Category Archives: Politics

Teach Them What to Think, and Maybe Bribe Them Too

Do some professors offer bribes to their students for promising to support leftist causes? Yes, it happens, and a few teachers, at least, see nothing wrong with it. Mary Grabar, a regular contributor to this site, discusses the practice here, and has video of a Georgia State education professor named Jennifer Esposito offering extra marks to students if they write state legislators opposing bills aimed at combating illegal immigration.

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The “Mismatch Thesis,” Eye-Opening Research, and the Fisher Case

As the most important higher-education case in a decade makes its way to the Supreme Court–the Fisher case on racial preferences–UCLA law professor Richard Sander had an excellent series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy summarizing one critical argument that his research has helped to highlight: that even the ostensible beneficiaries often are harmed (or at the very least, not helped) by racial preferences in admissions. I strongly recommend Sander’s three-part series, and thought it would be useful to summarize its main points.

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The New VAWA–A Threat to College Students

Cross-posted from Open Market.

Provisions are being added to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that could undermine due process on campus and in criminal cases, as civil liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and civil libertarians like former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer have noted. The changes are contained in a reauthorization of the Act that is likely to pass the Senate over objections from some Republican senators like Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has also objected to the lack of safeguards against fraud in the law and the misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. (Even if the Senate’s reauthorization does not pass the House, programs set up by the 1994 law will continue to operate.)

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The GOP “Turn” Against Colleges and Universities

We noticed an article the other day on The Atlantic web site, arguing that the Republican Party is turning against higher education. The evidence cited for this apparently alarming development was scant: Rick Santorum referred to colleges as “indoctrination mills,” and Mitt Romney told high-school seniors to shop around for low college tuition and not to count on government help.

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Addressing Anti-Israel Attitudes on Campus

The Kennedy School’s “One-State” conference provided only the latest reminder of the hostile on-campus attitude toward Israel. (Imagine the likelihood of any major campus hosting an allegedly academic conference ruminating about the destruction as a state of Iran, or Egypt, or Mexico.) In light of the conference and its controversy, it’s worth reviewing an excellent Tablet symposium, asking pro-Israel figures–mostly students, but also the David Project’s David Bernstein–along with a student representative of J Street about how to respond to the campus climate.

The symposium can be read in full here; I recommend it strongly. Two themes emerged the most strongly.

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The Obama Video: Fuss and Obfuscation

The 1990 Harvard Law School video of Barack Obama endorsing a quota-hire protest unearthed by Buzzfeed has generated widespread comment in both the blogosphere and the conservative media. Much of the commentary from the right was overheated and wide of the mark; representative commentary on the left, however, was deliberately deceptive.

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The Troubling Video of Obama at Harvard Law

Obama diversity video.jpgFor Democrats (like me) concerned with academic freedom and depoliticizing personnel and curricular processes in higher education, the 2008 primary season offered only one candidate who even might adopt a good policy on higher education, an area where the GOP has had the overwhelming advantage in recent years. Even if he wasn’t a transparent phony, John Edwards (Version 2008) was presenting himself as a hard-left anti-poverty crusader, and seemed likely to embrace a more politicized academy. Hillary Clinton was running a rally-the-base campaign; and in a party whose base consists of African-Americans, labor unions, and feminists, it was clear Clinton’s higher-ed policy would bolster the race/class/gender dominance of the contemporary professoriate.

But Barack Obama offered promise. Not only was he running on a kind of
post-racial platform, he had the record to back up his rhetoric. His
career featured none of the inflammatory screeds so common among Chicago
African-American politicians. He had demonstrated an ability to work
with downstate Republicans in the Illinois legislature. And in the U.S.
Senate, he was one of only two Democratic senators
to support a Justice Department investigation of Mike Nifong–a
mini-Sister Souljah moment in which the nation’s first serious
African-American presidential candidate publicly repudiated the man to
whose efforts Duke’s Group of 88 had attached their professional
credibility.

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‘It’s a Major Assault on Religious Freedom’

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The abortion-drug and contraceptive mandate issued by the Obama administration is a frontal assault on the freedoms given to every American by God Himself, and guaranteed in our Constitution.  If allowed to stand, the precedent will have been set that the government can, in fact, prohibit the free exercise of religion, by taking to itself the power to define what is and is not religious behavior, and by punishing those whose faith leads them to make decisions for themselves or their organizations that contradict government directives.

There are many in the press, however, who want to hijack this discussion and make it about a woman’s “right” to contraception.  But this is not the central issue.  At the heart of the matter is whether the government can require religious organizations, or individuals, to provide services or engage in practices that violate their religion-based moral convictions.  That is why Geneva College, with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit, Geneva College v. Sebelius, in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA on February 21st.

Our Board of Trustees Policy Manual says this:

“Geneva College publicly professes that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all institutions.  Should it develop that federal and/or state laws or regulations are deemed to require the College to act in a way inconsistent with the Word of God, the Board of Trustees will actively seek to challenge such laws or regulations, and/or support a position of dissent, such as the College took in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”

Our lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that mandate religious employers like Geneva provide abortion-inducing drugs through the health insurance we provide to our employees and students.  The mandate also forces the college to fund government-dictated speech in the form of counseling that is directly at odds with the religious message we wish to convey to our students and the broader culture.  We believe this mandate is a violation of the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and affirmed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Plan B and Ella Are Not Preventive

The technical aspects of the situation are simple.  The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), which founded the college in 1848, holds the position that human life begins at conception.  Geneva’s policies have long reflected the position of the church in that we have excluded coverage for elective abortions and abortion-inducing drugs from the insurance plans we provide to our employees and students.  Preventive oral contraceptives are and will continue to be covered.  But drugs such as Plan B and Ella, the “morning after” and “week after” pills respectively, are not fundamentally preventive; they function to prevent implantation or otherwise kill a human embryo.  Thus, they violate our consciences and our long-standing practices in support of life.  Yet the FDA has labeled them “contraceptives,” and the rules being promulgated by HHS require that they be covered by employer-provided health plans.
In the words of Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel for the ADF, “This mandate offers no choice.  We either comply, and abandon our convictions, or resist and be punished.  Geneva College and other employers who do not qualify as sufficiently religious under the federal government’s excruciatingly narrow definition of religious organizations, cannot freely abandon the mandate.  Obamacare imposes exorbitant penalties on entities that would refuse to comply.  These penalties would undermine Geneva College’s ability to pursue its religious mission.”  The government cannot be allowed to force anyone to buy and sell insurance coverage that subsidizes the killing of young human beings.  Nor can it be allowed to define what is considered religious belief or behavior.  To grant it this power eviscerates the First Amendment.
Our freedom to exercise our religion is guaranteed by the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and further protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Our freedom of speech is secured by the free speech clause of the same amendment.  Both our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech are violated by this government mandate.  This is not a Roman Catholic issue.  It is not a Reformed Presbyterian issue.  Indeed, it threatens religious organizations and people of all faiths.
Geneva’s motto, Pro Christo et Patria, “for Christ and Country,” has never been understood to suggest two equal authorities.  Rather, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and we seek to educate students who are prepared to serve the country and society out of love for and obedience to Him.  When the state stands in opposition to Christ, we must make our stand with and for Him.  Our government should not be able to force us to buy or sell insurance that subsidizes morally objectionable treatments.  If we do not contest this mandate, we believe that we would be responsible for allowing abortions to occur.
Greg Baylor concluded our joint press conference this way: “Every American should note that a government with the power to do this to Geneva College has the power to do anything to anybody.”  Our elected officials swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not distort and upend it.  Thus, Geneva College and the Alliance Defense Fund are, by this lawsuit, exercising the final right granted in the First Amendment: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  And we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who still believe in the promises that we have inherited from the founders of this great nation.

Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Pressure has been building for President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression by federal contractors, a move that might make the recent controversy over requiring religious institutions to offer contraception services look mild by comparison.

Metro Weekly recently reported on a strategy session in retiring Rep. Barney Frank’s office attended by representatives of the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay and transgender equity advocacy organizations to organize a campaign for such an executive order. Shortly thereafter on Feb. 6 the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site published a press release from the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school calling for a gay rights executive order, and the New York Times published an OpEd, “What Obama Should Do About Workplace Discrimination,” by M.V. Lee Badgett, the Williams Institute’s research director.

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A Simple Solution to a Big College Problem–SURs

What is the college graduation rate in this country? Correct answer: nobody knows. All the statistics you’ve read about are at best partial truths. We basically track graduation only for “traditional” students. The problem is that these “traditional” students are no longer representative – most college students are now “non-traditional”: 38 percent of students enroll part time; some full-time students start again after some earlier post-secondary work; and a good many students who transfer to another institution are counted as dropouts. In fact some important news arrived today–one third of all college students transfer before graduating, so our statistics on college completion are even more unreliable than we thought.

The fact that we spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on higher education and can’t determine something as basic as a national graduation rate is a dereliction of duty. The solution to this problem is deceptively simple: turn to Student Unit Records. SURs are straightforward – they are databases that assign each student an individual number so that their educational history can be tracked. With a SUR, the pace of part-time students could be accounted for, and transfer students would no longer vanish, making it possible to calculate an accurate and meaningful graduation rate.

There’s a second advantage from having a SUR: it would allow a better understanding of each college’s and even each program’s performance. For example, while post-college earnings are certainly not the only thing that matters, they are an important consideration for many students. Matching educational records from a SUR with earnings data from the IRS would allow for accurate employment outcomes to be published for each college and program. Such information would help students make better decisions which would in turn help discipline and focus colleges. This can’t be done without a SUR.

There are two main groups opposed to SUR. The first are colleges. In an unusual alliance, both the best and the worst colleges fear SURs. The bad colleges like being able to say things like “Our 9% official graduation rate ignores transfer students and is therefore not an accurate depiction of the quality of our college.” The fact that they oppose a SUR system which would allow for accurate graduation rates to be calculated tells us that they are more interested in maintaining plausible excuses than in actually finding an accurate number. Meanwhile, the best colleges are terrified of being compared to other schools on something like value added earnings. At best, such a comparison would confirm that they are indeed the best. But a comparison might show that they do not deserve to be on top, and they are terrified that some no name college will be shown to be just as good or better. Thus, for top colleges, there is nothing to gain, and potentially everything to lose from such comparisons. While colleges’ opposition to SURs are understandable, there is absolutely no reason for policymakers to indulge them.

The second group opposed to SURs are Republicans concerned about privacy violations. To an extent these were legitimate concerns as any database has potential privacy issues. But recently, convincing methods of safeguarding privacy while implementing a SUR have been developed. Republican Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell has done great work in this area, as has Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Republican U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter. The Republicans that have opposed SURs to date deserve credit for ensuring that privacy was taken into account, but it is now time to acknowledge that their concerns have been addressed.

America has some great colleges that are the envy of the world. But we also have some terrible colleges that waste student and taxpayer money. A SUR would help us separate the wheat from the chaff.

Libertarianism Among Students is the Least of our Worries

Professor Patrick Deneen’s Feb. 17 essay “Campus Libertarianism up, Civic Commitment Down” cries out for a response. He finds the apparent increase in libertarian thinking among college students disquieting, but I think that if this trend is real, it’s a reason for optimism. It indicates that young Americans are breaking free of the adulation of government that is so much a part of the conventional wisdom in this country.

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Why They Seem to Rise Together:
Federal Aid and College Tuition

It’s called “the Bennett Hypothesis,” and it explains–or tries to explain–why the cost of college lies so tantalizingly out of reach for so many. In 1987, then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett launched a quarter century of debate by saying, in effect, “Federal aid doesn’t help; colleges and universities just cream off the extra money by raising tuition.” Now Andrew Gillen, research director of CCAP–the Center for College Affordability and Productivity–has tweaked the data and produced a sophisticated “2.0” version of the hypothesis. It’s filled with heavy math, game theory and terms like “inelastic fairly vertical curves.” You probably won’t read it. We know. But it’s important. So here are some smart people who have read it, and have something to say: Peter Wood, Hans Bader, Richard Vedder, George Leef and Herbert London. image for mtc.jpeg

Peter Wood: They Are Insatiable

Long before I knew it was called the “Bennett Hypothesis” I knew that colleges and universities increase tuition to capture increases in federal and state financial aid. I attended numerous meetings of university administrators where the topic of setting next year’s tuition was discussed.
The regnant phrase was “Don’t leave money sitting on the table.” The metaphoric table in question was the one on which the government had laid out a sumptuous banquet of increases of financial aid. Our job was to figure out how to consume as much of it as possible in tuition increases. This didn’t necessarily mean we were insensitive to the needs of financially less well-off students. A substantial portion of the money we captured would be reallocated as “tuition discounts” or “institutional aid.” That is to say, just as Andrew Gillen observes, we combined Bennett Hypothesis-style capture of external student financial aid with “price discrimination.” And we did all this in the pursuit of educational excellence. It was a large private university in the shadow of world-ranked neighbors and it was attempting to pull itself up in the world of prestige and influence by its bootstraps. There were townhouses that needed buying; laboratories that needed building; faculty stars that needed hiring; classrooms and residence halls that needed refurbishing; symphonies that needed performing; grotesque modern sculptures that needed displaying; and administrators that needed chauffeuring. So long before I heard of “Bowen’s Rule,” I was also familiar with the idea that “in the quest for excellence, prestige, and influence, there is virtually no limit to the amount of money” a university could spend. Familiar as these ideas are, I have never seen them as well elucidated as Andrew Gillen has in Introducing Bennett Hypothesis 2.0. If there is a fault in this remarkable policy paper it lies in the modesty of the title. Gillen has provided what by all rights should be a foundational document for any further analysis of the vexed issue of how federal (and state) financial aid interacts with the pricing strategies of colleges and universities. Gillen’s sophisticated revision of Bill Bennett’s idea explains many of the perplexities of the data. Yes, Pell Grants do not drive tuition increases the way general tuition assistance does. Yes, many colleges prefer to increase their selectivity rather than expand capacity. (He doesn’t mention, however, the strategy of doing both at once by creating highly selective “honors programs” and remedial tracts at the same institution.) Price discrimination in the form of variable tuition discounts ensures that no ordinary observer can figure out what is happening when federal aid mixes with pricing strategies. One of Gillen’s most compelling observations, however, is what he calls “the dynamic story,” which he introduces by way of game theory. This is his explanation of why a college cannot plausibly sit on the sidelines as its competitors raise tuition and use the increased income to raise their standing. Gillen’s theory, though highly plausible, remains to be tested. Let’s hope that comes soon.

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Richard Vedder: Market Discipline, Please

Andrew Gillen masterfully demonstrates that Bill Bennett is right–federal financial aid programs lead to higher tuition. The implications of this and related financial aid effects are profound:

1. The intended income transfers from taxpayers (and, increasingly bondholders) to students have been largely diverted to college coffers; swelling payrolls and leading to armies of new university bureaucrats, million-dollar college presidents, an academic arms race and other pathologies;

2. This, in turn, has thwarted university productivity growth and helps explain why higher education is vastly more expensive than in most other major developed countries;

3. The goal of helping low-income students has not been met, and a lower percent of recent college graduates come from less affluent students than was true in 1970 when Pell Grants did not exist;

4. To the extent that these aid programs have increased enrollments (read Gillen), they have added to the growing disconnect between labor-market realities and student job expectations, creating armies of college graduates who are bartenders, taxi drivers, etc.

5. Enrollment increases, in turn, have contributed to a dumbing down of higher education and to declining standards.

What to do? The federal government needs to wind down its financial aid commitment. Restrict eligibility for aid to truly low-income students. Impose performance criteria for aid recipients: mediocre students will lose aid. Make the college absorb some of the risk for loan defaults–a lesson we should have learned from the financial crisis. Give Pell Grants as vouchers directly to students, not schools. Reinstate private lending options. Unveil new human capital contract approaches that reduce debt reliance. Downsize and reinvent federal programs and allow market discipline to operate more.

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George Leef: Will Politicians Pay Attention?

William Bennett is no economist (in fact, he once told an interviewer that he never reads books on economics) but his instinct on the connection between federal aid and rising college costs was pretty accurate. While higher education establishment defenders have often tried to dismiss Bennett’s insight, it’s basically correct, Gillen shows.Not always, however. Gillen argues persuasively that student aid targeted at low-income students who otherwise wouldn’t have gone to college contributes little or nothing to rising costs because the institutions cannot “capture” the additional funds. That finding doesn’t mean that it would be a good policy to increase this kind of aid, of course.Government student-aid programs that are universally available, however, do lead to rising college costs. Gillen has worked through various differing scenarios to show how increasing student aid is apt to influence college officials. Particularly important in that regard is his emphasis on looking not just at short-run effects, but also what he calls “the dynamic story.” Here’s what he means. Even if some schools decide not to raise tuition when government aid puts more dollars in student pockets, those that do will spend the revenues gained on the zero-sum game of gaining prestige. Since most colleges won’t want to keep falling behind in that arms race, they’ll eventually give in and raise tuition. Not always, however. Gillen argues persuasively that student aid targeted at low-income students who otherwise wouldn’t have gone to college contributes little or nothing to rising costs because the institutions cannot “capture” the additional funds. That finding doesn’t mean that it would be a good policy to increase this kind of aid, of course.Gillen concludes that the only escape from Bennett 2.0 is for the nature of competition in higher education to change–away from seeking greater “prestige” and toward competing for consumer dollars by offering better value. He’s right and the rumblings of disaffection with mere credentials and the search for real education seems to presage just that.I applaud this work, but will it make any difference? After all, it is clear beyond any doubt that raising the minimum wage is counter-productive, but politicians keep doing that. Why should Gillen’s demonstration that the more politicians try to make college “affordable,” the more costly it becomes be any different?

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Hans Bader: Ever-growing Bureaucracies

You don’t need to be a Ph.D in economics, like Gillen is, to know that government subsidies usually lead to higher costs. That subsidies drive up costs is something I learned in introductory economics, long before I got my degree in economics or worked for the Education Department. The value of Gillen’s study is to show that this conclusion logically remains true even under widely-varying assumptions about educational markets. Gillen does not discuss certain Education Department rules that drive up tuition even more directly. For example, certain low-cost schools are affected by the Education Department’s 90-10 rule, which requires that the school keep tuition high enough for students that no more than 90 percent of its funding is covered by federal financial aid. So as financial aid rises, tuition necessarily rises even faster. But financial aid is not the only way that the government drives up tuition. State and federal regulations imposed on colleges have mushroomed in recent years, requiring colleges to hire ever-increasing numbers of administrators to comply with them. (There are now more college administrators than faculty at the California State University system and many other colleges). For example, colleges in New Jersey are subject to a costly and complicated anti-bullying law that has 18 pages of required components. Colleges in some states are subject to state sexual harassment laws that are more stringent than federal law, and hold colleges liable for uncapped damages for harassment by students, effectively requiring them to create specialized university bureaucracies to swiftly investigate and discipline students, rather than relying on ordinary campus disciplinary bodies that operate at a slower and more deliberative pace. Government regulations often require that a school be accredited, a condition that accreditors like the American Bar Association use to force law schools to use racial preferences in admissions or run costly diversity and sensitivity-training programs (despite the dubious legality of some such programs and admissions preferences). Such mandates have contributed to the growth of a vast and costly “diversity machine” in college administrations. Recent Education Department guidance documents have also made Title IX compliance more difficult and costly for colleges, by seeking to force them to process sexual harassment complaints against students in ways that differ from customary college procedures in disciplinary cases, and to give certain complainants the ability to appeal a school’s finding that an accused student was innocent. Gillen cites a study showing that for-profit colleges whose students received federal financial aid charged 75 percent more than those whose students were not eligible. I wonder if some fraction of this difference was the result of government mandates tied to the financial aid, rather than the aid itself. image for mtc.jpeg

Herbert I. London: We Need Controls

My experience in higher education confirms the opinion that federal aid has an influence, a profound influence, on tuition decisions and other aspects of university finances.

Clearly not all federal aid is the same and not all college responses to aid are the same. However, there is a dynamic quality to federal subsidies that cannot be ignored. Every federal dollar given to a university will be spent. This is a version of higher education’s Parkinson’s Law. The institution expands in multiple ways to accommodate government largesse. Derek Bok, former Harvard president, said, “Universities share one characteristic with compulsive gamblers and exiled royalty: there is never enough money to satisfy their desires.”

Every dollar given to a college goes through the turnstile of institutional improvement. Teaching loads could be reduced, new laboratories might be built, an academic “star” might be lured into a newly created position. But year one in this allocational arrangement is not always related to year two. If the initial costs are borne by government aid, the future costs may put pressure on the administration to seek additional revenue, very often in the form of tuition increases.

In fact, the process tends to be self-fulfilling. Aid producers reforms; reform leads to additional expense; additional expense very often translates into upward pressure on tuition rates. While President Obama has discussed controlling college costs, he overlooks the influence federal assistance has on college affordability. Nor is there any reason to assume a change of direction. There is political capital to be garnered by demanding cost controls and, at the same time, expanding access to tuition assistance. That these conditions may be contradictory is lost on a public increasingly frustrated with the inflated cost of a college education.

Is Investing in Community Colleges a Good Idea?

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President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget contains an $8 billion program called the “Community College to Career Fund.” It would encourage community colleges, in partnerships with employers, to train about two million workers for future jobs. Since there are about 1,045 community colleges in America, the program would amount to a grant–over three years–of a little under $8 million per institution. Not all the funds, however, would go directly to the colleges themselves; some would go to state and local governments to recruit participating companies, some to underwrite an online entrepreneurship training program, and some to underwrite paid internships for low-income community-college students.

Using federal grants, the colleges would set up “community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers,” according to a White House statement. The career centers would specifically train students for employment in health care, high technology, and “green” industries–areas expected, at least in the predictions of the Obama administration, to grow substantially over the next few years.

The federal money undoubtedly looks good to administrators at community colleges, which currently enroll some 6 million students, more than half of all Americans attending undergraduate institutions of higher learning. Nearly all community colleges, which typically award two-year associate degrees and shorter-term vocational certificates, report burgeoning enrollments during the current period of recession and shrinking funding from the strapped localities and states. There is a problem, however: community colleges have an admirable goal of providing second-chance education to young people who either performed too poorly in high school to get admitted to a conventional four-year college or can’t afford four-year-school tuition. But they have a poor track record in keeping those students around until graduation with any sort of degree or certificate.

The retention figures are not encouraging. According to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 12 percent of community-college students earn an associate degree within the standard two years. That figure rises to 22 percent if students stay on for a third year and 28 percent if they stretch out their educations for four years, or twice the norm. Four-year colleges, by contrast, graduate about 53 percent of their students within six years. Students’ poor preparation for college-level work is clearly the reason for the dismal graduation rates of community colleges. About two-thirds of their entering students must first pass remedial math and English courses before they can qualify to take a single course for college credit–and most never succeed in passing those elementary classes. You can blame urban America’s failed K-12 system, or you can conclude that substantial numbers of young Americans lack the cognitive ability to succeed in college, but the fact remains that community colleges, with their bulging populations of directionless and under-performing students, may not be the best settings in which to produce a skilled workforce.

Exacerbating the problem is that most of the anticipated job openings in the U.S. during the near future will require workers who possess exactly the sort of math and reading-comprehension skills that most community-college students these days seem unable to master. There is currently a shortage of skilled employees in high-tech industries, and some two million manufacturing jobs are expected to open up by 2018 thanks to expected retirements–but most of those jobs require workers who can operate sophisticated machinery, follow complex instructions, and demonstrate some facility at math and statistics. The training itself for 21st-century jobs can be expensive. Mark Schneider, a former commissioner of education statistics who currently serves a vice president of the American Institutes for Research and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Associated Press that little is known about the effectiveness of most community college programs.

“We need measures of how well they are training their students, how well their students are being placed in the job market, and…are they making money?” Schneider told the AP. “We need to track them really, really carefully. And we need to make all that information available to students before they sign on…and before taxpayers subsidize all of this.”

A few months ago I surveyed some successful vocational-training programs at community colleges. In contrast to the Obama administration’s ambitious vision of using federal dollars to turn out large numbers of skilled workers in short order, these programs tended to be small-scale, dependent on modest grants from the involved industries themselves, and centered around nationally recognized certificates issued by private entities that attested to the recipients’ specific job skills and underlying cognitive attainments. Key to many of the programs was ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which measures recipients’ math and reading abilities. One of the programs was at Shoreline Community College near Seattle. Shoreline used a grant from the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Institute of Manufacturers, to integrate the NCRC and certification from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills into a three-quarter-long manufacturing program. The program’s retention rate (95 percent) and job-placement rate (100 percent) were stellar–but it was also a small, highly focused program with only 50 students per cohort. The obvious question is: can that sort of success be replicated on a large scale with widely varying students, faculty, and educational standards–along with the potential for waste that a spigot of federal dollars always presents?

Of course it is also possible that the $8 billion that the Obama administration envisions for transforming community colleges into massive job-training centers may never materialize. In 2009 Obama’s budget promised some $12 million in federal funding to community colleges that aimed mostly at building and repairing new infrastructure. A Democratic Congress pared that amount down to $2 billion. With deficit-conscious Republicans in control of at least one chamber this time around, Obama’s promised $8 billion could be trimmed even more drastically.

What Has Happened to Academic Freedom?

Dr. London, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom on February 9 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation. These were his remarks on the occasion.
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It is with enormous humility and gratitude that I accept this award from the Bradley Foundation that has done so much to promote liberty inside and outside the Academy. I am particularly pleased to receive the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award since I remember with great joy our discussion of her very important essay “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Commentary.

To think that this distinguished scholar would be denied an opportunity to speak at American colleges demonstrates how far we have traveled down the slope of despair. Jeane fought back with her arsenal of well-placed barbs and could not be intimidated by academic thuggery. She will always remain one of my heroines.

This introduction is a reminder of why academic freedom must be defended and what it stands for. In 1940 the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.” As the AAUP saw it, academic freedom was a right and a privilege. It afforded scholars the opportunity to express their views freely, applying standards of critical judgment, objectivity, sincere inquiry.

This right to express one’s views unfettered by outside influence is unique. It is one of the two essential characteristics of academic freedom. The first of these is what the German gymnasium called lehrfreiheit. In offering this freedom, the Academy noted that teaching should foster integrity, a spirit of inquiry, and competence in one’s field of study. Some might describe it as the search for truth circumscribed by ethical standards.

The second feature of academic freedom is lernfreiheit, or the right of a student to express himself free from intimidation. Here is the presumptive classroom synergy: professorial freedom to inquire and student freedom to express opinions.

It is a privilege for the Academy to claim it is imperium in imperio. Since colleges are set apart from society, there is an implicit belief in self-regulation. Presumably just as the scholar can resist intervention from critics, the professoriate in general can resist pressures from the larger society, a form of collective academic freedom. That reality was recognized with some aberrations throughout this last century.

Now, however, there is a growing awareness, and I should hastily note an appropriate awareness, that academic freedom can be used to protect irresponsible behavior. In fact, for some faculty members, academic freedom has been so defined that any resemblance between the professional behavior outlined in the AAUP 1940 statement and present patterns of conduct are merely coincidental.

Alas, many college campuses have been converted into centers of orthodoxy for unwary students often too naïve to identify the propagandistic exercise of overzealous instructors. It is ironic that while most college administrators will reflexively adopt diversity standards on campus in an effort to have different racial and ethnic groups represented, these same administrators often reject the diversity of ideas that is the well spring of academic freedom.

It is curious that the professorial organizations created to protect faculty members from blacklisting and government intervention often have a political agenda of their own that repudiates the very principles they were organized to defend. This isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last, example of organizations that have lost touch with their own principles, but for someone who has been in the academic vineyards for decades, it is disillusioning.

In the late sixties an Australian political scientist argued that it is more important “to win” than to teach. By “win” he meant convert the culture through the mobilization of student activists. Today there are many professors on this side of the Pacific who would agree with this proposal. Whatever happened to the spirit of inquiry? And when did the words “teach” and “preach” become indistinguishable?

In a Middle East Studies course at Columbia University, an instructor provocatively asked a student who had served in the Israeli Defense Force, “How many Arab woman and children have you killed?” Whatever happened to the avoidance of intimidation?  Could the student in question ever feel free to raise an opposing point of view in that classroom?

Last year, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren – a noted scholar in his own right – was about to deliver an address at the University of California, Irvine. As soon as he went to the podium, representatives of the Muslim Student Association shouted him down and threatened further violence, thereby ending the engagement. When the Muslim students were indicted for promoting violence, the faculty raised money for their defense. Whatever happened to the dignity and openness academic freedom was intended to promote? What is the message faculty members are trying to convey on that campus?

The price of academic freedom, like the price of democracy, is eternal vigilance. A diminution of academic freedom and the principles residing in this concept affect all Americans. We should call on scholars and administrators alike to reaffirm the traditions of the past recognizing that academic freedom is not conditional. Scholarship worthy of that designation must be objective, rigorous, analytical, and disinterested. And we should have the courage to criticize those faculty members who have undermined academic integrity and the administrators who avert their gaze to the travesty on campus.

A Southern preacher filled with fire and brimstone gave a sermon to his followers on the End of Days. With great passion he said, “When the end of days comes there will be crying, wailing and the gnashing of teeth.” He repeated this lamentation several times. An elderly man seated in the front of the church stood up and said, “but preacher I haven’t any teeth.” Somewhat disarmed, the preacher thought for a moment and then replied, “At the End of Days teeth will be provided.”

We do not have to wait till the End of Days. Our teeth can be found in the principles associated with academic freedom. If you bare them, the activists will retreat allowing colleges and universities to return to the sensible openness that not so long ago characterized academic life.

A Bastion of American Values in the Arab Middle East

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As the Arab Spring uprisings transform the history and face of the Arab world, the American University of Beirut, the oldest and most prestigious private university in the Arab Middle East, is preparing to launch the most ambitious fund-raising campaign in its 145-year history.

The campaign will seek to raise more than $400 million dollars in five years – an unprecedented sum for AUB that is almost equal to its $480 million endowment. This is far beyond the reach of most other Arab higher educational institutions. At least $300 million of the money will be allocated to renovating and expanding AUB’s hospital, one of the Arab Middle East’s premier medical centers.

The fund-raising drive is being launched amid the sea-change in the Arab Middle East — a period of intense passion and hope, strife and political alarm unseen in the region since the Arab nationalist upheavals and military coups of the 1950’s.

The Wolfensohn Controversy

The campaign also comes on the heels of a bruising political battle within the university over the trustees’ decision to award an honorary degree to James D. Wolfensohn, an Australian-born American financier, former World Bank president, and former special Middle East envoy. In June, Wolfensohn declined the honor to defuse a growing controversy over his nomination. Weeks earlier, 95 members of AUB’s faculty and hundreds of students and alumni had signed a petition challenging the granting of the doctorate to him given the “policies” of the World Bank, his “pro-Zionist” positions, and alleged disregard for Palestinians.

The university’s president, Peter F. Dorman, said the petition’s allegations were not only factually inaccurate, but “insulting” to a man who has worked tirelessly for peace between Arabs and Jews, particularly on behalf of the Palestinians.

“AUB is not well served by petitions that are deliberately slanted to serve narrow interests regardless of facts,” Dorman wrote in an open letter to the AUB “community” after Wolfensohn declined the honorary doctorate and the invitation to deliver AUB’s commencement address on its magnificent campus overlooking the Mediterranean in Beirut. “Such campaigns are fundamentally dishonest and diverge from our university’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge as grounded in intellectual integrity,” Dorman declared.

The petition was particularly embarrassing, as Wolfensohn serves on the school’s international advisory council, a group of 29 prominent scholars, intellectuals, former government officials and financiers who informally advise AUB and its board of trustees on financial and political issues.

Mr. Dorman, AUB’s fifteenth president, an Egyptologist and the great great grandson of the university’s founder, said in an interview that the university had been seeking to honor Wolfensohn for several years and that he deeply regretted his advisers’ decision not to attend the commencement or receive the honorary degree last June. The university would continue trying to honor Wolfensohn “consistent with its own rules and procedures,” Dorman added.  He said he was gratified that Wolfensohn, who declined to be interviewed for this story, had remained on the advisory council. He also insisted that the controversy would neither delay nor harm the upcoming fund-raising effort.

Seeking More American Students

The petition drive, however, is but one of several challenges confronting AUB. The university, which is ranked among the 300 top universities in the world and is widely seen as a purveyor of American values, academic standards and intellectual autonomy, is having difficulty attracting American and other foreign students given the region’s political turmoil. It now also confronts growing competition from other American colleges and universities that are seeking a foothold in Arab Middle East, particularly a presence in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. New York University, for one, has opened a campus in Abu Dhabi; Harvard’s John F. Kennedy’s School of Government, now offering classes in Dubai; Georgetown University’s school of foreign service has opened in Qatar.

Given the profound political upheavals that have gripped Lebanon for so long and now other states in the region, however, AUB’s endurance, its continuing academic excellence, and its relative independence are a small miracle.

“Despite everything,” said Shafeeq Ghabra, an American-educated Kuwaiti who teaches political science at the University of Kuwait and a prominent educational scholar, “the culture of AUB is one of freedom. That makes the university “precious and rare in the Arab world,” he says, even in the Gulf, where several American universities have opened programs, or branches and/or campuses. “AUB has a long history of turning out some of the Arabs’ most independent thinkers.”

Founded in 1866 as the Syrian Protestant College by Daniel Bliss, an American missionary who wanted to build a “center of knowledge” in the Arab Middle East, AUB has been America’s most visible and influential educational and cultural outpost in the Arab world for over a century. Since its opening, it has awarded more than 82,000 degrees and diplomas. Its 55,000 alumni in more than 100 countries include at least 3 Arab presidents, 10 prime ministers, dozens of ambassadors and diplomats, and some of the Arab world’s most prominent intellectuals.

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A private, non-sectarian college in a country of feuding and often warring religious and ethnic sects, AUB introduced American-style education to the Arab Middle East: small classes, high-faculty to student ratios (one professor for every 12 students) and modern teaching methods that emphasize independent thought and individual autonomy. The college that began with 16 undergraduates now has an enrollment of 7,828 students from 67 countries – most of them Lebanese, half of whom are women.

Without doubt, its nadir was Lebanon’s devastating civil war of 1975 to 1991. In 1982, its then president David Dodge, an American, was kidnapped and held in Iran for more than a year before being released. Two years later, its widely respected American president, Malcolm Kerr, was assassinated in his office by two unknown gunmen. A score of AUB faculty, staff and students were also killed, including two former deans, Ray Goshn and Robert Najemy. Another 30 faculty and administrators were kidnapped during the war, some of whose exact fates still remain unknown. A dean of agriculture was abducted in 1985 and not released until November, 1991. Virtually of all AUB’s American staff and students went home, as did other foreigners. AUB’s president and senior administration had to run the university out of its modest offices in mid-town Manhattan. Board meetings were sometimes held in Cyprus.

Given the 15-year war and now the region’s ongoing political upheavals, fewer and fewer AUB students or faculty are American, one of the trends that president Dorman is seeking to reverse. While between 50 and 60 percent of the student body was Lebanese in the 1960’s and ’70’s, roughly 75 percent of today’s students come from Lebanon. Less than 12 percent are American, and they are mostly of Lebanese heritage. “We treasure our legacy students,” said Dorman, “but we would also love to bring back the diversity. We want a few more of those blond, blue-eyed kids back.”

If low tuition for quality education is a draw, AUB has an edge. Undergraduate tuition in 2010 ranged from $12,342 to $14,730, depending on a student’s year and major. During the past five years, AUB has doubled its financial aid awards. More than 80 percent of financial aid applicants received financial assistance last year.

Tuition Is Up, But Still Reasonable

But financial pressures affecting all universities have now forced AUB to raise tuition. Members of this year’s entering class are paying an average tuition of some $18,500 a year, a substantial increase over last academic year’s rates, “but still a relatively terrific deal,” Mr. Dorman says.

The university, which accepts about 55 percent of its applicants, is also seeking to offer shorter-term study programs for students who may hesitate to commit to a full four-year bachelor’s degree program in a region whose political trajectory is so uncertain. Mr. Dorman is exploring “study abroad” programs for a semester, or a summer, to attract such a clientele.

The U.S. State Department has complicated the university’s recruitment challenge. While the U.S. no long effectively bans Americans from traveling to or studying in Beirut, as Washington advised during Lebanon’s bloody civil war, its strongly worded travel advisory warns American citizens that traveling to, or living in Lebanon poses obvious risks. After U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last February, the department issued an even tougher advisory for Lebanon and most other Arab countries. While AUB hoped that the advisory would gradually be softened, AUB’s senior administrators were dismayed when the department warned Americans in October “to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.”

The advisory also warns Americans that several “extremist groups like Hezbollah,” which Washington has designated as a terrorist group, continue operating in Lebanon, and that American citizens “have been the target of numerous terrorist attacks.”

William Hoffman, who has headed AUB’s Washington office for the past 30 years, complained that the advisory clearly “scares parents if not more adventurous students away.” The advisory also “discourages American universities and colleges from entering into formal exchange programs with us,” he said.

Paradoxically, he added, AUB was now among the safest American educational outposts in the Middle East. The university had actually picked up a few of the American and foreign students who were studying at its “sister” institution in Egypt, the American University of Cairo, which was forced to evacuate some 350 exchange students when the Arab Spring protests erupted last winter. Some students who wanted to remain and witness this historic moment in Arab history came to AUB, Hoffman said. AUB has not sent students home since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, he added, as Lebanon has remained largely peaceful. AUB’s last evacuation of students occurred in 2006 during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. AUB and AUC are separate, unaffiliated institutions, despite their common emphasis on American-style higher education and similar names.

Although AUB remains a quintessentially American institution that operates under a charter from New York State’s Department of Education and is fully accredited by American educational boards, it is vitally important to Lebanon. In addition to having produced many of Lebanon’s and the region’s most eminent leaders and dissenters, AUB is the country’s largest private employer – and second only to the government in terms of overall employment.  “It is a unique institution in the Middle East,” says Makram Rabah, a Lebanese “AUBite” who now lives in Washington, and the author of “A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.”

“It’s a pluralistic institution with high academic standards that has one campus where all of the region’s different sects, religions, and nationalities intermingle and debate.” Calling it a “hybrid” — an “American institution with Arab values,” a “small island of academic freedom and excellence in a troubled sea,” Rabah says that Lebanon would be “immeasurably poorer without it.”

American University of Beirut students.jpgAUB’s medical center is Lebanon’s crown jewel, attracting patients from throughout the region. Because it is also a major source of revenue for the university, the medical center is also the centerpiece of the upcoming fund-raising campaign. At least $300 million of the $400 million AUB will seek to raise is to be allocated to the medical center to renovate and expand its 420-bed teaching hospital, labs and classrooms to maintain its preeminence in the region. Throughout the bloody civil war, the hospital remained open to all, a haven of sorts that helped shield the university from the worst of the bloody war’s most egregious excesses.

Dorman anticipates that most donors will be wealthy Arab donors, some of whom were treated, or had relatives who were treated at AUB’s hospital. But individual philanthropy remains yet another challenge. “Arabs are very generous, as generous as Americans,” he said. “But they have a different concept of philanthropy.” In Arab society, gifts are made “based on those who are closest to you – family, tribe, community and sect. There is little tradition of giving to private, non-profit institutions that enhance society in general.”

Moreover, the Lebanese government does not offer automatic deductions or other tax breaks or incentives. For many years, in fact, Lebanon taxed large gifts.

A Drive to Attract More Faculty

American-style fund-raising campaigns are relatively new to the region. AUB’s first large campaign, launched under its former president, John Waterbury, a scholar from Princeton, after the country’s devastating civil war in 2003, raised $170 million in five years — $30 million above its targeted $140 million, a million for each of what was then AUB’s years of existence. Since then, Dorman said, AUB has raised between $20-$30 million, “not much,” he concedes, by American standards.

American government contributions to AUB have also steadily declined as a percentage of overall operating costs, administrators say. Whereas the U.S. Agency for International Development once provided $8.7 million in grants and contracts back in 1975 – over 40 percent of AUB’s operating budget, excluding the medical center, in 1975 – it has given an average of $6.9 million a year for the last five fiscal years, Hoffman says.

Dorman is also pushing hard to recruit top-tier faculty and administrators from the United States. Towards this end, he is exploring reinstating tenure for faculty at a time when American universities are abandoning that system. “Creating a permanent community of scholars and guarantees of their ability to do independent research would help us a lot,” Dorman said, noting that he gave up a tenured post at the University of Chicago, where he chaired the university’s department of Near Eastern languages and civilizations, to accept the president’s post at AUB. The university suspended tenure in 1984 when the civil war made it impossible to guarantee independent academic reviews of faculty members.

Another obstacle is the university’s struggle to remain aloof from the internal Lebanese ethnic, religious, and sectarian struggles and the growing influence of Hezbollah. Some scholars and analysts said that the petition campaign against Wolfensohn last June was actively promoted by Hezbollah, the “Party of God,” a powerful political player in Lebanon well represented in the Lebanese parliament and Cabinet. To be sure, al-Akhbar, a daily Arabic-language newspaper, and other media outlets sympathetic to the militant Islamists actively supported the anti-Wolfensohn campaign. But so did former Prime Minister Salim Hoss and other Lebanese political luminaries. Because Israel is such an emotional, “hot-button” issue – Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war and AUB students, faculty and administrators are forbidden from traveling to Israel or participating in international forums with Israeli citizens – Wolfensohn’s connections and ties there were bound to be controversial.

Sources close to AUB’s administration said that while Dorman considered side-stepping the Wolfensohn controversy by honoring him at a special ceremony in New York, the school’s rules and traditions require that recipients of honorary degrees collect their degree on campus, as were this year’s other honorees – composer Marcel Khalife, journalist Anthony Shadid, science historian Owen Gingerich, cancer researcher Mostafa El-Sayed, and Mary Robinson, the former Irish president who was also UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In her commencement remarks, Ms. Robinson chided AUB by expressing regret that her “friend, Jim Wolfensohn” was “not here to share his thoughts.”

The rest of the commencement ceremonies were unremarkable, according to several who attended the gathering. But Dorman knows that the challenge posed by the anti-Wolfensohn protestors will remain dicey, as faculty members opposed to various university stances and practices are likely to have been emboldened by Wolfensohn’s withdrawal.

Jerry Brown Disappoints Backers of Preferences

Say what you will about California’s enigmatic governor, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, but on major issues involving votes of the people, Brown is very reluctant to go against the will of the people, no matter what his personal views happen to be.

In 1978, during his first term as governor, Brown opposed the highly popular Proposition 13, which was approved by the voters to place a lid on property taxes imposed by local governments.

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College Budget Cuts: How Course Corrections Can Undermine Students

Governor Scott of Florida has decided to save taxpayers’ money by developing a way to ensure that people who study under state auspices in Florida do so in programs that will secure jobs. The way to do this, he says, is to stop training students to get degrees in subjects such as psychology and anthropology–especially anthropology, a subject I’ve taught at Rutgers for many years.

We never know with complete confidence what will work to support and dignify a society and how what we do now will affect the future. If the past is prologue, then studying anthropology can help build a thriving society.  And studying behavior and how the brain responds to different stimuli is an important cog in the wheel of the social contract.  Even so, a plague on both their houses – the anthropologist’s thatched one and the Governor’s marble one.

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“Steering” Orthodox Jews Away from Massad at Columbia

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has just opened a new investigation into anti-Semitism at Columbia University.  At this author’s urging, OCR is looking into whether a Jewish Barnard student was unlawfully “steered” away from a course taught by controversial Columbia Professor Joseph MassadMassad has been accused of anti-Semitism before.  This case though has a twist.  The basic allegation is that a Barnard student was unlawfully “steered” away from Massad’s class by a departmental chair, Dr. Rachel McDermott, who urged her to study ancient Israel instead.  The chair insisted that the student, who is an Orthodox Jew, would be made to feel uncomfortable if she took Prof. Massad’s class.

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Too-Large Subsidies for Too-Selective Colleges

A new report on higher education from the American Enterprise Institute, out today, contains an eye-catching finding likely to generate a lot of headlines: the more selective a school is, and the fewer low-income students it serves, the larger its taxpayer subsidy.  Calling this system of funding “perverse,” the report says: “Average taxpayers provide more in subsidies to elite public and private schools than to less competitive schools where their own children are likely to be educated.”

Basing college selectivity on Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, the authors of the report, Mark Schneider and Jorge Klor de Alva, write that for public institutions, there is a consistent increase in subsidies across the first four levels of selectivity, with substantially more in the most competitive schools. Among not-for-profits, subsidies per student are between $1000 and $2000, but for the most selective (and already well-endowed) schools, taxpayer subsidies jump to more than $13,00 per student.

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More Campus Claptrap about 9/11

Our own Charlotte Allen has a wonderful piece in the Weekly Standard on campus events marking the anniversary of 9/11. While some of the events are rational enough and a few seem moving, the general tone reflects the fact that after a decade, our campuses are still as out of sync with the rest of the country’s attitudes and emotions as they were when the attacks occurred. Concern about ” Islamophobia,” American soul-searching, anti-Western resentments and the future of Islam take center stage, while commemoration of the heroism of the firefighters and the passengers of Flight 93 and the simple evil of slaughtering nearly 3,000 innocent Americans seem beyond the scope of most campus concern.

“Instead,” said Allen, writing in advance of the anniversary, “the campus commemorations… will focus on, well, understanding it all, in the ponderous, ambiguity-laden, complexity-generating way that seems to be the hallmark of college professors faced with grim events about which they would rather not think in terms of morality: “Historical and political representations,” whatever those are (Harvard), “How do we determine truth and reality?” (more Harvard), and “Imaging Atrocity: The Function of Pictures in Literary Narratives about 9/11″ (St. John’s University in New York).” This intellectual sludge flowed on many campuses, with the worst examples from Harvard, Duke and NYU.

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Campus Freedom, AAUP-Style

The American Association of University Professors has now issued its final report on “Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel groups.”) The basic principle is as unobjectionable as it is admirable: professors should not be hired, fired, or disciplined on the basis of their political beliefs. Yet the AAUP’s report is basically unchanged from the organization’s draft document, which I described at the time as “worse than nothing: it would have been far better for the organization simply to have issued a statement affirming that its job is upholding the views of a majority of its members, and that those professors whose views conflict with the academic majority can enjoy academic freedom rights only at the pleasure of the majority of their colleagues.”

The document’s final version retains nearly all of the weaknesses of the earlier draft. In the AAUP’s academy, virtually no check exists on the tyranny of the faculty majority. Outside criticism is inherently suspect. Students, trustees, and even “bloggers”–including, it would seem, academic bloggers who criticize the will of the majority–are portrayed alongside “talk-show hosts” as threats to the principle of academic freedom. (The report’s attack on students, who possess some academic freedom rights at nearly all non-religious universities, is particularly outrageous; anti-academic freedom students are described as those who “report and publicize offending classroom statements” made by faculty members, allegedly at the behest of “self-appointed watchdog groups.”)

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Stanford: Guilty Even If Innocent

At Stanford, according to the “alternative misconduct review process” guidelines offered on the university’s website, a student accused of sexual misconduct doesn’t have the right to cross-examine his accuser–or any other witnesses in his case. He cannot offer exculpatory evidence on his behalf, but can only “request” that the university’s assigned “Investigator contact individuals who are witnesses to an event.” (Even then, the Investigator “is not obligated to meet with every individual proffered by the responding student.”) If acquitted by the campus judicial process, his accuser can appeal the acquittal. Even if the acquittal is upheld on appeal, he can still face what Stanford euphemistically terms “non-disciplinary actions,” including “removal from a position of trust or removing a student from housing.”

And, as a result of the recent OCR Title IX missive, he’s lost what was virtually his only due-process protection–that a conviction will result only from “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, he now will face expulsion if found guilty according to a “preponderance of the evidence” (50.1 percent) standard.

What right does the accused student possess? “To be offered reasonable protection from . . . malicious prosecution.” Thanks to FIRE, we now know that even this meager right is meaningless.

FIRE has obtained some of the material that the university uses to train the student jurors (dubbed “reviewers”) who decide the fate of accused students at Stanford. The FIRE website provides excerpts from one such item, Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. The Library Journal review notes that the book’s author, Lundy Bancroft, has wildly claimed that at least one out of three American women will be a victim of violence by a husband or boyfriend at some point in her life.”

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A Campaign Against the Koch Foundation

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There is an old saying in politics that “They don’t scream unless you hurt them.”  When your adversaries scream, it is a good sign that your measures have been effective. Judged by this standard, the Koch Brothers (David and Charles) have been very effective in recent years in advancing their causes of limited government and classical liberalism, much to the discomfort of liberal foes promoting business regulation, higher taxes, and ObamaCare.

The Koch brothers have been on the receiving end of non-stop attacks from liberal journalists and academics ever since Jane Mayer published a hit piece on them last year in The New Yorker purporting to show that their contributions were behind the rise of the “Tea Party” movement.  This wildly exaggerated claim was meant to cast the Koch brothers as great villains, but villains possessed of a satanic combination of power and tactical brilliance.  In a predictable course, Mayer’s fairy tale was circulated by the columnists and editorial writers of the New York Times and from there through a network of second-level columnists and political magazines until at length it came to the attention of the credulous foot soldiers of the liberal-left who have kept the pot boiling in recent months with ever more inventive and exaggerated versions of the original lie.     
 
The latest controversy surrounding the Kochs arises from an article published last week in the St. Petersburg Times titled, “Billionaire’s Role in Hiring Decisions at Florida State University Raises Questions.”  The author insinuates that the Koch Foundation was trying to “buy off” the Economics Department at Florida State University through a $1.5 million grant (paid over six years) to hire new faculty and to support graduate fellowships under a program in “political economy and free enterprise.”  Under the grant, a three-person faculty committee was set up to review candidates for the positions, including one member designated by the Foundation.  The paper suggested that by designating a member of the review committee the Foundation was undermining academic freedom by interfering in the faculty’s right to appoint colleagues on the basis of professional competence.   

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Quarantining the PC Pathology

ant.jpgLet’s face it, our noble efforts to detoxify today’s PC-infected university have largely failed and the future looks bleak. This is not to say that the problem is incurable–though it is–but it calls for a solution different from the current approach.  Here’s how.

Begin by recognizing that all our proposed cures impose heavy burdens on foes. For example, demanding an ideologically balanced faculty means fewer positions for PC zealots to fill. Asking them to abandon anti-Americanism requires revising lectures and reading assignment, no small task for those working 24/7 for social justice. And the assignment may be beyond their intellectual abilities. Why should tenured radicals surrender life-time employment to prevent professorial abuses? In a nutshell, our side insists on painful reform from within, all of which have zero benefits to the PC crowd. Victory requires measures that appear as net benefits, not bitter medicine.

My solution arrived one day in a casual conversation with a fellow political scientist. He recounted that when his university initially proposed a separate Department of Women’s Studies, the faculty objected.  Resistance was futile, however, and the separate department came to pass. There was, however, a silver lining in the defeat–with all the department’s strident feminists exported to an autonomous homeland, intellectual life suddenly improved dramatically. No more silly quarrels about inserting gender into international relations, no more struggles over subtly-hidden, invisible sexism and so on. Civility and reason reigned.

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Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

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After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested  in teaching students to write and communicate clearly.  The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against “marginalized” groups and restrict self-expression.

Even noted composition scholar Peter Elbow, in his address, claimed that the grammar that we internalize at the age of four is “good enough.”  The Internet, thankfully, has freed us from our previous duties as “grammar police,” and Elbow heralded the day when the white spoken English that has now become the acceptable standard, will be joined by other forms, like those of non-native and ghetto speakers.

Freed from standards of truth claims and grammatical construction, rhetoric is now redefined as “performance,” as in street protests, often by students demonstrating their “agency.” Expressions are made through “the body,” images, and song–sometimes a burst of spontaneous reflection on the Internet.  Clothes are rhetorically important as “instruments of grander performance.”  

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