Tag Archives: UCLA

A UCLA Law Professor Spills the Beans on Free Speech

Our friends at Reason.com and Reason Magazine share many of  MTC’s concerns, not the least of which is the threat to free speech, sanctioned by America’s colleges and universities. They invited Eugene Volokh, a professor of free speech law at UCLA to speak at Reason Weekend, the annual even held by Reason Foundation.

Reason says, “Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. ‘Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,’ Volokh says. ‘Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.'”

Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg.

Indoctrinating Students Isn’t Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

UCLA’s Latest Display of Outrage

Cross-posted from Can These Bones Live 

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

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

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

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

How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

Politicians Push Professors Leftward

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

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

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

UCLA Offers Low-Cost College for Leftist Illegals

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

Using Classes for Advocacy OK at UCLA

UCLA’s “Academic Freedom Committee” has delivered an
important document that appears to give carte blanche to professors to
introduce unrelated political advocacy into their classrooms–in apparent
violation of Regents’ policy.

The case involved David Delgado Shorter, a UCLA professor in the “Department of
World Arts and Cultures/Dance.”(His dissertation was entitled,
“SantamLiniamDivisoriam/Holy Dividing Lines: Yoeme Indian Place Making and
Religious Identity.”) Shorter’s website, which indicates that he received a
Ph.D. in the “history of consciousness,” asserts that he specializes in
“ethnographic representation of Yoeme religiosity.” He adds that his favorite
course to teach is “Aliens, Psychics, and Ghosts.”

In the winter 2012 semester, Delgado taught a course
called “Tribal Worldviews”; the course homepage contained a link called “Boycotting Israel.”
The course resources page, meanwhile,
featured links to the Goldstone Report, to a site on “US Academic and Cultural
Boycott of Israel,” and (with two different links!) to an “Open Letter to Bono
Re: Palestinian Rights.” While the Goldstone Report, as vile as it was, at
least is an official document, it’s hard to see the course-related relevance of
(two!) links to an open letter to Bono. And the links to boycott-Israel sites
would seem to constitute a clear violation of California regents policies that
prohibit professors from misusing their courses to engage in “political
advocacy.”

To reiterate: these links appeared on a course webpage
for “Tribal Worldviews,” taught by a professor whose academic specialty is a
Native American tribe from Arizona.

Continue reading Using Classes for Advocacy OK at UCLA

Here Come the Advocacy ‘Studies’

UCLA’s Proyecto Derechos Civiles — also known
as the
Civil
Rights Project
— has just published a useful
new study
suggesting the extent of racial discrimination in
graduate school admissions. It examined minority graduate enrollments in four
states with bans on racial preferences — California, Florida, Washington, and Texas
(where the ban is no longer in effect), and the results are nicely summarized in
this chart from the
Inside Higher Ed article
trumpeting the study:


Field

%
of Minority Graduate Enrollments Before Ban

%
After Ban

Drop
Since Ban

Engineering

6.2%

4.6%

-26%

Natural
sciences

7.8%

6.3%

-19%

Social
sciences

12.1%

10.2.%

-16%

Humanities

10.2%

9.0%

-12%

 

The Civil Rights Project, of course, touts
its findings
not as providing evidence of the degree of
discrimination in states without bans on racial preferences but rather as
dramatic proof “that the bans have led to marked declines in key areas of
graduate studies.” These findings, it claims, “are particularly timely as the
U.S. Supreme Court, during its upcoming fall term, will consider in Fisher v. University
of Texas at Austin whether race-conscious admissions policies are necessary to
produce the student body diversity the University believes is essential for its
educational success.”

Continue reading Here Come the Advocacy ‘Studies’

UCLA: Still Obsessed with Diversity

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

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

Continue reading UCLA: Still Obsessed with Diversity

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

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

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

Campus Libertarianism up, Civic Commitment Down

One of the most mentioned findings in the annual UCLA survey of college freshmen is a decided trend toward more “liberal” political attitudes. The survey shows increased support for same-sex marriage (supported by 71.3% of students, representing a 6.4% increase since 2009); for a pro-choice position on abortion; for the legalization of marijuana; and a corresponding decrease in opposition to provision of public services to undocumented immigrants. One finding that seems at odds with the overall trend is support for national health care, which dropped nearly a point since 2010, and fourteen points since 2007.

As Mark Bauerlein rightly pointed out, the trends point not in a “liberal” direction, but rather one that is “libertarian,” with a strong stress upon being “individualists.” If there is one overwhelming conclusion that one can draw from this survey, today’s students are individualistic. As an article about the survey expressed, their dominant perspective is to “Live and Let Live (and Study).”

The study is striking for what it does not ask: while it asks about hot-button social issues ranging from same-sex marriage to abortion, it does not ask students very much about their views on the economy–something one would think in our current climate would be interesting to know (the survey claims that its findings should inform how issues should be framed in the upcoming Presidential election. If that is the case, why the avoidance of economic questions?).

My own more modest campus “survey” suggests that students are trending libertarian (what many would call “conservative”) in the economic sphere as well. In one class I teach at Georgetown, I assign students a short paper asking them to provide a “political autobiography.” I have been struck over the past several years at the increasing number of students who self-describe as “socially liberal and economically conservative.” Their political lexicon is fairly impoverished (doubtless with thanks to our political media), but what they in fact disclose is a growing embrace of a consistent ethic of libertarianism. If we take their fading support of national health care as a proxy for their view about government interference in the economy, then we can indeed conclude that today’s students demonstrate an overall disposition toward “live and let live,” in both the social and economic realms.

Toleration, Diversity and Me

This conclusion, I would submit, ought to be a source of deep concern for those who care about the future of the American polity.

The overarching emphasis in the highest echelons of society–among our “elites,” and especially those working at our public schools and universities, as well as in the media–has been upon the need for “toleration” and “diversity.” The underlying belief informing this widespread view is that a high level of toleration toward others will result in a decrease in social conflict, the cessation of the mistreatment of minorities and outsiders, and a more peaceful and hence prosperous society. This message has clearly been internalized by today’s students: among the worst possible sins one can commit is to be a “Hater”–or, in their parlance, to “H8.” To render judgments or critical views toward lifestyle decisions is to engage in an unacceptable form of prejudice; people should be allowed to behave in whatever way they wish, so long as no one is physically harmed (though, it should be noted, self-destructive behaviors such as smoking are now severely frowned upon–only 2% of the surveyed population today acknowledges being a smoker). In what possible way could one be disquieted by this seemingly praiseworthy disposition of toleration and acceptance of diversity?

What the data also demonstrates is a keen and intense emphasis on the self. Today’s students simultaneously urge toleration toward others, but also expect to be left alone. Their overarching emphasis upon individual achievement–particularly in the area of career advancement–suggests that the message of “toleration” and “diversity” seamlessly co-exists with a self-centered focus on material success and personal lifestyle autonomy. At risk is a cultivated belief in civic membership, a sense of shared fate and even forms of self-sacrifice.

One telling aspect of the survey has, to my knowledge, received no attention: while 72.3% state that the “chief benefit of college is to increase one’s earning power,” only 2% of current college graduates are enrolled in an ROTC or other military program. While likely career choices are fragmented among many possible choices (with the largest numbers of responses clustering around the choices of engineer, physician and business, together totaling 28%), only 1.5% responded that they foresaw a military career; 0.9% intended to enter government or public policy; and .1% stated an intention to become a member of the clergy. As many respondents indicated a likely future of unemployment (1.5%) as those willing to serve in the military!

Increasing Earning Power

Contemporary liberals who significantly shape the views of today’s young (especially through the media – 50% of respondents indicated watching television more than 3 hours a day) believe that they are ushering in a future of toleration and “laissez-faire.” However, this attitude in fact buttresses the other overwhelming finding of the survey: that students today are “in it” for themselves. Their view of college is already determined before they enroll: the purpose of college is to increase their earning power. They are not in college to be liberally educated or to understand the “meaning of life.” They are not there to prepare for a life of responsible citizenship, parenthood and neighborliness. They are “capitalist tools,” people whose lives are dominated by professional ambition and bottom-line accounting.

Several disquieting questions should come to mind: what kinds of citizens will these people grow up to be? What kinds of parents and what kinds of neighbors? They will likely be willing to leave other people alone–but will they care about others? Will they love? Will they serve? Will they sacrifice? According Charles Murray in his recent book Coming Apart, it is the upper classes (which will be composed of the students in this survey) that have largely abandoned any idea of trusteeship and moral and civic responsibility toward those who have not won the meritocratic sweepstakes. The survey suggests that this divide will only deepen in coming years.

I fear that we are not ushering in a utopia of toleration and sensitivity, but one of indifference and self-absorption. Today’s young people have deeply absorbed the lessons that have been taught them by their elders. Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?

Highly Stressed Students and the Aimless Curriculum

AnxiousFemale.jpgWhen news came out recently that this year’s college freshmen rank their emotional well-being at record-low levels, observers in the media and the ivory tower began to wring their hands. Just how depressed are young men and women on campus? According to researchers at UCLA who conduct the annual “American Freshman” survey, the percentage of students who described their emotional health as above average fell to 52 percent from 64 percent in 1985 when the survey first began.
The experts interviewed on this trend suggested that the country’s financial woes were to blame. Brian Van Brunt, president of the American College Counseling Association, told the New York Times that “today’s economic factors are putting a lot of extra stress on college students, as they look at their loans and wonder if there will be a career waiting for them on the other side.” Denise Hayes, the president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, told the Chronicle of Higher Education: “College tuition is higher, so [students] feel the pressure to give their parents their money’s worth in terms of their academic performance.”
But the idea that money is behind all of the anxiety of college students seems an insufficient explanation, at best.

Continue reading Highly Stressed Students and the Aimless Curriculum

“Back-When-I-Was-in-School” Remembrance.

I started UCLA in 1977, having won admission with only a 3.1 GPA (but with decent SAT scores). When I got there my brother and I moved into Sproul Hall dormitory just above the track stadium. I came to campus thinking, “Yeah! Party time.”

There was certainly a fair number of loud ones every Friday and Saturday throughout De Neve Drive and along Fraternity Row, plus a few mid-week open doors with beer flowing inside. But something else, too. About half the guys I met spent three or four hours a night in University Research Library (URL—we called it “Urinal”). They rose around 8 or 9am, grabbed a quick breakfast in the dorm cafeteria, speeded down the hill to classes before and after lunch (it was the quarter system, with classes meeting four hours a week), then spent the late afternoon shooting hoops or throwing a football, then dinner at 6, then a trip to the library by 7. If you arrived after 8, you couldn’t find a seat. Each night, sitting in a carrel, I heard the tardy ones sidle by searching for spots and wandering floor to floor.

The other half of the guys I met had other plans. They weren’t much interested in college, or they dealt drugs, or they played sports all day, or they were just plain screw-ups. The diligent ones recognized them as such, and even though we enjoyed them there was no cachet of “cool” given to them. (Freshman and sophomore year I drifted perilously toward the latter group now and then.) Those who studied hard didn’t consider themselves superior, nor did they fit the nerd mold. They played high school football and drank Henry Weinhard. But they studied hard without groaning or crowing, taking their 20 or so hours a week as customary.

Continue reading “Back-When-I-Was-in-School” Remembrance.

Guess What College Freshmen Think

News reports on UCLA’s latest annual survey of college freshmen have focused on worries about financial aid as a factor in choosing which college to attend. Well, yes. But there are brighter nuggets to be mined here.
How about this one: partying and beer-drinking in general continue their dramatic decline among incoming students. Reporting on their senior year in high school, 38 percent of students said they drank beer occasionally or frequently, the lowest figure in the 43 years of the survey and less than half of the beer-guzzling rate of the late 1970s. Reported consumption of wine and liquor are also at an all-time low. A total of 18.8 percent of new freshmen said they partied 6 or more hours a week. That’s half the 1987 rate.
The annual national survey of, run by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), reached 240,580 first-time full-time students at 340 baccalaureate colleges and universities around the country.
Political engagement is up, at least measured by the number of students who said they frequently discussed politics in the past year—35.6 percent, the highest in any presidential election in the more than four decades of the survey, exceeding 1968, the previous all-time high. The percentage of freshmen saying it is essential or very important to keep up with politics (28.1 percent in 2000—a record low) rose to 39.5 percent in 2008.

Continue reading Guess What College Freshmen Think

Fuzzy Admissions At UCLA

If you like “whodunit” books and “perfect crime” plots, I heartily recommend the Tim Groseclose experience of trying to obtain the data to evaluate the “holistic” admissions process of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Groseclose is the political science professor who blew the whistle on what he considers to be UCLA’s violation of the California Constitution with regard to the use of race preferences in admissions to his campus.

As a regent of the University of California (UC), I supported the use of what we called “comprehensive review” as an alternative to over-reliance on standardized test scores. Yet, at the time of approval, I and others expressed concern that allowing UC campuses the discretion to view applicants for admission “comprehensively” opened the door to the use of subjective factors that could not be detected or proven; however, it was my belief then that UC administrators would resist the temptation to cheat and violate the California Constitution and that they would administer this new process with integrity. In the case of UCLA, I am now strongly convinced that my faith in the institution’s honor has been misplaced.
Why the perfect crime?

Originally, UCLA reviewed applications for admission by determining the academic competitiveness of those in the applicant pool solely on the basis of academic performance. Nonacademic factors were reviewed separately. This approach was a fail-safe method of ensuring that the constitutionally prohibited factors of race, color, ethnicity, sex and national origin would not be factors in admissions decisions.

Continue reading Fuzzy Admissions At UCLA

UCLA Professor: UCLA Is Cheating On Admissions

Tim Groseclose, a Political Science Professor at UCLA, has resigned from its Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools, stating that “a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that UCLA is cheating on admissions” – of course, in order to circumvent the state ban on the use of race as a factor in admissions.

Groseclose authored an 89-page report on his findings. Read it here.

Another Activist Major At UCLA

UCLA has just approved an addition to the majors offered by their Spanish and Portuguese departments: Spanish and Community and Culture, reports the Daily Bruin.

What makes this different? Well, the Bruin has an answer: “what makes this major different from the other Spanish majors are two community service-based courses that place students in quarter-long internships that vary depending on an individual’s interests.”

Internships and work in the community are required components of “Taking it to the Streets” and “Oral History: Latino Immigrant Youth,” two of the major’s core classes, said Susan Plann, a professor of applied linguistics and Spanish linguistics, and one of the founders of the new major.

In “Taking it to the Streets,” students can choose to work in a variety of locations, such as medical clinics, schools and nonprofit legal organizations, along with organizations such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Recall point #3 from John Leo’s “How To Set Up A Politicized Ethnic Studies Department

3) Make sure everyone knows you want an activist political group, not just an academic program (“It should be study to empower native people” said keynote speaker Michael Yellow Bird, a professor at the University of Kansas). On some campuses, working for the cause is required. At Carleton College, students who take a course on Native American religious freedom are expected to undertake “service projects” that get them involved in “matters of particular concern to contemporary native communities.”

One of the founders of the new UCLA major was quoted, in the Bruin piece, “she believes that as a public university, UCLA should encourage students to be more involved in the community.” That’s one way to do it; offering credit for political activism sounds easier than, oh, offering classes.

College Admissions, Let’s Not Break The Law

David Leonhardt, an economics columnist for the New York Times, recently visited the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and took a careful look at the current admissions process of that campus in the wake of Proposition 209, the California ballot initiative that outlawed race and gender preferences in public education, as well as in public employment and contracting. In particular, Leonhardt examined the application and the fate of one Francis Harris, a black student from Sacramento, who became the case study for his article. Here is how Leonhardt describes Ms. Harris:

She has managed to do very well in very difficult circumstances, and she is African-American. Her high school, in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, was shut down as an irremediable failure the spring before her freshman year, then reopened months later as a charter school. Midway through high school, her father developed heart problems and became an irritable fixture around the home. She also discovered that he was not actually her biological father. That was a man named Leroy who, when her mother took Harris to see him, simply said his name was George and waited for her to leave. In Harris’s senior year, her mother lost her job at a nursing home and the family filed for bankruptcy… Harris, for instance, scored a 22 on the ACT test – slightly above the national average and well below the U.C.L.A. average.

The underlying question posed by Leonhardt with regard to Harris is the extent to which her “disadvantages” should factor into her application for admission to U.C.L.A. As did Leonhardt, most college admissions officers look primarily at one facet of Harris’s life: “…she is African-American.” They start from the premise stated by Peter Taylor, a good friend mentioned in Leonhardt’s column, that “race has an enormous effect on the lives of applicants.”

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