As a professional historian at Hamilton College, I teach my students that the United States was founded on the principles of limited government, voluntary exchange, respect for private property, and civil freedom. Does any sane parent believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these days with a deep and abiding appreciation of the worth of these principles?
For Doubting Thomases, look no further than the eleven elite liberal arts colleges that comprise the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes Amherst, Williams, Trinity, and Wesleyan. Not one of these eleven colleges requires undergraduates to take a single course in American history. Even worse, a substantial majority of these eleven elite colleges do not even require that students majoring in history take any American history courses. And none of the eleven history departments requires a two-semester American history sequence for its majors.
Non-Western history, however, has a privileged status in a majority of the departments. Amherst requires of history majors that they take only “one course each in at least three different geographic areas.” The United States is but one of six geographic areas from which students can choose. Bowdoin College’s history department offers eight fields of study. Four “non-Euro/U.S. courses” are required, but not one US history course. In 2007, one-third of all history majors at my college, Hamilton, were graduated without one course in American history.
As the American historians in my department battled to remedy this disgrace, the majority voted a minor concession: Starting with the class of 2012, majors must take one course in US history, although the non-Western requirement would remain: “Three courses must focus upon areas outside of Europe and the United States.” The downgrading of American history continues.
vast majority of American colleges and universities make admission decisions
without considering the financial need of applicants. Only a handful of private
institutions admit their entire first-year class need-blind and then fully meet
the financial need of all of their admitted students through a combination of
grants, loans and employment opportunities. These institutions tend to be our
nation’s most selective, in terms of entrance test scores, and wealthiest, in
terms of their endowment per student levels and their flows of annual giving.
do these selective private institutions pursue such policies? In part it is because as nonprofits they are
major beneficiaries of federal and state tax policies that reduce the federal
and state income tax liabilities of donors who make contributions to them, thereby
increasing the contributions they receive. These policies also exempt them from
having to pay federal and state income taxes on their endowment earnings,
exempt their property that is used for educational purposes from local property
taxes, and allow them to borrow funds for educational facilities at lower
tax-exempt interest rates. Because of
all of these tax benefits, the public at large is subsidizing these
institutions to the tune of literally billions of dollars of lost tax revenue a
year and the willingness to do so is based upon the belief that the selective
private academic institutions are yielding benefits to society as a whole. Because many of the leaders of society are
graduates of these institutions and a well-functioning democratic society
requires that leaders come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, these
institutions have long understood that they have a special obligation to admit
and enroll students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Continue reading Wesleyan Abandons Need-Blind Admissions
This past Monday I delivered a speech at the Delta Kappa Epsilon house at Wesleyan University. I had been invited to speak by DKE and another fraternity at Wesleyan, Beta Theta Pi, because I had written an op-ed article in June for the Los Angeles Times titled “War Waged on College Fraternities.” That was the theme of my Wesleyan speech, too. I had expected the audience to consist mostly of “Deke” and Beta brothers plus other members of Wesleyan’s tiny Greek-letter community who felt beleaguered by efforts of university administrators to regulate and restrict their activities, and calls by activists to put fraternities out of business altogether. But my speech had been advertised in the student newspaper. The room where I spoke–the former ballroom, now all-purpose party room, of the worn nineteenth-century mansion that served as DKE’s house–was packed with an overflow crowd of some 75 young people. At least half of them were non-fraternity members, many of whom had never set foot inside a fraternity house. From them I learned something: how thoroughly college students, at least students at elite colleges such as Wesleyan, have absorbed and internalized all of the negative things–especially about fraternities as supposed hotbeds of sexual assault–that professors and administrators have been harping on for at least two decades. There seemed to be a consensus that university authorities weren’t tough enough in clamping down on Greek-letter societies.
Continue reading Politely Demonizing Men at Wesleyan
Ward Connerly, founder and chairman of the American Civil rights Initiative, a group opposed to race and gender preferences, spoke yesterday at Wesleyan University, in the wake of controversy over an affirmative action bake sale there satirizing preferences in college admissions. He spoke without a text, but we asked for an account of what he said, and this is what he sent:
When former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cast her opinion in the cases of Gratz and Grutter vs. the University of Michigan, in 2003, she imposed what some saw as a death penalty on race preferences. Although she supported the use of race to achieve “diversity” in higher education, O’Connor said that such practices must end and she hoped that such would happen in twenty-five years. Throughout the nation, that sentence is now slowly, but methodically, being executed. Significantly, Justice O’Connor wrote that we cannot enshrine into our laws something that the Constitution barely tolerates.
In Arizona, California, Michigan, Nebraska and the state of Washington, the voters have placed into their constitutions, through ballot initiatives a prohibition against the use of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public education, public employment and public contracting. In Florida, an executive order accomplishes much of the same. These initiatives strongly confirm that if given the chance the people of America would end race preferences instantly instead of waiting until 2028.
Continue reading More on the Wesleyan Bake Sale
Wesleyan University’s affirmative action bake sale, staged by two students on October 26th, has generated more sputtering controversy than most, largely because one professor, Claire Potter, intemperately called the event racist. Late yesterday, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, published a remarkable discussion of the controversy and the uses of the word “racist,” a term that unfailingly emerges whenever a student bake sale, with different cookie prices for different racial groups, defies campus orthodoxy by satirizing college admissions based on race. This afternoon, Ward Connerly, the nation’s principal activist fighting race and gender preferences, will speak on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown, Connecticut.
I first encountered Wesleyan professor Claire Potter at the tail end of the Duke lacrosse case. The self-described “tenured radical” published a post claiming that “the dancers” at the lacrosse team’s party “were, it is clear, physically . . . assaulted.” She produced no evidence for the assertion (perhaps because no evidence existed); indeed, even rogue district attorney Mike Nifong had never claimed that the second dancer, Kim Roberts, had been assaulted.
Potter further asserted that “many players who were not involved in this incident, and who did not do anything wrong, still refused to speak about what had happened.” In fact, nearly two dozen lacrosse players voluntarily spoke to investigators from the North Carolina attorney general’s office, and all of the players offered to do so.
A few days after Potter leveled these and other untrue allegations, the North Carolina attorney general released a report exonerating the lacrosse players, affirming that no evidence existed that any type of assault against false accuser Crystal Mangum, and laying out the remarkable degree of cooperation from lacrosse players and their attorneys with the investigation. In response, Potter not only refused to retract her false statements; she lashed out with more bizarre allegations (this time against me). Many months later, perhaps recognizing her potential legal vulnerability, Potter without explanation deleted her Duke post.
This tendency to make wild, ethically dubious allegations against college students she perceives as politically unappealing reappeared in the recent controversy over a student-run affirmative action “bake sale” at Wesleyan. (John Rosenberg profiled the affair here.) According to the Corner’s Mytheos Holt, Potter inserted herself into the controversy by e-mailing one of the student organizers.
Continue reading The Wild, Ethically Dubious Allegations at Wesleyan
A graduate of Wesleyan sent word that his alma mater now has a “Campus Climate Log” to chronicle “hate incidents and acts of intolerance” and help move “the entire campus towards a hate-free learning environment.” The project, wrapped in conventional diversity rhetoric, is overseen by the Dean of Diversity and Student Engagement as well as the Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships. The Log can be accessed on on-campus computers, including public ones, but it not available elsewhere. The reports range from the obviously hateful (“kill fags and Jews” scrawled on a bathroom wall) to the banal (suggestive comments from a passing car) and a postmodern graffiti by a student uncomfortable with the belief that a man is a man and a woman is a woman (“f—gender binaries”). To their credit, the Log committeepersons wonder about the point of major publicity for minor stupidities (“Would it cause more incidents by demonstrating how a single act received so much attention?”) Judging by the scarcity of complaints, either students don’t care much or the campus is already pretty much hate-free: the log for this school year shows only seven reports from last fall, and one since January 1.