Tag Archives: California

Indoctrinating Students Isn’t Easy

UCLA has found a novel way to improve the politicization of its curriculum. UCLA Today, the faculty and staff newspaper, reports that the university’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Sustainability Committee have teamed up to help faculty members across the university figure out ways to slip sustainability messages into their classes, regardless of the actual subjects they are teaching.  Participating faculty members get a two-hour workshop and a $1,200 grant to turn their courses into vehicles of sustaina-ganda. 

The newspaper account highlights political science professor Miriam Golden who is using the extra money to change reading lists, data sets, homework assignments.  Professor Golden is ardently behind the cause.  “I think climate change is the largest global challenge to ever face the human race, and we need to help students understand the social and political implications,” she says.  But the money clearly helps.  She wouldn’t be altering the content of her courses without it.

Is it a good thing when a third party puts money on the table to ensure that a particular point of view gets extra attention and favorable treatment in a public university?  Not when Charles G. Koch pledged $1.5 million to support faculty appointments in Florida State University’s economics department for the purpose of promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”  When that story broke in Spring 2011, the higher education establishment expressed dismay at the supposed affront to academic freedom.  Two FSU professors, Kent Miller and Ray Bellamy, led the charge against the “intrusive actions” of the funders, but a faculty panel grudgingly found the grant acceptable.  The progressive commentariate could hardly find enough exclamation points to express its outrage at this commercial sullying of the pure soul of academic inquiry.

I don’t expect that UCLA’s little experiment in cash incentives to faculty members who adjust their teaching in the direction of global warming hysteria and the virtues of sustainability will elicit any similar disdain.  But the Koch “intrusion” at Florida State and the sustainability grants at UCLA are really two sides of the same coin.  Charles Koch would like universities to teach more about the virtues of free markets.  The sustainability crowd generally views free markets as a deep source of environmental ruination.  Both sides are ready to put some money into the game. The Koch grant supports the appointment of faculty members in one department who would be explicitly identified as advocates for a point of view.  The UCLA program is meant to insinuate a point of view across the whole curriculum.  Which sounds more likely to infringe on the integrity of academic programs or the intellectual freedom of students?

UCLA innovation is the cash incentive, not the attempt at broader product placement.  The effort to get sustainability incorporated in every class has been a goal of the sustainability movement for some time. The question for the sustainatopians has been how best to make this happen.  The National Association of Scholars has watched these efforts unfold first as naked aggression, as we reported in “An Elbow in the Ribs: Prof-Prodding Toward Sustainability.”  Sometimes it took more than an elbow bestowed on the reluctant professor, as we observed in “The Sustainability Inquisition.”  Carrots in the form of cash incentives are arguably an improvement over the sticks that the movement more typically uses. 

The money might be put to some good uses.  Who would object to the Earth and Space Sciences professor taking the cash to make videos of fluid dynamics to explain how the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” came about?  There is, however, something a little unsettling about an effort to make every class in a university into a brick in a wall of advocacy.  “Sustainability” falsely presents itself as settled wisdom not only about the science of climate change, but about the proper economic, political, and social responses.  These are matters where students deserve the benefit of hearing the best arguments from all sides.  UCLA’s decision to stack the deck is, unfortunately, all too common for the University of California.  The best response from UCLA faculty members would be to refuse the money and to teach their courses in the spirit of fair-minded scholarship, not as exercises in recruitment to a cause.  

UCLA’s Latest Display of Outrage

Cross-posted from Can These Bones Live 

UCLA
law professor Richard Sander has been the target of student protests at his
university this week. Sander, a critic of affirmative action, published a
report that argued UCLA’s supposedly “holistic” admissions process was quietly
including race as a prominent factor in deciding who would be admitted to the
university. Based on his analysis of admissions data, Sander argued that while
UCLA’s holistic process, which included factors such as socioeconomic
disadvantage in deciding who would be accepted, was not racially discriminatory
by itself, admissions officers did not strictly follow the process and made
offers to students who not only had relatively weak academic backgrounds, but
even low scores in the holistic ranking. These offers, according to Sander,
went disproportionately to black students. If Sander is correct, then UCLA’s
admissions office has been surreptitiously violating California law, which
prohibits the state’s universities from considering race in admissions or
hiring.

The
report, according to Inside Higher Ed, “infuriated minority student
leaders at UCLA (not to mention administrators).” The students perceived it as
“offensive” and described themselves as being “under attack.” UCLA Associate
Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Youlanda Copeland-Morgan had not
reviewed the statistics in the report and therefore could not judge the
report’s accuracy, but nevertheless described Professor Sander’s analysis as
“hurtful and unequivocal attacks.”

As
I read through the Sander report, I could see no attempts to “attack” or “hurt”
anyone. He makes an argument, based on evidence. One may disagree with his
argument or, after having reviewed his evidence, conclude that the facts do not
support it. But other than making vague claims that somehow the holistic
process includes considerations that cannot be measured statistically,
apparently no one has made any serious efforts to rebut Professor Sander’s
reasoning. In an interview excerpted by Inside Higher Ed, Sander, who had
attended the protest against his report (brave man), observed that “Some
fairly cynical leaders saw an opportunity to create a cause … and they are
milking it to the full. There was no rational discussion. There was no
identification of any mistakes in my report, and no concern about what it would
mean if the analysis were correct.”

I
have no argument with the right to peaceful assembly and it would be perfectly
legal for people to gather to protest the laws of physics, if they should
choose to do so. Still, I find the events at UCLA appalling. A university
should be a place where we encourage careful, dispassionate reasoning. Shouting
slogans and shaking fists in the air do not lend themselves to the cultivation
of rational analysis. While Professor Sander does not appear to be intimidated
by outraged crowds, this kind of emotional display does make it more unpleasant
to express unpopular views and therefore undermines the openness to
intellectual diversity that should be the essence of university life.

How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

American history has been radically transformed on our campuses. Traditional topics are now not only marginalized but “re-visioned” to become more compatible with the dominant race/class/gender paradigm.

In two posts last fall, I took a look at U.S. history offerings at Bowdoin College. The liberal arts college, one of the nation’s finest, long enjoyed a reputation as a training ground of Maine politicians, at both the state and federal level. The staffing of its History Department suggests that the college has abandoned that mission, with the intent to exclude significant portions of the American past. (Two of the department’s five Americanists specialize in U.S. environmental history; the department’s only non-environmental 20th century U.S. historian has a Ph.D. in the history of science.)

The department’s own U.S. offerings featured a heavy course emphasis on Western U.S. history, including a history of California, seemingly odd choices for a school in Maine but a subfield that heavily stresses such
trendy themes as environmental degradation, exploitation of Native Americans, and discrimination against Hispanics and Asians. In the previous semester, the department’s token “traditional” course topic, a class on the Cold War, was taught by the school’s historian of science and featured heavy use of film.

What about the situation at a larger–and more nationally renowned–History Department? To find out, I turned to the fall 2012 offerings at UCLA.

The department’s webpage excitedly announces three new course clusters in which undergraduates can specialize. Two of the topics raise eyebrows: “Gender, Sexuality, Women” (tailored to those, apparently, for whom the department’s more general race/class/gender approach isn’t enough) and “History in Practice,” which seems to invite politicization. “This cluster,” the
department indicates, “aims to provide an organizational footing for the
Department’s commitment to applying history in the service of the larger
community.” The third new cluster is oral history.

At the class level, this semester the UCLA department website lists 16 courses in U.S. history since 1789. No courses deal with the Early Republic or the early 19th century. The only coverage of the Civil War comes in the form of small portions of thematic courses dealing either with race or gender (Slavery: Narrative, Novel, and Film, History of Women in the U.S., 1860-1980).It offers no classes on U.S. military history or U.S. constitutional history. The only standard survey comes in the class dealing with the New Deal, World War II, and the immediate postwar period.

Look what the department emphasizes. A quarter of the classes deal with race. Another two courses focus on ethnicity–including Asian-American cuisine; another two focus on gender. Fifteen or twenty years ago, students might encounter these courses in an ethnic studies department, not a history department at one of the nation’s leading public universities.

Consider, moreover, what students receive from two of the few UCLA courses whose topics, at first glance, appear to be “traditional.” One course, on social movements in the 1960s and 1970s, is hopelessly slanted toward the left. We might expect some treatment of significant right-wing social movements, including the grassroots conservative activists profiled in Rick
Perlstein’s Before the Storm; the conservative women mobilized by Phyllis Schlafly to oppose the ERA; the pro-life activists mobilized by Roe; and perhaps most broadly, the emergence of a powerful grassroots movement of
conservative Christians who played a critical role in American society for the
next three decades.  But these are not covered. Whom does the course profile? African-Americans, Mexican Americans,  Native Americans, “At Large Advocates,” and “Radical Women and Gay Women.”

Continue reading How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

Coping with ‘Professional Students’ in Community Colleges

The party’s over for community college students in California, notorious for large numbers of young and not-so-young people using the low-cost system to drift in and out of classes, fill up their time while looking for something better, or simply find themselves. The Board of Governors of the state’s cash-strapped two-year system has decided to get rid of “professional students,” some of whom have amassed hundreds of  college credits without going anywhere academically.

Starting in 2014 the system will give enrollment priority to students who have set up formal plans to complete enough credits either to transfer to a four-year institution or to qualify for a vocational certificate—or to acquire certain basic skills such as learning English. Since California’s 112-college community system, which has lost $809 million in state funding over the past four years, has already had to pare down its total enrollment by nearly 500,000 students (from 2.9 million in 2008), “enrollment priority” means that the drifters and “lifelong learning” types probably won’t find places.

Many would say that it’s about time. A 1960 law requires California community colleges to accept all comers residing in the state, no matter how poorly they performed in high school or what their motives might be for taking up classroom space. California’s economy was flourishing fifty years ago, and brand-new community colleges were steadily opening their doors to accommodate a burgeoning state population. Tuition was free back then, and even now it’s a bargain-basement $46 per credit hour for state residents, or less than $150 per typical course. Graduation rates have been dismal, but that hasn’t mattered: Large numbers of students aren’t enrolled with any intention of graduating. Meanwhile, California’s community colleges this year had to turn away about 470,000 enrollees from taking classes for lack of funds.

The new rationing plan is still generous: Returning students will qualify for enrollment priority even if they have accumulated up to 100 credits—40 more than the 60 needed to qualify for a two-year community-college degree. Still, there have been complaints from the system’s most avid (if degree-less) users. One was William Walker, who has attended five different community colleges over the years and amassed 102 credits—but is still in the system, having re-enrolled this fall in the nearly bankrupt San Francisco City College with so much student cred that he is now the college’s student trustee. Fortunately, Walker told San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov, “there’s no centralized database for all colleges,” so no one might ever find out about some of the perpetual seat-warmers.

Meanwhile, a four-profit operation, UniversityNow, has, in the name of charity but also good public relations for itself, opened up some of its online classes to the 470,000 students enrolled in California’s community colleges who could not find seats—all at the same $46 per credit hour plus $40 for books. The classes, offered by the regionally accredited Patten University, which UniversityNow recently acquired, are in such solid academic subjects as biology, history, and college algebra. It appears that Californians who are seriously motivated to use community college to achieve a goal will still have the opportunity to do so.

National Dream University—a Scam that Fell Through

The University of California (UC) has put the kibosh on plans to set up National Dream University, a low-cost, low-admissions-standards college where illegal immigrants were to be trained in activism on behalf of…illegal immigrants. National Dream U. was supposed to be a collaboration between UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the union-subsidized National Labor College in Maryland. A combination of embarrassing publicity and scrutiny by Republican state assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a member of the state appropriations committee that approves funding for the UC system, preceded UC President Mark Yudof’s announcement on Sept. 13 that National Dream U. would be shutting its doors even before they opened.

Yudof’s statement declared that the agreement between its labor research center and the National Labor College "was negotiated without the necessary approvals from UCLA’s academic and administrative leadership." Yudof  did not rule out future attempts by the center to collaborate with the National Labor College, but its statement did say that "any agreements would require a comprehensive academic and financial plan that has approval from appropriate parties.

National Dream U. had plans to offer an 18-credit-hour certificate program, mostly online, in immigrant rights and advocacy, with most of the courses to be taught by UCLA professors. Tuition would total nearly $5,000 less than the $7,218 that California residents pay for 18 credit hours, and the 2.5 grade-point-average for admissions would be well below the 3.7-plus average that 70 percent of entering freshman at the highly competitive UCLA possess. Furthermore, National Dream U., unlike UCLA, had an ideological litmus test for admission: "a commitment to immigrant/labor rights and social justice."

The Huffington Post reported (incorrectly, it turned out) that credits earned at National Dream U. could be automatically transferred to UCLA proper—although UCLA would still have been free to accept the credits if it wished. Then Donnelly leapt into the controversy, pointing out that "this is not the way to expend the precious limited resources, which should be available to California citizens rather than illegal aliens, no matter how deserving they may seem," as he told Fox News. Still, National Dream U. may not be dead yet. According to Fox News, Kent Wong, director of UCLA’s labor research center, recently told an audience of young activists, "[Y]ou will go onto become lawyers and teachers and doctors and members of the U.S. Senate to replace those old white men."

Politicians Push Professors Leftward

Another wacky idea from California: forcing teachers in the state university system to provide some form of social service as a condition of achieving tenure. Assembly Bill 2132, which passed in the legislature and is now awaiting  Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, “encourages” the independent University of California to include a demonstration of “service” in its evaluations for the hiring, promotion and granting of tenure to teachers.

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee writes that “The specifics of Assembly Bill 2132 appear to give great weight to political or at least semi-political activities favored by those on the political left. They include, in the words of a legislative bill analysis, ‘developing programs for underserved populations’ and ‘outreach programs developed to promote cultural diversity in the student body.'” Walters wonders whether researchers working on a cure for breast cancer will be pushed to spend time on service that pleases the legislature.

Add this to the long list of attempts to politicize higher education, from the recent move at UCLA to approve advocacy in classrooms to the battles in teachers’ colleges to require students to display the proper “disposition” (i.e., political principles of the left) before graduating. Anything but actual education.

The California College System under Scrutiny

A recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), entitled “Best Laid Plans: The Unfulfilled Promise of Public Higher Education,” explores a fair number of problems the California college system faces. However, I don’t think it covers them all.

The report states openly and rightly the problems that California’s public colleges face are not primarily a function of declining revenues. As it notes, “the real danger is a fundamental failure by today’s trustees and system leaders to apply the same creativity and thoughtfulness that informed the Master Plan to a new world of reduced resources and a shrinking tax base.”

This point is crucial. The behemoth California college system has been fed an enormous amount of money, but there is obviously a limit to how much more the citizens can provide. In just the last five years, tuition at the UC system has gone up nearly 75% and at the CSU system by nearly 85%. And California’s taxpayers already pay steep sales, property and income taxes–among the highest in the nation. It is hard to imagine that much more can be squeezed from either the students or the taxpayers.

The report documents in detail some of the dramatic problems the system faces, including:

  • Low graduation rates at the CSU system: only 17.2% of new full-time freshmen graduate within 4 years, and only 52.4% within 6 years.
  • The leaders of the California public college system have a severe Edifice Complex, looking constantly to increase the amount of buildings and other infrastructure, much of it unnecessary.
  • The leaders are also reluctant to close or consolidate low-enrollment programs, and too easily eager to add new ones.
  • There is considerable administrative bloat, with the compensation of the top administrators increasingly over-generous, even while the taxpayers and students are impoverished.

I would note some other major problems:

The California community colleges have a grotesquely high drop-out rate: only 20% of CCC students either got an AA degree or transfer to a regular college.

  • The CCC system also spends way too much on recreational courses (courses that are meant to provide recreational outlets to adults). While these courses are supposed to pay their own way, they utilize the system’s physical resources.
  • The whole CSU system has suffered endemic “mission creep” regarding remedial education. Under the wise original 1960 master plan, CSU would take only college-ready students, while those needing remedial education (in math and English) were supposed to go to the huge and inexpensive CCC system. Along the way, the CSU system developed a costly remediation system. Now, half of all incoming CSU take remedial math or English or both.
  • Professors and administrators of the CSU system have over the years pushed for more and more focus on research, with tenure-track professors expected to publish, leaving much of the teaching to adjuncts. It is unclear, to say the least, that this has really benefitted the citizens of the state.

The report calls upon the UC Regents and the CSU Trustees to reassert control and enact necessary reforms, including establishing clear measures of productivity; re-prioritizing the academic mission of the college, restoring core curricula; rewarding good teaching; cutting back on administrative bloat; and restoring academic freedom and true intellectual diversity.

I can’t help feeling that the report is an exercise in naiveté. The administrators and faculty are agents in an institution that suffers from the principal/agent problem. Because the real principals — taxpayers, students and parents — have little knowledge of and even less power over the workings of the colleges for which they pay, the agents (faculty and administrators) can run them for self-serving purposes. Until this problem is rectified by radical reform, I see little hope for change any time soon.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Gary Jason is a philosophy instructor and a senior editor of Liberty, and is the author of Dangerous Thoughts.

University of California’s Politicization is Out of Control

KC Johnson drew our attention to an
extraordinary development at UCLA, where the faculty senate of a major campus
is now on record approving use of a class to promote an instructor’s personal
political agenda. The practice itself is not new, but to date objections have been
met either with obfuscation or outright denial.            

The sequence of
events that led here began on March 29, 2012, when two members of the UC
faculty, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of UCSC and Leila Beckwith of UCLA mentioned
Professor Shorter’s promoting the boycott of Israel on his official class
website to four UC officials: system President Mark Yudof, UCLA Chancellor Gene
Block, statewide faculty senate chair Robert Anderson and UCLA senate chair
Andrew Leuchter.

What happened
next was astonishing. Though similar queries had been brushed off, within 24
hours Leuchter promised a full investigation by senate and administrative leadership
and barely two weeks later he assured Benjamin and Beckwith that the case was
resolved.

Unfortunately
but unsurprisingly, Leuchter cut many corners to get this rapid result. He compressed
the investigation, consultations, and resolution of the case into a few days. As
an old senate hand, Leuchter knew that he should have handed the matter over to
his Academic Freedom committee, but he didn’t. And he ended the matter by
directly ordering Shorter’s department chair to chastise him, which Leuchter
had no right to do since he was only an elected faculty leader without
administrative appointment. He also publicly announced the disciplinary action
against Shorter, a prohibited action which violated Shorter’s right to the
privacy of his personnel file.

We need not
look far for what prompted UC officials to bury the Shorter case as quickly as
possible. On March 30, the California Association of Scholars (CAS) sent to the
UC Regents its report entitled “A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect
of Political Activism in the University of California.” The report cited copious
evidence to demonstrate UC’s politicization. Advance copies had been
circulating for two weeks, and reporters had already begun to phone UC
officials for comment.

University
spokesmen resorted to the argument that the report was merely anecdotal.
However, a lengthy, supportive account of the report in the Wall Street Journal
by Peter Berkowitz made that shopworn tactic look rather silly. More importantly,
any reader of the eighty page report itself could easily see that the talking
point was a flagrant lie. This context explains why Benjamin and Beckwith caused
a panic. They proved that CAS’s evidence could not be dismissed.

Leuchter failed
to consider the effect that his ill-considered action would have on Shorter and
his many allies on campus. Though he acted to protect the politicized status
quo from CAS scrutiny, Shorter saw only a restriction of his previously
unlimited freedom to politicize his classroom.

Accordingly, Shorter
and his allies struck back hard. He denied having ever conceding his error,
organized a letter of protest signed by many of his fellow professors, and
appealed to the campus Academic Freedom committee that Leuchter had improperly
bypassed. Dominated by Shorter’s ideological allies, the committee failed to
grasp that Leuchter was only trying to keep CAS at bay. It backed Shorter as a
matter of principle, and now Leuchter’s stratagem had backfired spectacularly.
He thought he had deprived CAS of the evidence of Shorter’s politicized class,
but he had actually provided CAS with the infinitely more important evidence
that Shorter’s politicizing was approved by a large and important segment of
the faculty–exactly what the CAS report had argued. He had shown that
pro-politicization sentiment was rampant among the UCLA faculty.

The university
administration aspires to protect the university, but its conception of “protection”
is extraordinarily shallow. It does not extend to defending the University’s core
value of pursuing integrity in teaching and research. Ultimately, this
administration aims to protect itself against individuals wishing to restore it.
This means avoiding the wrath of faculty radicals who bark at the mere mention
of quality control.

This episode confirms that neither the faculty
nor the administration can be trusted to protect the core values of the
University. That leaves only the Board of Regents, a body with the constitutional
duty to protect both its academic integrity and public reputation. What will it
do?

UCLA Offers Low-Cost College for Leftist Illegals

How to attend UCLA on the cheap? Be an illegal immigrant. Actually, be a leftist illegal immigrant. 
UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the union-subsidized National Labor College in Maryland have teamed up to establish “National Dream University” for the undocumented. The tuition is low: just $65 per credit hour, in contrast to $396 per credit hour that California residents pay for regular classes at the UCLA. The admissions standards are easygoing: a 2.7 grade-point average in high school or elsewhere. Contrast that to the highly competitive UCLA, where 70 percent of entering freshmen this fall have grade-point averages of 3.7 and higher, and 50 percent of entering freshman have at least 4.0 averages.
There is one proviso: Unless your political views are sufficiently progressive, you won’t be admitted to NDU. According to NDU’s website, all applicants must “demonstrate a commitment to immigrant/labor rights and social justice.” Yes, unlike regular UCLA, National Dream has an ideological litmus test for admission. No College Republicans at National Dream!
            
NDU now offers a limited program of six courses that add up to a one-year, 18-credit-hour certificate and hopes to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in the future. About 35 students in total are expected to enroll in the program starting in January 2013. All six courses will be taught online, with mandatory visits to both the National Labor College and UCLA. UCLA professors will teach five of the courses and National Labor Center’s campus in Silver Spring, Maryland will teach the sixth at $270 per credit hour. The course titles are what one might expect from an unabashedly leftist institution: “Immigrant Rights, Labor and Higher Education,” “Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class and U.S. Labor,” and so forth. The National Dream website promises to offer the undocumented “the opportunity to learn from influential Civil Rights leaders like Reverend James Lawson and Tom Hayden, Immigrant Youth Movement leaders, and academics and scholars from across the country.” 
           
An Aug. 1 article in the Huffington Post headlined “Dream Act College” stated–incorrectly, as it turns out–that credits earned at National Dream could be automatically transferred to UCLA proper — UCLA administrators have been trying to back off from any implication that illegal immigrants can obtain University of California degrees at a lower total cost and via easier admissions standards than citizens and legal residents. The Breitbart Report calculated that students who transfer all 18 National Dream credits to UCLA can wind up paying $4,728 less than the $7,128 California residents will pay for 18 credit hours earned on campus this academic year. A recent statement from UCLA declares that transfers of credits are not automatic, and that the credits must come from a regionally accredited institution. But since the National Labor College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the UCLA administration didn’t exactly rule out such transfers.
You might be asking to what extent California taxpayers might be picking up the tab for the UCLA Center for Labor Research’s public-service adventures in discounted college for  the undocumented, especially given the UC system’s chronic budget woes and budget cutbacks these days. The answer is: substantially. In 2007 California put an end to several decades of direct funding for the Center for Labor Research and its parent academic department, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Now, the UC system itself (which translates at least in part to taxpayers) pays some of the $2.6 million or so annual budget for the Institute (and the Center), according to Breitbart, aided by hefty contributions from unions, such left-leaning philanthropies as the Ford Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and the city of Los Angeles, which donated $50,000 to the Institute in 2010. UCLA might be trying to distance itself from NDU. But as a public institution supported by hefty public subsidies, it can’t escape responsibility for the fact that one of its own centers staffed by its own professors is offering advocacy courses to illegal immigrants chosen on the basis of political ideology, not academic merit. 

The Affirmative Action Zealots Have Won: Time to Surrender

white flag.jpg

For a half century
I’ve vehemently opposed racial preferences in higher education. Opposition was
partially ideological–I believe in merit–and partly based on sorrowful
firsthand experience with affirmative action students and faculty. Though my
principles remain unchanged I am now ready to concede defeat, throw in the
towel and raise the white flag. Abolishing racial preferences is the academic
equivalent of trying to win a land war in Asia: the enemy is just too strong,
too tenacious and willing to use whatever means necessary. Our side may win a
few battles, e.g., California’s Proposition 209, Hopwood, but at the end of the day, hoards of faceless
bureaucrats and left-wing faculty soldier on. If it takes a village to uncover
special abilities that justify admitting the academically marginal, rest
assured, the village will be recruited, trained and then celebrated as
champions of social justice. Our side just lacks the stomach to outlast zealots
who shamelessly use every ruse imaginable.

Continue reading The Affirmative Action Zealots Have Won: Time to Surrender

When Sustainability Goes Too Far

chico greem.png

(Picture: UC Chico’s 2011 Sustainability Report)

California State University at Chico takes sustainability seriously. Yahoo listed it last year as one of the top five ‘green’ colleges in America. The university has made creating “environmentally literate citizens” an official strategic priority, and it has elaborated its general education program to include a “sustainability studies” track. Leaders of this campus movement have made it clear that they seek “sustainability across the curriculum,” with all lines of academic inquiry leading to sustainability. But there are problems with all this.

Continue reading When Sustainability Goes Too Far

Anger and the Banality of Academe

Michael Robbins.jpg

My
editors at the Chronicle last
week declined to permit me to publish my last piece on the same-sex marriage
debate. They pointed out, reasonably enough, the topic is “too far afield from and
tangential to academe and academic policy to run on Innovations.” That
topic has, of course, had plenty of play on another Chronicle blog, Brainstorm, but I
understand the skittishness of the post-Naomi opinion section of the Chronicle when
it comes to dissent from
the prevailing norms of academic opinion, and I quietly slid the article over
to Minding the Campus, where
its academic anchor held fast.

With
that out of the way, I turned to issues that I was pretty sure wouldn’t set off
tsunamis of protest: the importance of teaching the history of Western
civilization; my own multicultural undergraduate education; and the creative
side of coming to terms with cultural loss. I am rather enjoying this placid
stretch, and rather than rush to re-join the debates over student financial
aid, the higher-education bubble, governance at UVa, the role of technology on
campus, the latest sustainalunacies from last month’s conference at UC
Davis, and the like, I’m sticking with the theme that higher education is
relaxing deeper and deeper into banality. Not just any kind of banality but a
banality that artfully and sometimes pleasingly combines the detritus of
popular culture, the ersatz sophistication of the opinion elites, a consumer
ethic, random bits of globalized commerce, and the jumbled fragments of the old
civilization. We recline in the shade of those ruins. And it is not so bad
.

Continue reading Anger and the Banality of Academe

UCLA: Still Obsessed with Diversity

diversity.jpgWhat is it with universities in California? Financially strapped, troubled by protesters making impossible demands, and worried about the declining value of their academic programs, many of the state’s great universities decide to…redouble their commitment to a fast-fading political ideology.

The latest example is the impending vote by the faculty of UCLA’s
College of Letters and Science that would add a course on diversity to
the general education requirements. Only it is not called a course on
diversity. Because the word “diversity” has become too obviously an
enunciation of a contentious political agenda, the supporters of the new
requirement have renamed it “Community and Conflict.” Kaustuv Basu,
writing
on Inside Higher Ed, quotes a UCLA official who observes that
earlier efforts in this vein failed because the word diversity “means
different things to different people.” And the chairman of the Faculty
Executive Committee helpfully explains that the community and conflict
requirement “is not designed to be a diversity requirement.”

Continue reading UCLA: Still Obsessed with Diversity

Donors Who Launch New Colleges

      By Evan Sparks, from Philanthropy magazine

Scan the rankings of the world’s best universities and you may spot a few patterns. First, you will probably notice that, in every major survey, virtually all of the world’s 20 best schools are located in English-speaking countries. Next, within this elite cohort, it is hard to miss America’s dominance: the surveys usually place about 15 of the world’s top 20 universities in the United States. (Please see the table below.)

Continue reading Donors Who Launch New Colleges

The “Mismatch Thesis,” Eye-Opening Research, and the Fisher Case

As the most important higher-education case in a decade makes its way to the Supreme Court–the Fisher case on racial preferences–UCLA law professor Richard Sander had an excellent series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy summarizing one critical argument that his research has helped to highlight: that even the ostensible beneficiaries often are harmed (or at the very least, not helped) by racial preferences in admissions. I strongly recommend Sander’s three-part series, and thought it would be useful to summarize its main points.

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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.

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Perpetuity Isn’t Forever (If “Construed Liberally”)

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Most people believe that “in perpetuity” means forever, or at least until hell freezes over. But not the University of California at Los Angeles, which is now proceeding to sell a Japanese garden that it had accepted as a gift after promising to keep and maintain it “in perpetuity.”

How, you may well ask, can they do that? Easy. By taking reading lessons from liberals, especially liberal lawyers. In an essay on this site a couple of weeks ago I provided chapter and verse of how statutory language that was “perfectly clear,” “crystal clear,” to a Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, for the first decade of his tenure on the Court became in subsequent years subject to interpretation that was completely opposite. By applying what he termed “a flexible approach to the law,” Stevens, far from being unique, became the archetype of a liberal judge.

Those of us who believe that a promise is a promise, that “perpetuity” means forever, that words mean what they say are held in contempt as inflexible, close-minded, strict constructionists who are guilty of “reading literally.” (Do lax constructionists believe the Constitution should be read figuratively?) We are the sort of people who believe, say, that a statute providing that a candidate can be replaced on a ballot up to 51 days before an election means that a candidate cannot be replaced 36 or 47 days before an election, that a statute requiring county election boards to submit certified results by 5 p.m. of the seventh day after the election actually imposed a requirement to submit results within seven days.

How naive, we were in effect told by the New Jersey Supreme Court when it allowed Democrats to substitute Frank Lautenberg for the discredited Robert Torricelli on U.S. Senate ballot well after the “deadline” provided by statute and by the Florida Supreme Court when in Bush v. Gore it added 12 days to a long-standing statutorily imposed “deadline” to submit certified election results. How could courts ignore the plain meaning of such unambiguous terms as “51st day” and “seventh day”? Again, easy. As the New Jersey Supremes helpfully explained [814 A.2d 1028.], “the election statutes should be liberally construed.”

What is odd, and most dismaying, about judges ignoring clear and unambiguous text is that it’s not odd at all. It’s simply an expression of the currently conventional liberal approach to interpretation. Liberals, not surprisingly, are quite good at construing liberally. They are not so good, however, at simply reading. They dismiss statutory deadlines as “formal deadlines,” as then New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse did in writing about the New Jersey case. “Construing liberally,” if it involves any actual reading at all, requires reading “loosely,” as the Washington Post put it in an editorial (“The Supreme Court of New Jersey read quite loosely state election law…”).

Now, demonstrating that campus-based liberal construers can liberally construe at least as well as liberal judges and journalists, UCLA is selling a Japanese garden donated to it on the condition that UCLA keep and maintain it “in perpetuity.”

But what does “in perpetuity” really require in our post-modern society? “Perpetuity is a long time,” a Los Angeles Times editorial somberly observed.

Today the university finds itself desperate for discretionary funds for its core academic programs, and the garden, officials say, serves no academic purpose. Public access is limited as well. Parking is nearly nonexistent. And the university has spent more than $1 million in the last decade to meticulously maintain the garden — one reason its value remains intact. For all those reasons, a court is allowing UCLA to sell the garden.

So, when the Chronicle of Higher Education asks, “Does ‘in Perpetuity’ Mean ‘Till the Price Is Right’?” the obvious answer is: Why not? If a plain reading of unambiguous text would prevent us from doing what we want to do, then what we must do is find a judge skilled in the art of construing liberally. Unfortunately, as UCLA discovered, that’s not hard to do.

 

Are Californians Turning Against Campus Race Preferences?

Back in September the College Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley, garnered a good deal of attention (including here and here) by sponsoring an anti-affirmative action bake sale. Part of their purpose was to call attention to legislation, SB 185, then waiting for Gov. Brown’s signature, that in clear violation of the state constitution’s prohibition against racial preferences (produced by Prop. 209, passed by 54% of the voters in 1996) would have allowed colleges to consider the race of applicants.

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Jerry Brown Disappoints Backers of Preferences

Say what you will about California’s enigmatic governor, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, but on major issues involving votes of the people, Brown is very reluctant to go against the will of the people, no matter what his personal views happen to be.

In 1978, during his first term as governor, Brown opposed the highly popular Proposition 13, which was approved by the voters to place a lid on property taxes imposed by local governments.

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The Cupcake War as a Religious Event

Berkeley bakesale.jpgBy now the “Cupcake War” in which the Berkeley College Republicans sold cupcakes with different prices for various ethnic/racial/gender groups is well known. Drawing less attention is why it produced the panicky overkill reaction, including strong condemnations from some university administrators. After all, the anti-affirmative action bake sale hardly threatens the diversity infrastructure and is a far cry from past disruptive student protests. An impartial outsider might reasonably argue that the affirmative action cause would be better served by ignoring the bake sale to deprive college Republicans of any free publicity.

Let me suggest that the true purpose of the outrage is not to stamp out opposition to racial preferences. Rather, the overreaction is best understood as a reaffirmation of a faith that is slowly (but inevitably) going wobbly. And, I suspect, this includes most Berkeley students. If beliefs about the value of legally imposed racial preferences were rock solid, the over-the-top indignation would be unnecessary.

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A Department Of Diversity at Berkeley

Berkeley diversity.jpgThe following job notice was posted August 4:

The University of California, Berkeley invites applications for a position as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in any of the following three areas: (1) Diversity and Identity; (2) Legal or Philosophical Frameworks for Diverse Democracies; and (3) Diversity, Civil Society and Political Action, or some combination thereof. The anticipated starting date is July 1, 2012. The search is part of the interdisciplinary Haas Diversity Research Center and will be conducted under the auspices of the Diversity and Democracy cluster of this Center….

Candidates are expected to have a Ph.D. or J.D. degree (preferably by July 1, 2012) in one of the following disciplines: law, philosophy, political science, or sociology; they should have a research and teaching portfolio that examines how our legal, political, and social institutions and practices adapt (or fail to adapt) to an increasingly multi-racial, multi-ethnic population. Special consideration will be given to candidates who work in any of the following areas: (1) the content and contestation of group identities; (2) the normative and legal implications of racial and ethnic diversity within democratic societies; (3) the civic and political engagement of diverse electorates within local, national, and transnational contexts.

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Less Academics, More Narcissism

Reprinted from City Journal. 

California’s budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. “Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone,” the university system’s vice president for budget and capital resources warned earlier this month, in advance of this week’s meeting of the university’s regents. Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center. 

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The Campus Left’s Nostalgia Party – RSVP

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I head an organization, the National Association of Scholars (NAS), that is often accused by its critics on the academic left of nostalgia for days when higher education was an exclusive club for the privileged.  The accusation is false.  NAS focuses on the enduring principles of the university:  rational inquiry, liberal learning, and academic freedom.  True, there have been points in the past when these principles have been better observed than they are today, but our interest is in the future of the university, not its past. 

Thus I was eager to learn more when I heard that a group of professors had come forward to promote an ambitious “Campaign for the Future of Higher Education.”  Alas, my excitement proved premature.  It turns out that the Campaign is mostly reactionary.  It was put together by an alliance of groups, mostly unions, fearful of current trends and desperate to halt developments that may well lead away from a recent epoch in which higher education was indeed “an exclusive club for the privileged.”  The “Campaign for Higher Education” might be better titled, “The Way We Were.”

In January the California Faculty Association (CFA), a faculty union, convened a meeting of seventy faculty members, representing several other unions and other organizations, including the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reported under the headline, “Faculty Groups Gather to Craft a United Stand on Higher-Education Policy,” that the attendees agreed to take back to their memberships a document drafted by the CFA that “outlines a set of principles it believes should undergird higher-education policy over the next decade.”  AAUP president Cary Nelson indicated that the principles would be presented publicly in April in a series of teach-ins.

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Fighting Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism

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One day last March Jessica Felber, then 20, a Jewish undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, was standing on her campus, holding a placard bearing the words: “Israel Wants Peace.”  At that moment, Husam Zakaria, a Berkeley student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, reportedly rammed Felber from behind so hard with a loaded shopping cart that she had to be taken to the university’s urgent medical care facility.  This violent episode has become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the country, nowhere more so than in the “Golden State,” which has become an epicenter for the New Anti-Semitism in America.  What makes this case different is that Felber fought back, charging this month in a federal lawsuit that UC Berkeley has ignored mounting evidence of anti-Jewish animus and should be held liable for the injuries she suffered.  Her  suit also contends that “physical intimidation and violence were frequently employed as a tactic by SJP and other campus groups in an effort to silence students on campus who support Israel”.

Sixty miles or so south of Berkeley along the Pacific coast, University of California Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin makes a similar case against her own employer.  For several years, Rossman-Benjamin has spoken out against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism at the University of California, but she insists that the problem is not limited to a few rogue students:  “Professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UCSC promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior,” she insists, “much of which is based on either misleading information or outright falsehood.”  Rossman-Benjamin describes an atmosphere at Santa Cruz in which taxpayer-supported, university-sponsored discourse that “demonizes Israel, compares contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, calls for the dismantling of the Jewish State, and holds Israel to an impossible double standard – crosses the line into anti-Semitism…”  Like Felber, Rossman-Benjamin is fighting back.  The Santa Cruz whistle-blower filed a civil rights action with the U.S. Department of Education’s powerful Office for Civil Rights, arguing that UCSC has created a hostile environment for Jewish students.  Last week, OCR sent a powerful signal to academia when it informed Rossman-Benjamin that it is formally opening an investigation of her claims.

The Jessica Felber and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  Over the last decade – since 9/11 and the start of the Second Intifada – there has been a persistent drumbeat of allegations by students and professors at many university campuses across the country.   It is true that most Jewish students will not face these problems, particularly if they avoid visibly associating themselves with the Jewish state or with Jewish institutions.  Moreover, the reported incidents are disproportionately concentrated in coastal states and on highly politicized campuses, especially in California.  Neverthless, problems are continually arising even on campuses like Indiana University which do not seem to fit the profile. In its widely read 2006 report on “Campus Anti-Semitism,” the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that anti-Semitism had once again become a “serious problem” at many post-secondary institutions nation-wide.  In numerous cases, Jewish and Israeli students, particularly if they are outspoken supporters of Israel, have been physically accosted or confronted with a mix of classic anti-Jewish stereotypes and “progressive” anti-Israel defamations.  While it is difficult to quantify the extent of the problem – in part because of the dismal state of reporting on this issue – there is much support for the conclusion that Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg reached in  their book, The Uncivil University; i.e.,anti-Semitism has now become systemic throughout American higher education,   even on the quieter  campuses.  Since 2006, the problem has only gotten worse, as old-fashioned bias has entered into the university-centered international campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

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Two Campus Free-Speech Cases Aimed at the Supreme Court

If you care about free speech on college campuses, there could hardly be a more sympathetic figure than Jonathan Lopez.  A  student at Los Angeles City College (LACC) in 2008,  when California voters  rejected Proposition 8 , he was one of the first victims of the rage of gay-rights advocates and their academic allies: a week  after  the vote, Lopez tried to fulfill an assignment by giving a classroom speech on his Christian faith and his Biblically-based opposition to gay marriage. His professor, John Matteson, a supporter of gay marriage and Proposition 8, allegedly called him a “fascist bastard,”  refused to give him a grade on the talk and later allegedly promised to get him expelled.
 
Lopez is a key player in one of two federal cases currently on petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of campus “hate speech” codes that can punish students for expressing views that are protected by the First Amendment but don’t jibe with the progressive ethos of many college administrators and faculty. The other free-speech case involves an anti-abortion group at the University of Maryland-Baltimore that was in effect silenced  in 2007 when forced to move a graphic display on abortion to a remote part of campus. University officials had ruled that the display might offend some students. If the Supreme Court decides to review the two cases, the result could be a death blow to speech codes at public institutions of higher learning. Though speech codes have not fared well in the courts, they have been a much-criticized but common fixture of campus life since the 1980s.
 
There is a problem, however, that could derail both lawsuits: Did Lopez and the University of Maryland group, Rock for Life (now Students for Life), suffer actual injury and thus have standing to sue to have the speech codes declared unconstitutional? A 1992 Supreme Court decision, Lujan vs. Defenders of Wildlife, denied standing to environmentalist groups that wanted to mount a court challenge to some Interior Department regulations they deemed insufficiently rigorous, ruling that challengers to a law or policy have to show some concrete injury caused by the law that is “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical,” as legal commentators have put it. Plaintiffs in First Amendment cases can establish standing via a looser standard, simply by alleging that the regulation in question is so overly broad that it has a “chilling effect” on their own or others’ efforts to express themselves freely. But some federal appeals courts have ruled that even those plaintiffs must claim a concrete injury, such as actual or threatened enforcement of the regulation against them. Among those courts are the Fourth Circuit (in the Rock for Life case) and the Ninth Circuit (in the Lopez case), both of which ruled that since no one had tried to enforce a speech code directly, the lawsuits had to be dismissed for lack of standing. Other federal appeals courts appear to hold to the contrary–and that division of opinion alone may persuade the Supreme Court to review the two rulings.

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