Harvard’s Cheating Scandal

Yesterday Harvard
University announced its investigation of about 125 undergraduates who are
believed to have improperly collaborated on a take-home final examination last
spring. It is tempting to use this case to generalize about an Ivy League sense
of entitlement, declining student morals in general, or perhaps the failure of
Harvard and other universities to teach character and a sense of honor to its
students along with their academic subjects. For now, though, we should focus on
the specifics of this cheating incident, or at least what we know of them,
since many of the precise details of the scandal have yet to emerge:

1. The class in question,
“Introduction to Congress,” enrolled more than 250 students. If
Harvard’s suspicions are correct, this means that half the class thought they
could get away with violating a specific instruction in the exam itself:
“[S]tudents may not discuss the exam with others–this includes resident
tutors, writing centers, etc.” Most college cheating rings are relatively
small groups of trusted friends. Not this one.

2. The cheating appeared
to be careless and blatant. A graduate-student teaching fellow grading the
exams uncovered the alleged collaboration on noticing that several of them
contained the exact same words or strings of ideas in answering some of the
exam questions. The students allegedly involved didn’t bother to disguise what
they were doing very artfully (surprising for clever Harvardians)–because they
thought they could get away with it.

3. Many students didn’t
like the class very much. According to Harvard Crimson reporter Rebecca D.
Robbins
, Harvard’s “Q Guide” of student course evaluations gave “Introduction
to Congress” a score of 2.54 out of a possible 5. Robbins noted that the
average score for social-science courses at Harvard was 3.91. Some of the
student evaluators took the course to task for lack of organization and
difficult exam questions. One student wrote that she and about 15 other
students, most of whom had stayed up all night working on the exam, gathered at
a teaching fellow’s office for clarifications a few hours before the deadline because
they didn’t understand one question worth 20 percent of the grade. “On top
of this, one of the questions asked us about a term that had never been defined
in any of our readings and had not been properly defined in class, so the TF
had to give us a definition to use for the question,” the student wrote.

None of this excuses in
the slightest what went on last spring. Students found to have collaborated on
that exam deserve not just to be suspended for a year–which is apparently
Harvard’s maximum punishment. However, there’s a lot here we just don’t know.

Pundits Wrong on the GI Bill

As part of its series on higher ed issues in
the 2012 campaign, the Chronicle of Higher Education has a long opinion
piece
in the form of a news article accusing Republicans of hypocrisy.

In “Self-Sufficient,
With a Hand From the Government
,” author Scott Carlson claims to find “a
striking dissonance” between the moving “pull-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps
narrative” a number of speakers at the Republican Convention told of their
fathers’ and their benefitting from the GI Bill, “one of the biggest federal
programs in recent history.”

This “irony,” Carlson reports, “wasn’t lost
on liberals. Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and consultant, jumped all
over the remarks on his Twitter feed
on Tuesday night: ‘Christie: Dad went to Rutgers on the GI Bill. Dems built
that.'” Begala thinks these Republican fathers did not succeed “on their own,”
in President
Obama’s now famous words
. They did not succeed because they were “just so
smart” or because they worked hard. They were successful only with the help of
a “hand from the government.”

Carlson finds it “interesting to ponder …
whether Governor Christie’s father would have been able to get that degree
today, given the recent history of receding state support and inflating costs.”
Seen from Carlson’s and Begala’s angel, Republican calls to scale back the size
and scope of government amount to biting the government hand that fed them.

What this complaint of hypocrisy ignores,
however, is a crucial distinction between government programs to which
beneficiaries have contributed, such as the GI Bill, and open-ended entitlement
programs that require no such contribution. Assume for a moment that after the
Civll War all freed slaves received “40 acres and a mule.”
Would anyone, even President Obama or Paul Begala, seriously claim that former
slaves who had become successful later in life owed their success to the
government program and not to their own sacrifice and hard work? Well, maybe,
but would anyone listen to them if they did?

The GI Bill, like the hypothetical 40 acres
and a mule, was not an entitlement or an example of beneficent government
generosity. It was partial compensation for sacrifices made for and services
rendered to the nation. Finding an “irony” in Republican proposals to scale
back massive federal borrowing and debt, including funds for higher education,
even though the fathers of many current party leaders benefitted from the GI
Bill requires assuming that if one limited government program compensating one defined
group of people for a limited time is good, all government benefits are good;
that if some spending at one time was good, more spending all the time is
better.

That “narrative” is more mythical than
anything coming out of the Republican convention.

The Education of Rachel Corrie

To predictable outrage among anti-Israel activists worldwide, a
Haifa court ruled Tuesday that former U.S. college student Rachel Corrie’s 2003
death was an accident. Corrie, a member of the fanatic International Solidarity
Movement, was in Gaza at the time, trying to obstruct the work of the Israeli
Defense Force; she was killed as she tried to act as a “human shield” by an IDF
bulldozer whose driver couldn’t see her. The judge used common sense, noting
that as the bulldozer moved toward her, “she did not move away as any
reasonable person would have done. But she chose to endanger herself . . . and
thus found her death.”

Corrie’s story subsequently became lionized by those eager to
demonize Israel; see Jamie Kirchick’s scathing review of the
one-person play based on Corrie’s writings as both a little girl and as a
college student. As Kirchick noted, the play’s attempt to tug at the audience’s
heartstrings unwittingly undermined its argument, since it showed that “Corrie never outgrew the naïve little schoolgirl. Corrie at
23 was just like Corrie at ten.”

This simple-mindedness was reflected in Corrie’s e-mails to her
family. A note that she sent to her mother at the time confirmed her ignorance
of international affairs; after accusing Israel of genocide, she wrote home to ask her mother to “look up the definition of
genocide according to international law,” whose meaning she admitted that she
could not recall. (“I really value words,” she added–though apparently not
enough to worry about whether what she said about Israel was accurate.)

If nothing else, sending such a poorly-trained student into a war
zone would constitute an indictment of the education that Corrie received,
especially since she was in Gaza while on break from Evergreen College. Evergreen,
however, seems to revel in the fact that its students will receive (at best) a
one-sided education on matters relating to Middle East international relations.
The college sponsors a “Rachel
Corrie Memorial Scholarship”
(to memorialize Corrie, the “community
activist”), which awards $2000 to an Evergreen
student “dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the Middle East and to
working locally or internationally to further Middle East peace.” Applicants,
according to the college, “must show how they will use their studies to promote
human rights and social justice through community activism and/or political
advocacy.”

What academic training does a Corrie Scholarship applicant
need? Work in such “areas of interest related to the Middle East” as “Arab
culture and Arabic language, US Policy in the Middle East, and peace, justice
and conflict resolution studies.” At Evergreen, learning about Israel
apparently isn’t essential to gain “a better understanding of the Middle East.”

Given what Evergreen does teach
about the Middle East, perhaps it’s better for its students simply to remain
ignorant about Israel. While she was at the college, Corrie could learn about Israel
through such one-sided offerings as “Seeking Justice:
Reclamation, Equality, and Restitution,” which contrasted Palestinian sources
with what the syllabus termed “Zionist/Israeli” documents; Israel, in this
sense, was recognized not as a sovereign state but merely a “Zionist” entity.
And
after her death, an Evergreen professor who had worked with Corrie named
Steve Niva published an op-ed
charging that his former student was “killed” as a foreseeable result of
Israeli security policies (in this instance, building a security barrier to
guard against Gaza smugglers). Niva, who shortly before Corrie’s death penned a
Counterpunch article implying
that former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon bore responsibility for the
Palestinians’ embrace of suicide-murder tactics, has made something of a career
in Corrie Studies; the Evergreen website notes that he served as a featured
speaker
at Oregon State during a “week-long run of the play ‘My Name is
Rachel Corrie,’ where he gave a talk entitled ‘Unlikely Icons: Rachel Corrie,
Palestine and the New Internationalism.'”

This past semester, Niva taught a course
on U.S. foreign policy
and the roots of terrorism, which purported to
ensure that students would “obtain a thorough
knowledge of current events” and “develop a thorough understanding of the
history of United States foreign policy in the Middle East.”

Evergreen, alas, has stopped
putting course syllabi on-line, so outsiders have to trust that Niva’s reading
list and course topics are fair.

Another College Cost: Lower Birth Rate

Originally posted at Open
Market

babies.jpg

 

The Washington Times takes
note
of the burgeoning higher
education bubble
in a recent editorial:

The
cost of a college education has soared far in excess of the cost of health
care. This is in spite of — or, more accurately, because of — massive
government involvement in subsidizing and running schools. . . Doing more of
the same isn’t a realistic answer. America is in the midst of what University
of Tennessee Prof. Glenn Reynolds calls the “higher education bubble.” As with
the housing bubble, cheap credit is the primary culprit in inflating the price
of schooling. Federal student loans subsidized by taxpayers have made learning
more expensive, not more affordable.

The
Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey estimates federal student aid increased by 372
percent between 1985 and 2010, from just under $30 billion to almost $140
billion. To put it another way, as Mr. McCluskey explains, “Taxpayer-funded
outlays per degree rose from $58,755 in 1985 to $78,347 in 2010.” This flow of
cheap money corresponded with rapid growth in tuition at rates well above
average inflation. Mr. Reynolds reports that college tuition grew at almost 7.5
percent annually between 1980 and 2010, when average inflation was 3.8 percent.
At less than 6 percent annually, even health care costs grew at a slower rate
than the university tab.

Young
people aren’t getting much in exchange for this huge outlay. While enrollment
has increased, completion rates remain dismal. Barely a third of students
complete their degrees in four years, and less than 60 percent earn their
degree in six years, according to Mr. McCluskey. That means at least two out of
five enrollees don’t finish and fail to reap the benefits of a post-high-school
education. Even those who complete their programs of study and are fortunate
enough to find employment find that in one out of three cases, their degree
isn’t required for their work.

Continue reading Another College Cost: Lower Birth Rate

Tenured Incognizance

A small controversy surfaced
last week at University of Central Florida when a psychology professor sent an email
to all his students to berate some of them for “religious bigotry.” 

According to the professor’s letter, some Christian students in class
that evening claimed that their faith is “the most valid religion,” thereby
“demonstrating to the rest of the class what religious arrogance and bigotry
looks like.” When the professor asked students to imagine how Muslims,
Hindus, Buddhists, and “non-believers” experience that
affirmation, a student stood and urged others “not to participate”–to the
professor a grossly arrogant and disrespectful act.

A university should abhor such “censorship” and
“anti-intellectualism,” the professor concluded. Students go there to be
challenged, to encounter ideas contrary to “cherished beliefs,” to become
“critical, independent thinkers.”

Very well. We don’t know exactly what happened in that class,
but the lengthy email contains nothing to surprise anyone who has spent
time on campus and doesn’t share the orthodox secular
left-liberalism. On the professor’s part, we have:

  • The customary
    condescension–“We’re adults.  We’re at a university.”
  • The inability to
    respect class boundaries–“There is no topic that is ‘off-limits’ for us to
    address in class, even if only remotely related to the course topic.
  • The elevation of
    mainstream beliefs into an oppressive hegemony–“the tyranny of the masses” (the
    dominant group, that is, which in this case, are Christians).
  • And finally, the
    interpretation of conviction as intolerance–“Bigots–radical bigots or religious
    bigots–never question their prejudices and bigotry.  They are convinced
    their beliefs are correct.”

Of course, every believer believes his or her religion is the most
valid one, and to say that doing so victimizes others is to raise sensitivities
to paranoid levels. Indeed, no belief can be held if it isn’t regarded as
correct.

But it is a waste of time to make such points. For professors
such as this one, the inconsistencies and contradictions run so deep that there
is little hope of dispelling them. His cultural relativism is
absolute. He calls for mutual respect, yet inserts sarcasms about
students. Etcetera. 

His incognizance is more significant than his ideology. It
poses a stiffer challenge to conservatives and libertarians than his liberalism
does, and so does his attitude. Instead of taking the Christian students’
assertion as a position to explore, he denounces it. Instead of ponder
the “not-participate” ejaculation as a comment upon him, he turns it onto the
student alone.

This is a hardened condition, and it won’t soften. It has
tenure and (spurious) academic freedom behind it, so why change, especially
when the majority of colleagues reinforce it? No wonder the many
and valid criticisms of the ideology of the professors have produced so little
real reform. They don’t touch attitudes and self-images, things academics
guard more closely than their ideas.

University of California’s Politicization is Out of Control

KC Johnson drew our attention to an
extraordinary development at UCLA, where the faculty senate of a major campus
is now on record approving use of a class to promote an instructor’s personal
political agenda. The practice itself is not new, but to date objections have been
met either with obfuscation or outright denial.            

The sequence of
events that led here began on March 29, 2012, when two members of the UC
faculty, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of UCSC and Leila Beckwith of UCLA mentioned
Professor Shorter’s promoting the boycott of Israel on his official class
website to four UC officials: system President Mark Yudof, UCLA Chancellor Gene
Block, statewide faculty senate chair Robert Anderson and UCLA senate chair
Andrew Leuchter.

What happened
next was astonishing. Though similar queries had been brushed off, within 24
hours Leuchter promised a full investigation by senate and administrative leadership
and barely two weeks later he assured Benjamin and Beckwith that the case was
resolved.

Unfortunately
but unsurprisingly, Leuchter cut many corners to get this rapid result. He compressed
the investigation, consultations, and resolution of the case into a few days. As
an old senate hand, Leuchter knew that he should have handed the matter over to
his Academic Freedom committee, but he didn’t. And he ended the matter by
directly ordering Shorter’s department chair to chastise him, which Leuchter
had no right to do since he was only an elected faculty leader without
administrative appointment. He also publicly announced the disciplinary action
against Shorter, a prohibited action which violated Shorter’s right to the
privacy of his personnel file.

We need not
look far for what prompted UC officials to bury the Shorter case as quickly as
possible. On March 30, the California Association of Scholars (CAS) sent to the
UC Regents its report entitled “A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect
of Political Activism in the University of California.” The report cited copious
evidence to demonstrate UC’s politicization. Advance copies had been
circulating for two weeks, and reporters had already begun to phone UC
officials for comment.

University
spokesmen resorted to the argument that the report was merely anecdotal.
However, a lengthy, supportive account of the report in the Wall Street Journal
by Peter Berkowitz made that shopworn tactic look rather silly. More importantly,
any reader of the eighty page report itself could easily see that the talking
point was a flagrant lie. This context explains why Benjamin and Beckwith caused
a panic. They proved that CAS’s evidence could not be dismissed.

Leuchter failed
to consider the effect that his ill-considered action would have on Shorter and
his many allies on campus. Though he acted to protect the politicized status
quo from CAS scrutiny, Shorter saw only a restriction of his previously
unlimited freedom to politicize his classroom.

Accordingly, Shorter
and his allies struck back hard. He denied having ever conceding his error,
organized a letter of protest signed by many of his fellow professors, and
appealed to the campus Academic Freedom committee that Leuchter had improperly
bypassed. Dominated by Shorter’s ideological allies, the committee failed to
grasp that Leuchter was only trying to keep CAS at bay. It backed Shorter as a
matter of principle, and now Leuchter’s stratagem had backfired spectacularly.
He thought he had deprived CAS of the evidence of Shorter’s politicized class,
but he had actually provided CAS with the infinitely more important evidence
that Shorter’s politicizing was approved by a large and important segment of
the faculty–exactly what the CAS report had argued. He had shown that
pro-politicization sentiment was rampant among the UCLA faculty.

The university
administration aspires to protect the university, but its conception of “protection”
is extraordinarily shallow. It does not extend to defending the University’s core
value of pursuing integrity in teaching and research. Ultimately, this
administration aims to protect itself against individuals wishing to restore it.
This means avoiding the wrath of faculty radicals who bark at the mere mention
of quality control.

This episode confirms that neither the faculty
nor the administration can be trusted to protect the core values of the
University. That leaves only the Board of Regents, a body with the constitutional
duty to protect both its academic integrity and public reputation. What will it
do?

When Universities Raid Their Law Schools

St._Louis_University_Law_School_in_St._Louis_Missouri.jpg

Earlier this month Annette Clark,
dean of Saint Louis University’s law school, abruptly
resigned
from her job via e-mail after only a year. She left after accusing the Jesuit
university and its president, Rev. Lawrence Biondi, of looting the law school
in order to fund other, non-law-related programs on the Saint Louis campus. 

This
was not the first time that a law dean has quit in a dispute over the
“tax”– the premium that law schools and business schools, which
typically charge higher tuition than other campus programs, must hand over to
their host universities. In July 2011 Philip Closius, dean of the public
University of Baltimore School of Law, quit his job under administration
pressure after asserting that the university kept–and used for its own
purposes–some 45 percent of the revenue that the law school generated from
tuition, fees, and state subsidies. In 2009 De Paul University in Chicago fired
its then-dean, Paul Weissenberger, apparently because Weissenberger complained
to the American Bar Association that De Paul had siphoned off more than the 25
percent of its law school’s revenues that the law school had agreed to
contribute.

Continue reading When Universities Raid Their Law Schools

Student Voices
Obama Comes Out In Favor of Affirmative Action

The Obama Administration filed an amicus
brief
last week advising the Supreme Court to uphold the University of
Texas’ policy of factoring race into admissions decisions.  The related case, Fisher v. University of Texas, is the result of a lawsuit filed by
a white applicant to the institution who was not granted admission, and who
alleges that the policy amounts to racial discrimination.

Officials representing several executive agencies co-signed
the brief, which claims that “The United States has a critical interest in
ensuring that educational institutions are able to provide the educational
benefits of diversity.” The brief also states that higher educational
institutions have a “compelling interest” in promoting diversity, and that this
position is consistent with existing law on the matter.

Despite his insistence
earlier this month that “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president
of the United States of America,” President Obama appears to be stepping up his
attempts to appeal to minority racial groups, including but not limited to
blacks. It was only last month, for instance, that he signed the executive
order creating the White House
Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, as Minding the
Campus reported just over two weeks ago.

Whatever the
strategic significance of these recent moves for the Obama campaign, though, their
political significance–and their significance for college campuses
nationwide–is clear. Speaking as a former aspiring college student who
reluctantly checked the “White/Non-Latino” box on her application, I know there
are many more applicants out there like me–applicants who wonder if the
accident of birth that made their skin light could place dream schools out of reach.

This is an
unacceptable reality, no matter how compelling an interest a college might
imagine it has in racial diversity. After all, rights such as freedom from
racial discrimination in the admissions process are by definition inviolable.
They must be respected regardless of perceived public interests and
preferences.

Further, the
professed goals of affirmative action could be better achieved through policies
that encouraged intellectual, or perhaps even socio-economic, as
opposed to simply racial diversity. These other types of diversity
coincide much more closely with these goals–namely, to create an environment in
which many different perspectives, ideas, and intellectual specialties are
represented. Such policies would also not be vulnerable to the aforementioned
“discrimination” objection, as they would reward and punish applicants not for
their race but their talent. A novel perspective, expertise in an unusual
discipline, or the ability to overcome disadvantage is inherently valuable to
the university community; belonging to a certain race, however, is not. National
policy must recognize that difference.

Investing in Higher Education Will Not Bring Democratic Equality

old-fashioned-school-room.jpgBy Robert Weissberg


America’s
huge investment in higher education has always had a democratic justification: everyone
should be able to attend college because this opportunity would flatten the
social pyramid. Yes, a North Dakota State and Harvard degree differ in
prestige, but at least the North Dakota State graduate can join the game. Put
ideologically, investing in higher education–more schools for more kids–is
egalitarian.

Reality,
it seems, has refused to cooperate. The billions poured into higher education
have not flattened the social pyramid. If
anything, income gaps have widened as graduates from the top schools often earn
“obscene” salaries while those from lesser schools struggle to find decent jobs
to pay down student loan debt. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart depicts an America where the rich and poor increasingly live in diverging worlds. Clearly,
something is wrong with the traditional narrative that insists that a well-
funded, open access higher education for all can ameliorate the evils of
hierarchy.    

Continue reading Investing in Higher Education Will Not Bring Democratic Equality

Obama Doesn’t Understand the Economics of Higher Ed

As if you needed any more proof that the 2012 campaign will fail to take higher education issues seriously, the New York Times reported yesterday that President Obama is using his stops in swing states to assail Mitt Romney for his supposed views on financing college tution. Obama, the article notes, argued that Romney “would cut student loans and grants” but “do nothing to curb the tution increases that threaten to put higher education out of reach of millions of middle class Americans.” This is worse than misleading: it evinces a fundamental ignorance of the economics of higher education education. The “tuition increases” Obama laments are made possible by the federal guarantee of funds through the same “loans and grants” he champions. Therefore, curbing the government’s aid to colleges and universities would undoubtely slow the rate of tuition growth. 

It’s too bad Romney hasn’t seriously proposed anything resembling what Obama claims he’s proposed. We can only hope he does so. He should actually earn the President’s criticism. 

College Insurrection

Today Professor William Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection fame) launched College Insurrection, a new website devoted to higher education. The site, according to Professor Jacobson, will help “conservative/libertarian students…find out what is going on with like-minded students on other campuses, and understand that they are the many, not the few, no matter what they are told.” 

Given our mutual interests, we look forward to working with CI. You should check it out.

College Degrees Aren’t Umbrellas

umbrella_by_blunt.jpg

Why
go to college? Go back fifty years, and the answer commonly given was, “To
become a well-rounded person who has a grasp of our civilization’s history,
science, and art.” Go back about twenty-five years and the answer commonly
given was, “So you’ll be able to get a good job.” And now one authoritative
source is telling us, “Because you’ll be better off when the next recession
hits.”

That source is the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, which recently released its latest study, The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm. Analyzing employment data over our current recession, the study finds that “workers who had completed a four-year college degree or higher were largely protected against job losses….” That leads the authors, Anthony Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Ban Cheah, to conclude:

In
jobs at every skill level and in many different occupations, the
better-educated applicant has the edge. For workers, the findings point the way
to acquiring the skills that the market needs and values. For students and
their parents who are contemplating whether higher education is a good value,
these findings make clear that the answer is a resounding yes.

There are gaping holes in the study’s logic. I have critiqued similar studies from the Georgetown Center before, as have writers like Neal McCluskey and Richard Vedder. Our criticism has centered on the persistent failure of those studies to recognize that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, that is to say, just because people who have college degrees generally fare better in the labor market does not mean that they fare better because they took college courses. Nor does it mean that everyone who obtains a college degree today will derive any advantage from it, much less advantages that outweigh the costs. The new study makes the same mistakes.

Continue reading College Degrees Aren’t Umbrellas

Campaign 2012: Who’s Better for Higher Ed?

white-house-north-2007-dj.jpg

The Atlantic recently declared that the 2012
presidential campaign is “no longer about the economy”; that is to say, given
the dire economic straits in which we still find ourselves, it is surprising
how much attention the candidates are giving to peripheral issues such as
Medicare, welfare, and most importantly for our purposes, student loans. The
article’s premise is disingenuous. After all, the health of our economy very
much depends on the efficiency of these programs. However, it raises an
interesting point for readers of Minding
the Campus
. Why, in such a pivotal election year, have student loans
garnered so much attention?

Continue reading Campaign 2012: Who’s Better for Higher Ed?

Fisher and “Diversity”: The More Things Change…

Browsing through the collection of over
70 pro-“diversity” amicus briefs
submitted on behalf of the University of
Texas in the Fisher case, I am reminded, as I often am, of how eerily
the current defense of “taking race into account,” i.e., preferential treatment
based on race, resembles the old Southern arguments in defense of segregation.

As I have
pointed
out
on my blog a number
of times,
one of the oddest, saddest things about contemporary liberalism is the degree
to which it stands on the shoulders, and repeats the arguments, of dead
racists. Anyone, for example, who defends racial preferences must reject
Justice John Marshall Harlan’s stirring comment in Plessy that
“our Constitution is colorblind” and agree with the majority’s holding that the
14th Amendment does not require colorblindness and hence that racial
discrimination can in many circumstances be reasonable and hence
constitutional.

Opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
in 2006 (before he was convicted
and sent to prison
for fraud and corruption), Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick declared
to applause in a speech to the NAACP, “We will affirm to the world that
affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow and there will
be affirmative action in the state forever.” Kilpatrick unwittingly channeled
George Wallace’s 1963 acceptance
speech
as Governor of Alabama: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the
gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say . . . segregation today . . .
segregation tomorrow . . .segregation forever!”

One of the most famous documents in the
South’s massive resistance to school integration was the “Southern
Manifesto
” of 1956, signed by 19 Senators and 77 Representatives, defending
states’ rights and criticizing the Supreme Court for overturning settled law.
To demonstrate how closely its arguments resemble current defenses of
preferential admissions I once posted a version of
that document
substituting “diversity” or “racial preferences” for
“segregation.” It is an uncanny fit. The Southerners argued, for example, that
“the ‘separate but equal’ principle [substitute: the amount of diversity and
the means of achieving it
] is within the discretion of the state in
regulating its public schools and does not conflict with the Fourteenth
Amendment.”

The Jackson Clarion Ledger quoted a spokesman for the Mississippi
Attorney General’s office explaining that representatives from that state had
“signed on … in the interest of fighting to allow our universities to set their
own admission policies without unnecessary interference or second-guessing by
federal courts.” In a closely related legal document  Mississippi joined
several other states in asserting that “states must have the freedom and
flexibility to create strong institutions tailored to the needs of each
particular State and its citizens” and urging the Court “to reject petitioner’s
invitation to … destabilize the careful judgments that each State has made in
light of the conditions and needs facing its own particular institutions of
higher learning.”
 

The petitioner referred to above is actually
Abigail Fisher, and the attorney general’s spokesman is actually referring to
the amicus
brief
Mississippi joined with New York, North Carolina and several other
states defending the University of Texas’s admitting some applicants and
rejecting others based on their race and ethnicity.
 

Mississippi, still defending racial
discrimination. The more things change….

An Appeal for For-Profit Education

I chair the Governing Board at Grantham University in Kansas City, Missouri, an on-line, for-profit institution. Grantham diverges from Congress’ caricature of for-profits. More than ninety percent of its students have a military background; in fact, most of these students remain in active service as they pursue their degrees. Most are also first generation college enrollers. The average age of the student population is thirty and a disproportionate number are African-American or Hispanic.                                                                               

One might assume – as many in the Congress do – that Grantham is a “matchbook cover” institution offering undemanding programs and disdain for academic integrity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Though standards for admission are not up to the Ivy League’s requirements, the exit requirements are rigorous. Of course, not every student thrives. However, after considering high school grades and SAT scores, students’ success rates defy expectations.         

At last year’s Grantham commencement I observed families crying uncontrollably as their loved ones rose to accept diplomas. This wasn’t like any graduation I experienced in my 35 year academic career. Children, parents and grandparents participated in a poignant scene. For most of those present, their for-profit degree represented a pathway to a promising future.                     

There is yet another good reason to support for-profit education. Non-profit universities tend to ignore sound business practices because demand for their degrees has been inelastic. Therefore, university officials have no concept of efficiency. Having been a professor and dean at a private institution, I can confirm the existence of widespread waste, duplication, and inordinate expense on student entertainment. Higher tuition has not adversely affected student enrollment; hence, the price of college tends to be arbitrary.    

While it is true that for-profit institutions might prioritize profit over quality education, profit isn’t a dirty word when it imposes restraints on non-essential spending. For-profits’ responsibility to stockholders means that lavish, unnecessary expenditures are unacceptable. Accordingly, for-profits don’t offer the amenities that increase student satisfaction but have little impact on student success. Unlike their spendthrift peers in the non-profit world, for-profits have no sports teams, bowling alleys, or student lounges.            

If one were to establish a university de novo one wouldn’t invest in bricks and mortar. It is not coincidental that Governors’ University, organized by the governors of western states, is an on-line program. With the nominal cost of higher education beyond the reach of average income earners and explosion of student debt, on-line education will become an increasingly attractive option for both the consumers and producers of higher education. Even elite private institutions are already offering a full array of online courses.

Stereotypes die hard, so it will undoubtedly take a crisis for meaningful change to occur. With the college tuition bubble about to burst, that crisis is just over the horizon. In short order, the for-profit, on-line institution will look like a reasonable educational alternative for students, parents, and politicians who have thrown vast sums at traditional institutions of higher learning.

Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

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When
critics of higher education complain about a lack of “intellectual diversity,”
mostly what they deplore is the shortage of conservative professors. But there
is much more at stake than that.

Consider
climate change:  As I write this, parts
of the nation have endured sweltering heat, serious drought, and treacherous
storms, at one point leaving millions of people without electricity for
days.  The invocation of “climate change”
as the “cause” of more violent and extreme weather, worse forest fires and
flooding, indeed, of a host of calamities, has been used to assign culpability
to the whole human race, mimicking what irritates defenders of evolution about
the claimants of creation science, that debunking evolutionary theory is an
underhanded way of insinuating religious belief and its claims about the fallen
state of humanity.

It
turns out the wholesale secular embrace of science insinuates its own range of
pious beliefs.  Climate theory pretends
both to the throne of reason and to public policies dictated as if they were
royal decrees.  To question a royal
decree in this case is construed as treason again reason.  But how did reason come to rely more on a
consensus of belief than skepticism about such grand causal claims?  Unlike creation science, the advocates of
social engineering who believe that science is equivalent to policy intimidate
all doubters.  The absence of intellectual
diversity is detrimental to public policy debate, not to mention how the
stranglehold of environmentalism in colleges and universities also steers any
debate toward predetermined conclusions. 
Here the challenge becomes disentangling the science of climate change
from the policies that should follow from that science.

Continue reading Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

Can We or Can’t We ‘Target’ Women and Minorities?

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Why is it admirable to “target” women and minorities for some educational programs but a violation of federal civil right laws to “target” them in others?          

That’s the question that must be asked about a federal lawsuit filed by seven Mississippi women, five of them African-American, against for-profit Virginia College, a chain of 25 for-profit campuses in the Southeast.  All seven women used federal student loans at the college’s Jackson, Mississippi, campus to obtain degrees in such fields as medical assisting and phlebotomy. Their complaint against Virginia and its parent company, Educational Corp. of America, says those degrees are now worthless. It charges fraud and breach of contract along with other wrongdoing, and faults the college for pitching its advertising and recruitment to blacks and women.

Continue reading Can We or Can’t We ‘Target’ Women and Minorities?

Student Voices
Ryan’s Plan is Good for Higher Ed

Now that Paul Ryan has joined the Republican ticket, it’s worth considering how his much-discussed budget changes higher education.

Ryan wants to cap the maximum amount of Pell Grant awards at the current level of $5,550, eliminating the automatic increase according to inflation. Ryan would also shore up the eligibility requirements, adding a maximum income cap (leaving undefined exactly where that cap would begin) and excluding students who attend school less than part-time. On the Federal Student loan front, Ryan proposes ending federally-subsidized loans, wherein the government pays the interest on behalf of students. Instead, students could take out unsubsidized federal loans and pay an interest rate of 6.8%, giving them an immediate, healthy financial stake in their own education.

Ryan’s plan follows the logic of the Bennett Hypothesis. Developed by former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, for whom Ryan worked as a speechwriter, it states that though federal subsidization of higher education aims to reduce tution, easy access to federal money actually increases it. Federal money increases students’ ability to pay and, subsequently, their demand for higher education, which raises the price of college education. Colleges, confident that federal money will cushion any tuition increase, can artificially increase tuition in an attempt to capture some of that federal money.

The problem is especially evident when middle class students who could afford college education without aid receive it nonetheless. Colleges desire to capture both the federal aid money and the initial amount these students can afford to pay. Ryan would reduce federal aid primarily for these students. Therefore, in contrast to President Obama’s promise to lower the cost of education by increasing Pell Grants and preventing Federal Student loan interest rate increases, Ryan’s plan could indeed cut back on the source of artificial tuition increases and contribute to the sustainability of the higher education market.

For himself, Romney has been largely quiet on higher education, though his white paper “A Chance for Every Child” does acknowledge that “a flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition.” His remedies are nonspecific: “simplify the financial aid system,” “welcome private sector participation” in the student loan market, and “replace burdensome regulation with innovation and competition.” While Romney has already made it clear that his campaign runs on his budget plan, not on Ryan’s, Romney could benefit from the hard numbers and policy prescriptions that Ryan’s plan affords.

________________________________________________________________________________

Rachelle DeJong is a rising senior at The King’s College and an intern at Minding the Campus.

UCLA Offers Low-Cost College for Leftist Illegals

How to attend UCLA on the cheap? Be an illegal immigrant. Actually, be a leftist illegal immigrant. 
UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the union-subsidized National Labor College in Maryland have teamed up to establish “National Dream University” for the undocumented. The tuition is low: just $65 per credit hour, in contrast to $396 per credit hour that California residents pay for regular classes at the UCLA. The admissions standards are easygoing: a 2.7 grade-point average in high school or elsewhere. Contrast that to the highly competitive UCLA, where 70 percent of entering freshmen this fall have grade-point averages of 3.7 and higher, and 50 percent of entering freshman have at least 4.0 averages.
There is one proviso: Unless your political views are sufficiently progressive, you won’t be admitted to NDU. According to NDU’s website, all applicants must “demonstrate a commitment to immigrant/labor rights and social justice.” Yes, unlike regular UCLA, National Dream has an ideological litmus test for admission. No College Republicans at National Dream!
            
NDU now offers a limited program of six courses that add up to a one-year, 18-credit-hour certificate and hopes to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in the future. About 35 students in total are expected to enroll in the program starting in January 2013. All six courses will be taught online, with mandatory visits to both the National Labor College and UCLA. UCLA professors will teach five of the courses and National Labor Center’s campus in Silver Spring, Maryland will teach the sixth at $270 per credit hour. The course titles are what one might expect from an unabashedly leftist institution: “Immigrant Rights, Labor and Higher Education,” “Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class and U.S. Labor,” and so forth. The National Dream website promises to offer the undocumented “the opportunity to learn from influential Civil Rights leaders like Reverend James Lawson and Tom Hayden, Immigrant Youth Movement leaders, and academics and scholars from across the country.” 
           
An Aug. 1 article in the Huffington Post headlined “Dream Act College” stated–incorrectly, as it turns out–that credits earned at National Dream could be automatically transferred to UCLA proper — UCLA administrators have been trying to back off from any implication that illegal immigrants can obtain University of California degrees at a lower total cost and via easier admissions standards than citizens and legal residents. The Breitbart Report calculated that students who transfer all 18 National Dream credits to UCLA can wind up paying $4,728 less than the $7,128 California residents will pay for 18 credit hours earned on campus this academic year. A recent statement from UCLA declares that transfers of credits are not automatic, and that the credits must come from a regionally accredited institution. But since the National Labor College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the UCLA administration didn’t exactly rule out such transfers.
You might be asking to what extent California taxpayers might be picking up the tab for the UCLA Center for Labor Research’s public-service adventures in discounted college for  the undocumented, especially given the UC system’s chronic budget woes and budget cutbacks these days. The answer is: substantially. In 2007 California put an end to several decades of direct funding for the Center for Labor Research and its parent academic department, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Now, the UC system itself (which translates at least in part to taxpayers) pays some of the $2.6 million or so annual budget for the Institute (and the Center), according to Breitbart, aided by hefty contributions from unions, such left-leaning philanthropies as the Ford Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and the city of Los Angeles, which donated $50,000 to the Institute in 2010. UCLA might be trying to distance itself from NDU. But as a public institution supported by hefty public subsidies, it can’t escape responsibility for the fact that one of its own centers staffed by its own professors is offering advocacy courses to illegal immigrants chosen on the basis of political ideology, not academic merit. 

The Anti-Defamation League Reverses Course on Affirmative Action

In explaining why the American Jewish Committee had (with his help) supported Alan Bakke’s lawsuit against the University of California but also supported the University of Michigan’s racial preferences in Gratz and Grutter, Alan Dershowitz wrote that

We feared that our hard-earned right to be admitted on the merits would be taken away. The WASP quotient would be held constant, and the Jews and African Americans would be left to fight over the crumbs. What happened is that Jews have become the WASPs. They are among the dominant groups on campus, in terms of numbers.

Three of the most influential Jewish organizations — The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League — opposed preferences based on race in Bakke. In fact, according to a detailed summary of the brief they filed jointly, the two AJCs went much further and even opposed all classifications based on race, calling them “presumptively invalid because of their irrelevant and invidious nature.”  The Anti-Defamation League filed its own brief in Bakke, which was equally strong: it insisted that “a difference in race cannot be an appropriate justification for different treatment by the state.”

By 2002 both the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, perhaps fearful of straining black-Jewish relations, abandoned their Bakke-era principles and supported the University of Michigan’s use of race preferences.  However, the ADL maintained that “people should not be judged by skin color, and any use of race in admissions is unconstitutional.” 

“What we want is society to be as colorblind as possible,” National Director Abe Foxman insisted to the Jewish Daily Forward, “and therefore to use [race] for good purposes we believe is as unconstitutional as using it for bad purposes, especially if there are other ways to achieve the goal of diversity.” For example, he said, “the ADL supports Texas’s policy of guaranteeing the top 10% of each high school’s graduating class admission to the state university of their choice to promote diversity in lieu of racial preferences.”

Last Friday, however, the ADL abandoned its “principled position” and filed a brief supporting the University of Texas’s open-ended use of “race-based criteria.” Swallowing the same “holistic” race preference Kool-aid to which the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress had been addicted since Grutter, Foxman, still National Director of ADL, and Robert Sugarman, its National Chair, issued a statement revealing their belief that “diversity,” not non-discrimination, is “critically important.”  

The University of Texas’ approach does not impose quotas, assign people to categories based on their race, or use race as a determinative factor in making admissions decisions.  Rather, it uses race as only one factor in a holistic review of each applicant. This is not an overt or a covert quota system, which ADL would have opposed.

Thoroughly jettisoning its formerly “principled” opposition to “any use of race in admissions,” the ADL now opposes only “quotas, assigning persons to categories based on their race, or using race as a determinative factor in making admissions decisions” [emphasis added]. I wonder what Foxman et al. will say when religion is considered “as only one factor,” and not a “determinative” one, in efforts to diversify departments, faculties, and professions in which Jews are “overrepresented.” They certainly can have no principled objection to taking religion into account in admission and hiring.

Surprise! Faculty Money Goes to Dems

This week featured some interesting political news regarding campaign contributions: confirming the partisan shift on Wall Street, Business Week revealed that around 70 percent of Goldman Sachs employees who have donated to this year’s presidential campaign send funds to Mitt Romney. The contrast to 2008, when about 75 percent who made contributions had donated to Barack Obama’s campaign, confirmed the deteriorating relationship between the President and Wall Street.

Another story dealing with campaign contributions, however, attracted scant notice. A study from Virginia Watchdog showed that professors at public colleges and universities in Virginia (one of the two or three most important states in the election) have donated over $100,000 to President Obama’s campaign, as opposed to around $11,000 to Mitt Romney’s. Among professors at the system’s flagship campus, the University of Virginia, the disparity is $62,000-to-$2,000. The totals were similar at public universities in other battleground states.

As with the yawning gap in partisan registration among the professoriate, disparities in campaign contributions are, at best, a crude measurement to determine the intellectual health of a campus. (Full disclosure: I was an Obama donor in 2008 and am again, at a lower level, in 2012.) It’s possible, for instance, that a military historian might be a major donor to the Green Party, while his colleague in African-American history might have just cut a check to the Romney campaign. But in the real world, the number of GOP backers who get jobs in African-American history is small indeed. And the partisan/donor disparities, at the very least, should prompt administrators and–especially–trustees to ask some hard questions as to whether open or implicit biases in the personnel process are encouraging a closed-minded campus, while excluding other areas of study that might challenge the politically correct.

When confronted with indications of gender or racial disparities, universities certainly go to great lengths. Indeed, as John Rosenberg pointed out in his analysis of the University of Texas’ filing in the Fisher case, universities all but invent reasons to address such disparities, real or imagined.

But with this data? Indifference. Bronson Hilliard, spokesperson for the University of Colorado (where the donations disparity was 6-to-1), told Colorado Watchdog, “Few meaningful generalizations can be drawn from this (data). A lot of people in higher education are Democrats. A lot of bankers, financiers, and business leaders are Republicans. That doesn’t mean that all academics are incapable of interacting fairly with those who don’t agree with them politically any more than it means Republicans in the financial world aren’t capable of being fair to their Democrat[ic] customers and clients.”

The comparison, of course, is absurd. “Republicans in the financial world”–and, it’s worth noting, 70 percent of Goldman Sachs donations in 2008 went to the Democratic presidential candidate–are “capable of being fair to their Democrat[ic] customers and clients” because these “customers and clients” are paying the “Republicans in the financial world” lots of money. A banker who doesn’t treat his customers fairly will soon be a lot less wealthy. The same, of course, can’t be said of professors. Indeed, to take the most extreme example (Joseph Massad), an argument could be made that not treating his students fairly helped his career, to the extent that Columbia gave him a second shot for tenure following the media outcry caused by his dubious classroom behavior.

More to the point: what kind of threshold is Spokesperson Hilliard using? As long as professors don’t mistreat students, outsiders aren’t supposed to inquire any further into the data? That’s an embarrassingly low criterion for analysis.

Washington Tries to Intimidate the Schools

If African American students are disciplined in schools at a
higher rate than are white students, the obvious reason is that African
American students commit a disproportionate number of infractions.  Not
according to “disparate impact” (or “disparate outcomes”) thinking, however.
 Any time one sees significant gaps in black and white treatments or
results–suspensions, test scores, AP enrollments, etc.–racism is at work, it
says.  Either the teachers and administrators are consciously or
unconsciously prejudiced, or the culture of the curriculum and school is
contrary to the culture of black students, or embedded in the institution,
somehow or some way, are biased elements that subtly discriminate
(“institutional racism”).  The etiology of disparate impacts, though,
doesn’t matter.  This is the power of the approach.  It takes the
racial gap itself as evidence sufficient to prove the allegation.  When a
disparate impact surfaces, one doesn’t have to uncover actual cases of willful
discrimination such as a teacher who jumps on black students for the slightest
misdeeds while letting white students do the same without reproving them.
 No, the bare fact of racial gap is enough to convict the school district
of bias.

Heather Macdonald’s essay in City
Journal
, “Undisciplined: The Obama Administration undermines classroom
order in pursuit of phantom racism,” outlines the consequence when the Federal
government adopts disparate impact thinking.  Noting that just about every
school district in the United States disciplines black and Hispanic students
disproportionately, she reports, the Obama Education and Justice departments
have launched a campaign of intimidation and coercion against school systems
scattered around the country.

The approach often turns Orwellian.  When Federal officials investigate a
school, Macdonald finds, “They have refused to disclose to the school districts
under scrutiny why they have aroused suspicion.”  Being scrupulously fair
and equal is no defense for the schools either, for “even if a school applies
its discipline code fairly and in a color-blind fashion, it can still be liable
for civil rights violations if minorities are disproportionately affected and
it cannot demonstrate the absolute necessity of its disciplinary practices.”
 Suspected school systems must undergo costly “cultural-proficiency
training” and “anti-suspension behavioral-modification programs,” face
lawsuits, and hire experts and consultants.  More effectively (and
damagingly to the students themselves), schools simply lower the behavior bar
for black and Hispanic students, thereby closing the disciplinary gap (and
elevating classroom chaos).

The Obama Administration regards the problem so gravely that in a March 2010
speech Education Secretary Arne Duncan compared it to
that day in Selma, 1965
, when civil rights marchers were savaged by state
police. But last month when President Obama announced in a speech before the
Urban League the new White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for
African Americans, he didn’t even mention it.  When justifying the
Initiative, the President didn’t talk about the culture of black teens, nor did
he cite the number of them with no father in the home, high truancy and dropout
rates, and anti-intellectual and violent social and street lives.
 Instead, he cited unaffordable college tuition, inadequate “access to a
complete and competitive education,” and too much fun “(Obama lists ‘hanging
out . . . getting over . . . playing video games . . . watching ‘Real
Housewives'”).  Nothing on real or imagined misbehavior or dereliction by
black students, or on their social conditions such as astronomical rates of
illegitimacy (70 percent).  In Obama’s rendition, what hinders academic
excellence for African American students is either financial circumstances or
ordinary youthfulness (too much TV, not enough homework).

Given the enormous racial gaps in social conditions (illegitimacy among whites
is less than half the black rate), we may make a sure prediction.  It
won’t be long before the White House Initiative becomes one more Federal office
captivated by racism issues and disparate-impact thinking.  President
Obama didn’t put it that way–he wanted to be positive and genial–and the
promise to the Urban League was but another version of Democratic “clientism.”
 You get out the vote for me in November, he promised this 100-year-old
African American advocacy group, and I’ll steer more White House resources your
way.  But the ostensible mission of the Initiative won’t endure, for the
problems of African American students are not primarily of access and money.
 They stem, first, from family and culture.  When the Office finds
that its “academic excellence” emphasis doesn’t have much effect, it will
likely turns its resources to hunting down discrimination, and disparate-impact
allegations offer a ready and powerful weapon.

Big Troubles Ahead for Online Learning

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I
recently wrote here about the unwarranted optimism that the dawn of distance
learning brought to higher education in the 1990s. That trip down memory lane
might–and probably should–throw cold water on the enthusiasm about online
education today. Arguably, the troubles with online education now are no
different from those of the old distance learning approach, beginning with the
fact that virtual instruction is still a far more costly proposition than most
people suppose.

To be sure, employing the Internet as a
transmission medium eliminates a bevy of costs associated with 1990s-style
distance education, but these were just the tip of the iceberg. Still required
are expensive and dedicated broadcast facilities, trained technicians, and
camera operators. To the former costs, we must add those of programming,
maintaining, and securing a school’s online presence at a level comparable to a
leading e-commerce site. Worse, today’s “customers” are the product of an
entertainment media explosion that has heightened their expectations of
hypermedia quality. Most universities do not possess the needed expertise – and
it doesn’t come cheap. 

Continue reading Big Troubles Ahead for Online Learning

Texas: Racial Preferences Now, Racial Preferences Forever!

The
University of Texas has filed its main brief
in Fisher v. University of Texas, and it’s a doozy. It argues, among
other oddities,

  • that
    the continuing “underrepresentation” of blacks and Hispanics requires the
    continued use of racial preferences to increase their numbers, but that the
    reason for increasing their numbers has nothing to do with increasing their
    numbers; it is necessary only because the “diversity” they provide is essential
    for the “acquisition of competencies required of future leaders”;
  • that
    assessing “the educational benefits flowing from student body diversity” might
    seem “amorphous,” but “trained educators” are competent to do so and courts
    should defer to their expertise;
  • that
    because Texas has no specific “race-based target” it should be allowed
    virtually unlimited latitude to give as much weight to race as it chooses;
  • that
    race-based preferences are necessary to combat racial stereotypes, presumably
    including the stereotype that minorities are incapable of succeeding without
    race-based preferences;
  • that
    not only is it too soon to limit or overturn Grutter; it will always be
    too soon because there are still “thousands of classes” where blacks and
    Hispanics are “nearly non-existent” and “diversity” is required not just
    institution-wide but in all classes.

I
discuss these and other aspects of the brief in more detail here.

No Conservatives, Please–We’re Colleges

Over
the past several years, a number of studies have shown that registered
Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans in the academy, or in particular
academic departments (history, for instance) that would seem to have no reason
to have wide partisan imbalances.
 

Invariably,
the most interesting thing about these studies is not the finding itself–which,
after all, is a very crude measurement of ideological balance at any school–but
instead how academic defenders of the status quo have defended the figures. In
2004, for instance, after a Duke Conservative Union study, Duke’s then-Philosophy
chairman, Robert Brandon, justified the school’s partisan imbalance on the
following grounds: “We try to hire the best,
smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are
generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire
. . .
Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of
the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in
academia.” Substitute “black” for “conservative” and imagine the on-campus
reaction that Brandon’s absurd words would have generated.

After
another study showed that University of
Iowa’s History Department didn’t even have one registered Republican, the
department’s then-chairman, Colin Gordon,
attributed the disparity to the fact that “about two thirds of Johnson County
are Democrats”–as if 67 percent equals 100 percent, and as if all of the
applicants for jobs in Iowa’s History Department came from Johnson County, Iowa. Gordon
added that “
the UI policy says not to discriminate; it does not
say we should be going out and getting diversity.” Imagine the outrage if a
major university’s History Department had only white males, and the
department’s chairman responded by remarking that men outnumbered women in the
school’s home county, and in any case the university’s policy “does not say we
should be going out and getting diversity.”

In both the Iowa and Duke cases, the defenders of the
academic status quo essentially proved the critics’ case. The partisan
disparities, in and of themselves, didn’t prove that the Duke or Iowa hiring
processes were necessarily flawed. But no reasonable observer could expect an
open Republican or conservative to be fairly treated by departments in which
figures like Gordon or Brandon played key roles. And–at least based on their
pedagogical approaches to their fields–Gordon and Brandon are what pass for
moderates in the contemporary academy.


Those
reactions are worth keeping in mind in light of a recent article about a study
conducted by Dutch psychologists Yoel Inbar and
Joris Lammers. The duo measured not partisan affiliation but ideological
biases, and found that more than one-third of professors they examined admitted
they’d be less likely to hire the conservative when “
asked whether, in
choosing between two equally qualified job candidates for one job opening, they
would be inclined to vote for the more liberal candidate (i.e., over the
conservative).”

 

It’s hard to imagine
how anyone could offer any sort of rationalization for these findings. But in
the tradition of Robert Brandon and Colin Gordon, Massimo Pigliucci, chairman
of Lehman College’s philosophy department, does so. The Washington Times paraphrases Pigliucci’s argument: “The problem is
not that conservatives face discrimination; it’s that any hint of political
bias, whether conservative or liberal, necessarily flouts the standards of
objectivity to which scholarship must adhere.”


The
article continues, “‘It is to be expected that people would reject papers and
grant proposals that smacked of clear ideological bias,’ he says. 
Inbar and
Lammers, he says, should have examined the extent of bias against
liberal-leaning papers and grant proposals. If the degree of bias against liberals
and conservatives is similar, maybe the data on discrimination against
conservatives would not be so alarming after all.”


Beyond the
obvious–the Inbar/Lemmers study dealt with the hiring process, not grant
proposals–Pigliucci’s analysis makes no sense. The study was premised on a
question of whether professors would be “inclined to vote for the more liberal
candidate.” In short, the study did exactly what Pigliucci said it should have
done: it asked whether professors would differentiate between two equally
situated candidates, if the professors knew that one candidate was liberal and
the other conservative.


An illogical
response, I suppose, is all that can be used to rationalize indefensible
academic behavior.