At Duke, “Intolerance” Can Cost You Tenure

Befitting its vision as one of the nation’s great universities, Duke declares that it grants tenure only to the best. Tenure at Duke, according to the university’s official policy, “should be reserved for those who have clearly demonstrated through their performance as scholars and teachers that their work has been widely perceived among their peers as outstanding,” with “good teaching and university service” expected but not in and of themselves sufficient.

Duke lists no other criteria for tenure. Until now.

Last week, the anti-campus free speech movement migrated from Yale, Missouri, and Amherst to Duke. This is, of course, a university with a record of indifference to student civil liberties: in the lacrosse case, dozens of faculty members unequivocally declared that something “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum; and after the collapse of this case to which they had attached their public reputations, dozens signed a statement affirming they’d never apologize. (They didn’t; instead, Duke spent millions in settlements and legal fees to, in part, shield the faculty from liability.)

In response to Yale/Missouri/Amherst-like student protests, Duke President Richard Brodhead joined, at a campus forum, the new dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University, Valerie Ashby. (Ashby started at Duke this past July.) Brodhead, to his credit, openly opposed censorship, and cautioned that suppressing speech could eventually justify the silencing of the student protesters. At the same time, he neutralized this commitment by suggesting that Duke could institute a policy addressing “hate speech” (whose parameters remained undefined) modeled on the school’s due process-unfriendly sexual assault policy.

In the event, Brodhead didn’t have the last word on this issue. After he made his statement against censorship, Dean Ashby jumped in. She revealed a previously non-public university policy, announcing that untenured faculty is subjected to continuous evaluation for a university-approved level of tolerance. A video of Ashby’s remarks is here. Her key line: “You can’t be a great scholar and be intolerant. You have to go.” Chillingly, the assembled audience then burst into applause.

Nothing in Duke’s written tenure policy suggests that a “great” scholar’s failing to fulfill a definition of “tolerance” offered by Brodhead and Ashby constitutes grounds for denying tenure. Indeed, Ashby’s emotional concluding line—“you have to go”—suggests that the dean considers it possible to immediately dismiss those untenured professors who fail her tolerance test.

The academy’s recent debates about “tolerance” revolve around questions of race and gender. While Duke has now made clear that the “intolerant” can be fired, in her public statement, Ashby provided no clarity as to what specific views constitute dismissible offenses. For instance, would a junior professor who publicly opposed racial preferences be deemed “intolerant,” especially given Brodhead’s earlier criticism of tenured Duke professors whose research raised questions about the effects of racial preferences? Would a junior professor who urged the university to change course and provide due process to students accused of sexual assault be deemed “intolerant,” and thus worthy of dismissal under the new standards? If the Ashby principles had existed during the lacrosse case, could they have been used to terminate untenured Duke professors who criticized the Group of 88?

I asked two Duke spokespersons whether this new tenure evaluation policy had been provided in written form to untenured faculty; neither spokesperson replied. (Duke’s website contains no indication of a written policy, and Ashby defined the new standard only as “this is what’s tolerable here, this is what’s not,” without providing any degree of specificity.) At the very least, then since Duke’s new “tolerance” criterion remains appears to be wholly arbitrary, any junior professor who wants to stay employed needs to self-censor.

To date, Duke seems to be the only elite university that has abandoned all pretense that excellent scholarship, teaching, and service is sufficient for tenure, and held instead that these accomplishments can be trumped by a “tolerance” test imposed by the senior administration. Will other universities follow course?

Should Scholarly Associations Take Political Positions?

Richard A. Shweder, the University of Chicago anthropologist, who is speaking tonight  in Denver at the annual American Anthropological Association convention, is recommending a “no-action” option on Israel/Palestine, meaning that he considers it inappropriate for the Association, as an entity, to support either side of the dispute.

An AAA task force has come down on the other side, unanimously voting against inaction.  Shweder says, “Many of those who agonize over the conflict are motivated by deep sympathies for one side or the other; and because of such attachments they are concerned and eager to find avenues to express their feelings of solidarity, with one side or the other.

It does not follow however that it is appropriate, legitimate, right or good to express such feelings by mobilizing a majority vote of support from individual members of the AAA and then turning it into the unitary corporate voice of the institution.“

UPDATE. At the business meeting of the American Anthropological Association those who showed up voted 1040 to 146 in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. That vote places the boycott resolution on the Spring ballot of the association and will be sent out to all members.

Why Get-Tough Accreditors Make Classes More Fun and Less Demanding

America’s higher education system works like this. The government dangles lots of easy-to-get money for college in front of every high-school graduate, nearly all of whom have heard repeatedly that a college degree is essential for a decent life. Without “higher education,” their lives will be nothing but low-paid drudgery.

Salvation lies in enrolling in college, but unless the school is accredited, they won’t be to use any of that federal grant and loan money to pay for it. So great numbers of students get their Pell grants, federal loans, and then find a college that promises them a bright future.

Related: Accreditors—Hip-Deep in Politics  

The role the accreditors are supposed to play is to guarantee that colleges are educationally sound. Politicians don’t want federal money wasted on degree mills or other dubious schools. Accreditation was thought to be a good defense against that.

Back in the 1960s, when the Great Leap Forward into higher education began, the system seemed reasonable. Most of the students who went to college were pretty well prepared and the admission and academic standards at most schools were at least moderately demanding. Expanding “access” to higher education appeared to have only an upside.

The trouble is that Uncle Sam’s increasing “generosity” towards college proved to be very corrosive of those standards over time.

College administrators quickly developed a taste for the additional revenue they could obtain by enrolling more students. To do that, many lowered admission standards and the academic quality of the college-going population began to decline. (That decline was worsened by the fact that academic rigor at many of our high schools was simultaneously falling, as “progressive” educational theories spread.) But to keep the increasingly large number of weak and disengaged students they were luring into their schools happy, it was necessary to water down the curriculum and lower academic expectations.

After decades, those trends have led us to our present, dismal situation – many students who shouldn’t have entered college in the first place are racking up debts for college while learning little and often failing to graduate.

Related: Why Accreditation Is a Waste of Time

Instead of acknowledging that college subsidies have produced some bad consequences, President Obama and his (now departing) education secretary Arne Duncan are now pinning the blame on the accreditors for not solving the problems caused by easy money and low standards.

In a November 6, 2015 statement, Secretary Duncan said, “Accrediting organizations are watchdogs that don’t bite.” He announced that the department would request from Congress new power to set standards for the way accreditation agencies measure the schools they evaluate. The idea behind this is that if accreditors force their schools to improve on such metrics as graduation rates, they we will solve or at least ameliorate the problem of “failing schools.”

This is a classic example of rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic – a waste of effort that fails to address the underlying problem. That problem is simple: Colleges can’t educate students who really don’t have much ability or desire to learn.

There are many colleges, both for-profit and non-profit with very low graduation rates. Some are in single-digits. Many of the students who enroll find that college work, even with today’s prevailing low standards and watered down curriculum, just isn’t what they want or need and drop out. School administrators would like to have them remain enrolled and graduate, since that means both more money and a boost in the various ranking systems. They have “retention” programs, which are supposed to stop the dropout hemorrhaging, but despite all their efforts, reality asserts itself. Many students are “mismatched” at any college.

What will happen if the Department of Education could compel accreditation agencies to “get tough” with these “failing schools”?

We will see the kind of system gaming that we have seen in K-12 when schools get the diktat to improve or else. Colleges and the accreditors will fudge or cheat so they will look good enough under the metrics.

Related: What’s Wrong  with Accreditation—a Textbook Case

If you doubt that, consider how college professors do the same thing when they’re under pressure to “improve.” Since job retention often depends on meeting some benchmark on their student evaluations, they concentrate on that. A perfect illustration of that is found in Peter Sacks’ book Generation X Goes to College; to keep his job, he needed better evaluations and thus engaged in his “sandbox experiment,” of making his class more fun and less demanding. (It worked.)

Similarly, if an accreditor insists on better outcomes, the easiest way for a school to produce them is to further reduce its academic standards and do still more hand-holding so as to encourage students who’d otherwise have dropped out into remaining on campus. Even if the great majority of your students are pitiably weak, you can probably engineer a marginal increase in your graduation rate by a “sandbox experiment” at the whole institution.

To the educrats, any increase in graduation rates will look like progress because they are obsessed with our “educational attainment” level. But the sad truth is that America is already saturated with people with college credentials doing jobs that only call for high school skills or less. (For evidence on that, see this report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.) More people will have spent time and money on college credits of scant intrinsic worth. That’s not progress.

Now, imagine that to save their own skins, accreditors marginally increase the number of schools they de-accredit, throwing to the wolves some of the schools that cater to the weakest students and have the most intractably low outcomes. Those institutions will close, causing the educrats to proclaim that they’re solving the problem. But the students who would have gone to them will just take their federal money to another marginal school, thereby making it harder for it to meet the accrediting standards. Nothing really changes.

Accreditation changes are the wrong medicine for what ails higher education in the U.S. We can only hope that Congress will ignore the Education Department’s plea for more power over the system. True, accreditation does a lousy job of ensuring academic quality, but low quality and poor outcomes are inevitable given Washington’s “college for all” penchant.

Has Pomona College Caved to Protesters?

Following student protests, the President of  Pomona College has acceded to a long list of demands from blacks and other “marginalized” students, according to a report in the Claremont Independent, a magazine covering the Claremont McKenna consortium of colleges in Claremont, California. President David Oxtoby reportedly signed off on demands that include the following:

  • A diversity and inclusivity chair
  • Increased funding for mental health on campus
  • Full-time counselors trained in gay and transsexual issues 
  • At least half of all tenure-track faculty positions go to underrepresented groups by 2025-2056 
  • new Native American and Indigenous studies department
  • Students to get representation in hiring the next CMC Dean of Students  
  • President Oxtoby must hold meetings with a list of aggrieved groups on campus, including undocumented students and “any other affinity groups that feel the need for a meeting.“

After repeated attempts over 9 hours to reach the communications office at Pomona in an effort to verify the Claremont Independent report, Mark Kendall, Director of News and Strategic Content  emailed this message: “A more accurate characterization would be that he agreed to respond by Nov. 24.” A follow-up email from MTC : “What does that mean?” drew no response.

A Harvard Endorsement of Black Protests?

A retired Harvard professor received this email today from Harvard’s Dean of Undergraduate Education, Jay M. Harris:

“To Faculty of Arts and Sciences: I am writing to let you know that many of our students plan to leave their classrooms today at 3:15 in a show of solidarity with Black students nationwide. They will gather in the Science Center Plaza at 3:30 and then march to Porter Square to join with students from Tufts. Please make sure to inform your TFs/TAs who may be with them at that time. We know that many of you will want to join with our students in these challenging times.”

My professor-friend added this: “In my forty-plus years at Harvard, which included some “challenging times,” I don’t recall any student protest activity that was in effect endorsed by the administration in a communication sent to the entire faculty.”

BLM Protesters Surge into Dartmouth Library, Yelling at Whites

According to the conservative Dartmouth Review, a crowd of “Black Lives Matter” protesters surged into a campus library November 12, shouting obscenities at whites (“Fuck your white privilege!” “You filthy white piece of shit!”), pushing and shoving as well. The Dartmouth, a non-conservative paper, buried its report of the library incursion at the end of a long positive story about BLM that The Review said was so dishonest the reporter could qualify to work for the mainstream media right now.

A Dartmouth administrator HAS APOLOGIZED TO THE BLM PROTESTERS, which turns the whole story into one about the university’s integrity or lack thereof. During a Monday night community discussion at the school’s black affinity dormitory, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer apologized to protesters for the hostile coverage their protest received.

Phil Hanlon, new Dartmouth president, put out one of those generic statements endorsing civility, thus evading saying anything useful. A commenter to The Review said the people harassed in the library said that night were clearly guilty of ‘”studying while white.”

Tsion Abera, a junior and vice president of Dartmouth’s NAACP branch, denied that any protesters were violent, but said there was profanity and harassment, and that it was all part of the plan.

Read more at The Daily Caller

How Yale Supports Racial Separatism

I mostly agree with Peter Schuck’s viewpoint (What the President of Yale Should Have Said) but disagree strongly with his suggestion that colleges and universities have been working to support diversity on campus (and improved race relations) through their policies and practices of offering so-called “ethnocultural” dorms and identity/affinity housing.

Indeed, what the colleges are actually doing, in the guise of promoting improved race relations, is practicing racism by organizing and making assignments to dorms by race and cultural group identity, including staffing such dorms with RAs who match the skin color or ethnic background of the identity house.

That’s a bowl full of wrong. Such separate housing by race and/or ethnicity is the college practicing racism by means of encouraging racial identity rather than respecting every student’s individuality.

Colleges that foster ethnic and affinity dorms and their ilk are wittingly or unwittingly (I think wittingly) contributing to ethnic and racial Balkanization on campus and thereby facilitating frayed race relations; such “ethnocultural” and racially identifiable housing policies only reinforce racial stereotypes and supposed skin color “differences” among us. It also falls right in line with the grievance industry and race fanatics’ agenda on campus.

Places as “liberal” as Yale ought to know better, but they engage regularly in racial separatism and paternalism by funding programs that support this apartheid. Another example of modern-day racism on the part of the Ivy League and other major academic institutions comes from Boalt Hall, The University of Berkeley Law School.

Officials there have stopped the random assignment of first year law students and begun clustering racial minorities in order to have them feel better about “themselves” by being in groups where more of them have the same skin color. This deliberate ghettoizing of racial minorities, like “theme” dorms around ethnic and racial identity, are regressive policies that undermine individual identity and reinforce as race above all other individual accomplishments.

The message is clear: Admit more of “me” because I am too insecure and uncomfortable being with others not from my hood or who don’t talk the talk of racial grievance.

Do Corporate Donors Threaten Academic Freedom?

Inside Higher Ed has published another article, “Banking on the Curriculum,” denouncing the influence of corporate money in academia. The article raises the specter that America’s universities are accepting corporate gifts with ideological strings attached, thereby corrupting their intellectual integrity and selling the soul of academic freedom.

The article examines the recent gifts of BB&T (a financial services company) and Koch Industries. Over the course of the last decade or so, BB&T’s charitable foundation has funded 63 university and college programs that examine the moral foundations of capitalism and the Charles M. Koch Foundation has funded scores of academic programs that conduct research analyzing the relationship between free societies and human flourishing.

Big Donors on the Left

This recurrent focus on corporate, libertarian and conservative donations to universities is a bit ironic. After all, consider the dominance of the left over the campuses and the enormous amount of money poured into academic coffers by the ideological left without attracting the sort of protests provoked by donations from the corporate world and the right.

Remember the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington? That highly ideological effort was funded by labor unions and donors of the left. And how about the millions of dollars donated to universities by the Ford Foundation “diversity” programs, Joan Kroc’s gift of $200 million to fund “peace” and “social justice” programs at two universities and Jane Fonda’s $12.5 million to found a Harvard center on gender education, the purpose of which was to train (politically indoctrinate) future teachers on issues of “gender, race and class.”

Expanding the Marketplace of Ideas

It is no secret that the modern American college has great trouble allowing conservative and libertarian voices to be heard on campus. Objections to programs on the moral foundations of free enterprise and capitalism are efforts to marginalize programs and faculty who want to expand the marketplace of ideas on America’s college campuses.

Those opposing these programs hope to cow administrators from accepting similar donations in the future; to rally liberal faculty to actively oppose these programs; and most of all, to perpetuate the ideological monopoly currently held by the Left on America’s college campuses. In other words, it’s all about power and ideology.

According to the critics of this kind of funding, the great sin of BB&T and the Koch Foundation is to have “bought” their way into a small minority of American universities and to have violated academic freedom and faculty governance. These charges are entirely specious, and those who make them do not understand what academic freedom is. This story is about academic freedom but not in the way that it’s being presented.

The standard dictionary definition of academic freedom is the “freedom to teach or learn without interference.”The principle applies to individual faculty members and their right to teach ideas that might be unpopular. The BB&T and Koch academic programs have done nothing to interfere with the freedom of anyone to teach or learn what they want. At every university that has accepted BB&T or Koch money, not a single faculty member’s academic freedom has been denied or compromised in any way. I publicly challenge the critics of these donations to name one faculty member anywhere in America whose academic freedom has been threatened by these grants.

The Anti-Capitalist Bias on Campus

The truth is that the various BB&T- or Koch-funded university programs have actually increased rather than diminished the sphere of academic freedom. Their explicit goal is to expand the marketplace of ideas on college campuses so that students can be exposed to a broader range of ideas. Anyone who has ever attended an American university knows there is a rabid anti-capitalist bias on our campuses. Until recently, students were rarely exposed to the ideas of the great philosophic proponents of capitalism, including Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand. Thanks to the BB&T and Koch programs, all that has changed.

Ask any student if they think a greater diversity of ideas on campus is a good thing or not. The question answers itself. Truth be told, there is much greater intellectual diversity in these programs than in most university courses. It’s clear from student feedback that young people appreciate the exposure to ideas that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to study. Students are the clear winners: they now have more courses and a wider range of perspectives from which to choose.

Why the Fuss?

As a bonus, the BB&T and Koch grants have also encouraged faculty to generate new and exciting research that is expanding the boundaries of knowledge. And there’s more: in every instance, BB&T and Koch have insisted that the academic programs they fund meet the highest academic standards, that they promote a diversity of viewpoints, and that students make their own informed judgments. The BB&T- and Koch-sponsored programs have added real academic value to American higher education, and they should be multiplied, expanded, and applauded rather than condemned.

Why, then, all the fuss over the BB&T and Koch grants?

There is an important story here, but it’s not the one presented by Inside Higher Ed and the mainstream media. The real untold story is that some college professors want to limit intellectual diversity, deny competition in the realm of ideas, and prohibit students from learning certain ideas. They do this through the bogus claim of their alleged right to “faculty governance” over academic standards. But faculty governance does not and should not mean the right of campus Thought Police to determine what is or is not taught in someone else’s class. Faculty governance is used as a cover to reinforce a monolithic and homogenous ideology on our college campuses.

The only true victims of this academic witch-hunt are those institutions and associated faculty that have accepted BB&T and Koch funding. Will new professors hired with a Koch grant now feel at full liberty to express their views in faculty meetings now that they have been “outed” as the recipient of “tainted” funding? Will they not sit in fear for the next five years worried that their tenure application will be denied because of the ideological bias that has been unleashed against the Koch Foundation and those it supports? Will those academic units that have received BB&T funding come under irregular scrutiny and unequal treatment as they seek to raise funds to increase educational opportunities for their students?

‘Outside’ Money Isn’t New

The simple truth is this: America’s universities have always accepted “outside” money, both private and public. Without it, our universities would die of intellectual starvation. “Outside” money—including corporate funding—keeps America’s campuses alive with fresh, new ideas.In my experience, students crave more than the one-sided perspective they receive in many of their college courses. We should all be thankful to BB&T and the Koch Foundation for helping America’s colleges expand their curricula, for encouraging intellectual diversity, and for promoting a marketplace of ideas.

We at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism are proud of our association with BB&T and the Koch Foundation, and, more importantly, we will not be intimidated or silenced.

CUNY’s Faculty Union and the First Amendment

The Supreme Court will consider two key cases relating to higher education this term. Fisher could curtail the use of racial preferences in admissions. Friedrichs could require higher-education unions to represent only those members who agree with the union’s usefulness.

As currently structured, public employee unions, including those at colleges and universities, must refund the portion of dues related to the union’s political activity. A central argument in the Friedrichs case is whether all activity of public employee unions, including those that represent professors at colleges and universities, constitutes political spending, from which employees who reject the union’s ideological message should be exempt.

It’s hard to imagine a better example of why the Supreme Court should side with the Friedrichs petitioners than the record of the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC). The union’s leadership, headed by de facto President-for-Life Barbara Bowen, is intellectually stuck in 1968 or 1969, perpetually manning the barricades at the Columbia or Cornell campus protests. Its ineffective negotiating tactics (most recently union members showed up in the early morning, outside the CUNY chancellor’s apartment, banging pots and pans, and then fancied themselves 1960s-style protesters, engaging in a form of civil disobedience so comical that even the New York Times had trouble portraying it sympathetically) have helped leave CUNY faculty without a contract for more than six years.

The Brooklyn PSC branch just finished up a campaign for professors to use class time to distribute postcards that students will sign for later distribution to state legislators. The postcards demand more money from the legislature—but all of it from general appropriations, with no tuition increases. From a tactical angle, it might seem odd for a union that’s failed to deliver pay increases for years to publicly oppose at least one new revenue stream (a tuition increase) that might be devoted to faculty salaries. From an ethical angle, it might seem odd for a union to seek to use class time (for which, of course, students pay) for the students to engage in political activity.

From a constitutional angle, the union’s campaign targets one of the key issues in Friedrich—does a demand for a state legislature to take a specific act (in this case, spending more money, through more taxpayers’ resources) implicate the First Amendment? Does the union have a legal right to seize dues money from non-members to advance a policy position those non-members might oppose, even if the ostensible purpose is union-related rather than overtly political?

The union as a whole, meanwhile, is currently devoting union resources to a mobilization campaign seeking to authorize Bowen to call an illegal strike. (New York’s Taylor Law prohibits public employees from striking, while allowing public employee unions to deduct agency fees from non-union members. Bowen wants to set aside the first aspect of the Taylor Law but continue to enforce the second.)

As with the postcard campaign, this is a union activity that will have a political impact—if the union flouts the law, at the very least public resources will need to be devoted to increased NYPD activity protecting campuses, and likely to increased court action to prosecute the law-breakers. Does the union have a legal right to seize dues money from non-members to fund its mobilization campaign, with a long-term goal of violating state law?

The last time Bowen and her leadership team considered violating the law was 2005. In response, several dozen CUNY faculty members (including me) urged the union to follow the law and negotiate in good faith. The signatories also affirmed, “as individual CUNY professors, that we will abide by New York state law regardless of the ultimate course that the union chooses to take.” Hopefully, a comparable number of CUNY faculty members will speak up this time, as well.

Surely most public employee unions are not as extreme (and ineffective) as the PSC. But current law allows public employee unions like the PSC to spend non-members’ required agency fee payments on calls for state resources to be used in a particular way. In any other context, this would be recognized as constitutionally protected political speech. Will Friedrichs end this seemingly flagrant violation of the First Amendment?

What the President of Yale Should Have Said

On November 10, following the campus thousand-member “March for Resilience” over racial insensitivity, Yale president, Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway emailed those of us in the Yale community. affirming “the importance we put on our community’s diversity, and the need to increase it, support it, and respect it.”

The email embraced “the right of every member of this community to engage in protest,” noted that “threats, coercion, and overtly disrespectful acts” are “unacceptable,” and praised the “affirming and effective forms of protest” in Monday’s march. This can best be read as a well-intentioned effort to assure students, faculty, and alumni that the University administration is on top of the problem.

Related: Snowflake Totalitarians at Yale  

But what, exactly, is the problem?  According to the email, the problem is how to “increase, support, and respect” Yale’s “diversity.”  Just before Halloween, Yale’s “intercultural affairs council” emailed students urging them to select their Halloween costumes with sensitivity to the feelings of minorities.  Those with a sense of humor will enjoy this earnest email. In response, Erica Christakis, who is associate “master” of Silliman, one of Yale’s residential colleges, emailed its students.  Combining common sense, respect for students’ maturity and moderation, she urged students to decide for themselves on appropriate costumes and if they found one offensive, either speak about it directly to the offender or ignore it.

This advice, ostensibly, is what unleashed the students’ fury as they vilified, traduced, and sought to intimidate the Christakis’s, Erica and her husband Nicholas, “master’ of Silliman, demanding their resignations. According to a Yale Daily News observer, “This man was surrounded outside his own home by dozens of students, who called him “f—king disgusting.” They jeered, in clearly implied threat, ‘We know where you live.’” Here are some other points that I wish the Salovey-Holloway email had made in the strongest possible terms.

1.  The fact that students complain of rampant racism on campus does not mean that it is true.  Yale — and virtually every other old institution – countenanced racism and even practiced it, but that period is long gone. Indeed, it is hard to think of an institution that tries harder than Yale does to make students of all backgrounds feel at home, an effort underwritten by a recent $50 million commitment to increase diversity there and by the support of four ethno-specific cultural houses. Much the same is true on other elite campuses. Yes, Yale calls its residential college leaders “masters” and, contrary to student protests, this title is entirely benign, not a vestige of slavery, as some seem to think.  (Whether Calhoun College should change its name in light of its eponym’s defense of slavery is a more serious question).  Historical context – how and why earlier generations saw the world as they did — is part of the moral reasoning process that a university teaches.  Condemning what now seems like obvious racism, while entirely appropriate, is the easiest part of such moral reasoning, requiring little insight.

Related: Voices of the Yale-Mizzou Eruptions

2.  The purpose of a great university like ours is not to make students feel comfortable in their views but to unsettle those views with fine teaching and scholarship.  Only then can students learn to confront uncomfortable data and ideas and make up their own minds.  Mature convictions must be earned through a lifetime of grappling with what is discomfiting and engaging in the kind of reading, listening, and arguing that is a privilege and duty of serious citizenship. A great university must defend itself for what it is and should be – a sanctuary for study and engagement – not a comfortable and comforting cocoon.  Students who come with a hypersensitive aversion to conflict and to intellectual diversity (as distinct from the easy, faux diversity of skin color and surname) are in the wrong place

3.  Students state (or shout) many grievances, often in the form of slogans.  Some are plausibly justified, others are gross exaggerations or simply false.  Some seek genuine dialogue; others seek power grabs and shakedowns meant to foreclose conversation.  The university community should demand to know the factual bases for those grievances, examine them on their merits, remedy them if warranted, and reject them if not.  Reflexive mea culpae may buy temporary peace and goodwill but only invite more extreme demands. As Yeats warned, passionate intensity can undermine both truth and civility.

4.  Mob psychology, whether created by students or others, is a kind of crypto-violent form of politics using shouts, threats, and lies as weapons.  Honeyed words and apologies cannot mollify it.  It thrives when it does not get its way, and failure simply confirms its grievances.  The hostility to reason negates the university’s very purpose. Salovey, an eminent psychologist, surely knows all this but has not said it. Among this psychology’s other tics, it fastens on stupid, hurtful comments by fools and bigots (perhaps not even members of the university community, ascribes these views to many others who in fact condemn them, impugns the university for tolerating racism, and excoriates those on the sidelines as equivocating enemies of the cause.  But every community has fools and bigots and must deal with them in its own way. Yale, a community of trained skeptics, eschews authoritarian solutions to questions of truth, relying instead on open, disciplined discourse to discredit error – even as we know that some of this discourse will itself be false.

5.  America’s diversity is one of its greatest gifts to the world, and institutions like Yale are right to seek and protect it. But how we define and implement diversity is crucial to its real value in campuses, workplaces, politics, and elsewhere.  Getting diversity management right is difficult; good intentions can easily backfire. Diversity in America: Keeping Government at a Safe Distance.

Racism, sexism and other odious isms obviously exist, and we should firmly reject them. But combating these isms is especially hard for a university.  They are ill-defined and based on subjective intent, so reasonable people disagree about whether they exist in almost any particular case.  For the same reason, an accused cannot disprove them. Because many attributes are distributed differently among different groups, and because generalizations are useful, indeed inescapable, it is often unclear – even to the Supreme Court — when a judgment is just a useful generalization or instead reflects invidious bigotry and hostility. This ensures lots of false positives and false negatives.  One who feels victimized by an ism resents being told that he is over-reacting and mistaken.  His hurt seems like proof enough of intentional harm.  On the other side, being falsely accused of an ism today is equally or more damaging socially than the hurt or indignity felt by the complainant.

Obsessive Ethnic Emphasis

6.  University officials like us bear some responsibility for the aggressive, obsessive ethnic emphasis practiced on our campus.  Through some mixture of cowardice, complaisance, and genuine conviction, we cater to the sensibilities of the most outspoken, politicized students by donning a kind of “kick me” sign. In this identity politics, students have strong incentives to dramatize their wounds as proof of the authenticity of a larger, more heroic social agenda — here, the extirpation of isms.

7.  The only way out of this gyre of recrimination and misunderstanding is to cultivate two qualities that are sorely lacking in diversity discourse on campus: candor and thicker skins.  On campus, candor should be the easiest virtue, but in fact there is remarkably little of it.  Few are willing to concede the deep tensions among diversity, liberty, and equality – and thus the costs to precious values of one position or another.  By thicker skins, I mean that we should cultivate a capacity for greater resilience, not greater delicacy.  As one commentator put it, the U.S. today has become “a world of endless slights.”  (Even that comment will elicit anger for suggesting that putative isms are merely slights).  This is corrosive in a society as diverse, interactive, plainspoken, casual, and freewheeling as ours.  It chills personal interactions by denying them the lubricating pleasure of spontaneity.

It discourages candid discussion or artistic expression on vital public issues. It enlists formal and informal sanctions in order to reduce what should be robust give-and-take. It invites us to open our wounds, magnify our fears, and parade our sensitivities, to imagine injuries and motivations that do not exist and to view others, without basis, as enemies.  It rewards cant, hyperbole, and reductive rhetoric while penalizing moderation and reason.  It encourages us to seek security in groups of people who look, think, or worship like us rather than to venture out in the more diverse public square where our common citizenship is forged.  It makes a mockery of rules that are brandished to penalize what is often just ignorance, boorishness, interpretive confusion, ill-considered speech, clumsy provocation, misjudgment, rough or poor humor and other unfortunate infelicities.

8. We do better to respond to such conduct with constructive engagement, forceful rebuke, pointed rebuttal, and mental shrugging of shoulders and biting of tongues.  It is unfair that the people who need the thickest skins are often those who already feel under siege. Two factors, however, can help palliate this unfairness, if not assuage their hurt and indignation.  The informal social norms condemning hateful attitudes and conduct are stronger today than ever before.  And the alternatives to developing thicker skins are all unappealing, unconstitutional, or unworkable.

9. Our administration pledges to be wiser in the future, though no less committed to lux et veritas. Let our students pledge to do the same.”

After Many Woeful Failures, the Colleges Avoid Change

The students at Mizzou and Yale caught in twin episodes of contrived campus racial hysteria have been described as narcissists and self-indulgent brats catered to by their parents who told them how special they were and expecting the same judgment from college. Handed what they understand as the attitudinal keys to the kingdom, they’re enraged when challenged.

The two highlights are probably 1) the would-be Maoist Missouri media studies professor calling for “the muscle” to shut down coverage of a protest by a young journalist invoking the First Amendment and 2) the Yale student shrieking “who the fuck hired you” at a professor so foolish as to suggest that the subject of culturally appropriate Halloween costumes for Yale’s overgrown brats was in part a matter of free speech. Like President Obama insisting he “can’t wait” for Congress before overriding the Constitution to impose himself through executive authority, “the snowflake totalitarians” insist that its fears need to be propitiated forthwith. Fortunately, both incidents were caught on camera and have gone viral on YouTube.

These young people in America’s increasingly hierarchical society expect to be obeyed. Treated as important customers by their colleges, their faculty and staff assume the customer is always right. What makes their effluvia different from those of the 1960s student protesters is that the context has changed. Then as now, students, short on experience, are often unable to distinguish between considered political perspectives and their emotion-laden ideologies.

But in the 1960s the faculty still had a few conservatives and a fair number of old-line liberals scarred by McCarthyism and firmly wedded to freedom of speech. But 45 years later academic self-selection has produced faculties and over-staffed administrations that devolve from protestors of 1970.  The student protestors are an expression of what academia has been producing over these past decades.

In recent years, academia has done so much to discredit itself that we might have expected calls for reform to be ringing from the halls of Congress. “Federal spending,” notes The Journal, “on loans and grants, on an inflation-adjusted basis, has jumped more than 50% over the past decade to $134 billion last year, and total federal student-loan debt has hit $1.2 trillion.”

On the presidential campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has spoken for new and better subsidies and perhaps even some student debt forgiveness at a time when the national debt has doubled in the past seven years. On the GOP side, Marco Rubio referred in passing, during Tuesday’s Republican debate, to delivering commodified higher education more efficiently. And to be sure, former Indiana Governor and now Purdue University president Mitch Daniels has talked on unbundling the services purportedly provided by higher education so that they can be delivered more efficiently. There are proposals for Contractor model in which “The core business function of the contractor-college would be assembly and quality control rather than running an institution and hiring faculty or holding classes.”

But given the endless scandals and massive failures, there’s been strikingly little political outcry. That’s in part because the average lawmaker has twelve institution of higher learning in his or her district. These institutions are often in close touch with local elected officials who are well aware of how many jobs the colleges account for. Nationally, counting only the four-year operations, colleges are the sixth largest industry in America. They employ 3.6 million people, more than one of every 40 workers in the U.S.

“Higher” education has become a very big business and its size and economic influence has been expressed in its political clout. “Colleges and universities,” explained The Journal, “have become one of the most effective lobbying forces in Washington, employing more lobbyists last year than any other industries except drug manufacturing and technology.” Last year colleges and universities deployed more than a thousand lobbyists at a cost of 73 million dollars. The upshot is that from George Bush the first to Barack Obama’s attempts to rank schools based on supposed outcomes, every effort at accountability has been beaten back.

In the event that reform comes to academia, it will be borne on the wings of competition. On the matter of free speech, the University of Chicago has recently distinguished itself with a strong embrace of traditional notions of free speech. Other colleges like Hillsdale in Michigan, which takes no federal money has made a name for itself by teaching about the genius of the Founding Fathers. If academia is to dig itself out of the hole it’s put itself in to, it will be because many more colleges decide to opt out of the suicidal spiral all too visible at Missouri and Yale.

‘Voices of the Yale-Mizzou Eruptions’

“The universities have done this to themselves. They created the whole phenomenon of modern identity politics and Politically Correct rules to limit speech. They have fostered a totalitarian microculture in which conformity to those rules is considered natural and expected. Now that system is starting to eat them alive, from elite universities like Yale, all the way down to, er, less-than-elite ones like Mizzou. They created this Frankenstein monster, and it’s up to them to kill it before it kills them.”
—   Robert Tracinski, The Federalist

Yesterday, I wrote about Yale students who decided, in the name of creating a “safe space” on compass, to spit on people as they left a talk with which they disagreed. “In their muddled ideology,” I wrote, “the Yale activists had to destroy the safe space to save it
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

Some friends (at the University of Missouri) tell me they are afraid to voice their opinions lest they come under fire from the administration or peers – or the police. The University of Missouri police department sent an email urging students to report offensive or hurtful speech – not because it is illegal – but so the Office of Student Conduct could take disciplinary action against these students. Several of us are afraid to disagree with other students, who in turn may report us to the authorities so we can be “dealt with.” Many students have told me they are also afraid to speak out against the protest narrative, afraid they will be called “racist” and become campus pariahs. What’s lost is honest dialogue.
—Ian Paris, U. of Missouri student, The College Fix  

“I have a question for the hand-wringers, the media people, academics and liberal thinkers who are so disturbed by what they’re calling the ‘Yale snowflakes’: what did you think would happen? When you watched, or even presided over, the creation over the past 40 years of a vast system of laws and speech codes to punish insulting or damaging words, and the construction of a vast machine of therapeutic intervention into everyday life, what did you think the end result would be? A generation that was liberal and tough? Come off it. It’s those trends, those longstanding trends of censorship and therapy, that created today’s creepy campus intolerance; it’s you who made these monsters.”
—   Brendan O’Neill, Spiked

I do not understand the student demands at the University of Missouri. From the published reports, the students are mad that University System President Tim Wolfe refused to get out of his car during a homecoming parade when protestors physically blocked his car. Where I come from, blocking his car is illegal and hostile. What would be the response if a group of white students surrounded an African-American administrator’s car and demanded instant dialogue? Is the new standard that when some redneck students hurl disgusting racial slurs at minority students the president is responsible and loses his job? Is demanding the president step down simply because he is white not a toxic form of bias and prejudice itself?
—    William Choslovsky, letter to Minding the Campus

Snowflake Totalitarians at Yale

Last week, a real-life South Park episode somehow took place within the very prestigious confines of Yale University.

In the lead-up to Halloween, Yale Dean Burgwell Howard sent out an email requesting that students not engage in “cultural appropriation” when it comes to costume choice. That message prompted a very mild rebuke from the Associate Master of Silliman College Erica Christakis.

Can Students Be a Bit Obnoxious?

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Christakis took issue with the tone of Howard’s email that implied the school was trying to impose control over students’ choices and restrict free expression. She found that idea troublesome.

Additionally, she asked, “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.”

Hundreds of students responded with a resounding, “There’s no room for that, you  bigot!” to Christakis’s question. This is where South Park-style absurdity enters the story.

 ‘Oh. My—Pain-Causing Costumes’

More than 740 Yalies and offended allies signed a letter that declared Christakis’s opinion somehow suppressed the viewpoints of minority students. Many of those same signatories refused an invitation by the associate master and her husband, Master of Silliman College Nicholas Christakis, to discuss the matter over a Sunday lunch.

On Thursday, 100 students confronted the husband and demanded a bended-knee apology from Mr. Christakis for supporting his wife’s views. The professor tried to apologize for any “pain” the email might’ve caused, but he stood by his support for free speech.

That didn’t suit his inquisitors, and they proceeded to engage in something that resembled an improvised show trial. Christakis was belittled for eliminating the pretense that his college was a “safe space” and was cursed at as students cheered on. When trying to speak, he was shouted down by his chief accuser, ensuring he never got a good chance to defend himself.

(RELATED: Yale Student Shrieks At Prof For Denying Her ‘Safe Space’)

Here’s the clip showing the worst part of the interrogation:

The mentality of these students was encapsulated in a Friday column for The Yale Herald. A female Sillimander excoriated the college master for “instigating more debate” and valuing free speech over making her home “less threatening.” Apparently, the safety of all minority students is put into jeopardy by questioning the wisdom of a school controlling costume choices.

The implication here was that free speech could be easily discarded when so many students were in “pain” over one milquetoast email.

Whiny Babies, Hurt Feelings

Over the last few years, a growing media theme — particularly within conservative media — is that college kids are slowly transforming into whiny babies who need constant coddling. The Yale incident proves that this well-covered meme is no exaggeration.

It’s one thing to disagree with the Mr. and Mrs. Christakis over the issue of restricting “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes. It is quite another to act like that opinion threatens your safety.

The aggrieved Yale students who demanded the heads of the Silliman masters perfectly embodied the type of young adult detailed by Judith Shulevitz’s expose on safe spaces for The New York Times. According to Shulevitz, students no longer object to speech they disagree with on political or moral grounds — they simply say it jeopardizes their emotional well-being to have it aired and urge for its censorship to protect them from harm.

This safety argument has allowed these precious snowflake totalitarians to suppress speech on campus. Free speech means nothing to them when it comes at the price of exposing their fragile little minds to ideas they don’t like. Thanks to spineless administrators that rush to appease each and every need of designated minority groups, activists are able to get away with this inane rationale for censorship.

Get into Yale, Be a Victim

The funny thing about the Yale case is how it shows young people at one of the most prestigious universities in the world — with all the opportunities imaginable available to them — are able to think of themselves as victims of society. This is the creme of the meritocracy we’re talking about here, the ones who have reaped the rewards of America.

More importantly, these are the kids who could very occupy the highest halls of power someday.

And they think a nicely-worded email and Halloween costumes oppress them.

It’s disturbing that America’s best institutions are churning out individuals who have no desire to uphold free speech.

What’s worse is that these same kids could be the leaders of tomorrow. Imagine the insanity of watching a president demand the arrest of dissidents for violating his/her/xyr’s safe space. Or diplomacy conducted via hysterical sobbing over how minor faux pas made a diplomat feel marginalized.

Nincompoop Power

That’d be the world we live if we gave these nincompoops power. And it could very well happen if universities like Yale continue to coddle these students and give them what they want.

The man who videotaped the show trial of Christakis, FIRE president Greg Lukianoff, co-wrote a much discussed-article for The Atlantic about how the safe space mentality is literally damaging the brains of students.

If that’s true, then administrators coddling students is not only bad for free speech, it borders on abuse.

What happened at Yale last week should make everyone concerned about the gelding of free speech from campus. It’s not just about making sure different viewpoints get heard at colleges everywhere — it’s about the kind of future we want to have as a country.

While South Park may be an entertaining show, the prospect of its absurd storylines becoming daily life in America — all without the happy endings — is not a reality we want to have.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Caller


Scott Greer as an associate editor at The Daily Caller

Black Protestors Win as U. of Missouri President Resigns

Black student protesters and their allies got the scalp they were looking for at the University of Missouri—the university president, Tim Wolfe, resigned today after criticism for not responding strongly enough to reports of racial incidents on or near campus.

Wolf had issued a few benign “let us listen to one another” comments, while the protesters wanted something like a show-trial confession: an acknowledgement of “white male privilege” and an admission of “systemic oppression” of blacks and other “marginalized people.” Blaming himself, Wolfe said he took full responsibility for the reaction that has occurred.”

Wolfe was confronted outside a fundraising event in Kansas City Friday night by protesters who asked him to define systemic oppression. According to video of the encounter posted on Twitter, Wolfe responded that the students may not like his answer, before saying, “Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success ….” That angered the protesters. One asked, “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe?” as the president walked away.

In resigning, Wolfe again earnestly called for dialogue: “I ask everybody from students, faculty, staff, my friends to use my resignation to heal and to start talking again,” he said. “To make the changes necessary. And let’s focus on changing what we can change today and in the future, not on what we can’t change about what happened in the past.”

The incidents that sparked the protests were slurs shouted from a passing pickup truck in September, slurs from an apparently drunken white student in October, and a swastika drawn in feces in a dorm bathroom. Apparently no investigation has taken place to help determine who drew the swastika and why. In another incident yesterday, two trucks flying Confederate flags drove past a group of the protesters.

Calls for classes to be canceled today and tomorrow, played a role in the college drama, as did a hunger strike by one black student. But the most important pressure came when the university football team –blacks, whites and the white coach–backed the protests and threatened not to play Saturday’s game against Brigham Young if Wolfe wasn’t fired. In big time football schools, that is a no-brainer — the cancellation of one game outweighs the loss of a college president and maybe most of the faculty as well.

Women Favored 2-to-1 In STEM Hiring

Most readers of the higher education press likely believe that women are underrepresented in STEM field because of sexist stereotypes, “unwelcoming” attitudes and practices, and either implicit or outright bias.

But the work of two Cornell psychologists, Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams, co-directors of the Cornell Institute for Women in Science, has upset this apple cart of conventional wisdom. In a number of peer-reviewed articles, papers, and op-eds, they have presented the findings of their research showing, as they put it in a New York Times op-ed last year, “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist,” summarizing their recent research published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. That research, they wrote,

reveals that the experiences of young and mid career women in math-intensive fields are, for the most part, similar to those of their male counterparts: They are more likely to receive hiring offers, are paid roughly the same (in 14 of 16 comparisons across the eight fields), are generally tenured and promoted at the same rate (except in economics), remain in their fields at roughly the same rate, have their grants funded and articles accepted as often and are about as satisfied with their jobs. Articles published by women are cited as often as those by men. In sum, with a few exceptions, the world of academic science in math-based fields today reflects gender fairness, rather than gender bias.

Last spring they published a blockbuster article in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, “National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track.” Williams and Ceci constructed elaborate, detailed resumes for three fictional applicants for an assistant professorship in biology, engineering, psychology, and engineering: an extremely highly qualified woman, an equally extremely highly qualified man, and a slightly less qualified man. They then wrote a job application for each, including extensive quotes from recommendations, search committee evaluations, publications, and biographical information. These “applications” were submitted to 873 tenure-track faculty members (including a roughly equal number of men and women) from 371 universities around the country.

“The results,” Science magazine reports, “run counter to widely held perceptions and suggest that this is a good time for women to be pursuing academic careers….  A woman applying for a tenure-track faculty position in STEM … at a U.S. university is twice as likely to be hired as an equally qualified man, if both candidates are highly qualified, according to a new study.” A second article in Science, “Women have a hiring advantage in the scientific stratosphere,” emphasized that “In every field but economics, where the data indicated no gender preference, the respondents strongly preferred the purportedly female candidates.”

These dramatic findings were also widely reported in the popular press. A long article in the Washington Post, for example, “Study finds, surprisingly, that women are favored for jobs in STEM,” noted that “women are no longer at a disadvantage when applying for tenure-track positions in university science departments. In fact, the bias has now flipped: Female candidates are now twice as likely to be chosen as equally qualified men.” According to altmetrics, which tracks mentions of science publications in social media, this study received one of the highest number of mentions of anything published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

These findings — especially the implication that “the bias has now flipped” (not Ceci’s and Williams’s conclusion, as we shall see) — had the effect of poking a hornet’s nest with a stick, unleashing a swarm of stinging, vituperative attacks. “We’ve had such amazing attacks. They really, really hate us,” Williams told Science Careers by phone. “The outpouring of vitriol,” she continued, shows “that there are a lot of people who don’t want to acknowledge the data. It’s not like they’re willing to acknowledge it and discuss it…. They try to say that we had an agenda or that the entire method at its root was completely flawed.”

One example: according to Alex Madva, a visiting professor of philosophy at Cal Poly Pomona whose field is the philosophy of psychology, “a 2:1 preference for women over men in STEM hires just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test.” (Quoted on Feminist Philosophers, which discussed other somewhat more substantive criticisms. (See the hashtag #GaslightingDuo for more.)

Another telling example: In “Eye of the Beholder,” Inside Higher Ed reports an interesting controversy over research suggesting that gender bias colors evaluations of evidence purporting to show gender bias. Jessi Smith, a professor of psychology at Montana State University, co-authored a paper, based primarily on a faculty sample from Montana State, that found that men were less likely than women to believe evidence demonstrating gender bias, and women were less likely than men to believe evidence of the absence of bias. That study was criticized by Williams and Ceci for, among other reasons, being based on too small and unrepresentative a sample and thus overstating bias. Professor Smith’s striking reply:  “What is worse — understating a bias that exists which results in keeping people from fully participating in STEM or overstating a bias that exists which results in real transformation and resources to correct a past injustice?”

The correct answer, for anyone but a partisan ideologue, is that identical errors are equally bad whatever their political effect.

In a lengthy online appendix to their study, Williams and Ceci have responded vigorously and persuasively to critics who continue to maintain that “anti-woman hiring bias as an important part of the reason for the underrepresentation of women in the academy.” One line of criticism, however, seems to have stung: the claim, as Williams put it in Part 4 of her remarkable five-part response to critics on Huffington Post, that they have a hidden agenda, “secretly machinating to overturn affirmative action.” And she quoted one example: “Ceci and Williams are beloved of right-wing columnists. We need to approach their work with skepticism, as commentators have largely done.” (See “Women Scientists’ Academic-Hiring Advantage Is Unwelcome News for Some,” Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Indeed, Ceci and Williams appear to have been so concerned that “right-wing columnists” like me would approve of what could be taken to be their demonstration of “reverse discrimination” — that women’s hiring advantage includes hiring less qualified women over more qualified men — and their implicit criticism of affirmative action that they have just published a follow-up study in an attempt to refute that implication.

In “Women have substantial advantage in STEM faculty hiring, except when competing against more-accomplished men,” published October 20 in Frontiers in Psychology, Williams and Ceci acknowledged that their previous study “raise[ed] the specter that faculty may prefer women over even more-qualified men, a claim made recently.” In the new study, undertaken to evaluate that claim,

158 faculty ranked two men and one woman for a tenure-track-assistant professorship, and 94 faculty ranked two women and one man. In the former condition, the female applicant was slightly weaker than her two male competitors, although still strong; in the other condition the male applicant was slightly weaker than his two female competitors, although still strong. Faculty of both genders and in all fields preferred the more-qualified men over the slightly-less-qualified women, and they also preferred the stronger women over the slightly-less-qualified man. This suggests that preference for women among identically-qualified applicants found in experimental studies and in audits does not extend to women whose credentials are even slightly weaker than male counterparts.

These results, Williams and Ceci conclude with satisfaction, “should help dispel concerns that affirmative hiring practices result in inferior women being hired over superior men.” They see themselves, in short, as defenders, not critics, of affirmative action. “Some men,” Ceci and Williams note on Huffington Post, “do not welcome what they perceive to be reverse discrimination,” but they themselves are perfectly happy with the rather extreme preferences revealed by hiring women 2:1 over equally qualified men, refusing to see that preference as “reverse discrimination.”

However, the affirmative action they defend — practices that “give a preference to hiring a woman over an identically-qualified man” — is virtually non-existent in the real world. Their critics, who endorse hiring practices that “tilt the odds toward hiring a woman who may be slightly less accomplished but who is still rated very highly” and who argue that “extremely well-qualified female candidates should be given preference over males rated a notch higher,” have an understanding of how affirmative action does and should operate that is much closer to the academic mainstream.

In addition to defending affirmative action (as they but few others understand it), Williams and Ceci also lean over backwards to emphasize their concern about the “underrepresentation” of women in math-intensive fields (mentioned 15 times in the online appendix cited earlier). They insist that they “do not believe women’s underrepresentation in math-based science fields will disappear on its own.” And their analysis of why this “underrepresentation” matters is also entirely conventional. “Our country desperately needs more talented people in [STEM] fields,” they wrote in “Academic Science Isn’t Sexist,” their New York Times op-ed quoted above, and “recruiting more women could address this issue.”

More talent, of course, is better than less, but is there really such a dire shortage of STEM talent, or even of women in STEM? As Ceci and Williams noted in a 2014 study quoted in Science, “one 13-year study of ‘a large state university’ found that 2-to-1 female advantage resulted in the hiring of 4.28% of female applicants as opposed to 2.03% of males.”

Indeed, that Science article continues,

“Given the vast oversupply of Ph.D.s, faculty hiring has ‘been a buyer’s market for years,’ Ceci says. A search he recently chaired, for example, attracted 267 applicants, and ‘any of 30 or more would have been outstanding.’ ‘Every search yields several dozen applicants who are all extraordinary, and you don’t even know how to choose among them they’re so good,’ Williams adds.

Concern about the “under representation” of women in STEM fields, in short, seems driven much more by an ideological devotion to proportional representation than by any actual dearth of scientific, even female scientific, talent.

Wesleyan: Total PC All the Time

It’s now a trifecta of political correctness at the expense of sanity—and also justice—at Wesleyan University.

The very latest was the “Halloween Checklist,” a poster that invited students at the elite liberal-arts college in Middletown, Conn., to ask themselves: “Is your costume offensive?” The answer was “yes” if the costume tended to “mock religious or cultural symbols such as dreadlocks, headdresses, afros, bindis, etc.,” or it attempted to “represent an entire culture or ethnicity,” or to “trivialize human suffering, oppression, and marginalization such as portraying a person who is homeless, imprisoned, a person with disabilities, or a person with mental illness.” Students wondering if it was OK for Halloween to wear an orange jumpsuit (not nice to prisoners) or Tyrolean lederhosen (a slur on Austrians) were advised to call one of six different campus counselors, ranging from the diversity office to Residence Life for advice on how not to tread on sensitive toes.

The checklist followed on the heels of a unanimous Oct. 18 vote by Wesleyan’s student government to cut funding for the Argus, the college’s primary student newspaper. In September the Argus had published a column by a conservative staffer criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, not for its opposition to perceived police brutality to blacks, but for some of its members’ rhetoric that seemed to encourage anti-cop violence. The $17,000 budget cut to the paper, which already publishes only twice a week to begin with, followed demands by Black Lives Matter and other progressive student groups for mandatory re-education classes for Argus staffers and threats by those groups to “recycle”—that is, destroy–copies of the paper if the Argus failed to comply with their demands.

Shortly before that, Wesleyan succeeded in getting rid of all three of its fraternity houses, decertifying them as approved campus housing for undergraduates. One of the Greek houses, Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), had resisted (and is currently suing over) the administration’s September 2014 mandate requiring the houses to admit women members, which DKE maintains would violate its national charter and also its historic all-male identity. Wesleyan suspended the other two frats, Beta Theta Pi and Psi Upsilon, after an apparently intoxicated female fell out of an upper-story window at the Beta house in 2014 and allegations of drug-dealing surfaced at the Psi U house this past summer.

So—no more fraternities, a crippled student newspaper, and draconian guidelines intended to curb the slightest manifestation of irreverent humor at Halloween. Wesleyan has checked all the boxes for political correctness, and may be checking out as a major university.

Feminist Censored from Censorship Panel

British feminist Julie Bindel  was scheduled to speak at Manchester University on a panel discussing the subject “From Liberation to Censorship: Does Modern Feminism Have a Problem with Free Speech?’ That question was answered by the university student union, which canceled her appearance on the panel as a potential violation of “safe space” for transgender students at the school.

Bindel is in bad odor with radical feminists for two incorrect opinions:  she doesn’t think transgender females are real women, and she does not think prostitution is a form of female empowerment that should be legalized. Though she was not intending to talk about the transgender issue, the student union stated that “her views and comments towards trans people… could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students.”

Bindel, a well-known  activist campaigning against violence toward women, has been “no platformed” (banned) as a speaker several times after  protests from the gay and transgender lobbies.

The Systematic Eradication of Conservative Thought on Campus

Progressive faculty justify the absence of moderate and conservative voices on campus by saying that conservatives are stupid. As a result, moderate Republicans with Ivy League degrees and genius level IQs sometimes can’t find a job in academia.  My former boss had a degree from the highest-ranked law school (Yale) and had published scholarly articles, but could not find a law faculty job as a young lawyer due to his moderately-conservative leanings. (He later successfully argued a landmark Supreme Court case.

But ignorance certainly doesn’t keep progressives from being hired, especially in women’s studies departments. A classic example is Barbara LeSavoy, Director of Women and Gender Studies at The College at Brockport in New York, who thinks the President can rule by decree. Every schoolchild in her generation was taught that Congress enacts laws, not the President (the President can successfully veto a law only if it was passed with less than two-thirds of the votes). But LeSavoy is unaware of this basic constitutional requirement (typical of all Western democracies), and thinks the President can ban all guns just by issuing a decree. She penned an October 10 op-ed in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle urging President Obama to ban guns: “I urge President Obama to ban firearm possession in America. He is the President of the United States. He can change the country. He can do it today.”

Her op-ed was aptly summed up by a commentator as “Please, Dear Leader — Ban Firearms By Decree.”

Writing “with a bleeding heart,” LeSavoy declared: “I admire Obama. But he has let me down.” Her embattled but resilient faith in her collectivist savior could be fully restored if he would simply “ban firearm possession in America.” Doing this would be a matter of utmost simplicity, she insists, since Obama “is the president of the United States. He can change the country. He can do it today. I believe in him.”

In fact, the only thing about America LeSavoy apparently finds worthwhile is Barack Obama and what she thinks he represents.

“While politically minded, I am not overly patriotic,” she explains. Yet during the 2008 campaign, “my two daughters, partner, and I ate every meal in our house on Obama placemats [that were] plastic-coated, plate-sized paper rectangles with an image of his face framed by colors of the flag.”

By making such a bourgeois purchase, LeSavoy committed an act of capitalist apostasy, but it was in what she earnestly believed was a good cause. While “this mealtime ritual of American allegiance was odd for me,” she found strength in the act of looking “at the image of his face each day and [believing] that he really could be the change in America.”

To be sure, she continues, that faith has been sorely tested. She describes herself as “jaded” in 2012 as Obama stood for reelection, because some of his promises weren’t fulfilled. And yet, she proudly recalls, “I did not waver. I dug into our old dining room cupboards, and found our worn but resilient Obama placemats.”

Those sacred totems were restored to their proper place in the dining room, where LeSavoy, her daughters, and her partner could take strength from the visage of the Dear Leader . . . .

“Firearm possession should be banned in America; president Obama can orchestrate this directive,” insists LeSavoy – who somehow obtained a doctorate degree without learning even the rudiments of constitutional law…. Obama’s presidency “can be remembered as a remarkable turn in United States history where a progressive leader forever changed the landscape under which we live and work,” LeSavoy exults in giddy ignorance of the significance of her mixed metaphor.

Ironically, progressives justify the absence of conservatives from academia on the ground that conservatives are disqualified by their stupidity. “Robert Brandon, chair of the Duke University Philosophy Department, gives this explanation of why faculties at U.S. universities usually lean to the political left: ‘We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If … stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.’” But Republicans actually have a slightly higher average IQ than Democrats.

Progressive faculty also claim that conservatives would rather work in the business world or a conservative think-tank than in academia, ignoring the fact that plenty of conservatives would like a cushy academic job where they can teach only a few courses a year and get paid better than an employee of a low-paid conservative think-tank. Several years ago, Slate reported that the average think-tank senior fellow was paid about $160,000 per year. But while this may have been true for liberal think-tanks, which can count on lots of foundation and government money, it was certainly not true for conservative think-tanks: At the time, my employer, a free-market think-tank, paid most of its senior fellows less than $100,000 per year, despite being located in one of America’s highest-living-cost areas, Washington, D.C. (Some senior fellows were paid closer to $60,000, and non-senior fellows were paid as little as $40,000 per year).

Progressives also falsely claim that Republicans are scarce in academia because they are “anti-science.” Most jobs in academia have nothing to do with science, but this bogus rationale gets invoked even by liberal English instructors like Cornell’s Kenneth McClane.

Some progressives are themselves hostile to (and ignorant of) scientific advances. The agronomist Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the Green Revolution, saved perhaps a billion lives in the Third World by developing high-yield, disease-resistant crops through biotechnology. For this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. For this, he was smeared in the liberal magazine The Nation, which has an irrational phobia of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as being “the biggest killer of all.”

Two Lawmakers Vote No to Safe Campus Act

A good rule of thumb when considering campus due process matters: If the Senate’s two most ardent foes of campus civil liberties, Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill oppose something, the measure is probably worth a good look. The Safe Campus Act, which recently received criticism from the two senators, deserves more than a look.

It seeks to overturn the Office for Civil Rights mandate that colleges use the preponderance of evidence standard. It also says that while colleges can accommodate sexual assault accusers in any way desired (changing a class schedule, providing counseling, offering extensions on work), schools cannot initiate disciplinary proceedings unless the accusers report the allegation to police. The effect of the provision: ensuring that a student accused of sexual assault is judged on basis of evidence compiled by professionals rather than a campus Title IX bureaucracy,

Related: The Rape Epidemic on Campus Does Not Exis

Given their record on the issue, it’s no surprise that McCaskill and Gillibrand oppose the measure. Their arguments for doing so, however, are remarkable. Here’s McCaskill, in a quote that appeared in both Slate and Huffington Post: “You have this anomaly they’re proposing, where a young woman could be robbed at gunpoint and decide that she wanted to just try to get that person off campus and go to her university and they could take action under Title IX. But if she was raped, she would not be able to do that unless she made the decision to go to the police.”

This statement is strange. Does McCaskill—a former prosecutor—actually believe it would be a good idea for armed robberies to be adjudicated by the campus system? And could she really believe that victims of armed robberies could take action under Title IX? Even OCR has never described armed robbery as a crime that schools must adjudicate under Title IX.

More to the point, does McCaskill believe that student victims of armed robberies are currently being adjudicated through the campus disciplinary process? This is a bit like OCR head Catherine Lhamon’s recent, absurd claim by that campus’s tribunals’ deal with “drug dealing” cases. Imagine the resident Title IX investigator needing to jet off to Mexico to investigate the drug lords supplying her campus.

Related: Suing Over Star Chamber Hearings 

It seems that some foes of The Safe Campus Act are inventing a reality, falsely claiming that college disciplinary proceedings investigate all sorts of violent crimes—drug dealing, armed robbery, perhaps even attempted murder—to justify their calls for colleges to adjudicate the violent crime of sexual assault. In fact, the only serious felony that OCR wants colleges to handle is sexual assault.

Gillibrand, meanwhile, has said that she opposes the Safe Campus Act because the “goal of any campus sexual assault legislation should be to encourage [alleged] survivors to report crimes.” Indeed, it should—and this is exactly what the Safe Campus Act does. This is in contrast to campus rape groups like Know Your IX, with which Gillibrand regularly cooperate, and which have openly discouraged crime victims from going to police, suggesting that accusers who file reports with the “violent criminal legal system” might be deported.

Slate writer Christina Cauterucci is remarkably non-curious as to why sitting U.S. senators could oppose a bill seeking to have more crime victims report their crimes to police. “If the Safe Campus Act were truly about due process,” she muses, “plenty of other students’ rights activists would have rallied behind it.” Really? When has any campus rape group backed meaningful due process—provisions such as mandatory discovery, the right to cross-examination, a rule requiring colleges to turn over exculpatory evidence, allowing the accused student enough time to develop his defense?

Is this the result of imagining a campus reality that doesn’t exist?

Postmodernism Comes to CUNY

It’s easy to mock the sheer silliness of postmodernism. But the pretensions of our present-day sophists, who traffic in knowingness as opposed to knowledge, have wormed their way off campus and into American life. No evidence, no logic is required to take a position on any issue since everything is merely about story telling backed by force. Previously accepted, if vigorously debated truths, give off the appearance of dissolution after being flooded by the rhetorical tides of postmodernism.

Indeed, the aim of the so-called progressives and postmodernists is not to pursue truth, as that was once understood in academia, but to pursue “social change” by – in the words of the self-reinvented Malcolm X– “any means necessary.”

Now the postmodern narrative of perpetual white racism spreads into post-campus life.

Rachel Dolezal, a white woman passing as black, constructed a narrative in which she was the victim of racist harassment. But the incidents she described had merely been part of her imagined life. Sean King, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, similarly appears to be a white guy passing as black.

Like Dolezal, he claims to be the victim of an anti-black hate crime for which no evidence exists, and he recently accused a black police chief of being an “Uncle Tom.” King, recently hired as a columnist by the New York Daily News, is adept at redefining words, so police brutality becomes a synonym for broken-windows policing.

A white Georgetown student, seeing himself victimized at gunpoint by an African-American, insisted that as someone endowed with white privilege, he deserved to be mugged. Chaya Babu, while taking part in a writers’ workshop with recent college graduates was frightened not by an armed robber but “by his gun.”  She saw herself as a victim of the police. For their part, the workshop group she says identified with the Black robber more than with the police, who “assault and kill black people with what looks like reckless abandon and impunity.”

The narrative is its own evidence; no facts are provided or even suggested. In Babu’s bizarre essay on the robbery, displaced African-Americans, uprooted from their neighborhoods by “the monster of gentrification,” are forced to seek revenge. The story is imagined, since Babu is a newcomer and unaware that most of those neighborhoods were never black.

White self-loathing has now been incorporated into part of CUNY’s makeup. Britta Wheeler, daughter of an academic who taught in Nebraska, defines herself as “a sociologist and a visual, life/art, performance artist.” She seems to have internalized the resentment of her bohemian parents toward their Midwestern surroundings. Wheeler claims to be performing as a character named Belinda Powell, though from the videos she has posted on the internet, it’s hard to tell where Wheeler ends and Powell begins.

Professor Wheeler has performed as a “squanderer” in Times Square, an area populated by comic-book characters cadging money from tourists who like to have a photo taken with Spiderman, Superman, Batman or one of desnudas, naked buxom Latino women with bras and panties painted on. In that setting it’s hard to imagine that anyone who saw her “performance” regarded it as a parody, since like postmodernism it’s hard to spoof what’s already a take-off.

Perhaps that why Wheeler who teaches ethnography at CUNY’s Stella and Charles Guttmann Community College, which was created thanks to a donation from a wealthy white family, has turned to performing her song of ritual self-abnegation, “I’m White and That’s not Right” for an appreciative – virtually all white– audience that had been asked to sing along.

Wheeler/Powell comes out in all white dress that appears too small for her, holding a ukulele and first offers the onlookers gluten-free cupcakes that she has personally baked and announces cloyingly, “I made my dress too.” She sings:

 I know it ain’t right but I’m white

White privilege is a matter of fact

Don’t expect much from me cause I’m free of respectability

I’m ashamed of how some people act

I’m trying to change that

Her “performance” was greeted with cheers and whoops. Wheeler/Powell has also posted online photos of herself posing as a suburban blonde having her nails done in a lounge chair– all in the name of academic advancement.  Among her academic achievements is a short video entitled, “Gonna Change the World One Smile at a Time.”

In the postmodern academy, performance often refers not to academic achievement but rather to acting out the gestures of white penance.

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche, much beloved by postmodernists, anticipated their folly. Referring to “the men of resentment,” he wrote:

 “When would they achieve the ultimate, subtlest, most sublime triumph of revenge? Undoubtedly if they succeeded in poisoning the consciences of the fortunate with their own misery, with all misery, so that one day the fortunate began to be ashamed of their good fortune and perhaps said one to another: ‘it is disgraceful to be fortunate: there is too much misery!’ But no greater or more calamitous misunderstanding is possible than for the happy, well-constituted, powerful in soul and body, to begin to doubt their right to happiness in this fashion.”

Based on Babu and Wheeler, resentful post-modernists “ashamed of their good fortune” are eager to act out doubts about “their right to happiness.”

Fisher II: A Mystery Solved While Asians Get Their Voice

Many legal experts were surprised in June of 2013 when the U.S Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision in the University of Texas affirmative action case, Fisher v. Texas. The mere fact that the Court had taken up the case when it could easily have declared it moot indicated to many that at least five Justices were prepared to restrict dramatically the degree to which public institutions could use racial classifications to further what they deemed “compelling” pedagogical  interests.

(The mootness option was readily available to the Court because Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff who claimed to have been the victim of racial discrimination in the admission to UT’s undergraduate program, had already enrolled in another university and would graduate before the case was decided, thus rendering her ineligible for UT undergraduate admission even with a favorable Court ruling).

Related: the Disappointing Non-Decision in Fisher

Virtually all assumed that the Court would be modifying, if not entirely overruling, the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bolllinger, which gave to state institutions great leeway in determining both the nature of the educational interest they believed justified race-conscious admissions, and the means appropriate to furthering that interest. And it was universally assumed that it would be a 5-3 or 4-4 decision with Anthony Kennedy the key swing vote (Elena Kagan had recused herself because of prior involvement in the case as Solicitor General).

It was a mystery then when the decision came down — supported by an unlikely 7-1 majority — reaffirming Grutter as operative law and merely remanding the case to the appeals court with instruction that it not defer so readily to UT’s claim that its race-based “holistic” program was narrowly tailored to achieving its diversity goal.  The University’s judgment about the compelling importance of racial diversity was not challenged, but the burden of proof was shifted to UT to show that no practicable alternative existed to achieve the racial diversity it sought that did not use overt racial classifications.  “Show us there’s no race-neutral way to achieve the racial diversity you want,” the court said in effect, “and if you do, all is OK as far as the Constitution is concerned.”  That seven Justices could a3gree on this formula suggested just how moderate the decision was and how little of a threat it posed to the pro-affirmative action Grutter decision so eagerly embraced by the nation’s leading universities and professional schools.

On remand, the appeals court voted, in a 2-1 decision, to accept UT’s claim that its holistic plan, which accorded admissions boosts to “underrepresented minorities,” was indeed narrowly tailored and fit tightly with the diversity-enhancement goal it was intended to achieve. While there was a sharp dissent by judge Emilio Garza, who argued that the university had not clearly defined or explained exactly what it meant by its main goal of enrolling a “critical mass” of minority students, some knowledgeable observers thought the case was now settled and that on the affirmative action front in higher education business would go on as usual.

Related: The ‘Mismatch’ Thesis and Fisher

But attorneys for Fisher appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a second mystery move decided to accept the case (grant certiorari as the lawyers say).  What was going on here?  Were the four Justices needed to grant cert. for a second round of Fisher proceedings primarily concerned with reigning in to some degree what some saw as an overly permissive interpretation of a university’s obligation to seek non-racial means to enhance racial diversity?  Or were those who granted cert. hoping for a five-vote majority to reign in Grutter more substantially — or even overrule it and return to the idea of color-blind justice that had so motivated civil rights advocates through the first two-thirds of the last century? Something seemed to be going on here that even sophisticated court watchers found baffling.  What were the conservative justices, who must have been the ones to vote to hear Abigail Fisher’s appeal for the second time, really up to?

A Mystery Solved

The mystery may have been solved by legal journalist Joan Biskupic, who in researching a book on Justice Sonia Sotomayor learned that when Fisher I was first taken up by the Court, Anthony Kennedy and the four conservative Justices were all on board for a major revision or overruling of Grutter.  Racial preference policies were to be subject to real “strict scrutiny,” and the “diversity-enhancement” rationale itself might possibly have been called into question as a truly “compelling state interest” that can override the color-blind interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Biskupic’s sources claimed Anthony Kennedy was preparing a draft for a clear retreat from Grutter, but he was persuaded to change his mind by Justice Breyer who explained the extreme opposition to such a move by Justice Sotomayor, the court’s first Latino Justice. Sotomayor was preparing a sharply worded draft accusing the anti-affirmative action Justices of insensitivity on racial matters, and the effect of such a clash of opinions, Breyer told Kennedy, would have polarizing consequences both inside and outside the Court.

Justice Breyer Steps in

Breyer was apparently able to convince both Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts to forego any dramatic change in the Grutter framework substituting instead what seemed like a minor alteration in the obligation of universities to justify more rigorously their race-conscious recruitment methods.  Any major change in Grutter would have to await another day.

The result of the shift was to bring on board both Breyer and Sotomayor in the first Fisher ruling(Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the lone dissenter, who believed that UT had already done more than enough to justify its race-conscious programs). And from the standpoint of those Justices who would have liked a more substantial move away from Grutter, the incremental move was seen as one small step in a process that might include more radical changes in the future.

Sotomayor’s Rhetoric

Two important things changed from the time Fisher Iwas decided to the Court’s more recent decision to hear Abigail Fisher’s appeal for a second time. First, Justice Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent in the 2014 case of Schuette v. BAMN, a case on the constitutionality of Michigan’s ban on race-based affirmative action programs in state institutions.  Her opinion contained some of the kind of impassioned rhetoric — accusing the Court majority of insensitivity to racial discrimination and injustice — that allegedly was contained in her original, preliminary draft of a Fisher dissent.

Nothing particularly polarizing came of Sotomayor’s Schuette dissent, however, which some saw as out of place in the case at hand and not particularly resonant with either general public opinion in America or the opinion of the Court’s centrists. The polarization issue seemed neutralized, and one suspects that not only the three right-most Justices were more emboldened to revisit the Fisher case — i.e. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito — but very likely both Anthony Kennedy and the Chief Justice John Roberts.

Kennedy and Roberts Less Constrained

The second thing that changed from 2013 were the two dramatic victories for the Left handed down by the Court in 2015 in the gay marriage case (Obergefell v. Hodges) and the case interpreting Congress’s intention regarding the Obamacare law (King v. Burwell). John Roberts issued the majority opinion in the Obamacare case, while Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the gay marriage case. The Kennedy and Roberts performance in these cases were seen as a great betrayal by many political conservatives, but were warmly greeted by the Left and seen as an indication of the flexibility, fairness, and centrist leanings of both Kennedy and Roberts. The cases established for both Justices a certain level of respect from the left-leaning law school elite, whose opinions historically have often counted a great deal in the minds of the swing Justices and centrists on the Court.

Kennedy and Roberts almost certainly feel less constrained today to speak their minds on race-based preferences in academia than they did in 2013 before Obergefell and Burwell enhanced their bona fides (or at least diminished hostility towards them) on the part of the myriads of left-of-center court watchers and legal commentators. Any decision they might write today overruling Grutter or narrowing substantially the permissible range of racial preference policies is likely to encounter much less hostility and produce much less polarization than might have been the case even a year ago or when Fisher I was decided. This of course is a source of great encouragement for those of us who hope that the Court will overturn Grutter and reaffirm the simple truth that state institutions are not permitted to favor or disfavor people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or religion.

Asians Get in the Game

There is a third factor that may come into play in Fisher II that I have written about in an earlier Minding-the-Campus article — the rise of an aggressive Asian legal challenge to racial preferences in college admissions.  No longer quiescent or content to play simply the non-complaining “model minority” role, many Asian-American groups in recent years have come together and taken a page from the history of the NAACP to pursue an aggressive litigation strategy challenging racial preferences on 14th Amendment grounds. This strategy is clearly on display in Fisher II with an outstanding legal brief filed by two Asian-American groups, the Asian American Legal Foundation and the Asian American Coalition for Education, the latter an umbrella group representing 117 separate Asian-American organizations.

The AALF/AACE brief urges the Supreme Court not merely to modify Grutter‘s diversity-enhancement justification for racial preferences, but to overrule Grutter entirely and abandon “diversity” as a legitimate criterion for discriminating based on race. The brief is a model of legal craftsmanship, informed scholarship, and moral punch that announces to the Justices — loud and clear — that Asians will no longer take the widespread discrimination against them with indifference or passivity. The Asians are not going to keep quiet anymore when the universities establish the same kind of ceiling quotas against them that they imposed on the Jews in an earlier period of American history.

Related: Is Affirmative Action Micro-aggressive?

The constitutional question at hand, the brief began, is “whether Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), which upheld the use of racial preferences in higher education admissions for the non-remedial, and amorphous purpose of ‘diversity,’ should be overruled as fundamentally incompatible with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence?” The AALF/AACE brief answers this question with a resounding “yes” and backs up its claim not only with a reaffirmation of the color-blind interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause, but with extensive references to how Asian Americans have so often been victims of discrimination when this principle was ignored.

“Asian Americans, a minority group repeatedly victimized by discrimination, are the group most harmed by the University of Texas admission program,” the brief begins.  It continues: “UT’s use of race deprives Asian Americans of the right to be judged as individuals and not by the color of their skin.”  “For much of America’s history, race-based governmental programs have been used to oppress Asian Americans.”  “Today, supposedly benign racial balancing and diversity policies insidiously discriminate against Asian American students nationwide.” “[The Court] should re-establish the bright-line rule reserving use of race for remedial settings.”

The brief ends with two concluding sentences that cut to the quick: “For the foregoing reasons, the Court should find the UT admission program to be unconstitutional.  This Court should also revisit its holding in Grutter, to make clear that outside of a constitutionally-permissible remedy to prior discrimination, race may not be considered in college admissions.”

Asian Americans have come of age.  In the beginning of October of this year the London-based Economist ran an article titled “Asians Americans: The Model Minority is Losing Patience.”  Below the title, in a summary sentence, the article explains:  “Asian-Americans are the United States’ most successful minority, but they are complaining ever more vigorously about discrimination, especially in academia.” As the Economist writers report, after decades of relative quiescence, Asian Americans have found their voice of protest.  Like the Blacks and the Jews before them, they are no longer willing to accept in silence the overt discrimination against them. In the long history of American protest going back to the time of the American Revolution they are proclaiming to the world “Don’t Tread on Me!”

Whether this new assertiveness will have any effect on the outcome of Fisher II is impossible to say, but it just might provide the added push needed for five members of the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstitute the noble principle of color-blind justice so magnificently articulated by the elder Justice Harlan in the Plessy case.  The oral argument in Fisher II, scheduled for the end of this year, is going to be something to follow closely.

A British Uproar over ‘Girls in the Lab’

It was a shocking story that seemed to confirm the worst suspicions about sexism in science: a Nobel laureate asked to speak at a luncheon honoring female scientists announces that he’s a male chauvinist, then tells a stunned audience that “girls” in the lab are trouble because “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them they cry,” and finally suggests sex-segregated labs.

After the uproar, the Case of the Misogynist Scientist quickly fell apart, with new evidence that the offending remarks were an ill-advised but well-intentioned joke taken out of context. Yet, nearly five months later, the international scandal around British biochemist Sir Tim Hunt still continues, both in the social media and in the press—only now, it’s less about sexism than about honesty, integrity, and ideology among academics and science writers on both sides of the Atlantic.

It all started at the World Congress of Science Journalists in Seoul last June when Connie St. Louis, a science writer and head of a postgraduate science journalism program at City University London sent out an angry tweet complaining that the women in science luncheon at the conference had been “utterly ruined” by Hunt’s sexist remarks. It touched off a Twitter storm, followed by sensational news stories about the scientist who thinks women “should be banned from male labs.” An apology from Hunt was widely mocked as inadequate. Inevitably, Hunt was professionally defenestrated: he resigned from several prestigious positions.

Then, the turnaround began. Several people who attended the luncheon, including female science journalists, confirmed Hunt’s claim that in his brief improvised remarks, he had been trying to make a lighthearted, self-deprecating joke and finished on a serious note, praising the work of female scientists and expressing hope for their success.

In late June, a leaked report by a European Commission—an affiliate of which, the European Research Council, sponsored Hunt’s trip to Seoul—confirmed the same, with notes taken shortly afterward by an EC official who was present. In these notes, Hunt’s comments were summarized as:

It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

Both the EC report and the new eyewitnesses also noted that, contrary to St. Louis’s claim of “deathly silence” after Hunt’s words, most of the audience reacted positively with laughter and applause.

Related: Science quotas for Women: A White House Goal

Finally, more than a month after Hunt’s downfall, a 12-second audio recording surfaced that caught the tail end of his fateful mini-speech. (Russian science journalist Natalia Demina belatedly discovered it among her materials and gave it to the Times with the help of Louise Mensch, a journalist and former Member of Parliament who has been one of Hunt’s staunchest champions.) In the audio, Hunt says, “Congratulations, everybody, because I hope—I hope—I really hope that there won’t be anything holding you back, especially not monsters like me.” The warmth and enthusiasm in his tone are in stark contrast to St. Louis’s retelling, which has Hunt capping a string of insults to female scientists by saying that he “doesn’t want to stand in the way of women.” And one can hear audience laughter and the start of applause before the audio is cut off.

These revelations were compounded by the fact that from the start, numerous women who had worked or studied with Hunt—including distinguished scientists such as Cambridge physicist Athene Donald—insisted that he always unfailingly supportive of female scientists and never treated women as anything other than equals.

ECR president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon also credited him as an active supporter of initiatives to help the advancement of women in science; ironically, it was partly because of his record in this area that Hunt had been sent to the Seoul conference to chair a session at which two female scientists presented their work.

Related: Shaky Studies on Women and STEM

Meanwhile, serious questions arose about the credibility of St. Louis. An investigation by The Daily Mail found what appeared to be considerable résumé-padding on St. Louis’s curriculum vitae on the City University website. (St. Louis claimed that her online CV was simply an “out-of-date version,” and the university undertook to help her “update” it.) There is also at least one past instance in which she was alleged to have misquoted people to advance an agenda—in that case, the claim that the science press in the UK was too cozy with industry.

Earlier this month, the controversy was revived by the resignation of eminent scientist Sir Colin Blakemore as honorary president of the Association of British Science Writers. Blakemore said he had been frustrated by the group’s decision to continue unconditional support for Connie St Louis (a past ABSW president) and referred to her report on Hunt’s remarks as “unbalanced, exaggerated, and selective.”

“In the face of a controversy that’s dominated science journalism for four months, the board of the ABSW has simply brushed away serious complaints and refused to implement its own procedures,” Blakemore told The Guardian.

While the ABSW’s stance is disappointing, it should be noted that after the first days of the scandal, the British press overall did a good job of accurate, balanced reporting on the later developments. Even The Guardian, a paper sometimes viewed as the Pravda of the British left, published a semi-apology for its tendentious early coverage of the story in mid-July; more recently, its report on Blakemore’s resignation implicitly acknowledged the vindication of Hunt. The London Times ran a scathing editorial in July deploring the destruction of Hunt’s reputation by “kneejerk outrage” based on “thirty-nine words [that] were lifted wholesale from their context by a partisan witness of questionable credentials.” The BBC has defended its reporting but, in a letter last month in response to complaints, acknowledged that “our understanding of Tim Hunt’s remarks in Seoul, and the involvement of some of those who reported them, has evolved considerably.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. media have been considerably less conscientious. Thus, The Washington Post, which had covered the initial firestorm, dropped the story completely after a June 15 article on Hunt’s first full-length interview after the controversy, in which he complained of being “hung out to dry” over “jocular” remarks. Since then, the only reference to Tim Hunt on the newspaper’s website is in a column by oceanographer Julia O’Hern, who laments allegedly still-rampant sexism in science and points to Hunt as an example of “unfortunate” attitudes holding back female scientists (“Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt suggested in June that women working in laboratories would only fall in love with their male colleagues and cry when criticized”). Likewise, the New York Times completely ignored the reports challenging the initial portrayal of Hunt’s talk.

On July 1, Slate science columnist Phil Plait responded to the pro-Hunt backlash by portraying it as a typical reaction to critiques of “institutionalized sexism” and decrying the attacks on St. Louis’s credentials. Plait made no mention of the leaked EC report and dismissed Hunt’s “Now, seriously…” segue by invoking a single witness, New York University journalism professor Charles Seife, who strongly disputed it. (As it happens, Seife immediately had to backpedal on his simultaneous claim that Hunt said “the trouble with girls,” not “my trouble with girls”—which contradicted even St. Louis’s reporting.)

But the most egregious spin was offered in an August 29 Boston Globe article by Tom Levenson, professor of science writing and director of the graduate program in science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After summarizing the original account of Hunt’s offense, Levenson wrote:

The backlash that followed was probably predictable, driven by the impulse to protect a powerful man from the minor embarrassment of being exposed as an antiquated fool. Some prominent British scientists rallied to Hunt’s defense… A sustained and deeply misleading set of posts and articles soon followed, seeking to rewrite the record of that fateful lunch in Seoul, asserting that Hunt had been joking; that his remarks were misrepresented to bring a great man down.

Levenson made no mention of what those “misleading” posts and articles actually said; nor did he disclose the existence of an audio corroborating the revisionists’ claims. Instead, he stressed that Hunt “truly did say what he said, and subsequently affirmed that he meant it.” Of course, no one has ever disputed the accuracy of the words attributed to Hunt, only their context. As for the subsequent “affirmation,” Hunt did initially tell the BBC—in a hasty call from the airport, in response to a message that for the first time informed him his remarks had caused a scandal—that he was “trying to be honest.”

But, once again, context is crucial: Hunt explained that he “meant the part about having trouble with girls” and that he was referring to his own experience of “emotional entanglements” with female co-workers in the laboratory. (Hunt is married to Mary Collins, a distinguished scientist in her own right, whom he met when she was married to another man.)

When challenged on Twitter, Levenson dismissed his critics as “flying monkeys” and “apparatchiks.” When I asked how his insistence that Hunt is a male chauvinist squared with the testimonies of numerous women who said otherwise, Levenson replied that he never said Hunt was a chauvinist—only that Hunt’s words showed the prevalence of implicit, often unconscious bias. But that’s not what his Globe article said: Levenson explicitly castigated Hunt for his “antediluvian attitudes.”

More recently, after Blakemore’s resignation, Levenson went on the warpath again, proclaiming that no one “outside the Tim Hunt Brit-friends bubble” believed Hunt had been unfairly maligned.

This blatant dishonesty is compounded by conflict of interest. Since July, the Knight Center for Science Journalism at MIT has been headed by Deborah Blum, who was, from the start, a key figure in the anti-Hunt campaign. (While Levenson denied any conflict, Twitter user James Mershon unearthed a January 2014 blogpost in which Levenson says that Blum “is a good friend as well as a professional colleague.”)

At the time of the initial controversy, Blum immediately corroborated St. Louis’s account, as they had agreed in advance; since then, she has staunchly and vocally defended  the anti-Hunt narrative. Her own conduct raises some troubling ethical questions. For instance, at first, Blum strongly insisted that Hunt had confirmed to her he was serious about segregated labs—and even said that she “was hoping he’d say it had been a joke” when she spoke to him the next day. Later, she changed her tune, tweeting and endorsing the view that even if jocular, Hunt’s remarks were unacceptable and “awful.”

Why the witch-hunt? It is clear that, from the start, Hunt was a sacrificial lamb in a feminist crusade against sexism in science. Today’s feminists are heavily invested in downplaying progress and insisting that the situation is nearly as dire as a century ago when women often had to fight just for access to labs. When the Hunt story first broke, Ann Perkins, an editorialist for The Guardian, called it “a moment to savor”—not, as some thought, because of Hunt’s downfall, but because he had supposedly exposed still-rampant misogyny in the scientific world:

“The mask has not so much slipped as crashed to the floor.” On a similar note, Levenson wrote in The Globe, “To suggest Hunt had to have been joking is to say the practice of science has changed, that no longer is it as hostile to women as everyone concedes it was until not that long ago. … Hunt’s real accomplishment in Korea—amplified by the backlash in his defense—was to blow up such self-congratulation, reminding everyone a dishonorable history isn’t actually past.”

Of course, such a narrative has to ignore and suppress not only the evidence that Hunt’s words were a self-deprecating joke, but the numerous facts indicating his history of support for female scientists.

Disgracefully, this ongoing propagandist smear campaign is being supported by a number of academics—including Blum and Levenson, professors of science journalism at a leading institution. It is no less appalling that most of the American press has allowed the casual vilification of Hunt to continue. Earlier this month, National Geographic included Hunt in a “rogues’ gallery” of ignoble Nobel laureates including HIV/AIDS denialist Kary Mullis, white supremacist William Shockley, and chemical weapons inventor Fritz Haber.

A full accounting of the facts indisputably shows that Tim Hunt has been vindicated. It’s time for the academy and the media to step up and set the record straight.

Yik Yak—Latest Target of the Anti-Free-Speech Left

Last Wednesday, 72 left-wing groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, American Association of University Women, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, asked federal civil-rights officials to crack down on anonymous politically-incorrect speech on campus, which they claim violates federal civil-rights laws such as Title IX. They claim they are concerned about “harassment” on anonymous social media applications like Yik Yak, as the Chronicle of Higher Education notes in the article “Women’s Groups Urge Colleges and Government to Rein in Yik Yak.”

Related: Divestors—No Free Speech for Opponents

But their October 21 letter to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights makes clear that their real goal is to restrict free speech, not just “harassment,” since the letter explicitly labels constitutionally-protected speech as “race-based harassment.” It seems their real goal is to silence dissent on campus by eliminating students’ ability to express their opinions anonymously. The ability to speak anonymously gives moderate and conservative students a chance to speak without vilified or punished by left-wing campus administrators or bullied by student government officials (who sometimes defund campus newspapers for having the temerity to print a moderate or conservative viewpoint about a racial or sexual issue.).

As their letter puts it, “Anonymous race-based harassment through Yik Yak is also pervasive on college campuses. At American University in Washington, DC, for example, Yakkers posted successive invidious comments targeting African-Americans, such as ‘Their entire culture just isn’t conducive to a life of success. It just isn’t. The outfits. The attitudes. The behavior.’”  Whether or not this sentiment is racist, it certainly is not “harassment.”  Indeed, even black newspaper columnists and entertainers regularly lament cultural impediments to success in the black community. Moreover, there is no “racism” exception to the First Amendment.  In 1993, a federal appeals court cited the First Amendment to overturn a fraternity’s discipline for a racist, sexist “ugly woman” skit, in Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University.  And calling racist viewpoints “harassment” does not change this, because as another federal appeals court explained in DeJohn v. Temple University (2008), “there is no ‘harassment exception’” to free speech about racial and sexual issues on campus.

Related: Is Yale Using Title IX to Trump Free Speech?

Requiring colleges to punish what is perceived to be “race-based” speech would endanger even viewpoints that are mainstream positions in society at large, but are disapproved of by politically-correct college campus administrators. Under campus hate speech and “harassment” codes, students have been subjected to campus disciplinary proceedings, in violation of the First Amendment, merely for expressing commonplace opinions about sexual and racial issues, such as criticizing feminism or affirmative action, or discussing homosexuality or the role of race in the criminal justice system.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut provides a recent example of how even mainstream conservative viewpoints are targeted for suppression on campus, in a saga so extreme that it drew criticism from the generally liberal Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell:

In September, sophomore Bryan Stascavage — a 30-year-old Iraq veteran and self-described “moderate conservative” — wrote a column for the Wesleyan Argus. In it, he criticized the Black Lives Matter movement — not the movement’s mission or motivations, but its tactics and messaging, particularly those of its more anti-cop fringe elements.

The essay was provocative, but it contained neither name-calling nor racial stereotypes. It was no more radical than the conservative commentary you might see on mainstream op-ed pages such as this one. That didn’t stop all hell from breaking loose.

Within 24 hours of publication, students were stealing and reportedly destroying newspapers around campus. In a school cafe, a student screamed at Stascavage through tears, declaring that he had “stripped all agency away from her, made her feel like not a human anymore,” Stascavage told me in a phone interview. Over the following days, he said, others muttered “racist” under their breath as he passed by.

The Argus’s editors published a groveling apology on the front page. They said they’d “failed the community” by publishing the op-ed without a counterpoint and said it “twist(ed) facts.” They promised to make the paper “a safe space for the student of color community.” This self-flagellation proved insufficient; students circulated a petition to defund the newspaper.

The Wesleyan student government has now voted to effectively cut the newspaper’s funding.

Related: A New Age of Campus Censorship

In their October 21 letter, the left-wing groups essentially ask the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to repeal the First Amendment as to internet speech and anonymous speech, complaining that colleges have cited “vague First Amendment concerns” in refusing to crack down on such speech.  (The Supreme Court ruled that anonymous speech is generally protected by the First Amendment in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995)).

As they note, the Office for Civil Rights has already pressured colleges to adopt what are effectively campus speech codes in its recent “Dear Colleague” letters to the nation’s school officials, which label certain kinds of speech as probative of racial or sexual harassment: “In its October 2010 Dear Colleague Letter, OCR clarified that prohibited harassment may take many forms, including  . . graphic and written statements, which may include use of cell phones or the Internet . . OCR should also make clear that the First Amendment does not prevent schools from taking action” to restrict such speech, whether it “occurs in-person or online.”

It asks OCR to force colleges to take actions such as investigating “all” complaints of “online harassment,” whether or not the speaker is “anonymous”; bringing “campus disciplinary proceedings against” such “individuals”; blocking or “geo-fencing of anonymous social media applications that are used to . . . harass students”; and “barring the use of campus wi-fi to view or post to these applications.” Thus, it seeks to ban entire applications from campus based on the speech of some of their users, and to keep students from even seeing what is posted on them, keeping them in the dark about their content.  (The Supreme Court has described such blanket bans as being as foolish and harmful as “burning the house to roast the pig,” in its 1997 decision striking down a ban on indecent internet speech.)

But there is no “internet” exception to free speech about racial or sexual issues (or a blanket “hostile environment” exception, for that matter). That’s why the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit based on a “hostile environment” that it assumed was created by a white professor’s anti-immigration emails. In that decision, Rodriguez v. Maricopa Community College (2010), it relied on the First Amendment to quash a racial harassment suit against the professor for sending those emails, which a college’s Hispanic faculty claimed created a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C 1983.

Some of the letter’s demands are probably too extreme to be endorsed by the Office for Civil Rights.  But in the past, it has sometimes shown a disregard for the First Amendment and limits on its statutory jurisdiction.  As I noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal, “the Education Department, where I used to work,” is

“pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes in the name of fighting sexual harassment. It has disregarded many court rulings in doing so.

“For example, the Education Department has wrongly ordered schools to regulate off-campus speech and conduct. That contributed to the harassment charges against Prof. Laura Kipnis, who was accused over a politically incorrect essay she wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education and statements she made on Twitter. Court rulings like Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014) reject Title IX claims over off-campus conduct, but the Education Department ignores them. It also ignores court rulings like Klein v. Smith (1986) emphasizing that the First Amendment usually bars public schools from restricting off-campus speech. For example, the Education Department told schools to regulate comments ‘on the Internet’ in an October 2010 letter. In 2014, it demanded that Harvard regulate off-campus conduct more.”

The Office for Civil Rights should nevertheless keep in mind that it — and individual OCR officials — can be sued for enforcing the civil-rights laws in a way that violate the First Amendment. OCR’s demands under the civil-rights laws were once held to have violated the First Amendment in Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board (1978). A chapter of the Klan had sought to meet together during non-school hours in an empty classroom, the way other groups were permitted to do by the school district. But it was barred from doing so by the school district, acting under pressure from the Office for Civil Rights, which argued that its presence would be illegal racial discrimination. A federal appeals court ruled that the school district and OCR had violated the Klan’s free-speech rights, which could not be overridden by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act or OCR’s requirements.

Similarly, another federal appeals court ruled that individual federal civil-rights officials could be sued for restricting speech in White v. Lee (2000).  That ruling emphasized that speech can’t be punished just because it incites illegal discrimination. It also ruled that federal officials could be sued for threatening citizens with civil fines for speaking out against a minority housing project, even if the speech persuaded a city to delay a housing project that would house members of a protected minority group. That decision also indicated that the restrictions on speech found in workplace racial or sexual harassment rules cannot be applied to society generally under non-workplace discrimination laws.

Cornell’s Not Even Hiding Its Bias Anymore

A few highlights from the online site of Cornell University’s conservative student newspaper, the Cornell Review:

  • At her inauguration as Cornell’s new president, Elizabeth Garrett said, “We must heed the call to be radical and progressive.” Later she issued apparently contradictory statements on free speech, calling herself “an avid supporter of freedom of speech” at a press event in New York.Later, she said, “Speech can be regulated. Speech has to be regulated in the narrowest possible way to serve a compelling state interest.”
  • At a rally against “rape culture,” student Bailey Dineen said that the institutions promoting “rape culture”–Cornell, the Justice System, and the “white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, cisheteropatriarchy”–must be destroyed.” The rally was sponsored by several groups,including Direct Action to Stop Heterosexism (DASH) and the Kinky Club of Cornell.
  • Though 96 percent of Cornell facultypolitical donations from 2011 to 2014 went to Democrats, government professor Andrew Little was quoted as saying that hiring a few Republicans would compromise the quality of Cornell’s faculty. “Placing more emphasis on diversity of political beliefs when hiring [would] almost certainly require sacrificing on general quality or other dimensions of diversity.”
  • Another government professor, Richard Bensel, said, “Our job is not to mold the minds of young students — they’ll go out into the world and do that for themselves…. Cornell does not have to be a banquet that offers every viewpoint.” He added that recent Republican debates have illustrated the deviation of “mainstream conservatives” from views that are widely accepted by intellectuals at reputable universities.