Tag Archives: democratic

Why President Obama Can’t Lower Tuition

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National
Convention last night, President Obama promised that he would “work with
colleges and universities” to slow the steady rise in tuition we have experienced,
cutting the rate of increase in half. Inside Higher Ed has the

Naturally, the president’s statement drew applause from the
Democratic faithful, but is there the slightest reason to think that Obama can
slow the rise in tuition any more than King Canute could roll back the tide? I
think not.

First, the executive branch of the federal government has no
constitutional authority over higher education. The president can “jaw-bone”
college leaders, imploring them not to increase tuition, just as President
Kennedy pleaded with steel executives not to raise prices in 1962, but he can’t
command either private college officials or state university leaders to keep
tuition at any level.

Second, there are reasons
why tuition has been increasing and it’s hard to see how President Obama is
going to change the underlying reality. He continues to encourage more young
people to go to college and has facilitated that by getting Congress to
increase Pell grant amounts.  More
students with more money to spend – that’s a perfect recipe for college
officials to increase their revenues. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the
situation, just because the president made a speech?

Third, it’s possible that Obama might resort to asking
Congress to enact some kind of price control over higher education, threatening
to take away federal dollars unless the schools keep their price increases down
to “reasonable” levels. The Republicans threatened to do that back in the Bush
years, but the bill never went anywhere, and for good reason. Price controls
are blunt, clumsy instruments that are easy to evade.

Finally, merely halving the rate of increase in college
costs, assuming that could be done, wouldn’t be much of a victory. If indeed
college and university administrators felt pressured to cut costs, there is
little reason to think that they would start with the most needless of budget
items. In California, for instance, where the state’s budgetary woes have
required cuts in university budgets, the sacred cows of “diversity”–academic
programs and administrative offices – have been spared.

Lower tuition sounds good, but what Americans should want
from higher education is increasing value. We’ll only get that through more

Obama Campus 2012

In the next 10 months, we shall see the college campus to be a center of Democratic activity.  The reason appears in this short piece at The New Republic
by Ruy Teixeira. 
According to Teixeira, the youth vote is crucial to Obama’s
reelection, 18-29-year-olds forming one of his strongest support groups. 
In 2008, the youth vote went for Obama by a 2-to-1 rate, a huge
disparity that, I believe, has never been seen before in presidential
If those numbers hold up, and if the youth vote turns out as well
as it did in 08, when 51 percent of them went to the polls (a huge gain
over the 40 percent that turned out in 2000), Obama’s prospects improve
significantly.  It may
make the difference.

Continue reading Obama Campus 2012

The Douglas Debate–No Lincoln This Time

stephenarnolddouglas.jpgWhat’s in a name? A great deal, if it happens to be Stephen A. Douglas.
A hundred and fifty years ago, Stephen Arnold Douglas was the most powerful politician in America. He had begun his political career as a hyper-loyal Andrew Jackson Democrat, snatched up one of Illinois’ U.S. Senate seats in 1846, and rose from there to the heights of Congressional stardom by helping the great Henry Clay cobble together the Compromise of 1850 – which effectively averted civil war over the expansion of slavery into the West for another decade. No man was a more obvious presidential candidate than Douglas, and in 1860, he won his party’s nomination to the presidency.
That, unhappily for Douglas, was when the cheering stopped.
He made the magnificent mistake, when running for re-election to the Senate in 1858, of agreeing to debate the new Republican party’s anti-slavery candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Although Douglas managed to win the election, Lincoln handled him so relentlessly, exposing the failure of Douglas’s policies on slavery during the duo’s seven open-air debates, that Lincoln emerged as a national contender, while Douglas lost legions of disappointed supporters. When Douglas faced Lincoln again in the presidential campaign of 1860, Douglas’s party fractured into three pieces and guaranteed Lincoln’s election by default. Douglas died only eight months later.

Continue reading The Douglas Debate–No Lincoln This Time

Liberty Moves Against Liberty

Liberty University made a mistake in revoking recognition of its student Democratic club. But the argument put forth by the conservative Christian institution had some substance to it. Mathew Staver, dean of the university, and John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute both argued that religious freedom trumps questions of political balance. That’s true. A religious institution is certainly allowed to define its own mission and to promote or reject messages in accordance with that mission. Notre Dame would have been within its rights to decide against giving an abortion-approving president a platform. And no one should be surprised if a Quaker institution rejects a gung-ho militaristic club, or if a Catholic university took a dim view of a Peter Singer infanticide club that reflects the Princeton ethicist’s belief that parents should legally have at least 30 days to kill their newborns if they wish. At a public university, almost all clubs and associations should be approved. Religious institutions can and should exert greater control. The Democratic club at Liberty has not been disbanded. But it cannot use the Liberty name and will likely not be eligible for university funding
The problem is that Liberty moved against its Democratic club, not because that club promoted a cause out of sync with the university’s religious message, but because club members supported some pro-choice politicians. But not all Democrats approve abortion, and Liberty’s message here is, in effect, that there is no point in Democratic students working with Democratic politicians to change their minds on abortion or to work on other causes of common interest. Apparently Republicans are the only party Liberty students should be working with and perhaps voting for. This stance comes close to announcing that Liberty is a permanent appendage of the Republican party.
Another consideration: the campuses have been so battered by censorship and violations of free expression – drowning out of speakers, theft of campus newspapers, the creation of “free speech zones” to confine student demonstrators to tiny and obscure areas – that administrators should bend over backward to give the edge to freedom of expression.
Also, it’s worth noting in passing that Republican and conservative clubs on campus are regularly quashed or defunded, often with one or two citations on Google or none at all. Liberty’s decision drew more the 300 Google comments and reports. You would almost think that the press and the campuses are less interested in the general issue of free expression than in the question of whether the ox on the left is being gored.

Ideology In The Classroom

Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities, published in September to little fanfare, has caught on amid its intended audience: those who believe indoctrination of students is a figment of the conservative imagination and not really a factor on our campuses. The New York Times, calling indoctrination “an article of faith” among conservative critics of the universities, gave the book a boost in a November 2nd article.
The authors of the book, George Mason professors Bruce Smith, A. Lee Fritscher and Jeremy Mayer, acknowledge that the professoriate leans the to left–with Democratic party registration reaching 9 to 1 over Republicans at some universities– but argue that this imbalance has no appreciable effects, since most academics tend to avoid political controversy altogether. On the basis of questionnaires, the authors report that 95 percent of professors claim to be trying to be “honest brokers among all competing views” and 81 percent believe ideology plays no role at all in faculty hiring.
Asking professors to state whether they are classroom propagandists or fair-minded teachers does not seem to be a rigorous methodology. Just as earnestly, the authors asked professors if students elsewhere on their campus got unfair grades because of their political views. Only one percent said it happens frequently or often. The authors say self-censorship of political and religious views, out of fear of negative reactions, was just as common among very liberal professors as among very conservative ones. And –in another counerintuitive leap–“discrimination against non-Christians appears to be more widespread than discrimination against conservatives.”
The authors spend a good deal of space deploring Ward Churchill on the left and David Horowitz on the right, while depicting faculties as moderates nestled in the middle, so not to worry. Although the universities have become more moderate since the 1990s, the book says, “The media have much preferred the narrative of the lefties in academe taking over.” But this is hardly the preferred narrative of the mainstream media, which have a long record of denying or ignoring patterns of coercion on campus, often giving the issue their full attention-as the Times did with Closed Minds?- only when some study dismisses the issue.

Continue reading Ideology In The Classroom