Donald Downs

FIRE Singes the Censors

How time flies. In 1987, a new breed of speech and harassment codes and student indoctrination were unleashed on college campuses across the land. Thus, what Allan Kors and Harvey Silverglate famously labeled the “shadow university”–the university dedicated to censorship and politically correct paternalism–is now at least 25 years old. The public recognized the consequences of […]

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Want to Hear Obama? Just Say You Support Him

Many people are miffed at the way the University of Wisconsin is handling President Obama’s visit to our campus today. Concerns are not with the visit per se–most of us think the event is something very compelling, a bit of history entering through our gates. The location of the speech in the heart of the […]

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Campus and Armed Forces–Too Far Apart

Alienation between the military and the society it serves has grown in recent decades. There are several reasons, including the advent of the All Volunteer Force and the relative abandonment of military service by the upper and upper-middle classes (the so-called AWOL of the elites). Other factors are the military’s redistribution of resources for ROTC […]

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Can’t Talk–Faculty Are Nearby

We sometimes Google our contributors to see how they are doing. That’s how we noticed that Professor Donald A. Downs of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, delivered a talk on free speech at another branch of the University of Wisconsin (River Falls) and added these words in a letter to the student paper praising its […]

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Protest Versus Disruption at the University of Wisconsin

It has been over a week since the University of Wisconsin at Madison was torn by the debate over affirmative action on September 13. The conflict was precipitated by the presentation of a study conducted by the Center for Equal Opportunity, which alleges reverse discrimination in UW admissions policies. A lot has been written about […]

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Military History and ‘The Revolt Against Elitism’

In his blog commentary, KC Johnson of Brooklyn College questions the results of a new American Historical Association survey, which found that more historians are focusing on diplomatic and military history than in recent times. “In contrast to critics (including me) who have suggested that the profession has aggressively diminished approaches to history deemed ‘traditional,’” Johnson […]

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Signs of Campus Dissent in Madison

Not surprisingly, the University of Wisconsin at Madison has been deeply affected by the important labor dispute that has consumed the state, its capitol, and the nation the last two weeks. Passions are high, especially over the part of Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal that will drastically limit collective bargaining by state employees covered by […]

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The New Yorker Takes on the US News College Rankings

Malcolm Gladwell has written his share of interesting and penetrating essays in The New Yorker in recent years. He has also authored such best-selling books as Blink, which is about rapid cognition and intuition, and The Tipping Point, which addresses the factors that contribute to unexpected change. The relevance of Tipping Point has received another […]

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Social Justice Art and Liberal Democracy

Michelle Kamhi is the co-editor of the online arts review Aristos, and a mild-mannered, well-spoken New Yorker with a love of art and intellectual integrity. She is also the cause of a heated controversy that has broken out in the world of art education. The source of this conflict is an op-ed Kamhi wrote in […]

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When the Administration Takes Over the Departments

New Jersey’s Kean University is planning to institute a controversial new academic structure. The university has presented a draft proposal , its second, to replace the traditional arrangement of academic departments with schools headed by “executive directors” appointed by the president. Initiatives to eliminate such departments as philosophy and social work are already in the […]

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Hate and Free Speech at Wisconsin

A student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew an unusual and alarming advertising request for its online edition. The request to the Badger Herald came a few weeks ago from an agent for Bradley R. Smith, a notorious denier of the Holocaust and founder of the loopy fringe group, Committee for Open Debate on […]

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What Is The AAUP Up To?

Cary Nelson, current president of the American Association of University Professors, has a new book dealing with academic freedom and its relationship to broader structural problems in higher education. No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom is interesting and important, but also frustrating. It provides remedies to the problems confronting academic freedom at the […]

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The Problem With Student Engagement

“Student engagement” is a movement and a cause that has made steady progress on our campuses. According to Inside Higher Education, it has reached a “critical mass” of participants, though many in the world of colleges and universities are only half-aware, or perhaps unaware, of what the movement is all about. The National Survey of […]

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Card Check Comes To Campus

Labor unions have suffered a number of defeats in recent years, but they hope to regain momentum by gaining passage of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to secure votes for unionization, mainly through a mechanism called “card check.” Card check would replace the traditional method of unionization by eliminating […]

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Donald Downs On Academic Freedom

Donald Downs appeared here in New York at an event co-sponsored by the Pope Center and the Manhattan Institute on academic freedom, presenting his fascinating new paper “Academic Freedom: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and How to Tell the Difference.” Listen to John Leo interviewing Donald Downs in a new podcast.

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Cornell ’69 And What It Did

Forty years ago this week, an armed student insurrection erupted on the Cornell campus. I was a sophomore on campus at the time and later wrote a book on the events, Cornell ’69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University. To some the drama represented a triumph of social justice, paving the way for […]

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Universities, Individualism, and David Brooks

In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks raised an interesting and important question. Drawing on a recent book (largely neglected) by Hugh Heclo entitled On Thinking Institutionally, Brooks critiqued a report on education that a Harvard University faculty committee issued a few years ago. According to the report, “the aim of a […]

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The Next Bubble?

The idea of “bubble” has been on everyone’s mind since the escalating housing and economic crisis first erupted in July 2007. Throughout these turbulent times, one institution appeared to be coasting along above the fray: Higher Education. Higher ed has been growing for decades, becoming a staple in the national political economy. The supply and […]

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Due Process Fades In Wisconsin

The Board of Regents and officials of the University of Wisconsin system have recently proposed two sweeping changes to the system’s student misconduct codes. The first change is a new code covering student misconduct outside of university property (UWS 18). The second involves some major changes in the present Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Code, UWS 17. […]

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The Battle Over Student Fees

The stage is now set for wide debate over mandatory student fees These are the fees that educational institutions or student governments assess students above and beyond the monies that pertain to tuition, housing, dining, and similar goods. Some of these additional fees typically fund extracurricular activities or needs such as medical services, crime victim […]

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Columbia’s 68 Celebration: Only Radicals Need Apply

This past weekend Columbia University held a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Student Strike that shook Columbia and all of higher education. For a week, student activists occupied five buildings in protest of several policies, including ROTC’s presence on campus, the university’s relationship to the Department of Defense and the war in […]

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When Donors Pick The Courses

An interesting news item caught my eye last week. The BB&T Charitable Foundation has made a million-dollar donation to Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business. The donation comes with a string attached: Marshall must teach Ayn Rand’s classic tribute to capitalism, Atlas Shrugged, as part of the curriculum. The BB&T Foundation has made numerous grants […]

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Beware The Second Transcript

For years now, college students have been busy committing themselves to extracurricular activities. On the whole, such commitment can be constructive. It contributes to civic engagement by the young and helps them to develop personal responsibility and character. Meanwhile, college officials claim that would-be employers are now demanding that colleges provide evidence that graduates are […]

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College Sports – A Very Useful Fetish

Is it just me, or have others noted that “Big-Time College Sports” (basketball and football, primarily) have recently taken yet another leap into a qualitatively different zone? In my neck of the woods, we have the very controversial new Big Ten Network, which hopes to make gobs of money from advertisers if cable companies ever […]

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The Unbalanced University

In my last essay for Minding the Campus, I discussed how faculty indifference may have contributed indirectly to the establishment of the University of Delaware’s now notorious residence hall re-education program. If so, we should consider this a crime of omission rather than a crime of commission. This perspective on the problem either differs from […]

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