Tag Archives: ethnicity

College Students Now–the Good and the Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

“Diversity” Is Now Required At UCLA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Diversity” in College Sports

A new report from the University of
Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, Black
Male Student-Athletes and Racial Inequities in NCAA Division I College Sports
,
points with horror at the “racial inequities” in big-time college sports,
finding it “shocking” and “astonishing” that college leaders, the NCAA, and the
public at large have “accepted as normal the widespread inequities” endemic to
revenue-producing college sports. Perhaps, it concludes, there would be “more
outrage” if more people were aware of how much college athletic programs
“persistently disadvantage” black male athletes.

The picture of this disadvantage is dramatic.
Based on 2007 – 2010 data from the 76 institutional members of the six largest
athletic conferences, black men were 2.8% of full-time undergraduate students
but 57.1% of football teams and 64.3% of basketball teams. 50.2% of black male
athletes graduated within six years, compared to 66.9% of student-athletes
overall, 72.8% of undergraduate students, and 55.5% of black undergraduate men
overall.

“We hear over and over again that
colleges and universities just cannot find qualified, college-ready black men
to come to their institutions,” Shaun Harper, the report’s lead author,
told Inside Higher Ed, but “they can find them when they want the
black men to generate revenue for them.” In a “Message” that introduces
the report, Wharton professor Kenneth Shropshire
echoes the view that the graduation gap reveals glaring “racial inequities,”
that intercollegiate athletics “take advantage” of black athletes “without
serious care for their personal and academic success.”

One of the “racial inequities” is what thirty
years ago Harry Edwards called the “dumb
jock caricature
” — the “insidiously racist … myth of ‘innate Black
athletic superiority’ and the more blatantly racist stereotype of the ‘dumb
Negro.'” Because black men are so “overrepresented” in college sports, the new report
finds, this stereotype “also negatively affects blacks who are not
student-athletes.” It is common, Harper told Inside Higher Ed, “for a
black man to get congratulated for a football victory while walking across
campus on a Monday morning, despite the fact that he’s 5-foot-6 and skinny.”

Ostensibly preferential treatment of blacks
thus actually exploits them for the benefit of others. Academically
under-qualified, they cluster in the bottom of their classes and fail to
graduate in alarming numbers despite receiving remedial classes, targeted
advising, and tutoring not available to others. Their preferential treatment in
and after admission combined with academic performance far below that of their
peers brands them with a stereotype of racial inferiority so pervasive it also
tarnishes other blacks who needed and received no preferential treatment.

If 
this indictment sounds familiar it’s because we’ve heard it before.
Shaun Harper and his co-authors, in short, eerily and no doubt unwittingly
channel Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s Mismatch.
“Dumb Jock,” meet “Affirmative Action Admit.”
 

Far from criticizing race-based special
treatment, however, Harper insisted to Inside Higher Ed that his study
“in no way seeks to suggest that there are too many black athletes.” To
the contrary, he wants admissions offices to recruit non-athlete black men as
vigorously as coaches recruit athletes, and he wants to extend the preferential
support services black athletes receive “in equal measure to black
non-athletes.” There is no glimmer of recognition in this report, or in the
fawning Inside Higher Ed and Chronicle
of Higher Education
articles that highlight its complaints of “racial
inequities,” that there is anything wrong or even problematical in colleges
bestowing special treatment on blacks because of the benefits they bring to
others, whether entertaining and “generating revenue” or providing “diversity.”

The Mangling of American History

raceclassgender.jpg

The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration.  It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread.  Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant.  An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American concentration on itself and Europe. New subjects of enquiry — gender, race and ethnicity — have developed.  Never have historians been so influenced by the methodology and contributions of other disciplines, from anthropology to sociology.  

At the same time, never has the historical profession been so threatened.  Political correctness has both narrowed and distorted enquiry. Traditional fields demanding intellectual rigor, such as economic and intellectual history, are in decline.  Even worse, education about Western civilization and the Enlightenment, that font of American liberties, and the foundation of modern industrial, scientific and liberal world civilization, has come to be treated with increasing disdain at colleges and universities.  

Continue reading The Mangling of American History

Preferred and Prohibited Discrimination

Is the Fourteenth Amendment inferior to the
First? If states are generally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of
political identity, why should they be allowed to discriminate on the basis of
racial identity?

Consider Teresa
Wagner’s much-discussed
lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law for not hiring her due to her political convictions. A federal grand jury
believed the law school had indeed discriminated against her but ultimately deadlocked
because “federal law does not recognize political discrimination by
institutions.”

More interesting than this perhaps
provisional result is the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals’ legal reasoning that
made the trial possible. In its decision last
December allowing the trial to go forward, The Court of Appeals relied on a 2006 Supreme Court
decision
holding that Title VII “seeks a workplace where individuals are
not discriminated against because of their racial, ethnic, religious, or
gender-based status.” In short, it seeks “to prevent injury to individuals
based on who they are, i.e., their status.” The Eighth Circuit also
adopted the First Circuit’s holding that, if a plaintiff presents sufficient
evidence of discrimination, the employer was obligated to demonstrate a “nondiscriminatory
basis” for the decision to not hire. Specifically, the employer must show that
they did not consider the applicant’s “political affiliation.”
                                                                 

This raises an obvious question. Why should
courts allow discrimination against an applicant because of her racial identity
but not because of her opinion about abortion?
 

In an editorial
about the Teresa Wagner case, the Des Moines Register argued that the
University of Iowa “respects the goal of diversity for race, religion and
gender, but it should show the same respect for diversity of political
thought.” Actually, it already does. It discriminates on the basis of political
thought just as it discriminates on the basis of race and ethnicity. More
discrimination — seeking, say, a “critical mass” of conservatives — would
simply compound the discrimination, not cure it.

The Sixth Circuit Undermines Affirmative Action

On November 6 the voters of Oklahoma, following in the footsteps of voters in California (1996), Washington (1998), Michigan (2006), Nebraska (2008), and Arizona (2010), passed  a constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from offering “preferred treatment” or engaging in discrimination based on race, color, gender, or ethnicity. On November 15 eight of the fifteen judges of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held, over vigorous dissents, that the nearly identical Michigan amendment requiring the state to treat all its residents without regard to their race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Really.

As Roger Clegg just noted, this decision will almost certainly be reviewed by the Supreme Court, not primarily because it is unusually stupid but because it conflicts with both old and recent decisions of even the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit. Ironically, this decision is so bad that it may actually do some good before the Court can review it. In flatly rejecting the same argument made in the Michigan case (by the same lawyer) against California’s Prop. 209, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in April that “Grutter upheld as permissible certain race-based affirmative action programs. It did not hold that such programs are constitutionally required.” In holding that states are effectively prohibited from deciding that race-based preferences are impermissible, the Sixth Circuit’s overreaching Egregious Eight may have inadvertently driven a stake through the heart of affirmative action. Their extreme decision may persuade Justice Kennedy and hence a conservative majority to hold in the upcoming Fisher decision that Grutter must be gutted, not tweaked, that the only “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” as Chief Justice Roberts famously said in Parents Involved, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Noting the great gulf separating the views on racial preference held by the nation’s opinion leaders and elites, including leaders and faculty of both public and private universities, Richard Kahlenberg recently quoted Richard Sander’s and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s observation in their terrific new book, Mismatch, “We can think of no other public issue in which the leadership class displays such cohesion in the face of a largely opposite view among Americans in general.”

In large part that’s because most Americans continue to define discrimination as distributing benefits or burdens based on race while opinion leaders in editorial and university offices, Hollywood and Madison Avenue, board rooms, and nearly all elected and appointed Democrats have abandoned that traditional definition and instead regard discrimination as anything that interferes with promoting “diversity,” which in practice means discriminating against white and Asians in order to admit or hire more blacks and Hispanics. Thus the Sixth Circuit thought it unfair that the citizens of Michigan prohibited “race-conscious” admissions, i.e., preferential treatment based on race, while allowing “a legacy-conscious admissions policy.” Whatever the merits or wisdom of legacy preference, it cannot be said that its intent or effect is to discriminate against minorities. Indeed, for over a generation now minorities have been admitted to selective institutions in greater numbers than if they had been held to the same standards as whites and Asians, and thus it is quite likely that legacy preferences on balance now actually benefit minorities.

Their “legacy conscious admissions” comparison reveals that the Sixth Circuit based its decision on the assumption that “race-conscious” admissions have the intent and effect of benefitting minorities. The massive amount of evidence presented in the “mismatch” scholarship of Sander, Taylor, and now many others, however, has demonstrated that in fact “race conscious” admissions actually does serious and lasting damage to its ostensible “beneficiaries.”

I say “ostensible” and put “beneficiaries” in quotes because for anyone who credits the mantra-like justifications for “race conscious” admissions offered by its proponents, it’s clear that lowering the bar for blacks and Hispanics is not intended as a benefit to them — after all, they would receive whatever benefits “diversity” offers at less selective institutions — but to the whites and Asians whose education is said to require being exposed to them.

In any event, the noxious belief of the Sixth Circuit and all supporters of racial preference that discrimination against some groups should be legal if it benefits other groups reveals how thoroughly American liberalism has abandoned the civil rights ideal that was its heart and soul from the1830s through the 1960s.

An Unusually Stupid Court Ruling

Yesterday the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that Michigan’s Proposal 2 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. 

Proposal 2 was a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to provide that state and local government agencies (including public universities) in Michigan “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”  The Equal Protection Clause provides that “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The mind boggles.  Proposal 2 not only does not violate the Equal Protection Clause, and is not only quite consistent with it, but is indeed nothing more than an elaboration on it.

But here is the court of appeals’ reasoning:

A student seeking to have her family’s alumni connections considered in her application to one of Michigan’s esteemed public universities could do one of four things to have the school adopt a legacy-conscious admissions policy: she could lobby the admissions committee, she could petition the leadership of the university, she could seek to influence the school’s governing board, or, as a measure of last resort, she could initiate a statewide campaign to alter the state’s constitution. The same cannot be said for a black student seeking the adoption of a constitutionally permissible race-conscious admissions policy. That student could do only one thing to effect change: she could attempt to amend the Michigan Constitution–a lengthy, expensive, and arduous process–to repeal the consequences of Proposal 2. The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change.

To which the answer is:  The same might be said of a member of the Ku Klux Klan who wanted the University of Michigan to adopt a whites-only policy of racial segregation.  Would this court have ruled that the Klansman’s equal-protection rights are violated by Proposal 2?

That seems unlikely.  The decision was driven by its politically correct result, which is why the decision was 8-7 along partisan lines:  Every vote in the majority was by a Democrat-appointed judge (except, technically, for one who was originally nominated by President Clinton late in his term and then, in a misguided gesture of conciliation, renominated by President Bush at the beginning of his), and every dissenter was appointed by a Republican president.  Elections do indeed have consequences.

One’s first reaction is anger and frustration. 

Consider:  The saga may be said to begin in 1978, when a majority of the Supreme Court in the Bakke case decided that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit racial discrimination in university admissions, even though it reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin … be subjected to discrimination [by federally funded universities]….”  The fact that the national legislature had, by the clear terms of a statute it had passed, banned racial preferences in university admissions was just ignored.

So those opposing such discrimination would have to meet the standard the Court uses in constitutional cases, which allows the discrimination if it is “narrowly tailored” to a “compelling” interest.  As the discrimination became more and more widespread and entrenched, hard-fought lawsuits were in fact brought in Texas and then Michigan and taken through the courts of appeals, and then finally in 2003 the Supreme Court agreed to revisit the issue.  Alas, the Court struck down some of the discrimination but also held by a 5-4 margin that the “educational benefits” from “diversity” provided such a compelling interest, at least for another 25 years (!). 

So it was back to the political process in Michigan, where thousands of petition signatures were gathered and then Proposal 2 was passed with 58 percent of the vote after a bruising campaign.  And now we are told that this was a waste of time because using the political process this way is unconstitutional.  Again, it’s frustrating.

All this, in the courts and at the ballot, and all because of this seemingly unexceptionable desire:  That universities not discriminate in admission on the basis of skin color or what country someone’s ancestors came from.

But, on reflection, we can make lemonade from this lemon.

The state attorney general has already announced that he plans to take the case to the Supreme Court – thank goodness – which will almost certainly grant review, because the decision below is not only important and outrageous, but also creates a split in the circuits since the Ninth Circuit rejected a similar lawsuit.  When the Court does so, there ought to be at least five votes to overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision – and clarify or overturn a confusing and mischievous couple of earlier Supreme Court decisions that the Sixth Circuit used to justify its result.  So the case will provide the Court with an opportunity to replace bad precedent containing dubious language with good precedent and good language for future cases.

And wait, there’s more:  It has already been my hope that the recent election results, and in particular the demographic spin being put on them, should push the conservative justices to ban racial preferences, period, in the recently argued Fisher v. University of Texas.  It’s clear that the composition of the Court is not going to get any better and may get worse, and it’s clear that the political branches are not going to address this problem – and, indeed, the country is getting to the point where political power is wielded in a way to create a racial spoils system in university admissions, contracting, you name it.   Therefore, our justices will reason, we have to take this off the table now.

The fact that the Court knows that the Sixth Circuit case is now in the wings may make this course of action even more attractive in Fisher.  Yesterday’s decision underscores the need for a clear statement from the Court in this area, and it is, after all, even easier to explain why banning racial preferences is not unconstitutional when there is a Supreme Court decision that holds that using racial preferences is unconstitutional.

You have to hand it to our opponents (in this case the lawsuit was brought by an organization whose name promises to defend affirmative action By Any Means Necessary, or “BAMN”):  They never give up.  So we can’t either.  They have the advantage of being unprincipled, but we have the advantage of being right – of wanting to end racial and ethnic discrimination and preference, which is the only tenable legal regime for our increasingly multiethnic and multiracial nation.

_________________________________________________________________________

Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which joined amicus briefs filed by Pacific Legal Foundation in the Sixth Circuit case and in Fisher.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, But…

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or its title, but how about from an extended interview with the authors?

On November 2, Inside Higher Ed carried such an interview with the three authors of a new book entitled Occupying the Academy. The authors, Christine Clark (a professor of multicultural education at UNLV), Kenneth Fasching-Varner (a professor of elementary education at LSU), and Mark Brimhall-Vargas (associate director of the Office of Diversity Education and Compliance at the University of Maryland), want people to know, as their subtitle puts it, just how important diversity work is in higher education.

Reading through the interview, we never find out exactly what “diversity work” is. Once the admissions people have done their best to engineer a student body that has the right quotas of students of certain ancestries, what more is there to do for the “diversity workers” to do? I have ordered the book and will read it to find out, but I think that the honest answer is that they pretend to keep busy by obsessing over student differences. Diversity work entails a constant search for issues of “insensitivity” that can be used to pry money out of administrators.

That money is very important to these diversiphiles becomes clear in the interview. Diversity offices, we read, “face problems that are largely invisible and hard to understand. They are often starved of resources or are constantly made to scramble for declining resources. This climate of instability makes it hard so that the workers dedicated to equity and diversity are always unsure of whether they will be around.”

Apparently it does not occur to those diversity workers that almost every part of every university now has to scramble for resources and that if they don’t get all the funding they want, it could be because departments that actually do some educating are regarded as more important.

An idea as to the inflated sense of self-importance of these diversity workers comes from Professor Clark’s statement that following Obama’s election, she expected that “our work would get easier, become more respected, be more well-funded, and be able to penetrate further in more substantive ways into the fabric of the academy.” You can probably guess why those dreams didn’t come true – racism.

Furthermore, we learn that diversity workers, displaying the victim mentality that Bruce Bawer brilliantly describes in his book The Victims’ Revolution, believe that they are “under assault.”

Now, I doubt very much that there has ever been a single assault – much less a battery – against any diversity worker. The alleged assault consists of not having a “guarantee that they will have access to the places where meaningful change can happen.” What that means is that the guilt-ridden academic officials who get mau-maued into creating “diversity offices” don’t actually take them seriously, so they can’t “have a real chance at changing the campus composition and climate.” Don’t the diversity workers understand that they’re nothing more than politically correct ornamentation on campus? It’s as if the guards at Buckingham Palace complained that they don’t get to play any role in preparing the defense of the nation.

Again, I will read Occupying the Academy when I get it. If the authors make a persuasive case that all of this “diversity work” is something other than a sheer waste of money, I will be glad to say so.

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.

Intellectual Standards = a Politics of Exclusion?

Universities today have lowered their standards of admission and
accepted more students regardless of their level of preparation. For example,
at the University of South Carolina, where I am presently employed, the number
of undergraduates has gone up from about 18,000 in 2006 to 22,000 in 2011. As a
result of the increased number of undergraduates, pressures are placed on
teaching faculty to accommodate students regardless of intellectual skills. For
one, political correctness has brought about that holding a student to an
intellectual standard may be perceived to imply a political act as part of a politics
of exclusion. This problem is further exacerbated by an increase in the integrative
aspirations attributed to higher education and the increasing diversity of the
student population, with all due ironic consequences.

On a purely educational level, the masses of students that are to
be taught despite their sometimes relatively low intellectual skills place a
rather distinct pressure on teachers to maintain standards in the face of
resistance. Even for the best teacher it is not an easy job, under these
circumstances, to not lower academic standards to accommodate students and avoid
trouble. Most tragically, there are pressures exerted by university
administrators towards departments to maintain enrollment or, in other words,
to keep students in college and have them pass their courses, whether they
earned it or not. Students of lesser skill-levels are not only admitted, they are
also given degrees, and that is the most worrisome trend. Obtaining a college
degree has become a matter of justice. The notion that prevails today is not
only that access to education is a right, but so is the successful exit
thereof. Under these conditions, the very notion of an earned degree has become
a mockery….


University
administrators have reconfigured universities as businesses and have abandoned
any idea of the university as a special institution with a calling. Under these
circumstances of an entrepreneurial university, it is a lack of morality, not a
particular political or ethical direction, but an absence of any moral
guidance, that has brought about many of the peculiar problems educators in
higher learning are facing today.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mathieu Deflem is a
sociologist at the University of South Carolina. This is an excerpt from a
paper presented October 25 in New York City at a conference, “Changes in Higher
Education Since the 1960s,” sponsored by Manhattan Institute and the journal
Society. Full texts of all papers will be published in Society next spring and
summer.

Why Size Matters in College Preferences

mismatch.jpg

By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Richard Sander

Even for people who approve in
principle of some use of racial preferences in university admissions — notably
including Justice Anthony Kennedy — the size of the preferences, and of the
resulting racial gaps in academic performance in college and beyond, should
matter a great deal.
 

So it’s unfortunate (though
understandable, as explained below) that the size of the preferences at issue
in Fisher v. University of Texas was
not mentioned either during the Supreme Court’s October 10 oral argument or at
any other point in the discrimination lawsuit against UT by Abigail Fisher, a
disappointed white applicant.

But the Court could and should use
the
Fisher case to impose a
requirement — suggested in our new book,
Mismatch
— that from now on, a university’s burden of proving justification for its use
of racial preferences will include a requirement that it fully disclose the
size of its preferences (preferably including legacy and athletic preferences)
and of the mean gaps in college academic performance among students admitted on
the basis of preferences of various sizes.

Continue reading Why Size Matters in College Preferences

Trickle Down Racial Double Standards

Advocates of affirmative action never seem to realize that abandoning the “without regard” principle of colorblind equality — i.e., legitimizing the distribution of benefits and burdens based on race — can result in unfavorable, discriminatory treatment of their favored minorities, even when that harsh lesson is staring them in the face as it is now in Florida and Virginia.

According to the Florida state board’s Strategic Plan, the goals are for 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics, and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. In math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites 86 percent, Hispanics 80 percent, and blacks 74 percent. These goals, the board stated, “recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic.”

The state’s plan to reduce academic goals for minorities, the Florida Sun Sentinel newspapers report, “has created a firestorm in South Florida.” 

Florida, alas, is not alone. Last summer the Virginia Department of Education announced its new annual reading and math objectives with lower benchmarks for blacks and Hispanics, and it too set off a firestorm of controversy. 

The Huffington Post criticized Virginia for “reducing expectations based on race.” In a letter to Gov. McDonnell the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called the new achievement objectives “insulting and narrow minded.” Its chair, Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, “says the state is marginalizing students by setting different goals for how many pass each Standards of Learning test based on their race or background.” The Vice President of the Virginia NAACP described the new guidelines as “discriminating” and declared that her “biggest concern is setting lower expectations for minorities than other cultures. If you set low expectations for children, you devalue them, and demoralize them to themselves.”

These criticisms of the Florida and Virginia plans for lowering the standards of success for blacks and Hispanics are penetrating and persuasive. They are also glaringly inconsistent or hypocritical, since affirmative action in college admissions — i.e., lowering requirements for blacks and Hispanics — has the same debilitating effects, or worse, on those for whom the bar is condescendingly lowered. See Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help And Why Universities Won’t Admit It, the “magisterial” new book by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., for a compilation and analysis of the accumulating evidence of this harm. Yet the NAACP, civil rights advocates, and Democratic pols not only defend but glorify that differential treatment and its lowered standards based on race.

One of the saddest and most depressing things about this controversy over Florida’s and Virginia’s differential racial benchmarks is the shock and surprise one feels when encountering a Democrat or civil rights advocate actually calling for students to be treated without regard for their race.

A ‘Magisterial’ Work on Affirmative Action

SCOTUS.jpg

“Mend it, don’t end it” was the famous advice
on affirmative action from Bill Clinton, who did neither. There are, of course,
other useful slogans, such as “Muddle it,” which the Supreme Court essentially did
in the 2003 Gratz and Grutter cases. The Court held that the University
of Michigan could not give a fixed number of points to minority applicants but
that its law school could give even more substantial preferences based on race
so long as it sufficiently disguised what it was doing under the smokescreen of
individualized, “holistic” review.

Now under new leadership and with a few new
members, the Court will see if it can do better when it decides, after hearing
oral arguments this week, whether the University of Texas is allowed to
supplement its successful, facially race-neutral diversity-producing “top 10%”
admissions policy by taking race into account in the admission of other
students. 

Continue reading A ‘Magisterial’ Work on Affirmative Action

We Don’t Need a Different “Affirmative Action”

On
the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. Texas, a case challenging racial preferences in college
admissions, the Wall Street Journal published a piece purporting to give “A
Liberal Critique of Racial Preferences.”

Author
Richard Kahlenberg argued (as he almost always does) in favor of changing “affirmative
action” to a system based on socio-economic class. That is, rather than
colleges giving preference to students because of their ancestry, they would
instead give preferences to students from relatively poor families. Kahlenberg
thinks it better to selectively admit some applicants, no matter what their
race, from low-income and working-class families than to admit some from
affluent families on account of their race.

The
case for preferences based on socio-economic status (SES) is no better than
that for race. I will focus on the most central one: It accomplishes no good.

Kahlenberg’s
argument is that racial preferences made sense in the past, when doors were closed
to many Americans based on their skin color, but today “obstacles to
opportunity are more closely associated with economic disadvantage.”

I
strongly disagree. Today the “obstacles to opportunity” are overwhelmingly
creations of government: occupational licensure, minimum wage laws, red tape
that impedes business formation, and so on. Those obstacles affect everyone,
although they have their strongest impact on the poor. But being poor is not itself
an obstacle.

But
this is besides the point. Kahlenberg isn’t describing a generic plan to boost
up the poor and working-class. He wants elite colleges and universities to give
prefer to the children of poor and working-class families. Suppose that a
plumber’s daughter in North Carolina has grades and SAT scores that make her an
automatic admit at UNC-Charlotte and a fairly likely admit at NC State. She applies
to Duke on a whim and is accepted not for her academic prowess but Duke’s desire
for SES diversity.

As
a diligent student, she will succeed whether she goes to UNCC, NC State, or
Duke, although at the latter she might find herself competing with students who
have more academic ability. Even if going to Duke wouldn’t cost her more (and
it almost certainly will), how is it beneficial for her to go there? Her career
prospects depend on her own accomplishments, not the name of her alma mater.

There
are two hidden assumptions in Kahlenberg’s argument — that elite schools give
students elite education and that America will be a fairer country if children
from “lower” SES backgrounds attend elite schools. Neither assumption is correct.
The supposedly elite schools don’t necessarily provide a better education.
Moreover, shuffling a few students “up” into those schools — while
simultaneously shuffling an equal number of non-preferred students “down” —
won’t make America any fairer. 

Left-Right Agreement on Affirmative Action?

Perhaps anticipating a defeat for affirmative
action in the Fisher v. University of Texas case about to be argued
before the Supreme Court, Columbia University political philosophy professor
and former
Dean of the College
Michele Moody-Adams has just suggested
moving away from a fixation on affirmative action and “Toward
Real Equality in Higher Education
.” Whatever happens in Fisher,
she argues, “we must recognize that controversies about race-conscious
admissions have unhelpfully narrowed the debate about equality of educational
opportunity and diverted attention from the extraordinary inequalities that
continue to exist.”

As “an African-American alumna of a selective
college” and high-level administrator at Cornell and Columbia, Prof. and former
Dean MM-A acknowledges that “diversity” (her quotes) is “unquestionably
valuable,” but unlike nearly all diversiphiles she recognizes that “it can lead
institutions to view minority students as mere means to an end: essential
embodiments of “diverse perspectives” whose greatest value to the
institution lies in their capacity to help fulfill institutional goals.” (Can?
How could it not, since the official rationale for admitting some minorities who would not have been admitted
but for their race or ethnicity is so that non-minority students could be
exposed to them?)
 

Since most colleges are not selective, her
criticism continues, “the percentage of minorities at selective institutions
has little to do with the educational opportunities available” to anyone. Nor
is she persuaded by the “trickle-down effect” defense of affirmative action, a
prediction that minority students would devote their careers to expanding
opportunity in their communities. “Not surprisingly,” she writes, “minority
students have turned out to be like students in general: By and large, college
students do not feel obligated to define their personal goals in the context of
broader social goods.” (Not surprisingly? If it is not surprising that
minority students are just “like students in general,” what is the point of
lowering admissions standards for them so they can provide “diversity” to
others?)

Prof. and former Dean MM-A is clearly no
conservative. She has no use for “familiar criticisms that affirmative action
undermines a system that is otherwise based wholly on merit,” and she rejects
the view that selective institutions do or even should “reward only those
applicants with the right combination of talent, hard work, and ambition — who
really ‘deserve’ a place in those institutions.” In suggesting that the pursuit
of “diversity” should be subordinated to efforts that  promote “real equality of educational
opportunity,” she echoes a long line of leftist criticism of affirmative action
(see a good example here)
as little more than a tattered bandage, or worse, on the open wound of American
racism.

Interestingly, many conservatives agree that
affirmative action is and has been a generation-long diversion from
confronting  the real problems afflicting
blacks in American society. In the long last chapter of his recent book, Wounds That Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial
Dilemma
(watch this space for a forthcoming
review), Russell Nieli argues that affirmative action was born as a response to
the urban riots of the 1960s but the plight of those who had provided the
initial impetus was lost “in the ensuing decades in the never ending
controversy over racial preferences.” What Nieli calls “the sorry plight of the
black underclass” disappeared from the national radar screen. “The ‘affirmative
action response,’  focused mainly on the
black middle class,” he concludes, “has diverted our gaze from the place it
really belongs and done much to undermine interracial sympathy and goodwill.”
 

Who said left and right never agree?

Fisher and “Diversity”: The More Things Change…

Browsing through the collection of over
70 pro-“diversity” amicus briefs
submitted on behalf of the University of
Texas in the Fisher case, I am reminded, as I often am, of how eerily
the current defense of “taking race into account,” i.e., preferential treatment
based on race, resembles the old Southern arguments in defense of segregation.

As I have
pointed
out
on my blog a number
of times,
one of the oddest, saddest things about contemporary liberalism is the degree
to which it stands on the shoulders, and repeats the arguments, of dead
racists. Anyone, for example, who defends racial preferences must reject
Justice John Marshall Harlan’s stirring comment in Plessy that
“our Constitution is colorblind” and agree with the majority’s holding that the
14th Amendment does not require colorblindness and hence that racial
discrimination can in many circumstances be reasonable and hence
constitutional.

Opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
in 2006 (before he was convicted
and sent to prison
for fraud and corruption), Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick declared
to applause in a speech to the NAACP, “We will affirm to the world that
affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow and there will
be affirmative action in the state forever.” Kilpatrick unwittingly channeled
George Wallace’s 1963 acceptance
speech
as Governor of Alabama: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the
gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say . . . segregation today . . .
segregation tomorrow . . .segregation forever!”

One of the most famous documents in the
South’s massive resistance to school integration was the “Southern
Manifesto
” of 1956, signed by 19 Senators and 77 Representatives, defending
states’ rights and criticizing the Supreme Court for overturning settled law.
To demonstrate how closely its arguments resemble current defenses of
preferential admissions I once posted a version of
that document
substituting “diversity” or “racial preferences” for
“segregation.” It is an uncanny fit. The Southerners argued, for example, that
“the ‘separate but equal’ principle [substitute: the amount of diversity and
the means of achieving it
] is within the discretion of the state in
regulating its public schools and does not conflict with the Fourteenth
Amendment.”

The Jackson Clarion Ledger quoted a spokesman for the Mississippi
Attorney General’s office explaining that representatives from that state had
“signed on … in the interest of fighting to allow our universities to set their
own admission policies without unnecessary interference or second-guessing by
federal courts.” In a closely related legal document  Mississippi joined
several other states in asserting that “states must have the freedom and
flexibility to create strong institutions tailored to the needs of each
particular State and its citizens” and urging the Court “to reject petitioner’s
invitation to … destabilize the careful judgments that each State has made in
light of the conditions and needs facing its own particular institutions of
higher learning.”
 

The petitioner referred to above is actually
Abigail Fisher, and the attorney general’s spokesman is actually referring to
the amicus
brief
Mississippi joined with New York, North Carolina and several other
states defending the University of Texas’s admitting some applicants and
rejecting others based on their race and ethnicity.
 

Mississippi, still defending racial
discrimination. The more things change….

In Hard Times, Diversity Bureaucracies Do Well

By Duke Cheston

Originally Posted from the Pope
Center for Higher Education Policy

About a year and a half
ago, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro attempted to hire a new
chief diversity officer. The university sought an administrator who would focus
on increasing appreciation for racial differences on campus–even though UNCG
already had five administrators in its Office of Multicultural Affairs tasked
with a similar mission. When the news surfaced, many people (some of them
writing in the Greensboro newspaper) expressed anger, arguing that the new
administrator was unnecessary, especially in a time of financial hardship.

Initially, UNCG chancellor Linda Brady
defended the new position (which would have cost the school roughly $200,000 in
salary and benefits) as a cost-cutting measure. In a letter to a local lawyer
obtained by the Pope Center, Brady wrote that the new position would save money
by fixing “an environment that doesn’t sufficiently embrace inclusion and
equity.” Without that fix, she wrote, UNCG would continue to lose money through
additional spending on remediation programs, responding to grievances, and the
cost of students dropping out. By March 2011, however, Chancellor Brady
officially abandoned the search for a new chief diversity officer, maintaining
the office’s current staff level.

Continue reading In Hard Times, Diversity Bureaucracies Do Well

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

Affirmative Action Starts to Unravel

Asian.jpgListen closely and you can hear the sound of “diversity” crumbling, this week mixed with laughter over the news that the City University of New York has created two more official diversity groups–“white/Jewish” and “Italian-Americans.”

Critics of the new Jewish category claim that “the creation of a label for Jewish professors could be used to limit their job opportunities.” So, what else is new? Creating labels for blacks, Hispanics, Italians, etc., also no doubt limits job opportunities for Jews.

Actually, CUNY’s newly-minted effort to include Jews (but not
Muslims, Irish, Pentecostal-Americans, etc.) has a close relationship
with the issues being presented to the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin–and
not simply because the CUNY policy reveals so glaringly the
incoherence at the core of the “diversity” justification for
preferential treatment.

Continue reading Affirmative Action Starts to Unravel

Could “Diversity” Become Mandatory?

diversity mandate.jpgThose of us who were disappointed when a divided Supreme Court upheld the distribution of burdens and benefits based on race in Grutter are hopeful that decision might be overturned — or that at least its most deleterious effects might be reined in — when the Court revisits affirmative action next fall in Fisher v. University of Texas. It would be a mistake to assume, however, as many do, that the worst-case scenario is the possibility that racial preferences in admissions and hiring might remain legal. If this administration’s arguments about the unprecedented and virtually (or even actually) unrestrained power the government possesses are upheld — either in currently pending litigation or by a future Supreme Court with new justices appointed by a re-elected President Obama– then “diversity”-justified discrimination could actually become mandatory.

Consider, first, the administration’s view of government power.
Twelve Catholic bishops, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington,
Notre Dame, Catholic University, Catholic Charities and the Consortium
of Catholic Academies — all told, 43 plaintiffs in 12 concurrently
filed lawsuits — have charged the Obama administration with trampling
their religious liberty by requiring them to finance or enable behavior
that violates their religion. Both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal covered the lawsuit on their May 22 front pages; the New York Times
buried it on p. A17. They charge, both implicitly and explicitly, that
the government now refuses to recognize any limits to its power, that
it does not have to follow the rules that formerly restrained it.

Continue reading Could “Diversity” Become Mandatory?

Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women’s Colleges

Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women's Colleges.jpgHere’s something to think about when debating the position of the Catholic bishops on religious liberty and contraception: all-women colleges are allowed under Federal law to discriminate against men in admissions, at least on the undergraduate level. Because they are private, these colleges are free under the law to design their mission (the education of women) and their undergraduate admissions system (no men) their own way.

Until the 1970s, Wellesley College, where I teach, had several graduate programs in the sciences (and in other fields before that).Then federal law dictated that graduate programs in both private and public institutions could not discriminate on the basis of sex. Rather than admit men into those formal degree programs, Wellesley dropped its graduate program. This may be a special case, but it suggests one of the most precious freedoms in a democratic and pluralistic society, namely, the right of private educational institutions to preserve a space for their own design about how to educate their central mission.

Continue reading Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women’s Colleges

A Peculiar Performance by the Chronicle

The mainstream media seem to be studiously ignoring Naomi Schaefer Riley’s summary banishment on May 7 as a blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education. She had written a post severely criticizing black studies programs at universities and suggesting that they be eliminated. But some media people who cover the media online, though they are political liberals out of sync with Riley, are just as outraged at the firing as Riley’s supporters. Betsy Rothstein, editor of Fishbowl DC, a widely read media-news website, and Brad Phillips, who writes the MrMediaTraining blog, excoriated the Chronicle’s editor, Liz McMillen, for caving to pressure from–and apologizing profusely to–Chronicle’s college-professor readers who had been screaming racism and demanding Riley’s head for several days. This despite the fact that Riley’s 500-word post for the Chronicle blog Brainstorm, had contained nothing that could be construed as a personal attack, libelous, or factually incorrect.

Continue reading A Peculiar Performance by the Chronicle

Writer Purged for Causing Distress

naomi schaefer riley.jpgTaking note of a posting by Naomi Schaefer Riley, John Rosenberg took a hard look at what passes for cutting-edge scholarship in Black Studies–and wasn’t impressed with what he found. Rosenberg’s post became all the timelier when the Chronicle announced that it had removed Riley from the Brainstorm blog.

In an editor’s note that could have doubled as a parody of political correctness, Liz McMillen “sincerely apologize[d] for the distress” that publication of Riley’s post caused. McMillen claimed that Riley’s sharply-written but seemingly factually accurate post did not conform to the Chronicle’s “journalistic standards,” though she elected not to provide an example of how, specifically, the post failed to conform to these standards. Perhaps she feared causing further distress to the Chronicle’s extremely sensitive reading base.

The move left FIRE’s Adam Kissel to express wishes of “good luck to Chronicle bloggers! Whoever is left, that is, after the necessary purge to restore quality,” since Editor McMillen is determined to ensure “only ‘fair’ opinions henceforward.”

Continue reading Writer Purged for Causing Distress

Harvard’s PR Machine and the Cherokees

Elizabeth Warren.jpgSeemingly lily-white Elizabeth Warren’s supposed claim of Cherokee heritage may make for good campaign fodder–incumbent Senator Scott Brown has gone so far as to demand that Warren apologize for allowing Harvard to claim her as a minority–but the real lesson in this latest of partisan battles has more to do with university rather than electoral politics.

For those who have been living in a bubble, let’s rehash: On April 27th, the Boston Herald reported that Elizabeth Warren “was once touted by embattled Harvard Law School officials…as proof of their faculty’s diversity” in 1996; indeed, according to the Herald, Warren was considered the only minority woman on the Law School faculty at the time (a statistic of great interest, it seems, to those who count such things). Following the report, the Warren campaign has been on the defensive as opponent Brown, along with many members of the media, have been questioning (or simply making fun of) Warren’s seemingly cynical careerist use of her Native American heritage. Over the next few weeks, we will doubtless continue to hear details about Warren’s family, and about whether or not she used her lineage in a suspect way.

Continue reading Harvard’s PR Machine and the Cherokees

Are Black Studies a Great Failure?

Now that the world of higher education’s twitter (or is that now tweeter?) over Elizabeth Warren’s keen sense of her own Cherokee-ness is dying down, the two leading monitors of academic fads have each recently  found and amplified new interest in black studies.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has recently published two pieces glorifying the field,  “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into The Future‘” and “A New Generation of Black-Studies Ph.D.’s,” as well as a blog post by Naomi Schaefer Riley that has ignited a firestorm of controversy in the comments, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” For its part Inside Higher Ed has a rather fawning  interview with Ibram H. Rogers, an assistant professor history at  SUNY Oneonta and author of a celebratory new book on The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972.

Continue reading Are Black Studies a Great Failure?