Bloom Conference On C-SPAN This Weekend

C-SPAN Book TV will broadcast three panels from the Manhattan Institute Center for the American University’s Closing of the American Mind Conference on Saturday and Sunday. Take a look at the schedule for details. Robert George, Roger Kimball, Jim Piereson, Heather MacDonald, and other luminaries are not to be missed.

By The Way, Somebody Turned You In

William and Mary’s new and anonymous bias reporting system is so wrong-headed that it’s hard to know where to begin protesting it. Some anonymous reports are legitimate, as Eugene Volokh argues at the Volokh Conspiracy, but calling for a college’s entire student body to watch out for bias, and then turn in their fellow students or professors, is not a good idea. This is particularly so in an era when campuses are busy fostering victimology and minority-group identities based on the allegedly permanent hostililty of majority groups. Under these circumstances, it makes much more sense to avoid placing full-time bias awareness front and center in the minds of students. Hearsay and marginal or ambiguous incidents are bound to be reported, probably with sensitivities, suspicions and resentments increased. Legitimate protests will increasingly be reported as intolerable provocations. And the anonymity is bound to rankle. A web site opposing the new bias reporting opens with the comment “Let’s disband William and Mary’s new schoolyard tattletale system before the lawsuits commence and William and Mary again becomes the subject of national jokes.” Surely there is a better way to encourage civility and respect than setting up a formal program for snitches.

What’s Wrong With Your Horror Cinema Credits?

You’ll no doubt be encouraged to find out, on this fine date, that the academic study of horror cinema is alive and well. The University of Pennsylvania offers “Horror Cinema”, Bowdoin “The Horror Film In Context”, Xavier “The Horror Film”, and the University of South Carolina “Horror Films.” Australia’s not far behind, with horror offerings at the University of Melbourne.

Now it’s time to argue how these courses are wrong? Well, no, actually not. The problem’s not that such classes exist, but what they suggest about colleges’ attitudes to students and the importance of the learning that they convey. Classes such as horror cinema dangle pulpy bait in front of prospective students. Consider the University of Pennsylvania’s “Horror Cinema” class description: “an effort to better understand how the horror film makes us confront out worst fears and our most secret desires.” Yes, that’s what horror films do, and “worst fears” and “secret desires” are terms with more appeal for the average undergraduate than, say, “the sublime and the beautiful.” So the average student will eagerly troop to such a class, and then, to their great chagrin, find out that they were duped – the material considered is often quite substantive; there is, after all, a respectable body of criticism on horror, dating back to the Gothic novel and beyond. The problem is that, students reeled in, such classes are then typically suitable only for a schizophrenic inter-disciplinarity; the Penn course modestly promises to address “issues of ethics, gender, sexuality, violence, spectatorship through a variety of critical lenses (psychoanalysis, socio-historial and cultural context, aesthetics,…” Whew. That might be rewarding to a student who had studied ethics, or psychoanalysis, or say, the historical background of German expressionism, or had read Poe or Lovecraft in detail, but who’d bother with such musty old topics when they could pick up a splattering of knowledge (and course credits) by simply watching slasher movies in the first place.

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Indoctrination At Delaware

Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for “treatment” of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making “made in North Korea” jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled.

Residential assistants charged with imposing the “treatments” have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists – at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a “racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality.”

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Educating for Citizenship at Brown University: An Essay In Honor Of Allan Bloom

Brown University has been described as providing “the worst education in America.” Brown’s New Curriculum, far from requiring that students read a list of Great Books, has no core of any kind. Brown students are free to “shop” their courses and take only the ones they like. Brown’s libertarian attitude toward curricular structure no doubt influences the sort of courses that wind up being taught at the place.

Consider the goings-on in a course that has become popular at Brown in recent years. On the first day of this course, the instructor informs the delighted students that it is fine with him if they never attend another lecture during the semester. He admits that he would like them to attend their weekly discussion sections, but he assures them that they need not worry about being lectured at there: the sections in this course are conducted as student-led seminars, with the graduate teaching assistants instructed to refrain from interrupting the student’s musings in any way. There are weekly writing assignments in the course, but students are always free to write about topics that happen to interest them rather than the topic that was assigned. The syllabus indicates that the course includes a midterm, but the professor hastens to set them at ease about that. To the sound of cheers, he tells them that they may adjust the details of the questions so as to better display their own strengths and interests. He promises them in any case that their exams never will be evaluated in terms of how well the essays they write happen to fit with the questions that he (the professor) asks on the exam. Instead, each exam essay is to be evaluated simply “on its own terms.” This course concludes with a final exam sternly stipulating that students compose an essay in response to one of three questions. But the last question turns out to be: “3. Write a question about any author you have read, argument you have heard, or any idea that has occurred to you during this course. Now, answer it.”

I first read Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind twelve years ago, the year I began teaching at Brown. By the time I reached page 63 and read the sentence beginning “Education for our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion…”, I was enchanted. Bloom’s claim that there was a great wound lying unattended to at the soul of the university, a wound of emptiness endured without understanding by recent generations of students, resonated profoundly with my own earlier experiences as a professor at a number of what Bloom calls “the 20 or 30 best universities”. Perhaps because I had studied classics as an undergraduate at St. John’s College, Bloom’s prescription by book’s end – a return to “the good old Great Books approach” (334) – completed the spell. At last, someone had brilliantly grasped and confidently expressed worries that many of us had long but dimly harbored about the enterprise of education in America. Here was a champion worth backing.

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Ed School Politics – Still A Problem

Beware the words “social justice” and “dispositions” when used by schools of education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). These apparently harmless terms lay the groundwork for politicizing the training of teachers and giving the ed schools an excuse to eliminate conservatives from their programs. The news this week is that NCATE is backing down a bit from its use of “dispositions” and “social justice” while denying the political use of these words and calling its new policy a “clarification.”

“Dispositions” refers to the correct mindset that would-be teachers must have. “Social justice” is the most controversial of the dispositions sought. In its benign sense, “social justice” means a sense of fairness, honesty and a belief that all children can learn. In its politicized sense, it can refer to endorsement of affirmative action and a formal (often written) endorsement of policies favored by the political and cultural left.

“NCATE never required a ‘social justice’ disposition”, NCATE said on its web site. True, but the statement is a slippery one. In fact, the group had ruled that education departments could “include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice” – in effect ruling that public school teachers could be evaluated on their perceptions of what social justice requires. So the ed schools, basically a liberal monoculture, could rule that a student flunked “social justice” by displaying a negative view of multicultural theory and other policies of the left. At Washington State University, where the college of education tried to expel a conservative student for flunking “dispositions,” the dean was asked whether Justice Antonin Scalia could pass a dispositions test at her school. “I don’t know how to answer that,” she replied.

As NCATE tells it, “the term ‘social justice,’ though well understood by NCATE’s institutions, was widely and wildy misinterpreted by commentators not familiar with the working of NCATE.” The group now defines professional dispositions as “professional attitudes, values and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and non-verbal behaviors. The two professional dispositions that NCATE expects institutions to assess are fairness and the belief that all students can learn. Based on their missions and conceptual framework, professional education units can identify, define and operationalize additional professional dispositions.”

This is a mild improvement. Still, one wonders about those “non-verbal behaviors” and how they will be judged. The word “fairness” remains a linguistic sinkhole and the phrase “additional professional dispositions” keeps the door open for more politicization. NCATE’s “clarification” doesn’t clarify much.

The Tuition Spiral

The New York Times reports that “College Costs Outpace Inflation Rate.” Of course they have. The Chronicle offers a more telling headline: “Student Aid Has Gained, but College Costs Have Risen Faster.”

The Times reports “in recent years, consumer prices have risen less than 3 percent a year, while net tuition at public colleges has risen by 8.8 percent and at private ones, 6.7 percent.” This was the largest increase in six years.

What is to be done? Senator Clinton has proposed a $3,500 tax credit for students, and an increased Pell grant. Bill Richardson proposes two years of free schooling at public universities in return for a year’s pledge of public service. Mitt Romney has offered a similar plan, tying student aid to the type of jobs students intend to take after college. All of these plans would necessarily involve a significant increase in direct government spending on higher education. Most frankly acknowledge that government aid will never catch up to tuition increases. Few are willing to consider whether government aid might underpin the rise of tuition. Whatever the case, it’s impossible to trace any consistent benefit from mere aid increases.

Richard Vedder has, as to be expected, proposed a plan of far greater substance:

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Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler’s e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site, contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.

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Who Will Stand Up For Campus Free Speech?

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler’s e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site, contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.

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The Worst Course Justification, Ever

Courtesy of the Harvard Crimson, the worst justification for a class I’ve ever seen:

I understand that there are a number of students on this campus who think that FemSex is unnecessary, but what class or organization isn’t? Extracurriculars aren’t built out of necessity; they are created out of desires – to do what we love, to find common ground, to help others. If a student doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to take it, but the need for it on this campus is no lesser because it’s not for her.

FemSex is unnecessary in the same way as an African-American studies class is unnecessary; it’s easy for us to look at this campus, at our seemingly liberal society and say there are no problems left to fix. It’s easy to say that the solution lies in finding a better boyfriend or just shutting up and learning to live with it. But some people see study and exploration as a stronger way to approach the problem. The more we learn about ourselves and others, the more likely we are to feel happy and safe. And in a world of meaningless drunken hook-ups, perhaps it’s time we started getting more of what we wanted out of sex.

Here Here! All that floundering about the purpose of the modern academy could be cleared up so easily if it simply honed its focus on sex. “FemSex” was a female sexuality class on offer last semester. A prior Crimson op-ed pointed out that eight of the ten class sessions focused on “sexual and/or anatomical exploration.” They’re not even bothering with theoretical trappings for hedonism anymore.
Finally, take a look at the close:

We are all consistently changing throughout college, and Harvard is not always the most warm and supportive place to do so. Now, as a senior (dear God), I would describe my overall experience at Harvard as a positive one. I love the friends I have made and the extracurriculars I have taken part in, but I have found no place where I have felt more welcome, respected, safe, and open than I have in FemSex. Why anyone would want to deny another student of that is beyond me.

From Veritas to “Warm and Supported.”

Ave Maria And Credible Right-Wing Threats To Academic Freedom

The Naples News reports that Stephen Safranek, Edward Lyons and Phil Pucillo, all Ave Maria professors, have filled suit against Ave Maria University, contending that they were discharged in violation of their contracts.

The lawsuit was not an unexpected development given the recent controversy at the school. The move to Florida and its handling by the school’s administration has been at the center of faculty complaints. Last year, members of the faculty held a vote of “no confidence” in Dobranski and asked the board to remove him, but it refused. The American Bar Association, which is the primary accreditation body for law schools, is investigating the school’s ability to attract and retain competent faculty members. The ABA also must give its approval for the school to move to Florida. An ABA spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit and reiterated its inquiry process is “confidential.”

Safranek, a tenured professor, was suspended with a recommendation for termination and barred from campus at the end of July. Lyons and Pucillo were denied tenure and placed on administrative leave of absence in August.

To add to this, last month the Law School Alumni association board made a vote of no confidence in Bernard Dobranski and called for Monaghan’s resignation.

The lawsuit is not surprising. Ave Maria seems ever more clearly an interesting effort gone badly wrong.

The Israel Lobby Destroys Academic Freedom?

The University of Chicago hosted a conference last weekend on academic freedom. Participants ranged from John Mearshimer to Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali. Don’t laugh yet. The event’s cause celebre, the Chicago Maroon reports, was Norman Finkelstein. The partipants lamented DePaul University’s denial of tenure to Finkelstein, and lectured, predictably, on the evils of right-wing pressure on the academy, and especially the insidious influence of the “Israel Lobby.”

I suppose I wouldn’t be the first to point out that Finkelstein’s a less-than ideal martyr, given his famed taste for invective language and continuing questions about improprieties in his reseach, but his tenure denial, explained as it was in terms of “respect for colleagues”, is troublesome. In that, it’s nice to hear that a DePaul Academic Freedom Committee exists, and that they’re mustering conferences, but their exertions seem focused towards the wrong target. It’s DePaul’s gutless administration that’s to fault for the haphazard Finkelstein tenure denial, not the phantom Israel lobby. DePaul has displayed a consistent disregard for academic freedom on any side of the Israel question. Their previous offense, you might recall, was the 2005 firing of adjunct professor Thomas Klocek – for putative anti-Palestinian comments. Doesn’t sound like the Zionists have completed their takeover yet. There’s no doubt that in cases such as Finkelstein’s, pro-Israel figures agitated prominently against him, but it’s very much unclear what influence they had in the actual university decision (the other allegation at the conference, that right-wing forces exercise influence over Middle Eastern studies departments, is simply ludicrous). In any case, the problem’s not that some want to lobby, but that universities might improperly give in. Those concerned about academic freedom would be better served in taking aim at the pusillanimity of University administrations rather than imagining Zionist lever-pulling conspiracies.

Do Rich White Kids Win With Affirmative Action?

Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action  by Peter Schmidt

Reviewed by George C. Leef

Exactly how important is a college degree from a prestige school? Many believe that having such a degree is extremely important – a virtual guarantee of success in life. The higher education establishment works hard at propounding the idea that without a college degree, a young person’s life will be one of almost Hobbesian misery and the elite institutions go a step further and portray themselves as the essential training grounds for the nation’s leaders. If you accept those views, the destiny of the nation is largely shaped by who goes to college and where.

Peter Schmidt has swallowed them hook, line, and sinker, which isn’t surprising for a reporter who has been immersed in higher education for many years. In his new book Color and Money he writes, “In modern American society, many of us assume – or at least desperately hope – that the people in leading positions in government, business, and the professions are our best and brightest… How do we decide who deserves such status? Generally, we rely on academic credentials. We entrust the task of identifying and training our best and brightest to our elite higher education institutions…”

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Does Affirmative Action Work? Don’t Ask The California Bar

Do minority law students drop out or fail to pass the bar because of affirmative action? That’s exactly the direction recent research by UCLA law professor Richard Sander is pointing. His work, published in the Stanford Law Review, concluded that the admission of underqualified students due to affirmative action leads to higher drop-out rates and frequent failure to pass the bar. The research cites the “mismatch” effect, suggesting that these student might find a more successful academic match at less challenging schools.
Stuart Taylor, Jr. has some superb thoughts on the topic (subscription only, alas) – here’s a sample:

You might think that affirmative-action supporters such as the Society of American Law Teachers and the leaders of the California State Bar would be eager to learn whether preferences are, in fact, backfiring on intended beneficiaries. But so far they seem eager to avoid finding out. This at a time when virtually every selective law (and undergraduate) school systematically uses large racial preferences in admissions and when the American Bar Association’s accrediting arm is pushing hard for such preferences.

Indeed, some of the same critics who fault Sander’s studies because of limitations in the data at his disposal are seeking to prevent him and other researchers from accessing the far more specific and recent – but secret – data in the hands of the California State Bar. Its records of bar exam performance contain the nation’s best collection of information about disparities in the pass-fail rates and the scores of various racial and other groups.

So is it simply the case that the California bar is generally tight-lipped about data? No – it’s a question of who’s doing the asking. As Fox News reports:

“The release (bar exam) applicants sign does not allow us to release the information to third parties,” Whitnie Henderson told FOX News. “Looking at all the information we just decided it was not something that fit within the committee’s purview.”
Henderson headed the committee that rejected Sander’s request. Contrary to her statement, twice in the last 15 years the California Bar released individual information to outside researchers. [Italics mine]

The data seems certain to be wrenched free eventualy. As always, though, the affirmative action stalwarts stall for every inch.

The State of the Faculty – A Liberal View

The study of professors’ views by Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons confirms much of what we already knew: there are more liberals than conservatives working in academia, and the ratio increases in the humanities and social sciences, as well as at more elite universities. However, the survey does show an important fact, that a substantial number of professors are moderates and independents, and no simple stereotype of college faculty exists. Certainly, conservatives like David Horowitz are dead wrong when they claim, “Our faculties are 90 percent to 95 percent people of the left.”

One common conservative refrain is that “tenured radicals” have taken over universities and hired only leftists. As Gross and Simmons point out, there hasn’t been a radical left-wing shift among faculty. In reality, the liberal tendencies of university faculty have a long history; William F. Buckley contended that the Yale political science faculty in 1948 supported Truman over Dewey by 23-0. Robert Bork was called by a Yale journalist in 1964 who could find only one other Goldwater supporter on a faculty of 1,000 professors. An analysis in Public Opinion Quarterly of the 1989 and 1997 Carnegie surveys of faculty even concluded that “the replacement of older, more liberal cohorts by younger, less liberal ones has helped to produce a less liberal faculty.”

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The ROTC Is Not Invited At Harvard

Drew Faust’s inauguration as Harvard President last Friday featured a surprising presence: the Harvard ROTC. The ROTC, which has been banned from the Harvard campus since 1969, formed a closing color guard composed of Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force students. Most wouldn’t have expected Faust to invite the ROTC – and they’d be right – she didn’t invite them. Their appearance was arranged through a request from the cadets themselves. And they were far from sure of the response; the Harvard Crimson, writing on the topic, noted that “ROTC members did not originally plan to propose the idea to Faust because they did not expect her to be interested.” Faust was receptive, however, and the closing color guard was arranged.
This appearance struck against fears that, after significant outreach to the ROTC during the Summers years, the organization would again be marginalized. Summers’ stance was hardly popular. Harvey Mansfield observed that “Summers made it clear that one of his desires on becoming President was to return ROTC to campus.” He was the first President in decades to attend ROTC commissioning ceremonies each year, where he conveyed unambiguous messages of support for the cadets. He “spoke strongly and clearly wanted things to change” a stance, Mansfield observes, that did not endear him to many at Harvard.

After the Summers experience, it was widely expected that Harvard would resume a more uniformly hostile stance towards ROTC. Neither incoming President Faust nor interim President Derek Bok attended this year’s ROTC commissioning ceremony. Stephen Rosen, the Kaneb Professor of National Security and Military Affairs, expressed a widely-recognized truth about the university at that gathering: “Harvard.. is uneasy with national military service, because it is uneasy with war, and with warriors, and it is no longer comfortable with the idea of Harvard as an American university, as opposed to an international university.”

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The Betrayal Of The Academy

[This is an excerpt from a paper delivered by James Piereson at a Manhattan Institute conference on October 3, 2007, marking the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. He is Executive Director of the Center for the American University and President of the William E. Simon Foundation. The New Criterion will publish the full text of papers from the conference, some of them in slightly different forms. The proceedings of the meeting will soon be available on C-SPAN. Speakers included Robert George, Roger Kimball, Peter Berkowitz, James Miller, Heather Mac Donald and Mark Steyn.]

[Allan] Bloom claimed that the West faces an intellectual crisis because no one any longer can make a principled defense of its institutions or way of life. This is most evident in the university, which has reformed itself according to the ideas of openness, tolerance, relativism, and diversity – all of which claim that no political principles, institutions, or way of life can be affirmed as being superior to any others. This is the near-universal view among students and faculty at our leading institutions of higher learning. The tragedy here, according to Bloom, is that relativism has extinguished the real motive behind all education, which is “the search for the good life.” If all ideas and ideals are equal, there is little point in searching for the best ones.

This open-mindedness, as Bloom said, is thought to be a moral virtue that counters a dangerous vice called “absolutism,” which involves the affirmation of any set of principles or morals as objectively true. The operative assumption here is that if someone or some group affirms something to be true they will be led to oppress those who disagree. Tolerance and openness are thus the virtues required for democracy and freedom. Hitler, as it is believed, was an absolutist; his crimes followed from his absolute conviction that he was right and Germans a superior people. Democracy thus seems to rely on the belief that no one has access to the truth.

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What Multiculturalism Has Done To Us

[This is an excerpt from a paper delivered by Roger Kimball at the Manhattan Institute’s Closing Of The American Mind conference. It will appear in complete form in The New Criterion.]

..It is a rich and promiscuous stew that Allan Bloom served up, part polemic, part exhortation, part exercise in cultural-intellectual history. It sometimes grabs readers by the lapels and gives them a shake; at other times it assumes a dry, professorial tone as it delineates the genealogy of freedom, discriminates among diverse meanings of equality, or parses a choice passage from Plato, Rousseau, Tocqueville, or Nietzsche. the egalitarian, recognizing that genuine excellence is rare, declares greatness a fraud and sets about obliterating distinctions…

As Bloom recognized, the fruits of egalitarianism are ignorance, the habit of intellectual conformity, and the systematic subjection of cultural achievement to political criteria. In the university, this means classes devoted to pop novels, rock videos, and third-rate works chosen simply because their authors are members of the requisite sex, ethnic group, or social minority. It means students who graduate not having read Milton or Dante or Shakespeare – or, what is in some ways even worse, who have been taught to regard the works of such authors chiefly as hunting grounds for examples of patriarchy, homophobia, imperialism, etc., etc. It means faculty and students who regard education as an exercise in disillusionment and who look to the past only to corroborate their sense of superiority and self-satisfaction…

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Distressingly Few Conservative Profs

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has a long and excellent article on the Gross-Simmons study on the political and social views of professors, as well as on the Harvard symposium last Saturday that discussed the findings. The study concluded that the professoriate is more moderate than many believe, with younger instructors less activist and less liberal than older ones, though there has been no rise in the percentage of conservatives (I discussed this study here on October 10th.)

If you are pressed for time and have already read an account of the Gross-Simmons conclusions, skip down to the second half of the Jaschik report, which features comments by Harvard’s former president Lawrence Summers and other faculty members. Summers says the percentage of conservative professors is distressingly small, but thinks it would be “extraordinarily unwise and dangerous” to try forcing more balance in hiring.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a historian at New York University, said the experience of growing up in the 80s and 90s amid the rise of the political right has had a profound effect on professors, including an “erosion of faith in citizens.” He said, “the story we need to tell is about the alienation of professors from the publics.” At the end of the Jaschik report is a collection of unusually interesting reader comments on Gross-Simmons and the issues it raises.

Are Conservatives Like Black Major Leaguers?

At the Saturday conference on the Gross-Simmons study, Lawrence Summers compared the meager number of conservative professors to the startling decline in the number of black players in major league baseball (now down to 8.4 percent). Blacks are well-represented among the best players, “but it appeared that there were not any African-American .250 hitters.” Alas, the implication here – that baseball deliberately cuts the percentage of blacks by discriminating against all but the best African-Americans – is wrong. The main reason for black decline is the structure of the amateur draft. Since the draft does not apply to foreign-born players, teams can circumvent the draft by aggressively seeking promising players outside the U.S., most commonly in Caribbean countries. Every major league team now has a training camp in the Dominican Republic. Vince Gennaro, a consultant to many major league teams, says the international market “is the place where the high-revenue teams can leverage their economic advantage.” Another factor is that the draft has shifted sharply toward players in college, where there are fewer blacks and a dwindling number of athletic scholarships. Polls also show that black youths are much less interested in baseball than they are in basketball and football. One reason may be that black culture puts a high premium on improvisation (jazz, hip hop, the transformation of modern basketball). Baseball may be the sport most resistant to improvisation.

“Why Was I Unfit?”

After 25 years in the corporate world, I decided to head back to the campus. In a way, I hadn’t really left since my dissertation. I had published several refereed articles in academic journals, five academic books (one a best seller in the field) and had conducted large research studies, collected a lot of data, written “white papers” and shared a good deal of that with my academic friends.

I found a position in the business school of a well-known Midwestern university. In my first semester I was asked what my political associations were. The question seemed irrelevant. I said so, adding that in presidential elections I had voted for three Independents, three Democrats and three Republicans. I was a free market guy, believed in lower taxes, less regulation, individual performance and personal accountability. I also believed in a secure retirement, health care support for the needy, a social “safety net” for those who could not work, education for everyone starting in kindergarten, a strong national defense, a sustainable ecological future for our children and grandchildren, smaller government, more local control, law enforcement – in short, sort of a libertarian, and one who believed in helping those who were less fortunate.

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Real Diversity At The University Of California

Fear that Proposition 209 has whitewashed the University of California? A majority of students at seven of the nine undergraduate campuses at the University of California are now foreign-born or have one foreign-born parent, a new study by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley reveals. Chinese, Latino, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, East Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Pacific Islander, and white immigrants now constitute a majority at all UC schools save for UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara – where students who are immigrants or have one immigrant parent still make up almost 40% of each student body.

The report contained other striking revelations; socioeconomic diversity is on the rise as well; 24% of attendees reported annual parental income of under $35,000. Surprising? Well, it’s not unrelated. The report additionally indicates that those students immigrant backgrounds are “much more likely” to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than their peers. 74% of those in the under-$35,000 bracket grew up speaking a principal language other than English, or English along with another language.

What does this all mean? Well, the report’s explanation is simple, and convincing:

UC is becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse in complex ways that reflect major demographic changes in the state, with Chinese students largely from immigrant families now representing the second largest identifiable racial/ethnic group in the UC system, followed by Chicano/Latino and then Korean and Vietnamese students.

The representation of Asians in the UC system is a continued success story, but the encouragingly high Latino\Chicano rate of attendance, at 14% of the undergraduate body, is an encouraging rejoinder to objections that Proposition 209 decimated Latino attendance rates. Latinos constituted a bit over 13% of the UC population prior to Proposition 209, according to the California Research Bureau. They’ve clearly now achieved comparable results free of preferences.
What’s more, the report posed a number of questions about students’ priorities at college. The more affluent students were, the more likely they were to skip classes and to value “social involvement – time spent on fun” over “academic involvement – time spent on academics.” The students from less affluent backgrounds, by contrast, were most likely to report never skipping classes, and valued academic involvement over social involvement by the greatest margin. The changes in the UC student body reflect a clear shift towards greater seriousness in student performance. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same.

University: We’re Making It Up As We Go Along

The University of St. Thomas has now, predictably, re-invited Desmond Tutu to speak, after revoking his invitation over earlier concerns about his thoughts on Israel.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Rev. Dennis J. Dease, president of the university, sent a letter to students and members of the faculty and staff on Wednesday, saying he had changed his mind about the archbishop’s appearance and would now like to formally invite him to visit the university, in St. Paul.

In the contemporary academy, no speaking invitation is ever secure, nor, it seems, is one ever really canceled. Yet another proof of the gossamer public stances of university administrations.

Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, the voice of liberal academia, says that an important new study shows that liberal dominance among professors is much less than commonly believed. Not really. The study, by sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, found that in 2004, 78 percent of faculty voted for John Kerry (77percent) or Ralph Nader (1 percent), while only 20.4 percent voted for President Bush. Among social science professors, Ralph Nader and “other” received a percentage of the 2004 vote as large as that of President Bush.

Other findings:

* Liberals outnumber conservatives by 11-1 among social scientists and 13-1 among humanities professors.

* 25.5 percent of those who teach sociology identify themselves as Marxist. Self-identified radicals accounted for 19 percent of humanities professors and 24 percent of social scientists.

* Although business school professors are believed to be predominantly conservative, professors of business voted 2-1 for Kerry. These professors were barely more conservative than liberal.

* Only 19.7 percent of respondents identify themselves as any type of conservative, compared to 62.2 percent who say they are any type of liberal.

* At elite, Ph.D-granting schools in general, 60.4 percent of faculty members are Democrats, 30.1 percent are independents and 9.5 percent are Republicans.

* Gross and Simmons believe that liberals are losing ground to moderates among faculty, though conservatives are not gaining at all. Faculty members who are 35 or younger are less likely that their elders to be left-wing, and less likely to be conservative as well.

Continue reading Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

Colleges Bilking Students Again?

Business Week reports on many colleges’ increasingly cozy relations with banks. In the most common formulation, the colleges permit their ID cards to double as debit and ATM cards for particular banks, in return, typically, for some portion of the profits.

Parhaps it does work, but as Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers comments in the article: “It’s unfortunate that there are colleges that have begun to view every point of contact with students as a potential profit center.”