The Fisher Decision: Not Good News, But…

The Supreme Court today upheld the University of Texas’s use of racial preferences in student admissions.  The vote was 4-3, with Justice Kennedy writing the majority opinion, joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor (Justice Kagan was recused).  Justice Alito write a powerful, 51-page dissent, which he read from the bench.

Needless to say, for those of us opposed to racial discrimination in university admissions, the decision is disappointing, for all the reasons that Justice Alito explains.  But the silver lining is that today’s decision is a narrow one.

As the Court says, UT’s program “is sui generis” and the way the case was litigated “may limit its value for prospective guidance.”

Justice Kennedy also warns the university repeatedly in his opinion that it has an ongoing duty to minimize its use of race.  Race is, the Court says, only a “factor of a factor of a factor” at UT; was considered contextually; does not automatically help members of any group; and could in theory help the members of any group, including whites and Asian Americans.

Now, much of this may be quite false as a matter of what really happens at the University of Texas, but other schools are now obliged to jump through the hoops that the Court says UT jumped through.

So look at it this way:  Barring a decision by the Court that overruled Grutter v. Bollinger and said that schools may never use racial preferences because the “educational benefits of diversity” are not compelling, lots of schools would continue to use such preferences, even if the Court had left the door open only a tiny crack.  If the Court had said, “You can use racial preferences only if the school can prove XYZ,” then every Ivy League president would swear that, what do you know, we have found XYZ.”  And it doesn’t matter what XYZ is.

That’s what the law was before today’s decision, and it remains what the law is after today’s decision.  Sure, it would have been better if the Court had given the opponents of racial preferences more ammunition than it did today to attack those XYZ claims, but we still have plenty of ammunition from the Court’s earlier decisions.

The bottom line is that the Court’s decision leaves plenty of room for future challenges to racial preference policies at other schools, and at UT itself for that matter.  It’s interesting that in the run-up to the decision, there was much discussion even among liberals that maybe indeed there are better approaches to student admissions that UT’s.  Here’s hoping that those discussions continue, prodded along by lawsuits and FOIA requests to ensure that all of Justice Kennedy’s hoops have been jumped through.

So the challenges to racial preferences will continue; cases already filed against Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill that had been on hold will now proceed.  And the Supreme Court has also made clear that states are free to act on their own to ban racial preferences, through ballot initiatives or legislation.  The struggle goes on.

Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which has joined numerous amicus briefs on behalf of plaintiff over the course of the Fisher litigation.

Basketball Star Sues Yale

Yale has brought controversial charges against two star athletes in recent years, both on the eve of their biggest games: quarterback Patrick Witt in 2014 just before the Yale-Harvard game (and when he was up for a Rhodes scholarship) and  Jack Montague, captain of the Ivy-League championship basketball tram just before this year’s  rare appearance in March Madness.  As promised, Montague has just filed suit against Yale.

His accuser said she had consensual sex with Montague three times before the alleged sexual misconduct and one time after. On the fourth occasion, his lawyer said, she joined him in bed, voluntarily removed all of her clothes, and they had sexual intercourse. Then they got up, left the room and went separate ways. Later that same night, she reached out to him to meet up, then returned to his room voluntarily, and spent the rest of the night in his bed with him.  You can read the full complaint here. I summarized the document here.

Four major points from the complaint:

1.) Why Did Yale Break Its Own Rules? Montague’s accuser did not file charges against him. Instead, a Yale Title IX administrator did so. Yale’s policies grant the Title IX bureaucrat this authority, but only in “extremely rare cases,” and only when “there is serious risk to the safety of individuals or the community.” In February 2016, Stephanie Spangler, who oversees Yale’s Title IX coordinators, told the Yale Daily News, “Except in rare cases involving an acute threat to community safety, coordinators defer to complainants’ wishes.”

Montague’s case was a claim filed by a former sex partner around a year after the two had slept together. Even his accuser didn’t claim that he was an “acute threat” (or any threat) to her at all. But if there was no “acute threat to community safety” from Montague, why did Yale pursue the case?

2.) What Would Discovery Produce? Montague has sued Yale—along with two Title IX administrators. The complaint certainly raises some troubling questions about one of those administrators, Angela Gleason. (As so often occurs in these cases, the administrators making key decisions seem to have a strong background in identity politics.) Gleason appears to have aggressively pressured the accuser to file a complaint against Montague—after the Yale bureaucrat learned from the accuser’s roommate about the basketball player allegedly having a “bad experience” with the accuser. According to the complaint, Gleason misled the accuser both about Yale’s policies and Montague’s disciplinary history.

The complaint plausibly suggests that Gleason wanted the accuser to file charges because Montague was such an inviting target—expelling a high-profile star athlete would prove Yale’s “seriousness” about confronting sexual assault. With whom did Gleason and other Title IX bureaucrats consult before deciding to go ahead against Montague?

3.) Yale’s Likely Response. In its public statements earlier in the case, Yale has telegraphed its response: citing material from the Spangler Reports (the twice-yearly documents summarizing all sexual assault cases on campus, which I’ve regularly analyzed), the university has argued that it doesn’t expel everyone accused of sexual assault. Therefore, its policies should be presumed discerning and fair.

The complaint uses these same reports, and other Yale sexual assault documents, to argue that—even assuming Montague was guilty, which looks like a big assumption based on the information, his punishment far exceeded comparably-situated Yale students. That disparity reinforces the theory that the university targeted Montague to send a message.

Another point: in its statement responding to the lawsuit, Yale touted its specially “trained” disciplinary panelists. But the university has, thus far, refused to reveal precisely what “training material” these panelists received. Since Yale considers this material so critical, will it make the “training” public?

4.) Yale and the Treatment of Athletes. From Baylor to Tennessee to Florida State, star athletes sometimes get special treatment in sexual assault cases. But when universities don’t make money from the athletics program, there’s scant evidence of favored treatment for athletes. Yale’s troubling attitudes toward due process when athletes are accused first came to light in the Patrick Witt case. It seems to have continued with its handling of Montague—where the complaint argues that the accuser was treated far more favorably than Montague.

One aspect of the Montague affair that has received insufficient attention is the treatment of the men’s basketball team. The basketball team—in a gesture of empathy for a friend going through a difficult time—wore warmup shirts with Montague’s nickname. In response, the players received vitriolic criticism (this Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale statement is representative), and, it seems, pressure from the Yale administration to issue an apology.

If the university were so sensitive to portraying Montague as guilty that it pressured other students to refrain from pro-Montague statements, how fairly could it have treated him?

How Chinese Students Are Changing Our Colleges

Nearly 600,000 foreign undergraduate students now study at US colleges and universities, some 165,000 of them from China, the total from China grew by nearly 30 percent in 2009/2010, with a percentage rise in double digits every year since, according to the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” report, funded by the U.S. Department of State

UC Berkeley’s 2015 international students’ GPA’s, and SAT and ACT test scores were competitive with those of California and out-of-state residents, according to a spokeswoman from the Student Affairs Communication office.  Average admission SAT scores were 2124 for California and international students, 2171 for out-of-state residents.

UC Berkeley’s 2015 international students’ GPA’s, and SAT and ACT test scores were competitive with those of California and out-of-state residents, according to a spokeswoman from the Student Affairs Communication office.  Average admission SAT scores were 2124 for California and international students, 2171 for out-of-state residents.

The Problem of Cheating

But colleagues of mine still teaching say that the quality of Chinese students is deteriorating. Schlafly reports that about 8,000 Chinese students were expelled last year for poor academic performance or for cheating.  An executive from the WholeRen company that caters to such students admits that the students used Jo be considered “top-notch”; but over the past five years they have gained a reputation as wealthy kids who cheat.

The Wall Street Journal recently acquired data on cheating from 14 public universities around the country and found that students from China were reported  to be cheating at five times the rate of American students. Faculty contacted by Journal reporters often singled out Chinese students. “Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” said Beth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor of geography and development.

Maseratis and Lamborghinis

The wealth of the Chinese who come to the United States to buy real estate and study (including high school students) has been widely reported.  An indication comes from sales data at luxury car dealers.  Chinese students’ car purchases accounted for 10 to 20 percent of a luxury car dealer’s entire sales near Michigan State in East Lansing, 8 percent of luxury car sales near the University of Oregon at Eugene, and 5 percent near the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  The 12,000 Chinese students (out of 44,000 total foreign students) attending the dozens of colleges in the Boston area are often seen driving Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and Range Rovers, according to Schlafly’s report.

Boston University, where international students make up 24 percent of the student body, has a “strong” and longer than usual history of welcoming international students, says Anne Corriveau, Senior Associate Director of the Office of International Admissions

At public colleges, administrators see a financial benefit from the higher out-of-state tuition rates that international students pay. While UC Berkeley maintains that scores for admission of international students are competitive, Schlafly claims that 4,500 California students were denied entry to the state’s public colleges in favor of out-of-state and foreign students with lower SAT scores. Foreign students pay two to three times the rates for in-state American students, which makes up for shrinking subsidies from state governments.

While overall SAT scores may be on par, international students’ scores in the critical reading and writing portions may lag, says Carriveau.  She admits that the Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language) often does not indicate a proficiency that is adequate for passing a freshman writing course.  Agencies in China and other places guide families through the application process, even writing essays for students. Many pass the Toefl test by memorization.  Such students are accommodated with extra resources and special classes at Boston University, and elsewhere.

The Pressure on Teachers

College administrators, however, are also placing the burden on professors, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in the recent article, “Colleges Help the Faculty Adapt Teaching for Foreign Students.”  Iowa State University communications professor Jay Newell, for example, adapted after observing a group of disengaged Chinese students and realizing that they could not understand his lectures because, of course, they were in English. Newell told the Chronicle, “My job is to make sure that students learn this stuff and understand it and engage with it.”  He saw the foreign students’ falling behind as being his “’problem as much as it was theirs.’”

But it seems to be getting worse.  Rather than insisting that Chinese students perform at the same level as other students, our universities are catering to them. This includes my old workplace, Emory, where a 2014 news article applauded professors who took lessons in Mandarin.  One is Italian lecturer Simona Muratore who enrolled in the free language classes offered on campus after she found she could not communicate in either English or Italian with the growing number of Chinese students in her Italian language class.

Economics professor Frank Maddox, who also teaches on Emory’s Oxford campus, was preparing to leave for a fall sabbatical in Beijing to study “business culture and central banking,” as well as to participate in a seven-week language immersion course. After teaching an intermediate microeconomics course in the fall 2010 semester, in which over half of his students were Chinese, he had learned Mandarin well enough to drop phrases into his lectures.  But he wanted to get to the point where he could “’casually chat with’” and “’engage’” his students.

International students do indeed bring both diversity and new perspectives into the classroom. But while American students are encouraged to study abroad and learn about foreign cultures and languages, students from China are being catered to here by professors and administrators.  Faculty time previously spent on scholarly research is being used for training to “engage” a certain ethnic segment of the student body. Time previously spent with American students is spent on bringing international students up to speed.  Classroom discussions and lessons have to be slowed down for international students. Our students stand to lose more than they gain as their universities cater increasingly to international students.

Yale Lets the Abusive Protesters Win

Among all the idiocies on campus in the last year, there is no more dispiriting statement than a line quoted in The Wall Street Journal on June 3rd.

In an op-ed entitled “How the Yale Halloween Vigilantes Finally Got Their Way,” an undergraduate named Zachary Young records the final episode of the whole affair in New Haven.  The Christakises have resigned as master and associate master of Silliman College.

Young notes that after Erika Christakis wrote her infamous Halloween email and Nicholas Christakis was denounced and cursed by an undergraduate on Yale grounds, things got even worse.  People scribbled attacks in chalk outside their home and “posted degrading images of them online.”  They left a sombrero and Rastafarian wig outside their office.  At this year’s graduation ceremony, several students receiving their diplomas refused to shake Nicholas’ hand.

None of the perpetrators seemed to recognize the value of the Christakises’ work.  An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last January, Paul McHugh called Nicholas “one of America’s outstanding physician-scientists.”  And Erika’s book The Importance of Being Little, published earlier this year, has been one of the most discussed education books in 2016.  (My review of it appears here)

But the students’ conduct is not the dismaying part of the latest information.  It is, instead, what Nicholas wrote in the couple’s letter of resignation.  After suffering harassment and insult all year long, he still manages to be conciliatory:

“We have great respect for every member of our community, friend and critic alike.  We remain hopeful that students at Yale can express themselves and engage complex ideas within an intellectually plural community.”

That doesn’t sound like the expression of a flesh-and-blood man.  It’s the voice of a bureaucrat whose words have been approved by higher-ups.  Respect for the student who shrieked the f-word at him?  Respect for people vandalizing their property?  Gimme a break.  Can you really say with a straight face that Yale is an “intellectually plural community”?

The op-ed notes that during the year “the Christakises have met one-on-one with offended students.  They have invited their critics over for a group lunch to ‘continue the conversation.'”  Our only response is, “You call this a conversation?!”

Let’s be clear about why students are acting in this high-handed, commanding way.  It’s because they know their superiors will take it.  When the students confronted Nicholas Christakis on the quad, they knew who he was, and they knew that he wouldn’t do much of anything if they bullied and berated and humiliated him.  They wouldn’t do any such thing with an authority disinclined to tolerate their tantrums.

Mr. Young concludes with an optimistic note: “With luck, the sorry episode at Yale will cause students to spend less time vilifying professors and more time engaging with their ideas.”

Nope, it will do the opposite. The students got exactly what they wanted.  They were rewarded for their nastiness.  They’ll do it again.

Liberals Who Drifted Toward the New Illiberalism

Liberal. Progressive.  Liberal progressive.  Progressive liberal.  Radical.  Social democrat.  Democratic socialist.  Occupiers.  Social justice warriors.

What do we call today’s leaders of the political left?  Where do they stand in the eye of history?  Answering these questions resembles sometimes trying to grab an eel with your bare hand.  Most likely it will slip away, but it may bite as well.

Related: The Strange World of Social Justice Warriors

Kim Holmes, a historian who served as assistant secretary Closing of Liberal Mindof state under Colin Powell, has undertaken an ungloved eel-hunt in The Closing of the Liberal Mind (Encounter, 2016).  It is not an entirely thankless task in that there are those of us who will thank him.  (Thank you, Dr. Holmes.)  But a book such as this will win no friends in places such as The New York Times or The Chronicle of Higher Education, which are among those who insist that today’s leftist priorities are the plain extension of the same principles that animated the leftist priorities of past generations of liberal activists.  Holmes opposes that narrative.

Holmes’ thesis is that “progressive liberals” are not “really liberals,” but are “postmodern leftists.”  The eel is touched.  What, in turn, is a “postmodern leftist”?  The postmodern part, says Holmes, is the belief that “ethics are completely and utterly relative” and human knowledge is whatever people say it is.  (Truth, fantasy, error, and lies flow together in the endless stream of consciousness.)  The “leftist” half of “postmodern leftist,” in Holmes’ unpacking, is “radical egalitarianism” along with “sexual and identity politics and radical multiculturalism.”

Related: The Power of Buzzwords like ‘Dispositions’ and ‘Social Justice’

This is certainly a serviceable definition.  One could—and Holmes does from time to time—annex other pieces of the left’s core agenda.  Let’s not forget sustainability and radical environmentalism, or the apocalyptic element in the left’s agenda; or transnationalism (turning us all into “citizens of the world”); or radical feminism’s war on marriage and the family; or the numerous importations from Marxism.  How much of the “postmodern leftism” is the legacy of Barack Obama, and how much was Barack Obama just the cork floating on the wave of postmodern leftism?  Holmes starts with the easier clarification that the two go together.  Postmodern leftism is “the predominant worldview of Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.”  That seems to me an objective truth of the sort postmodern eels squirm away from.  Holmes sets himself the task of holding on tight.

Two Closings: Bloom and Holmes

The Closing of the Liberal Mind echoes Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, but while Bloom put his primary emphasis on the university as the door-closer, Holmes sees a whole army of door-slammers at work as much in the media and politics as on campus.  But as this is Minding the Campus, I will attend to just the academic portion of his argument.

Holmes’ point of departure is the 18th century Enlightenment, which he divides into the “moderate” Enlightenment (Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, the American Revolution) and the “radical” Enlightenment (Spinoza, Bayle, Diderot, Rousseau, the Reign of Terror, socialism, communism, and postmodern ideas of egalitarianism.)  This is an important distinction that is familiar to readers of intellectual history but Holmes presents it lucidly for readers who aren’t.  The line from Spinoza’s 17th century materialism to today’s academic ascendency of leftist utopians passes through the New Left of the 1960s.

A large part of the story Holmes tells is how the New Left revived the radical egalitarianism of the radical Enlightenment and gave it a new home on the college campus, where it shortly found its postmodernist component in the likes of French theorists such as Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault.  It also found its anti-liberal lodestars in Frankfurt School Marxists such as Marcuse and Adorno.  The cast of relevant characters is large, but Holmes is excellent in pinning them to their places in the story of how old-style American liberalism, with its emphasis on liberty and individual rights, transformed to the new-style postmodern leftism, with its emphasis on conformity, control, and group identity.

As an analyst of the contemporary university, Holmes’ great strength is, perhaps paradoxically, his decision not to lean too heavily on campus developments themselves.  For example, his explanation of the rise of multiculturalism puts as much emphasis on the residue of the “legal realist” movement of the 1920s, which attacked the ideal of legal neutrality and the notion of “general principles,” in favor of a view of law as essentially arbitrary.

As Holmes sees it, legal realism was the nihilistic blade that cleared the ground for feminists and other radical identity theorists to turn the law into a tool of their political agenda.  Without the radical multiculturalist legal theorists who moved into this vacuum, “there would be no talk of ‘hate speech’ or ‘hate crimes’” and “no expansive judicial interpretations of Title IX to force universities to act like courts in rape cases.”

The drift from liberalism towards illiberalism, Holmes says, is partially explained by the emergence of a new ruling class distinguished by “cultural habits.” He refers to David Brooks’ term for Baby Boomers who grow rich but persist in thinking of themselves as cultural outsiders, “bourgeois bohemians,” and he updates Brooks with Charles Murray’s characterization of the “cognitive elite” who dominate the professions.

These folks “think alike” and “live in the same kind of places, eat and dress alike, watch the same movies, read the same blogs and news sites, and listen to the same radio programs (All Things Considered, not The Rush Limbaugh Show.)” And they attend America’s elite universities. “The result is a high correlation between elite education and wealth. Murray observes that 31 percent of Wesleyan University graduates, for example, live in what he calls ‘Superzips’—the wealthiest zip codes in America based on median family income and education—and 65 percent live in zip codes at the 80th percentile or higher.”

This aristocracy plainly sees itself as superior to everyone else and Holmes says it is “ruthless” in maintaining its position. But members of this elite also “fashion themselves as hip advocates of equality.” The paradox has grown old.  Tom Wolfe’s depiction in Radical Chic of Leonard Bernstein’s posturing to a leader of the Black Panthers as angry about his own wealth and privilege goes back to 1970.  I pick up today’s New York Times to read in the letters a declaration from someone who says, “I, too, am a white male and work every day to overcome how I was raised, to recognize that I am not entitled to superior rights because I was born a white male of European heritage.” The moral vanity of people who say this sort of thing is the real enunciation of their elite standing.  Instilling that vanity is the principal work of elite colleges, which teach this exquisite form of self-regard far more effectively than they teach the heritage of Western civilization or the substance of any particular subject.

The subtitle of Holmes’ book is “How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left.”  Because the motherlode of groupthink and intolerance is the contemporary American university, Holmes has bright and shining examples by the truckload of such academic devilment.  Many of these are familiar, e.g. the Rolling Stone University of Virginia rape hoax and Marquette University’s effort to unseat tenured professor John McAdams. But even the familiar stories of academic groupthink and intolerance gain from Holmes’ careful contextualization.

The Closing of the Liberal Mind is a synthesis that comes along at the just the right political moment.  As we ponder the shift in American culture that has made avowed socialist Bernie Sanders the most popular presidential candidate among college students and that has kept Hillary Clinton afloat on a platform of feminist exceptionalism, we are in need of some sober thinking about the decline of the old liberal tradition.  Postmodern leftism is a threat not just to higher education but to our Constitutional republic.  It may not be the only threat, but it is one that deserves focused, historically informed, and intellectually precise attention.  Holmes has reached into the basket of eels and given us that.

Problems in the Stanford Sexual Assault Case

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post Stuart Taylor, Jr. and I discuss the Brock Turner case at Stanford. We argue that the case proves that campus felonies like sexual assault are better handled by the criminal justice system than by campus tribunals—in no small measure because the public can have confidence in the Turner verdict in a way that would have been inconceivable with Stanford’s notoriously one-sided campus disciplinary process. The case thus gives the lie to campus rape groups like Know Your IX and their academic supporters, such as Stanford Law’s Michele Dauber, who have attempted to delegitimize the role of the police in handling campus felonies, at least when the felony is sexual assault.
A few other points from the case that deserve a mention:

  • The 6-month sentence imposed on Turner (along with a lifetime requirement that he register as a sex offender) has triggered a severe backlash. Given the backlash, as Jason Willick first pointed out, it’s very difficult to comprehend the far more restrained response to the 6-month sentence imposed on former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu. By virtually any measurement, Ukwuachu’s case (which, like Turner’s, also received extensive media attention) was more severe: the nature of his assault appears to have involved more violence; alcohol does not seem to have played any role in his crime; he seemed to have had a pattern of treating women violently; and he had no remarks comparable to Turner’s expression of remorse. Yet there was no national campaign to recall the judge in the Ukwuachu case, nor was his photograph regularly used in social media with a “rapist” theme.It would be interesting to hear from the accusers’ rights movement, and their media and academic allies, why they responded to the two sentences so differently. (I also agree, by the way, with the inappropriateness of the recall campaign against the judge, though I consider the sentence for Turner—like the sentence for Ukwuachu—too lenient.)
  • Before the judge issued his sentence, Michele Dauber, law professor at Stanford, wrote a letter to the judge demanding that Turner spend more time in jail than what the probation office recommended. Dauber said that she wrote because of her expertise on the issue—without revealing that she had previously disparaged the ability of the same prosecutor’s office that successfully tried Turner to handle campus rape cases.In her letter, Dauber conceded (correctly) that “the facts here are in some ways especially egregious when compared with many other assaults on campus.” She cited the public nature of the crime, and the fact that Turner and his victim were strangers. Just over a page later, however, Dauber suggested that “at Stanford, assaults that are very similar to this case are unfortunately all too frequent.” [emphasis added] Really? Cases similar to public assaults of strangers are “frequent” at Stanford?
  • In her letter, Dauber asserted, remarkably, that students who have committed sexual assault at Stanford “typically have participated in athletics.” [emphasis added] She cited no evidence for this claim. Given that the data on which such a claim could be based is confidential, Dauber either: (a) simply misled a judge; or (b) inappropriately revealed protected information. I’d bet on (a).
  • The Stanford Law professor justified her demand for a lengthier sentence (it’s worth pausing to consider the extraordinary nature of a high-profile left-wing law professor writing a judge to demand a sentence for a convicted criminal longer than the probation office recommended) by citing deterrence. It’s not clear why potential Stanford rapists would be deterred by seeing a classmate get a three-year sentence (plus lifetime as a sex offender, loss of a degree, loss of ability to compete as an intercollegiate athlete, and massive media exposure as a rapist) but would not be deterred by seeing a classmate get a six-month sentence (plus lifetime as a sex offender, loss of a college degree, loss of ability to compete as an intercollegiate athlete, and massive media exposure as a rapist). Dauber did not explain how she reached her deterrence evaluation.
  • Dauber concluded by claiming that “Turner will have plenty of opportunity to finish his education.” It’s not clear what academic universe she lives in, but it’s hard to believe (and for very good reason) that many universities will accept a convicted sex criminal who has a lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender. But—much like Jared Polis in his infamous 2015 remarks—it’s critical for figures like Dauber to keep alive the myth that colleges routinely admit students found guilty of sexual assault.

How the Feds Use Orwell to Apply Title IX

Among the many anti-campus due process groups that have appeared in the past five years, the most prominent is Know Your IX, co-founded by two self-described sexual assault victims, Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky. The group has an active presence on social media; trains activists to crusade against due process at their home campuses; and has sought to influence Congress. Know Your IX members appear to have been among the group applauding Congressman Jared Polis’ call for the expulsion of innocent accused students at a 2015 congressional hearing.

Perhaps understanding that outright opposing due process makes for bad P.R., Know Your IX representatives occasionally have made vague references to fairness in the campus adjudication process. They’ve never quite spelled out what they mean by “fair,” however, other than to say that an accused student shouldn’t enjoy all of the due process rights a criminal defendant possesses.

A recent letter from Know Your IX co-director Dana Bolger to the House Judiciary Committee makes clear that by a “fair” process, the organization actually means “unfair.” The letter contained two remarkable provisions. The first attempted to justify the Obama administration’s decision to ignore the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and issue the 2011 Dear Colleague letter—which eviscerated due process rights for accused students.

In her letter, Bolger acknowledged that in the 1997 and 2001 “Dear Colleague” letters dealing with sexual harassment on campus, OCR proceeded with a notice-and-comment period. Know Your IX then cited the two letters as justification for the Obama administration not seeking comment. She provided no explanation for her illogical argument—that is, notice and comment was good enough for the Clinton and Bush OCR, but the Obama OCR doesn’t have to utilize the procedure. Instead, without explanation, she suggested that the terms of the 2011 letter (preponderance of evidence, right of appeal to accusers, discouragement of cross-examination) were merely a “clarification” of the 1997 and 2001 documents.

This Orwellian argument is a mere setup for the letter’s second major claim—that students accused of sexual assault are treated more fairly than students accused of all other offenses on campus. Here’s Bolger: “By mandating fairness and equity in campus sexual misconduct proceedings, Title IX affords accused students the right to prompt investigations, regular updates, notice of rights, and trained adjudicators. In so doing, Title IX provides students accused of sexual assault far more procedural protections than are enjoyed by students accused of other disciplinary infractions, like perpetrating simple assault or selling drugs out of a dorm room.”

In these remarks, Bolger seems to have dropped her earlier comparison of sexual assault to plagiarism. Instead, she’s embraced an insinuation by OCR head Catherine Lhamon that colleges are hotbeds of drug-dealing activities, which the schools resolve not by going to police but instead by handling the matter internally.

Below are some comparisons of the fairness accorded to a student accused of drug-dealing, and one accused of sexual assault.

Title IX chart

Legal requirement to investigate:

And yet according to Know Your IX, the student in Column 2 receives fairer treatment than the student in Column 1. Orwellian.

I Helped Shove My College Downhill

Not long ago, I wrote a piece for City Journal about my alma mater entitled, unsubtly: How My Friends and I Wrecked Pomona College. I saw it as a very belated mea culpa, for it detailed the malicious glee with which, back in the Sixties, we student radicals forced well-meaning, weak-willed administrators to abandon the standards, both behavioral and academic, that had sustained Pomona since its founding; leading, inevitably, all these years later, to an institution depressingly in the grip of all-encompassing PC.

Related: A College Guide to Viewpoint Diversity

In fact, the article was prompted by events in Claremont (Pomona is one of five schools in the so-called Claremont consortium) just this past fall, as other campuses from Missouri to New Haven were experiencing their own paroxysms of madness. Claremont’s crisis, (in the comic bouffe fashion common to such affairs), was touched off by a do-good progressive; in this case, a Claremont-McKenna administrator who sent a sympathetic but ineptly worded email to a Hispanic student; and whose resignation in disgrace prompted the Social Justice Warriors at the other schools to in turn start howling about racism and present their presidents with the inevitable lists of non-negotiable demands. Pomona’s cry bully contingent demanded, among other things, the hiring of full-time counselors “specially trained in queer and trans mental health issues” and a department of disability studies.

I don’t know how people felt reading it, but I can assure you it was a depressing piece to write, noting, as it did, some of the key markers in the school’s ever more avid embrace of leftist dogma since my own sorry day. A curriculum that once guaranteed the school’s graduates a broad overview of the Western culture and philosophical tradition slowly gave way to one top heavy with departments of group grievance and entitlement.

Related: Another Illegal Diversity Scheme at Michigan

In 2004 — long before ‘safe spaces’ were a fixation on campuses nationwide, — students in Claremont were so fragile that a visiting professor’s claim that her car had been smeared with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti sent the campuses into a frenzy of grief and panic, with classes suspended for a day of reflection and protest.  Indeed, even after the revelation that the supposed “terrorist act” was a fraud perpetrated by the professor herself, Pomona’s president seized upon the prevailing hysteria to declare the school would redouble its efforts against “racism, homophobia and religious intolerance.”

Today. as elsewhere, free speech and thought are increasingly under threat, with the banal, all-too-familiar pieties on race, gender, sexual preference and environmentalism having taken on the status of baseline assumptions. Leftist dogma is so entrenched (and so enforced via a mix of school policy, social convention and activist faculty) that to challenge it constitutes an act of moral courage.  Not for nothing were the heroes of my piece the intrepid students who write and publish the conservative student paper, The Claremont Independent, who risk not just social pariah status, but retribution at the hands of their professors.

In any case, by the end, I figured I’d pretty much hit all the low points. But no.

Recently there appeared the following headline in Inside Higher Ed: Diversity as a Tenure Requirement.

Related: When Diversity Dictates Lower Quality Hires

“Pomona College’s faculty has voted to change the criteria for tenure to specifically require candidates to be ‘attentive to diversity in the student body,’” it begins. “While many colleges and universities encourage faculty members to support diversity efforts, and a few have encouraged tenure candidates to reference such work, Pomona’s requirement may go farther in that it applies to all who come up for tenure…(t)he Pomona policy outlining the preparation of a tenure portfolio by a candidate says that the faculty members should ‘specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.

This may include describing classroom practices used to encourage the participation of a diverse student body, or to cultivate an awareness of differing backgrounds, focuses, and needs among the student body and broader community. Techniques such as communities of learning and community partnerships are relevant here, as are the inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups, or any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.’”

There they are, the magic words, (and the dead giveaway): inclusivity and diversity.

In the piece, Ashley Thorne of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), identifies this policy for exactly what it is: an ideological litmus test for Pomona’s faculty hires. Indeed, notwithstanding the school’s laser fixation on diversity and inclusion, the report never makes so much as a nod toward the need for ideological diversity.

It is hardly, as we also learn, that this particular bit of noxious leftist mischief on the part of Pomona’s faculty, which overwhelmingly endorsed it, was initiated in concert with activist students, who had presented the faculty with a petition demanding tenure criteria that would meet “the needs of a diverse student body.” As admiringly observed one of their faculty allies, an associate professor of psychology and Africana studies, these students were after more than mere tinkering, they wanted serious “structural change.”

Is any of this surprising? Of course not. It is entirely of a piece with all the rest. In fact, though I didn’t get into the tenure question in my article, I did discuss it with one of my sources, someone with deep and long standing ties to the school, who told me that activist professors, especially those in the various grievance studies department, made a practice of attending the classes of up-for-tenure colleagues, monitoring them for ideological reliability. “The word for it,” he said, “is Stalinist.”

Like many campuses, Pomona is headed in an ominous direction, sacrificing learning for grievance and now linking tenure to ideology. How long will non-ideologues want to go to this kind of school?

Should Colleges Coddle the Whiners?

Our recent campus upheavals, focusing at times on offensive speech, have provoked a worry: are colleges infantilizing their students? Last March, the journalist and cultural critic Judith Shulevitz raised this concern in a tour de force of an op-ed, in which she argued that protecting students from offensive speech, except in the most extreme cases, is a species of educational malpractice: “People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled.”  This argument has since taken off.

It has taken off, in part, because it is a good argument. To take one of Shulevitz’s own examples, students invite the charge that they are infantilizing themselves when they construct a “safe space” that contains “cookies, coloring books, Play-doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies,” particularly when this safe space is to protect them from being “bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.”


I don’t want to dissent from Shulevitz and others who have made related arguments, but I do think that the debate between those who wish to protect students from offensive speech and those who want to expose them to it is incomplete.

John Stuart Mill, one of the foremost champions of freedom of discussion had no illusions concerning its benefits. “I acknowledge,” he says in On Liberty, that the tendency of all opinions to become sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion but heightened and exacerbated thereby.” Mill thinks that free discussion will tend to heighten partisanship, as those whose dear and cherished beliefs are challenged by their intellectual and political enemies cling to those beliefs all the more fiercely. For Mill, this drawback is made right by the benefits that accrue to people who are observing the quarrel: “It is not on the impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect.”

I think that Mill is right and that although the trade-off he describes is plausible in public discussions, it would be a peculiar model to follow in a college setting. Clearly our job is not only to, so to speak, toughen up our students, though that couldn’t hurt, but to educate our students to benefit, as Mill’s “calmer and more disinterested bystander” does, from the free exchange of ideas. That many of our students at present are not in a position to do so is no reflection on their childishness. Anyone who has paid a moment’s attention to “adult” political discourse will have noticed that getting angry, alleging bad faith, taking umbrage, and even demanding censorship, are standard. This is not new, though I don’t deny that our therapeutic response to it is somewhat new. As Hamilton says in Federalist #1 of “cases of great national discussion,” in which people’s interests and passions are deeply implicated, “a torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose.”


Insofar as such discussions work their way onto college campuses, there is no reason to think that simply throwing our students into so polluted a sea in the hopes of hardening them, will result in an education. For that reason, I think it is singularly unimaginative to try to resolve the problem of a too liberal academy by inviting, though of course people are welcome to invite whomever they want, conservative controversialists like Milo Yiannopoulos to our campuses. Instead, we need to think much more than we presently do about teaching our students how to benefit from the arguments they hear.

John Locke, in Some Thoughts on Education distinguishes between the “art and formality of disputing,” which tends to turn a student into “an insignificant wrangler, opinionated in discourse, and priding himself in contradicting others,” and the art of reasoning. I am not sure whether our present focus on “critical thinking,” even when it somehow gets through to our students, does enough to distinguish between wrangling and reasoning, or between philosophy and sophistry. But I am confident that a “Crossfire” approach to campus discussion is not going to help our students make such distinctions.

To throw our students into such an atmosphere and invite them to deliberate may avoid the danger of infantilizing them but it also demands more of our students than we demand of adults. Indeed, in some ways the university oscillates between treating students too much as adults and treating them too much as children.

In a Slate column, Eric Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, inadvertently illustrates the problem. On the one hand, he argues that today’s students are like children and consequently need protection. In the midst of an exaggerated argument in favor of this proposition, he says at least one sensible thing, namely that professors know that students need an education, which is why classrooms are not typically free for alls, in which students go at each other, hammer and tongs. But then he says that colleges should give in to student demands for protection because “that’s what most students want.” So which is it? Are we supposed to treat students like children, in need of protection, or like adult sovereign consumers?


The answer, as I suspect most teachers grasp, is that college-aged students are neither children, to be protected from scary ideas nor adults, who either, in Posner’s way of viewing things, should have what they want or, in Shulevitz’s (to judge from the op-ed alone), should be thrown into the water and told to swim. They are neither children nor adults, and what we owe them is an education.

The education I have in mind makes no sacrifices with respect to inquiry into the questions that divide us. Instead, it puts the aim of conversation inside and outside the classroom, at the center of education, and thereby demands that our approach to conversation be tailored to that aim. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates admonishes Thrasymachus, who cares only about whether he has won or lost the argument, in these terms: the argument is not about just any question but about how one should live.”

How do people who genuinely think they can make progress in important matters act in conversation? Among other things, they practice the courage that enables them to continue an inquiry in the face of threats to their cherished beliefs, and the moderation that enables them to hear others out and to look for what use can be made of their arguments, rather than for how their arguments can be dismissed. But what every educator who has reflected on his or her experience knows is that such virtues do not come naturally to people. All our attentiveness as teachers may barely be sufficient to cultivate them in our students.

When Diversity Dictates Lower Quality Hires

Progressives at Tier 1 research universities and top liberal arts colleges sit at the summit of the higher ed hierarchy, where their eminence rests upon high standards of academic work.  But they are fervently committed to hiring and retaining more persons of color.  They have attempted affirmative action of the official and unofficial kind for a long time, but gains in the percentage of professors of color in elite departments have been disappointing.  If you listen to them, you can hear a rising dismay in their voices.  They want so much to have more non-white colleagues, but the years pass and nothing seems to change.

This is a case of bad faith.  People are in bad faith when they think and act in way that deny the reality of what they otherwise enjoy.  The behavior is to demand more non-white hiring and promotion and retention.  The reality is a combination of the meritocratic system of selective schools plus the limited pool of minority candidates.  The number of African American and Hispanic PhDs falls well below the proportions those groups constitution of the general population.  And in the humanities, Asian Americans, too, are underrepresented.

‘Inclusivity’ vs.  Prestige’

This means that superior institutions must compete vigorously for faculty of color who have the qualifications that put them into the ranks of high-achievers.  Inevitably, they must lower the bar for them, setting up a showdown between a top school’s prestige and its “inclusivity.”

It has happened recently at Dartmouth College.  A female Asian American English professor has been denied tenure even though the department’s tenure committee voted unanimously to promote her.  The headline of a story on the case at  reads “Campus unrest follows tenure denial of innovative, popular faculty member of color.”  Aimee Bahng, a UC San Diego PhD, has been an assistant professor at Dartmouth since 2009.  The titles of her various writings indicate the nature of her expertise:

“Extrapolating Transnational Arcs, Excavating Imperial Legacies: The Speculative Acts of Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

“Queering The Matrix: Hacking the Digital Divide and Slashing into the Future”

She has also supported Black Lives Matter and was co-founder of the Ferguson Teaching Collective at Dartmouth.  In other words, all her interests fall nicely within Dartmouth’s reigning identity politics.

But the higher-ups rejected her.  Why?

Not Close to Dartmouth’s Standards

Bahng’s colleagues say that the Dartmouth administration isn’t sufficiently committed to raising ‘the number of underrepresented minorities on the faculty.  They don’t accuse the leaders of racism, but they do allege an unpleasant climate on campus and little appreciation of the special pressures and burdens faculty of color experience.  Reporter Colleen Flaherty interviews a SUNY-Buffalo professor of transnational studies who claims that people of her profile end up doing extra service work on diversity committees and programs, and they do extra work mentoring students of color who seek them out.  That cuts into their research time.  Additionally, she claims, research on race, gender, and sexuality “has less cultural capital” (tell that to Judith Butler, Cornel West….)

Nobody who turned Bahng down speaks in the story, but it isn’t hard to see why they did in fact speak out.  Flaherty includes a link to Bahng’s CV, and it displays a research record that doesn’t come close to meeting Dartmouth’s tenure standards.  All English departments at major institutions want to see a book in hand and several research articles.  But all Bahng has is a book “forthcoming” from Duke University Press in early 2017.  By itself, that counts for nothing.  We need, at the very least, a contract from the Press stating that the manuscript has passed through peer review, been approved by the board, and has a production schedule.  Bahng’s defenders don’t say anything about it, suggesting a contract doesn’t exist.

As for essays, since her hiring in 2009, Bahng has only two of them in print.

Making it all Go Away

The situation is clear. The department was willing to lower Dartmouth standards in order to meet identity needs (and, possibly, friendship).  Higher officials weren’t.   She has delivered 37 lectures, and she lists 19 fellowships and grants on the CV, but those awards and activities haven’t produced much in the way of the written word. However much Dartmouth wants more faculty diversity, the output was just too low.

I don’t think it will be too long, however, before the scruples of administrators in these kinds of situations soften.  the identity demand is growing too shrill, and in the humanities, research is increasingly meaningless.  Who cares whether someone has just published the 4,210th essay on literary transnationalism?  Soon, administrators will ask themselves whether it is worth it to insist upon strict standards of published research when they run against the diversity mandate, incense other professors, and bring on bad publicity.  A simple and quiet acquiescence can make it all go away.

4 Well-Known Universities With No Integrity

In a Commentary essay earlier this spring, I argued that universities’ response to the 2015-2016 campus protests can be seen, in part, through the lens of faculty and administrators sharing the protesters’ diversity-obsessed goals, if not agreeing with them on tactics. A recent protest from Dartmouth confirmed the point.

Sometimes, campus speech issues are complicated. This one wasn’t. The Dartmouth College Republicans, following college rules, requested access to a bulletin board, where they posted items with the theme of “Blue Lives Matter.” The move coincided with National Police Week.


In response, “Black Lives Matter” protesters tore down the Republicans’ posters, put up posters that reflected their political viewpoints, and “occupied” the area around the bulletin board to prevent the College Republicans from re-posting their original material. The College Republicans went to the administration throughout the day to ask for assistance in replacing their posters, but were rebuffed. The administration, apparently fearful of confronting the students engaged in a heckler’s veto, informed the Republicans they’d have to wait a day; when the building was shut down in the overnight hours, the hecklers’ posters would be removed. Dartmouth administrators followed up with a statement forcefully condemning the removal of the posters—but without any indication of punishment. Nor was there any indication of Dartmouth devoting additional resources to free speech. This type of non-effect would have been inconceivable if the “Blue Lives Matter” students had torn down the “Black Lives Matter” students’ poster.

The student activists remained defiant. In an open letter, they remarked, “We acknowledge that many of you are concerned about the question of free speech. However, one hundred students’ disapproval for ‘Blue Lives Matter’ does not constitute a disregard for free speech, nor does it condemn policemen who have died in the line of duty. What it does constitute is a concern for anti-blackness on this campus and nationwide.”


Again: the student protesters took down posters with which they disagreed, and, on a bulletin board temporarily designated to the College Republicans, put up posters that reflected the protesters’ point of view. If that doesn’t “constitute a disregard for free speech,” it’s hard to imagine what could.


The campus that triggered the fall protests was the University of Missouri, where the highest-profile defender of the protests, ex-Professor Melissa (“muscle”) Click was back in the news last week. The AAUP produced a report faulting the University of Missouri for its slipshod procedure in firing Click. I agree.

But then the AAUP offered the following conclusion: “[W]e doubt whether Professor Click’s actions, even when viewed in the most unfavorable light, were directly and substantially related to her professional fitness as a teacher or researcher.” This statement is astonishing. Recall, again, the context: on the campus quad—a public area of the university—Click called for “muscle” against a University of Missouri student. How could such conduct possibly not be directly related to her position as a teacher? And, again, imagine the unlikelihood of the AAUP in reaching this conclusion if the facts had been reversed—if, say, a white male professor, an advisor of the Mizzou Republicans, had called for “muscle” against a black student journalist.


One of the most perceptive analyses of the fall 2015 protests came from Robert Tracinski. Writing in The Federalist, Tracinski observed, “The more you read through the students’ demands, the more they look curiously like a full-employment program for the faculty who just happen to be egging on these naive youngsters.” The demands, he noted, read “less like a manifesto of student revolutionaries, and more like a particularly aggressive salary negotiation. But this is not about higher pay for all faculty members. Notice in the middle the emphasis on “specialty positions,” we are defined as “faculty who work on critical issues related to social justice.” So it’s a special sinecure for those with the correct political agenda.”

Tracinski’s observations came to mind when reading a Chronicle piece earlier this month involving a tenure case at Rutgers. The basics: Rutgers denied tenure to an African-American professor of communications, Jennifer Warren. Warren came up for tenure without a book. And her teaching evaluations had recently declined. According to the article, Warren seems to have blamed both developments on guidance she received from her department. But on paper, it hardly seems outrageous to see a quality research institution like Rutgers deny tenure to a professor without a book, and with falling evaluations in the classroom.


Nonetheless, the tenure denial triggered protests, holding signs with such sayings as “RU for Black Tenure.” (Imagine the outrage if students carried signs demanding “RU for White Tenure.”) And then, according to the Chronicle, “Several days after the students’ rally, Ms. Warren received good news: She had won her grievance hearing and would have another shot at tenure, in the spring of 2017.”

The article supplies no additional information regarding the contents of Warren’s grievance, or the substance of the appeals decision. This incomplete record leaves two options: (1) Warren’s department committed an unspecified major procedural error, and it fortunately was caught in a university appellate process. (2) After denying tenure to someone whose scholarly and teaching credentials the university had deemed insufficient, Rutgers reversed itself to appease the protesters. The statement from the head of the Rutgers faculty union didn’t inspire confidence: “Students are driven to involvement,” said he, “in a sense of desperation because they’re seeing that percentage go down in a microcosm. What they see in Jennifer Warren’s case is the black-faculty percentage falling instead of rising.”

That might well be true. But a decline in the percentage of black faculty doesn’t constitute a procedural violation.


The New York Times has been all but hermetically sealed, ideologically, in covering campus events in recent years. Its one-sided approach to due process and campus sexual assault has matched its fawning, uncritical coverage of the 2015-2016 campus protests.

But even against that standard, a recent column from Frank Bruni stood out. It offered the administration of Amherst’s Biddy Martin as a model for other schools to follow in the quest for student diversity. That would be the same Biddy Martin whose administration has presided over what is likely the most egregious sexual assault trial since issuance of the Dear Colleague letter, and who proposed a new campus speech code modeled on the anti-due process approach Amherst has used for sexual assault. The idea that Amherst would be the model for anything is absurd.

Yet none of these controversies are mentioned by Bruni. He even gives column space to Martin to allow her to suggest her administration isn’t obsessed with only the usual types of campus diversity: “The college’s president told me that one of her current passions is to admit more military veterans, who bring to the campus abilities, experiences and outlooks that other students don’t possess.”

How many veterans has Amherst admitted in the past three years? Bruni can’t find the space to reveal the total.

Political Tests for Faculty?

What’s going on when a public university feels entitled to ask potential faculty members questions clearly aimed at ferreting out their political and social commitments? Such questions, reminiscent of loyalty oaths and the demands of totalitarian regimes would seem to have no place in an educational institution in modern-day America.  But for some years now, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as at many other universities, the administration has allowed and actively encouraged precisely such interrogations.

In fact, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at UMass thoughtfully provides Supplemental Search Instructions, including suggestions for typical questions to be asked during interviews. These invite search committees to fill in the blank with the name of the “protected group” of their choice.

Related: How PC Corrupted the Colleges

The suggested questions include the following representative queries:

  • How have you demonstrated your commitment to (____) issues in your current position?
  • Which of your achievements in the area of equity for (____) gives you the most satisfaction?
  • In your current position, have you ever seen a (___) treated unfairly? How would/did you handle it?
  • How many of the top people at your current or previous institution are (___)?
  • What did you do to encourage hiring more (___)?

Where, one may well wonder, in the context of a public university supposedly committed to education rather than indoctrination, could such questions come from?  They turn out to be based on a nearly 30-year-old report entitled, It’s All in What You Ask (Association of American Colleges, Project on the Status and Education of Women, 1988), which contained scores of questions for job searches reaching into every part of the university – faculty, administrators, and staff – all aiming to uncover candidates’ underlying commitments to promoting particular groups.

But where the original document aimed at promoting women and merely mentioned in passing that the questions “can easily be adapted to apply to minority and disabled persons,” UMass Amherst has corrected that narrow perspective by providing its long (but not exhaustive) list of identity groups.

Related: Political Correctness Is the New Puritanism

In other respects, however, the guidelines largely replicate (and credit) the specific language of the original document, which makes no effort to disguise the “gotcha” mentality underlying the entire endeavor, despite a disingenuous assurance that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. The rationale is spelled out:

When prospective employees are asked, “Are you concerned about and supportive of these [identity group] issues?” they will invariably give an affirmative reply. Unfortunately, that gives little indication of their level of concern or commitment. Asking some of the questions listed [here] may help you gain a better understanding of a candidate’s position on these issues.… Many candidates will not have prepared answers to these questions in advance. These questions will, therefore, be useful in drawing out the candidate’s opinions rather than the “correct answer.”

The problem with these questions may not be primarily their legality—although there should be some concern about the possible unconstitutionality of anything smacking of an ideological qualification. The main problem is the overshadowing of genuine education by the demand for conformity and an explicit display of one’s politics.  The result is likely to be a monolithic corps of new employees, selected for their political commitments as much as, perhaps indeed more than, their professional qualifications.

Nor is this is happening in isolation. It has been accompanied, for years, by an out-of-control growth in administrators and staff whose explicit task is promoting and protecting certain identity groups.  Who knew that after thirty years of tireless efforts, universities would still be in desperate need of measures to combat their allegedly exclusionary policies toward all who aren’t able-bodied heterosexual white males?

All Diversity All the Time

Whereas certain parts of the academic world – Schools of Social Work, for example, and Schools of Education — have for some years insisted on overt expressions (on the part of both students and faculty) of correct political attitudes, it’s important to recognize how such demands are built into the entire job search procedure itself.

In addition, at UMass Amherst, as at other universities around the nation, the key documents about proper search procedures place a persistent and ceaseless emphasis on diversity, as required by equal opportunity regulations. Pages and pages of details are devoted to spelling out the efforts to identify and recruit “diverse” candidates, providing suggestions for every stage of the process.  Ironically, detailed lists are also provided of questions that are prohibited (having to do with ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, ancestry, and so on.  And to ensure that this process is fully complied with, search committees must meet with a representative of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for orientation and “coaching” sessions.

Yet, though we are repeatedly told that, “An applicant’s potential contribution to workforce diversity is an asset that should be carefully considered,” at the completion of the search process, everything changes. Despite the relentless emphasis on “diversity-enhancing measures” up to this point, and the careful documentation of these efforts that are required, when final recommendations are made by the search committee and sent up the chain of command, we are told that the candidates’ race, sex, and other identity markers should not be mentioned, only the excellence of their qualifications:

When describing candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, the committee’s rationale must focus strictly on their qualifications for the job itself. Do NOT comment on their race, ethnicity, accent, personal appearance, clothing, personality, age or maturity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or marital status. . . . The process will move much faster if the Chair, or, as a last resort, the Dean has made sure that all recommendations focus on qualifications for the job and do not make inappropriate references to protected personal characteristics.

In other words, after dominating the search and hiring procedure in multiple ways, the obsession with identity politics needs to be disguised at the very end, when all talk reverts to academic qualifications alone.

Thus, to the entire overdetermined process is added, at the last stage, a whiff of utter fraudulence. There’s the part where everyone is put through their diversity paces; then there’s the part where you cover it up.

Nora Ephron’s Famous Talk At Wellesley’s Graduation, 1996

Twenty years ago, writer and director Nora Ephron gave the commencement speech at Wellesley, her Alma Mater. Her words were ;ife lessons and still resonate, including this line: “We weren’t meant to have futures, we were meant to marry them.”

President Walsh,Nora Ephron trustees, faculty, friends, noble parents…and dear
class of 1996, I am so proud of you. Thank you for asking me to speak to you today. I had a wonderful time trying to imagine who had been ahead of me on the list and had said no; I was positive you’d have to have gone to Martha Stewart first. And I meant to call her to see what she would have said, but I forgot. She would probably be up here telling you how to turn your lovely black robes into tents. I will try to be at least as helpful, if not quite as specific as that.

I’m very conscious of how easy it is to let people down on a day like
this, because I remember my own graduation from Wellesley very, very well, I am sorry to say. The speaker was Santha Rama Rau who was a woman writer, and I was going to be a woman writer. And in fact, I had spent four years at Wellesley going to lectures by women writers hoping that I would be the beneficiary of some terrific secret–which I never was.

And now here I was at graduation, under these very trees, absolutely
terrified. Something was over. Something safe and protected. And
something else was about to begin. I was heading off to New York and I was sure that I would live there forever and never meet anyone and end up dying one of those New York deaths where no one even notices you’re missing until the smell drifts into the hallway weeks later. And I sat here thinking, “OK, Santha, this is my last chance for a really terrific secret, lay it on me,” and she spoke about the need to place friendship over love of country, which I must tell you had never crossed my mind one way or the other.

I want to tell you a little bit about my class, the class of 1962. When we came to Wellesley in the fall of 1958, there was an article in theHarvard Crimson about the women’s colleges, one of those stupid mean little articles full of stereotypes, like girls at Bryn Mawr wear black. We were girls then, by the way, Wellesley girls. How long ago was it? It was so long ago that while I was here, Wellesley actually threw six young women out for lesbianism. It was so long ago that we had curfews. It was so long ago that if you had a boy in your room, you had to leave the door open six inches, and if you closed the door you had to put a sock on the doorknob. In my class of, I don’t know, maybe 375 young women, there were six Asians and 5 Blacks. There was a strict quota on the number of Jews. Tuition was $2,000 a year and in my junior year it was raised to $2,250 and my parents practically had a heart attack.

How long ago? If you needed an abortion, you drove to a gas station in Union, New Jersey, with $500 in cash in an envelope and you were taken, blindfolded, to a motel room and operated on without an anesthetic. On the lighter side, and as you no doubt read in the New York Times magazine, and were flabbergasted to learn, there were the posture pictures. We not only took off most of our clothes to have our posture pictures taken, we took them off without ever even thinking, this is weird, why are we doing this?–not only that, we had also had speech therapy–I was told I had a New Jersey accent I really ought to do something about, which was a shock to me since I was from Beverly Hills, California, and had never set foot in the state of New Jersey… not only that, we were required to take a course called Fundamentals, Fundies, where we actually were taught how to get in and out of the back seat of the car. Some of us were named things like Winkie.

We all parted our hair in the middle. How long ago was it? It was so long ago that among the things that I honestly cannot conceive of life without, that had not yet been invented: panty hose, lattes, Advil, pasta (there was no pasta then, there was only spaghetti and macaroni)–I sit here writing this speech on a computer next to a touch tone phone with an answering machine and a Rolodex, there are several CDs on my desk, a bottle of Snapple, there are felt-tip pens and an electric pencil sharpener… well, you get the point, it was a long time ago.

Anyway, as I was saying, the Crimson had this snippy article which said that Wellesley was a school for tunicata–tunicata apparently being small fish who spend the first part of their lives frantically swimming around the ocean floor exploring their environment, and the second part of their lives just lying there breeding. It was mean and snippy, but it had the horrible ring of truth, it was one of those do-not-ask-for-whom-the-bell-tolls things, and it burned itself into our brains. Years later, at my 25th reunion, one of my classmates mentioned it, and everyone remembered what tunicata were, word for word.

MRS. Degree

My class went to college in the era when you got a masters degrees in teaching because it was “something to fall back on” in the worst case scenario, the worst case scenario being that no one married you and you actually had to go to work. As this same classmate said at our reunion, “Our education was a dress rehearsal for a life we never led.” Isn’t that the saddest line? We weren’t meant to have futures, we were meant to marry them. We weren’t meant to have politics, or careers that mattered, or opinions, or lives; we were meant to marry them. If you wanted to be an architect, you married an architect. Non Ministrare sed Ministrari–you know the old joke, not to be ministers but to be ministers’ wives.

I’ve written about my years at Wellesley, and I don’t want to repeat myself any more than is necessary. But I do want to retell one anecdote from the piece I did about my 10th Wellesley reunion. I’ll tell it a little differently for those of you who read it. Which was that, during my junior year, when I was engaged for a very short period of time, I thought I might transfer to Barnard my senior year. I went to see my class dean and she said to me, “Let me give you some advice. You’ve worked so hard at Wellesley, when you marry, take a year off. Devote yourself to your husband and your marriage.” Of course it was stunning piece of advice to give me because I’d always intended to work after college. My mother was a career woman, and all of us, her four daughters, grew up understanding that the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was as valid for girls as for boys. Take a year off being a wife. I always wondered what I was supposed to do in that year. Iron?

I repeated the story for years, as proof that Wellesley wanted its graduates to be merely housewives. But I turned out to be wrong, because years later I met another Wellesley graduate who had been as hell-bent on domesticity as I had been on a career. And she had gone to the same dean with the same problem, and the dean had said to her, “Don’t have children right away. Take a year to work.” And so I saw that what Wellesley wanted was for us to avoid the extremes. To be instead, that thing in the middle. A lady. We were to take the fabulous education we had received here and use it to preside at dinner table or at a committee meeting, and when two people disagreed we would be intelligent enough to step in and point out the remarkable similarities between their two opposing positions. We were to spend our lives making nice.

Many of my classmates did exactly what they were supposed to when they graduated from Wellesley, and some of them, by the way, lived happily ever after. But many of them didn’t. All sorts of things happened that no one expected. They needed money so they had to work. They got divorced so they had to work. They were bored witless so they had to work. The women’s movement came along and made harsh value judgments about their lives–judgments that caught them by surprise, because they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, weren’t they? The rules had changed, they were caught in some kind of strange time warp. They had never intended to be the heroines of their own lives, they’d intended to be–what?–First Ladies, I guess, first ladies in the lives of big men. They ended up feeling like victims. They ended up, and this is really sad, thinking that their years in college were the best years of their lives.

Why am I telling you this? It was a long time ago, right? Things have changed, haven’t they? Yes, they have. But I mention it because I want to remind you of the undertow, of the specific gravity. American society has a remarkable ability to resist change, or to take whatever change has taken place and attempt to make it go away. Things are different for you than they were for us. Just the fact that you chose to come to a single-sex college makes you smarter than we were–we came because it’s what you did in those days–and the college you are graduating from is a very different place. All sorts of things caused Wellesley to change, but it did change, and today it’s a place that understands its obligations to women in today’s world.

The women’s movement has made a huge difference, too, particularly for young women like you. There are women doctors and women lawyers. There are anchorwomen, although most of them are blonde. But at the same time, the pay differential between men and women has barely changed. In my business, the movie business, there are many more women directors, but it’s just as hard to make a movie about women as it ever was, and look at the parts the Oscar-nominated actresses played this year: hooker, hooker, hooker, hooker, and nun. It’s 1996, and you are graduating from Wellesley in the Year of the Wonderbra. The Wonderbra is not a step forward for women. Nothing that hurts that much is a step forward for women.

The Glass Ceiling

What I’m saying is, don’t delude yourself that the powerful cultural values that wrecked the lives of so many of my classmates have vanished from the earth. Don’t let the New York Times article about the brilliant success of Wellesley graduates in the business world fool you–there’s still a glass ceiling. Don’t let the number of women in the work force trick you–there are still lots of magazines devoted almost exclusively to making perfect casseroles and turning various things into tents.

Don’t underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women and how many people wish we could turn the clock back. One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don’t take it personally, but listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand: Every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: Get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn’t serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you–whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim. Because you don’t have the alibi my class had–this is one of the great achievements and mixed blessings you inherit: Unlike us, you can’t say nobody told you there were other options. Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead. Twenty-five years from now, you won’t have as easy a time making excuses as my class did. You won’t be able to blame the deans, or the culture, or anyone else: you will have no one to blame but yourselves. Whoa.

So what are you going to do? This is the season when a clutch of successful women–who have it all–give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can’t have it all. Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn’t know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever. We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper.

When I was your age, I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy. Whatever those five things are for you today, they won’t make the list in ten years–not that you still won’t be some of those things, but they won’t be the five most important things about you. Which is one of the most delicious things available to women, and more particularly to women than to men. I think. It’s slightly easier for us to shift, to change our minds, to take another path.

Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee who made a specialty of saying things that were famously maladroit, quoted himself at a recent commencement speech he gave. “When you see a fork in the road,” he said, “take it.” Yes, it’s supposed to be a joke, but as someone said in a movie I made, don’t laugh this is my life, this is the life many women lead: Two paths diverge in a wood, and we get to take them both. It’s another of the nicest things about being women; we can do that. Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it’s also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.

Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. Thank you. Good luck. The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives.

De Paul Fails Free Speech Again

Black protesters and their allies shut down a speech by a conservative gay activist at DePaul University in Chicago last night. That’s not news, of course– it’s just what the campus left does.

The news is that the security guards hired for $1000 to protect the speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos (after, he says, they threatened to let demonstrators cancel the talk if he didn’t pay), just stood around and made no effort to ward off the protesters.

This is an interesting breakthrough in college treatment of speakers: two separate levels of incompetence in protecting free speech. Neither the campus guards nor the hired Hessians did anything. We look to the president of DePaul–the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider–to get the money returned, reprimand the campus guards for also doing nothing, apologize for the neglect, and make sure the speaker is re-invited as part of the required apology.

No—just kidding. President Holtschneider is, by reputation, one of the shakiest defenders of free speech at large on America’s censorship-minded campuses.

In 2006, Holtschneoder was co-winner of the annual Sheldon given for worst college president of the year. Holtschneider scored a rare triple in the campus censorship sweepstakes:

1) Cracking down on a satiric affirmative action bake sale like the ones routinely sponsored on many other campuses.

2) Suspending an instructor without a hearing or even notification of charges after a testy out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian and Muslim activists.

3) Making an unusually strange move after pro-choice students ripped up an administration-approved anti-abortion exhibit, he penalized the pro-lifers for posting the names of the 13 pro-choicers who admitted destroying the display.

Penalizing the wrong party is a familiar move in the Sheldon competition and is deeply admired by judges. Sheldon Hackney, for whom the Sheldon is named, set the standard there: when an entire press run of the school paper was stolen at Penn because it contained a column opposing affirmative action, Hackney penalized not the thieves, but the campus guard who caught them.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said Holtschneider talks a good game on free speech but doesn’t deliver on the promises.

Holtschneider is now in position to contend for his second Sheldon, which is like getting into the Hall of Fame twice. But he will have to keep failing at his regular rate. Competition is so keen.


In a crowd of protesters at Brigham Young University, Kelsey Bourgeois, 26, is shown carrying a sign in one hand and a megaphone in the other. The photo is in the May 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

She is not a BYU student, though she was one years ago. She is a professional protester. She produces posters, gather names on petitions and coaches complaining students on how to “optimize” their demands.

She works for Care2, a B-corporation of the left, promoting causes like animal rights, environmentalism, vegetarianism, choice on abortion, and human rights, such as the cause of the woman who died mysteriously in a Texas jail after a traffic arrest. The student protesters do not pay for Care2 services, but outside companies receive $1.50 to $2 each for access to the names of protest supporters.

The Chronicle presented this story as a normal one, thought the use of professionals to inspire, coach and conduct protests seems revolutionary. Unless challenged, off-campus supporters can now run campus protests—and perhaps nationalize them– as part of an indirect money-making scheme.  Some students will still gather in angry crowds, but many will opt to leave it to the pros. Care2 gathered 113,000 petition-signers on behalf of the protest at BYU, more than three times the total number of students at the BYU campus.

Perhaps presidents of universities will intervene to ban professional protesters from campus. But judging from their non- action on protest last fall, don’t count on it.

New Data on Black Mismatch and Failure at UVa

The University of Virginia’s “Finals Weekend” — what other schools call graduation — is upon us. Not far behind, no doubt, will be the annual accolades such as the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education’s report that “The University of Virginia consistently posts the highest Black student graduation rate of any state-operated university in the country.” And this has been true “over the past 20 years.”

There is a dark side to this accomplishment. Last June, for example, the African American graduation rate was 80.3% — as usual, the highest in the country among public institutions — but no one seemed to notice that the corresponding 19.7% rate at which blacks failed to graduate in four years was twice as high as the rate for Asians (9.5%) and whites (10.9%). Thus, according to UVa’s Institutional Assessment data, of the 218 blacks who entered in 2011, 43 of them did not graduate in 2015. The six-year graduation rates for the 250 blacks entering in 2009 were better (88.8%), but the rate at which they failed to graduate (11.2%) remained more than twice as high as the rate for whites (5.4%).

Related: Embarrassing Graduation Rate Data?

These most recent numbers are not unique. In fact, they are a bit better than numbers from the previous decade. UVa’s admissions data show that 3,048 blacks enrolled at UVa from the fall of 2000 through 2010, and its graduation rate data reveal that 789 of them, 25.8%, did not receive a degree after four years. 411 of the 2,844 who entered through the fall of 2009, 14.5%, did not receive degrees after six years.

The fact that blacks fail to graduate at twice the rate of whites and Asians at UVa even though it boasts the highest black graduation rate of any public university strongly suggests the presence and effect of “mismatch” that Richard Sander and others have documented — that any group admitted to selective institutions with much lower academic qualifications than their peers will cluster at the bottom of their classes and sustain higher failure rates.

The fact that UVa each year admits a much higher proportion of black applicants than Asians and whites indicates that it is indeed lowering the admissions bar for blacks. In the twelve classes entering from the fall of 2000 through 2011 (to mirror the four-year graduation rates discussed above), an average 33.9% of white applicants were offered admission, but for blacks the offer rate was 54.3%. In the most recent data available, which I discussed here, UVa offered early admission to 29.7% of the white applicants to the class of 2020 and 42.5% of the blacks.

It is theoretically conceivable — but highly unlikely — that there is a non-discriminatory explanation for the racial preference revealed by these admission proportions. But UVa, like most (perhaps all?) similar institutions, makes it impossible to analyze the nature and degree of racial preference it offers by refusing to publish SAT scores and other academic qualification data by race, even though it clearly has the data. Similarly, it publishes student GPA by gender but not by race. And, as I observed on Minding The Campus a few months ago, “it will be a freezing day in July in Charlottesville before UVa voluntarily releases test scores, etc., by race.”

Related: Race and Merit: a Response to Nieli’s Criticism of Groseclose

Well, it is not yet freezing in July, but I have just received a small taste of SAT scores by race from UVa. I shared my Minding The Campus piece linked above with Steve Landes, my Delegate in the Virginia General Assembly, who is interested in this issue and who forwarded my piece with questions to the University’s government relations office. Since Del. Landes is Chairman of the House of Delegates Education Committee and Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, his queries tend to be answered promptly.

Laura Fornash, Executive Assistant to the President for State Governmental relations (and former Virginia Secretary of Education), sent the math plus  verbal results, by race, for the students admitted to the class entering next fall, along with the observation that not all students take the SAT and that UVa’s racial range is not surprising given the results nationally. And indeed the results are not surprising:

African Americans 1154
White 1353
Asian 1397

There is not, of course, a perfect correlation between SAT scores and graduation rates, but those scores are a significant component and indicator of academic qualifications, and there is compelling evidence that raising academic requirements raises the probability of graduation.

Related: 25 Years on the Affirmative Action Firing Line

Peter Salins, former Provost of the State University of New York system, provided strong evidence for that correlation in an Op-ed in The New York Times. In the 1990s, he wrote, “several SUNY campuses chose to raise their admissions standards by requiring higher SAT scores, while others opted to keep them unchanged,” thus providing “a controlled experiment of sorts that can fairly conclusively tell us whether SAT scores were accurate predictors of whether a student would get a degree.”

The short answer, he stated, is “yes, they were.” Campuses that raised the emphasis on the SAT experienced “remarkable improvements” in graduation rates, especially at the more selective campuses, ranging “from 10 percent (at Stony Brook, where the six-year graduation rate went to 59.2 percent from 53.8 percent) to 95 percent (at Old Westbury, which went to 35.9 percent from 18.4 percent).” The results were clear, Salins concluded. “[O]nly those campuses whose incoming students’ SAT scores improved substantially saw gains in graduation rates.”

Worse After Prop. 209

The results in California after Prop. 209 outlawed racial preferences were even more dramatic, and more on point for UVa.

  • For the whole University of California system: blacks who entered in 1996 (before Prop. 209) had a four-year graduation rate of 26.5%. For the class entering in 2001, after Prop. 209, the black graduation rate increased to 38.6%. Six-year rates increased from 64% to 70.2%. Looking at a wider swath of this data, Richard Sander noted that “For the six cohorts of black freshmen who started at UC campuses before Prop 209 went into effect (the matriculating years of 1992 through 1997), the average four-year graduation rate was only 22.2%. For the years since 1998 (matriculating years 1998 through 2005), the black four-year graduation rate across the UC system is 39.4% — a near doubling. For Hispanics the four-year graduation numbers are 27.2% for 1992-97, and 41.8% for 1998-2005.”
  • UC San Diego. The four-year black graduation rate increased from 37.7% for the class entering in 1996 to 51.4% for the class entering in 2001. The six-year rate went from 69.8% to 78.8%.
  • UCLA. The four-year black graduation rate increased from 31.1% for the 1996 class to 53.7% for the 2001 class.
  • UC Berkeley. The four-year black graduation rate increased from 28.8% for the 1996 class to 35% for the 2001 class.

The improvement in black graduation rates at the University of California would likely have been even more dramatic but for the widespreadholistic cheating” and evasion. Indeed, in researching their “magisterial” book, Mismatch, Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. found so much cheating that they concluded outright bans of affirmative action are not likely to work.

“[B]ecause of universities’ determination to circumvent any ban,” they argue (p. 279), outlawing preferences would not end them but would lead — and has led — to universities evading bans, thus possibly making mismatch much worse, not better.” The post-209 experience in California, however, suggests that such bans are like speed limits: they may not restrict speed to the posted limit, but they do make drivers drive slower than they otherwise would.

High Cost to Students and Taxpayers

Admitting minorities with higher SAT scores after Prop. 209 was not the only cause of their higher graduation rates, but it would be unreasonable to assume it was not a significant component. Thus one of the most disturbing aspects of UVa’s — or any university’s — continuing year after year to admit cohorts of minority students with much lower SAT scores than their peers is that administrators know that a high but reasonably predictable portion of them will fail to get degrees, with a high cost not only to the students and their families but also the taxpayers who support public education.

The reason UVa and others continue to do so, even armed as they are with this knowledge, is, of course, their determination to provide a sufficient degree of pigmentary “diversity,” whatever the cost. A very large, very disappointing, part of that cost at UVa are the 832 black students who entered from 2000 through  2011 who failed to get a degree, a failure to graduate rate of 25.5% of the 3,266 blacks who were admitted over those twelve years. Assuming as I do that many if not most of those 832 students would not have been admitted but for their race, I believe they are just as much victims of “diversity” as the equal number of whites and Asians who would have been admitted but for their race.

Laura Fornash, UVa’s assistant to the president for state governmental relations, agreed with my February Minding The Campus piece that the reason for UVa’s higher admit rate for blacks was that its yield rate was lower than for whites (36.4% vs. 44.5% for next fall’s entering class, she reported), since blacks qualified to go to UVa were heavily courted by other institutions. But that reason is a justification only if one assumes that UVa must have a large enough number of blacks to meet its self-imposed “diversity” obligation.

‘Diversity Uses Blacks for the Benefit of Whites’

What these diversity-justified preferences amount to in practice is admitting a large cohort of blacks knowing that a high percentage of them will not graduate so that there will be a sufficient number of them to provide “diversity” to whites, Asians, and others. “Let me state bluntly,” I stated bluntly back in 2002, “diversity uses blacks for the benefit of whites.”

Minorities admitted who would not have been admitted but for their race (the purpose and effect of affirmative action) are not admitted, after all, to provide “diversity” to themselves. Whatever benefit they derive from being in a “diverse” student body they would also receive if they attended a less selective majority-white institution where they would have a better chance of graduating.

If UVa treated all applicants without regard to their race or ethnicity, it would have what it must believe are too few blacks and too many Asians. (Whether or not it has too few or too many Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Methodists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, or transgender males is not known, because apparently neither religion nor gender identification (at least for now) is regarded as a relevant enough source of “diversity” to count.

What Is to Be Done?

In an ideal world — or even one that merely attempted to live up to what Gunnar Myrdal called “The American Creed” — benefits and burdens would not be distributed (especially by public institutions) on the basis of race, a principle the citizens of California, Michigan, Nebraska , and Arizona enshrined in their state constitutions. But sadly, the world we live in is far from ideal.

Nevertheless, since most Americans believe that government should be transparent, a worthy and achievable goal is to require state institutions and even private universities that receive public funds to publish data, such as SAT scores and class rank, revealing how heavily they put their thumbs on the racial scale. “It’s outrageous that public universities are not transparent about whether, and how, and how heavily they treat students differently on the basis of skin color and what country their ancestors came from,”

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity argues (in an email to me, quoted with permission) — especially because, he continued, “the victims of this lack of transparency are the supposed ‘beneficiaries‘ of the discrimination — who are not told that their chances of graduation and getting good grades will be substantially less than other students’.” Conveniently, Clegg and Hans von Spakovsky have written a draft model “sunshine bill” that provides a good starting point for consideration of such legislation.

Universities, in short, should at least be required to publish data that would provide prospective applicants with information about the fate of students with qualifications similar to their own. UVa has just released SAT scores by race for one year. It would be enormously helpful to prospective applicants, their parents, and school counselors to have that data for every year, broken down by ranges of scores, which would allow useful correlations with the graduation rate data already provided. I suspect students of whatever race or ethnicity with similar SAT scores would have similar graduation rates, but since UVa and most other universities refuse to release that data voluntarily, it is impossible to confirm that suspicion.

It is easy to understand the institutional reluctance. After all, some black students may be reluctant to attend UVa if they knew in advance that their chance of failing to obtain a degree were two times higher than whites or Asians and that they would have an equal chance at less selective institutions where their qualifications equaled those of their peers.

Randall Kennedy’s View

It is less easy to understand the willingness, even eagerness, of zealous affirmative action advocates to sacrifice those mismatched students who predictably fail to earn degrees. Consider the argument, for example, of Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, whose book, For Discrimination,  I reviewed  here, “The Odd Career Of Randall Kennedy.”

Kennedy supports the preferential admission of black law students even if “mismatch” results in the production of fewer black lawyers because, he wrote, most of the preferentially admitted do graduate and “the cadre of black attorneys trained at the top-tier schools are more valuable to the black community than those trained at the lower-tier schools, and hence, if necessary, maintaining the numbers at the higher-tier schools would be worth sacrificing marginal members or potential members of the black bar.”

Perhaps many “marginal” potential UVa students would agree with that view, but since a few — and their tuition-paying parents — may not, UVa should publish the data allowing them to decide for themselves.

Watch Out For The Campus Bias Team

Some 100 American colleges encourage their students to report offensive occurrences of non-criminal bias on campus.

Writing in The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell tells us that the University of Oregon’s “bias report team” counted 85 incidents in the past year. including these:

  • A poster featuring a “triggering image” displaying “body size” bias.
  • Sexually explicit doodles on Post-its.
  • Too little coverage of transgender students in the newspaper.
  • A professor joking that a nontraditional student was “too old to answer a question about current events.”

One student “reported that a tutor consistently ignores him,” and tagged the incident as “Bias Type: Age, Ethnicity, Gender, Race.” Students have also asked administrators to regulate speech in other ways.

The University of Minnesota’s recently introduced free-speech code, for example, has been opposed by students who want the school to guarantee “special opportunities for those who are not well-spoken.”

Rampell writes, “I applaud students who want to create a diverse, welcoming atmosphere on campus. I admire their drive to make the world around them a better, more inclusive place. What puzzles me, though, is this instinct to appeal to administrators to adjudicate any conflict. Rather than confronting, debating and trying to persuade those whose words or actions offend them, students demand that a paternalistic figure step in and punish offenders.”

Don’t Look for Marxists or Keynesians in Economics Depts.

“It just isn’t the case that university economics departments are heavily stacked with libertarians and free market advocates. By roughly two to one, economics profs are of the interventionist persuasion, ranging from Keynesians to Marxists.” – George Leef.

Conservative critics of academia will tell you that socialism and Marxism are pervasive in such fields as history, English, and sociology.  The charges are frequent and pervasive, and not news. But the conservative critique of leftist homogeneity in academe now extends to economics. Not so. Economics is a generally conservative field that many observers would say is far less inclined toward radical ideology than other humanities and social sciences.

The allegation that the economics profession is dominated by big-government interventionists is perplexing, especially in light of the history of economic thought during the past several decades.

Libertarian Dominance

The Marxism allegation strikes me as completely off the wall. When I completed graduate school in economics in the late 1970s, the so-called Chicago School had already revolutionized economic thought in the United States, and it was not uncommon at most economics graduate departments to jump on the Chicago bandwagon.

That was especially true of the so-called Freshwater schools in the interior of the country.  My department was, in fact, dominated by libertarian-minded economists who believed that free markets and limited government were keys to building and sustaining private wealth and public welfare.  We had one closeted Marxist economist, a fish completely out of (fresh) water, and as one might expect, he was denied tenure after two years.

That was then.  Nowadays, consider what Brian Underwood said about Marxist economists in The Mendenhall in 2012:

“While the university system itself has not yet cycled out its old Marxist influences, Marxism has become so disreputable in several fields that it largely no longer exists within them…. Marxism has become so discredited within the economic field that it is an extremely rare occurrence.”

I put this question to Joshua Dunn, co-author with fellow conservative John Shields of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University: what did his research show about the influence of Marxist economists at American colleges and universities?

His answer: “Almost none.”

No Keynesian Control

The claim that modern economics departments are populated with old-school Keynesian interventionists requires a more complicated answer, but the answer is essentially the same: almost none.

Invisible Hand Beats Hidden

Lawrence Summers was once asked to name the “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today.” Summers replied, “What I leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the hidden hand. Things will happen in well-organized efforts without direction, control, plans. That’s the consensus among economists.” (emphasis added.)

Prior to the Great Depression, the so-called “classical” economists held strongly to the conviction that free markets — including profit-maximizing firms and utility-maximizing individuals — yielded prices and quantities that always cleared markets to an equilibrium state. Supply created its own demand, according one of the favorite postulates of classical economics

The Great Depression

Then, of course, came the Great Depression and the “Keynesian Revolution.” Macroeconomics was born as a separate field of study from classical microeconomics. Keynes attacked classical theory, however elegant its solutions to microeconomic problems, as being dangerously out of touch with the economic realities of the economy in aggregate. That was especially so when tepid aggregate demand led inexorably to price deflation and then, depression.

Only governments, as the third leg of the macroeconomic triad that included consumption and private investment, had the power to circumvent the slow process of market adjustments in prices and interest rates. As Keynes famously said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

The Counter-Revolutions

But to claim that academic economists nowadays are cut from the same cloth as Keynes is contradicted by the subsequent counter-revolutions in economic theory since Keynes.

In fact, classical and neo-classical economists who  seized center stage from the Keynesian drama argued that Keynes’ General Theory was, in fact, a solution to a special case, and not a theory that would hold at all times in all cases.

Alfred S. Eichnerand and J. A. Kregel wrote in the Journal of Economic Literature in 1975: “Yet, to those who were most closely associated with Keynes at Cambridge during that period, the revolution proved largely abortive.” In the thirty years after Keynes, there was “little fundamental change in the way economists see the world.” In other words, Keynesianism proved to be but a minor interruption in the classical theory’s continued march to dominance of the economics profession.

The Neo-Classicals

Paul Samuelson coined the term neoclassical economics to mark the separation between Keynesianism and the new generation of neoclassical economists. He wrote in 1955: “In recent years 90 percent of American economists have stopped being ‘Keynesian economists’ or ‘anti-Keynesian economists’. Instead they have worked toward a synthesis of whatever is valuable in older economics and in modern theories of income determination. The result might be called neo-classical economics and is accepted in its broad outlines by all but about 5 per cent of extreme left-wing and right-wing writers.”

‘Sticky’ Prices and Wages

The essence of neoclassical economics was to relax some classical assumptions in order to capture the realities of “sticky” prices and wages in the aggregate economy. The neoclassical revision produced a happy crew of modestly active economic stabilizers (fine-tuners) but who were still attached to classical roots.

That period of relative calm – not only in the economy but also in the economics profession – lasted until the 1970s when the economy got caught in the rather unhappy situation of high inflation and a stagnant economy. This, of course, defied the common belief that low unemployment came at the cost of high inflation and visa versa.

Stagflation became the premise for a full-on classical attack against any government intervention in the macro economy. That effort produced the New Classical Macroeconomics, otherwise known as the new Neoclassical Synthesis. Economists from the University of Chicago, including Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas, led anti-interventionist attack, arguing that government intervention was useless when economic agents were guided by “rational expectations.”

Drawing on History

In other words, firms and individuals not only understood how the economy worked, but they drew upon knowledge of past economic history as a gauge of future economic activity.  Rational actors factored in the results of anticipated policy interventions, which might lead to nominal changes in economic activity, but not real changes (after inflation adjustments.)

Thus, only unanticipated intervention would produce any real economic change. Based upon this theory, any government countercyclical policy in the macro economy would be thwarted by the actions of the private economy anticipating the government interventions.

Economist Oliver Landmann praised the intellectual breakthrough of the New Classical Macroeconomics, which he says has dominated all “serious” discussion about macroeconomics since the 1980s.

Whispers and Giggles

“If the government was to intervene in any way, it must first have identified the particular market failure it wished to correct. But since the New Classical models consisted of perfectly rational agents interacting on perfectly competitive markets, the role for active stabilization policy was virtually ruled out by assumption.”

Lucas himself has been quite blunt about this. A political libertarian himself, Lucas was once asked in 1982 if there was such a thing as social injustice. Lucas replied, “Well, sure. Government intervention vs. laissez-faire and free markets.”

In a 1980 article, The Death of Keynesian Economics, Lucas wrote: “One cannot find good, under-forty economists who identify themselves or their work as ‘Keynesian’. Indeed, people even take offense if referred to as ‘Keynesians’. At research seminars, people don’t take Keynesian theorizing seriously anymore; the audience starts to whisper and giggle to one another.”

Depression Prevention

Lucas and the Chicago School had become supremely confident. In 2003, Lucas stated that that the new classical macroeconomics had finally solved the “central problem of depression prevention.”

Not only was the period a convergence in the widespread belief in limited intervention, but, at last, the new classical synthesis included the rejoining of macroeconomics with its classical “micro-foundations.” The classical project of renormalization was, at last, complete.

As Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw has observed, the economic theoreticians, the “scientists,” with their elegant mathematical models, largely proved victorious. Not exactly so for the economic “engineers,” who were more inclined to trade mathematical elegance for “realism” in basic assumptions.

Still, there remained an underlying tension between the scientists and the engineers.  Minor cracks in the new classical edifice surfaced. Robert Solow, a Keynesian, who won the Nobel Prize in 1987 for his earlier work on economic growth, cautioned that the (anti-Keynesian) new classical synthesis was “foolishly restrictive” by assuming markets always clear and ruling out short-term price rigidities.

The Minor Players

Even as the new classical macroeconomics was gaining dominance in the economics profession, a small minority of economists was raising doubts. These minor players were dubbed the neo-Keynesians, and guardians of the new classical synthesis were quick to dismiss the upstarts.

In a 1989 article titled, “New Classicals and Keynesians, or the Good Guys and the Bad Guys,” Robert J. Barro of Harvard and Stanford’s Hoover Institution opined, “Although some of these ideas may prove helpful as elements in real business cycle models, my main conclusion is that the new Keynesian economics has not been successful in rehabilitating the Keynesian approach.”

Failures Demand a Retreat

Willem H. Buiter, wrote in a 1980 article, The Role of Economic Policy After the New Classical Macroeconomics, that he agreed that policy failures demanded a retreat from the neoclassical (or sometimes called the neo-Keynesian) paradigm that had ruled mainstream economics since the 1940’s, but he questioned the new classical movement’s return to pre-1930’s economic theory.

“What is harder to understand is how, for so many, this retreat from the neo-Keynesian mainstream and from policy optimism has taken the form of a return to the neoclassical dogmas and modes of analysis that received such a battering in the thirties.”

And, presciently, it turns out, Buiter, cautioned that the new neoclassical models of Lucas and others remained oblivious to potential “departures from ideal economic behavior in good, factor and financial markets during cyclical upswings or downturns.” (emphasis added)

History Repeats Itself         

I mention Buiter’s prescient reservations about the new classical synthesis, especially its failure to include financial instability, only because history would again repeat itself in 2008.

That, of course, is when the mortgage-backed securities bubble led to big trouble. The financial crisis had been scoffed at by most economists as indicative of pending macroeconomic trouble. But, in fact, the collapse of the financial sector did lead to the Great Recession, now regarded as worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Thus, the “New Convergence,” as Woodford called it, when academic economists were largely as peace with the anti-Keynesian view that government intervention in the macro-economy would always prove futile due to rational expectations, suddenly faced crisis of its own that corresponded to crisis in larger economy.

Posner Weighs In

Indeed, writing in the Atlantic in 2009, Richard Posner of the University of Chicago law school, stated that Lucas and most mainstream new classical economists “contributed to the economics profession’s, and the government’s, complacency about the vulnerability of the economy to severe crashes, and contributed also to deflecting economists from improving their understanding of the risks of economic instability.”

No, We’re Not All Keynesians

Richard Nixon once said something to the effect that the whole world had become Keynesian.  That was, perhaps, true at that moment of time. But the post-Depression history of macroeconomics has been nothing if not an inexorable retreat from Keynesian ideas. Time after time, the classical view fended off challenges to its historic dominance of economic theory, either despite economic shocks or, in the case of stagflation, because of them.

Predictably, calm waters are followed by the next great exogenous “shock” –whether technical, financial or something else that no rational expectations theory is equipped to handle. The neoclassical model and the larger philosophical assumptions that undergird the model are rarely abandoned and not forgotten.

The pull of intervention is always opposed by a push toward non-intervention and the belief that markets will clear in the long run, and that all disequilibria (such as labor surplus) is simply the result of rational actors making rational decisions based on the best available evidence.  It remains to be seen how academic economists will ultimately respond to the lessons of the Great Recession. 

‘Regular’ Economics

Even in the wake of the Great Recession, the new classical economists have already begun to dig in their heels. Writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, Robert Barro contended there existed two types of economics: Keynesian economics and “Regular” economics. Barro continued to insist “that there is no meaningful theoretical or empirical support for the Keynesian position.”

But what about the recent work on wealth inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty? Hasn’t his work moved economics departments even farther to the left? In his 2014 book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Piketty concluded that the long-run rate of return on capital exceeded long-run growth rates in GDP, which created and sustained a sort of permanent income inequality in capitalist economies. Only state intervention and a permanent tax on capital could alleviate this tendency generation after generation.

In some circles, Piketty’s book was widely praised as a monumental breakthrough in the understanding of advanced capitalist economies. But it’s not clear what real impact his ideas will have on mainstream economic thinking at American universities.  I suspect Piketty’s influence in that respect will be far smaller than what anti-interventionists might fear.  First, neoclassical critics have already challenged the core concepts of Piketty’s assumptions, specifically relatively fixed rates of substitution between capital and labor in his model, contradicting decades of evidence that the capital/labor substitution rates are substantial.

Second, there’s little evidence that Piketty’s work has influenced the professional practices and standards of mainstream economists. Consider, for example, citation rankings of articles and papers in the economics literature. According to one such ranking maintained by the St. Louis Fed, just one 1995 paper by Piketty was cited 299 times, which ranked 1550 on the list — near the bottom.

The most frequently cited paper was Manuel Arellano’s and Stephen Bond’s 1991 paper, “Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations,” which was cited 4,846 times.

Nixon Got It Wrong

Even if a new push for Keynesianesque interventionism comes, it will not last. Despite “exogenous” critiques from outside the profession, as we economists might call it, as a whole we’ve never abandoned our classical roots.

When I was in graduate school, the belief in the free market struck me as more of an ideology, a quasi-religious belief, than a science.  Generations of economics graduate students have experienced something similar.  The study of economic history or exposure to non-orthodox thinking is non-existent compared to the larger mission of reproducing economists with similar beliefs in the classical foundations, generation after generation.

Nixon got it wrong. We’re not all Keynesians now, not in 1971 and not in 2016. The profession’s classical identity has, on occasion, merely been stored in the closet, temporarily, only to rise again, attack the unbelievers and restore its seemingly timeless foundations.

Why that happens is another story altogether. But, meanwhile, almost every economist knows in his or her heart of hearts what he or she is supposed to know.  We’re all Smithians. Always were, always will be.

The Falsity of Domestic Violence

Murray Straus, a researcher in family violence at the University of New Hampshire, died last weekend at the age of 89. He was a man of fierce integrity, and since I covered the social sciences for two national publications, I can tell you that his evidence always checked out. I can also tell you that his memory will not be cherished by gender warriors.

In almost 50 years of research, Straus and the researchers who followed his lead, established beyond any doubt that domestic violence isn’t an instrument of patriarchal control as feminists claim. Nor is it a gender crime as the Violence Against Women’s Act insists it is, but a crime that troubled male and female partners commit against one another at roughly equal rates. Men do more damage than women do, but women conduct and initiate violence as often as men do, and one of three killings by partners is by women.

The frequent claim that women commit violence in self-defense is not borne out in the research. In his 2010 paper, “Thirty Years of Denying The Evidence of Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence,” Straus says the long uproar was fueled by the 1975 National Family Violence Survey, which found a perpetration rate of assault by men partners of 12% and by women partners 11.6%. The rate of severe assaults such as kicking, punching, choking, and attacks with objects was also about the same for men and women (3.8% by men and 4.6% by women). Neither of these gender differences was statistically significant. The response by those who wanted to use domestic violence  as a lever to reduce patriarchal power was furious. Reports that men and women are  equally culpable are not what many wanted to hear.

Among other things, that fury led to dishonest surveys that suppressed evidence of female violence, dropped some findings, blocked publication of some research. faked some statistics, touched off campaigns of intimidation of researchers in the field, and made it risky for graduate students to study under Straus.

Straus had to endure a lot of pressure, demonstrations and death threats. The late Suzanne Steinmetz of the University of Delaware was frequently harassed  for research similar to Straus’s, and a bomb threat was called in at her daughter’s wedding.

Straus guessed that the news media went along with the war on honest research out of a simple desire to sell newspapers. That sounds wrong. Sociology doesn’t sell papers, A much more likely explanation is that young people who enter the news media tend to support causes of the cultural left and have trouble producing straightforward reporting on cultural issues. The decline of social science is mirrored by decline of the press.

You can watch Prof. Murray Straus on You Tube discuss the falsification of domestic violence statistics, at the Conference on Violence, Conflict and Unity in the Family, at Ariel University, 29.4.13.

The Feds Make a Mess of Sex and Gender

The never-resting Office for Civil Rights (OCR) U.S. Department of Education and the equally insomnolent Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department have just issued their latest “Dear Colleague” letter advising the stewards of the nation’s schools of their newest responsibility.

The “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” consists of five pages of text, three pages of footnotes, and a notice on “language assistance” in the event that non-English speakers are puzzled by the newly enunciated need to avoid discrimination against transgendered and gender-transitioning youth.

The number of such youth is, by all accounts, vanishingly small, but they loom large in current public policy deliberations.  Most notably, they have become hostages in the battle between the Obama administration and the state of North Carolina.  As has been widely reported and discussed, the Tar Heel State has ruled that individuals should use public restrooms corresponding to their sex at birth.

This has raised questions of post-modern epistemology.  As a matter of science, the sex of all humans is fixed at birth and is unchangeable.  That sex is present in the chromosomes of every cell in the individual’s body.  Even the most radical surgical, hormonal, and cosmetic interventions are powerless to change it.

But what is true of sex need not be true of the elastic concept of “gender,” which has been thrust on American culture as the all-purpose substitute for sex.  As it happens, my discipline, anthropology, bears some responsibility for this.  Way back in the 1930s, even before “gender” became the catchphrase, Margaret Mead was preaching the idea that cultures exhibit dramatic differences in the ways they define the proper temperaments of men and women.  Masculinity and femininity are, as we have learned to say with due solemnity, “culturally constructed.”  The men of the Tchambuli tribe in New Guinea, said Mead, are prissy and feminine by our standards; the women, all-business and managerial.

No need to elaborate.  For many decades, social science along with legions of Tchambuli-like American feminists have run with the idea that gender is “socially constructed.”  And what one Tchambuli can construct, another can deconstruct, and yet another reconstruct.  It took us a while to get all the way to the destination that people should feel free to make up their own genders, but at long last the Office for Civil Rights has set us straight.  Though that is probably not the right word.

But, as I said, we face epistemological complications.  The civil rights theory of transgender rights posits that “gender identity” is an inherent fact in the individual, which is to say that it sounds a lot more like what we used to call the individual’s sex.  If so, it is not “culturally constructed,” but somehow given in the nature of the individual.  In which case, it isn’t “gender” at all, and cannot be the basis for gender discrimination.

But let’s not quibble. Intellectual coherence isn’t what we require of federal agencies devoted to progressive social justice.  Progress is what we expect.  The “Dear Colleague” letter begins with a statement of seeming fact:

Schools across the country strive to create and sustain inclusive, supportive, safe, and nondiscriminatory communities for all students.

It is “parents, teachers, principals, and school superintendents” who are concerned about “civil rights protections for transgender students.” OCR is simply providing the answers that are needed in these troubled times.

It is small measure of how badly these answers are needed that I passed through 22 years of formal education and more than 25 in college and university teaching without knowingly encountering a single transgendered student.  I realize this now to my shame.  How many students did I address by cis-gendered pronouns while thoughtlessly assuming that their apparent sex matched their inner gender identities?

Well, perhaps none, but still it is possible.  It happens.  A faculty member at a large public university wrote to me this week on exactly this matter.  He incorrectly used the pronoun “he” in reference to a Japanese author whose “gender identity” he didn’t know.  A transgendered student in the class promptly filed a complaint with the university, which has summoned the faculty member to meet with the dean to ensure that such a transgression is not repeated.  The faculty member has so far not made his travail public, perhaps out of the hope of saving his university the ignominy of appearing on an OCR blacklist for its overly lenient handling of the case.

What the OCR letter provides, of course, is an astonishing annexation of new power to the federal government.  Humanity is capable of all sorts of twists and turns when it comes to sexual appetites and personal identities.  Societies attempt to impose some order on this, and Margaret Mead was not wrong in observing that the ordering ideas vary from place to place.  The social norms that prevail at 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202, where the tribe of OCRians reside, for example, differ from the social norms in North Carolina and most other civilized places.

We need to make allowance for these differences lest we fall into a pattern of inadvertent discrimination.

By OCR’s account “Compliance with Title IX” requires that as a condition of receiving federal funds, schools “not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities.”  When North Carolina boldly put itself in complete compliance with this law by insisting that “sex” means sex, it ran afoul of the OCR conception that “sex” means self-invented “gender identity.”  To that end, schools are supposed to provide transgendered students access to the “sex-segregated restrooms and locker rooms,” of their own choice.

OCR’s advice on athletics is a bit more complicated.  Schools can still differentiate among students on the basis of (real) biological sex provided they do not “rely on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes,” or act on “others’ discomfort with transgender students.”

I was briefly under the impression that “discomfort” was an index of oppression, and where discomfort exists, surely OCR regulatory assuagement must follow.  But no, the discomfort of transgendered students faced with normative expectations of sexual identity is a crisis.  The discomfort of the “cis-gendered” is just their tough luck.

I can’t unravel this mystery here, though I note that many commentators are giving it their best effort. The only thing clear to me is that OCR has reached such an apotheosis, that it now has the power to overrule nature and command our very chromosomes to obey its dictates.  We’ll see how that works out.

Let’s Reject This Endorsement of Free Speech on Campus

Today in the Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch explains “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus.”

Many conservatives might jump to endorse this article as a welcome indictment of liberal censorship and bias by two powerful campus donors. But that would be a mistake.  Look more closely at what Bloomberg and Koch are saying.  

Whether in economics, morality, politics or any other realm of study, progress has always depended upon human beings having the courage to challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs.

Got that?  Prevailing traditions and beliefs are a hindrance to progress. They are the obstacles to overcome. We must stand up to them, and that means saying things people are going to find uncomfortable. Bloomberg and Koch say nothing about education as the focusing of young minds on religious, political, and artistic traditions.  Nothing about how you cannot “challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs” intelligently until you have studied those things.  No, it’s all about innovation and reform and progress.

Bloomberg and Koch’s examples show how misguided is the approach.

Many ideas that the majority of Americans now hold dear–including that all people should have equal rights, women deserve the right to vote, and gays and lesbians should be free to marry whom they choose–were once unpopular minority views that many found offensive.

This is the standard justification, and it’s a misleading one.  It overlooks a giant contrary category: things that came along and were hailed as forms of progress but sooner or later exposed as terrible mistakes.  Some instances: early-20th-century eugenics, open classrooms in secondary education, the destruction of Penn Station . .

Bloomberg and Koch compound their blindness to the dangers of progress in the very next sentence.

They are now widely accepted because people were free to engage in a robust dialogue with their fellow citizens.

To claim that the same-sex marriage controversy has been settled through a “robust dialogue” is to rewrite history.  Has any conflict in recent times been less civil and open than this one? 

The progressives on this issue have used tactics of shaming, demonization, intimidation, and litigation, not those of debate.  There is no tolerance for differing opinions, which Bloomberg and Koch hail as a proper effect of liberal education.  They believe in a society in which “individuals need not fear reprisal, harassment or intimidation for airing controversial opinions.”  We don’t have one right now, not on this issue.

The problem in Bloomberg and Koch’s declaration is a discursive one.  They praise progress, in the process setting the status quo as a roadblock to it.  But what, then, about people who believe in the status quo?  And what if the conflict turns upon deeply held beliefs, perhaps religious ones, that won’t be managed and accommodated so smoothly by a marketplace of ideas. 

Let’s face it: some commitments run deeper than that.  Moral positions can be visceral.  Bloomberg and Koch think that “open minds and rational discourse” may proceed if we only show more tolerance. 

But to Bloomberg and Koch tolerance is simply a pathway to shedding principles important millions of students.

A Champion of Free Speech Takes on the Muzzled Campus

Harvey Silverglate delivered these remarks upon receiving the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton award Monday, May 9th at a dinner in New York City. Silverglate is a Cambridge attorney, a veteran defender of civil rights and civil liberties, and co-founder, along with University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

I have dedicated much of my career to two contests that are consuming our nation, the ramifications of which will impact generations to come as well as the health of the republic itself.

I am referring to, first, the capacity of the criminal law, especially federal law, to turn all of us into criminals, at the government’s whim, for engaging in what to us appear to be the most benign personal and professional actions or inactions.

And, second, the effort, well underway, to destroy the liberal arts university by replacing the quest for human knowledge with the indoctrination of students into truth as it is postulated by self-righteous fanatics who think they have a monopoly on human wisdom, when in fact all they really have monopolized are the levers of academic and administrative power.Harvey Silverglate

And, with respect to these two areas – due process and fairness in the criminal law, and free speech and thought and procedural fairness on college campuses – I have long taken comfort in the reliability of allies such as the Manhattan Institute. This is the reason that, despite my reputation for accepting rather few invitations, I gratefully accepted the Manhattan Institute’s invitation to venture to New York (where, by the way, I was born, so this is not foreign territory to me) to accept, along with my co-recipient the redoubtable Bruce Kovner, the Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award.

Thank you, Manhattan Institute, and the Institute’s leadership – President Larry Mone in particular, and the entire Board – for this honor, but, even more important, for the Institute’s ceaseless support for civilization and sanity in my two areas of interest, the criminal law and our institutions of higher education.

Interestingly, I noticed that dangerous trends in each of these two areas accelerated around the same time –the mid-1980s. Might the explanation, I asked myself, be that suddenly the universities were accepting a more diverse student body? Rather than celebrate this liberalization of American society and academic culture, I wondered, perhaps the colleges, fearing that students of different racial, religious, and social backgrounds would clash with one another, expanded the student-life bureaucracies to, in their view, keep the peace.

Regardless of the justification, definitions of “harassment” were adopted that were so vague and broad so as to escalate the numbers of disciplinary proceedings, many of which were deemed confidential so that the outside world had no idea what was happening. Speech codes popped up that sought to prevent students from insulting or offending one another, but in practice the codes strangled the academic enterprise. Kangaroo courts were established to adjudicate the many violations of the new rules. Remember that we’re talking about liberal arts colleges, not prisons, not re-education camps!

At about the same time, I noted a proliferation of prosecutions in the federal courts that were ensnaring defendants who, it seemed to me, had conducted themselves, if not superbly, then at least within legal limits. This ensnaring was enabled by the greatly expanded use of inherently vague federal statutes, such as “fraud.” The concept of “fraud” suddenly meant whatever a United States Attorney wanted it to mean, with the target often being selected for the personal aggrandizement of the prosecutor’s reputation and future career prospects rather than for the protection of the public.

The bottom line was that I saw these major institutions – the college campuses and the federal courts – take a turn toward precepts and practices that furnished a nutrient-laden petri dish for an experiment in an authoritarianism that was very different from the America I was familiar and comfortable with.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s co-founders, University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors and I, established FIRE in 1999, a year after Professor Kors and I published our book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. That book followed Professor Kors’ representation, with some legal advice from me, of an undergraduate who was being persecuted in a Penn campus tribunal in the famous “water buffalo” case, where a well-meaning student named Eden Jacobowitz addressed a group of undergraduate women who were raucously celebrating their sorority’s anniversary just outside his dorm window as he was studying. He shouted “shut up, you water buffalo!” The women being African-Americans, this was deemed by them, and by student-life administrators, to constitute “racial harassment.”

It turned out, actually, that in the offending student’s first language, Hebrew, the common slang term behema reasonably translates into “water-buffalo” and refers to a rowdy or thoughtless person. Penn’s administrators, unaware of, and uninterested in, Jacobowitz’s cultural background, assumed that the water buffalo was native to Africa (it’s not), and from this they extrapolated their hate speech theory. In the face of derisive worldwide publicity, the campus bureaucrats backed down, but it turned out to be merely a strategic retreat, not a true surrender.

Sanity’s well-publicized victory in the water buffalo case triggered a flood of students seeking assistance from Professor Kors and me. These beleaguered individuals were suffering not only from unfair persecutions, but also were being cheated out of a genuine liberal arts education. The liberal arts are not readily compatible with censorship and mindless ideological persecution. It is impossible to teach, and to learn, in the liberal arts arena under such conditions of hypersensitivity and authoritarianism. Indoctrination was replacing true academic study. From the day students arrive as freshman they are subjected to “sensitivity training” engineered by burgeoning student life bureaucrats who intrude into their most intimate lives and thoughts. I recognized that students, and even dissenting faculty, were at the mercy of a new regime, something of a cross between Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Kafka’s The Trial.

Kors and I could not handle the volume, and so FIRE was born out of sheer necessity. I at the time had assumed that surely the ludicrousness of the campus persecutions would result in the phenomenon burning itself out within less than ten years. It was, I told myself, a momentary social panic. FIRE would be a temporary project. The burning of witches in Salem, after all, ended rather abruptly when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided that enough was enough and put an end to the trials in 1693. That scourge lasted but one year.

Well, FIRE is in its 17th year, with no end in sight. We are in trench warfare.

The success of The Shadow University triggered my next project.

I wrote a book about the decline of justice in the federal criminal system, which I titled Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. As you might intuit by the title, my thesis is, essentially, that the average American arguably commits three federal felonies in a typical day, but does not even realize it. All that is needed is an ambitious federal prosecutor, and a prosecution is born. One has to pray that his case is assigned to a judge who sees through the scam. Most do not. Like campus administrators, too many judges tend to be either cynics or true believers.

And, contrary to the way book projects are traditionally carried out, I went to sell the completed book to a publisher – no book proposal, but, rather, a full manuscript. The publisher of The Shadow University was unwilling to take on the project, perhaps, I wondered, for fear of the U.S. Department of Justice? Other publishers I contacted likewise turned me away.

Enter my dear friend Dorothy Rabinowitz, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist for The Wall Street Journal, who suggested that I send the manuscript to her friend Roger Kimball, the brilliant publisher at Encounter Books (who I see in the audience this evening, and who is on the Board of the Manhattan Institute).

Roger, who had seen some of his own friends get ensnared in the traps for the unwary strewn throughout the ocean of vague federal statutes and regulations, agreed to publish the book. Three Felonies’ has become somewhat of a handbook for the counter-revolution against tyranny. The book’s influence has been such that I recently acceded to Roger’s plea that I write a sequel that would focus on the proposed solutions. I’m nearly half done with the manuscript, and Conviction Machine is due out sometime next year.

In these two theaters of battle in which I find myself, reliable allies are highly valued. This is why the Manhattan Institute is so important: It recognizes the stakes, in terms of liberty and of civilization itself, in both the criminal justice arena and the education arena. I am proud, and buoyed, to have allies like MI. I know that FIRE likewise is grateful to have such a reliable cohort in the fight for restoration of liberty, fairness, and sanity on college campuses.

Together, and with all of the other groups across the political spectrum that see the reality of what is happening and are determined to do something about it, we will prevail.

Voices in the Harvard Final Club Debate

Richard A. Epstein, Defining Ideas, the Hoover Institution

These final clubs enjoy widespread acceptance among their members because some young people prefer to organize their social lives around single-sex organizations. To a classical liberal like myself, these revealed preferences count a great deal…. But in the eyes of progressives like Faust, these preferences should be dismissed as inconsistent with a bigger vision of a “campus free from exclusion on arbitrary grounds”… .

We should urge them instead to gain experience in both single-sex and more open environments, because no matter what the high priests at Harvard decree, virtually all normal people will be required to move seamlessly between both types of environments in their personal and professional lives. Harvard has no desire to encourage a portfolio of diverse activities. Instead, its chosen form of diversity is really a new form of totalitarian excess that limits student choice, insisting that everyone at Harvard dance to the administration’s martial music.

Robby Soave,

Reading between the lines, it seems like “reducing sexual assault” is actually just an excuse for Harvard to take action against groups it doesn’t like—for reasons that are implicitly political….  Harvard is a private organization, and is entitled to place as many ridiculous limitations on students’ lives as it wants. But it doesn’t get to discriminate against students who join finals clubs while simultaneously touting itself as an institution that respects liberal values. There’s nothing liberal about discouraging free association.

Sasha Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, Washington Post

… for those who take an interest in what Harvard does as part of the enterprise of a liberal university, there’s a lot that’s troubling about the idea of penalizing people for their off-campus memberships by denying them a privilege (student organization leadership) that’s available to everyone else…. Fortunately, if you’re a Harvard alumnus, you can do something about it: vote for a slate of candidates for Harvard’s Board of Overseers. The slate consists of Ralph Nader, Ron Unz, Stuart Taylor, Lee Cheng, and Stephen Hsu. Here’s a Harvard Crimson article about their candidacy, here’s a New York Times article, and here’s a debate about their platform.

Elliot Gerson, The Crimson

The Spee Club has long prided itself for being perhaps the most progressive final club, consistently the first to champion a more diverse membership—and diverse in virtually all dimensions before this last and critical one. Indeed, fellow graduate members of the club had long advocated women membership; it was the undergraduates who until recently largely opposed it.

They are now, by my own observation, delighted….Someday, most Harvard final club alumni will look back and wonder how we could accept gender discriminatory membership for so long. Our colleagues at Yale and Princeton, in somewhat similar institutions, made these transitions some time ago and undergraduate life for members and nonmembers alike has only improved


The End of Harvard’s Final Clubs?

By Blair Ericson

In the name of “gender inclusion,” Harvard has decided to punish members of all-female sororities, all-male fraternities, and single-sex final clubs of either sex. The final clubs, targeted by the administration for years, are independent groups beyond the direct reach of the university, so Harvard will blacklist their individual members by not allowing them to lead athletic teams or campus groups and making them ineligible for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

In addition to attacking these—and only these—single-sex groups as discriminatory, Harvard argues that they make sexual assault more likely, citing last spring’s contested “campus climate” survey purporting to show that single-sex clubs are the second most common places for sexual assault. The most common places are all-gender locations: Harvard dorms. Besides, as Harvard student Emily Hall pointed out at National Review, the Boston Globe has raised serious doubts about the validity of that survey. She also points out that Harvard is highly selective in picking single-sex targets—the Black Men’s Forum sand a women-only financial advice group are not just allowed to exist but funded by Harvard.

This selective punishment is not just a failure to provide a benefit. It is punishment. And it is not merely punishment of the students who join a targeted group, but it also is punishment of those innocent organizations and teams who will be denied the opportunity to choose their own leaders.

That is, Harvard’s full-throated attack on students’ right to associate off campus is also an unprecedented attack against the freedom of association of every student organization on campus. It is a major power grab by the university against the autonomy of student organizations of every kind.

Harvard is not a true marketplace of ideas so long as it declares that all student organizations ultimately belong to Harvard and must unwaveringly express Harvard’s declared morality that single-sex socializing is anathema. In 2008, when it banned a party at Adams House because it had been advertised as “Barely Legal,” Harvard argued that “a grant of access for an organization’s event necessarily carries an endorsement of the event by the House.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), , which defends the freedoms of speech and association on campus, responded:

“Does anyone really believe that Harvard fully endorses all of the diverse speech accommodated in its classrooms, halls, and residences, simply by providing the space in which this wide range of expression occurs? Of course not. Such an endorsement is not only impossible, but it is also incompatible with the university’s mission as a true marketplace of ideas.”

In addition, FIRE’s Adam Steinbaugh notes Harvard’s rank hypocrisy on this topic by listing several times that Harvard has gone out of its way to distance itself from the events and values promoted by student organizations in recent years. Did the nude photos of Harvard undergraduates in the H-Bomb represent Harvard? How about the “kinky sex” organization, College Munch? How about the group that planned a Satanic “Black Mass”?

Yet, this month, Harvard has made the untenable argument that by operating under the “name” of Harvard, a student group “represents” the official Harvard morality as articulated by Harvard’s administrators. No reasonable person believes that all of the diverse organizations at Harvard “represent” a monolithic Harvard morality.

Harvard’s double standards run deep. Diversity is the name of Harvard’s game, but only the approved kinds of diversity count. Single-sex organizations are OK if the purpose is to sing or play basketball or provide financial advice to women or to support black men, because these organizations are not deemed social enough in the way that Harvard proscribes. No matter that Harvard is treating all of these organizations and its sports teams with disrespect by arguing that their mission is to play sports or do something else but not, really, to be friends. If their friendships get too close, they risk violating Harvard’s culture against single-sex socializing.

Meanwhile, single-sex organizations are not OK by default if they are primarily social. That is, members of fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are automatically blacklisted so long as they do not admit members beyond a single sex. No matter that in many of their social functions, visitors of the opposite sex are quite welcome.

In fact, this is why Harvard claims to be acting in the first place. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust blames “unsupervised social spaces,” spaces Harvard cannot control, for being places where uncontrolled things happen.

And how will Harvard determine whether private off-campus organizations are social enough and that they are single-sex in their membership, and that a student is officially a member? Will there be investigations and interrogations?

When Trinity College tried this kind of thing, it failed miserably. Trinity recently backed off its own power grab because of major alumni revolt and because, after all, the fraternities were not voluntarily going coed as planned. Trinity’s president wrote:

“I have concluded that the coed mandate is unlikely to achieve its intended goal of gender equity. Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness. In fact, community-wide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive.”

“Outrageously, Harvard has decided that 2016 is the right time to revive the blacklist,” said Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE. “This year’s undesirables are members of off-campus clubs that don’t match Harvard’s political preferences. In the 1950s, perhaps Communists would have been excluded. I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?’ Sadly, they are not.”

“Harvard’s decision simply demonstrates that it is willing to sacrifice students’ basic freedom of association to the whims of whoever occupies the administrative suites today,” said FIRE co-founder, civil liberties attorney, and Harvard Law alumnus Harvey Silverglate. “Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?”

Finally, it is interesting—perhaps a legal liability—that Harvard waited to announce its policy until after the May 1 deadline for students to accept its college admission offers. Harvard’s administrators know how unpopular this new Puritanism will look to new students as well as to existing students, student organizations, alumni, and anyone who thinks Harvard should offer fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and association, the same rights enjoyed by students at public colleges and even community colleges nationwide.

Harvard has much more powerful and wise alumni than Trinity. If they want to sue, they might even find students and recognized student organizations with standing to sue on contract claims, whether or not the private associations do. Harvard may not promise fundamental freedoms and entice students to send in their deposits when it knows that these promises mean nothing.

Harvard is in the middle of a Board of Oversees election, in which alumni may vote for establishment candidates or an upstart group of petition candidates who seek a “free” and “fair” Harvard in which “privilege” of all kinds is diminished. Three Free Harvard/Fair Harvard candidates — Ron Unz, Lee Cheng, and Stuart Taylor, Jr. — have come out against Harvard’s punishment of single-sex group members. Their press release said, “Reducing unwarranted privilege is one thing, but violating fundamental promises of freedom of association is another. The impairment of students’ rights of free association is not even remotely the most appropriate or effective remedy for what President Faust has called the ‘alarming frequency’ of sexual assaults by Harvard students. Accountability should begin right at the top.  The leaders of Harvard should be held fully accountable for failing to increase police presence on campus or take the other serious steps to protect students that would be called for if President Faust took seriously her own suggestion that sexual assaults are epidemic at Harvard.”

Blair Ericson is a pseudonym of a writer with Harvard connections.

Times Says Conservatives Unwelcome in Academia

Yesterday The New York Times ran a column by Nicholas Kristof saying that American colleges and universities seem to have very few conservative teachers and display a conspicuous aversion to acquiring more. Readers of this site already know this, but the news must have come as a surprises to Times readers.

“A Confession of LIberal Intolerance,” is the headline on the column (no hedging there), and the subhead is “We are big on diversity, but not when it comes to conservatives in academia.”  Exactly.  It’s worth your time to read the entire article.