Tag Archives: democrat

Pundits Wrong on the GI Bill

As part of its series on higher ed issues in
the 2012 campaign, the Chronicle of Higher Education has a long opinion
piece
in the form of a news article accusing Republicans of hypocrisy.

In “Self-Sufficient,
With a Hand From the Government
,” author Scott Carlson claims to find “a
striking dissonance” between the moving “pull-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps
narrative” a number of speakers at the Republican Convention told of their
fathers’ and their benefitting from the GI Bill, “one of the biggest federal
programs in recent history.”

This “irony,” Carlson reports, “wasn’t lost
on liberals. Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and consultant, jumped all
over the remarks on his Twitter feed
on Tuesday night: ‘Christie: Dad went to Rutgers on the GI Bill. Dems built
that.'” Begala thinks these Republican fathers did not succeed “on their own,”
in President
Obama’s now famous words
. They did not succeed because they were “just so
smart” or because they worked hard. They were successful only with the help of
a “hand from the government.”

Carlson finds it “interesting to ponder …
whether Governor Christie’s father would have been able to get that degree
today, given the recent history of receding state support and inflating costs.”
Seen from Carlson’s and Begala’s angel, Republican calls to scale back the size
and scope of government amount to biting the government hand that fed them.

What this complaint of hypocrisy ignores,
however, is a crucial distinction between government programs to which
beneficiaries have contributed, such as the GI Bill, and open-ended entitlement
programs that require no such contribution. Assume for a moment that after the
Civll War all freed slaves received “40 acres and a mule.”
Would anyone, even President Obama or Paul Begala, seriously claim that former
slaves who had become successful later in life owed their success to the
government program and not to their own sacrifice and hard work? Well, maybe,
but would anyone listen to them if they did?

The GI Bill, like the hypothetical 40 acres
and a mule, was not an entitlement or an example of beneficent government
generosity. It was partial compensation for sacrifices made for and services
rendered to the nation. Finding an “irony” in Republican proposals to scale
back massive federal borrowing and debt, including funds for higher education,
even though the fathers of many current party leaders benefitted from the GI
Bill requires assuming that if one limited government program compensating one defined
group of people for a limited time is good, all government benefits are good;
that if some spending at one time was good, more spending all the time is
better.

That “narrative” is more mythical than
anything coming out of the Republican convention.

Surprise! Faculty Money Goes to Dems

This week featured some interesting political news regarding campaign contributions: confirming the partisan shift on Wall Street, Business Week revealed that around 70 percent of Goldman Sachs employees who have donated to this year’s presidential campaign send funds to Mitt Romney. The contrast to 2008, when about 75 percent who made contributions had donated to Barack Obama’s campaign, confirmed the deteriorating relationship between the President and Wall Street.

Another story dealing with campaign contributions, however, attracted scant notice. A study from Virginia Watchdog showed that professors at public colleges and universities in Virginia (one of the two or three most important states in the election) have donated over $100,000 to President Obama’s campaign, as opposed to around $11,000 to Mitt Romney’s. Among professors at the system’s flagship campus, the University of Virginia, the disparity is $62,000-to-$2,000. The totals were similar at public universities in other battleground states.

As with the yawning gap in partisan registration among the professoriate, disparities in campaign contributions are, at best, a crude measurement to determine the intellectual health of a campus. (Full disclosure: I was an Obama donor in 2008 and am again, at a lower level, in 2012.) It’s possible, for instance, that a military historian might be a major donor to the Green Party, while his colleague in African-American history might have just cut a check to the Romney campaign. But in the real world, the number of GOP backers who get jobs in African-American history is small indeed. And the partisan/donor disparities, at the very least, should prompt administrators and–especially–trustees to ask some hard questions as to whether open or implicit biases in the personnel process are encouraging a closed-minded campus, while excluding other areas of study that might challenge the politically correct.

When confronted with indications of gender or racial disparities, universities certainly go to great lengths. Indeed, as John Rosenberg pointed out in his analysis of the University of Texas’ filing in the Fisher case, universities all but invent reasons to address such disparities, real or imagined.

But with this data? Indifference. Bronson Hilliard, spokesperson for the University of Colorado (where the donations disparity was 6-to-1), told Colorado Watchdog, “Few meaningful generalizations can be drawn from this (data). A lot of people in higher education are Democrats. A lot of bankers, financiers, and business leaders are Republicans. That doesn’t mean that all academics are incapable of interacting fairly with those who don’t agree with them politically any more than it means Republicans in the financial world aren’t capable of being fair to their Democrat[ic] customers and clients.”

The comparison, of course, is absurd. “Republicans in the financial world”–and, it’s worth noting, 70 percent of Goldman Sachs donations in 2008 went to the Democratic presidential candidate–are “capable of being fair to their Democrat[ic] customers and clients” because these “customers and clients” are paying the “Republicans in the financial world” lots of money. A banker who doesn’t treat his customers fairly will soon be a lot less wealthy. The same, of course, can’t be said of professors. Indeed, to take the most extreme example (Joseph Massad), an argument could be made that not treating his students fairly helped his career, to the extent that Columbia gave him a second shot for tenure following the media outcry caused by his dubious classroom behavior.

More to the point: what kind of threshold is Spokesperson Hilliard using? As long as professors don’t mistreat students, outsiders aren’t supposed to inquire any further into the data? That’s an embarrassingly low criterion for analysis.

Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

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

Continue reading Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

The Long Shadow Of The Sixties

In every discussion of left-wing bias on college campuses, a good portion of faculty defenders come to the table with a blunt contention. There is NO bias, they insist. Sure, most humanities and social science faculty register Democrat, but it doesn’t much affect teaching, and besides, campuses have their fair share of conservatism and libertarianism in the business school and upper-administration. Indeed, some add, the charge is but a concoction of fevered or cynical rightists, a weapon to dominate the classroom in the same way conservatives have AM talk radio. So, professors approach the issue not as a proposition to be examined, but an agenda to defeat.

It’s a frustrating reaction, but campus critics shouldn’t always chalk it up to faculty tactics and turf anxieties. Most professors who deny leftist bias believe what they say, and in fact maintain that the university has drifted well rightward in recent years. The notion certainly ticks off conservatives, who sense opposition down to the very first premises of several disciplines, but it’s still worth taking seriously. And one of the best ways of doing so is to go back in time to key moments that signify in the eyes of the most defensive professors just how liberal the college campus used to be—and is no more.

I came across one of them awhile back while perusing old issues of the San Francisco Chronicle. The year was 1968, and the town across the bay was a battle zone. On August 31, a riot on the Berkeley campus left one police officer with a gunshot wound and 13 protesters in jail. Three days later, a story in the Chronicle bore the title, “A ‘State of Emergency’ in Berkeley.” Youths lived under a curfew, and the city instituted a ban on public assemblies (largely ignored). A few miles to the south a trial had begun, flamboyant Black Panther leader Huey Newton facing charges of murdering a cop.

Continue reading The Long Shadow Of The Sixties

Political Donations More Evidence Of Balance

Jay Greene has compiled a list of political donations from the employees of the top ten U.S. News and World report universities. What did he find?

The most “balanced” university in terms of donations was Duke, where 84% of donations and 81% of the overall dollar value went to Democratic candidates. How about the fabled “conservative” University of Chicago? 96% of overall donations and 96% of the total dollar value to Democratic candidates. The rest vary between this range. This is the moderating professoriate?

Read Greene’s post for additional analysis.

Academic Gibberish And The Hermeneutics Of Mistrust

Overwhelming evidence attests to the liberal tilt on our college campuses. Studies show that the faculty at most mainstream institutions are overwhelmingly registered with the Democratic party and give a disproportionate share of their political donations to left-leaning candidates. A recent study of donations by faculty at Princeton University during the current Presidential election season shows that every faculty donation went to a Democratic candidate. Were such unanimity to manifest itself for conservative candidates at an academic institution, one can be certain that our leading academics would decry the lack of diversity.

Anecdotal evidence everywhere further attests not only to the liberalism of most “mainstream” faculty, but the disproportionate share of radical professors in our humanities and social sciences. Innumerable stories have been circulated of aggressive efforts to “destabilize” gender, to question “normativity,” to challenge backward institutions such as marriage and family, to encourage students to break out of pre-conceived social notions they may have inherited from parents and community. A recent article in my campus’s newspaper, The Hoya, reflects this sort of radicalism. In the column, philosophy professor Mark Lance introduces himself thusly:

I’m an anarchist, a rationalist, a feminist, a man, a pragmatist, an evangelical agnostic, a friend, a philosopher, a parent, a teacher, a committed partner of one other person and a nonviolent revolutionary. These labels are all, to different degrees, important to me; they define my sense of self. You could call them my identities, but all are “works in progress,” which is to say that the label stays roughly the same, but my sense of what it means changes and grows. (For example, I still have no idea what I mean by identifying as a man, though over the years I’ve figured out many things I don’t mean. Some days, I wish that one would drop off the list.)

Aside from its unbearable self-indulgence, it’s a predictable indication that Lance would seek to reject the one form of his “identity” that is actually given by nature. This is the one unbearable aspect of identity, because it is not chosen or willed.

Conservatives are often satisfied to register their righteous anger and indignation at this state of affairs, and have tactically adopted the language of victimhood and demands for diversity as a way of combating this left-wing hegemony. This may be politically effective and may in fact help raise awareness of the current campus culture to potential supporters outside the academy. However, these arguments are only tactical at best, and fundamentally obscure deeper investigation into why this state of affairs has come to pass and what would be required to begin a more fundamental reform of higher education.

Continue reading Academic Gibberish And The Hermeneutics Of Mistrust

Controversy In Colorado – Resolved?

Bruce Benson, the wealthy oil and gas executive and conservative Republican activist, was approved Wednesday as president of the University of Colorado in a straight party-line vote of the board of regents. All six Republicans voted for Benson. All three Democrats voted no.
(see Controversy In Colorado)

Distressingly Few Conservative Profs

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has a long and excellent article on the Gross-Simmons study on the political and social views of professors, as well as on the Harvard symposium last Saturday that discussed the findings. The study concluded that the professoriate is more moderate than many believe, with younger instructors less activist and less liberal than older ones, though there has been no rise in the percentage of conservatives (I discussed this study here on October 10th.)

If you are pressed for time and have already read an account of the Gross-Simmons conclusions, skip down to the second half of the Jaschik report, which features comments by Harvard’s former president Lawrence Summers and other faculty members. Summers says the percentage of conservative professors is distressingly small, but thinks it would be “extraordinarily unwise and dangerous” to try forcing more balance in hiring.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a historian at New York University, said the experience of growing up in the 80s and 90s amid the rise of the political right has had a profound effect on professors, including an “erosion of faith in citizens.” He said, “the story we need to tell is about the alienation of professors from the publics.” At the end of the Jaschik report is a collection of unusually interesting reader comments on Gross-Simmons and the issues it raises.

“Why Was I Unfit?”

After 25 years in the corporate world, I decided to head back to the campus. In a way, I hadn’t really left since my dissertation. I had published several refereed articles in academic journals, five academic books (one a best seller in the field) and had conducted large research studies, collected a lot of data, written “white papers” and shared a good deal of that with my academic friends.

I found a position in the business school of a well-known Midwestern university. In my first semester I was asked what my political associations were. The question seemed irrelevant. I said so, adding that in presidential elections I had voted for three Independents, three Democrats and three Republicans. I was a free market guy, believed in lower taxes, less regulation, individual performance and personal accountability. I also believed in a secure retirement, health care support for the needy, a social “safety net” for those who could not work, education for everyone starting in kindergarten, a strong national defense, a sustainable ecological future for our children and grandchildren, smaller government, more local control, law enforcement – in short, sort of a libertarian, and one who believed in helping those who were less fortunate.

Continue reading “Why Was I Unfit?”

Letters To The Times

A colleague forwarded the following to me, found in The New York Times

Re “Young Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds” (front page, June 27):

As a professor who for years has spoken on the virtues of liberalism, I find it extremely pleasing to know that young Americans are once again beginning to lean on the left.
It gives me great hope that this new generation will go on to restore what has been taken away from us in the last seven years of the ultraconservative Bush administration and its collaborators in Congress.

While your conservative readers will accuse me of being yet another liberal professor indoctrinating students, it is more important to have voters who support universal health coverage for all, believe that gay marriage and abortion should be legal and that global warming is a serious problem, and finally, willing to vote for a presidential candidate who smoked marijuana, who is a woman or African-American.

In short, these voters will turn our nation into a kinder and gentler place and that is so much better than the current divisive, religion-suffocating, anti-science and war-filled living conditions.

Michael Hadjiargyrou
Stony Brook, N.Y., June 27, 2007

Well, if it makes the students kinder and gentler…

Radical Discourse at Columbia

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which a left-wing ideology has captivated university life. I sometimes get the impression that the ghost of Antonio Gramsci is parading among academic faculties spreading his soteriology to “useful dupes.”

I recently participated in a discussion on Iran at Columbia University sponsored by the college Democrats, Republicans, Hillel and various political action committees on campus. Although it was not a formal debate, one member of the panel, a self described expert on Islam, injected a rather contentious spirit into the discussion by noting:

– Ahmadinejad is a legitimate political leader like others in the world
– There isn’t any difference between the Enlightenment world-view in the West and Islam
– Iran is not a threat to Western interests
– We should do nothing about its nuclear weapons program
– The U.S. is suffering from a form of national hysteria over Iran
– Suicide bombers could be compared to soldiers in World War I who were cannon fodder
– Ahmadinejad never said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map
– What difference does it make if Iran possesses a few nuclear weapons?
– There isn’t any movement within Iran to oust Ahmadinejad as its national leader

It was hard for me to believe that a serious scholar circa 2007 would be making claims of this variety. It was equally difficult for me to think that the majority of those assembled would embrace these fatuities. But I was wrong. As David Horowitz once pointed out, it is hard to caricature university life.

Continue reading Radical Discourse at Columbia