Tag Archives: board

Harvard Botches a ‘Cheating’ Scandal

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By
Harvey Silverglate and Zachary Bloom

At first blush, the ongoing cheating scandal at Harvard
College appears to raise serious questions about academic integrity at that
fabled institution. If the allegations that 125 students inappropriately shared
notes and answers for a take-home exam in violation of the exam’s rules prove
true, the result will be a massive blot on Harvard’s near-perfectly manicured
public  image–especially now that top 
athletes have been implicated.

But let’s remember that because of the course’s confusing rules and guidelines concerning collaboration, no one, likely not even the
students themselves, can say right now whether their conduct was illicit. Worse
yet, we may
never know the truth, much less have a just verdict on the
propriety of the students’ actions, now that the case is securely in the hands
of the spooks haunting Harvard’s notorious Administrative Board.

Continue reading Harvard Botches a ‘Cheating’ Scandal

Higher Education’s ‘Obesity’ Problem

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Open a marketing brochure for any college or university
in the United States and you’ll find an info-graphic touting the variety and
number of degree programs that the institution offers.  The more options, the rationale goes, the
more likely a student will find a desired specialty.  The distinction between programs can be
subtle, for instance “Music, General” versus “Musical Theatre,” or
Agricultural Engineering” versus “Agronomy and Crop
Science.”

But the dreary fact is: higher education is in the midst
of a major financial crisis. 
Institutions’ bond ratings are falling and resources are in short
supply.   Boards of trustees must  figure out how to do more and better with
less. While administrative costs have to be examined, they are only part of the
problem.  According to former president
of the University of Northern Colorado and co-founder of the Lumina Foundation
Robert C. Dickeson, “[t]he failure of governing boards to focus on academic
programs is arguably the single greatest cause of overspending.”

This month the American Council of Trustees and Alumni
(ACTA) is sending Dr. Dickeson’s guide,
Setting Academic Priorities: A Guide to
What Boards of Trustees Can Do
to ACTA’s network of more than 13,000
trustees around the country. It provides governing boards with a framework for
establishing academic program review policies that direct resources to
mission-critical areas of their institutions without neglecting students’ needs.
 Of course, achieving this goal must
entail consolidating some academic programs into larger, more cost-effective
units or eliminating them.  

Continue reading Higher Education’s ‘Obesity’ Problem

The Freeh Report and the Failure of Trustees

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The past few months have been troubling for those who
believe that Trustees must exercise more aggressive oversight roles on today’s
college and university campuses. At the University of Virginia, the board of regents (temporarily,
it turns out) sacked President Teresa Sullivan, yet struggled to articulate a
reason for doing so. Then, when they did so–seeming to demand more on-line
classes, seeming to criticize the German and Classics Departments–the board’s
vision conflicted with defenders of high standards. At University of Southern
Maine, meanwhile, the board stood aside amidst a
slow-motion coup against President Selma Botman–an effort that aimed, as one of
the plotters privately admitted, to show that “the faculty really are the
center of the universe.”

Continue reading The Freeh Report and the Failure of Trustees

Why Many Conservatives Got It Wrong on UVa

uva.jpgBy any ordinary standard, Teresa Sullivan is the kind of
university president conservatives love to hate. In 2010, after the Board of Visitors
unanimously elected her the first female president of the University of
Virginia, one of her first acts was to endorse and publish the UVA Diversity
Council’s statement expressing commitment in–what else?–diversity. Sullivan had co-authored two books on middle-class
debt with none other than Elizabeth Warren, who famously exploited informal
racial quotas at prestigious academic institutions by falsely claiming Native
American ancestry on the sole basis of her high cheekbones. In short, Sullivan
appeared as a diversity hire interested only in campus diversity at UVA and who
has worked with another diversity hire to produce diversity scholarship. It is as if Sullivan was not born but rather fashioned out of the politically correct
clich

How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

dartmouth.jpgCrossing the snow-covered Dartmouth green one night, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Who owns this place, and by what right?” More than half a century later, I have still not resolved a complete answer to that question. But I can give you my short-form response: A small group of willful people, mostly money men disdainful of undergraduate education, have stacked the board of trustees, made an unannounced decision to convert a liberal arts college into a major research university, and “earned” themselves huge commissions on sales of their own securities to the college’s endowment while keeping details of the transactions secret.

A note on the history: Most of America’s early colleges were founded
by church denominations, whose control gradually weakened as costs and
instructional quality rose. The pivotal stage in this history occurred
in the decades following the Civil War, when alumni, having assumed the
major burden of support, began asserting claims for seats on the board
of trustees. Dartmouth alumni battled longest and won the most
significant concessions in 1891. Responsibility for the college was to
be vested in each and every alumnus; excepting the ex officio members
(the state’s governor and the college president), half the trustees
would thereafter be elected directly by the alumni body, and the other
half by the entire board.

Continue reading How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

Second Thoughts About Joe Paterno

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Some Penn State alumni, outraged over the Board of Trustees peremptory firing of Coach Joe Paterno, are organizing a campaign to elect three new trustees.  The objective of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship is, ultimately, to oust the current Board.  The Board fired Paterno, two University officials and the University President for not responding forcefully to accusations of child sexual abuse in the football-team shower room.  Many alumni, including hundreds who met with the new President at hotels in the Pittsburgh, New York City, and Philadelphia areas recently, were outraged that the Board had not verified the accusations before acting.

According to indignant alumni, the Penn State Board of Trustees confused two separate, unequal cases.  One case was possible perjury before a grand jury by Tim Curley, the Athletic Director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice-president in charge of the Penn State Police.  The second case was the charge against Jerry Sandusky that he possibly sexually molested a young boy in the Penn State football-team shower room.

Curley and Schultz were suspected of lying to conceal discreditable behavior damaging to the reputation of the Penn State football program.  Guilty or innocent, they face enormous legal costs to mount a defense against the perjury charge.  If convicted, they will probably go to prison.  But the evidence for the indictment for perjury is weak.  It rests entirely on the grand jury testimony of assistant football coach Mike McQueary in the fall of 2011 about what he saw nine years earlier when he was in his early twenties.  McQueary remembered being shocked when he accidentally observed in the shower room of the Penn State football team what appeared to be a former coach sexually molesting a pre-adolescent boy.  Here is how the Washington Post described McQueary’s account of the 2002 incident when called as a witness in a District Court hearing last December 16:

In his testimony at the preliminary hearing for Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, McQueary said he believes he saw Sandusky sexually molesting a boy in the shower but was not 100 percent sure it was intercourse.

McQueary said he peeked into the shower several times and saw Sandusky with his hands wrapped around the waist of a boy he estimated to be 10 or 12 years old. He said both were naked, the boy was facing the wall, and that the last time he looked in, Sandusky and the boy had separated.

“I know they saw me,” McQueary said. “They looked directly in my eye, both of them.”

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have both insisted publicly that, when McQueary told them in 2002 what had disturbed him, he did not mention anal rape, as some newspaper accounts reported.  McQueary had told his story first to Coach Paterno in 2002, and Coach Paterno’s recollection of their meeting characterized McQueary’s report similarly.  Here is what Joe Paterno said on November 6, 2011, about their 2002 meeting:

As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.

The grand jury accepted McQueary’s graphic report as a faithful account of what happened and what he told about it to Paterno, to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and to Gary Schultz, the senior vice-president.  Curley, Schultz, and Paterno remembered the conversations with McCreary differently.  According to all three of them, McQueary said nothing about anal rape, only that Sandusky and a preadolescent boy were showering together in the shower room and “horsing around.”  Because the grand jury believed that McQueary was telling the truth and that Curley and Schultz were lying to minimize disreputable behavior at the University, it indicted Curley and Schultz for perjury.  Whether or not they committed perjury has nothing to do with whatever Sandusky did or did not do to a boy in the shower room.  (The grand jury did not explain why it did not also indict Coach Joe Paterno for perjury; his report of his conversation with McQueary was identical to the accounts given by Curley and Schultz.)

Questionable Indictments

The Board of Trustees apparently considered the indictments of Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz evidence of guilt.  On the evening of November 9, the Vice-Chairman of the Board, John Surma Jr., made a vague public statement explaining why the Board fired Joe Paterno, the Athletic Director to whom he reported, the vice-president to whom the Penn State Police force reported, and the president of Penn State University itself.

We thought that because of the difficulties that engulfed our university, and they are grave, that it is necessary to make a change in the leadership to set a course for a new direction.

A jury would have to believe – despite an absence of corroborating evidence — that Coach Paterno and the two administrators lied independently to a grand jury about what McQueary told them in 2002 or conspired with one another to lie in order to protect the University from bad publicity.  The jury would also have to believe that reputable University officials chose to cover up the rape of a ten-year-old boy.  More plausible is faulty memories rather than lies.  McQueary stumbled on what seemed to him improper and upsetting sexual behavior between a coach and a pre-adolescent boy, but he did not remember exactly what went on nine years earlier.  Surely the defense attorneys will raise questions about how McQueary reacted to what he saw and what he heard during the 2002 incident.  He did not claim to have heard the boy cry out, “Help!” although he said that the boy saw him. He did not claim to have himself shouted, “What’s going on here?”  All he did was peek into the shower room three times and then go home and telephone his father.  Paterno, Curley, and Schultz all deny receiving explicit information about an anal rape.

The perjury indictments have little to do with football at Penn State, only with the accusation that two reputable University administrators lied to a grand jury (for which they are potentially liable to be given long prison terms).  The collateral damage of the perjury indictments – inflicted by the Board of Trustees — was the firing of Coach Paterno and of Penn State President Graham Spanier. Perhaps a prudent Board of Trustees should not have rushed to administer punishments.  As one of my former students, now a senior executive of an organization in the professional sports field commented about the uproar at Penn State in an email:

Where is the adult in the room who says, “Hold on. We have a legal process and we need to follow it in the most routine cases and even for the most hideous ones. This case is no exception.”

The American system of criminal justice does not usually imitate the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who enunciated the principle of “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”  Maybe current members of the Board never read that criminological classic or understood that Lewis Carroll was ridiculing arbitrary punishments.  Maybe Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship should distribute copies of Alice in Wonderland to all members of the Board of Trustees as well as to the new members they succeed in electing.

Why University Presidents Are Clueless About the Real World

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New Pew Research Center data show that a large majority of Americans think U.S. colleges and universities offer only fair or poor value for the financial cost -but college presidents strikingly disagree, with a majority of them thinking college offers at least a good value (though college presidents are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the quality of American higher education compared to the world ten years from now). Similarly, a majority of Americans question whether college is truly affordable any more, a view that most college presidents do not share. More generally, people in the academy have views widely divergent from the mainstream of the American population.

Turning to college presidents, I think a lot of this attitudinal divide relates to the non-market environment in which colleges operate. How do you become a successful college president? You raise lots of money, which you then use to bribe the various constituents in the university community to keep them happy. The faculty you bribe with low teaching loads, good fringe benefits, and perhaps a nearby parking place. Your fellow top administrators whose support is vital you bribe with not only good salaries, but also lots of assistants who do much of the heavy lifting associated with the job. You bribe the students by giving them nice recreational and dorm facilities, and reach an implicit bargain with them to not demand much academically (hence grade inflation) and to largely ignore their hedonistic bouts of alcoholic and sexual excesses. You bribe the alumni with decent football and basketball teams and a nice campus facility where they can hang out. You bribe the trustees with whatever idiosyncratic whim they want. In short, you spend money to keep a narrow group of people associated with the Ivory Tower happy.

Contrast that with business leaders. They are motivated by profits, maximizing the gap between revenue and costs. To increase revenues, they must please vast numbers of persons with new or improved products. They also enhance profits by reducing costs, raising productivity so they can do more with less. They reward subordinates who further these goals with bonuses, stock options, etc.

Continue reading Why University Presidents Are Clueless About the Real World

Let’s Push Trustees to Solve the Adjunct Problem

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For years now, a sad, steady flow of articles, books, and studies has documented the rise of the “disposable academic,” the growing underclass of poorly paid, uninsured PhDs who do the bulk of college teaching but have no real chance of ever landing a secure academic job. This is a tragedy, the argument goes, not only for the young scholars who will never become professors, but also for undergraduates (whose educations suffer when they are taught by “disposable” teachers) and for progress itself (adjunct work is not conducive to original research, open debate, and knowledge production).

But despite the large body of work on the subject, the ratio of “securely-employed” to “disposable” has only gotten worse over the years. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report in their recent study Academically Adrift, in 1970, 78 percent of college teachers at degree-granting institutions were full-time faculty; in 2005, only 52 percent were.  Fully three quarters of all faculty appointments today are non-tenure-track. “The professor”–as a job, a vocation, and an academic institution–seems to be disappearing. 
 
Moreover, warnings can only fall on deaf ears so many times before they sound absurd. People are still flocking to grad school. Grad schools are still admitting students–and, despite high attrition, they are still overproducing PhDs. In Higher Education?, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus report that between 2005 and 2007, American universities awarded over 100,000 doctorates–while creating less than 16,000 tenure-track assistant professorships.  
 
“Don’t make fun of grad students,” Marge Simpson tells Bart after he taunts a group of PhDs working at the local bookstore. “They just made a terrible life choice.” It may be bad behavior, but mocking grad students’ “terrible life choice” is turning out to be a popular pastime for academia’s armchair humorists. In recent months, thanks to the DIY movie site Xtranormal.com, a number of grad students and professors have created short cartoons spoofing the hapless would-be professor. First there was “So You Want to Go To Law School,” which has been viewed over a million times since its launch in October 2010. Parodying the starry-eyed idealism of wannabe lawyers, the film had an obvious applicability to grad school, where starry eyes and poor employment prospects are in even greater supply. Short videos on the career suicide of pursuing a PhD in physics, economics, political science, the humanities, and more followed in quick succession.

Continue reading Let’s Push Trustees to Solve the Adjunct Problem

The Uses of the Word ”Controversial”

A revealing window into the mind of modern liberalism (keep snarky comments about looking into a dark, empty room to yourself) is nicely provided by noting what the press, especially the press covering higher educations, regards as controversial.
A case in point: On July 2 both Inside Higher Ed (“Controversial Choice for Virginia Tech Board”) and the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Controversial Lawyer Is Reappointed to Virginia Tech’s Governing Board”) responded identically to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s recent appointment of Roanoke lawyer John Rocovich to another term on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.
I do not mean to imply that there was no controversy around aspects of Rocovich’s prior service. Both Inside Higher Ed and Chronicle link to the Roanoke Times, which described a couple of the controversies:

Continue reading The Uses of the Word ”Controversial”

More Subterfuge at UCal

Although my years of service on the University of California (UC) Board of Regents were the most tumultuous years of my life, my pride in the Board and the university that it serves has, until now, never wavered. But, a recent meeting and action by the Board has caused that feeling of pride to diminish.
At several UC campuses, a variety of incidents occurred several weeks ago that were characterized as creating a “toxic” racial climate for black students. The source of the “toxicity” came in the form of an off-campus party called the “Compton Cookout” and a noose found hanging inside the library at the UCSD campus.
In a little over a three-week period, racial epithets were allegedly directed at black students at UCSD; and, at other UC campuses, a swastika was carved into a Jewish student’s door and derogatory graffiti was found at the gay and lesbian students’ center.
These alleged incidents resulted in a delegation of students, faculty members and UC staff attending a meeting of the Board of Regents in late March to complain that the Regents weren’t doing enough to create a climate that nurtures “inclusiveness,” for minorities, such as blacks and gays/lesbians. With no effort to validate the assertions, several regents gushed into a state of apologia, as is customary for university governing board members in such circumstances.

Continue reading More Subterfuge at UCal

Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

I once asked a pilot friend if he didn’t tire of the lumbering, leviathan commercial airliner he flew. He surprised me by saying that a 747 can handle like a Lamborghini if ever it needed to.
A bit of that seems to be underway in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the new president of Dartmouth College, my alma mater, is responding with alacrity to the slackening economy. Even given the market’s nosedive, Dartmouth possesses a substantial multi-billion dollar endowment and employs nearly 2,800 full-time equivalent staff and 450 faculty. That’s a rather large organization—one now operating at a loss of $34 million.
But Dartmouth has one big asset: a group of Carl Icahnesque independent trustees who were elected by worried alumni in 2004, 2005, and 2008. These outsiders were vigorously resisted by Dartmouth—whose power establishment didn’t want activist directors—but the outsiders’ platforms of staunch fiscal conservatism and a leap out of the thicket of professional educrats won the day. After all, who needs a “Sustainability Director” or a “Dean of Pluralism”?
Alumni responded by their levels of giving, and Dartmouth’s former president, historian James Wright, responded by resigning his post early. In that position, now, is Jim Kim, the Harvard doctor who has never been the head of a major organization but who has now been thrown into a parlous billet.

Continue reading Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

The Dartmouth Case

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki outlines the latest in the Dartmouth alumni suit against Dartmouth College.

The current case, like the previous case, arises from the 1891 Agreement between the Dartmouth Trustees and the alumni of the College, acting through the Association of Alumni, that gave the alumni the right to elect half of the non-ex officio members of the Board of Trustees. At the time, the Board was comprised of 12 members, of which 2 served ex officio (the Governor of New Hampshire and the Dartmouth president). Upon striking the agreement, over the next two years, 5 of the appointed trustees resigned and were replaced with elected trustees. Over time, the size of the board expanded, and by the time I was elected a trustee in 2005 there were 8 elected Alumni Trustees, 8 appointed Charter Trustees, and the Governor and College president as ex officio members. As I have discussed in detail elsewhere, the 1891 Agreement was the culmination of decades of negotiations between the trustees and college administration on one hand and the alumni on the other.
In 2007 after a string of petition trustees were elected to the Board, a majority of trustees voted to impose a board-packing plan, which added 8 new appointed seats to the board, making 16 appointed and 8 elected trustees. I won’t rehash that here, except to point interested readers to my earlier discussions as well as the Court’s excellent opinion which held that the plaintiffs in that case stated valid claims both on contract and promissory estoppel theories. Importantly, the Court also held that the Association of Alumni had standing to sue and capacity to contract in that case, as well as to provide valid consideration, such as administering the Alumni Trustee elections. For purposes of analysis on the current summary judgment motion, I am going to take it as given that the underlying contract claim is valid.
In Spring 2008, however, the alumni leaders who brought the suit had to stand for reelection and were voted out of office. The winning slate of alumni loyal to the trustees and administration dismissed the suit. Their campaign position had been that the alumni should have “negotiated” more with the trustees before bringing suit. As the current plaintiffs note in their most recent brief, it thus came as quite a surprise when the suit was dismissed with prejudice, with the deliberate intent to try to foreclose a future lawsuit if negotiations broke down (it doesn’t actually work, as will be discussed below). After all I’ve seen over the past few years, I thought that I was beyond being shocked by the sort of behavior described in the plaintiffs’ brief, but I confess that this surprised even me. The College has not contested any of the claims in the briefs of the current plaintiffs with respect to the collusive behavior of the AoA leadership in settling the prior case. Read the first 10 pages of so of the plaintiffs’ brief if you want to get a flavor of what happened.

Read on for a fascinating outline of the legal questions involved.

The Cambridge Empire Strikes Back

By Harvey Silverglate With Kyle Smeallie
Harvard University may be losing money like a hard-luck high-roller, but the Vegas tagline (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas) certainly does not apply: what happens at Harvard reaches well beyond the Cambridge confines. For better or for worse, many schools follow in Harvard’s footsteps. What better place, then, to effect change in American higher education than a place where other schools—at least until the recent economic meltdown—have been green with Crimson envy?
Such was the premise behind my insurgent campaign for a seat on the Board of Overseers, one of Harvard’s two governing boards. Dismayed by the lack of principled oversight (a key reason, I suspect, for Harvard’s recent financial woes) and the general illiberal culture of his alma mater, I spent months trying to convince alumni to elect me to the board. In early June, however, Harvard officials informed me that my bid for a six-year term on the 30-member board came up a bit short.
In defeat, I learned the very same lesson that Harvard Law School alum Barack H. Obama (Law School class of 1991) learned when he ran as a petition candidate in the 1991 Overseers election: Input from outsiders—those unwilling to place collegiality over candor—is unwanted.

Continue reading The Cambridge Empire Strikes Back

Be Fair, Harvard

In theory, e-mail should make it easier to organize for social and political change. But, as recent events in my campaign as a petition candidate for Harvard’s Board of Overseers have shown, new means of communication can be used to relegate would-be reformers of the academy to dead-ends, and to keep the outsiders outside. If I might make a rough analogy to the familiar Star Wars trilogy: My initial undertaking of my petition candidacy, along with my fellow petition candidate Robert Freedman, has been followed by the second phase of the trilogy, namely The Empire Strikes Back. Freedman and I are now working to get to the third installment, Return of the Jedi. But I’m getting a bit ahead of the story.
I should not feel like an outsider – much less a barbarian knocking on Harvard’s gates, seeking a place at the table – but I can’t help feeling that I’m being treated like one. After all, I came to Cambridge in 1964, attended my law school classes with due attention (especially given the fact that I had to work full-time to support myself, my mother and younger brother after the sudden death of my father while I was a senior at Princeton), received my LL.B. in 1967, and remained in Cambridge to marry and live and to practice law in Boston. During that time, I became a legal affiliate-in-law at one of Harvard College’s undergraduate houses, where I still give unpaid “pre-law table” discussions once each semester. I’ve judged moot court arguments at Harvard Law School. I taught a course at the law school during a sabbatical-from-practice that I took in the mid-1980s. I’ve lectured to many an undergraduate class. And I continue to advise Harvard students, and even an occasional faculty member, when they get into trouble (with Harvard, as well as with the outside “real world”). Now, I’m running as a petition candidate for Harvard’s Board of Overseers, the university’s second most powerful governing body.
So why do I feel like an outsider?

Continue reading Be Fair, Harvard

Zywicki Out At Dartmouth

This morning Todd Zywicki briefly noted at the Volokh Conspiracy, that he had been denied a second term on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. It’s difficult not to conclude that Dartmouth is pruning board dissenters. Zywicki’s personal statement about the decision on his website provides a history of the source of his removal:

..From 1891 to 1990, Dartmouth’s alumni held the right to reelect their Trustees based on their performance during their first term. A fair process. But in 1990 a small group of alumni insiders transferred that power from the alumni to the Board itself. The date is not a coincidence: the tenure of Dr. John Steel ’54, the first petition trustee elected to the Board, expired that year. The new regime—that the Board sits in judgment of itself—was adopted precisely so that any future petition Trustees could be removed after one term.
Since then, the prospect of removal at the end of their elected term is held over Trustees’ heads from their first day on the Board. Even those elected by the alumni specifically to provide an independent voice are aware that they must toe the party line or risk expulsion at the end of their first term.

Zywicki pointedly did not toe that party line during his term. He mentions “harsh language and judgments” that he offered during a speech two years ago at the John William Pope Center (and apologized for) yet there’s little doubt that his open and oppositional status was far greater a problem to the university, and to his chances for re-selection. He was elected as an insurgent petition candidate, arguing for a focus on undergraduate education at odds with the research and expansion plans of the administration and prior trustees (read more from 2007). He opposed the administration’s (eventually successful) plan to reduce, proportionally, the number of elected members (by means of doubling the number of appointed trustees).
He supported a lawsuit filed by the Dartmouth Association of Alumni that alleged that the college had abrogated its contractual arrangement with alumni by altering the composition of the Board of Trustees. When a slate of candidates was run against the Association leadership that pledged to end the lawsuit, he argued directly against them (here and here). Zywicki was an inconvenient trustee; it’s little wonder that the Board refused to reelect him, and why they would provide no explanation. The years 2004-2007 saw four successful petition candidates with ideas at odds with those of the college administration elected to the Dartmouth Board. Not content with packing that body with extra members, the college seems now intent on quashing any remainders of these years of dissent.

Is Tenure Doomed?

In early December, the Board of Regents of the Kentucky Community and Technical College system agreed to vote in a few months on a proposal that may have far-reaching effects on higher education. The proposal would end the practice of offering tenured or tenure-track posts to new faculty hires. Is this a crack in the tenure dam that will produce a cascade of other schools eradicating tenure from the ranks?

Whether other universities go that far or not, in fact, the tenure system has been deteriorating for years. Administrations haven’t directly taken it away. They simply let tenured professors retire and didn’t give departments tenured or tenure-track replacement lines. Or, in responding to rising enrollments, they hired more part-time faculty than full-time faculty to fill classrooms. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the portions of tenured and tenure-track faculty in the American professorate nose-dived in the last 30 years.

And according to a recent report by the American Federation of Teachers, “contingent faculty members teach 49 percent” all undergraduate courses (Reversing Course: The Troubled State of Academic Staffing and a Path Forward, i). The proportion doesn’t include graduate student teachers, either, those doctoral candidates picking up courses as part of their training, which AFT estimates at 16-32 percent of the courses offered.

Continue reading Is Tenure Doomed?

Due Process Fades In Wisconsin

The Board of Regents and officials of the University of Wisconsin system have recently proposed two sweeping changes to the system’s student misconduct codes. The first change is a new code covering student misconduct outside of university property (UWS 18). The second involves some major changes in the present Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Code, UWS 17.
There is nothing inherently wrong with periodic revisions of codes, for institutions need to adapt their rules to deal with changes in their environment. And no one argues that universities must abide by the same rigorous procedural standards as the criminal justice system. As the Supreme Court has consistently maintained over the years, the extent of due process depends upon the institutional setting.
That said, critics have raised some points that merit serious attention, especially about UWS 17. These concerns address both specific provisions in the reforms as well as broader questions about the state of universities today. Let me address just three of the specific concerns first.

Continue reading Due Process Fades In Wisconsin

Why I Am Running For Harvard’s Board Of Overseers

By Robert L. Freedman A.B. ’62

I am running as a petition candidate for Harvard’s Board of Overseers to help Harvard College improve itself.

I have been interested in higher education – and in particular in what is taught and how it is taught – since graduating from the College in 1962. I have the time, the interest and the energy to try to make a difference.

There is ferment in the world of higher education. When a former Harvard College Dean publishes a book about Harvard subtitled How a Great University Forgot Education, and when a former Harvard President publishes a book about colleges subtitled A Candid Look At How Much Students Learn And Why They Should Be Learning More, you know it’s time to get involved.

College is when people are most open to learning. Afterwards their intellectual horizons narrow. It is a major loss if part of those key four years is wasted in a class with a poor teacher or in a subject of only ephemeral importance.

Harvard has two governing boards. The Harvard Corporation (officially the President and Fellows of Harvard College) is a Massachusetts non-profit corporation with seven members. Vacancies are filled by the remaining members. So it is a self-perpetuating board – as are most non-profit boards.

The second governing board is the Overseers (officially the Board of Overseers of Harvard College). Despite their official name, their writ covers the entire University. They have been elected by all the alums since 1921. In April of each year Harvard mails ballots to all one-third of a million Harvard degree holders (except faculty members). Five alums are elected every year for 6 year terms, for a total of 30 Overseers.

The alumni association annually solicits names of possible candidates from the alums, and then nominates eight candidates for the five positions. The eight candidates generally are diverse in terms of occupation, geographical location, gender, ethnicity and race.
These elections are usually non-events. Typically ninety percent of the alums do not bother to vote, perhaps because they believe who is elected makes no difference.

But every once in a while something different happens, because any alum can become a petition candidate upon obtaining the signatures of about 250 alums on official Harvard ballots (that is what I did). Nineteen years ago, when divestiture of South African securities from the endowment was a hot issue, Barack Obama ran as a petition candidate. He lost. The handful of petition candidates over the years believed, like Obama, that certain important issues were not being properly addressed by the powers-that-be. In my case those issues are educational: teaching methods, the curriculum, the quality of student life and the high costs of college.

Harvard is aware of these issues and has made some important progress. But the Overseers have not been in the forefront of pushing for changes. I am running as a petition candidate because, as former Harvard President Derek Bok – in a most careful and thoughtful critique of colleges – recently wrote, reform is too difficult to accomplish solely from within. A push from outside is needed. And a push from a friend is much better than waiting until a crisis develops and an unfriendly heavy hand intrudes.

A more active Board of Overseers should make it its business to understand students’ views. As our college experience recedes into the past, most of us lose touch with exactly how we felt and what we thought then. A good sign is that recently, apparently for the first time in living memory, a group of Overseers actually met with a group of students. That modest and long overdue first step could be the beginning of a process to acquaint the Overseers with the college’s “customers”.

There is lots to be done. Change is in the air. As a recent President said, If not now, when? If not us, who? Together we can make a difference. Let’s do so.
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Robert L. Freedman is a senior partner of the international law firm, Dechert LLP. He is a 1962 graduate of Harvard College. His campaign site can be found here.

Thanks, Hank!

In his brief tenure as president of the University of Colorado, former U.S. Senator and ACTA National Council member Hank Brown – who stepped down this past weekend – managed to leave an indelible mark on CU and higher education generally.

Taking the reins in the wake of a number of scandals, Brown established a national model for institutional responsibility. Under his leadership, CU vigorously stood up for academic excellence and accountability. And the steps taken – committing to intellectual diversity at the board level, tackling grade inflation, and performing a groundbreaking review of the tenure process – offer presidents and boards across the country an unmatched illustration of ways to ensure quality education for students and taxpayers.

In tackling the challenges before him, Brown also set an example for presidential leadership. CU’s handling of the investigation and subsequent firing of Professor Ward Churchill was praiseworthy in its focus on due process and its fundamental understanding that academic standards are best set and enforced by academics themselves. At the same time, Brown understood and acknowledged the urgent need for higher education to be accountable to those who support it – and the important role citizens and alumni can play in demanding that their alma maters live up to their highest ideals.
Indeed, Brown’s belief in the importance of outside input underscored his early support of outside input. It’s gratifying indeed to review the prescient Roll Call article he wrote back in 1995 – along with his Senate colleague Joe Lieberman – underscoring the importance of alumni and trustee voices and acknowledging that “[c]ampus political pressures often make it difficult for those on campus to defend academic freedom.”

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What Trustees Must Do

Trustees face a quandary in trying to figure out their role in academic governance. As a matter of law, institutional responsibility is squarely in their hands. On the other hand, while few challenge their oversight in matters managerial and financial, they are routinely warned that when it comes to intellectual content, the heart of university life, they should keep their distance.

Trustees should generally avoid getting involved in judgments about intellectual specifics such as individual personnel decisions, the content of courses, and the structure of particular programs, etc. Usually they will be out of their depth here. But they should be actively engaged in matters pertaining to overall intellectual climate, especially the degree to which such core principles of rational discourse as objectivity, disengagement, meritocracy, civility, and pluralism are honored and institutionalized. Here trustee fair-mindedness, ideological coolness, and intellectual distance, can help keep the ideological passions of academics from running discourse off reason’s rails.

Like judges, trustees should see themselves as having a responsibility to ensure that the rules of sound intellectual discourse are recognized, that the academic cultures of the institutions they supervise are “lawful” in a manner that preserves the free and effective exercise of reason. This, of course, is a matter of faculty responsibility too, but since the nature of these rules, in many essentials, simply follow the operating principles of a liberal social order, citizens of that order should be able to understand them well enough to backstop compliance. Trustees need not be scholarly experts to participate meaningfully in the university’s intellectual governance. They need only be intelligent and watchful products of a free society.

What types of rules are we speaking of and why should members of a liberal society be able to recognize and help enforce them?

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Trustee Out, Diversity In?

John Moores is a friend of mine. When I was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, John was my closest ally. Occasionally, we found ourselves on different sides of specific issues, like student fees. But, more likely than not – and especially on other fundamental issues – our perspectives and our votes were in accord. I grew to respect John as one of the most dedicated and talented Regents with whom I had the pleasure of serving during my twelve-year term.

On November 12 of this year, John tendered his resignation, nearly a year and a half before the scheduled expiration of his term. With the resignation of John Moores, California is losing an extraordinary public servant. Because of his stature as an icon in the San Diego community, one of California’s most distinguished citizens, and one of America’s most generous and successful entrepreneurs, it is useful for us pause and reflect on the reasons for the early resignation of John Moores.

Continue reading Trustee Out, Diversity In?

The Spiraling Cost Of Higher Education

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation (SB 190), authored by State Senator Leland Yee, which would require the governing boards of California’s two university systems – the University of California and the California State University – to determine future pay increases of university executives in meetings that would be open to the public. “This bill is simply intended to let a little sunshine into the process,” Yee has been quoted as saying.

Personally, I am convinced that the problem of rising administrative costs and the attendant escalation of higher education costs is going to require much more than a “little sunshine” to curtail it.

In good times and bad, there is one thing that is as certain as death and taxes: the cost of going to college will continue its upward spiral. There are many reasons for this circumstance, a few of which come to mind. But, anyone who is familiar with higher education can attest that the lack of “sunshine” laws is not one of those reasons; and the imposition of such laws, no matter how worthy that might sound, is not likely to have much effect on the problem.

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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

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.

Robert Dynes An Example Of Larger UC Problem

[This piece also appeared in the San Francisco Examiner]

Robert (Bob) Dynes is president of the University of California (UC) – and has been in that position since October, 2003. During my tenure as a member of the Board of Regents of UC, I worked with Bob while he was chancellor of the campus at San Diego and during his reign as president of the entire UC system. Bob Dynes has excellent credentials as a physicist and he is a very decent human being. But, in announcing his retirement from the UC presidency. Bob is doing something he should have done the day he was selected to head the UC system. In fact, it was a mistake from the outset to select him, for which I am just as responsible as all of the other regents.

Some contend that Dynes was “encouraged” to resign by the regents because of his handling of administrative compensation and other “perks.” This is undoubtedly true. Yet, while his departure is the right decision, the mishandling of executive compensation or the perception of him as a weak administrator are the wrong reasons for “encouraging” him to ride off into the sunset. It would be useful to examine some of the problems at UC.

Continue reading Robert Dynes An Example Of Larger UC Problem