Author: Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg is a professor emeritus of political science at The University of Illinois-Urbana.

Do We Really Want Professors to Be Productive?

Accountability is all the rage in today’s education reform industry and at the university level, “productivity” typically means upping scholarly publishing.  The allure is simple–who can resist prodding lolling-about professors to generate more knowledge?  Unfortunately, putting the thumbscrews on idle faculty will only push universities farther to the left.  Better to pay professors for silence. […]

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What the Madison Confrontation Reveals

Most observers have framed the recent disruption by backers of racial and ethnic preferences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a free-speech conflict. Free speech is clearly involved but lying below the surface are three issues that warrant close attention, specifically how Wisconsin once handled “inclusion;” how the protest reflects the transformation of the idea […]

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Quarantining the PC Pathology

Let’s face it, our noble efforts to detoxify today’s PC-infected university have largely failed and the future looks bleak. This is not to say that the problem is incurable–though it is–but it calls for a solution different from the current approach.  Here’s how. Begin by recognizing that all our proposed cures impose heavy burdens on […]

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On Maintaining the Line Between Teacher and Student

My article here, “Professors Should Dress like Professionals,” speculated that the loss of classroom authority was at least partially traceable to a decline in sartorial standards among the professoriate.              More, however, is involved than shabby attire. It is the systematic attempt to demolish the line between teacher and students that is the culprit. Consider […]

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Professors Should Dress Like Professionals

Judged by the recent avalanche of autopsy-like books, American higher education appears troubled. Alleged evil-doers abound, but one culprit escapes unnoticed–the horrific sartorial habits of many of today’s professors. Don’t laugh. As Oscar Wilde brilliantly observed, only shallow people do not judge by appearances. Indeed, I would argue that much of what plagues today’s academy […]

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Arne Duncan Succumbs to March Madness

The cosmology of ideas to fix America’s supposedly troubled higher education abound. Some resemble comets–small amounts of rock and frozen toxic gas that periodically appear, light up the sky and then vanish only to reappear decades later. Today’s comet-like elixir is directed at the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball tournament (“March Madness”). The facts are […]

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Applying ”Freakonomics” to Final Exams

One of my colleagues here at the University of Texas–Austin, the economist Daniel Hamermesh, recently complained in his New York Times “Freakonomics” blog about the common practice in many departments of assigning no final exams. I wish he had applied his own craft to this situation. The lack of final exams is merely one symptom […]

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Recapturing the University: The Hybrid Alternative

In the contemporary battle within the social sciences between free market think tanks and liberal- dominated universities, the former labor under a huge disadvantage: they lack students. Think-tank based scholars may daily issue erudite policy analyses, write incisive op-ed columns galore, dominate talk radio, publish in widely admired magazines like City Journal but the half-life […]

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Rescuing The University, II

Part II, The Solution (The first part of this essay can be found here.) Restoring good sense to universities means allowing levelheaded academics to compete with radical imposters who proliferate by printing up their bogus currency. In a phrase: restore the gold standard of discovering and imparting truth. It is unnecessary to re-write university regulations […]

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Rescuing the University, I

Part I, The Problem How is the university, specifically the humanities and social sciences, with its rampant anti-Americanism, anti-intellectualism, muddle-brained identity politics, hostility to the unvarnished truth and all the rest to be re-conquered and restored to sanity? As one who has spent four decades in the belly of the beast, half of which was […]

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The Conspiracy Against Faculty Friendship

It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help. – Epicurus (Greek Philosopher 341 BC-271 BC) Though relatively tiny in number PC forces now exercise disproportionate influence across the university, even capturing entire departments. What makes this conquest especially noteworthy is the lack of resistance from academics, […]

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Coping With The Diversity University

Fellow co-believers frequently ask me how I, a “notorious” conservative professor, have survived decades surrounded by loony lefties. My answer—it is not nearly as bad as it appears—usually causes surprise. Appearances are deceiving, I say, and even in the social sciences and the humanities, the left’s stronghold, the batty left’s domination is incomplete—the tip of […]

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The Noble Lies Of PC

“..the one aspect of American culture and society most in need of improvement and investment–education–has been greeted by deafening silence on the part of all candidates.” Leon Botstein, president of Bard College in his “charge” to the Class of 2008. Leon forgets to mention that all of today’s presidential candidates, including also-rans, offer detailed prescriptions […]

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A Guide To Campus Shakedowns

Observers of today’s campuses have undoubtedly encountered a phenomenon that I will call “incidentism.” Its principle characteristics are as follows: First, a seemingly minor often obscure, innocuous event, e.g., a student newspaper cartoon, an off-hand remark by the school president, an invitation to a “controversial” outside speaker, among countless other possibilities, triggers boisterous outrage among […]

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Tenure And The Litigation Culture

In the spring of 2008 Baylor University denied tenure to a larger than usual number of Assistant Professors up for promotion, including two-thirds of the women, and while tenure denial is normal at Baylor, the carnage uptick – from 10% to 40% in a single year – drew national attention and outcries of unfairness. No […]

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A Department Of Hillbilly Studies?

Today’s university seems obsessively compassionate about the downtrodden, far more than the usual academic Marxist celebration of exploited workers. Entire departments – African American Studies, Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Latino/a Studies – strive to uplift those suffering from white male heterosexual oppressors. In African and Latin American Studies indigenous people are always blameless “good guys” […]

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The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness

It’s easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors; their semi-monthly comparisons of Bush to Hitler or indictments of inherent American racism are hard to miss. Universities’ deviations from traditional education are far more serious than a few zany radicals, though. Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly […]

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