Category Archives: Short Takes

Increased Sensitivity Needed–Yale Dean Yelps at Whites

It is awfully tempting to laugh at the case of Yale dean June Chu, for writing Yelp reviews of restaurants and food stores that referred to customers as “low class folks” and included statements like, “If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!” Watching the sensitivity monitors go after one of their own is a guilty pleasure.

But the exaggerated response to Chu’s nasty remarks on Yelp about white people should sadden liberals and conservatives alike. The message sent out to students and faculty by Stephen Davis, the head of Pierson College, announcing Chu’s removal, is a jumble of sensitivity bureaucratese that embodies everything conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, and any self-respecting American adult hates about tolerance ideology.

The sentences do what they are supposed to do, that is, to numb the independent will of a free citizen.  Examples:

  • “make sure that your academic needs are addressed”
  • “partner with me in envisioning a way forward”
  • “deeply harmful to our community fabric”
  • “a path toward healing and reconciliation”
  • “what holds us together is our collective effort to ensure that every single person in our midst is valued beyond measure”
  • “to honor and embrace those who are different from us”

The solemnity is hard to stomach.  The elevation of stupid remarks on a Web site into a grave hate crime shows the impulse of a totalitarian.  Do not take the words of sorrow and empathy at face value.  They carry a not-so-subliminal message to everyone at Yale: watch your mouth, even on private time.  You may have a sterling record of diversity worship on the job, but if you let slip a frustration that assumes the form of a group denunciation, you’re done.

Maybe this threat to private conduct is just a function of the Digital Age, which encourages individuals to share every thought and experience and which watches over them unless they block their “Privacy” settings.  Add to the technology the progressivist impulse to re-educate people who don’t follow the party lines on race, sex, gender, nation, and religion, and you get the language of Davis’s email.

At what point are a critical mass of people going to rise up and say, “That’s none of your business!”

A Sad Goodbye to a Great Friend

Peter Augustine Lawler of Berry College, one of our best writers, has passed away at age 65.

His last article for us appeared here last Thursday, “The  Withering Away of the College Professor,” an excerpt from his last book, American Heresies and Higher Education. 

We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.

He will be missed.

The Kipnis Lawsuit Seeks to Muzzle the Truth

The lawsuit filed by Northwestern Title IX accuser “Nola Hartley” against best-selling author Laura Kipnis (Unwanted Advances) has attracted substantial attention from both the mainstream media and from commentators; the two best pieces (taking differing approaches to the lawsuit’s merits) come from Robby Soave and Michelle Goldberg. The Kipnis book looks primarily at four cases—one at Colorado and three at Northwestern: Kipnis’ own Title IX witch hunt, and two cases involving former professor Peter Ludlow.

One case involving Ludlow (who seems to be an extremely unsympathetic figure) and an undergraduate student almost certainly ended wrongly; as presented by Kipnis, while Ludlow used horrible judgment, the accuser was unreliable. The second case, which involved Ludlow and a graduate student in his department, prompted the Title IX complaint against Kipnis and is also the subject of the lawsuit.

Related: Professor Laura Kipnis–She Faced Title IX Charges for Writing an Essay 

Three items particularly struck me from Hartley’s lawsuit—which, if anything, makes Kipnis look even more sympathetic than the Title IX allegation Hartley previously filed against Kipnis. The first involved Hartley’s peculiar definition of her own credibility. Northwestern’s investigator, the lawsuit asserts, found Hartley “extremely credible,” and, therefore, by implication, Kipnis should have, too.

Yet Northwestern’s own investigation ultimately did not proceed with the most explosive claim in the case: that Ludlow had sexually assaulted the Ph.D. student. The lawsuit massages this inconvenient fact by asserting that the investigator “found that she did not have enough evidence to determine whether or not a sexual assault had occurred.”

But using the preponderance of evidence standard, “not enough evidence” means that Northwestern’s own investigation deemed Ludlow, not Hartley, more credible on this critical point. (It probably helped that Ludlow was able to show he slept elsewhere on the night in question.) So Hartley is the “extremely credible” accuser whose central allegation even Northwestern didn’t deem credible.

Second, the lawsuit claims that Kipnis inaccurately portrayed the Hartley-Ludlow relationship. It wasn’t, Hartley asserts, the romantic fling that a thousand text messages and emails between the two implied. Kipnis, according to the lawsuit, quoted these text messages out of context. (How she did so must remain a mystery; the lawsuit doesn’t mention even one out-of-context text.)

Related:  A Judge Catches Notre Dame Acting Badly in a Title IX Case

Instead, according to Hartley, Ludlow all but groomed her from the start, inappropriately pressuring her to have a relationship with him in an almost textbook case of sexual harassment. The evidence she presents? Three conversations—each of which, conveniently, seem to have lacked any witnesses—in spring 2011, mid-fall 2011, and at an indeterminate date in late 2011.

It’s possible that Kipnis failed to appreciate that the Hartley-Ludlow relationship can best be reconstructed not by thousands of Hartley’s own words from the time, but instead by three witness-free conversations as Hartley (who the lawsuit describes as “emotionally intimate” with Ludlow) now remembers them. I doubt, however, any court would agree with Hartley on this point.

Third, multiple elements of the lawsuit make Hartley look (to be charitable) odd. She claims, for instance, that Kipnis’ book presented her in a “false light” as “litigious.” And her response to this problem is to sue over Kipnis’ interpretation of events? As part of her grooming claim, she asserts that Ludlow “enrolled” in a seminar, taught by another professor, that she took in her first year as a Ph.D. student. A senior professor “enrolled” in another professor’s class?

Hartley complains that Kipnis’ book “needlessly devotes an entire chapter to Plaintiff.” And the federal court system is the appropriate venue for resolving disputes over an author’s editorial choices? That chapter, Hartley continues, contains “facts never before publicized, and facts that Plaintiff did not want to be publicized,” thereby providing “far more detail” about the Hartley-Ludlow relationship than the “bits and pieces” previously in the public domain. (Again: these descriptions of the Kipnis research effort are Hartley’s.)

Related: Ruined by the Beach Boys and Other Title IX Disasters

Perhaps Hartley didn’t want some of the “facts” Kipnis uncovered to see the light of day—Northwestern’s secret process doubtless was preferable to her—but it’s hard to see the merit in a lawsuit downplaying the importance of “facts” about a widely-publicized case on a widely-publicized issue, and instead seeming to prefer that the public rely on “bits and pieces” of information.

Goldberg criticizes Kipnis for failing to ask Hartley for a comment before the book went to press. Kipnis should have done so if only to avoid this criticism—but there seems to be no chance Hartley would have agreed to speak with her. That said, the book extensively presents Hartley’s own words and actions (as even the lawsuit concedes), primarily by using text messages written by Hartley to Ludlow.

Given that the Kipnis book describes in some detail the claims Hartley presented to Northwestern, gathered from documents (including Northwestern’s Title IX report) obtained by Kipnis in her research, I don’t agree with Goldberg’s assertion that “there’s no indication [Kipnis] ever sought to hear” Hartley’s version of events.

My approach to writing about this issue is to post everything—all documents that I have used in writing about sexual assault and due process, either at Minding the Campus or in the new book, are available on my website. It’s true that Kipnis hasn’t posted the documents from the cases about which she writes. But the lawsuit’s implication that she simply chatted with Ludlow and then accepted his version of events is absurd.

Beyond the exaggerated claims, the baseline premise of the lawsuit is a chilling one: that while the Ph.D. student purportedly “takes no issue with [Kipnis’] choice to write on this topic,” Hartley, as a Title IX accuser, some of whose claims Northwestern accepted, should have a veto power over which “facts” Kipnis can present. This argument should raise grave concerns.-

Fake Hate in Minnesota

So, the report of a racial threat at very tiny and very liberal St.Olaf College in Minnesota was a hoax. On April 29 Samantha Wells, a black student at the college, reported discovering a note on the windshield of her car with the message, “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less n‑‑‑‑‑ that this school must deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up, or I will shut you up.” Wells contacted police but declined to make an official report.

A student confessed to writing the note, St. Olaf President David R. Anderson wrote in a message to students. For some reason, he declined to use the word “hoax” for the false report. The threat — an anonymous, typewritten note — was “fabricated,” he said, as an apparent “strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate We’ve confirmed that this was not a genuine threat. We’re confident that there is no ongoing threat from this incident to individuals or the community as a whole,” he said.

In a second campus-wide email sent later Wednesday, Anderson used stronger words to explain what happened, while still steering around the word “hoax.”

Anderson, citing federal student privacy laws, did not identify the person of interest. Nor did he discuss the tumult caused to the campus or to the damage of race relations by using a fake racial incident to extract concessions from the college.

For instance, one demand called for removing alumnus Arne Christenson from the advisory board of university’s Institute for Freedom and Community because of his “political views and values as a Christian Zionist.” Another demanded “visible and easily accessible gender neutral housing on all residence halls.” Anderson negotiated with the black students and set parameters for formal discussions. Anti-white posters appeared on campus during the crisis.

President Anderson has yet to address students on the wisdom and morality of fake hate crimes as a way of getting what you want.

The Middlebury Punishment Is Finally Here

Those of you waiting to see the decisive smackdown of the Middlebury demonstrators who thought it was a good idea to shut down the Charles Murray talk, well, here it is: a letter will be placed in the files of some 30 students, and it won’t be removed until the end of the school year.

If any student commits another offense before then, the letter will be left in his or her file. (NO, NO, NOT THAT.) Not to worry, though. It’s not a real punishment and it won’t be seen by anyone unless it falls out of the folder and a janitor spots it.

It isn’t as if the students pursued Murray out of the building, stomped his car and put a professor briefly in the hospital, and in the opinion of some, came close to putting Murray’s life in danger. No wait, that’s exactly what the students did. No wonder Middlebury gave it to them with both barrels: a temporary letter that nobody will ever read, just what every campus delinquent fears most.

Wait. There’s more. An official bulletin on the matter from Middlebury, apparently published April 25, but taking some time to reach the real world, said that “some students expressed frustration with the process, saying that it seemed arbitrary and ill-defined. Others condemned the punishments altogether, citing them as an example of the college stifling students’ ability to express themselves.”

Here I think we can all agree. If your parents are paying $61,917 per year, there really should be no stifling while junior is roughing up two or more professors in the parking lot. It just isn’t right.

Do Free Speech Students Outnumber the Snowflakes?

As Middlebury initiated what appears to be token punishments (single-term probation) for the students who disrupted the Charles Murray talk, the college’s student government (which has yet to condemn the disruptors in any way) passed a resolution demanding that Middlebury cease all punishment of students under the current college disciplinary code, lest they “contribute to psychological trauma for marginalized students held accountable for disruption.” The vote continued a disturbing pattern of the majority of the Middlebury student body (the measure passed 10-3) seeming to endorse, or at least excuse, the actions of the mob. For a sense of the demonstrators’ hostility to free speech in their own words, listen to this New York Times podcast from Monday.

Countering this news, however, came a recent poll from Yale. Sponsored by the William F. Buckley, Jr. program, the poll found that by a more than 4-to-1 margin, Yale students opposed speech codes; and by a 16-to-1 margin, students endorsed bringing in intellectually diverse speakers, as opposed to forbidding “people from speaking on campus who have controversial views and opinions on issues like politics, race, religion or gender.” While some caveats exist (the pollster, McLaughlin, has a bad track record; and asking the second question in a different way—stressing the purported harm speakers pose to students—might have yielded a less promising result), this result is encouraging.

It also matters, from a policy angle. If, in fact, the Middlebury student government represents the majority viewpoint among most students, then little chance exists for meaningful dialogue on campus, absent very aggressive intervention, likely from trustees and perhaps even from legislators. If, on the other hand, anti-civil liberties activists represent only a minority, then colleges and universities should do more to facilitate events where the more passive (silenced?) minority of students can exchange ideas. Administrators, in particular, could do more, at relatively little cost—perhaps by adopting the University of Chicago principles, perhaps by encouraging faculty to do more to facilitate a broader array of voices speaking on campus.

Along these lines, it might be useful to share a recent experience of mine at Lafayette College. Early in the term, a newly-formed campus organization, the Mill Series, asked me to give a talk on due process and campus sexual assault. It quickly became clear things might not go well; the social media response among campus seemed fairly unfavorable, and the date of the talk had to be changed twice to avoid further inflaming campus constituencies. But the talk wound up going very well. (I’ll link to the video when available on my twitter feed.) Turnout was robust. Some questions were supportive of my thesis; some were skeptical, a few highly skeptical. But all of the questions were well-informed and responded to the actual content of the talk, rather than what the students might have thought I would say when the talk started. A couple of students even noted in the Q+A session, which wound up going several hours, that they had anticipated a somewhat different talk, seemingly because of the hostile pre-talk social media content.

So why did this talk not generate a disturbing response, like Charles Murray’s at Middlebury or Heather Mac Donald’s at Claremont McKenna? First, the organizers—Professor Brandon Van Dyck and Lafayette student Abdul Manan—actively engaged with campus critics before the talk. (Because the Mill Series has no sponsorship, they were volunteering their effort.) Obviously, this type of pre-talk engagement placed an unfair burden on their time, and shouldn’t be a requirement of any talk organizer, but their willingness to be proactive clearly defused a good deal of the tension before I came.

Second, the Lafayette students themselves already had been engaged with the issue of speech on campus. Earlier this semester, the student government had appointed an ad hoc committee to look into whether Lafayette heard from a sufficient variety of speakers. While many of the students who attended my talk (it was an ideologically diverse group) seemed critical of the committee’s work, none questioned the general principle that hearing from people with different views formed an important part of a quality liberal arts education. In a concrete way, the students’ behavior seemed to confirm the findings of the Yale poll.

For understandable reasons, protests like those at Claremont McKenna and Middlebury attract media attention. But to the extent disruptive students can be isolated rather than accommodated, colleges should do so.

NYU Professor Sides with “Snowflakes” Against Free Speech

Many leftist academics have denounced the recent spate of riots and shouting down of non-progressive speakers on college campuses – and good for them – but you knew that there were others who were glad to see students fighting back against such supposedly dangerous people as Charles Murray. One of them has put his thoughts into an op-ed piece for the New York Times and it is worth reading to understand why this kind of behavior is apt to continue.

Writing on April 24, New York University vice provost and professor of literature Ulrich Baer makes a case for the suppression of some speech in “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech.”

In Baer’s opinion, “The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.”

Let’s stop and take a look at that assertion. Freedom of speech really does mean “blanket permission” for each person to say whatever he thinks, just as free trade means blanket permission for people to enter into trade with anyone they want. Once you take away that complete freedom, you enter a world of selective permission to speak or to trade and that in turn requires having some person or group in authority to decide who receives permission and who does not.

Baer continues, declaring that “the inherent value” of some idea a person might want to express must be “balanced” against something else, namely “the obligation to ensure that other members” can “participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.” But how do we (that is, whatever authority gets the power) balance the value of an idea against the notion that each community member must be able to participate in discourse? If we have a regime of free speech, then everyone is able to participate in discourse and no one has to “balance” anything.

What Baer is getting at is the claim that some ideas are so hurtful to some people that those injured individuals cannot participate in discourse because they aren’t “fully recognized.”  The question he never addresses is why we should believe that.

Let’s say that a college allows someone on campus who argues in favor of white supremacy, as Auburn recently did. Everyone was free to ignore the speaker as a fool or argue against his ideas. No non-white student or other members of the Auburn community felt “unrecognized” by this speaker’s presence or unable to participate.

Baer argues that some ideas should not be debated because they “invalidate the humanity of some people.” On the contrary, even terrible ideas should be debated. Doing so sharpens the case against them, as John Stuart Mill pointed out in On Liberty.

Furthermore, Baer sets up a straw man when he writes, “I am not overly worried that even the shrillest heckler’s vetoes will end free speech in America.” Of course, the sorts of nasty actions we have seen at Berkeley, Middlebury and elsewhere won’t “end free speech in America,” but what they do accomplish is to prevent particular instances of free speech at specific places.

If we excuse those actions, as Baer does, we will get more of them and less free speech. You would think that a college professor would understand that our national commitment to freedom of speech necessarily means defending it each time it is attacked.

Implicit in Baer’s piece is the idea that because certain groups of people are less adept at making rational arguments for themselves, they should be allowed to veto people who are (or at least might be) good at that by preventing them from speaking. That, obviously, is a dangerous concept. Who then gets to decide when a person or idea is unacceptable and deserves to be censored? History gives us the answer: It will be those who are zealous fanatics for authoritarian programs that undermine civility and our social fabric.

Marquette Can Fire McAdams over Gay Marriage Post, Judge Says

A Milwaukee County judge ruled today that Marquette University has the right to terminate tenured political science Professor John McAdams for writing on his blog in 2014 that Cheryl Abbate, a teaching graduate student, had refused to allow someone in her ethics class to make a negative argument on gay marriage. Abbate told the student that dissent on gay marriage was offensive, homophobic and besides, the gay-marriage issue had been settled and was no longer up for debate. Abbate was likely aware that Marquette, as a Jesuit institution, does not agree that the gay-marriage issue has been fully disposed of, or that students are no longer allowed to hold negative views on the subject.

To some observers, Marquette seems in full flight from its Catholic heritage, and instead of admonishing Abbate for incompetence and closed-mindedness, college president Michael Lovell went after McAdams, an outspoken conservative gadfly at the college, suspending him, banning him from the campus and demanding a written apology, which McAdams refused to supply. Lovell set up a faculty committee to judge the case and today the judge, David Hansher accepted that committee’s negative ruling. McAdams says he will appeal.

Need a Commencement Speech? Try This One—It’s Free!

This is a generation that faces new challenges. You are not millennials, not Gen Xers, you are quite literally in a class by yourselves—the class of 2017. All around us we see changes we never expected, changes that demand acceptance—or “resistance.” There are economic and political alterations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East. They are accompanied by revolutions in communication, in science, in art. Thanks to the education you’ve received over the last four years, you’re well-equipped to handle these challenges. Good luck. Not that you’ll need it.

Oops. That was from a pre-millennial commencement speech. As you can see, it was a hit with school officials and alumni and the graduates could recite every word, even to this day.  Here’s this year’s speech:

I am a recognizable name. My achievements will be duplicated by few, if any, of you.

This is not a matter of arrogance or superiority. My IQ is no larger than yours, my background no more illustrious. It’s just that I had to make my own way in college and in life. Believe it or not, we had to read books that upset us. If you had to do that today, it would be called lit boot camp. Your courses outdid themselves with political correctness on steroids, identifying the emotional triggers in the classics and dismissing them as harmful and irrelevant. And who could blame them? Reading books without “trigger warnings ” might upset fragile sensibilities, never acknowledged by the unwary professors in my time.

When I attended this institution, we were exposed to a barrage  of philosphical, political and sociological ideas. Some were agreeable, some were challenging, some were repulsive. But they were all vital components of the undergraduate experience. In those vanished days we were so naïve. You, on the other hand, are well versed in White Privilege, Cultural Appropriation, and Safe Spaces.

In my time, there were no holes pre-cut in the knees and thighs of our jeans—we had to cut them open ourselves, with little guidance from elders, and there were no safe rooms. There were no unsubstantiated accusations of date rape, no charges of “fascism” from people whose parents were not even alive when the Third Reich was in the ascendant. (That Reich, by the way, found many early supporters in the German universities.) I can’t believe we missed out on all the fun you millennials were having.

In the day, my generation was thought of as the real game-changer. You know–teach-ins, speakouts, loud protests.  But these were modest indeed by your standards.  Maybe it started when you were invited to “Rate My Professors,” as if they were a new reality show.  When my generation invited people to speak, people of all shades in the spectrum of ideas came, addressing us with discretion and dignity. We returned the favor. If we challenged them it was with courtesy, and they departed without incident. Sound familiar? Of course not. During your college years, when those with unpopular ideas were invited to speak, vehement objections were heard—and the speakers were quickly “disinvited.” On the rare occasions when they did appear, they were intimidated or even injured.

Talk about fascism: Could Jason Riley, a black conservative and a star of the Wall St. Journal, be peacefully heard at colleges and universities? Nein.  Could Professor Charles Murray  be listened to quietly by people who hadn’t read  his books and had no idea what he wrote? Nein. Bestselling author Heather Mac Donald? Nein. Would provocateurs like Milo Yiannoppoulos  and Ann Coulter be tolerated?  Nein nein, nein.

And that’s looking at the glass as half full. Looking at as half empty notes that you have turned Amendment Number One into Enemy Number One. Look around you. Almost everyone speaks in the same tone, expresses the identical views. To violate this conformity is to invite outrage, ostracisim, violence. You have been called snowflakes. This is unfair to such flakes everywhere. For they have character—no two are alike.

Your college president knows this and will do nothing about it. He is busy with something else. Nobody knows what. College, once a place for the exchange of ideas, a spacious home for the liberal arts, has become at best a serious joke, at worst a national scandal. You’re not entirely to blame for your post high-chair tantrums; no one ever dared to say “no” to you. No one helped you get the hang of a  a pluralistic marketplace of ideas, least of all a timorous faculty ever fearful that they might say something that might lose them tenure.

I don’t envy you folks. Out there is a world full of people who do not look to authorities for a list of approved Halloween costumes or novels without any offensive  words.  You’ll have to make your own way among employees with different ideas, and among employers who don’t set aside safe spaces. For those of you wounded by opinions you haven’t even heard yet, good luck. You’ll need it.

 

Radicals Stop a Rose Festival

I saw this on Althouse, Ann Althouse’s excellent blog:

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” said the anonymous email that caused Portland, Oregon, to cancel its Rose Festival Parade.

The local frenzied left said it would disrupt the parade, dragging and pushing people, because the 67th group in it was the Multnomah County Republican Party.

“We will not give one inch to groups who espouse hatred toward LGBT, immigrants, people of color or others,” it said.

Althouse: “So now that’s all it takes to end freedom of expression in Portland. What a flimsy, pathetic place.”

This is what has been going on at Berkeley, Middlebury, Claremont McKenna, UCLA, Brown, Rutgers and many more campuses. The Brownshirts won’t go away on their own. They will have to be confronted.

Their Violence Is Free Speech, but Our Speech Is Violence

A ludicrous inversion has taken place. The speech of Charles Murray, Heather Mac Donald, and other conservatives whose ideas cross the race taboos of the left are claimed to be violent. It is now one of the truisms of identity politics that words can hurt. As Toni Morrison said in her 1993 Nobel Prize speech, “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence.”

So free speech by conservatives is violence. On the other hand, the left’s real violence is free speech, and when the police arrest protesters who intimidate attendees, block entrances, and shout down lecturers, they’re interfering with free speech rights. As a Middlebury professor and two alums said at Inside Higher Ed after the affair, “If free speech can justify a platform for Murray, it also justifies students talking back.” The ridiculous understatement of the words “talking back” shows how distorted the perspective of the angry campus left has become.

The solution is clear. The next time the protesters commandeer public grounds and threaten innocent citizens, they must be seized, immobilized, and carted away. Until that happens, the upheavals shall continue.

Excerpted from The American Spectator

CUNY Union Calls for Faculty to Teach Controversial Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’

Imagine if the CUNY administration had issued a general message to all CUNY faculty last year, asking them to “teach resistance” in one of their classes, to focus a “discussion of the [Obama] administration policies relevant to their subject.” Such a move would have been seen as a clear transgression of academic freedom and would have generated strong opposition from the CUNY faculty union, PSC-CUNY, which purports to favor the concept.

It was, therefore, more than surprising to see the union issue a call for all CUNY professors to alter their class time to “teach resistance.” Moreover, the union has urged professors to make a public pledge to support the union’s ideological position, asking CUNY faculty members to affirm: “I plan to integrate into my classes on May 1 how President Trump’s policies affect my area of scholarship and ask my students how they are affected. On May Day I will teach and learn and continue giving CUNY students the tools and knowledge to examine the world—and change it!”

This move is problematic in at least three respects.

First, it’s academically irresponsible. CUNY students—many of whom work to cover their tuition costs—pay for courses in particular academic subjects, not to hear professors’ political opinions. (I’m not a Trump supporter, to put it mildly, but my objections would have been the same if such a policy had been directed against Obama.) There are dozens of events every month, on campus and off, on political subjects; students can encounter those without losing four percent of their class time to extraneous material.

Second, the move shows why the Supreme Court should look closely at the First Amendment concerns of academic dissenters. All CUNY professors, no matter how much they oppose the union’s agenda, are required to pay dues to the union. The PSC is supposed to refund all political expenses to agency fee payers, but a case initiated by my Brooklyn colleague, David Seidemann, exposed how the union played fast and loose with this requirement. In any case, the “teach resistance” event is framed as academic in content, and almost certainly will be charged to agency fee payers. In short, even the tiny percentage of Trump supporters at this public institution will be forced to pay dues for events to “teach resistance” to a President they support. That’s a pretty clear First Amendment concern.

Third, the move raises academic freedom concerns. A principal problem with higher-ed unions is that—unlike a traditional union structure—the higher-ed union’s membership is generally also the academic decisionmaker, giving the union a conflict of interest. I discovered this the hard way in my tenure case: the key people seeking to fire me were other CUNY professors, and thus PSC members. The union provided what would charitably be described as a desultory effort in representing me—since aggressively making my case would have required calling into question the actions of influential members of the Brooklyn branch of the union. (I hired a private attorney, who was excellent, and who had no conflict of interest.)

Put yourself in the position of an untenured Trump supporter among the CUNY faculty (there have to be at least a few). The faculty union—which includes the senior faculty who will vote on your promotion and tenure—has called for you to adjust your curriculum, and, moreover, to publicly pledge to do so. That pressure would be seen as obviously inappropriate if it came from the administration. It’s no less inappropriate coming from the union, especially since the union includes the people who will decide your academic fate, and who will (at least in a token fashion) represent you if you are inappropriately denied tenure.

Hopefully, when the successor case to Friedrichs reaches the Supreme Court, events like “teach resistance” will be in the justices’ minds.

Without a Known Complaint, the Feds Can Force an Accused Student Out of his Dorm and Some Classes

A college student accused of sexual assault or harassment can have his dorm and class schedule changed without knowing who accused him or what the accusation is.

An administrator at a well-regarded eastern college says this:

“A student who accuses another student of violating campus policy as it relates to sexual assault or harassment may choose to keep her identity confidential. Since the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requires “interim measures” to protect the complainant, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that a no-contact order is implemented by moving the accused student out of his current residence hall or changing his class schedule without his ever knowing with whom he is not to have contact.

“If the accused student is subsequently found “not responsible” for violation of the student conduct code (which is all a campus can actually adjudicate), interim measures that negatively affect him can be removed. However, the complainant can choose to maintain the no-contact order by changing her residence or class schedule and the campus—having just determined that no violation had occurred—will need to accommodate that request.”

A Catholic Professor’s Problems at a Catholic College

Anthony Esolen is an embattled professor at Providence (R.I.) College, an aggressively Catholic believer at an institution run by Dominican priests but less forthrightly Catholic than he is. Esolen teaches Renaissance literature and the development of Western culture. Among his books is a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy regarded as one of the best. He is also a well-known personality on Facebook, dealing with subjects from the erudite to the playful.

His articles in conservative Christian journals critical of the diversity movement and identity politics have made him the target of activist students of the left and some professors (most prominently those in the black studies program). These detractors have generated a petition seeking his ouster from his college for “publishing articles that are racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinistic.”

Esolen has a low opinion of identity politics and the diversity movement and has referred to some of the activists as “narcissists” who want to study only themselves. In an interview with Rod Dreher of the American Conservative last November Esolen said: “The dirty not-so-secret is that the same people who for many years have loathed our Development of Western Civilization program — the focus of curricular hostility — also despise the Catholic Church and wish to render the Catholic identity of the college merely nominal.”

Support for Esolen by the college president, Father Brian Shanley, has been tepid, of the sort sometimes issued by Catholic administrators embarrassed to be interrupted while converting a Catholic college into a formerly Catholic one. Over the weekend, in a Facebook post, Esolen said of his scheduled speech, “Christ and the Meaning of Cultural Diversity,” that if he tried to give it, he had been told that activist students would shut it down. He said on Facebook: “It is no longer clear to me that Providence College would qualify as ‘worth attending’.”

Image: Anthony Esolen

Harvard Discovers a New Marginalized Minority Group

Harvard University has just made another of its weathervane decisions, based on the prevailing academic winds. This time out, the English Department has announced that the new curriculum will focus on authors who have been “marginalized for historical reasons.” The decision was made, according to James Simpson, Chairman of said department, in response to a “very reflective” letter sent by a student. It stated that Harvard’s standard curriculum short-changed certain minorities and that this injustice should be corrected by the creation of a diversity course. Since the contents of the letter were not made public, green students (and their parents) could only wonder.

It goes without saying that the neglected writers would have to be members of overlooked or ignored groups. But which groups? Women? Yet there is the anti-slavery novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who with a meager gift but an indomitable will helped raise the consciousness of a generation. Indeed, upon meeting the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, President Abraham Lincoln is said to have declared, with only a hint of jocularity, “So this is the lady who started the Civil War.” And Stowe’s sisterhood is widely recognized and praised—Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, et. al.

Would the neglected writer be African-American? But here is Frederick Douglass, born into slavery, turned into a fiery abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights, widely published memoirist, commemorated on a U.S. Postage stamp. And Douglass was followed by such literary icons as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Dubois and scores of others.

Would he or she be Native American? But here is Vine Deloria Jr.’s bestselling Custer Died for Your Sins. This forthright declaration, enumerating the ways in which the white man spoke to the tribes with forked tongue, was published way back in 1969 before any of the Crimson undergraduates (and many of their parents) were born. And there are other books on the shelf by authors of similar background, among them novelist Louise Erdrich, poet Simon Ortiz, and Harvard’s own Winona LaDuke.

How about Asian authors? But there is Maxine Hong Kingston (China Men), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) and dozens of their brilliant colleagues. None of the above have been ignored in college curricula.

What about those in the LGBT category? Well, Woolf’s Orlando addressed the switch of sexual identities early on; and since the trials of Oscar Wilde, there have been writers as flamboyant as Truman Capote, as intellectual as Edmund White, as self-confessional as W.H. Auden. Indeed, many colleges offer majors in Gay Studies.

Still, somehow, somewhere, there had to be a literary vein untapped. And suddenly, for those looking closely, it all became clear. The Harvard English department must have unearthed the obscure volume The Stuffed Owl, compiled by the British writer Windham Lewis. Subtitled “An Anthology of Bad Verse,” the 1930 anthology includes execrable rhymes, incoherent thoughts and outright doggerel from famous and obscure versifiers. William Wordsworth made the cut; so did the English Poet Laureate Colley Cibber. But the lodestar of the collection is Julia Moore, otherwise known as the Sweet Singer of Michigan. A quatrain in praise of a colleague:

Lord Byron was an Englishman
A poet I believe
His first words in old England
Was poorly received

She crafted this one too:

While eating dinner, this dear little child,
Was choked on a piece of beef.
The doctors came, tried their skill a while,
But none could give relief.

Surely Ms. Moore deserves the attention of freshmen and sophomores. A bard from across the pond, the 19th-century aristocrat, the Earl of Lytton, should have equal time:

She sat with her guitar on her knee,
But she was not singing a note,
For someone had drawn (ah, who could it be?)
A knife across her throat.

Thus, the Harvard English Department is about to provide a unique service, ceding class hours to that hitherto neglected minority—the untalented, the maladroit, the inept who have been left behind in the Academic sweepstakes.  One of Cambridge Mass. favorite aphorisms: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Manifestly, having provided the former for three centuries, Harvard is now offering the latter.

How to Make College as Bad as High School

While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “co-requisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college-level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

That essentially erases the boundary between high school and college, and not in the good way being undertaken by sundry “early college” and “Advanced Placement” courses, the purpose of which is to bring college-level work into high schools. Now we’re seeing high-school-level work being brought into college, there to count for credit toward bachelor’s degrees.

This will surely cause an upward tick in college completions and degrees conferred (much as credit recovery has done for high school diplomas) but it will also devalue those degrees and cause any employer seeking evidence of true proficiency to look for other indicators. In the end, it will put pressure on many more people to earn post-graduate degrees and other kinds of credentials, thus adding to the length of time spent preparing for the “real world” and adding to the costs—whether born by students, families, or taxpayers—of that preparation.

All this is, of course, a consequence of misguided notions of equity and opportunity. But what it really does is perpetuate the illusion of success in the absence of true achievement and weaken all versions of academic standards at the very moment most states have been taking steps to strengthen them.

The Office of Civil Rights Is Still Out of Control

As it left office last year, Barack Obama’s administration made one final move in its crusade against campus due process: it requested a massive increase—$30.7 million, or 28.7 percent—in funding for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The previous year, at a time when discretionary federal spending was barely rising, the office had received a 7 percent increase.

The Trump “skinny budget” contained an overall cut for the Department of Education, but included no specifics about OCR (or any other Education Department office). Based on its performance of the last six years in higher education, OCR deserves a dramatic reduction in its funding—rather than the huge boost it desires.

The Obama-era request envisions OCR hiring 157 new staff investigators. (OCR had asked for 200 new employees in fiscal year 2016 and received funding that allowed around 50 additional hires.) At a time of limited hiring by the federal government, why would OCR have demanded such a massive personnel increase?

A clue came in a recent article from BuzzFeed’s Tyler Kingkade. Over the past six years, Obama OCR heads Russlynn Ali and Catherine Lhamon—joined by grassroots accusers’ rights organizations such as Know Your IX—encouraged campus accusers to file Title IX complaints against their institutions.

These filings served multiple purposes for Lhamon and Ali. First, each Title IX complaint would give OCR jurisdiction to investigate individual universities, at which point the federal government could impose a “voluntary” resolution letter on the affected institution. These letters lock into place procedures for that school, even if the Trump administration eventually withdraws the Dear Colleague letter.

Second, Title IX complaints provided an opportunity for the Obama administration to stoke the public frenzy around the purported campus rape epidemic. In a highly unusual move, OCR publicized the identities of schools under investigation. This approach pressured the affected institutions to settle quickly while also leaving the impression that many of the nation’s elite institutions were indifferent to the large number of rapists in their midst.

Finally, the complaints provided a rationale for ever more frantic demands for more funding from Congress. As the 2016 budget justification explained, complaints addressing “sexual violence” were “both more complex and more high profile,” and “inadequate staffing” led to intolerable delays in handling the questions.

The resulting surge from a couple of dozen to hundreds of Title IX complaints against colleges and universities might have provided more than enough work for OCR. But, incredibly (and without announcing the shift publicly), Lhamon seized even more authority. According to Kingkade, who would have had no reason to misstate the claim (indeed, his reporting has consistently defended the accusers’ rights cause), Lhamon “expanded all Title IX sexual violence investigations to become institution-wide, so investigators reviewed all cases at a school rather than just the cases that sparked federal complaints.”

To translate: on her way out the door, Lhamon wanted to hire nearly 200 permanent employees, who would work under a true believer (Harvard’s ex-Title IX coordinator), because she had decided OCR would investigate not merely the complaints it received but thousands of other cases, even though no accuser had filed a Title IX complaint about any of these individual cases. On this matter, as on virtually all OCR-related matters during the Obama years, no sign of congressional oversight existed.

It would be difficult to imagine a more wasteful use of federal funds. Reducing OCR’s budget would help to bring the rogue office back under congressional oversight, and likely would force the new OCR head to (at the very least) temper Lhamon’s investigatory zeal.

The new administration will need to make key decisions not only on OCR’s funding level. Trump’s Education Department continues to enforce the flawed 2011 and 2014 guidance for sexual assault cases, which required colleges to use a preponderance of the evidence standard, discouraged cross-examination, instituted double-jeopardy regimes allowing accusers to appeal not-guilty findings, and urged subordinating public university students’ constitutional rights to due process to OCR’s interpretation of Title IX.

The slowness with which Trump has filled executive appointments has maximized the power of Obama holdovers. This situation is especially problematic with OCR, whose current head of enforcement, former Harvard Title IX director Mia Karvonides, dropped into her civil service position a mere three days before Trump was sworn in as president. Karvondes’ rushed appointment leaves the impression that the outgoing administration intended to maintain the unfair Obama rules regardless of what Trump did. Every day that passes without Trump staffers in OCR allows Karvonides to implement her agenda unchecked.

Finally, the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department must decide to whether to defend Obama’s OCR overreach. The key lawsuit challenging the 2011 Dear Colleague letter—a case from the University of Virginia, which remains pending—was coordinated by FIRE, and filed by lawyer Justin Dillon. The UVA adjudicator, a retired judge, admitted that “there were signs” that the accuser “may have been capable of effective consent,” but nonetheless found the student guilty, in a case that she deemed “very close” and “very difficult.”

The most recent filing in the case came around a month before Obama left office. The Justice Department urged dismissing the student’s complaint on grounds that OCR policies are, basically, set in stone. Since UVA “knows” that “OCR considers the preponderance of the evidence standard to be the only standard consistent” with Title IX, the university would have no choice but to maintain its unfair procedures under threat of punishment from federal bureaucrats—even if a federal court overturned the Dear Colleague letter. Sessions used the excuse of a pending legal fight to reverse Obama’s era Title IX guidance designed to protect transgender teens. Will he defend the Dear Colleague letter, which actually harms accused students?

Moving beyond the Obama-era’s OCR abuses will take years. But Congress exercising the power of the purse is a needed first step in the process.

Paycheck Unfairness Under Cover of Diversity

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) has just published an extensive research report on pay and representation of racial and ethnic minorities in higher education administrative positions that ought to be a bombshell, documenting as it does widespread pay discrimination on the basis of race. The devotion to “diversity” that pervades higher education, however, prevents the report’s authors as well as Inside Higher Ed, which published a long review of it, from seeing this discrimination for what it is.

“The good news for minority administrators,” the report states, is that “minority administrators as a whole are paid equitably in relation to their non-minority (White) colleagues. In other words, minority pay matches non-minority pay dollar for dollar. What’s more, this salary parity has remained fairly steady for the past 15 years.”

According to CUPA-HR director of research Jacqueline Bichsel “Higher education has been really progressive in maintaining that equal pay,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “We were pleasantly surprised to find that.” Since equal pay for university administrators has been constant for the past 15 years, I find it odd that the research director for the professional association of those administrators would be “surprised” (whether pleasantly or not) to find it, which suggests that she expected the administrators who hired those administrators to discriminate.

Actually, they do discriminate, although neither CUPA-HR nor Inside Higher Ed call it that. As noted above, the report found that minority administrators “as a whole” are paid equitably in relation to whites. But in two of the four regions of the country, the Midwest and Northeast, minority administrators are actually paid more. “It appears that in regions where there are fewer minorities in administrative positions,” the report concludes, “there may be a special effort to attract and retain them.” In the quaint and original language of the report, both of those regions “exceed pay equity” for minorities.

Another CUPA-HR report on pay gaps by gender, published last month, similarly found that, although in general women earned less than men in similar positions, “in positions where women are less represented, they tend to be paid more.” Often much more. Women chief facilities officers, for example, “earn 17% more than their male counterparts.” The report concludes that “this may indicate that …  higher ed institutions recognize the need to recruit and retain women in key leadership positions.”

Neither the CUPA-HR authors nor Inside Higher Ed recognize that paying some administrators more than equitably on the basis of race or sex means paying others less than equitably, i.e., discriminating against them.

Unfortunately, by now it is no longer surprising that devotees of “diversity” turn a blind eye to the racial discrimination necessary to produce it. That discrimination has been defended — successfully, so far — by the arguments that it is necessary and essential to provide a good education, i.e., that it is not, in Justice Powell’s often quoted words from Bakke, “[p]referring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin” since that would be “discrimination for its own sake,” and that “the Constitution forbids.”

But why is it necessary or essential for university administrators to be “diverse”? Precisely how is any student’s education enhanced when a chief facilities officer is female or a vice president for finance is black? What, in short, justifies paying female and black administrators more simply because they are in fields or regions where they are “underrepresented”? There may well be few Muslim chief facilities officers. If so, is that a problem? If not, why not?

With regard to hiring administrators, diversiphiles have forgotten their own justifications for diversity, perhaps because they never really believed them. Certainly, Justice Powell’s admonition is nowhere to be found in Inside Higher Ed’s article, linked above.

“Look only at the trend line showing the slowly climbing percentage of higher education administrative positions held by minority leaders,” that article begins, “and it appears colleges and universities are inching toward a day when their leaders reflect the diversity of their student bodies.” It claims that appearance, however, is misleading because “a substantial representation gap exists between the percentage of minority administrators and the makeup of the country.

Further, the ethnic and racial makeup of administrators isn’t changing fast enough to keep up with broader demographic shifts — the line showing the percentage of minority higher education leaders is not growing closer to lines that show the country’s minority population or the percentage of minority college graduates.”

For CUPA-HR as well as Inside Higher Ed, “diversity” means nothing more than “equitable” representation. “Despite decades of diversity initiatives, ”its report states, “the gap in minority representation for leadership positions remains persistent.” Although it found pay equity — and, as we have seen, minority pay that was more than equitable— it remained deeply troubled by “the large and growing gap between the U.S. minority and higher education administrator populations.”

As applied throughout higher education and articulated explicitly here, the emphasis on terms like underrepresentation and representation gap and reflect reveal that “diversity” means preferring blacks, ethnic minorities, and occasionally women for no reason other than race, ethnicity, or sex.

Another Speaker Shut Down by College Students

Add Jordan Peterson to the list of professors shut down as visiting speakers by angry university students.

Since last fall, Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has enraged many people by refusing to use the growing vocabulary of pronouns preferred by transgender people. On Friday night at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Peterson was set to serve on a four-person panel to discuss the use of these pronouns, but three of the people dropped off the panel and a student mob shut down the event featuring Peterson alone. “It’s like being pecked to death by a bunch of ducks,” Peterson said later.

On Saturday night, Peterson spoke without incident at the University of Western Ontario. At McMaster, Peterson sent people to guard the fire alarms, which are often activated to stop lectures that displease students.

Margaret Wente wrote in the National Post, “They argue that the very idea of two genders is a restrictive system that cruelly discriminates against many. They demand the right to construct their own reality as they see fit. Some want to be known (singularly) as “they.” Others think “they” isn’t the right fit either and prefer to choose from an ever-expanding list of made-up pronouns such as “xu,” “hir,” “ze,” and so on. Conrad Black, the founder of the National Post, wrote on the pronouns issue:

 “Every legally competent individual has a perfect and absolute right to declare their sex, but not to create a new legal status and legally require the use of a new vocabulary for those in flux between the only two sexes we have, mercilessly binary though their finite number may be. The individuals in that condition may change their registered sex each day if they wish, but not treat anyone who declines to address them in terms that debunk the gender-binary world as guilty of a hate crime, punishable by imposable fines.”

Peterson has posted 500 videos on YouTube, many or most of them criticizing Bill C-16, legislation to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. Peterson said, “If what I put up on YouTube objecting to an unpassed piece of legislation is enough to cost me my career, then I can tell you that the university’s days are done.”

At Western Ontario, the university forced the group sponsoring Peterson to pay the $1200 security fee. Marc Mercer, president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, says Western Ontario is responsible for providing security during University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s sold-out Saturday lecture.

“If there are security fees to be paid for a campus group that is sponsoring an event, (they) should be assumed by the university as part of the mission to promote discussion and dialogue,” said Mercer, a London-born philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

Duke Reports a Sexual Assault Rate 5 X as High as Our Most Dangerous City

Over the last few years, we have become all but immune to what, under any other circumstances, would be a fantastic claim—that one in five female undergraduates will be victims of sexual assault. This rate would translate to several hundreds of thousands of violent crime victims (with almost all of the incidents unnoticed) annually, and, as Emily Yoffe has pointed out, implies that about the same percentage of female college students are sexually assaulted as women in the Congo where rape was used as a war crime in the nation’s civil war.

Even within this environment of pie-in-the-sky statistics, a recent survey from Duke stands out. According to the survey, 40 percent of Duke’s female undergraduates (and 10 percent of Duke’s male undergraduates) describe themselves as victims of sexual assault. This data would mean that each year, a female undergraduate at Duke is 5.5 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a resident of St. Louis, which FBI statistics listed as the nation’s most dangerous city in 2016. And yet, incredibly, parents still spend around $280,000 to send their daughters into this den of crime for four years.

But 88% of Women Feel Safe

As always occurs with these surveys, the internal data renders them highly unreliable. But in this case, the internal data suggests a survey at war with itself. A few examples:

The survey indicates that 88 percent of female undergraduates say they feel safe on campus. So—at a minimum—28 percent of Duke female undergraduates say they feel safe at a school where they experienced sexual assault. Similarly, 74 percent of female undergraduates consider sexual assault a big problem on campus—meaning that at a minimum, 52 percent of female undergraduates feel “safe” on a campus where they think sexual assault is a “big problem.”

The most startling rate of self-described sexual assault victims comes among lesbian and bisexual female undergraduates, 59 percent of whom say they were sexually assaulted while at Duke. And yet, according to a later table, zero female undergraduates list a female as the perpetrator of their assault. Even assuming that every bisexual student surveyed said she was assaulted by a man, this figure would suggest that a significant portion of Duke lesbians are having some type of sexual contact with men (nearly all of whom, it appears, then turned out to have been sex criminals). Could anyone take such data seriously?

If true, these figures would suggest a violent crime epidemic not merely for Duke but for the city of Durham. Significant percentages of the alleged sexual assaults occurred in a category described as “off-campus/local,” thus falling within the jurisdiction of the Durham, rather than the Duke, Police Department. Yet no signs exist of the Durham Police paying more attention to this purported crime wave in their midst, or that the Duke leadership has asked them to do so.

‘Fundamentally Unfair” to Men

At heart of the issue is the extraordinarily broad definition of sexual assault—a term with a common cultural and legal understanding—used in surveys like the Duke one. The survey lumps together being “touched or grabbed” in an unwanted way (61 percent of the self-described victims) with sexual assault by force or threat (22 percent of the alleged victims) as if the severity of the offenses were the same. Even the survey takers appear to recognize the folly of this approach; 41 percent of self-described female sexual assault victims describe the experience of being sexually assaulted as not very upsetting—or not upsetting at all. The university’s response? Asking whether this figure indicated “a need for broadly disseminated programming on the impact of sexual misconduct.” Duke already has increased “the number of staff providing counseling and support services and conducting investigations.”

Perhaps the saddest item from the survey: 57 percent feel that students accused of sexual assault are treated fairly. They’re responding to a system in which Duke has had two negative judicial decisions, the most recent of which featured Judge Orlando Hudson characterizing the Duke procedures as “fundamentally unfair.” There is, of course, no reason to believe that most students have any idea just how unfairly Duke treats students accused of sexual assault.

Intimidated Faculty Find a New Way to Capitulate

Last week’s campus irritant,  a story in the Wall Street Journal, “Faculty’s New Focus: Don’t Offend,” claimed that an increasing number of professors are changing the contents of their syllabi.

The story exposes the advent of bias response teams and undergraduates demanding a supportive, untroubled campus experience, along with the Obama Administration’s “Dear Colleague” letters on sexual matters, has intimidated teachers and made them self-protective. They don’t want to provoke a student complaint about an assigned book that has the n-word or a scene of sexual violence or even humor.

The Lens of Grievance

Although the story doesn’t explain further, we can say that it won’t matter if the complaint is groundless or absurd. The fact is that the offended student is a hypersensitive, self-dramatizing adolescent who, apart from his personal issues, has been keyed up by other professors and administrators who see the world through the lens of grievance.  Even if the professor is entirely cleared of any wrongdoing, who wants the aggravation? With the Federal government involved, the process can go on for weeks or months. The administrators, too, aren’t there to support their teacher colleagues. They’re there to protect the institution.

Professors know this. They know, also, that once the procedural gears of a complaint start turning, their colleagues and admiring students will be of little help. Many of them won’t want to get involved, and those who do will be frustrated by the question: How? When a group of principled professors approaches the dean about halting a ridiculous persecution, all the dean has to say is, “I know, I know, but the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education makes us take every one of those complaints VERY seriously. My hands are tied.”

A Rational and Smooth Exit

And so, says The Journal, professors are taking the rational and smooth way out. They are removing materials from a class that might offend racial, sexual, and other politically correct scruples. A film teacher in the story admits that he has pulled Birth of a Nation, The Bank Dick, and Tootsie from his courses. The first film is white supremacist propaganda, the second, with W. C. Fields, pokes fun at blandness, and the third trades in “gender stereotypes.” (I won’t comment on the more serious problem with Tootsie, namely, that it is one of those insufferably cute ’80s films that should be shelved forever.)

The academic objection to this revision is obvious, but such capitulations to political correctness have been happening so often and for so long that it is hard to get exercised over them anymore. The history of higher education for the last half-century clearly says that it wasn’t going to take long for the ideals of higher education to give way to this rising demand that offense never transpire.

I sense in my colleagues, liberal and conservatives both, a certain fatalism about the whole thing. Many liberals regret the hypersensitivity that pressures them to delete Huck Finn and the operas of Wagner. They know that the absence of D. W. Griffith’s epic from a course in the history of film distorts the actual history of film. They realize, too, that sensitivity is an anti-intellectual condition, and that they would prefer to examine racist elements from the past, not pretend that they didn’t exist.

Offended by “The Bank Dick”

But all those hesitations don’t alter what they believe is a juggernaut that smashes anything that gets in the way. Is it really worth standing up and risking a two-month headache when all you have to do in your week on 1930s Hollywood comedy is drop The Bank Dick and insert It Happened One Night? This is the smart way to run an academic career, especially when you find that academia has numerous apologists for the sensitivity regime such as the professor of educational leadership who tells the Wall Street Journal:

There’s a tremendous amount of research in higher education showing different experiences for people by race, gender or sexual orientation or religion…. [These students] need a place to go to get support and report issues they are having.

The vagueness of the language–“different experiences,” “report issues”–is deliberate, and it has the effect of making professors uncertain. A professor not only has to choose his words because of their truth, that is, on the grounds of their correspondence to the object under discussion. He also must consider their impact on the students — not on the students as a whole, but on each group identity represented in the chairs throughout the room.

It’s a recipe for guardedness. The more the rules operate by insinuation, the less free and open is the classroom. The more sensitive the students are (and encouraged to report any discomfort they undergo), the more circumspect the teachers will be.

The days of the strong mentor and the teacher who is powerful and engaging enough to inspire disciples and alter students’ lives are numbered.

Middlebury Will Either Defend Democratic Norms or Capitulate

Below is an excerpt from an article by Rod Dreher in The American Conservative on Middlebury students shouting down and harassing visiting speaker Charles Murray:

Middlebury College is on trial now. Its administration will either forthrightly defend liberal democratic norms, or it will capitulate. There is no middle ground. … These little Maoists studying at elite colleges and universities like Middlebury are on the fast track to move into the American ruling class. You see what they will do to dissenters. They must be resisted — and resisted strongly.

If Middlebury and institutions like it do not believe in their mission enough to defend it against barbarians like that student mob — and defend it enough to expel the worst of them, without apology or appeal — then it deserves contempt and shunning by all people — left, right, and center — who believe in education, who believe in the free exchange of ideas on campus, and indeed, who believe in civilization.”

Another Breakthrough in Feminist Mathematics

I have written many pieces over the years about the massive attempt to enroll more women in STEM fields, noting in one essay here that “Readers of the higher education press and literature may be forgiven for supposing that there is more research on why there are not more women in STEM fields than there is actual research in the STEM fields themselves.” Now comes a new book, Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics (State University of New York Press), by Sara N. Hottinger, interim dean of arts and humanities and a professor of women’s and gender studies at Keene State College, suggesting that the problem may not be with women but with math.

In a revealing, just published interview with Hottinger, “Hidden Figures: Women’s studies meets mathematics in a new book arguing for a more inclusive cultural notion of numeracy,” Inside Higher Ed notes that her book’s “ultimate goal is to deconstruct our individual and cultural ideas about math — then build them back up again in a more inclusive fashion.”

Here are some highlights of that interview in which Prof. Hottinger mounts a vigorous challenge to conventional understandings of women and math. I have numbered these selected nuggets to facilitate later discussion of them.

  1. During my senior year of college, I did an independent study on psychoanalytic theorist and philosopher Jacques Lacan and ended up writing my final paper on the connections between mathematical topology and Lacanian theory. I wrote my women’s studies senior thesis on feminist pedagogies in the mathematics classroom and the ways in which feminist approaches to the teaching of math allowed marginalized students to understand and work with mathematical knowledge in innovative new ways.
  2. … the content of any science is profoundly constrained by the language within which its discourses are formulated; and mainstream Western physical science has, since Galileo, been formulated in the language of mathematics. But whose mathematics? The question is a fundamental one, for, as Aronowitz has observed, “neither logic nor mathematics escapes the ‘contamination’ of the social.” And as feminist thinkers have repeatedly pointed out, in the present culture this contamination is overwhelmingly capitalist, patriarchal and militaristic.
  3. I continued this work in my doctoral dissertation, where I made the epistemological argument that mathematical ways of knowing are shaped within communities…. And, now, in this book, I consider the cultural construction of mathematical subjectivity and argue that mathematics plays a significant role in the construction of normative Western subjectivity and in the constitution of the West itself.
  4. … recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of “objectivity.”
  5. In much the same way that feminist education scholars have shown, via discourse analysis, the incompatibility between femininity and mathematical achievement, both Walker and Stinson show the complex ways successful black mathematics students must accommodate, reconfigure or resist the discursive construction of a normative white, masculine mathematical subjectivity.
  6. The teaching of science and mathematics must be purged of its authoritarian and elitist characteristics, and the content of these subjects enriched by incorporating the insights of the feminist, queer, multiculturalist and ecological critiques.
  7. Because mathematics is understood to be the ultimate manifestation of the human ability to reason, mathematical achievement is a clear marker in the construction of an ideal subjectivity. If these multiple associations — between reason, masculinity, subjectivity and mathematics — are teased apart, we can better understand why mathematical subjectivity and the ability to succeed in mathematics is so difficult to achieve for those in marginalized groups. For example, if mathematical subjectivity and the ability to reason is constructed within Western culture as masculine, then women will continue to find it difficult to see themselves as mathematical subjects. Women will have to choose between being good mathematicians or being “proper” women.
  8. See Ginzberg (1989), Cope-Kasten (1989), Nye (1990) and Plumwood (1993b) for lucid feminist critiques of conventional (masculinist) mathematical logic.

I suspect Minding The Campus has few readers who will be persuaded by this deconstructionist argument. Indeed, many readers may find it disconcertingly familiar while others will suspect I’m perpetrating some sort of hoax.

Right on both counts!

Paragraphs 1, 3, 5, and 7 are, as I claimed, from Prof. Hottinger’s interview with Inside Higher Ed. But paragraphs 2, 4, 6, and 8 are quoted from NYU Physicist Alan Sokal’s famous 1996 hoax published in Social Text, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” which claimed that “physical ‘reality’ … is at bottom a social and linguistic construct.”

Sokal’s “Ridicule Didn’t Work,” James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote recently in the Weekly Standard. “The trends that Sokal spoofed remain trendy in academic liberal arts. “‘You might have thought that humanities scholars, and particularly those working in subfields of cultural studies, would have been mortified with embarrassment, like a pretentious man who got caught mistaking his son’s finger-paintings for Jackson Pollock originals,’ says intellectual historian Wilfred McClay. ‘But they weren’t much embarrassed, and those fields have not suffered noticeably.’” In fact, their influence is even greater than before, “because highly ideological fields such as gender and race studies have broken out of the academic hothouse and into the mainstream of American life and politics.”

Thus what Sokal spoofed remains true of much of contemporary social science, especially cultural studies attempting to deconstruct, reconstruct, or otherwise transform our understanding or race, gender, sex, etc.: it’s often hard to tell the parodies from the real thing.

False Rape Reports in Sacred Heart

Last week featured a rarity—the filing of criminal charges against a campus sexual assault accuser. Ashe Schow has a full write-up of the case, which originated when a Sacred Heart University student named Nikki Yovino accused two of the university’s football players of sexually assaulting her.

An affidavit prepared by the local police indicated that the football players were suspended, and thus presumably found guilty. (Sacred Heart has disputed the extent of the students’ punishment.) But Yovino later admitted to police that she made it all up, seeking to engender sympathy from another male student she wanted to date. As Schow points out, this motivation resembles the Jackie case at UVA.

What most struck me, however, was the defense offered by a university spokesperson: “Whenever there is any kind of incident at Sacred Heart University, we go to great lengths to ensure due process for all parties involved. The way that this particular case is playing out certainly demonstrates the validity of our procedures.” [emphasis added] Again, this was a case in which Sacred Heart’s procedures led to the punishments of students who were falsely accused.

Though Sacred Heart promises a “fair process,” nothing in its procedures suggests fairness. The university begins by announcing its dedication to “providing information and resources to the Sacred Heart University community about the risks and myths that contribute to sexual misconduct.” What these “myths” are the procedures don’t reveal, and a Sacred Heart spokesperson did not respond to a request for the information.

The university also uses an affirmative consent policy, which effectively requires accused students to prove their innocence. “Consent,” at Sacred Heart, “cannot be inferred from the absence of a ‘no’; a clear ‘yes,’ verbal or otherwise, is necessary.” The procedures are silent on how “otherwise” can yield a “clear ‘yes,’” and despite a claim to the contrary, other sections of the guidelines outline a policy in which anything short of an ability to prove a verbal “yes” is likely to yield a guilty finding.

The university considers “persons who are intoxicated” while having sex to be victims since they are “lacking the physical and/or mental ability to make informed and rational decisions or judgments.” The policies don’t explain what happens when both students are intoxicated.

Once a charge is filed, the Title IX coordinator, rather than an independent party, investigates. If the coordinator concludes it’s more likely than not that the accused student is guilty, he goes before a hearing panel of two administrators and one professor. This panel hears “the facts of the case from both parties”—but the accused student has no right to cross-examination, no right to call witnesses, and no right to full legal representation.

These procedures are no worse than those employed at many universities, though they also give the lie to the spokesperson’s claim that the institution goes “to great lengths to ensure due process for all parties involved.” But Sacred Heart’s sexual assault procedure has a clause I’ve seen at no other school.

“An allegation that is both intentionally false and malicious,” Sacred Heart explains, “may [emphasis added] be a violation of the Sacred Heart University Student Conduct Code.”

Consider this provision for a moment. A false rape allegation, in and of itself, is not a violation of Sacred Heart’s code—the allegation must be “intentionally” false. (The code provides no description of the distinction between a false and an intentionally false claim.) But even an “intentionally false” claim isn’t a violation—the claim must also be “malicious.” (The code provides no description of the distinction between an intentionally false and an intentionally false/malicious claim.)

But even then—even if Sacred Heart has encountered a sexual assault claim that’s both “intentionally false” and “malicious”—the accuser only “may” be guilty of a code violation. So under certain (unspecified) circumstances, a Sacred Heart student who filed an intentionally false and malicious sexual assault claim against a fellow student still didn’t violate the university’s disciplinary code. It seems that Nikki Yovino found the perfect university to attend.

Panic Over Sex Assault ‘Crime Wave’ Overtakes Yale

In a 2012 resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, Yale became the nation’s only university required to document all sexual assault allegations on campus. The reports, prepared by Yale deputy provost Stephanie Spangler, are generally bare-bones (and became even more so last year after Spangler announced she’d decided to supply less information about some unresolved complaints) but nonetheless provide a peak into the deeply unhealthy atmosphere—at least at elite campuses—regarding the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault complaints. The most recent of the Spangler Reports, which covers events in the last six months of 2016, has now appeared.

Minding the Campus has covered each of the previous Spangler reports, which have included such items as:

As always, Spangler notes that the university “uses a more expansive definition of sexual assault” than does either Connecticut state law or the federal government (through Clery Act requirements). The university has never offered an explanation as to why it does so. The current report, which discusses allegations filed between July and December 2016, adds a vague assertion that it “assigns complaints to general categories such as ‘sexual assault’ . . . that encompass broad ranges of behavior”—but, again, why sexual assault should “encompass broad ranges of behavior” beyond the common legal or cultural understanding of the term remains a mystery.

Fueling the Panic

The Spangler reports always have had the feel of existing to feed the frenzy (while appeasing OCR and justifying Yale’s sprawling Title IX bureaucracy) more than providing accurate information, but the current report seems to go overboard on this matter. It portrays a campus in the midst of a terrifying wave of violent crime—or, more likely, in the midst of a moral panic.

There were 81 reports of some type of sexual harassment at Yale in the last six months of 2016. Spangler seems almost giddy at the news, since “we have noted a sustained increase in the number of complaints brought to the university’s attention in the three reporting periods following” the AAU survey from 2015 (which, using deeply flawed methodology, suggested the nation’s preeminent campuses were hotbeds of felonies).

Spangler never pauses to consider whether this surge of reporting might be fueled by a panicked campus atmosphere to which she, and the Yale administration, have contributed. Instead, she believes that her previous reports—which indicated that a typical female undergraduate at Yale had a greater chance of being a victim of violent crime than a resident of Detroit, which FBI statistics have identified as the nation’s most dangerous city—have shown an insufficiently low number of campus crime victims. The university, she declares, therefore needs to “identify and address barriers to reporting” of sexual assault at Yale. What those barriers could be, given the frenzied atmosphere on campus in recent years, Spangler does not reveal.

Responding to the Yale Crime Wave

Spangler promised only two specific steps to take to meet this campus crime wave. The first is almost comical. “We are,” Spangler writes, “working to shed more light on Yale’s procedures through the creation of additional ‘hypothetical case scenarios’ that address a broad range of behaviors and are tailored to local campus communities.” The existing version of these scenarios was (deservedly) mocked by Cathy Young; and, in any case, they don’t shed light on its procedures—as Yale demonstrated when it didn’t follow them in the Jack Montague case, a point raised in his lawsuit against the university.

The second, however, raises grave academic freedom concerns. Interns in the Title IX Office, Spangler explains, have developed a program to address “patterns of academic and social life particular to the graduate and professional schools.” This program “has been offered in numerous departments.” Yet “academic” issues at the level of academic “departments” are supposed to be the purview of the faculty—not student interns responsible to a Title IX bureaucrat. Yet not only has this initiative not aroused any academic freedom concerns, according to Spangler “demand is high” for future workshops. Faculty, instead, appear to have bowed to the inevitable, as this jargon-laden sentence implies: “Schools and departments across the campus continue to introduce initiatives aimed at identifying and impacting factors that influence local culture.”

Despite the top-line assertion of 81 complaints of sexual harassment, Yale’s disciplinary tribunal, the UWC, handled only one case of sexual assault involving undergraduate students during this six-month period. (The student, unsurprisingly given the guilt-presuming procedures, was found guilty.) One case remains pending, and another withdrew instead of bothering going through the UWC.

New Developments

The current Spangler report departs from its predecessors in five interesting ways. First: several faculty members faced serious allegations, and therefore got a taste of the procedures to which their students have been subjected for years. One was found not guilty of sexual assault, but guilty of violating the school’s policy regarding teacher-student relations. A second is still facing the same charge, with two others currently under investigation on this policy. A fifth was found guilty of sexual harassment—in a case initiated not by any students, but by a Title IX “coordinator.” The professor was suspended for a semester, and prohibited from having any leadership positions or advising any students for five years. And the Title IX office is investigating two other professors for making “inappropriate comments.”

Second: the report features several cases in which students filed complaints not to have another student expelled, but solely to receive an academic accommodation (such as a delay on an exam or paper) from the Title IX office. And some of the allegations were remarkably broad. In two instances, for example, the student complained that another student “paid unwanted attention” to her. By that definition of sexual harassment, any student asking another out for a date would be risking a sexual harassment complaint. The ability of students to game the system by filing complaints to get accommodations is present in all Title IX matters, especially at elite schools.

Third: there appear to have been two cases in which a male filed a complaint against a female. It’s not clear whether there were sexual assault or harassment cases. It’s not clear whether they involved undergraduate or graduate students, or what their disposition was. But it is a trend worth watching.

Fourth: in the last few Spangler reports, a disturbing pattern emerged of Title IX coordinators—rather than accusers—filing sexual assault complaints against Yale undergraduate students. These moves came despite severe restrictions in the Yale guidelines regarding the filing of these complaints. One of the victims of this process was Jack Montague—and after his lawsuit brought attention to the matter, the restrictions vanished. But so too, at least for this reporting period, did the filing of charges against male undergraduate students by the Title IX office. Did the administration instruct the office to lay low on the matter until the Montague suit is resolved?

Fifth: seven sexual assault allegations by undergraduate students received no description from Spangler at all—yet they counted toward her top-line total of 81 cases, helping to fuel the campus panic. Previous Spangler reports would describe this kind of case, which often involved a claim by a student that a second student (whose identity she didn’t know) was sexually assaulted by a third student (whose identity she also didn’t know). Providing this type of information, of course, demonstrated the absurdity of the allegation. So, beginning with her last report, Spangler dropped it.

She wouldn’t want to provide inconvenient facts that might undermine the narrative.