Category Archives: Short Takes

Degree Switcheroo at U.Mass

Vijay Prashad employs an especially nimble means of comparison in The Boston Globe today. It seems that the University of Massachusetts is about to grant Andrew Card an honorary degree. Prashad objects to this, on a variety of grounds. That’s not surprising. University honors bestowed on any political figures (especially those rightward) tend to inspire spirited objection – the establishment of a Rehnquist Professorship at Middlebury was dubbed a “symbolic act of violence” by a professor. Presumably, due to his greater proximity to Asmodeus, Andrew Card would stand as an even more dangeous symbol.

Objections such as Prashad’s are not surprising – it’s the method of argument that he uses that is singular. His article sets up a contrast between the University’s iniquitous granting of the Card degree, and its recent, virtuous revocation of… Robert Mugabe’s degree. At the end of the piece, I gained the strong feeling that he felt, in a moral sense, that U. Mass had come out at best even in the degree exchange. In the scales of honorary degree evil only a murderous tyrant could hope to balance out a Bush administration member…

What Faculty Think About Religion

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

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

It’s Gender Repression When I Say It Is

Joanne Creighton, President of Mt. Holyoke College, makes several worthy points on the behalf of women’s colleges in The Boston Globe today, but her case for the knowledge they convey is rather bizarrely ordered.

Consider the admirable facts that she could cite first:

1. Mt. Holyoke has produced, in the last forty years, more graduates that went on to earn doctorates in the life and physical sciences than any other liberal arts college in the country.

2. Women’s colleges enroll larger numbers of low-income students than peer gender-mixed institutions.

3. Graduates of women’s colleges include such estimable figures as Nancy Pelosi, Elaine Chao, and Madeline Albright.

Yet, before all of this, her first argument on these colleges’ behalf is:

Graduates are more able to see gender-repression when they encounter it and to distinguish between personal and systemic barriers to success.

A sophisticated grasp of gender repression? So that’s how Mt. Holyoke grads get into Physics PhD programs? And I had always imagined that they key was a sophisticated grasp of thermodynamics. Where does that factor in, President Creighton. Lower?

Dartmouth Victory!

Press Release: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs

Dartmouth Board of Trustees Elects Stephen Smith

HANOVER, N.H. – The Dartmouth College Board of Trustees has elected Stephen F. Smith as a trustee following a nomination vote by Dartmouth’s alumni from a slate of four candidates.

Smith, a 1988 graduate of Dartmouth, will join the board on June 11, following commencement ceremonies in Hanover. He succeeds Nancy Kepes Jeton ’76, who will step down in June after ten years of service on the board.

The Dartmouth Board of Trustees has ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative and academic affairs of the College including long-range strategic planning, approving operating and capital budgets, managing the endowment, overseeing the educational program, leading fundraising efforts, setting tuition and fees, and approving major policy changes. The Board currently consists of 18 members, including eight alumni trustees nominated by alumni vote and elected by the board, eight charter trustees selected by the board, the Governor of New Hampshire (in an ex officio capacity) and the President of the College. In November 2003, the Board voted to expand the number of seats to 22 over several years.
A total of 18,186 voters, 28 percent of alumni, cast 32,941 votes using the “approval” method whereby voters can vote for as many of the candidates as they wish. Smith received 9,984 votes.

Read more here

Fewer Immigrants and Poor Accepted: Success!

The yield of the University of California’s “holistic” admissions process is now becoming apparent with the release of enrollment figures. Admissions were conducted under a novel system for the current year, a “holistic process” which was promoted as a means to improve the relative chances of disadvantaged students who lacked AP courses and other academic opportunities that wealthier peers enjoy.

Now that the matriculating class of 2007 has been selected, University administrators are hailing the result as a great success. So it proved a boon for low-income students? Well, no, not at all actually. The number of students from families with incomes under 30,000 declined from 955 in 2006 to an estimated 689 for 2007. The number of first-generation students fell by about 400.

What do University administrators have to say about the results? Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero declared to the UCLA Daily Bruin “We are certainly out of crisis mode.” Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams was “very pleased” with the result.

How is this? Well, black enrollment increased from 96 in 2006 to 203 for the present year. What would most rational persons call a policy that traded modest increases in black enrollment for much more severe declines in immigrant and other low-income enrollment? Flawed? Only a university administrator could look at such a result and declare themself pleased.

Freedom from Fear, Want, and.. Harassment in Print?

The Boston Globe reports:

A judicial panel at Tufts University on Thursday ruled that a conservative campus journal “harassed” blacks by publishing a Christmas carol parody called “O Come All Ye Black Folk” that many found racist.

The Primary Source, which published the carol, removed the lyrics from their site months ago, and replaced them with a rather sincere apology. The note makes clear that the carol was intended as an affirmative action parody. Does that make sense? Not to this panel. They issued a requirement that an editor sign all pieces, and “recommended that Tufts’ student government ‘consider the behavior’ of the magazine when allocating money.”

Bruce Reitman, the dean of students, found this financial threat, well.. rather elegant.

I’m proud of the committee,” he said. “I was pleased to see them balance both values of freedom of speech and freedom from harassment, without letting one dominate the other.

Aren’t we glad there’s someone like Bruce Reitman fighting against the domination of free speech? Thank heavens.