 to 1960 (he even has a street named after him on the campus), captured better than anyone the American peoples' difficulty in fathoming tragedy and evil - including the tragedy and evil in their own hearts. In addressing the Cold War and the drive for social justice, Niebuhr called for a mentality that could face good and evil in oneself and in others, and tragedy and hope, without caving into either naive optimism or dismissive cynicism and Machiavellianism. He called the acolytes of the former mentality the "children of light," the latter the "children of darkness." Charting a middle course, Niebuhr advocated a more enlightened sense of balance that amounted to a more responsible form of civic education.

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Posted on May 2, 2008 2:45 PM | | Comments (0)

Columbia's 68 Celebration: Amidst The Radicals

By Chris Kulawik

If you closed your eyes it sounded like any other college reunion.

Men clamored and women shrieked as old faces called to them from the growing crowd. They were old friends and classmates some four decades removed.

"I can't believe," echoed the voices of the baby-boomer crowd, "it was exactly a hundred years ago today. It's been so long"

"I know," replied one, mechanically, as if she had answered that call so many times before, "everyone changes."

They spoke of lost love and life, "summering spots" in Southampton, top twenty law schools for their kids, stock options and investments. More than one bragged about the new family sedan.

But as you opened your eyes the room changed. As the graying crowd ebbed towards the laughably bourgeoisie wine and cheese bar, name tags flashed against their crisply tailored pink shirts and retro-chic blouses:

"Tom Hurwitz, Math, Planning Committee"

"Jeff Bush, Fayerweather"

The list went on. Few included their year, but not all. There was no need to. This strange coterie of aged radicals had developed their own nomenclature.

Math, Philosophy, Fayerweather, Hamilton, Low.

These were not majors or dorms; they were occupied buildings.

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Posted on May 2, 2008 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)

The Worst Campus Codeword

By John Leo

The academic left is fond of buzzwords that sound harmless but function in a highly ideological way. Many schools of education and social work require students to have a good "disposition." In practice this means that conservatives need not apply, as highly publicized attempts to penalize right-wing students at Brooklyn College and Washington State University revealed. "Social justice" is an even more useful codeword. Who can oppose it? But some schools made the mistake of spelling out that it means advocacy for causes of the left, including support for gay marriage and adoption, also opposition to "institutional racism," heterosexism, classism and ableism. Students at Teachers College, Columbia, are required to acknowledge that belief in "merit, social mobility and individual responsibility" often produce and perpetuate social inequalities. Even in its mildest form "social justice" puts schools in a position of judging the acceptability of students' political and social opinions.

Now the left is organizing around its most powerful codeword yet: sustainability. Dozens of universities now have sustainability programs. Arizona State is bulking up its curriculum and seems to be emerging as the strongest sustainability campus. UCLA has a housing floor devoted to sustainability. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) has a sustainability task force and has joined eight other education associations to form a sustainability consortium. Pushed by the cultural left, UNESCO has declared the United Nation's Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014, featuring the now ubiquitous symbol of the sustainability movement - three overlapping circles representing environmental, economic and social reform (i.e., ecology is only a third of what the movement is about).

Only recently have the goals and institutionalization of the movement become clear. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability is Higher Education (AASHE) says it "defines sustainability is an inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods and a better world for all generations." When the residential life program at the University of Delaware - possibly the most appalling indoctrination program ever to appear on an American campus - was presented, Res Life director Kathleen Kerr packaged it as a sustainability program. Since suspended, possibly only temporarily, the program discussed mandatory sessions for students as "treatments" and insisted that whites acknowledge their role as racists. It also required students to achieve certain competencies including "students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society." At a conference, Kerr explained "the social justice aspects of sustainability education," referring to "environmental racism," "domestic partnerships" and "gender equity."

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Posted on April 29, 2008 4:42 PM | | Comments (3)

Tenure And The Litigation Culture

By Robert Weissberg

In the spring of 2008 Baylor University denied tenure to a larger than usual number of Assistant Professors up for promotion, including two-thirds of the women, and while tenure denial is normal at Baylor, the carnage uptick - from 10% to 40% in a single year - drew national attention and outcries of unfairness. No doubt, outsiders may find that awarding life-time employment to 60% of those eligible is a fantastic deal in today's economy where corporations routinely shed entire divisions and even CEO's get the ax. Surely no rational firm could guarantee tenure to 90%, even 60s%, of those initially hired. That harsh economic fact understood, why the sudden indignation? Is something seriously rotten at Baylor? As a veteran spending four decades passing among the natives (I speak fluent numbo-jumbo, passable gibberish, I should add), let me try to explain why what is typical in the "real world" outrages so many academics.

The place to begin is to recognize that winning tenure is customary at American colleges save elite, research-oriented institutions. In fact in a few top departments almost no junior faculty wins tenure, so the review process resembles the annual clubbing of baby seals. Given that rejection runs counter to widespread expectations, it is naturally a bitter pill to swallow. It is not a matter of initial screening being so astute that no mid-course corrections are necessary. Rather, the pathways to tenure abound, standards are pliable, and the ever-present threat of litigation shields protected endangered species faculty, so in many instances a negative outcomes is genuinely surprising, if not shocking.

Truth be told, all the transparency and fairness talk is largely irrelevant administrative boilerplate. Subjectivity is everywhere; as in judging pornography, fuzziness is inherent, and this applies equally to Harvard or Okefenokee Tech. "Original research" or "excellent teaching" are rubber yardsticks far distant from cars sold per month. Apprehensive junior faculty speculate endlessly about thresholds - One or two books? Are five articles enough? How many research grants and of what size? Can mediocre teaching be overcome by outstanding outside letters? - but universities justifiably never operate on piece-work, and it is preposterous to insist that bean counting is even possible. On-the-bubble candidates scrutinized past decisions with Talmudic attentiveness, but the outcomes are always murky - Assistant Professor Alphonse is now an Associate despite his weak publication record while Professor Gaston who followed was booted notwithstanding an outstanding resume. Stories of unexpected failures are told and re-told, embellished and deconstructed, but these hardly calm jangled nerves. In the final analysis, tenure judgments resemble the College of Cardinals electing the Pope - there are usually solid reasons but they may be forever obscure and, critically, no senior faculty is obligated to explain his or her vote. It is a mystery wrapped in a sheepskin encased in a 9 x 12 manila envelop. Up or down reasons can be petty, wrong-headed, misinformed and otherwise flawed, but truth is unknowable. The most vicious personal blackball can be "explained" with "his Bush-as-Hitler research just did not meet the standards for the Benedict Arnold Program in American Studies." Nothing more had to be said. This uncertainty, the knowledge that one's life can be decided by whim, is truly frightening.

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Posted on April 10, 2008 5:33 PM | | Comments (6)

Indoctrinate U. Was It Fair? Round II

[Indoctrinate U, a documentary by Evan Coyne Maloney on the state of intellectual freedom at American universities, premiered at the Kennedy Center in September 2007 and has screened in multiple locations since. Peter Berkowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called Indoctrinate U a "riveting documentary about the war on free speech and individual rights waged by university faculty and administrators..." John K. Wilson, founder of The Institute for College Freedom, doesn't think the film's quite fair. He provided us a critique of Indoctrinate U and invited us to solicit Maloney's response. You can read Wilson's original review, and Maloney's response here. Below is their second round of comments. Indoctrinate U is screening at select campuses and theaters in the near future; check the film's website for more information (and read our original review here.)]


No.
By John K. Wilson

Maloney objects to my claim that liberty on campus is far better protected today than it's ever been. To disprove this, he writes that FIRE "receives hundreds upon hundreds of reports each year in which those rights have been trampled." But that doesn't prove anything. For example, the ACLU didn't exist until after World War I. The fact that the ACLU publicized violations of civil liberties after 1918 does not show that civil liberties were better protected during World War I, it only shows that we lacked organizations to publicize these violations. For example, virtually all of the speech codes FIRE objects to (and usually with good reason) today were typically far worse in the past, when administrators usually had arbitrary power to punish students without due process, without rules, and without appeal.

As for Ward Churchill, Maloney says that he defended his free speech. He did, but none of that is mentioned in the movie, nor is the fact that Churchill was banned from speaking at some campuses (which is separate from the controversy over his firing). That's a key point considering how Maloney tries to show in the movie that only conservative views are silenced in academia.

Citing the fact that Ignatiev hasn't been censored is a rather odd analysis by Maloney, considering that he ignores the counterexample of Churchill. Maloney, after all, doesn't put on film all of the conservatives who haven't been censored, nor any of the liberals who have. At some point, if you only discuss liberals who haven't been censored and conservatives who have been censored, and ignore the counterevidence, you're twisting the data.

On the Clemens case, Maloney claims that "professors were required to inject into their courses political topics." Clemens called it an "ideological loyalty oath." The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that faculty on campus said it wasn't a requirement to inject political topics in class; it was a requirement that faculty proposing a new class had to answer a dumb question on the form about the role of race, class, and gender in the proposed class. After Clemens objected, he was allowed to leave the question blank and had his course approved. He never had his job threatened in any way, so I dismissed this as rather unimportant compared to the far worse penalties suffered by liberals and conservatives in many colleges. (Contrast that with a case this year where a pacifist Quaker professor was fired under a real loyalty oath.)

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Posted on March 27, 2008 5:37 PM | | Comments (9)

University Of The Absurd

By Edgar B. Anderson

Recently I sat down with a young woman who shared with me the experience of her first year at Thurgood Marshall College, one of the six colleges of the University of California at San Diego. She explained to me that regardless of her major field of study and in order to graduate she was required to take certain "general education" courses, the centerpiece of which is a three-quarter, 16-unit creation called "Dimensions of Culture." What she had to tell me is a warning to both parents and students.

The Dimensions of Culture program (DOC) is an introductory three-quarter social science sequence that is required of all first year students at Thurgood Marshall College, UCSD. Successful completion of the DOC sequence satisfies the University of California writing requirement. The course is a study in the social construction of individual identity and it surveys a range of social differences and stratifications that shape the nature of human attachment to self, work, community, and a sense of nation. Central to the course objective is the question of how scholars move from knowledge to action. - UCSD Course Description

Edgar B. Anderson: So let's talk about Dimensions of Culture. That's vague. What's that mean?
Student: I don't know. Each quarter, the first quarter is called Diversity, the second quarter is called Justice, and the third quarter is called Imagination. So Diversity is we studied everything about minorities - like women, homosexuals, and then Asians, blacks, Latinos.
Q. So what's left out - white males?
A. Yeah, pretty much if you're a white male you're bad, that's kind of the joke among all the students.
Q. Women are not even a minority, they're a majority.
A. But it's more about the workforce.
Q. Power.
A. Yeah, that's kind of how they presented it. We didn't really focus on women that much. It was mainly how Asians have been oppressed in history and how Latinos continue to be oppressed and how blacks continue to be oppressed, all of that.

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Posted on March 21, 2008 3:31 PM | | Comments (22)

Soft Bias Against The Right

By Mark Bauerlein

In recent years, conservative critics of academia have had few better friends than Ward Churchill, the Group of 88, MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins (who fled Larry Summers talk about variations in intelligence between genders), and a few other hot-headed leftists on campus who made headlines. They proved the point about ideological bias every time they opened their mouths or printed their opinions. They were the slam dunk cases, and their high standing proved an embarrassment to their colleagues.

Beyond those outspoken circles, though, the evidence appears to grow thin. For the truth is that the majority of academics are not fiery, intolerant people railing against Bush in class or berating a conservative sophomore in office hours. They fall on the left side of the spectrum and wouldn't dream of voting for a Republican, yes, but they pretty much stick to their jobs of teaching a field and pursuing more or less apolitical topics. Churchill et al discredited the profession with their partisan heat, but mainstream professors restore credibility precisely by their dutiful, everyday manner.

It is all the more regrettable and exasperating, then, that when they make fundamental choices in their work these moderate professors harbor some of the same biases, although in softer form and more judiciously expressed, and they produce equally discriminatory effects.

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Posted on March 19, 2008 2:44 PM | | Comments (10)

Indoctrinate U. Was It Fair? An Exchange

[Indoctrinate U, a documentary by Evan Coyne Maloney on the state of intellectual freedom at American universities, premiered at the Kennedy Center in September 2007 and has screened in multiple locations since. Peter Berkowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called Indoctrinate U a "riveting documentary about the war on free speech and individual rights waged by university faculty and administrators..." John K. Wilson, founder of The Institute for College Freedom, doesn't think the film's quite fair. He provided us a critique of Indoctrinate U and invited us to solicit Maloney's response. Here is Wilson's review, followed by Maloney's thoughts. Indoctrinate U is screening at select campuses and theaters in the near future; check the film's website for more information (and read our original review here.)]

-----------------------------------------------------------------

No
By John K. Wilson

Evan Coyne Maloney's new movie, Indoctrinate U, is probably the best documentary ever made about higher education. That fact makes the numerous biases, distortions, and omissions of his work all the more disappointing. But these errors aren't all Maloney's fault; instead, his documentary reflects the mistakes of right-wing critics who often promote false stories or provide one-sided analysis.

What makes Maloney's movie so good is the application of Michael Moore's techniques to the realm of free speech and colleges. Certainly, nobody has ever made such an entertaining documentary about higher education, as Maloney makes effective use of his sarcastic voiceover, fast pacing, and putting himself in front of the camera as he demands answers, in person, from wary administrators who, over and over again, refuse to speak with him.

Maloney even echoes Moore's autobiographical tilt about Flint, Michigan in Roger and Me with his own story about being the son of activists who protested for campus liberty as part of the Free Speech Movement. Maloney concludes: "Somewhere along the way, the Campus Free Speech Movement got killed by university regulations." Actually, the Free Speech Movement got started because of university repression, and the fight continues to this day, although many of the battles have been won. Maloney claims, "Academia today isn't a marketplace at all. It's a monopoly. But it wasn't always like this." All of Maloney's nostalgia to the contrary (and it's amusing to see conservatives embrace the campus liberatory movements of the 1960s), liberty on campus is far better protected today than it's ever been.

Maloney is also guilty of some of Michael Moore's flaws, such as using selective editing to mock those he disagrees with. He takes Noel Ignatiev's theories about whiteness and reduces him to a series of two-second edited clips mangled together, trying to make him look foolish. It only makes Maloney look bad, since he seems unwilling to engage intellectually with a theory he doesn't like and even appears to suggest that thinkers like Ignatiev should be banished from academia since Maloney is annoyed that such ideas are considered "completely legit."

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Posted on March 4, 2008 4:30 PM | | Comments (6)

What Trustees Must Do

By Stephen Balch

Trustees face a quandary in trying to figure out their role in academic governance. As a matter of law, institutional responsibility is squarely in their hands. On the other hand, while few challenge their oversight in matters managerial and financial, they are routinely warned that when it comes to intellectual content, the heart of university life, they should keep their distance.

Trustees should generally avoid getting involved in judgments about intellectual specifics such as individual personnel decisions, the content of courses, and the structure of particular programs, etc. Usually they will be out of their depth here. But they should be actively engaged in matters pertaining to overall intellectual climate, especially the degree to which such core principles of rational discourse as objectivity, disengagement, meritocracy, civility, and pluralism are honored and institutionalized. Here trustee fair-mindedness, ideological coolness, and intellectual distance, can help keep the ideological passions of academics from running discourse off reason's rails.

Like judges, trustees should see themselves as having a responsibility to ensure that the rules of sound intellectual discourse are recognized, that the academic cultures of the institutions they supervise are "lawful" in a manner that preserves the free and effective exercise of reason. This, of course, is a matter of faculty responsibility too, but since the nature of these rules, in many essentials, simply follow the operating principles of a liberal social order, citizens of that order should be able to understand them well enough to backstop compliance. Trustees need not be scholarly experts to participate meaningfully in the university's intellectual governance. They need only be intelligent and watchful products of a free society.

What types of rules are we speaking of and why should members of a liberal society be able to recognize and help enforce them?

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Posted on February 29, 2008 4:28 PM | | Comments (0)

No Quarter For Nichol

By Charlotte Allen

Although the mainstream media would have you believe he was a martyr to religious fundamentalists and moral Pecksniffs, Gene Nichol lost his job as president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia for only one reason: he was a lousy administrator who seemed not to be able to get it into his head that one of the main jobs of a college president is to raise money from alumni and others and thus to cultivate good public relations for the institution he represents. Nichol seemed to think that he had been hired by the college's governing Board of Visitors in 2005 to thumb his nose at sundry traditionalists, and his in-your-face actions cost William and Mary at least one $12 million donation along with a great deal of good will among Virginia citizens toward the venerable and highly rated liberal-arts school.

Yes, William and Mary, located adjacent to the famous colonial-days tourist site in Williamsburg, Va., is a state-run institution, as Nichol never ceased reminding the many critics of his unilateral decision last November to remove a 70-year-old cross from the altar of the college's historic Wren Chapel, which dates almost to the college's founding in 1693. Like many quality state schools, William and Mary is highly dependent on private donations to cover its costs, especially since the state of Virginia has been steadily reducing its contribution to the college's budget, cutting $3 million in 2007. Alumni and generous Virginia citizens are important stakeholders at William and Mary.

The cross, donated to the chapel by a William and Mary alumnus in 1931 and symbolizing William and Mary's Anglican heritage, had been the subject of no known complaints by students. The Wren Chapel has been regularly used for non-Christian religious services as well as secular functions for several decades, and when non-Christians used the space, they simply removed the cross temporarily. Nichol decided, in the fall of 2006, without consulting anyone, that the cross violated the First Amendment's ban on establishment of religion so he had it removed. After a huge uproar among students, alumni, and members of the Board of Visitors, Nichol allowed the return of the cross, although in a glass display case.

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Posted on February 21, 2008 4:57 PM | | Comments (2)

The Aristocratic Reign Of Group Preferences

By Peter Wood

Defenders and advocates of group preferences generally make their stand on a moral claim: group preferences are needed to advance the common social good. To oppose group preferences is, in turn, to act immorally. The vehemence with which defenders of group preferences frequently speak and the extreme tactics of some pro-preference groups such as By Any Means Necessary stem from this rootedness in moral conviction and moral antipathy.

Critics of group preferences also often make their stand on a moral basis. Many believe that group preferences perpetuate the sort of inequalities in our society that undermine the common good. Other critics tap directly into an almost visceral sense among Americans that group preferences are unfair. The critics of group preferences likewise imply some moral deficiency on the part of their opponents, who they see as not just advocates of unwise policy but also as architects of an unjust social order.

The moral claims of both supporters and critics run deep, but they of course do not exhaust the terms of the debate. We also make legal arguments, pragmatic claims about the likely consequences of policies, historical analyses, international comparisons, statistical investigations, and political appeals. This sprawl is characteristic of American life: whenever we debate something of fundamental importance, the arguments avalanche. Racial and gender preference began as an issue in graduate and professional programs in the 1970s, expanded into all of higher education, found welcome in the armed forces, and by the late 1980s moved into the corporate world. As the use of preferences expanded, the ideology of preferences centered on the concept of diversity diffused throughout American life until it was granted Constitutional imprimatur in 2003 in Justice O'Connor's opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger.

But behind the avalanche of arguments when Americans debate something of fundamental importance, there is always a central moral question. Or perhaps better put, there is a tightly knit cluster of moral questions. Who are we? Whom do we aspire to become? What is the right way forward?

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Posted on January 25, 2008 2:34 PM | | Comments (0)

Northwestern Makes The Cold War Disappear

By Herbert London


In order to fulfill the requirements for a major in history at Northwestern University, my daughter took a course called "The Cold War At Home." As one might imagine in the hothouse of the college system, left wing views predominate. The students read Ellen Shrecker, not Ronald Radosh. Joseph McCarthy has been transmogrified into Adolf Hitler. And victimology stands as the overarching theme of the course.

Communists in the United States are merely benign civil rights advocates and union supporters. The word espionage never once crossed the lips of the instructor.

An extraordinary amount of time and energy has been devoted to the "lavender persecution" - harm imposed on gay Americans. Presumably, this group was more adversely affected by McCarthy's allegations than others.

Despite the recent scholarship on the period such as Alan Weinstein's well researched book on Alger Hiss or Stanton Evanss biography of Senator McCarthy, views that do not fit the prevailing orthodoxy aren't entertained. Pounded into students is the view that America engaged in "totalitarian practices" not unlike the Soviet enemy we decried.

Although the course is entitled the Cold War at Home, you might think the instructor would be inclined to ask who the enemy is, why was the Soviet Union an enemy and what tactics did this nation employ against us. But these issues are not addressed.

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Posted on January 7, 2008 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)

The Adversarial Campus

By Mark Bauerlein

Against repeated accusations of leftwing bias on campus, professors have mounted many rejoinders disputing one or another item in the indictment. They claim that the disproportion isn't as high as reports say. Or that reports focus on small pockets (women's studies, etc.). Or that party registration is a crude indicator. Or that conservatives are too greedy and obtuse to undergo academic training.

The denials go on, and sometimes it's hard to tell whether professors really believe in their own neutrality or whether they just hope to brazen out the attacks. One response, however, stands apart, precisely because it doesn't deny a darn thing in the bias charge. Indeed, it concedes every empirical point - "Yes, left-wing people, left-wing ideas, and left-wing texts dominate," but it adds, "And that's exactly as it should be."

It's a refreshingly straightforward assertion. I heard it at an MLA Convention session awhile back when a young man in the audience talked about getting shot down by his professor when he voiced in class a conservative opinion. One of the panelists replied by telling him to quit complaining, then enlarged the rebuke to all conservative critics. "Look," he grumbled, "conservatives have taken over every where else [this was before the 2006 election], and now they want the campus, too, the one place where liberal values can still prevail."

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Posted on December 17, 2007 12:20 PM | | Comments (17)

A Donkey At Berkeley

By Herb London

[a speech originally given at the University of Texas]

What is an appropriate curriculum for our students? What happened to the consensus on which the college curriculum once rested? Together these comprise two of the most urgent questions in contemporary American higher education. It seems to me that the criticisms of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind of a decade ago are symptomatic of the problems we are facing. High standards are described as elitism, a pejorative of scathing proportions. A call for the assertion of Western traditions is characterized as racist and anti-democratic. And Bloom's critique of radical feminism as a virus let loose on the curriculum is greeted with cries of "phallocentrism."

The college curriculum as the source of youthful enlightenment free of the impediments of bias and prejudice has unraveled. While Stanley Katz, president of the American Council of Learned Societies, recently noted that "scholars are less politicized in the United States than in any country in the developed world," he neglected to point out that a profound and revolutionary change has occurred on American campuses since the 1960's, resulting in the institutionalization of a radical agenda.

For a generation students have been fed on the "studies" curriculum, whether it is women's studies, gay studies, environmental studies, peace studies, Chicano studies that are designed to indoctrinate students about pathologies in contemporary American culture - specifically race, class, gender, and environmental oppression.

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Posted on December 14, 2007 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)

Trustee Out, Diversity In?

By Ward Connerly

John Moores is a friend of mine. When I was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, John was my closest ally. Occasionally, we found ourselves on different sides of specific issues, like student fees. But, more likely than not - and especially on other fundamental issues - our perspectives and our votes were in accord. I grew to respect John as one of the most dedicated and talented Regents with whom I had the pleasure of serving during my twelve-year term.

On November 12 of this year, John tendered his resignation, nearly a year and a half before the scheduled expiration of his term. With the resignation of John Moores, California is losing an extraordinary public servant. Because of his stature as an icon in the San Diego community, one of California's most distinguished citizens, and one of America's most generous and successful entrepreneurs, it is useful for us pause and reflect on the reasons for the early resignation of John Moores.

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Posted on December 13, 2007 1:10 PM | | Comments (1)

The Unbalanced University

By Donald Downs

In my last essay for Minding the Campus, I discussed how faculty indifference may have contributed indirectly to the establishment of the University of Delaware's now notorious residence hall re-education program. If so, we should consider this a crime of omission rather than a crime of commission. This perspective on the problem either differs from or supplements the claims of many critics of higher education, who blame ideological agendas among faculty as the major cause of campus politicization.

A panel discussion/debate in October between Stephen Balch and Harry Lewis at the Pope Center in North Carolina highlighted this disagreement. The panel dealt with the problems besetting liberal education, focusing on education's aimlessness and failure to instill knowledge and respect for free institutions. Balch and Lewis agreed on several things, but offered two different slants on the ills of higher education. Comparing the views of Balch and Lewis can help us to clarify and refine the problem of politics in higher education today.

Balch, the distinguished president of the National Association of Scholars who recently was awarded the National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office, blamed the ills of liberal education on politicized faculty. According to Jay Schalin's report of the panel, Balch argued that higher education is failing "because it has adopted a left-wing ideology that is at odds with our traditions. The university system, with its population of impressionable young people, is naturally attractive to people with 'an inclination toward visionary and utopian thinking,' and these utopians feel that the purpose of education is to 'move people toward their visions."

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Posted on December 3, 2007 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)

Professors Of Groupthink

By Candace deRussy

At a conference on November 14, the American Enterprise Institute released two important new studies by Daniel Klein of George Mason University and Charlotta Stern of Stockholm University. Their research, part of a forthcoming book titled Reforming the Politically Correct University, verifies even further that liberals and progressives outnumber conservatives and libertarians on campuses, overwhelmingly so in certain disciplines.

The authors also find that socially conservative professors must publish more than their liberal colleagues to obtain the same positions (a conclusion bolstered by earlier statistical evidence accumulated by Stanley Rothman of Smith College and S. Robert Lichter of George Mason University). Exploring relatively undocumented but equally compelling demonstration of bias, Klein and Stern show too that conservative students are steered away from pursuing Ph.D.s because of fewer research offers from their professors.

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Posted on November 14, 2007 3:13 PM | | Comments (0)

Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

By John Leo

The Chronicle of Higher Education, the voice of liberal academia, says that an important new study shows that liberal dominance among professors is much less than commonly believed. Not really. The study, by sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, found that in 2004, 78 percent of faculty voted for John Kerry (77percent) or Ralph Nader (1 percent), while only 20.4 percent voted for President Bush. Among social science professors, Ralph Nader and "other" received a percentage of the 2004 vote as large as that of President Bush.

Other findings:

* Liberals outnumber conservatives by 11-1 among social scientists and 13-1 among humanities professors.

* 25.5 percent of those who teach sociology identify themselves as Marxist. Self-identified radicals accounted for 19 percent of humanities professors and 24 percent of social scientists.

* Although business school professors are believed to be predominantly conservative, professors of business voted 2-1 for Kerry. These professors were barely more conservative than liberal.

* Only 19.7 percent of respondents identify themselves as any type of conservative, compared to 62.2 percent who say they are any type of liberal.

* At elite, Ph.D-granting schools in general, 60.4 percent of faculty members are Democrats, 30.1 percent are independents and 9.5 percent are Republicans.

* Gross and Simmons believe that liberals are losing ground to moderates among faculty, though conservatives are not gaining at all. Faculty members who are 35 or younger are less likely that their elders to be left-wing, and less likely to be conservative as well.

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Posted on October 10, 2007 8:08 PM | | Comments (2)

The Humanities: A Laughing Stock?

An excerpt from the new book Education's End, Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life by Anthony T. Kronman, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School (Yale University Press)


By the early 1970s, the humanities were floundering. Ideological rifts were widening. Traditional ways of teaching had lost much of their authority, and there was worried talk of a "crisis" in the humanities. To many it seemed less clear than it had a quarter century before, when Harvard published its famous report on the aims of liberal education, what the humanities are supposed to do and why their doing it is important. In this anxious and excited environment, a new set of ideas began to gain currency. The first idea was an outgrowth of the civil rights movement and is associated with the concept of diversity. The second generally goes under the name of multiculturalism, and reflected the deepening suspicion of Western values provoked, in part, by the Vietnam War. The third, which provided philosophical support for the other two, I shall call the idea of constructivism, though its supporters have given it a variety of other names ("postmodernism", "antiessentialism," and the like). Loosely inspired by the work of philosophers as different as Marx, Nietzsche, and Foucault, constructivism affirmed the artificiality of all human values and the absence of any natural standards by which to judge them. It insisted, in particular, that the values of the West have no inherent superiority over those of other civilizations and are merely instruments of power in disguise that must be unmasked and resisted as weapons of colonial oppression. Together, these three ideas are the source of the culture of political correctness that has dominated the humanities for the past forty years.

Each has something to recommend it. Each has a core of good sense with intellectual and moral appeal. And each draws its appeal from a feature it shares with secular humanism, which also acknowledged the diversity of human values and the need to construct one's life by making a choice among them. Together these ideas have helped to maintain the confidence of many in the humanities that they do in fact have something special to contribute to the work of higher education. They have helped define a new and distinctive role for the humanities, organized around attractive moral and political values - one that fills the void that opened up when teachers in these fields abandoned their role as guides to the question of life's purpose and value in favor of the research ideal. And they have done this in a way that appears consistent with the values of secular humanism itself.

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Posted on October 3, 2007 4:18 PM | | Comments (1)

AAUP To Critics: What, Us Biased?

By Erin O'Connor

Last summer, AAUP president Cary Nelson announced that the AAUP would be issuing a back to school statement on academic freedom in the classroom. Now that statement has gone public - and it makes for very interesting and informative reading.

Written by a subcommittee of the AAUP's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, "Freedom in the Classroom" acknowledges that professors have been accused in recent years of indoctrinating rather than educating, of failing to provide balanced perspectives on controversial issues, of creating a hostile learning environment for conservative or religious students, and of injecting irrelevant political asides into class discussion. And as such the statement is ostensibly meant to address the very real issues surrounding faculty classroom conduct that have arisen of late. As anyone who follows higher ed news knows, concerns about whether professors are abusing their pedagogical prerogatives have been repeatedly voiced; and, as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and other groups have repeatedly noted, those concerns should be addressed in a manner that is simultaneously respectful of students' rights to learn and professors' academic freedom to teach as they see fit. The AAUP is right to take up the issue of classroom speech, and it is right to seek to parse exactly where faculty academic freedom begins and ends.

The trouble, though, is that the AAUP's statement does not take seriously the questions and complaints to which it purports to respond. A small but telling indicator of the larger problem: When interviewed about the statement by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nelson said that it is ultimately designed to encourage professors to say to outside critics, "Don't mess with me." In other words - by Nelson's own admission- it's less a rigorously reasoned policy statement than it is a confrontational ultimatum disguised as a policy statement. This maneuver was not at all lost on The Chronicle's Robin Wilson, who wrote that while the statement "is billed as a tool to help professors decide what they can and cannot safely say in the classroom - particularly when it comes to hot-button cultural and political issues," it comes across "more like a defense of the professoriate in the face of heavy criticism" coming from outside the academy.

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Posted on September 25, 2007 10:23 PM | | Comments (3)

The Unseriousness of Freshman Summer Reading

By Anthony Paletta

Many college freshmen face their first academic task before they even set foot in a classroom - the freshman summer reading project. Many colleges now select a single volume for all incoming freshmen to read, and construct discussion groups and attendant orientation activities around the book. Temple University's explanation of its program is fairly representative: "the goals of the project are to provide a common intellectual experience for entering students" and to "bring students, faculty and members of the Temple community together for discussion and debate." At a time when core programs and required courses grow increasingly infrequent, it is surprising to find such strong language about "common intellectual experience" from universities. This all sounds encouraging, right? Perhaps, until you find out what they're reading.

An overwhelming favorite of these reading programs is Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed - it's a perennial from Baruch to Slippery Rock to UNC Chapel Hill. Nickel and Dimed appears a perfect class-conscious selection to expand students' minds. Poverty is a running theme in recent years' assignments, from Case Western Reserve's The Working Poor: Invisible In America to One Nation Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All at Washington University to a variety of Kozol readings across the nation's campuses. These assignments have not always been received happily - the 2003 Nickel and Dimed assignment at UNC Chapel Hill inspired a protest coalition, arguing that the book was an inappropriate assignment, as a radical and left-inclined critique of the American economy.

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Posted on September 20, 2007 10:35 PM | | Comments (1)

The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness

By Robert Weissberg

It's easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors; their semi-monthly comparisons of Bush to Hitler or indictments of inherent American racism are hard to miss. Universities' deviations from traditional education are far more serious than a few zany radicals, though. Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid "offending" certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does not bark - "safe lecturing" to use the STD vocabulary - and seldom recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives students of a genuine education.

Let me offer some observations from my 35-year academic career but these undoubtedly apply more generally. Some facts. First, today's students, especially in lecture courses, display rather desultory academic habits. Many arrive late, leave early, doze off, regularly skip classes, eat, drink or listen to iPods, gossip and otherwise ignore the dispensed pearls of wisdom. Even stellar teachers cast pearls. Dreary test results confirm that lectures are disregarded and assignments go unread. Sad to say, many African-American students who should be expending extra efforts to surmount academic deficiencies are particularly guilty though expressing this plain-to-see reality is verboten.

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Posted on September 13, 2007 9:05 PM | | Comments (28)

Creating Activists At Ed School

By John Leo

In 1997, the National Association of Social Work (NASW) altered its ethics code, ruling that all social workers must promote social justice "from local to global level." This call for mandatory advocacy raised the question: what kind of political action did the highly liberal field of social work have in mind? The answer wasn't long in coming. The Council on Social Work Education, the national accreditor of social work education programs, says candidates must fight "oppression," and sees American society as pervaded by the "global interconnections of oppression." Now aspiring social workers must commit themselves, usually in writing, to a culturally left agenda, often including diversity programs, state-sponsored redistribution of income, and a readiness to combat heterosexism, ableism, and classism.

This was all too much for the National Association of Scholars. The NAS has just released a six-month study of social work education, examining the ten largest programs at public universities for which information was available. The report, "The Scandal of Social Work," says these programs "have lost sight of the difference between instruction and indoctrination to a scandalous extent. They have, for the most part, adopted an official ideological line, closing off debate on many questions that serious students of public policy would admit to be open to the play of contending viewpoints."

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Posted on September 12, 2007 11:35 PM | | Comments (7)

Harvard Long Gone

By Jay P. Greene

[This also appeared in National Review Online]


There was a time when Harvard stood for the Union. Almost 600 of its sons fought for the North in the Civil War, nearly one-quarter of whom gave their lives. Only the names of those Union dead are inscribed in the transept of Memorial Hall; the smaller number of Harvard affiliates who died for the cause of secession were not similarly honored.

But times have changed. In the current issue of the Harvard alumni magazine there is a profile of education professor, Howard Gardner, in which he declares: "The right wing isn't just taking over the country, it's shanghaiing all our values. If there's a Republican administration after the next election, I would join in efforts for some sort of secession. It's not the same country anymore."

Keep in mind that these were not comments that spilled from Professor Gardner's lips in an unguarded moment that were then exposed by "gotchya" journalism. They were in the University's own publication that is used for promotional purposes. The profiles of faculty in alumni magazines are meant to portray the faculty and the University in a flattering light to generate support from alumni. Clearly, Gardner and at least some University officials believe that threatening secession conveys a positive picture of the institution.

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Posted on September 12, 2007 5:59 PM | | Comments (1)

I'm Ok, You're Not Ok

By Mark Bauerlein

"Reclaim Your Rights as a Liberal Educator." That's the title of a short essay in this month's Academe, organ of the American Association of University Professors. The phrase has all the imagination of a slogan unfurled at countless marches, but what it lacks in wit it makes up for in fortitude of the uniquely academic kind. Author Julie Kilmer, women's studies and religion professor at Olivet College, sounds the standard "they're-out-to-get-us" call and rallies her brethren to take back the classroom. We have, too, a vicious aggressor: conservative student groups that confront professors of perceived liberal bias, and they form a national network out to undermine the faculty, who come off as vulnerable and innocent professionals. While the professors uphold "freedom of inquiry to examine the worth of controversial ideas" and "teach college students to use analytical thinking in the development of new ideas," groups such as Students for Academic Freedom do their best to subvert the process. Worst of all, they "encourage students to bring complaints against faculty to administrators." To Kilmer, they are no better than spies, and they prompt her to wonder, "Each time a student is resistant to feminist theories and ideas, should I ask if he or she has been placed in my class to question my teaching? How is my teaching affected if I enter the classroom each day asking, 'Is today the day I will be called to the president's office?"

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Posted on September 11, 2007 9:30 PM | | Comments (31)

DePaul Flubs Up On Finkelstein

By Anthony Paletta

It's difficult to be anything but pleased by the failure of Norman Finkelstein's DePaul tenure bid. He's a figure of repulsive opinions, given to frequent invective and doubtful scholarship. Yet all should look more carefully at DePaul University's explanation of the step before celebrating. The logical foregrounding for their tenure decision would have been problems with his published scholarship; instead, DePaul justified their decision chiefly with talk of "respect for colleagues." There's little doubt that Finkelstein is a jerk, but DePaul's grounding of its refusal in that fact - instead of holes in his academic work - leaves it open to justified criticism. "Collegiality" is a potentially insidious concept - just ask Walter Kehowski, a professor at Glendale Community College, who was just released from a forced administrative leave for the crime of emailing George Washington's Thanksgiving address to fellow professors. The crime? Creating a "hostile environment." Finkelstein's faults are clearly of a higher order than this, but all should be wary of arguments premised upon a professor's sociability, instead of his scholarship.

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Posted on June 28, 2007 6:42 PM | | Comments (0)

The Trouble With Tenure

By Mark Bauerlein

Last week, a faculty committee at the University of Colorado released its recommendation as to the fate of Ward Churchill, and it's a disgraceful outcome. Despite the earlier finding that Churchill had committed research fraud - "multiple acts of plagiarism, fabrication and falsification"- the committee advised only a one-year suspension, not termination, for he engaged in "misbehavior, but not the worst possible misbehavior." The rationale is a cheap example of rationalization. According to the Associated Press, which received a copy of the report, the authors observed that Churchill "did not fabricate data to obtain grant money, did not endanger people's lives by ignoring research standards and did not damage the progress of important research."

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Posted on May 29, 2007 6:45 PM | | Comments (0)

Duke Lacrosse And The Professions of Diversity

By K.C. Johnson

[Robert "K.C." Johnson is the indefatigable chronicler of the Duke non-rape case, turning out a thousand words of brilliant reportage and analysis a day for more than a year on his Durham-in-Wonderland site. On the Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren writes" "If bloggers were eligible for Pulitizer Prize... I would nominate Brooklyn Professor K.C. Johnson... No self-respecting journalist would think of writing anything long and evaluative on the Duke case without first checking "the blog of record," Durham-in-Wonderland."]


On April 6, 2006, 88 members of Duke's arts and sciences faculty endorsed a full-page ad published in the campus newspaper, the Chronicle. The professors suggested that men's lacrosse players had triggered a "social disaster" by holding a spring-break party. The faculty members unequivocally asserted that something "happened to this young woman," accuser Crystal Mangum. And, in the aftermath of anti-lacrosse rallies featuring banners reading "Castrate" and "Time to Confess," the Group of 88 said "thank you" to the protesters "for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."

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Posted on May 22, 2007 8:32 PM | | Comments (1)