What Happened At Hamilton

By Robert Paquette

On 17 September, Constitution Day, my two co-founders (professors Douglas Ambrose and James Bradfield) and I unveiled the Alexander Hamilton Institute in a historic mansion about a mile from the Hamilton College campus. Our goal is to promote the study of American ideals and institutions. This was not our first try. A little over a year ago , we were celebrating its founding at the college, as the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization. We intended to offer a rich menu of extras – conferences, colloquia, internships, fellowships, and awards – to Hamilton College undergraduates. In August 2006 we were toasting a signed agreement with the President and Dean of the Faculty; several weeks later, the initiative collapsed, only now reborn outside of the college. What happened?

The opposition was partly bureaucratic, partly ideological. On the modern campus, programs to study Western institution and culture tend to meet quick resistance. The activists win subtly and incrementally, in several different ways: by choosing the people who teach such courses; by abolishing core curricula that contain a strong American history or Western civilization component; by insisting that Western thought cannot be “privileged” at the expense of other offerings on, say, race, gender, class and sexuality.

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Administrators The Real Threat In Indoctrinate U

[this also appeared in the Washington Examiner]

Last week’s withdrawal of a speaking invitation to Lawrence Summers by the University of California’s Board of Regents placed the spotlight on a central member of the radical campus constituency – the administrator. Recent spats over radical professors have obscured this corner of the university – where the most solidly-entrenched threats to academic rights and the free expression of ideas can be found. In his new documentary, Indoctrinate U, Evan Coyne Maloney, sheds incisive light on university administrators. Maloney’s worthy film offers a brisk tour of the political afflictions of the modern academy, displaying repressive speech codes, expectations of minority behavior, and political imbalances and intolerance. As Indoctrinate U makes clear, the wild-eyed radical professor might be contained within their classroom; it’s the nondescript university bureaucrats that race to enforce their friendly dictums that pose the far-reaching threat to all students.

Widespread ideas of diversity have given rise to women’s centers, minority centers, and an assortment of items designed to advance particular, progressive causes. Most of these seem fuzzily nice, yet those questioning their utility are typically subject to swift punishment. Those who vocally disagree with these projects, making light of sacred doctrines of affirmative action, political correctness, or feminist politicking require a harsh lesson in civility, according to prevailing mores of college administrations. Indoctrinate U documents many such cases; a student at California Polytechnic was threatened with expulsion for circulating a poster for a black conservative’s lecture which read “It’s ok to leave the plantation.” This was labeled “harassment.” After months of pressure and legal threats, the university dropped its case. It never had much of one to begin with, but colleges never lose enthusiasm for quashing “objectionable” speech.

Continue reading Administrators The Real Threat In Indoctrinate U

The AAUP Straw-Man Statement

If anyone hasn’t realized that the new AAUP Statement on academic freedom is a sham, then there are two excellent means to inform yourself today.

First, Erin O’Connor’s new piece here at the site, on the AAUP’s ducking of almost every serious complaint to which it pretends to respond.

A small but telling indicator of the larger problem: When interviewed about the statement by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nelson said that it is ultimately designed to encourage professors to say to outside critics, “Don’t mess with me.” In other words – by Nelson’s own admission- it’s less a rigorously reasoned policy statement than it is a confrontational ultimatum disguised as a policy statement.

Those additionally interested in the topic should look to Peter Wood and Stephen Balch’s voluminous response (Erin also mentions it) on the NAS site.

The AAUP report omits the most serious questions posed about professorial abuses, and provides warm examples of non-offensive behavior. Both Erin and Peter cite what’s surely the statement’s most ridiculous construction of farcical criticism:

There is, however, a large universe of facts, theories, and models that are arguably relevant to a subject of instruction but that need not be taught. Assessments of George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda might be relevant to a course on her Middlemarch, but it is not a dereliction of professional standards to fail to discuss Daniel Deronda in class. What facts, theories, and models an instructor chooses to bring into the classroom depends upon the instructor’s sense of pedagogical dynamics and purpose.

It would be interesting to live in a world where the omission of Daniel Deronda from a curriculum was the greatest threat to classroom professionalism – the AAUP knows this example is worlds away from the criticism that professors actually receive. They’ve chosen to dodge all of that – read more on their non-response in both of the pieces above.

AAUP To Critics: What, Us Biased?

Last summer, AAUP president Cary Nelson announced that the AAUP would be issuing a back to school statement on academic freedom in the classroom. Now that statement has gone public – and it makes for very interesting and informative reading.

Written by a subcommittee of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, “Freedom in the Classroom” acknowledges that professors have been accused in recent years of indoctrinating rather than educating, of failing to provide balanced perspectives on controversial issues, of creating a hostile learning environment for conservative or religious students, and of injecting irrelevant political asides into class discussion. And as such the statement is ostensibly meant to address the very real issues surrounding faculty classroom conduct that have arisen of late. As anyone who follows higher ed news knows, concerns about whether professors are abusing their pedagogical prerogatives have been repeatedly voiced; and, as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and other groups have repeatedly noted, those concerns should be addressed in a manner that is simultaneously respectful of students’ rights to learn and professors’ academic freedom to teach as they see fit. The AAUP is right to take up the issue of classroom speech, and it is right to seek to parse exactly where faculty academic freedom begins and ends.
The trouble, though, is that the AAUP’s statement does not take seriously the questions and complaints to which it purports to respond. A small but telling indicator of the larger problem: When interviewed about the statement by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nelson said that it is ultimately designed to encourage professors to say to outside critics, “Don’t mess with me.” In other words – by Nelson’s own admission- it’s less a rigorously reasoned policy statement than it is a confrontational ultimatum disguised as a policy statement. This maneuver was not at all lost on The Chronicle’s Robin Wilson, who wrote that while the statement “is billed as a tool to help professors decide what they can and cannot safely say in the classroom – particularly when it comes to hot-button cultural and political issues,” it comes across “more like a defense of the professoriate in the face of heavy criticism” coming from outside the academy.

Continue reading AAUP To Critics: What, Us Biased?

Ahmadine-jaded

You can read a passel of editorials on Ahmadinejad above, and if you’re enterprising, you can easily find another, oh, thirty of so op-eds on the topic of his appearance. None of these, except for one, address any substantive findings from Ahmadinejad’s speech, because there weren’t any.

That one exception, The Columbia Spectator now urges that “students, professors and administrators must think critically about what we have learned from him – particularly his provocative thoughts on the plight of the Palestinians, Iran’s nuclear program, and how Western imperialism has helped shape the Middle East.” Provocative thoughts? Is there a single person who wasn’t aware of his precise views on these topics?

Bollinger’s bromides against Ahmadinejad made clear that there was no real exchange or debate, or honesty expected, from the start, and that was exactly the case. Did we learn anything from him that we didn’t know already – aside from the fact that Iran doesn’t have homosexuals like this country? Bollinger’s new rhetoric of boundless free speech clouded another important scale; that of academic worth. Columbia provided a spectacle to the public, and a jolt to op-ed pages, but it’s still not clear what academic benefit it provided its students.

Bollinger Impressive, Still Confusing

President Bollinger is displaying a new-found talent for confounding expectations. After barring Ahmadinejad from Columbia last year, he suddenly invited him back on Wednesday, to widespread criticism, for offering a platform to a despot. Then, Bollinger further surprised with a caustic introduction and a roundup of pointed questions about Iranian nuclear ambitions, persecution of women and homosexuals, Holocaust denial, the jailing of scholars, aid to insurgents in Iraq, and the execution of minors. At this point, Bollinger did not simply wait to hear Ahmadinejad, but summed up a blistering (that seems to be everyone’s word for it) statement:

Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.

Bollinger, continues his shock-the-world week in displaying a heretofore unknown capacity for indictment. Suffice it to say that Ahmadinejad was not much of a sparring partner. Bollinger is now basking in a well-deserved tide of compliments for his comments. His worthy broadsides haven’t swept aside any of the larger questions concerning Ahmadinejad’s apperance, though. The event took a form that was far from everyone’s expectations – to Bollinger’s considerable credit. Ahmadinejad was not accorded the place of respect that many feared he would enjoy, but instead roundly condemned. That’s good.

There’s still something very odd about Bollinger’s attitude towards the event, though. If he viewed it as a conditional occasion to barb Ahmadinejad, then good for him – but he seemed to think that hosting the Iranian President was now a duty.

This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech, of Columbia University and of academic institutions.

This is not the Bollinger of last year, who canceled Ahmadinejad’s speaking appearance – and was well within his rights in doing that. But now Columbia must host him? There’s no doubt that universities tend to be far more censorious and inattentive to free speech than they should, but Bollinger’s free speech epiphany doesn’t shed a single bit of light on the topic of campus free speech. What exactly is “required?” To receive Ahmadinejad now? To receive world leaders? To receive vulpine Iranians? Bollinger displayed admirable clarity in condemning Ahmadinejad today, but that shouldn’t cloud the fact that otherwise he has continued on his usual path, as the most confusing “first amendment scholar” of our day.

Coatsworth: Would Invite Hitler, Divest From Israel

You might have seen John Coatsworth, the acting dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs posing questions to Ahmadinejad today. It was Coatsworth who declared that he would invite Hitler to speak at Columbia.

He was also a signatory to a “Joint Harvard-MIT Petition for Divestment from Israel” when he was a professor at Harvard. See his name here. That petition begins: “We, the undersigned are appalled by the human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, the continual military occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory by Israeli armed forces and settlers, and the forcible eviction from and demolition of Palestinian homes, towns and cities.”

Apparently, it is fine to host dictators but not to invest in democracies.

Bollinger Introduces Ahmadinjad

The New York Times City Room is blogging on Ahmadinejad’s Columbia speech. Read this passage from President Bollinger and see if it makes any sense:

“To those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as resaonable.” He said, “It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.” He added, “This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech, of Columbia University” and of academic institutions.

He added that he regretted if people were hurt by the speech, and he called the “intellectual and emotional courage” to “confront the mind of evil.”

“We cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds,” he said.

Huh?

Was Bollinger calling Ahmadinejad the mind of evil?

I don’t think Bollinger will clarify.

The 32 Worst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s Too Extreme For Columbia?

Here’s a game. The following quote is from The Columbia Spectator yesterday. To which campus lecture is the article referring?

A university’s free speech is not the same as a country’s free speech, and failing to distinguish the two is hazardous to the intellectual and social climate we are all striving to maintain. After all, we are a special community with our own set of values and priorities and a unique obligation to our community members. One such value is scholarly exchange-but that must be preconditioned with the safety of our students.

A reasonable point – there are differences between free speech as existing at large and free speech in larger abstract. And given the President of Iran’s human rights record, there’s a very reasonable argument that he doesn’t exist on the plane of reasonable discourse. Wait, she’s talking about Ahmadinejad, right?

Nope. The real threat, for Mitchell, it seems, on a day on which the Columbia Spectator ran three op-eds about Ahmadinejad, was Jim Gilchrist, the interrupted-invited-and-now-disinvited Minutemen head. Gilchrist stood, evidently, as a greater threat to her idea of the Columbia community than Ahmadinejad did.

Her piece grows steadily more ludicrous, referring to the Minutemen as part of a power structure that is a threat to all immigrants – “Gilchrist promises to relieve the country of its immigrant burdens” (his beat was illegal immigration the last time that I checked). The piece reaches a boiling point in the following parapgrah:

Whatever lessons I could have learned the night the Minutemen came to speak would not have been worth the consequences: more lethal to intellectual freedom than preventing the group from speaking is further alienating and silencing fellow students. Rushing on stage is not my idea of a productive conversation. But it is also not the kind of option students resort to if they have access to other outlets. So, yes, maybe one part of our conversation needs to be about the implications of a university legitimizing a voice like the Minutemen’s; but another is how we can empower and support marginalized groups in our community so that those like the Minutemen never have the final word.

Allowing Gilchrist to speak silences fellow students? The students in the audience had no choice but to rush the stage? Perhaps they could have asked a question? Or held a loud rally on the quad (as they did with Gilchrist’s original appearance). Or written an op-ed for the Columbia Spectator – as we can see, they don’t set a very high bar for publication. Simply permitting an argument to unfold on a university stage is “lethal to intellectual freedom?”

I couldn’t imagine anything more lethal to intellectual freedom than to ground the term in such hopelessly vague concepts as “alienation” and silencing.” Which also seems to render unacceptable just about any speech that fails to suitably coddle Mitchell’s own forward-looking sentiments.

MTC’s Website Launch Party

Minding The Campus celebrated its public launch yesterday evening here in New York with a cocktail reception featuring Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson. John Leo introduced our project, followed by KC and Stuart’s lively remarks about their excellent new book Until Proven Innocent. Each detailed the lunacy of the Duke case – the professors’ lockstep assumption of guilt, the Group of 88’s repulsive antics, the administration’s easy acquiescence, and the general disregard for due process displayed.
To leave you with something you didn’t know – in conversation afterwards, KC made the interesting point that only two senators made public statements calling for due process in the case – Robert Menendez (Reade Seligman, one of the accused, was a constituent) and Barack Obama.

The Unseriousness of Freshman Summer Reading

Many college freshmen face their first academic task before they even set foot in a classroom – the freshman summer reading project. Many colleges now select a single volume for all incoming freshmen to read, and construct discussion groups and attendant orientation activities around the book. Temple University’s explanation of its program is fairly representative: “the goals of the project are to provide a common intellectual experience for entering students” and to “bring students, faculty and members of the Temple community together for discussion and debate.” At a time when core programs and required courses grow increasingly infrequent, it is surprising to find such strong language about “common intellectual experience” from universities. This all sounds encouraging, right? Perhaps, until you find out what they’re reading.

An overwhelming favorite of these reading programs is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed – it’s a perennial from Baruch to Slippery Rock to UNC Chapel Hill. Nickel and Dimed appears a perfect class-conscious selection to expand students’ minds. Poverty is a running theme in recent years’ assignments, from Case Western Reserve’s The Working Poor: Invisible In America to One Nation Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All at Washington University to a variety of Kozol readings across the nation’s campuses. These assignments have not always been received happily – the 2003 Nickel and Dimed assignment at UNC Chapel Hill inspired a protest coalition, arguing that the book was an inappropriate assignment, as a radical and left-inclined critique of the American economy.

Continue reading The Unseriousness of Freshman Summer Reading

Columbia: Yes to Ahmadinejad, Still No To Minutemen

On the surface, Lee Bollinger seems determined to make up for criticisms of his free speech record – in a big way – He’s scheduled to introduce President Ahmadinejad in a speech at Columbia on Monday.

Columbia seemed to be making efforts to amend its record, by reinviting both Ahmadinejad, whose speech was canceled last year, and Jim Gilchrist, of the Minuteman Project, to speak. Unnoticed, amidst the furor over Ahmadinejad, is the fact that Gilchrist’s speech has now been canceled.

Does this mean that the Minutemen will ever be offered a return slot?

The International Herald-Tribune reports:

A nonpartisan student group that had invited Jim Gilchrist, head of the anti-illegal-immigration group, to a forum next month, said on its Web site Tuesday that “it has become clear that this event cannot take the form we had originally hoped.”
The Columbia Political Union said in its statement that the event “could not effectively accomplish the goals we had hoped it might.”

Gilchrist said in a telephone interview that he was surprised at the decision, saying he had already bought airplane tickets for the event.

“I think Columbia is making a serious mistake,” he said. “The CPU originally had a majority wanting me to come there. The deans wanted me to come there,” although he said he always expected resistance from the student body.

Columbia – making amends to the President of Iran, but.. the Minuteman is beyond the pale?

That raises another question. What happens if students storm the stage during Ahmadinejad’s speech?

Just wondering.

Regents Asleep At The Switch

By Anne Neal

Question: What happens when you take a world-class public university, let political correctness run amok, and give it regents who are asleep at the switch?

Answer: You get the University of California.

Over the last week, UC faculty, administrators and regents have illustrated, in gory and public detail, a principle one would think is common sense: When universities focus on ideology, not excellence, everybody loses.

It’s no secret that UC Irvine’s new law school offered its deanship to Duke professor Erwin Chemerinsky and then retracted it – amidst signs of political interference. Then, to make matters worse, the UC Regents rescinded an invitation to former Harvard president Lawrence Summers after faculty objected to his views.

Now, after a national outcry, UC has apparently re-hired Chemerinsky – but it has not restored its invitation to Summers.
Which of course begs another question: Why would either man even want to come to a place that is run this way? Yet, the events of the past week – however disturbing – are totally predictable in light of UC’s history.

In the 1960s, UC Regents handed vast academic and financial authority over to faculty and staff. The results of this terrific abdication are now on full display. UC boasts what Regents chairman Richard Blum recently called a “dysfunctional” bureaucracy – a bloated administrative system with runaway salaries and perks. It also hosts a faculty senate that voted to eliminate a historic prohibition against “propaganda” in the classroom – on the grounds that it is outdated.

In that kind of environment, is it any wonder that deans and speakers are picked based on whose views are popular?

Likewise, we should not be surprised when a 2004 poll conducted by the University of Connecticut of students at UCLA, Berkeley and other institutions finds a substantial number who complain that book lists and panel discussions are “totally one-sided.” Or when “conservative” students are affirmatively discouraged from taking a course on Palestinian poetics, as they were at Berkeley in 2003.

Given this environment, it’s no surprise that decisions like those involving Chemerinsky and Summers are made. Instead of simply expressing outrage when such violations of fair procedure occur, we should recognize them as the logical outcome of decades of poor oversight and spineless accommodation of special interests.

And we should agree that enough is enough. That’s what the American Council of Trustees and Alumni told the Regents last Friday. In a letter addressed to Chairman Blum, we urged the Regents to put a stop to the degrading, damaging nonsense once and for all.
The Regents can do that by initiating a thorough review to ensure that political and ideological concerns don’t trump free inquiry on UC’s campuses – that personnel decisions are made on the basis of merit, not ideological congeniality, and that the classroom is home to healthy, rounded inquiry rather than proselytizing.

Regents are responsible for the academic and financial well-being of their institutions – and it’s time for UC’s board members to prove they’re up to the task. They must ensure that their university is actually a university – that it is open to multiple viewpoints, and that it fosters the free exchange of ideas. Doing that is not rocket science, and the nation is watching to see whether they get it right.

Give Everyone A “D”

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

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

Among the questions were these:

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

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

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

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

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

After Summers Comes The Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloom Bludgeoned

Donald Lazere offers a breezy and factless hatchet job on Allan Bloom today at Inside Higher Ed.

At first he seems about to offer a detailed critique of his works, asserting that they are “lofty-sounding ideological rationalizations for the policies of the Republican Party from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.” Stern words; Lazere follows them with examples from the text? No, just a dscriptive paragraph – wait, actually, a mere sentence: “Bloom rages against the movements of the 60s – campus protest, black power, feminism, affirmative action, and the counterculture – while glossing over every injustice in American society and foreign policy (he scarcely mentions the Vietnam War).”
The books are not mentioned again – Lazere blithely skips on to build his case on the basis of Bloom’s friendships and professional connections: “Bloom’s personal affiliations further belied his boast of being above “attachment to a party” and captivity to “the spirit of party.” His writing for Commentary, association with the John M. Olin center at the University of Chicago, and – of course, role as instructor for Paul Wolfowitz all place him ireedemably within a neo-con cabal.

It’s on the tour of Bloom’s iniquitous friends and bastard progeny that Lazere expands his aim from damning the man to damning, well, about anyone who knew him or now cites him. Bloom, to Lazere, seems first among many right-wing hacks who “vaunt their dedication to intellectual disinterestedness while acting as propagandists for the Republican Party and its satellite political foundations.” Lazere builds his subsequent argument less-than-convincingly. Consider his take-down of Commentary:

Continue reading Bloom Bludgeoned

Yes, Harvard Professor Really Would Like To Secede

The news about Harvard never stops. Jay Greene wrote last week on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s hopes of secession. Gardner’s words, in the Harvard alumni magazine, were:

The right wing isn’t just taking over the country, it’s shanghaiing all our values. If there’s a Republican administration after the next election, I would join in efforts for some sort of secession. It’s not the same country anymore.

Jay suggested, pretty reasonably, that these sentiments were unpatriotic. He’s just alerted us to follow-up on Gardner’s point on Richard Bradley’s blog Shots In The Dark. A reader starts the thread off suggesting that criticism of “allegiance” sidestepped the substantive point, complaining that “Instead this empty talk about ‘allegiance’ and grumbling about seditiousness — and an implicit concession that the ‘shanghaiing’ charge sticks. Pathetic.”

Bradley then weighed in:

Yes, I agree. To be fair, though, I think that Professor Gardner opened the door with the word “secession.” It seemed a casual remark, a manifestation of frustration, but clearly these things are watched by people looking for Harvard bias.

Merely a casual remark! But no.. Howard Gardner himself appeared on the thread to clarify (it’s not certain that it is Gardner, but it’s also unclear why anyone would want to masquerade as him on a blog):

Continue reading Yes, Harvard Professor Really Would Like To Secede

Harvard Wins Hip-Hop Scholar, Is Unsure What Military History Is.

Harvard seems to be chugging in all the right directions as of late. Now that Harvard has escaped the nightmare-state of Summers apartheid the University is free to.. improve its standing in the field of hip-hop studies. The Crimson reports:

Marcyliena Morgan, a scholar of global hip-hop culture who was denied tenure under former University President Lawrence H. Summers, will be returning to Harvard in January with her husband, Lawrence D. Bobo, a prominent sociologist of race.

The couple left Harvard’s African and African American Studies Department in 2005 for Stanford, where they have both held tenure-level positions. At Harvard, Bobo was a full professor, while Morgan held an untenured associate professorship.

“Since the day they left, it has been my dream to get them back,” said Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., the former chair of the African and African American Studies Department and the Fletcher University Professor.

Af-Am Chair Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham said that the change of leadership in the University was one factor that made Morgan and Bobo’s return possible.

University President Drew G. Faust contacted the couple in person to urge them to return to Harvard, Gates said….

Good to see President Faust hard at work for a modern Harvard. While the President is wheedling hip-hop scholars, it’s surreal to see that it remains to The Crimson , in an editorial today, to note that military studies are woefully slight at the university:

Continue reading Harvard Wins Hip-Hop Scholar, Is Unsure What Military History Is.

Things You Might Not Know About The Duke Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness

It’s easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors; their semi-monthly comparisons of Bush to Hitler or indictments of inherent American racism are hard to miss. Universities’ deviations from traditional education are far more serious than a few zany radicals, though. Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid “offending” certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does not bark – “safe lecturing” to use the STD vocabulary – and seldom recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives students of a genuine education.

Let me offer some observations from my 35-year academic career but these undoubtedly apply more generally. Some facts. First, today’s students, especially in lecture courses, display rather desultory academic habits. Many arrive late, leave early, doze off, regularly skip classes, eat, drink or listen to iPods, gossip and otherwise ignore the dispensed pearls of wisdom. Even stellar teachers cast pearls. Dreary test results confirm that lectures are disregarded and assignments go unread. Sad to say, many African-American students who should be expending extra efforts to surmount academic deficiencies are particularly guilty though expressing this plain-to-see reality is verboten.

Continue reading The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness

Darmouth To Alumni: Be Happy We Left You Anything

Anyone looking for a prime example of official huckster-speak should take another look at Dartmouth’s press release concerning the board restructuring. It makes the college’s reduction of alumni voting rights sound like, well, a warm bath.

First there’s a lot of mush about Darmouth’s unusually small board, which Dartmouth’s governance committee found was putting “the College at a competitive disadvantage versus its peers.” Well, perhaps. Then it explains the remedy:

By adding eight charter trustees nominated by the Board, Dartmouth will still have a smaller Board than many of its peers, but the Board will have more flexibility to add trustees who offer the specific talents and experiences that the College needs, which elections don’t ensure.[italics mine]

You can read “talents and experience that the College needs” as meaning “not those of Peter Robinson, T.J. Rodgers, Todd Zywicki, or Stephen Smith.” In that sense, yes, elections would ensure very little for an administration at odds with its alumni. Yet Dartmouth goes on to assure that it’s not eliminating democratic processes; it’s merely reducing them – strategically and tastefully, of course. It all sounds rather gentlemanly – although elections “ensure” nothing, they’ll keep holding some anyway. Let’s read on:

Retaining Alumni Trustee Elections and Reaffirming the Important Role of Alumni Nomination of Trustees in the Governance Process

The Board determined that it would retain the significant number of alumni-nominated trustees on the Board as well as the contested ballot election process that the College has used to select them. Dartmouth has the highest proportion of alumni-nominated trustees of any peer institution, and is one of the few schools that selects alumni trustees via contested ballot elections. The Board believes that having alumni-nominated trustees and elections gives Dartmouth’s alumni an important direct voice in the College’s governance and fosters greater alumni involvement in the College. Under the changes adopted by the Board, Dartmouth will continue to have one of the most democratic trustee election processes of any college in the country. [italics mine]

True, and if I was to replace a third of Congress with my own appointees, we could still call American governance pretty democratic – compared to the Arab League.

Happily, the New York Sun today reports that alumni are less than pleased with the colleges’ blandishments.

One alumni quoted in the story noted “It’s like abolishing the House of Commons and making it all the House of Lords.”

Leaders of the Dartmouth Alumni Association are mulling a suit. All luck to them.

Creating Activists At Ed School

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

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

Continue reading Creating Activists At Ed School

A Political Target

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

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

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

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

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

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