Tag Archives: hiring

Proving Discrimination Is Almost Impossible

Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit
against the University of Iowa law school ended a few weeks ago when a jury
declared that the school did not submit her to political discrimination when it
rejected her application for a job. Wagner made a second allegation–that her
equal protection rights were violated because the law school held her political
activism against her–which was not ruled upon, the judge declaring a mistrial
because the jury couldn’t reach a decision, leaving open the possibility of
future action by Wagner’s attorney. Indeed, the Chronicle reports
that Wagner has filed papers asking for a retrial on all counts.
 

The first verdict wasn’t unexpected.  Wagner had to
prove that faculty members voted against her for her political views, which run
well to the Right.  But of course, nobody on hiring committees ever
says outright, “She’s a conservative–she’s out!”  They know
better–Schmidt cites one witness who “testified that no faculty member
would ‘be stupid enough’ to cite politics as the reason for turning down an applicant”–and
besides, they don’t have to.  In the hiring process there are so many
stages and variables that it’s easy to drop a conservative candidate for a
dozen other more or less non-political reasons.  “She isn’t a good
fit,” one might say, or “We already have strengths in her area, we need someone
in another field,” another could argue, or “I don’t think she handled questions
very well in the interview” could be the line.  The outcome is
assured and nobody needs to raise delicate matters along the way.

In Wagner’s case, a clear
distinction came up in her qualifications relative the person who got the job: She was one of five candidates chosen from a pool of 50 applicants invited to
present to the university’s faculty.

But that enthusiasm died soon after her presentation. The job
was given to Matt Williamson, a candidate who had never practiced law, had no
published works and was an ardent liberal who frequently criticized
Republicans, according to testimony and court documents presented last week to
the jury.

That a candidate who never practiced law and had no publications
should prevail over Wagner sounds fishy.  The Chronicle story
relates, too, that the person hired resigned a year later for “poor
performance.”  One could also mention the disparate-outcome argument
so beloved by liberals: the law school has one registered Republican and 46
registered Democrats.  Finally, one should note the email
law professor and former associate dean Jon Carlson sent to the law school dean
after the first rejection in which he worried that the faculty would balk at
the hiring of Wagner due to
“her politics (and especially her activism
about it).”
  

But the faculty had an answer: she botched the
presentation.  When asked about teaching “legal analysis,” an
important part of the job, they say, she declined.  Several witnesses
repeated that criticism, even though Wagner never recalls saying so (she showed
her pre-interview notes in court that displayed her intention to teach the
subject), and a couple of witnesses agreed with her, including Carlson and Mark
Osiel, another professor in the law school. The law school taped Wagner’s
presentation and could have offered the tape to settle the question. However,
the university erased the tape months after the hiring process had ended.

The coda to this story is equally frustrating. Just last week reporter
Jason Clayworth spoke
with four members of the jury who told him that jurors did believe that
political discrimination had taken place, but that they couldn’t hold one
person responsible.
This outcome shows how
far universities are able to fiddle with the hiring process with
impunity.  Here we have a jury convinced that political discrimination
took place, but they can’t convict because they have the wrong defendant. 
But the plaintiff couldn’t pick another defendant; indeed, federal law dictated
that the dean be made the “responsible party.” So people who feel they’ve been
treated unfairly face a Catch-22, and universities can carry on as usual.

Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

That certain quarters of the academy–humanities
departments, most social sciences departments, and many graduate programs
(social work, education, and to a lesser extent law)–are ideologically
imbalanced is not news. A decision in an Iowa court, however, exposed the
difficulty in addressing the problem.

The case, which received extensive coverage in the Des Moines Register and attracted some
notice in the national press, involved Teresa Wagner, who in 2006 applied for a
vacancy at the University of Iowa Law School. (She then applied for adjunct jobs
between 2007 and 2009.) Wagner had served as a part-time instructor before that
time, was invited for an interview for the tenure-track job but didn’t receive
it, and then didn’t get any of the adjunct positions, either. (It’s odd indeed
for a candidate considered qualified enough to be a finalist for a tenure-track
job to, in turn, be deemed unqualified for an adjunct’s position.) Wagner
believed that her outspoken activism on social issues and her affiliation with
some very conservative groups, notably the Family Research Council, motivated
the opposition to her candidacy. Wagner then sued the dean of the law school.

Winning a lawsuit for an adverse hiring decision is all
but impossible. (The contrast here is to an adverse tenure decision, where the
odds are long but not insurmountable.) The university can always claim that,
whatever the apparent strengths of the plaintiff, there simply was another,
more qualified, candidate for the position, and that privacy/personnel rules
prevent a thorough airing of the matter. Given the inherently subjective nature
of the hiring process, that line of argument almost always carries the day, to
such an extent that few lawsuits alleging bias in the hiring process even make
it to trial.

The Wagner case, however, was unusual, in that she was
able to present an e-mail from the law school’s associate dean–dubbed a
“smoking gun” document by her attorney–in which the associate dean wrote, “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 that, but I’m worried that I may be missing something.”

The law school dean unsurprisingly denied Wagner’s claim
of ideological bias, and instead rested on an assertion that Wagner had flubbed
an interview question by saying she’d refuse to teach a course required for the
position. But the law school’s position was weakened by its inability to
produce any contemporaneous references to this alleged flubbing (the notes from
other faculty seemed to praise, not disparage, Wagner’s performance). And a
videotape of Wagner’s interview that Wagner’s critics promised would prove their
case was conveniently erased.

Continue reading Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

Why Are There Still Preferences for Women?

Using federal statistics, Laura Norén has prepared a series of graphics showing gender distribution among recent recipients of undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D./professional degrees. The charts are visually striking, especially since all three sets of charts show movement in an identical direction. According to Norén, by 2020, women are projected to earn 61 percent of all M.A. degrees and 58 percent of all B.A. degrees—figures far above the percentage of women in the total population. There’s no indication that this trend will reverse anytime soon.

The Norén chart reminded me of figures revealed in CUNY’s recent faculty “diversity” report. As I previously noted at Minding the Campus, the demographic breakdown of CUNY’s faculty (and there’s no reason to believe that CUNY’s figures differ from those at most major public institutions) has shown a similar progression.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of women increased from 42 to 47 percent of the all CUNY faculty. (The total had risen five percent in the previous decade, as well.) Because of the nature of tenure—only a small percentage of faculty positions come open every year—a five percent overall gain in a decade suggests disproportionate figures in hiring. And, indeed, that was the case—while the CUNY diversity report only broke down gender-hiring patterns for a couple of years in the decade, in 2005, the most recent year for which data was available, 55.5 percent of the new hires were women. If current patterns hold, women will be the majority of CUNY faculty in 2020 and be nearing the 60 percent mark by 2030.

There’s nothing necessarily troubling with these patterns in and of themselves. Undoubtedly the growing numbers of female students—and female faculty members—in part reflect the broader opening of higher education toward women that has occurred since the 1960s. And in a nation where women form 50.8 percent of the population, a fair-minded campus admissions and hiring process could easily yield majority-female enrollment or hires.

Yet these statistics do raise profound, and troubling questions about the nature of campus race/ethnicity/gender “diversity” programs. If women are the substantial majority of students at all levels, and increasingly emerge as the majority of faculty members, what possible rationale could exist for programs, of any type, that grant gender-based preferences to women? Regarding the student population, at least, and the faculty population in the near future, women are no longer an underrepresented minority. To my knowledge, however, no university anywhere in the country has modified either its admissions or its personnel policies to take into account statistics such as those graphed by Norén.

Take, for instance, the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies. The policies include such banalities as a requirement that “university publications relating to employment . . . include articles covering the University’s affirmative action programs, including progress reports and employment data on minorities and women. Pictures will include minorities and women.”

But other requirements are more direct. “Special attention will be given,” according the guidelines,“to extending and strengthening efforts to increase the number of women” in faculty positions. “Recruitment practices will focus on creating a feeling[emphasis added] conducive to attracting minorities and women.” And faculty search committees “will utilize methods which are most likely to result in the inclusion of qualified minorities and women in the applicant pool.” Such requirements might once have been needed. But in an academy in which women are moving toward majority status?

Despite all of these policies, moreover, the university preposterously maintains that “Applicants for employment are considered and placed without regard to . . . sex.” And with federal courts clearly in mind, the guidelines add that goals and timetables for hiring more women at Michigan “are not to be construed or used as a quota system.”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about Michigan’s policies, just as there was nothing unusual about CUNY’s faculty hiring data; such patterns are common throughout higher education. And there’s no reason to believe that any statistics will lead to these policies being repealed.

Norén’s chart unintentionally highlights a point made in several of the Fisher briefs: that it’s entirely possible that even outright quotas might lead to a fairer higher education system than our ever-shifting “goals and timetables,” which can easily be shielded from transparency.

Penn Is Cutting Back on White Male Faculty

Columbia is not the only elite university
promoting exclusionary hiring in a big way. The University of Pennsylvania has
just announced
that it will spend $100 million over the next five years “on hiring and
retaining more diverse faculty members.”

George Leef asks a very
good question
: “Why does it cost so much money to simply
screen out all applicants who don’t have the ancestry or other characteristics
that make them diverse'”? In any event $100 million should buy a lot of
“diversity,” whatever the reason and in fact whatever “diversity” is.

Penn President Amy
Gutmann said that data is “not available to track our progress for … types of
diversity [other than racial and gender diversity], but that in no way
diminishes the importance of all types of diversity to Penn’s educational
mission and the vitality of its campus.”

Gutmann also said that “all of those who are
employed by Penn are asked to self-identify their race and gender after they
are hired.” Left unexplained was how Penn proposed to determine the race and
gender of the new “diversity” applicants before they were hired, which
you’d think would be necessary for a hiring program whose purpose is to
increase gender-based and pigmentary 
“diversity.” (See here for an almost humorous example from my experience of a department that did not
avoid buying
a pig in a poke
in attempting to make a “diversity” hire.)

Also left unexplained is how Penn can attempt
to hire and retain more “diverse” faculty members (defined whether wholly or
partly by race, gender, and ethnicity) without running afoul of its own
embarrassingly clear and forthright non-discrimination policies. Its Policy
of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination
,
for example, could hardly be more clear:

Penn is committed to
ensuring that all academic programs (except where age or sex are bona fide
occupational qualifications), including social and recreational programs, and
services are administered without regard to an individual’s protected-class
status. 

Penn is also
committed to ensuring that its personnel and other employment decisions are
made without regard to an individual’s protected-class status….

The blatant conflict between current practice
and stated principle is enough to have led at least one observer (and one I
know quite well) to comment on Preferences,
Principles, and Hypocrisy in Higher Education
.

In her pre-presidential scholarly career Penn
President Amy Gutmann wrote widely about race,
multiculturalism, and affirmative action
. Perhaps in one of
her now frequent
conversations with the press
she can explain how it is
possible for the university to make a special effort to hire and retain “more
diverse faculty members” — especially a $100 million effort — while studiously
treating all prospective and current employees “without regard” to their race,
gender, or ethnicity.

What Columbia Is Doing Is Illegal

Just
a few lawyerly thoughts to add to KC Johnson’s excellent post yesterday on Columbia University setting aside
$30 million to hire female and minority faculty.

It was clear enough all along that Columbia’s
hiring would be racially discriminatory, if not racially exclusive; and, as
Professor Johnson points out, even the pretext that sometimes a (politically
correct) white male might be eligible for hiring has apparently now been
abandoned. And of course this is an unfair, divisive, and corrupt policy.  But it should also be pointed out that it is
ILLEGAL to weigh race,  ethnicity, and
sex in hiring.

You
shouldn’t have to be a math whiz to understand that Title VI does not equal
Title VII.  President Bollinger of course
knows that, in its 2003 Grutter v.
Bollinger
(“That’s me!”) decision, the Supreme Court said that
universities could discriminate – to a limited degree – on the basis of race
and ethnicity in student admissions under, among other federal laws, Title
VI.  And so it is commonly assumed that
it must also be okay for universities to weigh race and ethnicity (and sex) in
the same “diversity”-driven way when they hire faculty.

Wrong. The Grutter
decision said nothing about Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which
covers employment and which has different language and jurisprudence than Title
VI.  The federal courts have never
recognized a “diversity” exception to Title VII, and are unlikely to. In fact,
when that issue was about to be decided by the Supreme Court in the late 1990s,
the civil-rights establishment hastily raised enough money to settle the case. More
on the problems with faculty hiring discrimination here.

And
don’t even think about making the “role model” argument in lieu of
the “diversity” argument.  When
you read about a university’s efforts to diversify its faculty, a school
official will frequently assert that these efforts are important because
minority or female students  need “role
models” (relatedly, it is often suggested that the faculty  should reflect the student body or even the
community’s general 
population).  This is a dubious argument as a policy
matter, but what is amazing is that the argument continues to be made even
though the
Supreme Court rejected it, as
legal matter, over
twenty-five years
ago
. 

N.B.  The Supreme Court has, alas, also
(mis)interpreted Title VII to be a less-than-categorical ban on discrimination,
but the politically correct exceptions it has carved out (for “manifest
imbalances” in 
“traditionally
segregated job categories”) do not apply, and are not cited by Columbia,
here.

Thirty Million for Race and Gender Hires at Columbia

In 2005, amidst the Harvard faculty’s ultimately successful effort to
purge President Larry Summers, Columbia president Lee Bollinger announced that
his university would launch its own “diversity” hiring initiative. Bollinger
committed $15 million to “add between 15 and 20
outstanding women and minority scholars to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
over the next three to five years” and to “enhance efforts underway to change
the process and culture surrounding faculty searches, recruitment, hiring,
retention and promotion.”

The effort was coordinated by Columbia’s first
diversity vice provost, Jean Howard, who had managed to distinguish herself as
on the ideological fringe even among Columbia’s arts and sciences faculty. (A
Shakespeare scholar committed to the race/class/gender trinity, Howard’s
co-authored or co-edited books include Engendering a Nation: A Feminist
Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories
 and Marxist Shakespeares.)
Shortly before Bollinger promoted her to become the school’s diversity czar,
Howard had been in the news for
signing a petition calling
on Columbia “(1) to use its influence–political and financial–to encourage the
United States government to suspend its military aid and arms sales to Israel,
and (2) to divest from all companies that manufacture arms and other military
hardware sold to Israel, as well from companies that sell such arms and
military hardware to Israel.” Bollinger never explained why a figure who
exercised such grotesque misjudgment by signing the boycott petition was
appropriate to coordinate a major hiring initiative.

Continue reading Thirty Million for Race and Gender Hires at Columbia

How to Save Tenure–Cut It Way Back

lipsman tenure.jpg

Professors with tenure have lifetime appointments that can only be revoked after some egregious transgression, summarized by such formal labels as moral turpitude, gross negligence or dereliction of duty. In effect, the only tenured professors who get the sack are those who have robbed a bank, raped a co-ed or pistol-whipped a colleague.

Why would a university agree to make an appointment that so severely restricts its ability to terminate an underperforming or incompetent employee?  We all know the historic reason: faculty need to be free to pursue controversial theories, novel ideas and unexplored terrain. Then why is the tenure system under attack? Here are some reasons:

Continue reading How to Save Tenure–Cut It Way Back

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

A Funny Book about Worthless Degrees

“Here are some [college] degrees that cost you roughly $30,000 in tuition, their much cheaper replacements, and the savings you’d realize:

                  Degree                                  Replacement                                        Savings

                  Foreign Languages                 Language
Software                               $29,721

                  Philosophy                             Read
Socrates                                    $29,980

                  Women’s Studies                   Watch
Daytime TV                               $30,000

                  Journalism                             Start
a blog                                          $30,000

…Since none of these degrees help increase your employability, you might as well avoid these majors and do it on your own.”

The above is an excerpt from one of the funnier paragraphs
in “Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the
Right Major” (Paric Publications), Aaron Clarey’s hilarious primer
for college students who would like to work as something other than nannies and
theater interns after graduation.

Continue reading A Funny Book about Worthless Degrees

The Outrage of the Adjuncts

higher-ed-hand.jpgEver heard of the New Faculty Majority? That’s a euphemism of sorts, but an accurate one, for adjuncts and other non-tenure-track teachers who now account for 70 percent of all college instructors. The group is three years old and met for a premiere “summit” in Washington, DC. on January 28th in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

From the tenor of most of the summit’s presentations, the group seems to have decided that the villain behind their failure to obtain respectable academic jobs is capitalism. Neo-Marxist phrases filled the air: “wage theft,” “neoliberal agenda,” “corporate America,” “under assault from the right,” “privatization of the production of knowledge,” and “marketization of the university.” I thought: if I had a dollar for each such phrase, I could endow a tenured chair for myself in the Ivy League, plus another chair with a dollar for every Dickensian plaint about minimum-wage-paid non-tenured instructors going on welfare, living out of their vans, limping to their classes with holes in their shoes, and committing suicide.

Still, this self-described academic proletariat had a point–although it was a point that took me a while to ford my way through the “Grapes of Wrath” logorrhea to see. (It helped that the NFM’s sole Republican board member, Matthew Williams, was able to advocate for the non-tenured without invoking Karl Marx, the Occupy movement, or anti-globalization guru Naomi Klein.)

Dreaming of a Professor, but Getting an Adjunct

The point–and it is a powerful one–was this: Undergraduate students, their parents, and the taxpayers who subsidize public education spend large sums of money on what they imagine to be a high-quality academic experience for young people. They imagine the distinguished tenured professors whose achievements grace the university’s website forming intimate and memorable mentoring relationships with their undergraduate students via small classes and one-on-one discussions. Instead, what those students often get, at least for the first two years and sometimes for all four, are behemoth classes taught, sometimes indifferently, by poorly paid, minimally supervised, time-harassed, and even burned-out “contingent” faculty whose connections with university life are so tenuous that students complain they never see their teachers outside of the classroom.

At community colleges, for example, only 19 percent of faculty are on the tenure track; the rest are drop-ins. One of the most crucial college courses, freshman composition, designed to prepare students to hone research skills and present cogent scholarly arguments, is on nearly every campus the sole domain of non-tenured part-timers making a couple thousand dollars a class–if they’re lucky. Tenured professors typically eschew freshman comp, stay away from large lecture courses unless they can buffer themselves with armies of graduate assistants, and in general try to teach as little as they can get away with, preferably in small graduate seminars. Universities prefer to spend their money on campus amenities and armies of administrators rather than on faculty salaries, particularly at the lower level. So students can essentially be cheated out of critical years of education that they, their parents, or state taxpayers are paying large sums for.

“No one is monitoring what’s happening in the classrooms,” said Williams, who holds a Master’s in Public Administration and who taught communications part time for three years at the University of Akron. “I was never evaluated. My syllabus was never read by anyone except my students.”

As the NFM presenters were eager to point out, the vast majority of non-tenured instructors, despite the doctoral degrees that most of them hold, are part-time “adjuncts” working for as little as $1,400 per three-credit-hour course taught (do the math and you’ll see that even if they manage to cram five classes per semester into their schedules–an unusually high teaching load for an adjunct–$14,000 a year doesn’t buy a lot of groceries). On top of their wretched pay, adjuncts lack the most rudimentary job security, because most are hired on an as-needed basis a few days before the semester begins. And on top of that, because college administrators want to keep adjunct faculty at arm’s length as part-timers–and thus get out of paying for their health insurance and other full-time employee benefits–few institutions permit adjuncts to teach more than two classes per semester. In order to earn something resembling a living wage, many adjuncts cobble together two or three teaching gigs on multiple campuses and spend much of their working day driving from part-time job to part-time job in the kind of car that you can afford when your income is $14,000 a year. Few campuses provide offices for adjunct faculty–or even parking spaces, computer access, or cubbies for storing their books. Adjuncts almost never get invited to departmental social events. Indeed, it’s common for the tenure-track professors in a given department not even to know the adjuncts’ names. As Betsy Smith, who teaches English as a second language part time at Cape Cod Community College, put it: “It’s matter of respect. They never refer to me as ‘my colleague.'”

Still, as I sat through the NFM summit in an audience of about a hundred of the angry untenured, I couldn’t help thinking: Isn’t all this misery self-inflicted? No one is holding a gun to the heads of these underemployed folks with their hyper-developed brains, strings of advanced degrees, and 20-year-old automobiles. Colleges pay adjuncts $1,400 a class (on the wealthier campuses the rate is more like $3,500 or $4,000 a class, still way under the average $55,000 annual starting salary for a brand-new assistant professor on the tenure track teaching three classes a semester)…because they can. In today’s academic market, at least in the humanities, there are at least two, and sometimes four holders of brand-new doctorates for every tenure-track opening. So there seems to be no end to the line of the over-educated who are willing to endure any indignity in order to keep a toehold in college teaching, even of the most marginal kind. “I put 10 years of my life into getting my Ph.D., and I don’t want to give it up” was a response I heard more than once when I asked several adjuncts at the summit why they didn’t just stop adjuncting and do something that would afford them a decent lifestyle.

Many of the summit panels consisted essentially of consciousness-raising, 1960s style. Clare Goldstene, a lecturer in the history department at American University, complained that lack of tenure made leftist faculty timid about expressing their views. “It dims the potent voice of progressive exchange,” she said. Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, a Washington-based advocacy group for “communities of color,” declared that there was a right-wing “effort afoot to roll back the 20th century: the New Deal, civil rights, voting rights, welcoming to immigrants.” He urged non-tenured instructors to form coalitions with day laborers, domestic workers, “demonized” public-school teachers’ unions, and a bunch of foreign students who entered the U.S. last summer on work-study visas and found themselves shuttled off by a labor contractor into night-shift work packing chocolate for a Hershey business partner. “Those were slave-like conditions, not unlike the conditions you work under,” Bhargava told the adjuncts.

Perhaps the most incendiary of all was Joe Berry, author of “Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education” and also the American Association of University Professors representative at Rutgers (the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association are all competing among the non-tenured for union members). “This is a rich country, there’s plenty of money,” Berry declared. “It’s just in the wrong pockets.” In order to pay adjuncts better, Berry suggested a variety of redistributive measures at the federal level: a more progressive tax structure, cutbacks on military spending, and curtailing America’s “barbarous rate of incarceration.” Debra Leigh Scott, an adjunct professor in English at Temple University and the Community College of Philadelphia, narrated lugubrious tales of adjuncts she knew who signed up for food stamps, sold their eggs, reused their teabags because they had to buy cat food that week, and attended faculty dinners at restaurants where they couldn’t afford the wine. One adjunct shot his wife, set fire to their house, and then shot himself because the two had lost their jobs, their house was in foreclosure, and his wife had cancer. (Scott’s blog, The Homeless Adjunct, contains many more such woeful stories.) “My daughter is a corporate attorney because she doesn’t want to live on the edge of poverty the way I do,” Scott said.

‘They Don’t Care about Their Students’

Scott’s daughter struck me as having the right idea. So did Stanley Katz, director of Princeton’s Center for Arts and Cultural policy Studies. Katz, who received his doctorate from Princeton in 1961 and has spent his entire career teaching at elite universities, including Princeton, warned the assembled non-tenured that it was “naïve” for them to think, for example, that they could ever be accepted as equals by the research-focused–and status-obsessed–tenured professors who teach at their institutions. (One of the AAUP’s goals is for adjuncts to have access to the tenure track based upon their teaching records.) “Most of my colleagues care only about research. Why should they care about you? They don’t care about their own students.”

Another reality check came from Valerie Hardcastle, dean of arts and sciences at the University of Cincinnati, a drop-in from the university administrators’ meeting. “There’s an 850-pound gorilla in this room that’s never been discussed and never mentioned: the overproduction of Ph.D.’s. I say: You’re a smart person with a Ph.D.–why are you doing this to yourself? I don’t hire adjunct faculty in math because they won’t work under those conditions. And I don’t hire adjunct faculty in Spanish because they won’t work under those conditions. But we have a plethora of English Ph.D.’s–and every year the English department comes to me and wants to expand the Ph.D. program.

Yes, it might have been provocative for the NFM summit to have focused, not on the immiseration of adjunct faculty, but on other factors: the faculty vanity, the desire to teach small classes of eager graduate students rather than large classes of disengaged undergrads, and the greed for cheap labor that has led English and departments to persist in operating doctoral programs whose chief yield is the impoverished and radicalized lifelong adjuncts. And while my advice to would-be adjunct professors is still “Just say no,” I emerged with a better understanding of why their perhaps futile quest for better working conditions has some merit: By systematically underpaying and mistreating the non-tenured faculty who bear the burden of basic education, colleges are systematically cheating their own students. As Maria Maisto, president of the NFM, told me in an interview after the conference, “It’s not just a market issue. The same entities control the supply and the demand.”

The Perils of Law Schools and Their Rankings

law school professor.jpg

It may be inevitable: “gainful employment” rules for law schools. “Gainful employment” is a term of art coined in the wake of the U.S. Education Department’s regulations last June governing for-profit colleges and similar vocational institutions from which many students emerge with student-loan debt and few prospects for working at jobs they were trained for. It now turns out that America’s law schools have a few things in common with the proprietary sector: Both feature sky-high tuition relative to students’ ability to pay without taking on substantial debt, and many former students of both kinds of institutions have trouble earning enough money to pay back the loans made or guaranteed by the federal government that taxpayers must eventually cover.

The Education Department now plans to limit or deny federal grants and loans to students at for-profit schools that cannot demonstrate that relatively large percentages of their former students are paying off their student debt in timely fashion and in amounts that don’t exceed certain set percentages of their income. That’s what “gainful employment” means. This past fall two U.S. U.S. senators, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), sent a letter to Kathleen Tighe, the Education Department’s inspector general, that appeared to be a first step in subjecting law schools to similar controls. The senators asked the department to provide “transparency” information (presumably to be obtained from the law schools themselves) regarding tuition costs, bar passage rates, job placement rates (including a breakdown as to whether the jobs are full-time or part-time and whether they require a law degree), and the amount of federal and private education-loan debt students carry on graduation. The next step could well be a shutoff of the federal-aid spigot to law schools–the same sanction that for-profit schools face–if substantial portions of graduates aren’t earning enough to pay back their law-school loans.

Federal regulation of law schools sounds fairly drastic–but so is the current crisis in legal education. Here are some hard facts: Law-school tuition has skyrocketed over the past two decades. During the 1980s the average annual tuition at a private law school was $13,500. Now it tops $40,000. Law-school debt has also risen quickly. Students at private law schools currently borrow an average of $92,000 to finance their three years of legal education, while students at public law schools borrow an average of $59,000. Those amounts dwarf the average $14,000 that students at career colleges borrow to pay for two-year associate degrees. Meanwhile, because of the recession and the growing practice of outsourcing routine legal work to temporary employees, many of them abroad, the number of full-time U.S. legal jobs has declined by 15,000, according to a Northwestern University survey. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. law schools–and law-school graduates–is burgeoning. The American Bar Association (ABA) accredits 200 law schools, and about 20 more brand-new schools are in the ABA’s accreditation pipeline. Altogether the law schools churn out about 45,000 graduates a year, all competing for only 30,000 new job openings annually. That’s 1.5 fledgling attorneys for every available job that actually requires them to use their degree.

Furthermore–and this is what has led to all the cries for “transparency”–law schools have been accused of fudging their post-graduate employment numbers so as to game the U.S. News & World Report rankings. While the ABA operates as law schools’ official accreditor, U.S. News, with its rankings of the schools and its division of them into four “tiers” presumably based on their relative quality, is their unofficial accreditor. Because law schools, along with the universities to which they are attached crave their students’ tuition dollars (law schools, where expensive labs are nonexistent and large lecture courses are the rule, tend to be cash cows for their host campuses), the schools scramble to hoist themselves onto U.S. News’s coveted first and second tiers. One way to do this is to boast a high percentage in this crucial category that counts for one-seventh of the U.S. News ranking: “graduates known to be employed within nine months after graduation.”

Fudging the Facts

The “known” in the phrase “known to be employed” is the operative word. Law schools send their recent graduates surveys using questions devised by the ABA and the National Association for Law Placement. The graduates then self-report their employment, if any, and the school calculates the percentage of those who responded who say they have jobs and submits it to U.S. News. Graduates who fail to respond to the survey or who can’t be located don’t count. Furthermore, any kind of job counts as “employment,” even a job that requires no legal training. In a Jan. 8 story for the New York Times, reporter David Segal wrote: “Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too.”

Even top-rated law schools seem to engage in this sort of fudging. Segal reported that Georgetown University’s law school, safely in the top tier with a No. 14 ranking, last year sent an e-mail to its graduates who were “still seeking employment” offering them $20-and-hour temporary jobs in the admissions office for the six weeks encompassing Feb. 15, the cut-off date under U.S. News’s nine-month rule. (Georgetown maintained that it did not count those graduates as “employed” for purposes of the survey.) As might be easily predicted from these loosey-goosey controls on survey accuracy, even the lowest-tiered law schools report astonishingly high levels of employment for their graduates. In 1997, the first year that U.S. News adopted the nine-month test, the average employment rate 84 percent, Segal reported. Last year that number had jumped to 93 percent, with some schools reporting 99 percent and 100 percent employment.

Furthermore, many law schools report starting salaries for their graduates that seem unrealistically high, given the current dismal market. In a July 16, 2011 story for the New York Times Segal noted that New York Law School (NYLS), a third-tier institution in lower Manhattan with a U.S. News ranking of No. 134, told the magazine that the median annual salary nine months after its Class of 2009 graduated was $160,000–the same figure cited by Yale and Harvard, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for that year. Only the largest and most prestigious law firms pay three-figure salaries to brand-new lawyers, and they hire most of them from top-tier, not third-tier law schools. In an interview with Segal, then-NYLS Dean Richard Matasar stood by the figure but pointed out that on its website the school explicitly points out that most of its graduates find jobs at smaller firms that pay between $35,000 and $75,000 a year. Still, NYLS conceded that only 26 percent of the 300 of its graduates who reported being employed included information about their salaries. So even the $35,000-$75,000 that NYLS cites are less than reliable numbers. Meanwhile NYLS charges around $48,000 a year in tuition, more than Harvard.

Playing the Blame Game

Since it’s estimated that a law graduate needs to earn $65,000 at a bare minimum in order to pay down a student-loan debt in the $100,000 range, there’s quite a bit of anger among unemployed and under-employed young lawyers burdened with staggering loans that, like other federal student loans, can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Class-action lawsuits alleging fraud and misrepresentation have been filed by graduates of NYLS and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, based in Lansing, Michigan. Until recently Cooley was on the fourth and bottom tier of the U.S. News rankings, but it now has no ranking at all because of failure to submit sufficient information. (Cooley has at least the virtue of being relatively cheap for a private institution, with tuition for full-time students at around $30,000 a year.) The blog Above the Law reports that the lawyers who launched the NYLS and Cooley suits plan to sue fifteen more law schools that have reported post-graduate employment rates ranging from 88 percent to 100 percent–rates that the lawyers say amount to misrepresentation. Some of the schools are attached to well-respected universities such as Hofstra and Villanova. The average debt load for the 2009 graduates of those schools is $108,829. Another currently unranked but formerly fourth-tier law school, Thomas Jefferson in San Diego, became the subject of a class-action suit for fraud and false advertising filed by 2008 graduate Anna Alaburda last May. Thomas Jefferson reported for U.S. News’s 2011 evaluations that 92.1 percent of its graduates were employed nine months after obtaining their degrees.

If the former law students blame the law schools for allegedly misleading them into mortgaging their futures for nonexistent cushy jobs, the law schools blame U.S. News and the outsize importance that its readers–potential students and potential donors–place upon the rankings, which can mean millions of dollars in gained or lost revenue. Thomas Jefferson, for example, maintains that it has meticulously abided by U.S. News’s reporting guidelines, even though 25 percent of its graduates could not be located in typical surveys. In a July 18 demurrer–a legal document arguing that Alaburda failed to state a case–lawyers for Thomas Jefferson pointed out that U.S. News had also published the school’s honestly reported bar-passage rates, which during the years that Alaburda applied to and attended the school were less than 50 percent (they have substantially increased since then). Any college graduate could do the math and see that numerous Thomas Jefferson alums weren’t practicing law right after graduation during those years, the school’s lawyers argued. Alaburda “pleads that she relied exclusively or primarily on the data in a summary chart published in a popular magazine, misunderstood it, made no further inquiries, and then spent tens of thousands of dollars on her legal education,” they wrote.

U.S. News in turn blames the ABA. In an interview with Segal, Robert Morse, who oversees the magazine’s law school rankings, conceded that his editors could demand better data from the schools. “But we’d have to create a whole new definition of ’employed,’ and it would be awkward if U.S. News imposed that definition by itself. It would be preferable if the ABA took a leadership role in this.” The ABA, for its part, blames law-school applicants themselves, who have known or should have known that the U.S. legal market has been depressed ever since the recession began in 2007–but decided to try to beat the odds anyway and load themselves with debt during the process. ABA president William Robinson, in a Jan. 4 interview with the Chicago Tribune, said, “It’s inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago….We’re not talking about kids making these decisions.”

Applicants and Accreditation

Robinson is certainly correct in one respect: There has been no shortage of applicants to law schools during the current recession–although the Law School Admissions Council did report a modest but significant drop-off in law-school applications during 2011. Only 78,900 people applied to ABA-accredited law schools this past year, in contrast to 87,900 in 2010. Perhaps some college students are finally getting the word that a legal career is not a sure thing. But the push is on for some private or public regulatory body to tamp down on the glut of graduates emerging every year from law schools with their sky-high debt and dismal employment prospects. The ABA has been urged to refuse to accredit any more law schools in the future–a step that the ABA, citing antitrust concerns, declines to take. That leaves the federal government. It’s clear that the transparency data sought by Boxer and Coburn could be only the prelude to some sort of regulatory regimen to be imposed by the Education Department, whether it’s cigarette pack-style warnings or gainful-employment rules that would deny federal student loans to schools with poor job-placement histories.

During the first week in January the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) held its annual meeting in Washington. The oversupply of jobless and debt-ridden fledgling lawyers was not on the AALS’s official agenda, but at a reception I attended for alumni of my own law school, the University of Southern California, the talk was of little else. I chatted with USC’s dean, Robert K. Rasmussen, about the problem. Rasmussen insisted that graduates of USC, a top-tier school (it’s No. 18 in the U.S. News rankings), have not been affected by the shrinking legal market. “Over 90 percent of our graduates get jobs within nine months after graduation–and they’re legal jobs,” he said. “Our graduates have a loan-default rate of close to zero. But it’s clear that some of those third- and fourth-tier schools are going to have to shut down.”

The question is: Who is going to do the shutting? And will law schools go the way of the for-profit colleges, under a level of federal scrutiny and suspicion that they have never known before?

Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that an ABA committee has recommended that law schools be required to report detailed information about their graduates’ salaries to applicants and the public as a condition of accreditation. The salary lists would include breakdowns for 15 different categories of employment (such as large law firms, public-interest firms, and so forth), and three different percentiles of salary figures. The new recommendations will go before the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in March.


Look Who’s Endorsing a Race-Based View of Knowledge

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The campus diversity warriors are once again pounding at the gates. This time the pounding comes from on high–the American Political Science Association (APSA) itself. It is a serious clamor: a 76 page report called Political Science in the 21st Century authored by fourteen professors, many from elite research-oriented schools such as Berkeley and UCLA. The report received National Science Foundation money plus ample professional funding.

It is a curious document since nearly every university, top to bottom, has for decades sought diversity, and has even been willing to over-pay and compromise traditional academic standards. The Task Force includes Diane Pinderhuges, past president of the APSA and my former colleague (and friend) for 20-plus years. The two of us regularly sat in the same room discussing how our department could be more inclusive and heard all the administration entreatments to hire yet more blacks and Hispanics.

The obvious question, then, is why yet one more plea is necessary, given that scores of university bureaucrats are already striving to admit more minority graduate students and hire more black and Hispanic professors, and once hired, help them get tenure. Moreover, since many those currently admitted to graduate school or hired are barely qualified, the additional recruits will bring even more problems (many of these potential recruits will also have ample better-paying private sector opportunities). What can possibly necessitate yet more inclusionary vigor? Have these fourteen academics discovered a better solution to a seemingly intractable problem?

Nothing in the real world justifies the report, but that said, Political Science in the 21st Century is still worth scrutinizing for informing us about the latest wrinkle in what might be called, “The Life of the Diversity Mind.” Most important, for those uncomfortable with incessant demands for inclusion uber alles, the report provides advance warning in what seems to be a long war of attrition.

Why should any department double or even triple its efforts to hire more blacks and Hispanics when demand already outstrips supply? Might the reason be that newly emerging problems requiring expertise are currently in short supply, for example, hiring Middle Eastern experts in the wake of 9/11? The report’s justification is remarkably vacuous: demography is altering the political landscape, and the profession must adjust. In their words, “Is political science positioned to embrace and incorporate the changing demographics, increasing multicultural diversity, and ever-growing disparities in the concentration of wealth present in many nation-states? Can political science do so within its research, teaching, and professional development.”  A bit further on, “Task Force assessed the practice of political science to determine whether it is living up to its full potential as a scholarly discipline to enrich the discourse, broaden the understanding, and model the behavior necessary to build strong nation-states in a rapidly changing world where population shifts and related issues regarding race, ethnicity, immigration, and equal opportunity structure some of the most significant conflicts affecting politics and policymaking.”

Professional sounding verbiage aside, this is an unmitigated race-based view of knowledge. In effect, the world is increasingly dominated by people of color, and only people of color can understand the transformation. Let there be no misunderstanding, whites are inherently unable to grapple with this altered new world order, the scholarly equivalent of saying that since whites lack “soul” they cannot relate to Hip Hop or Rap. Again, in their own words, “Moreover, who does political science does not currently include scholars with backgrounds from the full range of positionalities (sic) including race, class, gender, and sexual orientation that are often the most marginalized in societies.” So forget about whites becoming experts on black politics as home-grown Americans once mastered Soviet politics. Race may be socially constructed but not when it comes to employment. Whites are disqualified since they lack the “positionalities.”

To appreciate the absurdity of this view, imagine if black or Latino/a political scientists were told that they could not, say, study Swedish politics since only Nordic types could relate to fellow Norsepeople? Might a single homosexual experience qualify one to study gay politics? We are not being sarcastic–this is intellectual biology-based apartheid.

It gets worse. Not only are whites, males and heterosexuals unqualified to understand blacks, women and gays, but not even science can overcome this limitation. Yet again, in their own words, “The tendency to accept its approaches as ‘objective’ science, for example, tend to inhibit the development of a more critical debate about the potential phenomenological bases of much empirical social science.” In the search for truth the researcher’s genes (or for gays, just preference) trump the scientific method. Truth is a matter of authenticity, something that comes with certain chromosomes and enzymes, not something  uncovered by experiments and statistical analysis. To paraphrase Descartes, “I know because of who I am.”

But, obstacles arise in today’s intellectual climate–top graduate schools demand rigorous training in the scientific approach, including statistics, and these requirements can be barriers to black and Hispanic students despite their otherwise vital inborn abilities. The report’s solution is to expand the definition of “training” to include approaches seldom found in research-oriented Ph.D. programs. “Methodological training must also be much more inclusive of critical analytical approaches and more self-reflective of potential biases in the use of accepted methodological categories.” In practice this new training will resemble Critical Race Theory–the endless search and destroy missions to expose unearned “white privilege” everywhere. Now while white graduate students master Intermediate Statistics, students from historically disadvantaged groups pass the methodology requirement by learning about the inherent racism of the SAT.

And what happens when the freshly minted faculty are hired and must compete with “privileged” professors skilled in the latest scientific skills? This is especially troublesome since top journals use anonymous reviews and accepting race/ethnic screeds will inevitably lower the journal’s prestige. Again, no problem: “Departments should also be more inclusive of the types of journals valued in the assessment of scholarly productivity.” And these alternative approaches should also be amply funded–“Faculties must receive substantial technical, institutional, and departmental support if alternative strategies are to be widely developed, implemented, and assessed.” As an academic lifer, let me translate: the MasterCard approach to research funding–you cannot be turned down.

Let me be blunt. More than access is involved here. The report is an attack on the very essence of the modern university, at least those precincts committed to the pursuit of objective scientific truth. These academics are putting jobs for fellow tribe members ahead of the search for truth. The Rev. Al Sharpton in a tweed sport coat. Perhaps a decade-long frustration of receiving what appears to be only crumbs from the table has instilled a smoldering tribe-based hatred for those who have succeeded in ways that these self-defined outsiders do not grasp. They want to replace “The data show….” with “I feel this to be the truth and don’t contradict me since my genes tell me that….”

That the American Political Science Association legitimizes this profoundly anti-scientific and racialist (“white knowledge, black knowledge”) view, and the National Science Foundation funds it, is remarkable. Alas, this is not one more crackpot idea destined to fade once the adults catch wind of it. Those committed to biology diversity hardly need much encouragement. In fact, almost immediately after the report’s release, Wheelock College, in Boston, Mass., announced a new Political Science major based on the report to put “the voices, experiences, and struggles of marginalized groups at the center of scholarly inquiry.”  According to the Chair of the Political Science Department,  “For us, the major will take the issues they say are ignored — race, inequality, gender, marginalization — and make them front and center.”

Needless to say, Wheelock will not set the standard for Yale or Harvard. Traditional political science will be safe at top schools. But, far more likely will be the spread of this new approach to third- and fourth-tier schools, schools that often attract large numbers of black and Hispanic students. Now, rather than learn traditional political science, even a bit of the scientific method, they will just have their victimhood certified and legitimized. Replacing “How a bill becomes a law” will be, “How white-dominated institution pass laws to sustain institutional racism and inequality.” Yet one more time, the substitution of ideological claptrap will further debilitate youngsters who need real knowledge, not just empty slogans.

What’s Wrong with the Law Schools

By Frank J. Macchiarola and Michael C.
Macchiarola

Lady Justice.jpgAs law schools have come under fire
on many fronts, the growing cost of tuition has drawn the most attention.  This
is not surprising, given the shrinking job market for lawyers and tuition
increases that have far outpaced the general cost of living for more than two
decades.  Put directly, one of us, a pre-law advisor (Frank), tells
students that if they can’t afford the cost of a legal education, without
loans, they should think about other careers.  This is generally a painful
conversation, but we strongly believe it is an honest one, particularly given
the lower-middle-class economic status of most of our students.  Debt is
choking too many recent law graduates, bringing
anger and unhappiness into their lives.  Further, the monopolistic
structure surrounding access to the legal profession, largely a result of the ABA’s law school approval
process, denies many the chance to become lawyers.  Within the last week, another law school was denied
provisional accreditation, for reasons unspecified publicly, but probably due
to the failure to meet standards that would have required greater financial
investment (and hence higher tuition) in the enterprise.

Continue reading What’s Wrong with the Law Schools

Who Wants to Be Evaluated by Students?

Student Evaluations.jpgMany in the academy, whether on the left or right, will agree that in the late 1960s, a fundamental change took place in the balance between student demands and faculty authority.  At about the same moment when many schools began eliminating comprehensive examinations to assess the competence of students in their major subjects, these same schools introduced what has become known as teaching evaluations. These evaluations have become the staple of administrations everywhere.  They are used to decide tenure and promotion decisions, and in some cases they are mandatory (e.g., a student cannot know her final grade for a course until she fills out an evaluation, provided conveniently online).  Such enforced democratic participation is pursued with the kind of determination once attributed to the enforcement practices of grade-school teachers.

It seems nearly impossible to imagine that once-upon-a-time, such institutions as Columbia University struggled over whether to promote to tenure someone whose politics were considered “radical”. The origins of the American Association of University Professors, founded in 1915, devoted itself for forty years to the protection of dissent and academic freedom. Students played no more than a whispering role in such disputes.

Continue reading Who Wants to Be Evaluated by Students?

The Revenge of the Unemployed Graduates

arab-revolution.jpgHere’s the major question about the famous suicide by fire of the young Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi: why did it trigger so much upheaval in so many Arab lands?

Widespread poverty, political corruption, and ruthless oppression are an old story in Arab countries.  Why should this suicide have produced so many furious young adults risking their lives to defy security police and soldiers? There’s a plausible explanation that much of the media have missed: the frustrated expectations of young high school and university graduates.  A great many young graduates had struggled to earn degrees, occasionally in demanding curricula like engineering or information technology. Government and university officials had routinely made speeches assuring them that education would result in well-paid jobs in private companies or in the bloated bureaucracies of their governments.  Instead, many found themselves unemployed or forced to take menial jobs.  Universities had turned into unemployment factories.  To get the few good jobs, outstanding academic qualifications were of some help but not enough.  Graduates had to be lucky and also pay bribes or have family connections.

Continue reading The Revenge of the Unemployed Graduates

A Department Of Diversity at Berkeley

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

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

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

Continue reading A Department Of Diversity at Berkeley

A Foolish Move to Hobble For-Profit Colleges

University-of-Phoenix-billboard-300x200.jpgCurbing for-profit colleges has been a goal of the Obama administration’s department of education. The plan was to erect regulatory hurdles to a very profitable product: online courses. In pursuit of that plan, the department issued a regulation last October requiring institutions offering Internet classes to seek permission from every state in which they enroll so much as a single student. But the department failed to take one crucial fact into account: This is the 21st century, and Web-based courses aren’t just a dodge employed by educational hustlers to lure masses of gullible students into cheap, shoddy programs of the kind that used to be advertised on matchbooks.

From the Ivy League on down, hundreds of respectable non-profit colleges, public and private, offer online classes and even online certificates or degrees. It is the smaller and more budget-pinched of those institutions that are feeling the brunt of the education department’s new rule: liberal-arts schools with limited administration personnel and cash-strapped state universities and community colleges. Some of those, citing the high costs of complying with 50 different sets of state licensing criteria plus stiff licensing fees in some states, already have plans to stop accepting online students living in the more expensive jurisdictions, even though the rule isn’t scheduled to be enforced until 2014.

Continue reading A Foolish Move to Hobble For-Profit Colleges

Less Academics, More Narcissism

Reprinted from City Journal. 

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

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

Continue reading Less Academics, More Narcissism

Gainful Employment: A Detriment to Competition

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Today the Obama Administration unveiled its long-anticipated and highly controversial final gainful employment (GE) regulation  that ties program eligibility for federal student aid to new metrics that are based on student loan repayment rates. Under the new GE rule, a vocational program can qualify as leading to gainful employment and remain eligible for federal aid if one of three metrics is met:

1.     At least 35% of former students are repaying their loans;

2.     The estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30% of discretionary income;

3.     The estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12% of total earnings.

The rule requires that a program fail to meet one of the three metric three times in a four year period before becoming ineligible for federal student aid, with 2015 being the first year that a program can lose eligibility. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the metrics as a “perfectly reasonable bar…that every for-profit program should be able to reach. We’re also giving poor performing for-profit programs every chance to improve. But if you get three strikes in four years, you’re out.”

Continue reading Gainful Employment: A Detriment to Competition

Why College Still Matters

A growing chorus of critics says a college education is finished as the ticket to economic success and a middle-class life.

The economy of the future, these critics suggest, actually requires far fewer college-educated citizens, because the U.S. economy is generating tens of thousands of jobs that require little or no higher education. 

In essence, the critics of American higher education policy are challenging the long-standing belief that all U.S. citizens should have a decent chance to pursue a college degree, regardless of what kind of neighborhood they grow up in, what kind of schools are available to them, or whether their parents have university degrees.

Continue reading Why College Still Matters

Do We Need More Black Philosophers And Anthropologists
(And Fewer Black Scientists)?

According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, leaders of the American Philosophical Association and the American Anthropological Association are worried about cuts in their fields at Howard University because “such moves at the historically black institution would harm attempts to bring black scholars into their disciplines.”
In a letter to Howard president Sidney Ribeau, Peter J. Markie, chair of the APA’s Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession, declared ponderously that “[t]he future of Philosophy depends on the development of minority scholars [and] the expansion of philosophical research into new or long-neglected areas of inquiry….”
In a separate letter to president Ribeau, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher at Princeton and Chair of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association, was also almost exclusively concerned with race, beginning at some length with his own apparently race-based qualifications to discuss race:

Continue reading Do We Need More Black Philosophers And Anthropologists
(And Fewer Black Scientists)?

Why the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative Was Needed

This week Arizonans overwhelmingly enacted the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, which bans state and local discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in contracting, employment, and education – including racial preferences in university admissions. Opponents of such initiatives frequently claim that they are a solution in search of a problem, that the presence of preferential treatment is greatly exaggerated, that quotas are already illegal, and so forth.
Not so.
Admissions data obtained a couple of years ago from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University law schools show that race and ethnicity play a huge role in determining who gets in.
Studies based on that data and released by the Center for Equal Opportunity document evidence of severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in admissions there. At both schools, African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latinos are admitted with significantly lower undergraduate grade-point averages and LSAT scores than whites and, again to a lesser extent, Asians.

Continue reading Why the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative Was Needed

Trower’s Tenure Troubles

The recent flurry of debate about tenure’s value has featured a revival of sorts for Harvard Education School professor Cathy Trower. The New York Times‘ “Room for Debate” section included a contribution from Trower, in which she proposed a “constitutional convention” selected through a kind of quota system—“selected to mirror the diversity the academy presumably desires”—to redefine tenure. Writing in Slate, Christopher Beam glowingly quoted Trower arguing that “the current system may actually be scaring talented young people away from academia. ‘This one-size-fits-all, rigid six-year up-and-out tenure system isn’t working well,’ she says . . . Don’t abolish tenure altogether, says Trower. Just rework it. Create a tenure track that explicitly rewards teaching. Give interdisciplinary centers the authority to produce tenured professors. Allow for breaks in the tenure track if a professor needs to take time off. Offer the option of part-time tenure, a lower-cost alternative for professors who want to hold other jobs. In other words, make tenure flexible rather than a monolithic, in-or-out club.” Beam cited Evergreen State College, a far-left, AAC&U-oriented institution (best-known nationally as the institution that produced the late anti-Israel “activist” Rachel Corrie), as the model for his and Trower’s vision.
I first encountered Trower in 2003, when Brooklyn College’s then-provost, Roberta (“teaching is a political act”) Matthews invited her to address all of the college’s 31 departmental personnel committees. The event was an eye-opener. Among other things, Trower proclaimed that “merit is socially constructed by a dominant coalition,” and “even if we don’t think we are biased, there’s a good chance that we are”; she suggested that opponents of affirmative action will ignore all evidence contrary to their beliefs and just gather all evidence to support their view. As part of her call for new personnel standards, she recommended white male job candidates demonstrate a commitment to “furthering diversity on campus” before being hired; redefining expectations for scholarly excellence to demand projects that achieved “improvement of society as well as advancement of knowledge”; and reorienting tenure standards to address the “accumulated disadvantage” for faculty of color that their teaching and scholarship don’t meet the requirements for tenure.

Continue reading Trower’s Tenure Troubles

A Small-c Conservative (Lukewarm) Defense of Tenure

Recently my colleague Mark Bauerlein commented on the interesting debate regarding the continued merits—or lack thereof—for tenure. The basic critique of tenure is a powerful one: as Freakonomics put it, “What does tenure do? It distorts people’s effort so that they face strong incentives early in their career (and presumably work very hard early on as a consequence) and very weak incentives forever after (and presumably work much less hard on average as a consequence).”
Indeed, I’m sure most professors can point to one or two (or more) cases from personal knowledge that don’t even meet this standard—of professors who produced little or nothing as untenured faculty but received tenure anyway, and continued their commitment to mediocrity for the next 30 years.
It’s hard to doubt this critique, especially since the traditional argument for tenure—it’s necessary to protect academic freedom—is now almost laughable, for two reasons. First, as Alan Charles Kors has long held, the path to tenure encourages timidity. A professor who spends seven years as a junior faculty member worrying about speaking out is very unlikely to suddenly reverse course once he or she receives tenure. The pattern of behavior simply has become too ingrained.

Continue reading A Small-c Conservative (Lukewarm) Defense of Tenure

Tenure Is Fading–Is that Really So Bad?

The New York Times Room for Debate page hosted a forum last week entitled “What If College Tenure Dies?” As the preamble rightly notes, the question follows from an increasing shift in university personnel away tenure and tenure-track lines and toward adjuncts and lecturers hired on temporary contracts. The numbers are stark:

In 1975, 57 percent of all college professors had tenure or were on a tenure track. In 2007, that number had fallen to 31 percent, and a new federal report, to be released in the fall, is expected to show another decline for 2009 . . .

What will happen when the rate slides into a non-critical mass (less than 20 percent)?, the Times asks.

Continue reading Tenure Is Fading–Is that Really So Bad?