FROM OUR ESSAYS
By Charlotte Allen
Do college professors work harder than other upper-middle-class Americans, or less hard? Former college president David C. Levy's March 23 op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that faculty members ought to increase their classroom time by up to 67 percent, ignited a fierce debate in academe. Levy's op-ed alone generated 1,352 comments online, mostly from professors insisting that they work very hard, what with preparing for classes, grading papers, meeting with students, sitting on committees, and doing the scholarly research that enabled them to win tenure and thus keep their jobs.
Continue reading "Yes, Professors Work Hard, But..." »
By Robert Weissberg
Some two-thirds of America's college students are taught by adjuncts, and now the battle is on over whether these low-paid, low-status workers should be unionized. Adjuncts, also called contingent faculty, are teachers hired without tenure, paid a small fraction of those on tenure-track positions, (typically $2700 per course, with minimal benefits). All three college faculty unions--the AAUP, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association--have recently ramped up unionization campaigns while non-academic unions like the United Auto Workers have likewise entered the battle. The stakes are high both for institutions and for individuals.
One does not have to be a Marxist to yell, "Exploitation!" Endless tales of "Gypsy Scholars" abound--young men and women struggling with no job security to teach as many as six courses per semester, occasionally at multiple schools, lacking any health or pension plan at a salary comparable to working at McDonalds. Meanwhile tenure-track colleagues, some of whom may be brain dead, enjoy a princely wage (with generous benefits) for teaching identical courses. So, what better way to eliminate this blatant unfairness than unionization?
Continue reading "Unionize All Those Adjuncts?--Let's Not" »
By Robert Weissberg
Accountability is all the rage in today's education reform industry and at the university level, "productivity" typically means upping scholarly publishing. The allure is simple--who can resist prodding lolling-about professors to generate more knowledge? Unfortunately, putting the thumbscrews on idle faculty will only push universities farther to the left. Better to pay professors for silence.
When I began my academic career at Cornell University in 1969 publications were important but production was not yet industrialized. Quality--not volume--was overriding and it was tolerable that some senior faculty had published almost nothing for decades. By the time I retired in 2002 from the University of Illinois-Urbana, however, scholarly publication there and elsewhere often mimicked Soviet-style manufacturing. Every year we received detailed annual report forms with multiple categories to list every last publication, all categorized according to supposed prestige rankings, as the basis for salary increases and promotion. Volume ("productivity") was now deep in the academic DNA, even at schools hardly famous for original research.
Continue reading "Do We Really Want Professors to Be Productive?" »
By Richard Vedder
A huge brouhaha has erupted over the release and interpretation of data about the faculty of the University of Texas, centering on whether a relatively few individuals are doing most of the teaching at the system's flagship institution, UT-Austin. Two reports drew most of the fire, one by my organization, the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), the other by Rick O'Donnell, a recently fired aide to the system.
The CCAP bottom line: it seems like a relatively small portion of the over 4,000 persons teaching on the Austin campus shoulder a huge percent of teaching burden (especially in relation to the costs they incur to the University) and an even smaller group garners the bulk of the outside research funds viewed as critical to the maintenance of the research mission. This means a large group of faculty members do moderate amounts of teaching and not much funded-research.
Our report said preliminary data "strongly suggest that the state of Texas could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half ...."
Continue reading "'Yes, Some Teachers Do Very Little' " »
By Benjamin Ginsberg
It's no secret that America's colleges and universities have become bastions of political rectitude. This is often attributed to the left-liberal political orientation of the faculty. Typically, however, the administration, not the faculty, is the driving force behind efforts to promote campus diversity, to build multicultural programming and to regulate campus speech. The president of the University of Rochester, for example, recently announced a 31-point "diversity plan" saying that diversity was a "fundamental value" of his university.
What accounts for the solicitude shown by university administrators for this progressive political agenda? The chief reason is that a pitched battle for control of the university is under way, and by championing left-liberal causes administrators hope to bolster their own power vis-à-vis the faculty. Most professors are progressive in their political commitments and usually unwilling to be seen as siding with putative oppressors against the oppressed. Hence, they are generally reluctant to oppose programs and proposals that are presented as efforts to foster campus equality, diversity, multiculturalism, and the like. Accordingly, university administrators will often package proposals designed mainly to enhance their own power as efforts to promote these social and political goals.
Continue reading "How Administrations Undermine Their Faculties" »
By Charlotte Allen
The firing of a controversial aide to the University of Texas system has triggered a full-blown debate over the productivity of teachers and whether "star" professors who teach few classes are really worth the cost to the public. Rick O'Donnell, dismissed on April 19 after only 49 days on the job as special adviser to the public university system's regents, had argued forcefully that public universities should devote their resources to teaching undergraduates rather than academic research. On May 5, in response to a request by the UT board of regents, the University of Texas-Austin, the flagship of the 15-campus UT system, released an 821-page spreadsheet listing the names, tenure status, total compensation, and course enrollment of each of the 4,200 people with teaching responsibilities on the UT-Austin payroll.
The university cautioned that the data were preliminary and likely contained some errors. Nonetheless, acting on the presumption that the spreadsheet was generally accurate, Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University, who heads the Washington-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity, quickly issued an analysis of the spreadsheet from which he drew some startling conclusions: measured by student credit hours taught (the credit value of courses multiplied by the number of students enrolled in them), the top 20 percent of faculty shoulder 50 percent of the teaching load, while the bottom 20 percent teach only 2 percent of student credit hours.
Continue reading "How Productive Do Professors Have to Be?" »
By Herbert London
In Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz the Wizard says he wants an educated populace, "so by the power vested in me I will grant everyone diplomas." Welcome to the education system of 2011. Much of what we now observe comes right out of the Baum novel.
When Charles Eliot was president of Harvard, he was asked why there is so much intelligence at this college, He replied, "because the freshmen bring so much in and the seniors take so little out." My guess is if a university president were completely honest today, he might say the freshman bring almost nothing in and leave by taking nothing out.
The question is, if the society spends billions on primary, secondary and higher education, why is so little accomplished? There are many answers to this question, of course, but I would argue the overarching reason is fraud, fraud at every level in order to satisfy political demands.
Continue reading "Fraud Up and Down Our Educational System" »
By Deborah Bailin
If you are a college student today enrolled in four classes during any given semester, it is likely that only one of your teachers is employed by your school in a permanent position that comes with a middle-class salary, job security, and benefits. The other three are contingent faculty, often called "adjuncts"; they have job titles like "instructor" or "lecturer" rather than "professor" but their roles in the classroom are the same. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), adjuncts at U.S. colleges and universities now comprise "more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff."
But the vast majority of adjuncts--who typically either have Ph.D.s or are in the advanced stages of completing them--earn a fraction of what their tenure-track colleagues do. Their contracts are offered on a course-by-course, semester-by-semester basis and often come without benefits. Unlike most tenure-track faculty, few adjuncts even know until just a few weeks before the semester starts which classes they will teach, if any, and many take part-time jobs off campus--or at multiple institutions--to supplement low pay and forestall the crisis of a semester with too few classes to pay the rent.
Continue reading "Adjuncts and the Devalued PhD" »
By Mark Bauerlein
At research universities in the United States, most departments in the humanities have a travel budget that supports professional activities for their faculty members. Most of it goes to help professors attend academic conferences and deliver a paper to colleagues and attend sessions as an audience member as well. For a department of 30 people, the amount may run to $50,000 or more, enough to fund at least one trip by every individual who requests support.
From what I've seen of the conferences, though, the amount of genuine research inquiry that is shared and remembered is negligible. Yes, some papers are strong, but more of them are thin, half-hearted, or hastily-composed. Those that are strong are often too dense to follow, especially when they have to share time with three other papers at the panel. This is not to mention, moreover, those sessions that are attended by less than ten people.
No, the main purpose of the meetings, it seems to me, is to provide academics scattered around the country but in the same general field the chance to gather and re-connect. The actual research preparation they put in before the meeting and the research effort they expend during it are minimal. They have enough general knowledge of the panel topic to be able to listen with some understanding to the deliveries and formulate a question. Their own papers may be part of a larger project, and the activity of composing and presenting a conference version of that part is, though helpful, often a last-minute composition to fill 12 minutes at the podium.
Continue reading "What's the Point of Academic Conferences?" »
By Mary Grabar
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."
Continue reading "Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years" »
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.
Continue reading "In Praise of Ideological Openness" »
By Peter Wood
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.
Continue reading "The Campus Left's Nostalgia Party - RSVP " »
By David Thompson
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.
Continue reading "There's No Such Thing as Intelligence?" »
By Robert Weissberg
Judged by the recent avalanche of autopsy-like books, American higher education appears troubled. Alleged evil-doers abound, but one culprit escapes unnoticed--the horrific sartorial habits of many of today's professors. Don't laugh. As Oscar Wilde brilliantly observed, only shallow people do not judge by appearances. Indeed, I would argue that much of what plagues today's academy can be traced to an almost total collapse of sartorial standards. When I began my professorial career in 1969 the tweed sport coat and tie was more or less standard. Today, with all too few exceptions, "academic casual," even jeans and tee-shirts is de rigueur. This slide has not been kind to life of the mind.
Many of the academy's ills are traceable to diminished professorial authority. We often feel like "I don't get any respect" Rodney Dangerfield: students day dream, ignore assignments, barely show up, cheat, gossip during class, and send text messages among other contemptuous behaviors. And not even entertaining lectures, grade inflation and dumbed-down syllabi seem able to restore the loss of respect.
To appreciate the connection between respect for authority and outward appearances, consider the one setting obsessed with maintaining authority --courts. Judges always dress the part though sartorial details vary. Severe black robes are standard while some wear special hats, even wigs and all sit high above the court proceedings. To drive home respect, judges are addressed with "your honor" or "may it please the court" and lawyers must ask permission to "approach to the court" for private conservation. Discussions are all judge-controlled and disrespect is punishable by contempt of court. All rise when the judge enters and nobody would dare catch up on e-mails during a trial. This is the physical aspect of respect for rule of law. Professors should be so lucky.
Continue reading "Professors Should Dress Like Professionals" »
By Mary Grabar
Howard 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.
Continue reading "No Longer Academic: When Activism Is on the Curriculum" »
By Donald A. Downs
Not surprisingly, the University of Wisconsin at Madison has been deeply affected by the important labor dispute that has consumed the state, its capitol, and the nation the last two weeks. Passions are high, especially over the part of Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal that will drastically limit collective bargaining by state employees covered by unions. The budget proposal also requires public employees to contribute substantially more to their healthcare and pensions. But the collective bargaining provision has generated the most heat.
Libertarian thinker Alvaro Vargos Llosa has remarked that Wisconsin's debate over collective bargaining is of "planetary" significance, while Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest claims that the standoff constitutes a "watershed" event in American history, as the nation vies over the size and scope of public finances.
At an overflow law school forum on the issue on February 23, I stated that the conflict is an example of what the great political scientist Samuel Huntington called "creedal passion" in American Politics and the Promise of Disharmony. Creedal passion involves the intense conflict that periodically erupts over which fundamental values will shape public policy and philosophy. As Huntington wrote, "The history of American politics is the repetition of new beginnings and flawed outcomes, promise and disillusion, reform and reaction. American history is the history of the efforts of groups to promote their interests by realizing American ideals." In the Wisconsin case, the creedal debate concerns the proper balance and arrangement between the private and public sectors in an era of crippling debt.
Continue reading "Signs of Campus Dissent in Madison" »
By J. M. Anderson
I haven't read Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, and frankly, I'm not sure that I want to. Having had high expectations of other widely touted books on higher education---most recently, Hacker and Dreifus's Higher Education?, Martha Nussbaum's Not For Profit, Mark Taylor's Crisis on Campus---and having been sadly disappointed after reading them, I'm afraid that reading this book will be an instance of history repeating itself. Besides, after listening to a great deal of the chatter that it's generated, I keep asking myself, "What's new?"
In his fascinating book, Weapons of Mass Instruction (2009), John Taylor Gatto cites a 2006 study conducted by the University of Connecticut that affirmed that college students weren't learning the things they were supposed to be learning. Having surveyed 14,000 students at fifty intuitions in five academic areas, the study showed that at sixteen of the fifty schools---including Yale, Brown, and Georgetown---negative intellectual growth (meaning that seniors knew less than freshman) had actually occurred among undergraduates. In thirty-four of the fifty schools, no discernable change occurred. This prompted Gatto to write: "after spending an average of six years in search of a BA degree or its equivalent, and spending an average of a quarter million in cash and loans, a great many young people had nothing or even less than nothing to show for the investment."
In the American Scholar (Summer 2008), former Yale professor William Deresiewicz already warned us that even the elite institutions, which used to be the bastions of higher education, have been slouching "toward a glorified form of vocational training" and increasingly graduating more educated ignoramuses. Will another book on the failings of higher education deter students from going to ivy-league schools, even though they will be no better off after graduating than the 35 percent of first-year community college students who don't return for their second year, or the 33 percent of students at four-year institutions who don't complete a bachelor's degree within six years of enrolling, or even those who never step foot in an ivory tower? (Source: A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education, 2006.)
Continue reading "Students 'Adrift'? Don't Blame Them" »
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?
Continue reading "What Else Do Professors Do? They Teach." »
By Peter Sacks
When Minding the Campus asked me if I would write something about two Canadian engineering professors walking out of class to protest rude and disruptive students in their classrooms, I happily obliged. What harm, I told myself, could there be, after so many years of avoidance, to re-visit this issue?
After all, it has been some 13 years after I wrote Generation X Goes to College: An Eye-Opening Account of Teaching in Postmodern America, about my experiences leaving daily journalism to teach college in the early 1990's. Disruptive students? Let's put it this way. I once had a student who sat in the middle of a lecture with a ski mask pulled over his face as I tried to engage the class in the art of essay writing. This being a relatively small class of about 15 students, the ski-mask guy was like a throbbing boil that nobody in the room could ignore, politely pretending that this assault on civility wasn't really happening. Unlike the Canadian professors, I did not walk out in protest. But looking back, doing so might have been a good idea: let the student's peers hold him accountable for his disruption and call me when the class is ready to learn.
Ultimately, however, I left the classroom for good. I left teaching -- no, I bolted from teaching -- as fast as I could run, after enduring culture shock and a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by a system of higher education that treated students as eminently entitled customers and professors as their hand-holding, entertain-at-all-costs servants, whose official job performance rating depended excessively on the opinions of these customers in their anonymous teacher evaluations. Success in the system boiled down to this: I entertain, therefore I am a good teacher.
Continue reading "When Students Are Rude and Disruptive" »
By Charlotte Allen
What if all college professors were forced to be higher-education entrepreneurs, with salaries pegged to the number of students they attract to their classes? That's the model recently proposed by a Texas professor who styled himself "Publius Audax" on a Pajamas Media blog. Publius launched his proposal, he wrote, as the solution to a projected $25 billion budget shortfall over the next two years that is likely to hit the Texas higher education hard. Publius' argument is that his "entrepreneurial professor model," when coupled with other reforms would "harness the power and efficiency of the market" to make public higher education cheaper and better. The other reforms include abolishing tenure, eliminating state subsidies to public campuses, getting rid of "core curricula" (which nowadays are nothing more than pointless distribution requirements, and allowing private "charter colleges" (both nonprofit and for-profit) onto public campuses in order to provide more competition.
Hmm, my own undergraduate alma mater was founded by a highly successful entrepreneur, the railroad baron Leland Stanford. What if college professors were more like Leland Stanford and less like the brilliant but economically illiterate head-in-the-clouds types who taught at Stanford when I went there?
Here is how Publius' entrepreneurial professor model would work: All professors and lecturers would receive a base "living wage" of $30,000 plus benefits. Beyond that it would be up to the professors themselves to generate a "tuition-based bonus" for themselves consisting of 50 percent of the tuition income generated by students enrolled in their classes, "up to a maximum of 320 students (960 student hours)." All instructors would be allowed to teach up to eight classes a year. In order to gin up the price competition further, professors, department heads, and even entire colleges could offer tuition rebates to students, the money to come out of the professors' salary bonuses. Professors with ultra-large classes could hire teaching assistants---but the money would again have to come out of their salary bonuses. And to ensure that professors wouldn't game the system by handing out easy A's to all comers, there would be a strict grading curve. No more than 15 percent of students in any given class could receive an A-grade, and another 15 percent would have to either flunk or receive a D. Professors whose grades deviated from the curve would lose their bonus for every student whose grade exceeded the curve. This would not only keep the professors in line, Publius argues, but would "transform the campus culture, replacing partying with studying" as students scrambled to stay out of the bottom of the class.
Continue reading "Every Professor an Entrepeneur?" »
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."
Continue reading "Honoring One of the Perpetrators at Duke" »
By Jonathan B. Imber
One 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.
Continue reading "On Teaching Conservatism" »
By Jason Fertig
Was there ever a time when college classrooms were completely filled with bright-eyed students eager to absorb knowledge from their sage? When educators deal with unmotivated students, such pipe dreams of halcyon days of education are likely to arise. While navigating student apathy is as old as the teaching profession itself, the apathy displayed by today's crop of higher education seekers is more serious than many think, and it reflects a dangerous trend that will only compound if not addressed.
I make this assertion not from the point of view of a professor who monotonously lectures students to sleep and then wonders why no one responds when the class is asked if anyone has any questions. On the contrary, much of my class period is focused on engaging students through provocative discussions of sensitive topics such as whether affirmative action harms the groups it intends to help or though activities like redesigning the college curriculum as a way of teaching how to teach. This pedagogy requires a certain amount of outside preparation from students; while most of my feedback indicates that I have been fairly successful in my pursuits, the decreasing engagement of the student body constantly forces me to ask why I make my job so difficult.
My concerns with student apathy are frequently greeted with yawns from colleagues, even when backed up with data. Reports of college students studying less than 15 hours per week are justified with noting how involved these students are with other extracurricular activities. I have heard a student with a 3.7 GPA state that "my professor expects three hours per class period of outside studying - I barely spend five hours a week total on all of my classes." I have also had a student with a young child tell me that her essay she submitted was of such poor quality because she only had 30 minutes to work on it for the whole week, and this was the best that she could do.
Continue reading "Student Apathy - Public Enemy Number One" »
By Robert Cherry
How 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.
Continue reading "Sound and Fury---The Bayoumi Uproar" »
By Mark Bauerlein
The National Research Council has finally issued its rankings of doctoral programs, with coverage appearing here, here, and here . Right now, everybody is trying to assimilate the results, which are more complicated than those in the 1995 report. The "Data-Based Assessment" runs to 282 pages, the "Guide to the Methodology" 57 pages, and each one contains numerous cautionary notes about the conclusiveness of the findings.
Still, however confusing and tentative the results, they bear tremendous authority and universities will plumb them for good news and trumpet them in years to come. For this reason, any criterion that plays a role in the rankings process has a powerful, long-term impact on post-graduate education and research in the United States. If the NRC used one, the logic goes, then it's a settled norm, and universities looking to rise in the next version of rankings should consider it well.
It is troubling, then, to find two criteria implemented in the project that are, in truth, dubious measures of the quality of research in at least one area of graduate study, the humanities.
Continue reading "Two Problems with the New Doctoral Rankings" »
By J. M. Anderson
Dear Assistant Professor:
Congratulations on your new job! Whether you're a visiting professor or on the tenure-track, consider yourself among of the lucky. As someone who ran the academic treadmill for eight years---I taught at a community college, at two four-year liberal arts colleges, and at a state university until I landed a permanent position at a private university, where I am also Director of General Studies---I can appreciate your accomplishment more than most. Like many in the profession, I went to graduate school bushy-eyed and idealistic (a real-life Mr. Smith goes to Washington) so that I could become a professor and continue thinking about important questions. I wanted to inspire others to think about big ideas and to experience the transformative power of liberal education, as my professors had done for me.
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that teaching is not that important. It won't get you a job, and it certainly won't get you tenure or promoted, even at most so-called "teaching colleges." Chances are that it will not be as intellectually stimulating as you expect, and that after doing it for a few years you will become frustrated if not disillusioned or burnt out. Most college students believe that education is an entitlement and only care about grades and getting a degree. They are indifferent to courses that don't bear on their majors or won't help them get a job or into graduate or professional school. Having been coddled by parents at home and by teachers in grade school and high school, they are demanding, think they have a right to your total attention, and believe that you must always be there for them.
Most of your colleagues will see undergraduate teaching as a burden to escape from whenever possible, but one that must be endured because it's their bread and butter, their meal ticket to do research, which is what they really care about. Research leads to publications, and publications to tenure and promotion and to advancement and recognition in the profession. No one ever gets rich or famous being a teacher. So they exploit the system and resent their students for not taking their courses seriously and interfering with their work. No college or university today, let alone any department, would proclaim what the University of Chicago proudly proclaimed at the beginning of last century: "We come to teach." Professors who come to teach today do so at their peril.
Unfortunately academics don't seem to care how this attitude affects undergraduate teaching and liberal education as a whole. It was, I think, William James who first warned about its corrosive effect more than a hundred years ago. In his essay, "The PhD Octopus," James describes how a brilliant student of Philosophy in the Harvard Graduate School took a job as a teacher of English Literature at a sister-college. When the governors of the college discovered that he didn't have his PhD, he was told that he must get the degree or the appointment would be revoked. The quality of the man and his ability to teach literature meant nothing to the school; the PhD meant everything. The college wanted to see those three magical letters behind the young professor's name. James understood that the PhD, relatively new in his day, was created to stimulate original research and scholarship proper; but he also understood that the fetish for this "sacred appendage" was a "Mandarin disease" that would lead to "academic snobbery" in the profession. "Will any one pretend that its possessor will be successful as a teacher?" The whole thing, he adds, "is a sham, a bauble, a dodge whereby to decorate the catalogues of schools and colleges."
Continue reading "An Open Letter to New Professors" »
By Frank J. Macchiarola
Tales of the modern-day college president were reported by the Washington Post in a July 12th article, "College Presidents Taste Life Outside Their Offices," by James Johnson and Daniel de Vise. The president, we were told, is more accessible and easy to talk to, less formal and willing to do things with students unheard of just a few years ago, including joining in a student snowball fight on campus. Many of them have transformed themselves from authority figures to buddies and big siblings as they show their human side. It is something that many parents and students have come to expect as they pony up tuitions that continue to grow even as their resources do not. The presidents want to show their respective publics that they know their students and their needs and will make a great effort to satisfy them.
The trend toward more effective marketing of the campus leader comes at the same time that colleges are offering greater creature comforts to their students - health clubs, new labs and classroom buildings, better appointed living quarters and increasing variety in campus dining. Thus, the accessible college president is like the concierge in a first-class vacation resort. In addition, the college can make contacts for students off campus - internships, study abroad programs, joint degree programs, new majors, distance learning and enhanced placement services for graduates. It strives to be "the college for all seasons."
Although the article did not suggest it, the reality is that colleges are falling in line with other institutions in a transformation of major parts of American culture. They are putting extraordinary emphasis on what the consumer would like to have. In some significant ways, the institutions are becoming what the market expects of them. Their actual mission statement begins to describe what will sell. These institutions surrender the sense of self and the understanding of core values that traditionally represented who they were and what they were doing. In many respects they believe that their survival requires them to cast their lot with the future rather than the old past. In this way the accessible, genial, folksy college president is a beloved figure. In many respects, the new college president represents an improvement over the indifferent and aloof administrator. But if all we have is a change in style then we are not offered much in terms of what really matters. Indeed, the cost of satisfying more of what the public wants rather than what it needs is, in the long run, unsustainable. In the universities, these creature comforts mean higher tuitions and increased student debt to meet the costs of attendance. There is a real limit to this kind of accommodation as tuitions and fees consistently exceed cost of living indicators for other needs as the cost-benefit analysis piles up heaps of benefits, some of them unnecessary. A day of reckoning may soon be at hand.
Continue reading "Your College President Is Your Pal" »
By J. M. Anderson
In 1977 the great mathematician and teacher Morris Kline published an indictment of academe in a book aptly called Why the Professor Can't Teach. Kline not only blamed "the overemphasis on research" as the "prime culprit" for the poor quality of undergraduate education, he also blamed professors---especially tenured professors---for ignoring their "moral obligations to students" and offering courses "that reflect their own values at the expense of student needs and interests." Little has changed in three decades.
The open secret in the profession remains that professors are paid to publish, not to teach. Most consider teaching a distraction from their research, which is what they really care about, while administrators keep pressuring faculty to publish, even at liberal arts colleges, and increasingly at community colleges, where teaching is supposed to be the most important thing they do. Never mind that there is no evidence that professors who are doing research are better undergraduate teachers because of it, according to Burton A. Weisbrod, economics professor at Northwestern University (also see Mission and Money, 2008). Never mind that in 2006 the magazine Teen Talk noted most students choose their particular institution based on the availability or strength of their preferred major, the ability to get a good job or accepted into a good graduate school, and whether faculty are good teachers or mentors---not the numbers of books or articles they published. Of course publish or perish is not new ("publish, and the students perish," Kline quipped), but until we stop grumbling, and actually do something about it, liberal education will continue its gradual demise.
But that's only part of the problem. The other part is that most graduate students and new college professors are not prepared to teach. Postsecondary teaching is the only profession I know of for which no formal training is required---not even the expectation that one must be prepared. True, most institutions of higher education---even community colleges---expect their faculty to have PhDs, but that only proves the absurdity of the current situation. The PhD is a research degree whose recipients are highly trained specialists. Most colleges and universities are teaching institutions, despite what faculty and administrators like to maintain. Yet the myth persists that if a person has a PhD, he or she can teach. This is nonsense, of course. And most people know it, including the administrators of colleges and universities who fund the Centers for Teaching Excellence (or something like them). These are typically directed by tenured faculty whose job it is to promote the latest "scholarship of teaching and learning" through seminars, workshops, and discussion groups.
Continue reading "Why the Professor Still Can't Teach" »
By KC Johnson
Inside 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.
Continue reading "The Wolfers Dig a Deeper Hole" »
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.
Continue reading "The Politically Correct University and How to Fix It" »
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.
Continue reading "Recapturing the University: The Hybrid Alternative" »
By Anthony Paletta
Should 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.
Continue reading "Why Do Anthropologists Have Their Own Foreign Policy?" »
By Roger Clegg
Should universities weigh race and ethnicity in deciding whom to hire for their science departments?
The American Association for the Advancement of Science thinks so, according to a recent National Journal article. "Science and engineering should look like the rest of the population," says AAAS's Daryl Chubin, and if hiring decisions don't yield the right numbers, "somebody needs to pull the plug and say this has not been an open and fair search."
Taking steps to ensure that the best possible individuals apply and are hired is fine---indeed, that's precisely what the whole process should be about. Casting your recruiting net far and wide is a good idea, as is reassessing your recruiting policies to make sure that you are not overlooking good sources of candidates. Reevaluating selection criteria from time to time is, likewise, unobjectionable; if some criteria are weighed too heavily or not heavily enough, with the result that the best individuals are not selected, then that needs to be fixed. And, of course, everyone involved in the selection process, from beginning to end, needs to be told that the best individuals, regardless of skin color or national origin, are to be picked.
But it's clear that nondiscrimination is exactly what AAAS does not have in mind. The National Journal article says that it wants to "allocate additional slots to U.S. racial and ethnic minorities" and to protect universities from "likely lawsuits by groups seeking color-blind admissions policies." As the quotes above suggest, it is demanding that schools get their numbers right. It wants quotas, it wants race and ethnicity to be weighed when hiring decisions are made.
Continue reading "Another Bad Idea: ''Diversifying'' Science Faculties" »
By Roger Clegg
Allegations of tenure discrimination have recently been leveled against Emerson College on grounds of race and against DePaul University on grounds of sex.
At Emerson, two black scholars were denied tenure, the local chapter of the NAACP became involved, and an investigation has been launched by the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination. The school has agreed to give one of the professors another shot next year, in exchange for dropping his complaint with the Commission.
Four women are challenging DePaul's tenure denial. They have a lawyer, have unsuccessfully appealed the denial to the school's president, and have now indicated that they plan to take DePaul to court.
In neither case has direct evidence of discriminatory intent been alleged, such as racist or sexist comments. Instead, statistical disparities of one sort or another are cited.
So, is there anything to these allegations?
Continue reading "Discrimination In Granting Tenure?" »
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.
Continue reading "Massad Got Tenure (Don't Tell Anyone)" »
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."
Continue reading "Not Your Grandparents' AAUP" »
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.
Continue reading "Cornell '69 And What It Did" »
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
Continue reading "The Situation at the New School" »
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.
Continue reading "Lose A President To A Coup And You Will Fail" »
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Continue reading "Stanley Fish And The Storm In Ottawa: Seven Professors Say What They Think" »
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."
Continue reading "The Conspiracy Against Faculty Friendship" »
By Mark Bauerlein
In early December, the Board of Regents of the Kentucky Community and Technical College system agreed to vote in a few months on a proposal that may have far-reaching effects on higher education. The proposal would end the practice of offering tenured or tenure-track posts to new faculty hires. Is this a crack in the tenure dam that will produce a cascade of other schools eradicating tenure from the ranks?
Whether other universities go that far or not, in fact, the tenure system has been deteriorating for years. Administrations haven't directly taken it away. They simply let tenured professors retire and didn't give departments tenured or tenure-track replacement lines. Or, in responding to rising enrollments, they hired more part-time faculty than full-time faculty to fill classrooms. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the portions of tenured and tenure-track faculty in the American professorate nose-dived in the last 30 years.
And according to a recent report by the American Federation of Teachers, "contingent faculty members teach 49 percent" all undergraduate courses (Reversing Course: The Troubled State of Academic Staffing and a Path Forward, i). The proportion doesn't include graduate student teachers, either, those doctoral candidates picking up courses as part of their training, which AFT estimates at 16-32 percent of the courses offered.
Continue reading "Is Tenure Doomed?" »
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.
Continue reading "Change Can Happen One Professor At A Time" »
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:
Continue reading "Want to Teach Here? Then Tell Us Your Politics" »
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?)
I'm sure is a must
For teachers who give
Only A or A-plus
They really must practice
At home, if they please,
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
This originally appeared as part of the National Association of Scholars' "If I Ran The Zoo" series
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.
Mark Baulerlein is a Professor of English at Emory University and former Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts
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.
Continue reading "Columbia's 68 Celebration: Only Radicals Need Apply" »
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.
Continue reading "Columbia's 68 Celebration: Amidst The Radicals" »
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.
Continue reading "Tenure And The Litigation Culture" »
[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.)]
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.)
Continue reading "Indoctrinate U. Was It Fair? Round II" »
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.
Continue reading "Soft Bias Against The Right" »
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?
Continue reading "What Trustees Must Do" »
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."
Continue reading "The Adversarial Campus" »
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."
Continue reading "The Unbalanced University" »
By Donald Downs
A lot has been written about the details of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, and the ways in which it has bullied students and residential assistants to accept regnant orthodoxy. The nation's collective hat should go off to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for exposing this program, and for compelling the university to back down - at least temporarily. The episode brings to mind last spring's heated debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education over whether FIRE was too extreme in its attacks on higher education, and whether FIRE had outlived its usefulness. One case is not statistical proof, but the fact remains that without FIRE, this remarkably repressive program would still be in effect.
I want to address a broader issue in the Delaware case that has not attracted enough attention thus far: the role of non-faculty members in promoting the politicization of higher education. Kathleen Kerr, a mastermind of the Delaware program, is director of residential life for the University of Delaware. Interestingly, as John Leo has recently pointed out, she is also the chairperson of the American College Personnel Association's Commission for Housing and Residential Life - a group with connections to universities across the country.
Continue reading "Where Was The Faculty?" »
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.
Continue reading "Professors Of Groupthink" »
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.
* 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.
Continue reading "Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?" »
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.
Continue reading "AAUP To Critics: What, Us Biased?" »
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.
Continue reading "The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness" »
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."
Continue reading "Creating Activists At Ed School" »
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.
Continue reading "Harvard Long Gone" »
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?"
Continue reading "I'm Ok, You're Not Ok" »
By John M. Ellis
The welcome news that Ward Churchill has been removed from the University of Colorado faculty is blighted by the fact that the means used has allowed the university to avoid the much larger problem that Churchill's conduct pointed to. It was in early 2005 that the public learned of, and was appalled by, excerpts from an essay that had been posted on the web by Churchill, a full Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, on the subject of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, over two years later, Churchill has been fired after due process within the university for plagiarism and falsification of research. But what the public heard and responded to was not fabrication and plagiarism. Though these are certainly legitimate grounds for a dismissal, they could never have attracted the attention of the public, still less caused a widespread sense that something must be horribly wrong with a university that employed such a man as a professor.
The ACLU, basing itself on this undeniable discrepancy between the furor of the public's response and the narrow grounds of the decision, has charged that the firing is illegitimate because the real motive is nothing to do with the ostensible reason that has been given for the university's action. But that charge makes no sense. Al Capone may have been jailed for tax evasion when his far more serious offense was racketeering, but he was certainly guilty as charged, and so is Ward Churchill. Yet in both cases the limited grounds had the effect of removing one man from the scene while leaving a larger systemic problem untouched.
The manner of Churchill's dismissal clearly sidestepped the issues that the public was so disturbed by. The ACLU maintains that the public furor was caused only by Churchill's unpopular political opinions. Again, it is wrong. Far left political expression by professors is nothing new to the American public - Noam Chomsky's views are just as extreme and unpopular, but they do not lead to calls for his dismissal. What the public reacted to was something much more than this. All of their own experience of what their teachers and professors had sounded like told them that the man they heard should never under any circumstances have been a professor at a major university.
Continue reading "Two Cheers For Ward Churchill's Dismissal" »
By KC Johnson
This week, as expected, the University of Colorado regents dismissed Professor Ward Churchill from his tenured position in the Ethnic Studies Department. (A university committee had found that Churchill committed plagiarism and misused sources.) And, as expected, Churchill has filed suit, alleging First Amendment violations.
The move against Churchill - who first attracted attention after describing those who perished (except for the terrorists) in the World Trade Center attack as "Little Eichmanns" - came over the opposition of the ACLU, which charged that the "poisoned atmosphere" of the inquiry into Churchill's scholarship rendered meaningless the committee's findings. ACTA president Anne Neal, on the other hand, welcomed the dismissal as "a very positive message that higher education is cleaning up its own."
The viewpoints of both organizations raise additional questions. The ACLU's position, if established as a precedent, would invite academics who (like Churchill) had engaged in research misconduct to issue inflammatory public statements, in the hopes that a public outcry (preferably from "right-wingers") could then provide a First Amendment shield for their academic misdeeds.
Continue reading "Ward Churchill And The Diversity Agenda" »
By Mark Bauerlein
If you browse through the list of dissertations filed in American literary and cultural studies last year, you will find many conventional and sober projects that fit well with traditional notions of humanistic study. Here are a few sample titles:
- "Rethinking Arthur Miller: Symbol and structure"
- "Tragic investigations: The value of tragedy in American political and ethical life"
- "Reading and writing African American travel narrative"
- "From demons to dependents: American-Japanese social relations during the occupation, 1945-1952"
- "The culture club: A study of the Boston Athenaeum, 1807-1860 (Massachusetts)"
But amidst these works, you also find a fair portion of projects with titles that border on the bizarre.
- "The fluviographic poetics of Charles Warren Stoddard: An emergence of a modern gay male American textuality"
- "Transperformance: Transgendered reading strategies, contemporary American literature"
- "Cruising and queer counterpublics: Theories and fictions"
- "'Skirts must be girded high': Spaces of subjectivity and transgression in post-suffrage American women's travel writing"
- "Roddenberry's faith in 'Star Trek': 'Star Trek''s humanism as an American apocalyptic vision of the future"
- "Exhibiting domesticity: The home, the museum, and queer space in American literature, 1914-1937"
- "From sodomy to Indian death: Sexuality, race and structures of feeling in early American execution narratives"
- "The sentimental touch: Hands in American novels during the rise of managerial capitalism"
Continue reading "Research As Self-Branding" »
By Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio
A report by Gary Shapiro in yesterday's New York Sun carried some surprising information about the religiosity of college professors: though less religious than the general population, the majority believe in God. Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Barnard, was quoted as saying that the new data helps to refute the notion that academics are mostly atheists and agnostics.
But let's turn on the caution light. The study of 1500 college professors at twenty top institutions that grant bachelors degrees, conducted by Neil Gross (Harvard) and Solon Simmons (George Mason), did indeed find that a slight majority claims to be religious. The numbers, not listed in the Sun, showed that 35.7 percent say "I know God really exists and I have no doubt about it," while 16.9 percent reported "while I have my doubts, I feel I do believe in God." Atheists and agnostics accounted for 23.4 percent of professors reporting.
The most heavily religious professors in the study teach accounting, followed by professors of elementary education, finance, marketing, art and criminal justice. The least religious professors were in biology, psychology, economics, political science and computer science. Research-oriented professors and faculty at elite institutions are significantly less religious than other academics. Only twenty percent of these academics "have no doubt that God exists." The implications for the larger culture of these findings are crucial. Professors who are the least religious and most hostile to religion are the ones most likely to be writing textbooks, articles and monographs, and the ones whose opinions are most sought after by the media. It is these ideas of irreligious professors that carry the most prestige among the punditocracy, dominate elite discourse, and filter down to the general public. Liberal arts professors are much less likely than accounting professors to believe in God. The liberal arts and social science professors are the ones who most often express opinions on religion and deal with issues involving religion and morality in the classroom.
Continue reading "Professors And God: Any Connection?" »
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.
Continue reading "DePaul Flubs Up On Finkelstein" »
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."
Continue reading "The Trouble With Tenure" »
By K.C. Johnson
[Robert "K.C." Johnson is the indefatigable chronicler of the Duke non-rape case, turning out a thousand words of brilliant reportage and analysis a day for more than a year on his Durham-in-Wonderland site. On the Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren writes" "If bloggers were eligible for Pulitizer Prize... I would nominate Brooklyn Professor K.C. Johnson... No self-respecting journalist would think of writing anything long and evaluative on the Duke case without first checking "the blog of record," Durham-in-Wonderland."]
On April 6, 2006, 88 members of Duke's arts and sciences faculty endorsed a full-page ad published in the campus newspaper, the Chronicle. The professors suggested that men's lacrosse players had triggered a "social disaster" by holding a spring-break party. The faculty members unequivocally asserted that something "happened to this young woman," accuser Crystal Mangum. And, in the aftermath of anti-lacrosse rallies featuring banners reading "Castrate" and "Time to Confess," the Group of 88 said "thank you" to the protesters "for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."
Continue reading "Duke Lacrosse And The Professions of Diversity" »
Posted by Andrew Gillen
David C. Levy's Washington Post article, "Do college professors work hard enough?" set off quite the firestorm. His basic point was that we currently "pay for teaching time of nine to fifteen hours per week for 30 weeks," but that
If the higher education community were to adjust its schedules and semester structure so that teaching faculty clocked a 40-hour week (roughly 20 hours of class time and equal time spent on grading, preparation and related duties) for 11 months, the enhanced efficiency could be the equivalent of a dramatic budget increase...
Continue reading "Yes, College Professors Can Work Harder" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The Chronicle recently featured an article
about the Adjunct Project, a program put together by a University of Georgia
adjunct named Joshua Boldt "asking fellow adjuncts to enter information about
their pay and working conditions." Adjuncts are often underpaid. They also
generally do not have research or service expectations, and they are almost
never hired through competitive searches. The position is a useful one for
graduate students needing experience.
Continue reading "An Academy Made Up of Adjuncts?" »
Posted by Charlotte Allen
It's hard to tell whether it's a news story or a media meme: Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a fan of Texas Republican Gov. (and current GOP presidential candidate) Rick Perry, is reportedly considering foisting on Florida's public universities the same much-criticized reform proposals that Perry has been trying to foist on public universities in Texas. Behind the scenes in all of this--or so the news reports imply--is the looming presence of Jeff Sandefer, Voldemort to the Texas higher-education establishment. Sandefer, a Texas oil entrepreneur, disgruntled former business professor at the University of Texas-Austin, and major contributor to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns, authored the "Seven Breakthrough Solutions," a 2008 document mostly calling for public universities to abandon their research missions and focus on undergraduate teaching. The "Solutions," which formed the centerpiece of a 2008 conference involving Perry and the regents of the University of Texas (UT) system, reputedly underlay recent efforts by Perry to assess and reward teaching productivity at UT-Austin and Texas A&M--and now they're said to underlie similar efforts under consideration by Scott in Florida.
Trouble is--it's hard to find the story in this story of Sandefer's tentacles stretching across the Gulf of Mexico to entangle Tallahassee. On July 26 an article by Lilly Rockwell of the News Service of Florida appeared on the WCTV website. It was titled "Scott Promotes Controversial Education Reforms: Controversial changes that have rocked Texas higher education system may be coming to Florida." Rockwell had interviewed Scott.
Continue reading "When Texas College Reforms Come to Florida" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The American Association of University Professors has now issued its final report on "Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel groups.") The basic principle is as unobjectionable as it is admirable: professors should not be hired, fired, or disciplined on the basis of their political beliefs. Yet the AAUP's report is basically unchanged from the organization's draft document, which I described at the time as "worse than nothing: it would have been far better for the organization simply to have issued a statement affirming that its job is upholding the views of a majority of its members, and that those professors whose views conflict with the academic majority can enjoy academic freedom rights only at the pleasure of the majority of their colleagues."
The document's final version retains nearly all of the weaknesses of the earlier draft. In the AAUP's academy, virtually no check exists on the tyranny of the faculty majority. Outside criticism is inherently suspect. Students, trustees, and even "bloggers"--including, it would seem, academic bloggers who criticize the will of the majority--are portrayed alongside "talk-show hosts" as threats to the principle of academic freedom. (The report's attack on students, who possess some academic freedom rights at nearly all non-religious universities, is particularly outrageous; anti-academic freedom students are described as those who "report and publicize offending classroom statements" made by faculty members, allegedly at the behest of "self-appointed watchdog groups.")
Continue reading "Campus Freedom, AAUP-Style" »
Posted by John S. Rosenberg
I recently posted an essay here about a racial hoax at the University of Virginia Law School that quickly became an issue implicating the University's honor code. Briefly, Johnathan Perkins was an attractive third year UVa law student from what could be described as a civil rights family inasmuch as both his father and grandfather wrote civil rights books. A few weeks before graduation Perkins sent a letter to the Virginia Law Weekly describing in vivid detail an offensive and frightening case of racial profiling and abuse he had suffered at the hands the UVa police. Or it would have been offensive and frightening abuse if it had actually happened, but it didn't. Perkins made the whole thing up, he confessed after an investigation had been launched, to "bring attention to ... police misconduct." The police and the commonwealth's attorney declined to bring charges, arguing in effect that charging someone for inciting a riot by shouting Fire! in a crowded theater would discourage others from reporting real fires.
At most places the refusal to bring charges would have been the end of the matter, but the University of Virginia is decidedly not most places. It has one of the most ancient and honorable Honor Codes in the nation, a code that most members of what "Mr. Jefferson," in local parlance, referred to as the "academical village" take very, very seriously, and the honor code has a "single sanction" for those who lie, cheat, or steal: expulsion. Whatever happens with Perkins -- his degree has been withheld pending an honor council investigation -- his fraud has focused attention not on imagined police misconduct but on a long simmering dispute over what can be described as the "disparate impact" of the honor code on minorities at UVa.
Various explanations have been offered for the "overrepresentation" of those accused and convicted of honor violations, among them the SPOTLIGHTING of black students -- they stand out in a mass of white students (they all look different?) -- and the "DIMMING" of whites in a white crowd (they all look alike?). Really. No one at UVa seems to take very seriously the idea that the "overrepresentation" represents disproportionate actual honor violations. Whatever the explanation, however, the disparate impact of honor codes on minorities is not a phenomenon limited to Mr. Jefferson's University.
Continue reading "Honor Codes and Affirmative Action" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Several college papers have come around to the ever-popular (and easy) study of university political donations. The results are no surprise. Here are a few samples
Daily Bruin (UCLA): "Faculty Donors Lean Liberal"
According to the Center for Responsive Politics Web site, which tracks individual and group donations to political parties, UCLA faculty members gave 66,030 in donations to candidates vying for their party's presidential bid. Of the total, $2,150 went to Republicans and the rest to Democrats
Yale Daily News: "In '08 donations, Yale trails Harvard"
The filings, which are from the third quarter of 2007, indicate that 11 members of Yale's faculty and staff gave a total of $9951 between July 1 and Sept. 31, distributed among four Democratic presidential candidates. No University faculty or staff gave money to Republicans.
Duke Chronicle: "Faculty Gifts Overhwelmingly Favor Dems"
A total of 40 Duke faculty, administrators, researchers and staff had contributed $41,358 to nine presidential campaigns as of Sept. 30, 2007, according to data released by the Federal Election Commission.
Of these funds, $37,508, roughly 91 percent, went to the campaigns of Obama, Edwards, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., with the remaining $3,850 split between Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Daily Princetonian: "Professors Vote For Obama With Wallets"
In total, donors who listed the University as their employer have given $23,700 to presidential campaigns in the current election cycle. Of that, $21,900 - 92.4 percent - has gone toward Democratic candidates.
Best item - Ron Paul was the one Republican to receive donations from Princeton employees - from a graduate student and a public safety officer. I could go on, but the results are identical in nearly every report I've seen.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Inside Higher Ed's report on the proceedings of the delegate assembly at this year's Modern Language Association conference is titled "A Moderate MLA" - the title seems to have been chosen mainly for its alliterativeness - moderation, by MLA standards, being a quality far from centrism or temperance in the larger world. The MLA, for one, still passed a resolution criticizing the University of Colorado for the manner in which its investigation of Ward Churchill was begun and conducted. One professor asked if the MLA could simply indicate an opposition to politicized investigations and omit direct references to Churchill - his suggestion was not incorporated. And this is moderate? Only for the MLA, whose recent resolutions have, among other things, rejected the scholarly relevance of the "philosophical defense' of any one nation-state", and labeled government language surrounding the Iraq war as an effort "to legitimate aggression, misrepresent policies, conceal aims, stigmatize dissent, and block critical thought."
For once, the MLA radical caucus, accustomed to steamrolling opposition with markedly political resolutions, was halted, with two of their statements watered down substantially. A resolution condemning the firing of Ward Churchill was transmuted into the form above, and another calling for the defense of critics of Israel and Zionism was replaced by much less specific text. For a real sense of the zaniness of the MLA proceedings, take a look at a direct look at the story:
[Grover] Furr [who teaches at Montclair State University] was the author of the original resolution on the campus climate for critics of Israel. The resolution as he wrote it said that some who criticize Zionism and Israel have been "denied tenure, disinvited to speak... [or] fraudulently called 'anti-Semitic.'"The resolution called this a "serious danger to academic study and discussion in the USA today" and then resolved that "the MLA defend the academic freedom and the freedom of speech of faculty and invited speakers to criticize Zionism and Israel." The resolution made no mention of the right of others on campus to embrace Zionism or Israel or to hold middle-of-the-road views or any views other than being critical of Israel and Zionism.
Nelson offered a substitute - which was approved to replace the original by a vote of 63 to 30 - after heated debate. Nelson's substitute noted that the "Middle East is a subject of intense debate," said it was "essential that colleges and universities protect faculty rights to speak forthrightly on all sides of the issue," and urged colleges to "resist" pressure from outside groups about tenure reviews and speakers and to instead uphold academic freedom. Nelson's resolution did not identify one side or the other as victim or villain in the campus debates over the Middle East and said that academic freedom must apply to people "to address the issue of the Middle East in the manner they choose."
In arguing for his version, Nelson - a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also president of the American Association of University Professors - said that the original version would be "incredibly divisive and quite destructive" to the MLA.
The response? Those advocating the original language faulted the new resolution for being "even-handed." They demanded a resolution targeted at Israeli and Zionist sympathizers. I don't think many would have been surprised had the MLA passed the original resolution. Although it's a wonder where they've been for the last twenty years - while even the New York Times happily mocks their leftist demeanor - it's good to see that some within the organization seem to have finally realized the harm that their political declarations might do to their pretenses of scholarly authority. An obvious solution would be to simply stop issuing these resolutions - but the MLA seems leagues away from that. For the moment, it's encouraging to find any academic moment at which the somewhat left prevailed over the radical left, but it's clear that there are still countless professors for whom any deviation from naked activism is a bit too "even-handed" to stomach.
Posted by John Leo
Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has a long and excellent article on the Gross-Simmons study on the political and social views of professors, as well as on the Harvard symposium last Saturday that discussed the findings. The study concluded that the professoriate is more moderate than many believe, with younger instructors less activist and less liberal than older ones, though there has been no rise in the percentage of conservatives (I discussed this study here on October 10th.)
If you are pressed for time and have already read an account of the Gross-Simmons conclusions, skip down to the second half of the Jaschik report, which features comments by Harvard's former president Lawrence Summers and other faculty members. Summers says the percentage of conservative professors is distressingly small, but thinks it would be "extraordinarily unwise and dangerous" to try forcing more balance in hiring.
Jonathan Zimmerman, a historian at New York University, said the experience of growing up in the 80s and 90s amid the rise of the political right has had a profound effect on professors, including an "erosion of faith in citizens." He said, "the story we need to tell is about the alienation of professors from the publics." At the end of the Jaschik report is a collection of unusually interesting reader comments on Gross-Simmons and the issues it raises.
Posted by John Leo
At the Saturday conference on the Gross-Simmons study, Lawrence Summers compared the meager number of conservative professors to the startling decline in the number of black players in major league baseball (now down to 8.4 percent). Blacks are well-represented among the best players, "but it appeared that there were not any African-American .250 hitters." Alas, the implication here - that baseball deliberately cuts the percentage of blacks by discriminating against all but the best African-Americans - is wrong. The main reason for black decline is the structure of the amateur draft. Since the draft does not apply to foreign-born players, teams can circumvent the draft by aggressively seeking promising players outside the U.S., most commonly in Caribbean countries. Every major league team now has a training camp in the Dominican Republic. Vince Gennaro, a consultant to many major league teams, says the international market "is the place where the high-revenue teams can leverage their economic advantage." Another factor is that the draft has shifted sharply toward players in college, where there are fewer blacks and a dwindling number of athletic scholarships. Polls also show that black youths are much less interested in baseball than they are in basketball and football. One reason may be that black culture puts a high premium on improvisation (jazz, hip hop, the transformation of modern basketball). Baseball may be the sport most resistant to improvisation.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Variety reports that HBO has acquired the rights to Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson's Until Proven Innocent. After our featuring the authors here in New York, we're surprised it took this long for a screen deal. Our prodigious influence aside, the Duke case fully merits a fuller media treatment, and there's no better account to use than Until Proven Innocent.
I'm curious as to what exactly HBO is going to do with the story. The story notes that they "will develop a movie exploring the dynamics of racism and class issues that made the case a national story." There's obvious cracking legal/political thriller material here, but the "dynamics of racism and class issues" here run so thoroughly contrary to the usual television themes, it's a wonder how HBO will possibly handle it. Will they put the group of 88 in?
Posted by Jay P. Greene
You might have seen John Coatsworth, the acting dean of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs posing questions to Ahmadinejad today. It was Coatsworth who declared that he would invite Hitler to speak at Columbia.
He was also a signatory to a "Joint Harvard-MIT Petition for Divestment from Israel" when he was a professor at Harvard. See his name here. That petition begins: "We, the undersigned are appalled by the human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, the continual military occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory by Israeli armed forces and settlers, and the forcible eviction from and demolition of Palestinian homes, towns and cities."
Apparently, it is fine to host dictators but not to invest in democracies.
Posted by John Leo
K C Johnson, on his web site Durham-in-Wonderland, has written about 850,000 words over the past 18 months on the Duke lacrosse scandal. It has been an astonishing, brilliant effort -graceful, accurate, penetrating and fair. Because of the terrible performance of the mainstream press, Johnson's blogging quickly became the gold standard of reporting on the case. As one blogger said last January, nobody would think of writing about the subject without checking with KC first. If bloggers were eligible for the Pulitzer Prize, Johnson would have won hands down. (Asterisk here: of course those voting for the Pulitzers represent the papers that failed so miserably in covering the non-rape case.)
Every now and then, Johnson supplies a list of worst performances, such as the ten worst columns or the ten worst editorials on the case. Now he has produced, over three days, his list of the 32 worst statements made by anyone.
Wendy Murphy, an adjunct law professor and an unsually appalling talking head for MSNBC, surprised many of us by making the list only twice, getting as high an Number 11 for saying "I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child." (Several winners assumed guilt and speculated on why the accused were such monsters.) Another surprise is that New York Times writers achieved only two listings - one by sports columnist Selena Roberts, the other by the worst of all reporters to cover the case, sportswriter Duff Wilson.
Rabid professor Grant Farred (Number 5) argued that white Duke students who registered to vote in Durham were engaged in "secret racism," because the X made by voters on the ballot is "the sign of the white male franchise, itself overridden with the mark of privilege, oppression, slavery, racism, utter contempt for black and native bodies."
Michael Nifong accounted for 8 of the 32 listings., including Number 1: "If I were one of those (defense) attorneys, I wouldn't really want to try a case against me either." Johnson may have been unfair to include Nifong in the competition. Expecting amateur quotemongers to compete with a pro like Nifong is like telling a Little Leaguer to go strike out Babe Ruth.
Number 2 was the always-wrong Duke president Richard Brodhead, who said a month after the story broke: "If (Finnerty and Seligmann) did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough." Johnson comments: "We know now that 'whatever' Finnerty and Seligmann did: they attended a party they had no role in organizing and they drank some beer."
Johnson is, of course, co-author of the brilliant new book on the case, Until Proven Innocent co-written with Stuart Taylor, Jr., one of the best columnists and legal writers in the country. To order the book, go to Amazon and be patient - the publisher has been slow in supplying more copies.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
The news about Harvard never stops. Jay Greene wrote last week on Harvard professor Howard Gardner's hopes of secession. Gardner's words, in the Harvard alumni magazine, were:
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.
Jay suggested, pretty reasonably, that these sentiments were unpatriotic. He's just alerted us to follow-up on Gardner's point on Richard Bradley's blog Shots In The Dark. A reader starts the thread off suggesting that criticism of "allegiance" sidestepped the substantive point, complaining that "Instead this empty talk about 'allegiance' and grumbling about seditiousness -- and an implicit concession that the 'shanghaiing' charge sticks. Pathetic."
Bradley then weighed in:
Yes, I agree. To be fair, though, I think that Professor Gardner opened the door with the word "secession." It seemed a casual remark, a manifestation of frustration, but clearly these things are watched by people looking for Harvard bias.
Merely a casual remark! But no.. Howard Gardner himself appeared on the thread to clarify (it's not certain that it is Gardner, but it's also unclear why anyone would want to masquerade as him on a blog):
Continue reading "Yes, Harvard Professor Really Would Like To Secede" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Harvard seems to be chugging in all the right directions as of late. Now that Harvard has escaped the nightmare-state of Summers apartheid the University is free to.. improve its standing in the field of hip-hop studies. The Crimson reports:
Marcyliena Morgan, a scholar of global hip-hop culture who was denied tenure under former University President Lawrence H. Summers, will be returning to Harvard in January with her husband, Lawrence D. Bobo, a prominent sociologist of race.
The couple left Harvard's African and African American Studies Department in 2005 for Stanford, where they have both held tenure-level positions. At Harvard, Bobo was a full professor, while Morgan held an untenured associate professorship.
"Since the day they left, it has been my dream to get them back," said Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., the former chair of the African and African American Studies Department and the Fletcher University Professor.
Af-Am Chair Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham said that the change of leadership in the University was one factor that made Morgan and Bobo's return possible.
University President Drew G. Faust contacted the couple in person to urge them to return to Harvard, Gates said....
Good to see President Faust hard at work for a modern Harvard. While the President is wheedling hip-hop scholars, it's surreal to see that it remains to The Crimson , in an editorial today, to note that military studies are woefully slight at the university:
Continue reading "Harvard Wins Hip-Hop Scholar, Is Unsure What Military History Is." »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Jay Bergman has a fine new piece up at the NAS Forum, puncturing the sanctimony that surrounds the ever-expanding sphere of "academic freedom" in the minds of many professors (see "Ward Churchill, sober research scholar, victim")
In response to the increasing contention that "academic freedom protects professorial speech in any circumstance Bergman cites the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles, and its statement that "teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."
At Central Connecticut State University where I am a professor, this distinction is sometimes ignored. Last fall, a professor sent the students in one of her courses more than 100 e-mails containing articles advocating the professor's opinions on matters entirely extraneous to the course -- for example, that Israel committed war crimes while fighting Hamas in Gaza last summer, and that comparisons between the Bush administration and Nazi Germany are reasonable. She also invited students to join her in attending seminars, such as Workshops on Peace, that were designed to advance the professor's political agenda.
What is even worse, during one class, as a way of demonstrating how the American colonists stole Indian land, the same professor took a student's backpack without permission and in front of all the students emptied its contents onto the floor, naming each item one by one. It is hard to imagine a more egregious violation of a student's privacy, or a more flagrant abuse of the power professors have over students by virtue of their grading them and writing recommendations for them for jobs after they graduate.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. In my 17 years at CCSU, about half of my students have told me, on their own initiative or in response to my asking them, that one or more of their professors not only interjected their political opinions in class on a regular basis, but did so in an effort to convert their students to their point of view.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
The Regents of the University of Colorado are meeting to determine Ward Churchill's fate tomorrow, July 24th. The ACLU has written the University of Colorado arguing against Ward Churchill's firing. This isn't surprising - its letter repeats a central canard in the case - that the Churchill investigation was merely a pretext for larger, sinister pressures:
It is undisputed, however, that Professor Churchill's views are protected by the First Amendment, and cannot serve as a legal basis for any adverse employment action. Nevertheless the University soon launched the investigation of Professor Churchill's scholarship in an effort to find more defensible grounds for sanctioning him.
Churchill defenders willfully conflate all elements of the proceedings against Churchill - "the University" you notice, is here presented as judge, jury, and (perhaps) executioner. No difference is admitted in agency or person between the submission of a complaint as to Churchill's work, and the creation of a University panel looking into the question; the processes are looked upon as one and the same. The timing of the complaint about Churchill's research is viewed as an ineradicable taint, no matter what they unearth or how often they address the question directly of the reason for inquiry. Consider the Standing Committee on Research and Misconduct's statement here:
Continue reading "Ward Churchill And The ACLU" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
A new Zogby poll confirms what everyone suspected:
58% of respondents found political bias on the part of college professors a "serious" problem. That's encouraging. Who was concered? 91% of those self-described as "very conservative" found bias a problem while a scant 3% of liberals believed so. None of this is very surprising.
Somewhat more interestingly, 46% of respondents indicated that they believed that the quality of a college education was worse than it was 25 years ago. Only 29% believed that it had improved.
A stirring vote of confidence in American higher education.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
A colleague forwarded the following to me, found in The New York Times
Re "Young Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds" (front page, June 27):
As a professor who for years has spoken on the virtues of liberalism, I find it extremely pleasing to know that young Americans are once again beginning to lean on the left.
It gives me great hope that this new generation will go on to restore what has been taken away from us in the last seven years of the ultraconservative Bush administration and its collaborators in Congress.
While your conservative readers will accuse me of being yet another liberal professor indoctrinating students, it is more important to have voters who support universal health coverage for all, believe that gay marriage and abortion should be legal and that global warming is a serious problem, and finally, willing to vote for a presidential candidate who smoked marijuana, who is a woman or African-American.
In short, these voters will turn our nation into a kinder and gentler place and that is so much better than the current divisive, religion-suffocating, anti-science and war-filled living conditions.
Stony Brook, N.Y., June 27, 2007
Well, if it makes the students kinder and gentler...
Posted by Laurie Morrow
According to a 2007 poll, 95% of Sweden's young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty know what Auschwitz was, yet 90% don't know what the word 'Gulag' refers to, despite the Russians having dispatched to these infamous labor camps thousands of innocent people.
This lack of knowledge is not the fault of the young, but of the media and of other social institutions, whose proper role is the capturing and transmission of truth. Sweden is a Socialist country, and one suspects that the failure to accurately portray Communism is a consequence of the sense of kinship the Swedish Left feels for Socialism's rabid brother. Because of this betrayal of the truth, the generation about to assume leadership in Sweden will face that grave responsibility stuffed with false information. For example, some 43% of those polled believe that Communism has spread prosperity - not famine - wherever its chill grip has extended. Although they realize Communism has cost some innocent lives, 20% of these young people estimate that loss of life at 10,000. 43% come slightly closer to the mark, with an estimate of 1 million. Few, however, realize that the actual total exceeds, by 50%, the combined total deaths of the two World Wars. The correct estimate of lives destroyed by Communism already exceeds 100 million, a tally that continues to mount today.
Continue reading "Tear Down What Wall?" »
Posted by Harry Stein
Henry Lewis Gates, renowned Harvard professor of African-American Studies - which is to say, someone about as deep as can be gotten in the belly of the diversity-obsessed academic beast - said something quite remarkable the other day. Invited to address the graduates of Kentucky's Berea College, founded in 1855 as the first integrated college in the South, from the speakers platform Gates trod very familiar territory. He lauded the benefits of affirmative action, and instructed the grads that it isn't enough to "pay lip service" to diversity. But in an interview he gave an enterprising reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, things got interesting. Gates allowed that while he, the son of a janitor, had needed affirmative action to get ahead, his own privileged children did not; nor should they benefit from it. But poor white children should. "We need to get more black people into the middle class," he concluded. "We need to get more white people into the middle class."
One cannot help but wonder whether the learned professor realizes that such a position -support for economic affirmative action, but opposition to the kind based merely on skin color - is identical to that held by the nation's leading crusader against racial preferences (and a man much detested by campus liberals and leftists), Ward Connerly. Indeed, in his successful fights on behalf of state initiatives to end race-based college admissions and government hiring in California, Washington and Michigan, Connerly has been bitterly denounced as a race traitor and worse for saying the very same thing; demanding, for instance, how affirmative action supporters can fail to see the elemental unfairness of a college admissions officer giving preference to the child of a black surgeon over the child of a white coal miner who would be the first in his family to go to college.
Continue reading "Henry Lewis Gates: Ward Connerly's Latest Supporter?" »
Posted by John Leo
Faculty at American colleges and universities are more religious than many of us believe-65 percent say they believe in God and 46 percent claim a personal relationship with God. Still, they are far less religious than the general population, some 93 percent of which believes in God, with 66 percent reporting a personal relationship. While 80 percent of the public identify themselves as Christian, the comparable percentage of faculty is much lower-56 percent-primarily because Evangelical Christians account for 33 percent of the general population but only 11 percent of college faculty. These numbers show up in "Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty," a report by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Some 6,600 faculty were surveyed.
One of the strongest findings is that political ideology is highly associated with attendance at religious services. Those who go to services every week, or almost every week: 24 percent of liberals, 44 percent of moderates, and 66 percent of conservatives. Non-religious faculty tend to be the most negative about U.S. policies in the Middle East and most positive about the United Nations and institutions such as the International Court of Justice. The vast majority of faculty listed North Korea, followed by the U.S., as the greatest threats to international stability.
Continue reading "What Faculty Think About Religion" »
Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education
Faulty Towers: Tenure and the Structure of Higher Education
Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education
Sifting And Winnowing: The Uses And Abuses Of Academic Freedom
As Goes Harvard. . .
The Left University
Profiles in Diversity
Retaking the University
Save the World on Your Own Time
The Mau-Mauing at Harvard
"Terrorism and the Intellectuals"
The Law of Group Polarization
How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?
How Many Ward Churchills?
Political Behavior and Beliefs of College Faculty
Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action
Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty
The Chronicle Survey of Public Opinion on Higher Education