Tag Archives: bias

College Students Now–the Good and the Bad

First, the good news:  My undergraduate students here at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, are quite literate, contrary to all the bad press and fears. Every week I give them a 20-minute writing assignment in class, the sole preparation for which is having done the week’s homework.  Turns out they write pretty well; arguably, in some cases, better than with at-home papers, which may cause them more stress.  This despite the fact that whenever I enter the room at the beginning of class, most of them are on their iPhones or otherwise engaged with electronic devices.

Now the bad news: For about the past week I’ve been taking note of the announcements that come to me via email from the university.  These relate predominantly to events in my particular areas of interest : Latin American studies;  languages and literatures; women’s studies – now renamed, like most such programs throughout the country,  Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, which at least makes their focus clear, in case anyone was wondering.  But I also receive occasional emails about  university-wide special events, as well as Five-College events (since UMass Amherst is part of the Five College Consortium), though these latter are often related to the above fields.

Below is a listing of the typical items that appeared in my email in the past week or so –representative of the majority of announcements I receive week after week.

  1. The Chancellor of UMass Amherst announces that the newly-created post of Assistant Provost for Diversity has been filled.
  2. The Center for Latin America, Caribbean and Latino Studies announces a conference later this month on the “Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation in Colombia, Brazil and Cuba.”  (I received seven separate announcements of this event over the past couple of days)
  3. A Five College Multicultural Theater Conference is taking place, which will address issues of representation, diversity and inclusion in multicultural theater today.
  4. The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center announces a faculty seminar and public talk on Race and Science, offered by a visiting professor of English.
  5. The Center for Public Policy and Administration in conjunction with the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute and a few other departments at UMass are sponsoring a panel discussion by experts from the non-Western Muslim world about the line between free speech and hate speech.  The event is called “Charlie Hebdo Attacks: Is Your Free Speech My Hate Speech?”
  6. The CLACLS (see # 2 above) is sponsoring a lecture and workshop on “The Politics of Cultura [sic] in a Minority Latino/a [sic] Community: What We Can Learn from Public Pedagogies of Food, Fun, and Fiestas,” as part of their year-long series “Re-imagining Latin@[sic] Studies in Higher Education.”
  7.  A talk by a feminist and reproductive rights activist,  called “Abortion in our hands: Clandestine Abortion Doulas’s Network in Argentina” – sponsored by WGSS, CLACLS, Social Thought and Political Economy (these at UMass), and the Third World Studies Program at Hampshire College
  8. The Center for Teaching & Faculty Development announces two remaining events in its Diversity & Teaching Series:  “Teaching Difference: A Faculty Panel,” and “Strategies to Engage And Sustain the Diverse Classroom”
  9. Finally – surprise! — Charles Krauthammer will be giving a talk here in about ten days, sponsored by the UMass College Republicans.

What rarely crosses my path are announcements designed to actually help students with their academic work as final exams/papers approach, or to appeal to their imagination and intellect in areas not related to the overarching agenda of “social justice” and “diversity.”  There are, however, many end-of- semester events designed for one or another identity group.  I’ve been noticing that these don’t clarify if they’re open to the public, or only to the particular identities being celebrated.

As for the actual work going on in many humanities courses, despite my pleasure in noting that many of my students can write decently, I also know that our academic standards have declined in terms of what is expected and demanded of our students (a problem that begins well before they arrive at the university, as evidenced by the striking fragility of their general level of knowledge).  Do literature courses these days assign students eight or so novels to read over the semester, as we certainly used to do?  My own experience is that students do watch films (an ever greater part of our curricula), yes, but are less likely to do assigned readings, though these rarely amount to more than perhaps a few dozen pages per week.

The university provides us with an online resource, Moodle, on which we can place assignments, readings, create discussion groups, post grades, and so on. It also allows faculty to see which students are actually accessing the assigned materials. Of course, we can’t tell how much time they actually spend on the materials, only the date and time that they have clicked on them.  I tell my students that their professors can do this, so that they can be aware of the far greater surveillance they may be subjected to, compared to the past. Despite this, some of them choose to skip much of the material for my course.  If I assign several short readings, some students will only bother with one or two of them. This is how I know they at least initially access and perhaps actually watch films. The difference between their activities reports on readings versus on films is marked.

The faculty groans and moans about the ever-decreasing level of work we can realistically expect of our students; it’s a persistent theme, but we more or less conform.  It seems impossible not to.   I can’t comment on what’s going on in non-humanities courses, where I do not have first-hand experience.

Furthermore, it is a fact that at UMass our semesters have become shorter and shorter (right now we’re at 13 weeks of actual instruction per semester).  And – another sign of the times — many General Education courses have been converted from three to four credits, without a proportional increase in classroom time.  Obviously, the result is fewer courses per college career, though the pretense is that these 4-credit courses are more intense and demanding.  When, a few years ago, I was on a Faculty Senate sub-committee discussing what we should require of professors seeking to make this change, I inquired:  “Why don’t we just demand that our students actually do the work we already assign?” That comment didn’t carry the day.

Still, my sketch of the current scene in my part of the university should in no way be taken as chiming in with the common complaint that we fail to prepare students for employment.  I actually believe an undergraduate liberal arts education is valuable in and of itself, and that the university’s main function is not to be a job-training school.  But if – despite the efforts of individual professors — we don’t even offer a genuinely high quality education, one that goes beyond the current shibboleths for which students actually don’t need to go to college, what can be said to justify our existence?  If we’re instead focused on rhetoric displays related to ersatz politics and the university’s supposed commitment to right the world’s wrongs, well, then, we’re not even doing the job we can reasonably be expected to do, and for which students are paying exorbitantly high prices.  Not to mention that of course we cannot even agree on how to go about improving the world, any more than do politicians who devote their full attention to this!  Instead, pathetically, the university routinely engages in verbal magic –still obsessed with identity politics as indicated by the ceaseless emphasis on terms such as diversity, inclusion, and outreach.

What does all this signify if not a depressing loss of confidence that education is itself of value and doesn’t need transmogrification into something else? No wonder so many students seem to want above all to get through college with as little effort as possible, rather than taking advantage of the extraordinary riches that ought to be available at any university.


 

“Diversity” Is Now Required At UCLA

After rejecting several previous proposals over the past several years, the UCLA faculty has finally succumbed to politically correct pressure from above (Eugene Block, the Chancellor, and other administrators) and below (“progressive” students) and voted to impose a four-unit “diversity” course requirement on all undergraduates. Ironically, the felt necessity for this new course requirement reveals the hollowness of the ubiquitous claims for the effects of diversity on students and on campus culture in general.

By any measure of diversity — both reasonable ones emphasizing a variety of values and experiences and the one actually employed in higher education, limited to race, ethnicity, and increasingly sex and “gender expression” — UCLA is virtually (and virtuously) boiling over with diversity.  But, according to the militant course mandaters, the fact of diversity is not enough. It has failed to teach the right lessons. Those lessons must be affirmatively, vigorously, actually taught — especially to the students who need them most, those who would not voluntarily take an approved (more on that later) diversity-teaching class. “In order to maximize student preparedness for our global society,” states the UCLA Diversity Initiative Committee’s Proposed Diversity Requirement, “we must enhance student awareness, understanding, and acceptance or at least tolerance of difference through socializing experiences and through our pedagogy.” [Emphasis added]

The idea that “we” — the faculty, probably the least diverse group in the country based on values, ideology, religion, etc. — should or even can inculcate “tolerance of difference” through classes (including STEM classes!) is risible. However, tolerance and appreciation of “difference” must be taught, the mandaters insist, because of another manifest failure of university “diversity” in practice — students are still overflowing with prejudice. Because of the failure of diversity’s “socializing experiences” alone, one of the justifications for the new course requirement and one of its four goals stated in the Proposed Diversity Requirement is “to reduce prejudice on campus with regard to difference.”

As Allyson Bach, a “Campus Celebrity” student leader of the pro-requirement effort, explained in a letter to the Daily Bruin, “Fostering student understanding of the histories and narratives of underrepresented communities at UCLA requires more from the university’s curricula. If students are not encouraged in the classroom to further explore critical issues of a global society, then it unfortunately is not surprising that intolerance and bigotry exist on our campus.”

By “encouraged” Ms. Bach of course means “required,” and in a revealing example of progressive logic she goes on to argue that the fact that some students and alumni disagree with her proves that she’s right. That “negativity” about the new requirement, she asserts, “demonstrate the flaws of our undergraduate education if students graduate UCLA with such viewpoints.”

Her emphasis on requiring understanding of “underrepresented communities” indicates that the requirement’s purpose is more political than pedagogical, an indication confirmed by an Expanded Synopsis’s endorsement of pure attitude and behavior modification. It approvingly cites studies that claim a diversity course requirement has “a positive impact on an individual’s racial and ethnic attitudes, pluralistic orientation, openness to diverse viewpoints, citizenship, critical consciousness, social agency, cognitive skills and tendencies, and moral development.” This is “diversity” as pure didacticism.

Students who themselves are usually described as “diverse” are clearly thought to be less in need of this beneficial attitude and behavior modification than others. As the Proposed Diversity Requirement states, “Although the UCLA student body is highly heterogeneous, comprising individuals from varied backgrounds, characteristics, and cultures, many come from more homogenous environments and have little familiarity with those from other histories, traditions, and experiences.”

There can be no doubt that the universe of the un-diverse in need of improved “racial and ethnic attitudes,” a more “pluralistic orientation,” more openness to “diverse viewpoints,” a higher “critical consciousness,” and even more active “social agency” is largely white. All but universally unacknowledged, however, is that whites at UCLA are not only not a majority; they are exactly as “underrepresented” as blacks. According to the most recent UCLA data, 4.4% of the freshmen admitted in 2014 are black, and according to the most recent census data blacks make up 6.6% of California’s population. According to that same data, whites were 26% of admits, but whites, “not Hispanic or Latino,” are 39% of California’s population. Blacks and whites, in short, are equally “underrepresented”: 4.4 is 67% of 6.6; 26 is 67% of 39. (Asians were 42.3% of admits and 14.1% of California’s population.)

The mandaters, of course, rarely admit that their real goal is attitude and behavior modification of whites. The loftier justification, as the Proposed Diversity Requirement states in its first sentence, is the belief that “a modern university must provide its students with the ability to understand the perspectives of others whose views, backgrounds, and experiences may differ from their own.” This rationale was repeated like a mantra. When he wasn’t handing Hillary a $300,000 check for speaking, for example, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said repeatedly, as quoted here, that “one of my longstanding priorities and demonstrates our strong commitment to expose undergraduates to views and backgrounds other than their own.”

This “exposure to difference” rationale, however, if taken seriously, reveals the utter impossibility of implementing the requirement in a coherent manner. The proposal entails a new bureaucracy of apparatchiks — “an Undergraduate Council (UgC)-appointed Diversity Requirement Committee (DRC)” [described here and here] — to approve courses that satisfy the new requirement. But there are no corresponding rules regulating who may take which courses, i.e., limiting students to diversity credit for a course in which they in fact study those who are “different.” (Except perhaps for whites, who many would like to see required to take the course on “Understanding Whiteness”).

Unless and until UCLA creates a mechanism to bar diversity credit to blacks who take black history, Asian American women who take a course on Asian American women, gays who take an introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, etc. (examples taken from example courses listed in Appendix B here), the “exposure to difference” rationale will remain exposed as a sham.

Look What they’ve Done to U.S. History

If you doubt that leftist activists now dominate the study and teaching of U.S. history, take a look at the program for the 2013 American Historical Association conference in New Orleans. The pattern  is similar to the University of Michigan’s history department, discussed here yesterday—a heavy emphasis on race, class, and gender, with more “traditional” topics frequently reconfigured to conform to the dominant paradigm.

Of the approximately 70 AHA panels devoted to U.S. history, a few unintentionally confirm the critique of the academy as a hotbed of left-leaning political activism. On a panel entitled “Using Oral History for Social Justice Activism,” scholars look at their partnership with “activists” seeking to undermine “the dominant historical narrative.” Yet the “narrative” that these social justice activists pursue seems to conform to, rather than undermine, the academic status quo—Chicano activists, anti-war activists “working in G.I. Coffee houses,” and “Shirley Chisholm’s best friend, secretary and hairdresser.” It’s hard to imagine much opposition in the contemporary academy to exploring the history of any type of underrepresented racial or ethnic groups—or certainly anti-war activists.

Continue reading Look What they’ve Done to U.S. History

The Ultimate Victory of Liberal Bias

The Daily Texan has reported that a conservative student group at University of Texas-Austin has inaugurated a “watch list” containing the names of professors who “politicize the classroom” and squash “dissenting opinion.”  The chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas describes the list as an information resource, providing information on wayward instructors before students sign up for their classes and regret being stuck in them for a semester of illiberal education.  

An earlier version of the Watch List that appeared in Spring 2007 cast a wider net and placed professors on the list without any hard evidence of abuse of students.  This time, the project focuses on tyrannical behavior.  As of two weeks ago, the head of the local chapter stated he had received “eight or nine names” but that he wouldn’t release them, perhaps because he hadn’t reviewed the validity of the claims.  The group is careful not to cite any professors who openly espouse a political position but allow opposition. 

The Huffington Post picked up the story a few days ago and hosted a forum on the issue, but it’s hard to find any other notice of the case.  Searches of “University of Texas Watch List” at the Chronicle of Higher Education and www.insidehighered.com produced no stories, and on the Texas campus there isn’t any evidence of subsequent discussions or events.   

Compare this to the vehement criticism David Horowitz faced ten years ago when he initiated concrete proposals to root out liberal bias.  Back then, critics hurled denunciation and indignation at Horowitz in many different fora. This time, however, the effort to monitor misbehaving instructors doesn’t even raise the quick and easy charge of McCarthyism.

Most professors realize that the liberal-bias movement doesn’t threaten them at all. In fact, many colleges have learned how to benefit from their right-wing students. Numerous campuses, such as Brown, UCLA, and Princeton, have allowed of the formation conservative or libertarian centers. As a result, development offices are finding that conservative alumni are more willing to donate. They will grant space to alternative viewpoints in order to let the dominant system proceed as before.  There’s no doubt the centers have benefited the students. But conservative faculty groups and conservative student activists barely touch left-leaning faculty and administrators.  

In other words, the liberal-bias movement succeeded and it failed.  It succeeded in overcoming the reflexive condemnation of biased professors, earning conservative and libertarian ideas some legitimacy in the academic square.  No longer can a faculty speak of conservative/libertarian thinkers and ideas as prima facie stupid.  But it failed to dent the prevailing left-liberal ideology of identity politics, diversity, and statism.  The worst tendencies continue, but in the administrative offices rather than the classroom. If the liberal-bias movement had really succeeded, the diversiphile network on campus would have shrunk, not expanded.

One wonders if the cannier left-liberals among the faculty and administration welcome scattered attacks on the professors for bias, as it gives them another reason to pay lip service to “academic freedom.”  Meanwhile, the real work of liberal-bias spreads in the bureaucracy, where students can’t see it happening.

College Insurrection

Today Professor William Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection fame) launched College Insurrection, a new website devoted to higher education. The site, according to Professor Jacobson, will help “conservative/libertarian students…find out what is going on with like-minded students on other campuses, and understand that they are the many, not the few, no matter what they are told.” 

Given our mutual interests, we look forward to working with CI. You should check it out.

Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

imber.jpg

When
critics of higher education complain about a lack of “intellectual diversity,”
mostly what they deplore is the shortage of conservative professors. But there
is much more at stake than that.

Consider
climate change:  As I write this, parts
of the nation have endured sweltering heat, serious drought, and treacherous
storms, at one point leaving millions of people without electricity for
days.  The invocation of “climate change”
as the “cause” of more violent and extreme weather, worse forest fires and
flooding, indeed, of a host of calamities, has been used to assign culpability
to the whole human race, mimicking what irritates defenders of evolution about
the claimants of creation science, that debunking evolutionary theory is an
underhanded way of insinuating religious belief and its claims about the fallen
state of humanity.

It
turns out the wholesale secular embrace of science insinuates its own range of
pious beliefs.  Climate theory pretends
both to the throne of reason and to public policies dictated as if they were
royal decrees.  To question a royal
decree in this case is construed as treason again reason.  But how did reason come to rely more on a
consensus of belief than skepticism about such grand causal claims?  Unlike creation science, the advocates of
social engineering who believe that science is equivalent to policy intimidate
all doubters.  The absence of intellectual
diversity is detrimental to public policy debate, not to mention how the
stranglehold of environmentalism in colleges and universities also steers any
debate toward predetermined conclusions. 
Here the challenge becomes disentangling the science of climate change
from the policies that should follow from that science.

Continue reading Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

No Conservatives, Please–We’re Colleges

Over
the past several years, a number of studies have shown that registered
Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans in the academy, or in particular
academic departments (history, for instance) that would seem to have no reason
to have wide partisan imbalances.
 

Invariably,
the most interesting thing about these studies is not the finding itself–which,
after all, is a very crude measurement of ideological balance at any school–but
instead how academic defenders of the status quo have defended the figures. In
2004, for instance, after a Duke Conservative Union study, Duke’s then-Philosophy
chairman, Robert Brandon, justified the school’s partisan imbalance on the
following grounds: “We try to hire the best,
smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are
generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire
. . .
Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of
the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in
academia.” Substitute “black” for “conservative” and imagine the on-campus
reaction that Brandon’s absurd words would have generated.

After
another study showed that University of
Iowa’s History Department didn’t even have one registered Republican, the
department’s then-chairman, Colin Gordon,
attributed the disparity to the fact that “about two thirds of Johnson County
are Democrats”–as if 67 percent equals 100 percent, and as if all of the
applicants for jobs in Iowa’s History Department came from Johnson County, Iowa. Gordon
added that “
the UI policy says not to discriminate; it does not
say we should be going out and getting diversity.” Imagine the outrage if a
major university’s History Department had only white males, and the
department’s chairman responded by remarking that men outnumbered women in the
school’s home county, and in any case the university’s policy “does not say we
should be going out and getting diversity.”

In both the Iowa and Duke cases, the defenders of the
academic status quo essentially proved the critics’ case. The partisan
disparities, in and of themselves, didn’t prove that the Duke or Iowa hiring
processes were necessarily flawed. But no reasonable observer could expect an
open Republican or conservative to be fairly treated by departments in which
figures like Gordon or Brandon played key roles. And–at least based on their
pedagogical approaches to their fields–Gordon and Brandon are what pass for
moderates in the contemporary academy.


Those
reactions are worth keeping in mind in light of a recent article about a study
conducted by Dutch psychologists Yoel Inbar and
Joris Lammers. The duo measured not partisan affiliation but ideological
biases, and found that more than one-third of professors they examined admitted
they’d be less likely to hire the conservative when “
asked whether, in
choosing between two equally qualified job candidates for one job opening, they
would be inclined to vote for the more liberal candidate (i.e., over the
conservative).”

 

It’s hard to imagine
how anyone could offer any sort of rationalization for these findings. But in
the tradition of Robert Brandon and Colin Gordon, Massimo Pigliucci, chairman
of Lehman College’s philosophy department, does so. The Washington Times paraphrases Pigliucci’s argument: “The problem is
not that conservatives face discrimination; it’s that any hint of political
bias, whether conservative or liberal, necessarily flouts the standards of
objectivity to which scholarship must adhere.”


The
article continues, “‘It is to be expected that people would reject papers and
grant proposals that smacked of clear ideological bias,’ he says. 
Inbar and
Lammers, he says, should have examined the extent of bias against
liberal-leaning papers and grant proposals. If the degree of bias against liberals
and conservatives is similar, maybe the data on discrimination against
conservatives would not be so alarming after all.”


Beyond the
obvious–the Inbar/Lemmers study dealt with the hiring process, not grant
proposals–Pigliucci’s analysis makes no sense. The study was premised on a
question of whether professors would be “inclined to vote for the more liberal
candidate.” In short, the study did exactly what Pigliucci said it should have
done: it asked whether professors would differentiate between two equally
situated candidates, if the professors knew that one candidate was liberal and
the other conservative.


An illogical
response, I suppose, is all that can be used to rationalize indefensible
academic behavior.

A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

Weissberg essay.jpegAs one who has spent
nearly four decades in the academy, let me confirm what outsiders often
suspect: the left has almost a complete headlock on the publication of serious
(peer reviewed) research in journals and scholarly books. It is not that
heretical ideas are forever buried. They can be expressed in popular magazines,
op-eds and, think tank publications and especially, on blogs. Nevertheless, and
this is critical, these off-campus writings do not count for tenure or
promotion. A successful academic career at a top school requires publishing in
disciplinary outlets and with scant exception these outlets filter out those
who reject the PC orthodoxies.

Continue reading A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

Back in 2010, University of Illinois, Chicago, Professor and former
Weatherman radical Bill Ayers gave a presentation on Public Pedagogy at the
American Education Research Association annual meeting. Ayers, then a member of
AERA’s governing board, made the claim that he, Bill Ayers, was really not a
terrorist. Ten of the first 11 sentences in the talk abstract were in the first
person singular, before Bill Ayers switched gears to say that really, any
violence Bill Ayers might have encouraged merely came in response to the evils
of the U.S. government.   

Continue reading A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

Left Bias on Campus Proven–Now What?

It wasn’t so long ago that the infrequent charge of liberal bias on college campuses was met with mockery and disdain. The allegations go all the way back to William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1951) and Russell Kirk’s Academic Freedom: An Essay in Definition (1955), neither of which earned the authors anything but distaste from professors. With Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and David Horowitz’ initial efforts on the Academic Bill of Rights (recounted here), the hostility level rose, but people still denied the fact of bias, for instance, citing the business school as a hive of free market ideology.

Continue reading Left Bias on Campus Proven–Now What?

Inequality Courses on Campus
Mostly One-sided and Dishonest

            By Charlotte Allen and George Leef

inequality.jpgThis article was prepared by Minding the Campus and the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

A new movement is rising on American campuses, timed perfectly to feed the frenzy over the income gap that is Occupy Wall Street’s main complaint. But this movement isn’t street populism; it’s another way for leftist professors to mold student beliefs.

Charlotte Allen’s essay, “The Inequality Movement – A Campus Product”
examined the phenomenon of college courses and programs on
inequality–that is, on income and other social differences among people.
It prompted both of us to wonder if students taking those courses would
hear any ideas inconsistent with the “liberal” orthodoxy that income
inequality is unjust, has been principally caused by racism, sexism, and
free enterprise, and must be combated with a variety of government
laws, regulations, and aid programs.

To find out, we investigated the syllabi and readings for a dozen
courses at well-known colleges and universities, public and private,
around the United States. The courses are:

Continue reading Inequality Courses on Campus
Mostly One-sided and Dishonest

The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

indoctrination.jpgIt is no secret that what passes for an education at most of the nation’s colleges and universities is suspiciously akin to indoctrination. An asterisk: With the exception of a few areas–specifically, climate and the environment, certain fields within biology and medicine, history of science and the interaction between science and public policy–the rot that infects the rest of academia has been averted in science and engineering schools. A student who seeks a higher education in the unsullied areas of science and engineering can obtain truly the finest technical education that can be found on our planet at innumerable universities throughout the United States.

But when surveying the remaining disciplines in academia, as well as
the administrative structures that direct the nation’s academic
enterprise, one can say that today’s students are subject there to an
unsubtle, mind-numbing, conformist indoctrination. Numerous polls
conducted in humanities and social sciences departments–at elite, state and minor universities–reveal a stunning skew between liberals
and conservatives at least as distorted as 90%-10%. The inherent bias
spills over into classroom presentations, selection of curricula, and
grading. Moreover, it has been thus for at least two generations.

Continue reading The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

Diversity Training: Useless but Mandatory

Cross-posted from Open Market.

Diversity training doesn’t work, according to an article in Psychology Today. In it, Peter Bregman notes, “Diversity training doesn’t extinguish prejudice. It promotes it.”

But don’t expect it to stop. Government regulations often require that a school be accredited, a condition that accreditors like the American Bar Association use to force law schools to use racial preferences in admissions or run costly diversity and sensitivity-training programs (despite the dubious legality of some such diversity programs and admissions preferences). Such mandates have contributed to the growth of a vast and costly “diversity machine” in college administrations. (And as a condition of practicing law in California, I had to take continuing legal education on the topic of “elimination of bias in the legal profession.”)

Continue reading Diversity Training: Useless but Mandatory

Teach Them What to Think, and Maybe Bribe Them Too

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

Continue reading Teach Them What to Think, and Maybe Bribe Them Too

The Radicalization of the University of California

University_of_California_Seal.svg.pngAre the 234,000 students enrolled in the massive University of California system receiving an education or a re-education?

It’s the latter–or something fairly close–according to “A Crisis of Competence,” a report just released by the California Association of Scholars (CAS), the Golden State affiliate of the National Association of Scholars. The devastating 87-page report addressed to UC’s Board of Regents, concludes that leftist political indoctrination represents a significant portion of the curriculum at the nine UC campuses that admit undergraduates. Here are some major points:

— UC-Santa Cruz offers no fewer than five introductory courses devoted
exclusively to the thinking of Karl Marx. You can take a basic course on
Marx in the politics, sociology, community studies, legal studies, or
history of consciousness departments–or if, you wish, take all five
courses simultaneously in all five departments, several of which also
offer advanced courses on Marx’s works. “Adolescent Marxist nostalgia
still evidently reigns on campus and impedes a return to reality–but
where are the adults who might be pointing out that it is time to grow
up and move on to thinkers who have been able to withstand the test of
time and to remain more relevant to modern life?” the report asks.

Continue reading The Radicalization of the University of California

Hateless Hate Crime at Rutgers?

dharun_ravi.jpgThe criminal trial of Dharun Ravi commanded national attention and focus on our controversial hate-crime laws. The issue was whether Ravi spied on his Rutgers roommate, Tyler Clementi, and whether he spied because of prejudice against homosexuals generally and against his gay roommate in particular. Ravi’s conviction last Friday on the most serious charge against him, “bias intimidation,” carries with it a possible sentence of ten years in prison. It was not for homicide. The jury certainly knew that Tyler had jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, a few days after 18-year-old Ravi used a web cam to observe his roommate’s tryst with a 28-year-old man in September, 2010.

Legally, however, Tyler’s suicide was irrelevant to the case. The jury should have considered only whether or not Ravi was guilty of a hate-crime: “bias intimidation.” Like 45 states and the federal government that have hate-crime laws to increase the penalties for other crimes, New Jersey has an Ethnic Intimidation Act. Nevada, for example, adds 25 percent to a prison sentence for felonies judged to be hate-crimes, but New Jersey’s hate-crime law tops the list for extra punitiveness. One problem is that hate-crimes, like beauty, are in the eyes of beholders. Did Ravi’s spying constitute “bias intimidation’?

Continue reading Hateless Hate Crime at Rutgers?

What Has Happened to Academic Freedom?

Dr. London, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom on February 9 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation. These were his remarks on the occasion.
***

It is with enormous humility and gratitude that I accept this award from the Bradley Foundation that has done so much to promote liberty inside and outside the Academy. I am particularly pleased to receive the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award since I remember with great joy our discussion of her very important essay “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Commentary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Be Frank about Anti-Asian Admission Policies

Asian students.jpgOn February 2 Daniel Golden, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of a highly regarded book on college admissions, reported in Bloomberg’s Business Week that Harvard and Princeton are being investigated by the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for discrimination against Asians.

It’s not the first time. In fact, for the past decade or so there has been a rising tide of accusations that the Ivies and other selective institutions treat Asians as the “new Jews” (referring to quotas on Jews in the Ivies and elsewhere early in the 20th Century, and often beyond), holding them to much higher admission standards than applicants from other groups in order to prevent their “over representation” and thus make room for the “under-represented” blacks and Hispanics admitted under much lower affirmative action standards. Harvard and Princeton, of course, deny the accusation.

Harvard “does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants,” spokesman Jeff Neal told Business Week. “Our review of every applicant’s file is highly individualized and holistic, as we give serious consideration to all of the information we receive and all of the ways in which the candidate might contribute to our vibrant educational environment and community.” Princeton read from the same script: The college “doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race or national origin,” claimed spokesman Martin Mbugua. “We make admissions decisions on a case-by-case basis in our efforts to build a well-rounded, diverse class.”

Do Admissions Officers Really Believe What They Say?

Of course, despite all the smoke they blow (and, it would appear, inhale) about “holistic,” “highly individualized,” “case by case” evaluations, if admissions offices did not allow race to be the determining factor in many cases, how would they know whether any particular applicant would contribute to the pigmentary “diversity” they so diligently seek? It is simply a fact, as Roger Clegg has cogently pointed out, “if you consider race, then in some instances it’s going to make a difference in whether a person is admitted (otherwise, why bother to consider it?), and when that happens, you have racial discrimination.”

Extensive evidence that Asian American applicants must jump a much higher bar to gain admission to elite universities than applicants from other groups and that they have been the big gainers where affirmative action has been dropped has long been available and should no longer surprise anyone. For example, in a widely discussed Wall Street Journal article back in 2006, Is Admissions Bar Higher for Asians At Elite Schools? Daniel Golden (the author of last week’s Business Week article linked above) noted a Center for Equal Opportunity study finding that Asian applicants to the University of Michigan in 2005 had a median SAT score that was “50 points higher than the median score of white students who were accepted, 140 points higher than that of Hispanics and 240 points higher than that of blacks.” That study also found that “among applicants with a 1240 SAT score and 3.2 grade point average in 2005, the university admitted 10% of Asian-Americans, 14% of whites, 88% of Hispanics and 92% of blacks.” Golden also reported that after California abolished racial preference the percentage of Asian-Americans accepted at Berkeley increased from 34.6% in 1997, the last year of legal affirmative action, to 42% entering in fall 2006.

Although it is widely thought, especially by defenders of affirmative action, that whites benefit when racial preferences are eliminated (indeed, those defenders frequently accuse critics of being racists whose purpose is to benefit whites), that is not the case. As I noted here, citing this data, the proportion of white freshmen entering the University of California system “fell from 40% in 1997 to 34% in 2005.”

A 140-Point SAT Disadvantage for Asians

Similar data abound. In 2005, for example, Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist (more on him below), and a colleague published an article demonstrating that if affirmative action were eliminated across the nation “Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students, with an acceptance rate rising from nearly 18 percent to more than 23 percent.” In a 2009 Inside Higher Ed article based on his book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life, Espenshade and another colleague wrote that

[c]ompared to white applicants at selective private colleges and universities, black applicants receive an admission boost that is equivalent to 310 SAT points, measured on an all-other-things-equal basis. The boost for Hispanic candidates is equal on average to 130 SAT points. Asian applicants face a 140 point SAT disadvantage.

asian-student.jpg

Summarizing Espenshade’s findings, Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, gingerly concluded that “[s]ignificant advantages and disadvantages exist for members of some racial and ethnic groups with regard to the SAT or ACT scores they need to have the same odds of admission as members of other groups.” Since Espenshade concludes that black applicants to selective universities receive a 450 point “boost” compared to otherwise similarly qualified Asian applicants, I’d say that Jaschik’s statement oozes with obfuscatory politically correct understatement. That same tone suffuses Jaschik’s long article last week on the recent charge of anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard and Princeton. Because affirmative action is grounded (notwithstanding all the transparent claptrap about “diversity”) in a desire to help minorities, evidence that it significantly harms an ethnic minority makes its academic supporters as uncomfortable as a skunk at a garden party. Since they can’t refute the evidence, they try to argue that it doesn’t mean what it obviously means. Perhaps the Asians, they insinuate, are overly sensitive, imagining discrimination where it doesn’t exist. Here’s how Jaschik frames the issue (emphasis added):

What does it say about college admissions that a group achieving considerable academic success believes it is being held to unfair standards? Is there really proof to back up the widespread perception of bias? Are those who are convinced of bias relying solely on certain numeric measures? Are colleges hiding behind codes (such as the desire for someone who is “well-rounded” or concerns about “grinds”) to discriminate against Asian applicants?

Real Bias or Just ‘Belief in Bias’?

Jaschik’s article is characterized by this trope of a “belief in bias.” A few examples:

– Admissions counselors and advocates for Asian-American students say that belief in bias is widespread — and that the belief alone should be cause for concern…. – David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said “he is aware of (and concerned about) the way many applicants see this issue … ‘but I suspect it’s much more complicated.'” – “In some cases, colleges have adopted policies that some see as hurting Asian-American applicants — without necessarily violating the law.” – “Debates over the relative merits of standardized tests also tend to be viewed by many through their impact on different applicant groups.” – “Many advocates for Asian-American students believe that some elite college admissions officers use phrases like “well-rounded” to favor white applicants of lesser academic quality over Asian-American applicants.”

In addition to implying that the “belief” in discrimination reflects little more than overheated Asian-American imaginations, Jaschik’s article also argues through its quotations of various defenders of affirmative action — and, as we shall see, through misleading summarizing by Jaschik himself — that treating Asian-American applicants significantly worse than other applicants does not amount to discriminating against them and should not be used to discredit affirmative action. Robert Teranishi, associate professor of higher education at New York University and author of Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education, is “worried about efforts to link alleged bias against Asian-American applicants to broader debates over affirmative action.” According to Teranishi, “many Asian-American students in the United States” — such as poor recent immigrants — “deserve and benefit from affirmative action.” Really? That sounds doubtful to me, but perhaps Prof. Teranishi’s book presents data on vasts numbers of Asian-American applicants who are given preferential treatment in admission. The most dramatic, and unconvincing, denials that the data of Prof. Espenshade and others demonstrating the significantly higher hurdles faced by Asian-Americans amounts to discrimination against them comes from … Prof. Espenshade himself, who combines the mistaken Asian “beliefs” discussed above with outright denials of discrimination. In an interview last week with Jaschik,

Espenshade said that “all other things equal, Asian-American students are at a disadvantage relative to white students, and at an even bigger disadvantage relative to black and Latino students.” But he was quick to add that “this doesn’t mean there is discrimination.”

He noted that the modeling he has done is based on quantifiable measures such as grades and test scores. “We don’t have access to all the information an admissions dean does,” he said. “We don’t have extracurriculars. We don’t have personal statements or guidance counselors’ recommendations. We’re missing some stuff.” Those who assume that average scores indicate bias may not understand the many factors that go into college admissions at elite private colleges, he said. “The fact that these institutions are looking for a multiplicity of talent is more understood in some communities than others,” he said. “There might be a tendency of many Asian-American students to think that academic credentials are going to carry not only the most weight, but all the weight, in who gets admitted, and that isn’t so.”

The Ever-Handy Excuse of ‘Soft Variables’

asian students walking.jpgProf. Espenshade has been running from the implications of his research findings for years, as I argued here on Minding The Campus nearly two years ago. In a 2009 interview, for example, he told the Daily Princetonian that he did not use the word “discrimination” in discussing his study because “he did not have access to what he called ‘soft variables,’ like extracurriculars and teacher recommendations.

“The data we had is only part of the data that admission deans have access to,” Espenshade said. “If we had access to the full range of info, it could put Asian candidates in a different light. This so-called ‘Asian disadvantage’ does not necessarily mean that Asian applicants are being discriminated against.”

Leaving aside the awkward assertion that Asians have “a tendency” to “think” or “assume” or “believe” things that are not true and “may not understand” the complexity of the admissions process that is “more understood” in other “communities,” Prof. Espenshade doesn’t seem to recognize the clear implication of his reference to “soft variables” to deny discrimination: if there’s no discrimination, it’s because blacks and Hispanics are so much better at writing personal statements and performing extracurricular activities and securing outstanding letters of recommendation that their superior performance in these areas, compared to the hapless Asians, balances out their deficits in grades and test scores. Prof. Espenshade leans over so far backwards in attempting to deny discrimination against Asians that he stumbles well past lame or silly into territory, as I wrote on this site back in 2010, that “is almost humorously dumb, and offensive.”

The only person in Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s article who tries even harder than Prof. Espenshade to escape to the implications of Prof. Espenshade’s data is … Scott Jaschik. Referring to Prof. Espenshade’s book, Jaschik writes that “Asian-American applicants need SAT scores of about 140 points higher than students from other groups with equivalent academic qualifications to get admitted to competitive private institutions.” But that’s not at all what’s in Prof. Espenshade’s book or even what Prof. Espenshade wrote on Inside Higher Ed back in 2009. As we saw above, Espenshade wrote there that Asians must score 140 higher on the SAT than similarly qualified whites, not “students from other groups,” and that they must score 450 points higher than similarly qualified blacks.

Sometimes in the defense of affirmative action simple obfuscation isn’t sufficient. Those times call for outright denial, and editor Jaschik proves he is up to the task.

Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

The law school at the University of Iowa, like so many
departments at so many institutions of higher learning, has a faculty that is
politically pretty much of one mind, with (as of 2007) 46 registered Democrats
and only one registered Republican. When instructor Teresa Wagner applied for a
professor’s post in her specialty, legal writing, she was warned more than once
that her incongruous political background – she is an outspoken conservative
and active in the right-to-life movement – would be likely to hurt her chances.
An associate dean, Jonathan Carlson, wrote to Dean Carolyn Jones in 2007:
“Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to
Teresa serving in any role, in part at least because they so despise her
politics (and especially her activism about it). I hate to think that is the
case, and I don’t actually think it is, but I’m worried that I’m missing
something.”

Continue reading Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

Groupthink & Political Analysis

A central
component of the groupthink academy
is the law of group polarization–that
in environments (such as most humanities and social sciences departments) in
which people basically think alike, more extreme versions of the common
assumption will emerge. Within the academy, that condition has had the effect
of producing more extreme new faculty hires and less pedagogical diversity.
Outside the academy, the prevalence of groupthink has had the unintended
consequence of making the views of “mainstream” academics of little use even
for their seeming political allies.

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More Ideological Discrimination at the University of Iowa?

In the groupthink academy, perhaps the most opaque, but significant, personnel process comes in the hiring of new faculty. In a flawed tenure case (as I came to discover), some precedent exists for the courts (or, in my case, fair-minded senior administrators) intervening to undo an ethically improper outcome. In the typical hiring process, however, there’s almost no chance of any type of outside intervention, since it’s almost impossible to prove ideological, or political, or pedagogical discrimination. The result, of course, has been a tyranny of the majority in most humanities and many social science departments around the country.

Continue reading More Ideological Discrimination at the University of Iowa?

A Study Sets Out to Prove Tea Partiers Are Racist

tea_party.jpgAmong those prizing truth, modern social science does not enjoy an especially good reputation. As a political scientist myself, I’ve long encountered conservatives who often complain that much contemporary social science does little more than demonize conservative views. Unfortunately, such grumbling is often correct but that said, complainers rarely grasp how this bias is imposed and, more important, why bias passes professional scrutiny. The answers are simple, the rules for conducting research themselves permit social scientists to create “reality” and with that power, run-of-the mill dishonesty is unnecessary.

To illustrate how research can be weaponized for ideological purposes, all the while honoring the conventions of modern social science, consider a paper presented at the 2011 American Political Science Association’s annual national meeting castigating the Tea Party movement as “racist.” It was written by a well-respected academic who heeded all the accepted (and scientific) disciplinary conventions. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the ideologically-driven Tea Party bashing was scarcely noticed by peers who initially screened the paper or were in the Seattle audience when it was presented. This is the point: bias is so deeply ingrained, so professionally acceptable, that it escapes notice.

Continue reading A Study Sets Out to Prove Tea Partiers Are Racist

The Perils of Academic Groupthink

I’ve often written of how groupthink has negatively affected the quality of higher education–while, of course, ensuring that those whose views fall within the academic majority have a better chance of success on campus. Ironically, however, what Mark Bauerlein had termed the Common Assumption effect and the law of group polarization also have combined to make scholars of the humanities and social sciences less relevant outside the ivory tower. With fewer and fewer voices to challenge the status quo on campus (and, in the process, to correct obvious errors coming from the academic majority), and extreme articulations of the common beliefs increasingly the norm, groupthink professors are left to…

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No Time for Conservative Faculty

I’m totally baffled by the general looniness that seems to pop up when the liberal-left side talks about Republicans and the wealthy.  And it all “trickles down,” so that students parrot the same attitudes.  Today a student of mine from last year, who’s smart and nice, said in passing that the Tea Partiers are “racist.”  I said, “I don’t think so,” and he at once said, well, that’s what he’d learned in the press.  And he acknowledged that that was all he knew — the particular press he’s exposed to.

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Condemning the NYPD over Academic Freedom?

As Mark Bauerlein observed in his seminal essay on the topic, groupthink has the effect of producing more extreme versions of the common assumption. It stands to reason, therefore, that campuses with unusually one-sided faculties will feature more frequent episodes of extremist assertions. Such certainly seems to be the case at my own institution, Brooklyn College, which too often seems eager to position itself in a kind of canary-in-the-coal mine role in higher education.

The common assumptions in this case are claims of a pervasiveness of Islamophobia in contemporary America and a belief that the U.S. government has inappropriately restricted the civil liberties of American Muslims. The extreme action came in response to an NYPD program monitoring homegrown Islamic extremism.

Continue reading Condemning the NYPD over Academic Freedom?