All posts by John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding The Campus, dedicated to chronicling developments within higher education in an effort to restore balance and intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years, and was syndicated to 140 newspapers through the Universal Press Syndicate.

Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler’s e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site, contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.

Continue reading Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler’s e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site, contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.

Continue reading Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Distressingly Few Conservative Profs

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has a long and excellent article on the Gross-Simmons study on the political and social views of professors, as well as on the Harvard symposium last Saturday that discussed the findings. The study concluded that the professoriate is more moderate than many believe, with younger instructors less activist and less liberal than older ones, though there has been no rise in the percentage of conservatives (I discussed this study here on October 10th.)

If you are pressed for time and have already read an account of the Gross-Simmons conclusions, skip down to the second half of the Jaschik report, which features comments by Harvard’s former president Lawrence Summers and other faculty members. Summers says the percentage of conservative professors is distressingly small, but thinks it would be “extraordinarily unwise and dangerous” to try forcing more balance in hiring.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a historian at New York University, said the experience of growing up in the 80s and 90s amid the rise of the political right has had a profound effect on professors, including an “erosion of faith in citizens.” He said, “the story we need to tell is about the alienation of professors from the publics.” At the end of the Jaschik report is a collection of unusually interesting reader comments on Gross-Simmons and the issues it raises.

Are Conservatives Like Black Major Leaguers?

At the Saturday conference on the Gross-Simmons study, Lawrence Summers compared the meager number of conservative professors to the startling decline in the number of black players in major league baseball (now down to 8.4 percent). Blacks are well-represented among the best players, “but it appeared that there were not any African-American .250 hitters.” Alas, the implication here – that baseball deliberately cuts the percentage of blacks by discriminating against all but the best African-Americans – is wrong. The main reason for black decline is the structure of the amateur draft. Since the draft does not apply to foreign-born players, teams can circumvent the draft by aggressively seeking promising players outside the U.S., most commonly in Caribbean countries. Every major league team now has a training camp in the Dominican Republic. Vince Gennaro, a consultant to many major league teams, says the international market “is the place where the high-revenue teams can leverage their economic advantage.” Another factor is that the draft has shifted sharply toward players in college, where there are fewer blacks and a dwindling number of athletic scholarships. Polls also show that black youths are much less interested in baseball than they are in basketball and football. One reason may be that black culture puts a high premium on improvisation (jazz, hip hop, the transformation of modern basketball). Baseball may be the sport most resistant to improvisation.

Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

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

Other findings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

No Free Speech, Please – This is Columbia

Ann Coulter seems to be the first writer to guffaw over Lee Bollinger’s statement that Columbia University has a “long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate…” There is no such tradition, and very little debate at Columbia, particularly if one of the proposed debaters or speakers happens to be conservative.
Last October, Columbia radicals stormed a campus stage, knocking over furniture, creating pandemonium and preventing speeches by Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist and a colleague. Nobody seemed very upset about this, least of all Lee Bollinger, who issued a tiny bleat about free speech before referring the issue to a committee where it languished for three months. Awakening briefly on Christmas weekend, the committee administered an undescribed slap on the wrist to an unknown number of unidentified members of the censoring rabble and there the matter ended.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), now the most powerful free-speech watchdog in the country, dismissed Bollinger’s “say-one-thing-do-another-act” and noted that Columbia “has a long and distinguished record of suppression of free speech.” Mayor Bloomberg echoed the thought, urging Bollinger to get his arms around the problem, because “There are too many incidents at the same school where people get censored.”

Several people, myself included, suggested that if Bollinger is as interested in free speech as he keeps saying he is, then he should reschedule the Minutemen and introduce them himself, with enough security around to discourage the reappearance of last year’s stormtroopers in training.

A few weeks ago, it looked as though Columbia was about to make a rare lurch in the direction of free speech. Students re-invited the two Minutemen, but after these proposed speakers bought plane tickets, Columbia’s pro-censorship DNA re-asserted itself and the two men were once again disinvited. Not a peep out of Bollinger.

One of Columbia’s favorite tricks is to cancel a speaker, or reduce the size of the audience, on grounds that violence might break out. Last fall most of a large crowd that gathered to hear former PLO terrorist-turned-anti-Jihadist Walid Shoebat was turned away over securities worries. Only Columbia students and 20 guests got in. The same thing happened to Dinesh D’Souza, myself and several other speakers in 1999. A large crowd, including many from other New York campuses, had tickets, but the administration (this was a pre-Bollinger year) ruled that only Columbia students could attend. This was not the deal that had been agreed on, but Columbia was adamant. Rather than speak to a tiny remnant on campus, the speakers withdrew to a park nearby. As I spoke, one student shouted “Ha-ha. We’re inside. You’re out here,” an excellent six-word explanation of how Columbia’s robust free-speech tradition actually works.

The 32 Worst

K C Johnson, on his web site Durham-in-Wonderland, has written about 850,000 words over the past 18 months on the Duke lacrosse scandal. It has been an astonishing, brilliant effort -graceful, accurate, penetrating and fair. Because of the terrible performance of the mainstream press, Johnson’s blogging quickly became the gold standard of reporting on the case. As one blogger said last January, nobody would think of writing about the subject without checking with KC first. If bloggers were eligible for the Pulitzer Prize, Johnson would have won hands down. (Asterisk here: of course those voting for the Pulitzers represent the papers that failed so miserably in covering the non-rape case.)

Every now and then, Johnson supplies a list of worst performances, such as the ten worst columns or the ten worst editorials on the case. Now he has produced, over three days, his list of the 32 worst statements made by anyone.

Wendy Murphy, an adjunct law professor and an unsually appalling talking head for MSNBC, surprised many of us by making the list only twice, getting as high an Number 11 for saying “I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.” (Several winners assumed guilt and speculated on why the accused were such monsters.) Another surprise is that New York Times writers achieved only two listings – one by sports columnist Selena Roberts, the other by the worst of all reporters to cover the case, sportswriter Duff Wilson.

Rabid professor Grant Farred (Number 5) argued that white Duke students who registered to vote in Durham were engaged in “secret racism,” because the X made by voters on the ballot is “the sign of the white male franchise, itself overridden with the mark of privilege, oppression, slavery, racism, utter contempt for black and native bodies.”

Michael Nifong accounted for 8 of the 32 listings., including Number 1: “If I were one of those (defense) attorneys, I wouldn’t really want to try a case against me either.” Johnson may have been unfair to include Nifong in the competition. Expecting amateur quotemongers to compete with a pro like Nifong is like telling a Little Leaguer to go strike out Babe Ruth.

Number 2 was the always-wrong Duke president Richard Brodhead, who said a month after the story broke: “If (Finnerty and Seligmann) did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.” Johnson comments: “We know now that ‘whatever’ Finnerty and Seligmann did: they attended a party they had no role in organizing and they drank some beer.”

Johnson is, of course, co-author of the brilliant new book on the case, Until Proven Innocent co-written with Stuart Taylor, Jr., one of the best columnists and legal writers in the country. To order the book, go to Amazon and be patient – the publisher has been slow in supplying more copies.

Give Everyone A “D”

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute released its second annual survey of civic awareness among American college students, and the results are just as depressing as last year’s. “The average college senior know astoundingly little about America’s history, government, international relations and market economy,” according to the ISI report, “Failing Our Students, Failing America.”

Harvard seniors scored a “D+” average on a 60-question multiple choice exam. That was the highest school score among seniors at 50 colleges surveyed – 25 elite universities and 25 other randomly selected schools. Some 14,000 freshmen and seniors took the test.

Among the questions were these:

The line “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal..” is from
A. the Federalist
B. the preamble to the Constitution
C. the Communist Manifesto
D. the Declaration of Independence
E. an inscription on the Statue of Liberty
The dominant theme of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was:
A. treatment of Native Americans,
B. westward expansion
C. whether Illinois should become a state
D. Prohibition
E. slavery and its expansion
The Constitution of the United States established what form of government:
A. direct democracy
B. populism
C. indirect democracy
D. oligarchy
E. aristocracy

The survey, conducted by the University of Connecticut’s department of public policy, generally found that the higher a college was listed in US. News & World Report rankings, the lower it ranked in civic learning. At the eight worst-performing colleges-including Cornell, Yale, Duke, Berkeley and Princeton, the average senior did worse than the average freshmen, an example of what the report calls “negative learning.” The worst-performing college, Cornell, the report said, “works like a giant amnesia machine, where students forget what they once knew.” Only 28 percent of Cornell seniors knew or guessed that the Monroe Doctrine discouraged new colonies in the Western Hemisphere.

The ten colleges where civic knowledge increased from freshman to senior year were mostly lesser-known institutions: Eastern Connecticut State, Marian College, Murray State, Concordia, St. Cloud State, Mississippi State, Pfeiffer, Illinois State, Iowa State and the University of Mississippi.

Surveyed colleges ranked by Barron’s imparted only about one-third the civic learning of colleges overlooked by Barron’s.
One reason why civic knowledge lags is the trend away from teaching dates and factors in general, in favor of analysis, trends and a student’s personalized take on the past. And with the rise of postmodern theory and cultural relativism, many students have been taught to scorn the traditional values of the west – equality, freedom, democracy, human rights – as masks for the self-interest of the rich and powerful. If follows from this view that history, particularly American history, is mostly propaganda inflicted on the young.

ISI asks: “Is American higher education doing its duty to prepare the next generation to maintain our legacy of liberty?” The answer in the report is no. In 1896, at Princeton’s 150th anniversary, Woodrow Wilson argued that a central purpose of higher education is to develop citizens capable of steering the nation into the future because they have a steady grip on the past. “The college should serve the state as its organ of recollection, its seat of vital memory,” he said. But in the survey, Princeton ranked as the fifth-worst school for civic learning. And most of the other 49 schools weren’t much better.

After Summers Comes The Fall

So former Harvard president Lawrence Summers is once again paying for his sins, this time having a dinner speech canceled by the board of regents of the University of California. The regents caved because feminists circulated a petition announcing that Summers “has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia.”

This is the most devastating charge that can be leveled in a university setting, since the modern campus is deeply obsessed by race and gender, and not much else, apart from canceling speakers who think improper thoughts about race and gender.

“None of us go looking for a fight,” said University of California (Davis) professor Maureen Stanton, a leader in the effort to get Summers banned. “We were just deeply offended.” This is a sensitive person’s veto – if you are likely to hurt our feelings, why should we let you speak?

Stanton, an evolutionary ecologist, must understand what happens when politics intrudes on science. But intrusion sometimes comes from the left, as it did when feminists denounced Summers for his brief reference to research on sexual differences in the famous Harvard controversy of 2005.

Columnist Stuart Taylor, Jr, wrote at the time, “Until his disgraceful capitulation to the power of political correctness, Summers was making a much-needed effort to break the self-serving feminist-careerist stranglehold on honest discussion of gender imbalances.”
For three decades, researchers have shown that the bell curve for male math skill is much flatter than the curve for females, meaning that males account for more off-the-chart high achievement at one end of the curve and an equal amount of unusual non-achievement at the other.

Most girls do as well as most boys in math and science, but among the extraordinarily gifted, boys prevail. Vanderbilt’s Camilla Benbow, a commanding researcher in the field for years, reports sex differences in mathematical precocity before kindergarten, differences among mathematical reasoning ability among intellectually gifted boys and girls as early as the second grade and pronounced sexual differences among intellectually talented 12- to 14-year-olds. Yet Summers, in capitulating to feminist anger, announced that “the human potential to excel in science” has nothing to do with gender. That isn’t true. At the very top of the profession, where the geniuses reside, there will be more males than females – absent political pressure and arguments about “underrepresentation,” that is.

Research on sexual differences is still the elephant in the room that no one who cares about academic advancement is supposed to notice. Meanwhile the successful banning of Summers by the board of regents raises the possibility that ordinary McCarthyism may now escalate into a one-man blacklist. If he can be banned as a racist-sexist by the board that oversees the entire University of California system, other colleges around the country may take the hint and ban him too.

Things You Might Not Know About The Duke Case

Things you might not know about the Duke non-rape case if you haven’t read the new book “Until Proven Innocent” by Stuart Taylor, Jr, and KC Johnson:

* Collin Finnerty did not beat up a gay man in a homophobic rage outside a Georgetown bar in 2005, as much of the news media reported. Finnerty was one of several males involved in a beery confrontation. He pushed one of his antagonists but he did not hit anyone, gay or straight.

* Duke administrators were outraged that the lacrosse team had held a stripper party, but no such outrage greeted the more than 20 such parties held at Duke during the 2005-2006 academic year. Duke’s famous basketball team held one two weeks before, drawing no apparent criticism.

* Tara Levicy, the nurse who reported on the condition of Crystal Mangum after the alleged rape, shrugged off the absence of physical evidence of assault and the lack of lacrosse-player DNA with a feminist slogan: “Rape is about power, not passion.”

* Michael Nifong, whose parents had gone to Duke, was known for his hatred of Duke University and its students. According to Patsy McDonald, a law school classmate, he also had a “deep-seated antipathy to lacrosse players.”

* Sergeant Mark Gottlieb, who took over the case for the Durham police “hated Dukies and had an ugly history of abusing them, according to allegations by Duke students who dealt with him before the lacrosse case surfaced.” Gottlieb had jailed three times as many Duke students as the three other police supervisors in the area combined. In one case he jailed a female Duke student and a female friend and put them in a cell with a blood-covered, drug-addled woman who said she had stabbed someone. The charge against the two women was that they had failed to prevent a 19-year-old from taking a can of beer from a cooler during a party at their home.
* The news media churned out negative opinions of lacrosse players at Duke and other elite schools (Newsweek: “strutting lacrosse players are a distinctive and familiar breed on elite campuses… the players tend to be at once macho and entitled (and) sometimes behave like thugs.”) In fact, the authors write, the Duke players had no record of racism, sexism, violence or bullying. They studied hard, got good grades, and showed respect and consideration for minorities, women and workers who served the team. They also had a good record of community service, especially with a reading program that targeted black and Hispanic children.

* The notably fair and accurate journalists who covered the case (a short list) included Dan Abrams of MSNBC, Chris Cuomo of Good Morning America, Kurt Anderson of New York Magazine, Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes and the first New York Times reporter, Joe Drape, who was taken off the story shortly after concluding that the alleged rape looked like a hoax.

Creating Activists At Ed School

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

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

Continue reading Creating Activists At Ed School

A Political Target

Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional scholar and law professor at Duke for 21 years, has just been hired and then fired as the first dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School, which opens in 2009. Irvine’s chancellor, Michael Drake, explained the firing by saying “he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky’s political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives,” according to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, a blog on legal academia.
If the blog report is accurate, the treatment of Chemerinsky is a test case for conservatives who support free speech and argue vehemently against political tests for faculty and administration appointments. Do these principles apply only to conservatives, or do they protect liberals as well?

Chemerinsky is indeed very liberal and very outspoken. He particularly irritated many religious conservatives by lumping Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists as threats to democratic principles. So argue with him, but don’t try to get him fired.

For one thing, the chancellor had plenty of time to think about the impact of hiring Chermerinsky, and to reject him if he chose. But it’s disgraceful to hire the man, fire him immediately and then explain that you are doing so to cave into political pressure. The chancellor, the school and Chemerinsky all suffer from this sort of amateurish behavior. And if the chancellor does not reverse course and accept Chemerinsky, he puts the next choice for dean in an untenable position – he will inevitably be seen as a safe nominee, so harmless that no political pressure group will try to oust him. The reputation of the law school would decline two years before opening.

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky said. I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints. He said he has begun to assemble a board of advisors that would have included conservatives such as Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown, and Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court.

Writing anonymously on the Wall Street Journal site, different Duke law students offered both praise and criticism for Chemerinsky. A pro-Chemerinsky opinion said: “To respond to allegations of anti-conservative bias – these cannot be further from the truth. Equal air time was always given to both sides during class, and with regard to his Con Law final, I wrote a final exam that could only be described as ‘Scalia-esque’ and received a 4.0.”

Do the right thing, chancellor, and re-hire Chemerinsky.

Bong Hits For Temple

The Supreme Court’s Morse v. Frederick decision was questionable on several grounds. In upholding a high school’s right to regulate student speech “reasonably regarded as encouraging illegal drug use,” the justices took the student banner “Bong Hits for Jesus” much too seriously. Was it an argument for student access to drugs or a jokey stunt that never should have gotten to the court? Besides the student was displaying the banner off campus, across the street from his school during a school-sponsored welcome for an Olympic procession.

Then there is the issue of general damage to free speech rights. Several free-speech advocates, including David French, then president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and now director of the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, warned that censorship-minded universities would cite the Frederick decision as justification for campus speech codes. That has now happened. Temple University points to Morse v. Frederick as backing for its egregious speech code that prohibits “generalized sexist remarks and behavior.” The goal is to erode the wall between high school youngsters and adults at college, who traditionally enjoy greater free speech rights.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund filed the case against Temple, now before the court of appeals for the third circuit. FIRE’s amicus brief has been joined by an array of allies, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Christian Legal Society, collegefreedom.org, Feminists for Free Expression, Students for Academic Freedom and the Student Press Law Center. It’s an unusually broad coalition for a college free-speech case.

Honoring Criminals On Campus

Some universities are nervous about the Ralph Papitto controversy . Papitto, 80 years old and very wealthy, used the N-word in a discussion of diversity at a trustees meeting of the Roger Williams law school, which bears his name. After protests, Papitto requested that his name be removed. But that appears to be in response to heavy pressure from protesters and the university. Papitto said that the N-word “just kinda slipped out” and that the word, which he said has never been in his vocabulary, may have come to mind after he listened to rap music. Those unconvincing explanations made it seem that he very much wanted to be excused so that Ralph A. Papitto Law School could retain its name.

The removal of a donor’s name from a university school or building in the wake of a racial slur is very unusual. But universities are on alert because naming battles are now fairly common, mostly over buildings named for felon-donors from Kenneth Lay to Alfred Taubman.
While debate over naming raged, Seton Hall University students went to classes at Dennis Kozlowski Hall, passed through the Dennis Kozlowski rotunda on their way to the Frank Walsh Library or perhaps to the (Robert) Brennan Recreation Center. Kozlowski, former chief executive officer of Tyco, was convicted of 22 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, grand larceny and falsifying records. Tyco board member Frank Walsh pleaded guilty to concealing a $20 million bonus and First Jersey Securities founder Robert Brennan is serving time for bankruptcy, fraud, and money laundering. The Kozlowski name was removed from the hall and the rotunda at his request and the university regents changed the name of the Brennan Center. Seton Hall kept Walsh’s name on the library on rounds that his offense was milder and that he pleaded guilty.

Continue reading Honoring Criminals On Campus

Immigration And Bowling Alone

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about the release of his new work. Understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating impact on social capital, the fabric of associations, trust and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. In the short to medium range, that is, because in the long run, new communities and new ties are formed, Putnam says. What he fears – correctly – is that his work on the surprisingly negative impact of diversity will become part of the immigration debate.

His study found that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups. Trust, even of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. The problem is not ethnic conflict or worse racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ – that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

Continue reading Immigration And Bowling Alone

Identity Group Commencements

Commencement weekend is hard to plan at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university now has so many separate identity-group graduations that scheduling them not to conflict with one another is a challenge. The women’s studies graduation and the Chicana/Chicano studies graduation are both set for 10 a.m. Saturday. The broader Hispanic graduation, La Raza, is in near-conflict with the black graduation, which starts an hour later at 5 p.m. this Sunday.

Planning was easier before a new crop of ethnic groups pushed for inclusion. Students of Asian heritage were once content with the Asian-Pacific Islanders ceremony. But now there are separate Filipino and Vietnamese commencements, and some talk of a Cambodian one in the future. Years ago, UCLA sponsored an Iranian graduation, but the school’s commencement office couldn’t tell me if the event is still going. The entire Middle East may yet be a fertile source for UCLA commencements.

Continue reading Identity Group Commencements

Praising Discomfort at Middlebury

Stop the presses. The president of a well-known college has actually come out for diversity of ideas, rather than just the narrow form of diversity prized on campus (skin color, gender, sexual orientation). In a baccalaureate address at Middlebury College’s graduation, President Ronald D. Liebowitz talked about the “value of discomfort” in listening to and grappling with new ideas. Liebowitz said, “If the wariness about discomfort is stronger than the desire to hear different viewpoints because engaging difference is uncomfortable, then the quest for diversity is hollow, no matter what the demographic statistics on a campus reflect.” If the pursuit of diversity is to be intellectually defensible, he said, Middlebury can’t just exchange one orthodoxy for another.

At colleges, “discomfort” is a familiar buzzword justifying censorship or punishment for offending the sensibilities of students designated as “underrepresented.” That’s why coming out in favor of discomfort is a near-heresy in the campus monoculture.

Some students objected to Bill Clinton as this year’s commencement speaker, while a larger and more irritated group objected to Middlebury’s endowed professorship in American history and culture honoring William Rehnquist. Liebowitz noted that some members of minority groups on campus felt “invisible and disrespected” by the decision to honor Rehnquist and considered it an offense against diversity. Indignant objections to conservative supreme court judges are an old story on campus, including attempts to boycott Antonin Scalia at Amherst and Clarence Thomas at the University of North Carolina Law School.

Some objectors to the Rehnquist professorship claimed that the goal of a liberal education should be to advance social change, and since Rehnquist failed this test, he should not be honored. “I do not share in that narrow definition of a liberal education,” Liebowitz said. “Rather, liberal education must be first and foremost about ensuring a broad range of views and opinion in the classrooms and across campus…” Good idea. Will it apply to the hiring of professors as well?

What Faculty Think About Religion

Faculty at American colleges and universities are more religious than many of us believe-65 percent say they believe in God and 46 percent claim a personal relationship with God. Still, they are far less religious than the general population, some 93 percent of which believes in God, with 66 percent reporting a personal relationship. While 80 percent of the public identify themselves as Christian, the comparable percentage of faculty is much lower-56 percent-primarily because Evangelical Christians account for 33 percent of the general population but only 11 percent of college faculty. These numbers show up in “Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty,” a report by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Some 6,600 faculty were surveyed.

One of the strongest findings is that political ideology is highly associated with attendance at religious services. Those who go to services every week, or almost every week: 24 percent of liberals, 44 percent of moderates, and 66 percent of conservatives. Non-religious faculty tend to be the most negative about U.S. policies in the Middle East and most positive about the United Nations and institutions such as the International Court of Justice. The vast majority of faculty listed North Korea, followed by the U.S., as the greatest threats to international stability. Continue reading What Faculty Think About Religion