De Paul Fails Free Speech Again

Black protesters and their allies shut down a speech by a conservative gay activist at DePaul University in Chicago last night. That’s not news, of course– it’s just what the campus left does.

The news is that the security guards hired for $1000 to protect the speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos (after, he says, they threatened to let demonstrators cancel the talk if he didn’t pay), just stood around and made no effort to ward off the protesters.

This is an interesting breakthrough in college treatment of speakers: two separate levels of incompetence in protecting free speech. Neither the campus guards nor the hired Hessians did anything. We look to the president of DePaul–the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider–to get the money returned, reprimand the campus guards for also doing nothing, apologize for the neglect, and make sure the speaker is re-invited as part of the required apology.

No—just kidding. President Holtschneider is, by reputation, one of the shakiest defenders of free speech at large on America’s censorship-minded campuses.

In 2006, Holtschneoder was co-winner of the annual Sheldon given for worst college president of the year. Holtschneider scored a rare triple in the campus censorship sweepstakes:

1) Cracking down on a satiric affirmative action bake sale like the ones routinely sponsored on many other campuses.

2) Suspending an instructor without a hearing or even notification of charges after a testy out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian and Muslim activists.

3) Making an unusually strange move after pro-choice students ripped up an administration-approved anti-abortion exhibit, he penalized the pro-lifers for posting the names of the 13 pro-choicers who admitted destroying the display.

Penalizing the wrong party is a familiar move in the Sheldon competition and is deeply admired by judges. Sheldon Hackney, for whom the Sheldon is named, set the standard there: when an entire press run of the school paper was stolen at Penn because it contained a column opposing affirmative action, Hackney penalized not the thieves, but the campus guard who caught them.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said Holtschneider talks a good game on free speech but doesn’t deliver on the promises.

Holtschneider is now in position to contend for his second Sheldon, which is like getting into the Hall of Fame twice. But he will have to keep failing at his regular rate. Competition is so keen.

LET PROS RUN YOUR CAMPUS PROTEST

In a crowd of protesters at Brigham Young University, Kelsey Bourgeois, 26, is shown carrying a sign in one hand and a megaphone in the other. The photo is in the May 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

deseretnews.com
deseretnews.co

She is not a BYU student, though she was one years ago. She is a professional protester. She produces posters, gather names on petitions and coaches complaining students on how to “optimize” their demands.

She works for Care2, a B-corporation of the left, promoting causes like animal rights, environmentalism, vegetarianism, choice on abortion, and human rights, such as the cause of the woman who died mysteriously in a Texas jail after a traffic arrest. The student protesters do not pay for Care2 services, but outside companies receive $1.50 to $2 each for access to the names of protest supporters.

The Chronicle presented this story as a normal one, thought the use of professionals to inspire, coach and conduct protests seems revolutionary. Unless challenged, off-campus supporters can now run campus protests—and perhaps nationalize them– as part of an indirect money-making scheme.  Some students will still gather in angry crowds, but many will opt to leave it to the pros. Care2 gathered 113,000 petition-signers on behalf of the protest at BYU, more than three times the total number of students at the BYU campus.

Perhaps presidents of universities will intervene to ban professional protesters from campus. But judging from their non- action on protest last fall, don’t count on it.

Watch Out For The Campus Bias Team

Some 100 American colleges encourage their students to report offensive occurrences of non-criminal bias on campus.

Writing in The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell tells us that the University of Oregon’s “bias report team” counted 85 incidents in the past year. including these:

  • A poster featuring a “triggering image” displaying “body size” bias.
  • Sexually explicit doodles on Post-its.
  • Too little coverage of transgender students in the newspaper.
  • A professor joking that a nontraditional student was “too old to answer a question about current events.”

One student “reported that a tutor consistently ignores him,” and tagged the incident as “Bias Type: Age, Ethnicity, Gender, Race.” Students have also asked administrators to regulate speech in other ways.

The University of Minnesota’s recently introduced free-speech code, for example, has been opposed by students who want the school to guarantee “special opportunities for those who are not well-spoken.”

Rampell writes, “I applaud students who want to create a diverse, welcoming atmosphere on campus. I admire their drive to make the world around them a better, more inclusive place. What puzzles me, though, is this instinct to appeal to administrators to adjudicate any conflict. Rather than confronting, debating and trying to persuade those whose words or actions offend them, students demand that a paternalistic figure step in and punish offenders.”

The Falsity of Domestic Violence

Murray Straus, a researcher in family violence at the University of New Hampshire, died last weekend at the age of 89. He was a man of fierce integrity, and since I covered the social sciences for two national publications, I can tell you that his evidence always checked out. I can also tell you that his memory will not be cherished by gender warriors.

In almost 50 years of research, Straus and the researchers who followed his lead, established beyond any doubt that domestic violence isn’t an instrument of patriarchal control as feminists claim. Nor is it a gender crime as the Violence Against Women’s Act insists it is, but a crime that troubled male and female partners commit against one another at roughly equal rates. Men do more damage than women do, but women conduct and initiate violence as often as men do, and one of three killings by partners is by women.

The frequent claim that women commit violence in self-defense is not borne out in the research. In his 2010 paper, “Thirty Years of Denying The Evidence of Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence,” Straus says the long uproar was fueled by the 1975 National Family Violence Survey, which found a perpetration rate of assault by men partners of 12% and by women partners 11.6%. The rate of severe assaults such as kicking, punching, choking, and attacks with objects was also about the same for men and women (3.8% by men and 4.6% by women). Neither of these gender differences was statistically significant. The response by those who wanted to use domestic violence  as a lever to reduce patriarchal power was furious. Reports that men and women are  equally culpable are not what many wanted to hear.

Among other things, that fury led to dishonest surveys that suppressed evidence of female violence, dropped some findings, blocked publication of some research. faked some statistics, touched off campaigns of intimidation of researchers in the field, and made it risky for graduate students to study under Straus.

Straus had to endure a lot of pressure, demonstrations and death threats. The late Suzanne Steinmetz of the University of Delaware was frequently harassed  for research similar to Straus’s, and a bomb threat was called in at her daughter’s wedding.

Straus guessed that the news media went along with the war on honest research out of a simple desire to sell newspapers. That sounds wrong. Sociology doesn’t sell papers, A much more likely explanation is that young people who enter the news media tend to support causes of the cultural left and have trouble producing straightforward reporting on cultural issues. The decline of social science is mirrored by decline of the press.

You can watch Prof. Murray Straus on You Tube discuss the falsification of domestic violence statistics, at the Conference on Violence, Conflict and Unity in the Family, at Ariel University, 29.4.13.

Let’s Reject This Endorsement of Free Speech on Campus

Today in the Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch explains “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus.”

Many conservatives might jump to endorse this article as a welcome indictment of liberal censorship and bias by two powerful campus donors. But that would be a mistake.  Look more closely at what Bloomberg and Koch are saying.  

Whether in economics, morality, politics or any other realm of study, progress has always depended upon human beings having the courage to challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs.

Got that?  Prevailing traditions and beliefs are a hindrance to progress. They are the obstacles to overcome. We must stand up to them, and that means saying things people are going to find uncomfortable. Bloomberg and Koch say nothing about education as the focusing of young minds on religious, political, and artistic traditions.  Nothing about how you cannot “challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs” intelligently until you have studied those things.  No, it’s all about innovation and reform and progress.

Bloomberg and Koch’s examples show how misguided is the approach.

Many ideas that the majority of Americans now hold dear–including that all people should have equal rights, women deserve the right to vote, and gays and lesbians should be free to marry whom they choose–were once unpopular minority views that many found offensive.

This is the standard justification, and it’s a misleading one.  It overlooks a giant contrary category: things that came along and were hailed as forms of progress but sooner or later exposed as terrible mistakes.  Some instances: early-20th-century eugenics, open classrooms in secondary education, the destruction of Penn Station . .

Bloomberg and Koch compound their blindness to the dangers of progress in the very next sentence.

They are now widely accepted because people were free to engage in a robust dialogue with their fellow citizens.

To claim that the same-sex marriage controversy has been settled through a “robust dialogue” is to rewrite history.  Has any conflict in recent times been less civil and open than this one? 

The progressives on this issue have used tactics of shaming, demonization, intimidation, and litigation, not those of debate.  There is no tolerance for differing opinions, which Bloomberg and Koch hail as a proper effect of liberal education.  They believe in a society in which “individuals need not fear reprisal, harassment or intimidation for airing controversial opinions.”  We don’t have one right now, not on this issue.

The problem in Bloomberg and Koch’s declaration is a discursive one.  They praise progress, in the process setting the status quo as a roadblock to it.  But what, then, about people who believe in the status quo?  And what if the conflict turns upon deeply held beliefs, perhaps religious ones, that won’t be managed and accommodated so smoothly by a marketplace of ideas. 

Let’s face it: some commitments run deeper than that.  Moral positions can be visceral.  Bloomberg and Koch think that “open minds and rational discourse” may proceed if we only show more tolerance. 

But to Bloomberg and Koch tolerance is simply a pathway to shedding principles important millions of students.

A Champion of Free Speech Takes on the Muzzled Campus

Harvey Silverglate delivered these remarks upon receiving the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton award Monday, May 9th at a dinner in New York City. Silverglate is a Cambridge attorney, a veteran defender of civil rights and civil liberties, and co-founder, along with University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).


I have dedicated much of my career to two contests that are consuming our nation, the ramifications of which will impact generations to come as well as the health of the republic itself.

I am referring to, first, the capacity of the criminal law, especially federal law, to turn all of us into criminals, at the government’s whim, for engaging in what to us appear to be the most benign personal and professional actions or inactions.

And, second, the effort, well underway, to destroy the liberal arts university by replacing the quest for human knowledge with the indoctrination of students into truth as it is postulated by self-righteous fanatics who think they have a monopoly on human wisdom, when in fact all they really have monopolized are the levers of academic and administrative power.Harvey Silverglate

And, with respect to these two areas – due process and fairness in the criminal law, and free speech and thought and procedural fairness on college campuses – I have long taken comfort in the reliability of allies such as the Manhattan Institute. This is the reason that, despite my reputation for accepting rather few invitations, I gratefully accepted the Manhattan Institute’s invitation to venture to New York (where, by the way, I was born, so this is not foreign territory to me) to accept, along with my co-recipient the redoubtable Bruce Kovner, the Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award.

Thank you, Manhattan Institute, and the Institute’s leadership – President Larry Mone in particular, and the entire Board – for this honor, but, even more important, for the Institute’s ceaseless support for civilization and sanity in my two areas of interest, the criminal law and our institutions of higher education.

Interestingly, I noticed that dangerous trends in each of these two areas accelerated around the same time –the mid-1980s. Might the explanation, I asked myself, be that suddenly the universities were accepting a more diverse student body? Rather than celebrate this liberalization of American society and academic culture, I wondered, perhaps the colleges, fearing that students of different racial, religious, and social backgrounds would clash with one another, expanded the student-life bureaucracies to, in their view, keep the peace.

Regardless of the justification, definitions of “harassment” were adopted that were so vague and broad so as to escalate the numbers of disciplinary proceedings, many of which were deemed confidential so that the outside world had no idea what was happening. Speech codes popped up that sought to prevent students from insulting or offending one another, but in practice the codes strangled the academic enterprise. Kangaroo courts were established to adjudicate the many violations of the new rules. Remember that we’re talking about liberal arts colleges, not prisons, not re-education camps!

At about the same time, I noted a proliferation of prosecutions in the federal courts that were ensnaring defendants who, it seemed to me, had conducted themselves, if not superbly, then at least within legal limits. This ensnaring was enabled by the greatly expanded use of inherently vague federal statutes, such as “fraud.” The concept of “fraud” suddenly meant whatever a United States Attorney wanted it to mean, with the target often being selected for the personal aggrandizement of the prosecutor’s reputation and future career prospects rather than for the protection of the public.

The bottom line was that I saw these major institutions – the college campuses and the federal courts – take a turn toward precepts and practices that furnished a nutrient-laden petri dish for an experiment in an authoritarianism that was very different from the America I was familiar and comfortable with.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s co-founders, University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors and I, established FIRE in 1999, a year after Professor Kors and I published our book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. That book followed Professor Kors’ representation, with some legal advice from me, of an undergraduate who was being persecuted in a Penn campus tribunal in the famous “water buffalo” case, where a well-meaning student named Eden Jacobowitz addressed a group of undergraduate women who were raucously celebrating their sorority’s anniversary just outside his dorm window as he was studying. He shouted “shut up, you water buffalo!” The women being African-Americans, this was deemed by them, and by student-life administrators, to constitute “racial harassment.”

It turned out, actually, that in the offending student’s first language, Hebrew, the common slang term behema reasonably translates into “water-buffalo” and refers to a rowdy or thoughtless person. Penn’s administrators, unaware of, and uninterested in, Jacobowitz’s cultural background, assumed that the water buffalo was native to Africa (it’s not), and from this they extrapolated their hate speech theory. In the face of derisive worldwide publicity, the campus bureaucrats backed down, but it turned out to be merely a strategic retreat, not a true surrender.

Sanity’s well-publicized victory in the water buffalo case triggered a flood of students seeking assistance from Professor Kors and me. These beleaguered individuals were suffering not only from unfair persecutions, but also were being cheated out of a genuine liberal arts education. The liberal arts are not readily compatible with censorship and mindless ideological persecution. It is impossible to teach, and to learn, in the liberal arts arena under such conditions of hypersensitivity and authoritarianism. Indoctrination was replacing true academic study. From the day students arrive as freshman they are subjected to “sensitivity training” engineered by burgeoning student life bureaucrats who intrude into their most intimate lives and thoughts. I recognized that students, and even dissenting faculty, were at the mercy of a new regime, something of a cross between Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Kafka’s The Trial.

Kors and I could not handle the volume, and so FIRE was born out of sheer necessity. I at the time had assumed that surely the ludicrousness of the campus persecutions would result in the phenomenon burning itself out within less than ten years. It was, I told myself, a momentary social panic. FIRE would be a temporary project. The burning of witches in Salem, after all, ended rather abruptly when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided that enough was enough and put an end to the trials in 1693. That scourge lasted but one year.

Well, FIRE is in its 17th year, with no end in sight. We are in trench warfare.

The success of The Shadow University triggered my next project.

I wrote a book about the decline of justice in the federal criminal system, which I titled Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. As you might intuit by the title, my thesis is, essentially, that the average American arguably commits three federal felonies in a typical day, but does not even realize it. All that is needed is an ambitious federal prosecutor, and a prosecution is born. One has to pray that his case is assigned to a judge who sees through the scam. Most do not. Like campus administrators, too many judges tend to be either cynics or true believers.

And, contrary to the way book projects are traditionally carried out, I went to sell the completed book to a publisher – no book proposal, but, rather, a full manuscript. The publisher of The Shadow University was unwilling to take on the project, perhaps, I wondered, for fear of the U.S. Department of Justice? Other publishers I contacted likewise turned me away.

Enter my dear friend Dorothy Rabinowitz, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist for The Wall Street Journal, who suggested that I send the manuscript to her friend Roger Kimball, the brilliant publisher at Encounter Books (who I see in the audience this evening, and who is on the Board of the Manhattan Institute).

Roger, who had seen some of his own friends get ensnared in the traps for the unwary strewn throughout the ocean of vague federal statutes and regulations, agreed to publish the book. Three Felonies’ has become somewhat of a handbook for the counter-revolution against tyranny. The book’s influence has been such that I recently acceded to Roger’s plea that I write a sequel that would focus on the proposed solutions. I’m nearly half done with the manuscript, and Conviction Machine is due out sometime next year.

In these two theaters of battle in which I find myself, reliable allies are highly valued. This is why the Manhattan Institute is so important: It recognizes the stakes, in terms of liberty and of civilization itself, in both the criminal justice arena and the education arena. I am proud, and buoyed, to have allies like MI. I know that FIRE likewise is grateful to have such a reliable cohort in the fight for restoration of liberty, fairness, and sanity on college campuses.

Together, and with all of the other groups across the political spectrum that see the reality of what is happening and are determined to do something about it, we will prevail.

Voices in the Harvard Final Club Debate

Richard A. Epstein, Defining Ideas, the Hoover Institution

These final clubs enjoy widespread acceptance among their members because some young people prefer to organize their social lives around single-sex organizations. To a classical liberal like myself, these revealed preferences count a great deal…. But in the eyes of progressives like Faust, these preferences should be dismissed as inconsistent with a bigger vision of a “campus free from exclusion on arbitrary grounds”… .

We should urge them instead to gain experience in both single-sex and more open environments, because no matter what the high priests at Harvard decree, virtually all normal people will be required to move seamlessly between both types of environments in their personal and professional lives. Harvard has no desire to encourage a portfolio of diverse activities. Instead, its chosen form of diversity is really a new form of totalitarian excess that limits student choice, insisting that everyone at Harvard dance to the administration’s martial music.


Robby Soave, Reason.com

Reading between the lines, it seems like “reducing sexual assault” is actually just an excuse for Harvard to take action against groups it doesn’t like—for reasons that are implicitly political….  Harvard is a private organization, and is entitled to place as many ridiculous limitations on students’ lives as it wants. But it doesn’t get to discriminate against students who join finals clubs while simultaneously touting itself as an institution that respects liberal values. There’s nothing liberal about discouraging free association.


Sasha Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, Washington Post

… for those who take an interest in what Harvard does as part of the enterprise of a liberal university, there’s a lot that’s troubling about the idea of penalizing people for their off-campus memberships by denying them a privilege (student organization leadership) that’s available to everyone else…. Fortunately, if you’re a Harvard alumnus, you can do something about it: vote for a slate of candidates for Harvard’s Board of Overseers. The slate consists of Ralph Nader, Ron Unz, Stuart Taylor, Lee Cheng, and Stephen Hsu. Here’s a Harvard Crimson article about their candidacy, here’s a New York Times article, and here’s a debate about their platform.


Elliot Gerson, The Crimson

The Spee Club has long prided itself for being perhaps the most progressive final club, consistently the first to champion a more diverse membership—and diverse in virtually all dimensions before this last and critical one. Indeed, fellow graduate members of the club had long advocated women membership; it was the undergraduates who until recently largely opposed it.

They are now, by my own observation, delighted….Someday, most Harvard final club alumni will look back and wonder how we could accept gender discriminatory membership for so long. Our colleagues at Yale and Princeton, in somewhat similar institutions, made these transitions some time ago and undergraduate life for members and nonmembers alike has only improved

 

The End of Harvard’s Final Clubs?

By Blair Ericson

In the name of “gender inclusion,” Harvard has decided to punish members of all-female sororities, all-male fraternities, and single-sex final clubs of either sex. The final clubs, targeted by the administration for years, are independent groups beyond the direct reach of the university, so Harvard will blacklist their individual members by not allowing them to lead athletic teams or campus groups and making them ineligible for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

In addition to attacking these—and only these—single-sex groups as discriminatory, Harvard argues that they make sexual assault more likely, citing last spring’s contested “campus climate” survey purporting to show that single-sex clubs are the second most common places for sexual assault. The most common places are all-gender locations: Harvard dorms. Besides, as Harvard student Emily Hall pointed out at National Review, the Boston Globe has raised serious doubts about the validity of that survey. She also points out that Harvard is highly selective in picking single-sex targets—the Black Men’s Forum sand a women-only financial advice group are not just allowed to exist but funded by Harvard.

This selective punishment is not just a failure to provide a benefit. It is punishment. And it is not merely punishment of the students who join a targeted group, but it also is punishment of those innocent organizations and teams who will be denied the opportunity to choose their own leaders.

That is, Harvard’s full-throated attack on students’ right to associate off campus is also an unprecedented attack against the freedom of association of every student organization on campus. It is a major power grab by the university against the autonomy of student organizations of every kind.

Harvard is not a true marketplace of ideas so long as it declares that all student organizations ultimately belong to Harvard and must unwaveringly express Harvard’s declared morality that single-sex socializing is anathema. In 2008, when it banned a party at Adams House because it had been advertised as “Barely Legal,” Harvard argued that “a grant of access for an organization’s event necessarily carries an endorsement of the event by the House.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), , which defends the freedoms of speech and association on campus, responded:

“Does anyone really believe that Harvard fully endorses all of the diverse speech accommodated in its classrooms, halls, and residences, simply by providing the space in which this wide range of expression occurs? Of course not. Such an endorsement is not only impossible, but it is also incompatible with the university’s mission as a true marketplace of ideas.”

In addition, FIRE’s Adam Steinbaugh notes Harvard’s rank hypocrisy on this topic by listing several times that Harvard has gone out of its way to distance itself from the events and values promoted by student organizations in recent years. Did the nude photos of Harvard undergraduates in the H-Bomb represent Harvard? How about the “kinky sex” organization, College Munch? How about the group that planned a Satanic “Black Mass”?

Yet, this month, Harvard has made the untenable argument that by operating under the “name” of Harvard, a student group “represents” the official Harvard morality as articulated by Harvard’s administrators. No reasonable person believes that all of the diverse organizations at Harvard “represent” a monolithic Harvard morality.

Harvard’s double standards run deep. Diversity is the name of Harvard’s game, but only the approved kinds of diversity count. Single-sex organizations are OK if the purpose is to sing or play basketball or provide financial advice to women or to support black men, because these organizations are not deemed social enough in the way that Harvard proscribes. No matter that Harvard is treating all of these organizations and its sports teams with disrespect by arguing that their mission is to play sports or do something else but not, really, to be friends. If their friendships get too close, they risk violating Harvard’s culture against single-sex socializing.

Meanwhile, single-sex organizations are not OK by default if they are primarily social. That is, members of fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are automatically blacklisted so long as they do not admit members beyond a single sex. No matter that in many of their social functions, visitors of the opposite sex are quite welcome.

In fact, this is why Harvard claims to be acting in the first place. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust blames “unsupervised social spaces,” spaces Harvard cannot control, for being places where uncontrolled things happen.

And how will Harvard determine whether private off-campus organizations are social enough and that they are single-sex in their membership, and that a student is officially a member? Will there be investigations and interrogations?

When Trinity College tried this kind of thing, it failed miserably. Trinity recently backed off its own power grab because of major alumni revolt and because, after all, the fraternities were not voluntarily going coed as planned. Trinity’s president wrote:

“I have concluded that the coed mandate is unlikely to achieve its intended goal of gender equity. Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness. In fact, community-wide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive.”

“Outrageously, Harvard has decided that 2016 is the right time to revive the blacklist,” said Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE. “This year’s undesirables are members of off-campus clubs that don’t match Harvard’s political preferences. In the 1950s, perhaps Communists would have been excluded. I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?’ Sadly, they are not.”

“Harvard’s decision simply demonstrates that it is willing to sacrifice students’ basic freedom of association to the whims of whoever occupies the administrative suites today,” said FIRE co-founder, civil liberties attorney, and Harvard Law alumnus Harvey Silverglate. “Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?”

Finally, it is interesting—perhaps a legal liability—that Harvard waited to announce its policy until after the May 1 deadline for students to accept its college admission offers. Harvard’s administrators know how unpopular this new Puritanism will look to new students as well as to existing students, student organizations, alumni, and anyone who thinks Harvard should offer fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and association, the same rights enjoyed by students at public colleges and even community colleges nationwide.

Harvard has much more powerful and wise alumni than Trinity. If they want to sue, they might even find students and recognized student organizations with standing to sue on contract claims, whether or not the private associations do. Harvard may not promise fundamental freedoms and entice students to send in their deposits when it knows that these promises mean nothing.

Harvard is in the middle of a Board of Oversees election, in which alumni may vote for establishment candidates or an upstart group of petition candidates who seek a “free” and “fair” Harvard in which “privilege” of all kinds is diminished. Three Free Harvard/Fair Harvard candidates — Ron Unz, Lee Cheng, and Stuart Taylor, Jr. — have come out against Harvard’s punishment of single-sex group members. Their press release said, “Reducing unwarranted privilege is one thing, but violating fundamental promises of freedom of association is another. The impairment of students’ rights of free association is not even remotely the most appropriate or effective remedy for what President Faust has called the ‘alarming frequency’ of sexual assaults by Harvard students. Accountability should begin right at the top.  The leaders of Harvard should be held fully accountable for failing to increase police presence on campus or take the other serious steps to protect students that would be called for if President Faust took seriously her own suggestion that sexual assaults are epidemic at Harvard.”

Blair Ericson is a pseudonym of a writer with Harvard connections.

Times Says Conservatives Unwelcome in Academia

Yesterday The New York Times ran a column by Nicholas Kristof saying that American colleges and universities seem to have very few conservative teachers and display a conspicuous aversion to acquiring more. Readers of this site already know this, but the news must have come as a surprises to Times readers.

“A Confession of LIberal Intolerance,” is the headline on the column (no hedging there), and the subhead is “We are big on diversity, but not when it comes to conservatives in academia.”  Exactly.  It’s worth your time to read the entire article.

 

A Pointless Glut of Ph.Ds

After years of decline, the number of PhDs is rising again—despite obvious signs that the job prospects for the holders of all these new doctorates are far from good. In 2009, the number of doctorates awarded in the humanities dropped significantly.  In 2005, the fields in total produced 5,210 of them, but four years later only 4,891.  That was the year the housing crisis hit academia and created an even worse job market for tenure-track aspirants than had been the case in preceding decades.  (The market for humanities PhDs has been weak ever since the mid-1970s.)  But while the job market has only gotten worse since 2009, the opposite has happened on the production side.  The number of doctorates award in the humanities last year jumped to 5,486, a gain of 12 percent since 2009.

The numbers come from the Survey of Earned Doctorates.  They raise an obvious question: why increase supply when demand falls?  Why do humanities departments take in more people, many more, than there are jobs?

It can’t be over-optimism.  For a long time, nobody has predicted that the market for humanities professors is going to improve.  The last prominent claim I know of happened in 1989, when a study headed by William Bowen forecast a shortage of professors in the humanities and social sciences unless the pipeline flows wider and faster.  A New York Times story on the report termed it “a major shortage.”  Bowen was quoted as saying, “We need to increase overall production of new Ph.D.’s by two-thirds.  In the humanities and social sciences, we need to double the current numbers.”  The main reason for the coming “serious staffing problem” was the expected retirement of all those professors hired in the late-60s and early-70s.  Upcoming job candidates with advanced degree in hand would be in the driver’s seat.  It would be a buyer’s market, with only 30,934 new candidates and 37,091 positions.

Well, many people did retire—and they were replaced with non-tenure-track teachers.  That led to a swelling population of adjuncts and one-year visitors and teaching post-docs, not regular professors.  And they’re bitter as hell.

We can’t blame them.  We should blame the departments that took them in and promised them a bright future, however implicitly.  The departments taught and trained them for seven or eight years.  They had students serve as teaching assistants in large survey courses and gave them their own freshman courses to run.  Then they pushed them out the door at age 30+, into the swirl of hiring, and forgot about them.

We can guess why the number of humanities PhDs jumped last year.  When the crash hit in 2008, college seniors faced a downsizing economy.  Why not go to graduate school?  You get a stipend, you’re good at reading and writing about books, and you can stay in the safe space of the campus.  Many of them, in fact, have spent little time working off-campus, and to continue in the academic realm when the real world is so competitive and unpredictable strikes them as a solution.

So applications went up in 2008, and now we have reached the time when many of them have finished.  The music they avoided facing eight years ago hits them today with the jolt of the opening chords of Schumann’s 4th.  Most of the people trying the job market in English this year, some for the 3rd, 4th, 5th time, walked away with nothing.

But the regular faculty couldn’t resist.  In 2008 and 2009, the applicant piles grew.  That thicker and stronger roster stroked their egos and met department needs.  “People want to come study with us!  We can have a few extra TAs to help with grading.  I can use a research assistant, too.”  More graduate seminars were needed, which allowed professors to shift from teaching a course with 35 more or less uninterested sophomores to a course with five graduate students who want to be in the teacher’s shoes.  When the thought of the job market crossed their minds, perhaps they rationalized it away by claiming to provide a superb humanities education that is sufficient justification for the graduate program.  Or, they believe that cream rises to the top and the rest must pay the price of inferior talents.

We would hear something different from the 32-year-old adjuncts and one-year lecturers who came to grad school with reasonable expectations of regular employment if they worked hard and did what they were told.  Any suggestion that their failure to get a tenure-track job was their own fault would be met with a huff.  “If I wasn’t good enough to join a college faculty, then why did you praise me in the seminars I took, pass me on the qualifying exams, approve of my teaching, sign off on my dissertation, and award me a doctorate?”

To the part-timers, the outcome feels like a betrayal or a dismissal.  It is especially annoying for them to see the number of PhDs rising at a time when they can’t get off the adjunct treadmill.  All those new ones are competitors!

But the fact remains: the numbers keep going up.  Or maybe not for long.  Perhaps fewer students enrolled in graduate humanities programs in 2012 and 2013, and we’ll see fewer completions in 2017 and ’18 and ’19.  But the problem of overproduction won’t be solved with but a tick of a few percentage points downward.  We have so many under-employed strivers piled up over the last ten years that it’s going to take years of large-scale retirements and a vastly shrinking pipeline for the market to even out.

Meanwhile, the craziness goes on.

An Interview with Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield

Harvey Mansfield is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1962. He has written or translated works on Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Alexis de Tocqueville and Edmund Burke as well as a book on Manliness. His notable former students include: Andrew Sullivan, Alan KeyesWilliam KristolClifford OrwinPaul Cantor, Delba Winthrop, Mark LillaFrancis Fukuyama, and Shen Tong.

JOHN LEO You’re known for giving two sets of grades to your students. Why do you do this?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: One set of grades is my private opinion of the work they’ve done. And the other, a higher, official grade that goes to the Harvard registrar, is at or near the Harvard average. Right now, A is the most frequently given grade at Harvard, and A- is the median grade.

JOHN LEO: So this is your kindly answer to grade inflation. You pump up the official grades so your students can compete fairly for jobs with graduates of other colleges that dole out equally inflated grades. Have you had any kickback on that? Anybody protest it?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Never. At first, I thought students might be upset. But they sort of laugh. It’s obvious to them that the purpose of this is to prevent my having to punish them for taking my course,

JOHN LEO:  Let me ask you about the state of the colleges in general. Never before have we had so many students in college. And yet the signs of actual learning are slim. In fact, there’s a body of research about how little college students learn. The most resonant of those studies is the 2011 Richard Arum-Josipa Roksa book, “Academically Adrift.”

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  I think that is so. I haven’t been a student of it, but I did read that book, and it was quite convincing to me. The reason for it, I think, is that the universities have stopped pursuing truth for its own sake. They don’t think that there is such a thing as truth, or at least they have grave doubts about it. And that leaves everyone free to do his own thing. Harvey Mansfield

Then there is multiculturalism, the belief that all cultures are equal. So none is better than any other is. And that’s because there isn’t really any true culture or a culture higher or better than any other is. And so while many professors do their best, students are misled and generally demoralized by the view that learning fundamentally isn’t possible. All you can do is indoctrinate. And indoctrination is unprovably good, unprovably true. And that, I think, is why you’re seeing that lack of devotion to learning, and lack of accomplishment in learning seem to go together.

JOHN LEO:  So you think that the de-emphasis on learning is a direct result of relativism?

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  Yes, I do. This relativism is a sort of liberal view in a general political sense, but it’s been made much more specific by what’s called postmodern thinking.

JOHN LEO:  And do you think the shift toward activism on campus might have something to do with that? Because if you’re not studying and you want to apply things to get a better world, it seems to me, you’re pushed in the direction of activism instead of study.

HARVEY MANSFIELD:   Right. It can be activism, and it can also just be extracurricular activity, which is not as toxic as activism. The Harvard students that I see are sometimes more devoted to their extra-curriculars, as they call them, than to the courses they take. The courses they take are not very challenging, whereas extra-curriculars do challenge them, either in athletics or in competing with other ambitious students to get an impressive resume. The less presentable aspect of all the leisure time, which students have right now, is to protest in such a way as to try to force the university to adopt your politics or your policies.

JOHN LEO: How do you account for the emphasis on hurt feelings and aggression, micro-aggression, the resentment of people who are bent out of shape having to hear things they  don’t already agree with?

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  Well, again, students doubt that there really is anything fundamentally that they need to learn. And they look at themselves and say, if I don’t need to learn anything fundamentally, my attitudes deserve to remain as they are right now. And I’ll defend those attitudes, and defend them by feeling offended, rather than reconsider or stop and reflect and wonder if what I’m listening to in the classroom has any effect on my life.

JOHN LEO:  How do they become that touchy?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: This idea of being offended gains momentum from feminism, because feminism has used the notion of sexual harassment to establish something called a hostile environment, which had been applied to the workplace, but now also to universities. So women are entitled to be at a university which is welcoming to women, has safe spaces and which doesn’t require them to hear things that they don’t want to hear.

JOHN LEO: Right. A hostile environment now seems to include any difference of opinion, or even the slightest twinge of a hurt feeling.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Yes, I think that’s right. Because it becomes one’s moral duty to look for offenses. [laughs] And the people who give offense, even though they may be innocent or not ill meaning, still deserve to be smoked out, reproached and told that they are wrong.

JOHN LEO: At Yale it was the taking of offense at a very polite email from a professor disagreeing with the Halloween costume policy of Yale.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Yes. That professor wasn’t even a dissenter from the university policy.

JOHN LEO:  Many people have begun to use the word monoculture to describe the social sciences and the humanities, and sometimes the entire undergraduate machinery of colleges. Is that fair?

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  Yes, I think so. A monoculture’s the same thing as a multiculture [laughs]. And the reason is that the monoculture thinks that everything that deserves to be included in our culture has already been included.

JOHN LEO:  Right.

HARVEY MANSFIELD:   And that especially means the cultures or opinions of groups that  are oppressed in some way.

JOHN LEO:  Yes.

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  Well, there’s an official list of oppressed minorities, led by the gays, blacks, women, and others too. And, and once you’ve accommodated all these, then that’s sufficient to call yourself a multiculture. And a multiculture is that which…lifts or elevates diversity to monoculture.

JOHN LEO: Well, if there is a monoculture, those who resist it must have a tough time on most campuses. As you know, the rule of thumb is that each major campus is allowed one conservative – at Yale it’s Donald Kagan; at Princeton, Robbie George; and at Harvard, you.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Yeah [laughter]. That’s an exaggeration, but I’m afraid only a slight one.

JOHN LEO:   How has your experience been, being the house conservative at Harvard?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Not all that unpleasant, actually. I can’t say that I’m embattled. In fact, people do want to patronize me – [laughs] in a way that pleases them. They like me because I’m a kind of mascot, which proves that everything I say is false. If I can say it, then it must be sayable by anyone, and that means that conservatives or other minority viewpoints are not being overlooked, or disregarded.

JOHN LEO: Right. Well, is it harder for a young conservative or libertarian to get hired at Harvard?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Of course it is. Yes, it’s really very difficult for any conservative to get hired, especially in a field where politics matters, or which is close to politics, like my field.

JOHN LEO:  Yes, government.

HARVEY MANSFIELD:   or political science.

JOHN LEO:  Let me talk about this new book, Passing On the Right.  Are you familiar with it?

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  No

JOHN LEO:  It’s by two self-identified conservatives who say conservatives should keep their heads down and be happy to paddle along in a pseudo-liberal way until they get tenure.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: [laughs] That, they should be perhaps content if not happy to do that. I mean, that’s a kind of damnation that I’m not prey to — that one has to go along and pretend to be something other than what you are and believe. So I wouldn’t be consoled by that. There is this kind of mascot aspect that I just spoke of in which the universities pat a conservative on the back and say, we’re so glad we have you.

This happened once some years ago when I got an offer to go to the University of Chicago. And the chairwoman came up to me and said, “Oh, Harvey Mansfield, you mustn’t go. You’re our balance.” [laughter] And so I was one person, and I was the balance. That was also when I learned the difference between balance and diversity. Balance is what a conservative gives. And diversity is what liberals supply.

JOHN LEO:  In some of your profiles, I’ve sensed an attempt to be fair, along with this quizzical attitude of, why does he have such an undesired approach to academic work?

HARVEY MANSFIELD:  Right.

JOHN LEO: Given what you believe about the curriculum and how it’s constantly being watered down, why is it that administrators are so afraid to defend free speech on campus these days? If the curriculum doesn’t matter, why does incorrect speech?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Their understanding of free speech is dissenters’ speech, and dissenters are always on the left. So that simply adds to the monoculture that already exists. But they can’t think of conservative speech the same way.

JOHN LEO:  One example on the internet today — the pro-Trump chalking at Emory University has everyone in a lather. And one of the students who wanted the chalking removed and the perpetrators punished said, “Don’t they feel our pain?”

HARVEY MANSFIELD: [laughs] That’s really not a legitimate pain, when your fellow citizens disagree with you.

JOHN LEO:  Many think there’s an authoritarian tone growing on the campuses.

HARVEY MANSFIELD:   Well, yes. This is a tone of superiority and of disbelief that reasonable people could hold a different opinion. Diversity is everybody’s goal except when it comes to diverse opinions, or viewpoints.

JOHN LEO: Of course. Do you sense that it’s usually accompanied by a demand for a remedy or punishment of those who have upset your feelings? I mean, that would be more authoritarian than just censorship.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Well, that’s happened to me. A Harvard student two years ago called for me to be fired. This was a student who was a protester in Occupy Harvard. And it wasn’t listened to. But I don’t know any other professor in my time who’s ever had to face that sort of student’s demand.

JOHN LEO: College presidents as a group are not exactly profiles in courage. I notice only one college president in the last three or four turbulent months has said no to the protesters. And that was Krisov at Oberlin, who was confronted with a long list of non-negotiable student demands. And he said no. He said, “I’m happy to talk to you, but we don’t deal with non-negotiable demands here.”

HARVEY MANSFIELD: I’d have to say in defense of Harvard that our president, Drew Faust, said no to divestiture of fossil fuel investments, and to Israeli-related investments. So, you know, it is possible for dissenters to go too far.

JOHN LEO: Well, what about the rising demand from the left that Israeli professors not be invited over or be dealt with in any way?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Yes, that seems to me totally outrageous.

JOHN LEO: Well, I don’t think it’s in full bloom yet. But a few years ago, it was just laughed out of court. Now it’s not.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Right. But the pressure should be rejected loudly.

JOHN LEO:  Okay. Here’s the big question. Given the perilous state of the universities as you describe it, what can be done? What reform movement would you recommend or do you see coming at all?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: It’s very difficult. Because universities give tenure, and that means it’s very hard to remove or replace the faculty. In fact, it’s impossible. Also, supporting agencies exist. All the professional associations are politically correct, even more so than the universities themselves. The American Political Science Association is a good deal to the left, certainly of our Department of Government at Harvard – and I think that’s generally true of the professional associations. Those institutions are dominated by the most fervent activists on the left. And so they are not going to object to the monoculture in the universities. And so far, the universities are getting some criticism, but not very much.

I would say, the level of criticism should be raised and be made loud and clear to alumni associations and trustees. Otherwise, one hopes for a change of opinion perhaps from students. I find that students are much more reasonable and actually more tolerant than either the faculty or the administration. They may seem to be less tolerant, but that’s only because a small minority of them are protesters. Students can be riled up. But the students in my classes are much more reasonable than my colleagues and the administration.

JOHN LEO: Do you think the last few months have pushed people away from conventional campus liberalism?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: I think the rise of Donald Trump has not been helpful to conservatism. It makes the universities feel self-righteous and just confirms them in their uncomprehending and stagnant liberalism.

JOHN LEO: Is there anything else you want to say here ?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: All the universities face what you might call a crisis of the humanities–and that is the difficulty that the humanities have in defending themselves or explaining themselves where science is dominant. All knowledge today is taken to be scientific knowledge. And that’s true as against religion, but also against the knowledge that comes from study of literature and of humane topics. And this I think is the issue behind the flight from the humanities by students, from majoring in English and other literatures into fields concerned with moneymaking.

JOHN LEO:  So in response to this, the humanities seem unable to defend themselves and to explain why it’s good to be at a liberal arts university, why students should major in something else besides engineering, accounting or computing.

HARVEY MANSFIELD: That’s right. The humanities have come to be dominated by so-called postmodern thought. And postmodern really means against science and against the benefits or alleged benefits of progress and technology especially.

JOHN LEO: Let me ask you one last question. And that is, do you sense a rising disdain, if not contempt, for the West and the United States on campuses?

HARVEY MANSFIELD: Well, I do. That’s right. And the troubles we’re having over Islam, our inability to identify an enemy, and to move against it with determination. So, I do see that and it’s something we have to deal with.

‘Masculinity Is Being Dissolved on Campus’

Obviously, we’re in a time now where parenting is in crisis, I would think. The reason we have all these whiny, super-sensitive girls on campus that’ll run shrieking at the slightest thing that offends their ears or drag mattresses onto the stage at commencement exercises, the reason we have that is because the parents have not prepared them for real life. In other words, they’ve been raised in this bourgeois, pampered cocoon, so I think there’s been a tremendous failure of parenting…

…you have to have strong women in order to deal with masculine men. That is why masculinity is constantly being eroded, diminished, and dissolved on university campuses because it allows women to be weak. If you have weak men, then you can have weak women. That’s what we have. Our university system, anything that is remotely masculine is identified as toxic, as intrinsic to rape culture. A utopian future is imagined where there are no men. We’re all genderless mannequins.

From Conversations with Tyler Cowen, Mercatus Center, George Mason University

How Anthropology Was Corrupted and Killed

The knock against anthropologists used to be that they were all relativists.  Not anymore.  Many anthropologists today are hardcore moral absolutists.  The members of the American Anthropological Association are busy voting (until May 31) on a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The proposed resolution jumps off in its first sentence in universalist language, claiming that Israel has denied Palestinians “their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination.”

I have voted against the resolution, because I oppose the politicization of an academic discipline. I also disagree with it on substantive grounds, but that’s beside the point.

The AAA’s anti-Israel resolution, of course, hasn’t materialized out of thin air.  It is part of the larger BDS campaign against Israel—Boycott, Divest, and Sanction.  Other academic associations, starting with the American Studies Association in December 2014, have gone down this road.  And the AAA has been politicizing itself for several decades.  Its virulent attack on the reputation of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon in 2002 was a forerunner of what was to come.

And as the new resolution points out, in 1999 AAA adopted a Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights that committed the body to “promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity.”  That Declaration is a perfect springboard for all sorts of partisan action on behalf of one group and against another.

Related: BDS and the Rise of Post-Factual Anthropology

The “promotion and protection” sentence sounds so benign that it is worth pausing to see exactly where the mischief lies.  Anthropology is, in principle, the study of humanity.  It attempts to sort out what is fundamentally human and therefore shared by all, what varies from group to group, and how those variations can be explained.  In that perspective, the 1999 Declaration’s phrase “full realization of their humanity” is a puzzle.  Anthropologists used to regard “humanity” as the question to be asked, not the answer that is already in hand.  Does the “full realization” of some people’s “humanity” mean that we should make room for some tribe’s deeply felt need for child sacrifice, widow-burning, torture of captives, head-hunting, or numerous other customs well-attested in the ethnographic record?

Our “humanity” is, as anthropologists well know, an extremely flexible thing, and one that can be and often has been stretched to encompass some behavior that most of us would regard as far from humane.  But that doesn’t seem to be the idea offered up in the Declaration.  Rather, “the full realization of their humanity” turns out to involve things like “the right to education and academic freedom, for peoples around the world.”

To anyone acquainted with world ethnography that is a pretty strange conception.  What did the Trobriand Islanders of Malinowski’s day know of “academic freedom?”  What was the “right to education” among herders of the Central Asian Steppe?  Or hunters in the Amazon rain forest?  If these are the desiderata of a “full realization” of humanity, did anthropology decide once and for all that only people who have universities can be human?  Perhaps the “right to education” can encompass learning how to herd sheep or blowgun monkeys from the forest canopy, but that’s probably not what the Declaration meant.

Related: The Long PC Battle in Anthropology

The Declaration reflects a sentimental view of humanity, as though in our essence we are a tribe of suburban Californians dabbling in the human potential movement of the 1990s, eager to get our kids into good local schools and send them on to Berkeley or Reed.

That this could turn in 2016 to the thinly veiled anti-Semitism of a BDS-style resolution should not be too much of a surprise. Anti-Semitism is back in fashion.  It is this year’s Merlot. And academics whose minds are shaped mostly by intellectual fashion were bound to arrive there.

This is, however, quite a journey for the field of anthropology. Not so many years ago, anthropologists were in a kind of arms race to see who could carry cultural relativism to the greatest extreme. Everyone knows roughly what cultural relativism is. If we can look at the world through X’s eyes, we can understand why X does what he does. If you just looked at the world through the cannibal’s eyes, you could see cannibalism was a sensible cultural choice.

No Generalizing about Humanity

Anthropologists circa 1980 seemed to come equipped with an internal alarm that went off any time someone generalized about humanity. If you said, “But all parents love their children,” an anthropologist of the era would be sure to say something like, “Not so! Among the Mundugamor of the Sepik River in New Guinea, parents consider their children a vile nuisance.” Generalizing about humanity based on the ideals of your own culture was “ethnocentrism,” of which there was no more terrible thing. To be ethnocentric was to be intellectually shallow and uninformed about the sheer variety of ways humans can go about being human.

But then anthropology touched its relativistic bottom. In the 1980s it collectively decided that anthropology itself was ethnocentric.  The things anthropologists studied such as marriage, family, and kinship were deemed no more than projections of the anthropologist’s own culture. This was in many ways absurd, but it caught on and many anthropologists decided their only option was start staring into the mirror. They wrote subjective stories about how they felt when confronted with “the other.” They studied their own communities. And increasingly they embraced ideologies that turned them into “post-colonial” activists, environmental activists, feminist activists, and so on.  The discipline of anthropology un-disciplined itself in favor of political action.

Anthropology Becomes Ideology

I wrote an essay on this for Minding the Campus January a year ago, “Ferguson and the Decline of Anthropology.” My perspective was considered sufficiently unusual that the AAA Newsletter picked it up and reprinted it, and this in turn set off a firestorm of criticism of the AAA editors for publishing such a disgraceful thing. One anthropologist took the trouble to post a declaration of his own: “Why you shouldn’t take Peter Wood (or Anthropology News) seriously.

But I’m far from alone in regarding anthropology’s descent into ideology as an intellectual disaster. My colleague Glynn Custred recently posted a similar essay, “Turning Anthropology from Science into Political Activism.

This is not to say that politicized anthropology is a single ideology. What has emerged in the place of the old discipline is a many-sided feud over which ideology should dominate. The lead article in the newest issue of Current Anthropology, for example, pitches the importance of the “decolonizing” project carried forward by “Black scholars,” and argues that decolonizing has wrongly lost ground to the postmodern “ontological project” in anthropology.  What is all that about?

You can read Jafari Sinclaire Allen and Ryan Cecil Jobson’s “The Decolonizing Generation: (Race and) Theory in Anthropology Since the Eighties.”  But be prepared for explanations like this: “While the ontological turn contents itself with the assertion of multiple ontologies as a corrective to enduring North Atlantic universals, the decolonizing project insists that even in multiple ontologies, the work of dismantling a hegemonic Western ontology—and its adjunct systems of colonials and racial capitalism—remains.”

Busy Attacking the West

Translation: Many anthropologists busy themselves attacking Western ideas about objective knowledge, but they don’t go far enough. You need radical Black anthropologists to finish the job of destroying the West.

Allen and Jobson are perfectly explicit about their larger goal.  Their essay, though turgid, is clear enough in its lament for the fall of Soviet communism:  “The fall of the Soviet Union was of interest—and destabilizing—to anthropology.” That’s because the end of “state socialist projects […] foreclosed a moment of revolutionary optimism.”

This essay, given prominent treatment in a mainstream academic journal, is nothing unusual in the field as it now stands.  If you wonder how and why the BDS movement could gain a sizable following among academic anthropologists in 2016, consider Allen and Jobson as a benchmark of where the discipline is.

This is anthropology in the mode of saying more and more about less and less. Most of the anthropologists I know and respect have long since left the American Anthropological Association. A small but determined faction hangs on in the hope that real anthropological scholarship will somehow survive this decades-long descent into intellectual drivel. My own view is that the written record of good ethnography written before the 1980s will endure because it is readable and important. And there are solitary monuments in the 1990s and after, as the boulders left behind by retreating glaciers, which attest to a now vanished form of rigorous academic inquiry.

Celebrating Victimhood

Scholarship requires a community of scholars who actively learn from and challenge one another. That community is fast disappearing.  Anthropology departments today typically include a few people who know about DNA and evolution, and a whole lot of people committed to “social justice” by celebrating one or another kind of victimhood. Calls for papers go out to those writing “anthropology fiction,” “lies that tell the truth,” and “gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”  Those are items pulled from the top of the Anthropology News calendar. They capture the everyday business of a field that is busy talking itself into irrelevance to any serious intellectual endeavor.

What do anthropologists talk about when they talk about Africa?  “The relationships between the colonial/apartheid and the post-colonial/post-apartheid,” is on the docket at the African Critical Inquiry Programme.  This is the echo in that empty auditorium.  Africa like the rest of the world still has a great deal to teach us about what is fundamentally human and what varies from group to group.  But “postcolonial” theorizing is what we get after the serious questions go to bed.  It is post-anthropology.  And it is part of the fog, along with the proposed Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, the Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights, and the skirmishes between neo-decolonialists, postmodern ontologists. Anthropology today is dominated by hatred of science and civilization.  Some of its practitioners express that hatred proudly; others try to muffle it a bit; and a few gray members of the old tradition hang on.  How does an academic discipline die?  Like this.

Campus Surveys Inflate Rape Statistics

Calls for additional or new “campus climate surveys” have been a regular feature the post-2011 war on campus due process. The White House has produced a template that colleges can copy. The Gillibrand/McCaskill Campus Safety and Accountability Act (co-sponsored by such Republicans as Marco Rubio, Charles Grassley, and Kelly Ayotte) contains a provision seeking to make such surveys mandatory. Given the Obama-Gillibrand-McCaskill-Rubio record on campus due process, it should come as little surprise that something the four of them want is problematic.

Though often billed “campus climate” surveys, these polls do little of the sort. They never ask, for instance, whether students understand the specifics of their campus adjudication system’s procedures (such as the preponderance of evidence or the lack of meaningful legal representation). Nor do they seek to ascertain student attitudes toward due process matters at the school—a topic that should be obvious if the real goal were to get a sense of the “campus climate.” And, of course, their anonymity ensures that climate surveys deal only with allegations of sexual assault, and provide no way of testing their accuracy.

The White House template suggests that universities survey “perceptions” of “attitudes” among students regarding sexual assault. (If perceptions and attitudes are all that’s required, it makes the exclusion of questions about due process all the more puzzling.) White House guidance strongly discourages schools from asking students if they were raped or sexually assaulted, instead asking for behaviors that the school’s researchers can then re-interpret as sexual assault. This list is so broad as to include “sexual contact” while “drunk.”

For students who didn’t report such incidents, the template asks them which of twenty-four possible reasons explains why they didn’t report. The possible answers include such duplicative items as “didn’t have time to deal with it due to academics, work” and “had other things I needed to focus on and was concerned about (classes, work)” or “I thought nothing would be done” and “didn’t think the school would do anything about my report.”

Beyond the limited array of questions, the surveys suffer from another fatal flaw—in the current campus environment, they aren’t really designed to solicit information. Instead, their primary goal appears to be to confirm preexisting beliefs about the existence of a campus sexual assault epidemic.

Consider the reaction to a recent Stanford survey. It revealed that 1.9 percent of Stanford students said they had been sexually Assaulted. This figure (which would translate to around 160 sexual assaults, given the university’s enrollment) would make the Stanford campus the violent crime capital of Palo Alto, which in the last five years has averaged around six rapes or attempted rapes annually. Nonetheless, it generated fury from Stanford campus activists, led by the anti-due process law professor, Michele Dauber—who seemed outraged that it didn’t return the preferred 1-in-5 figure.

In response, students passed a non-binding resolution demanding a new survey, which would presumably return a higher figure of sexually assaulted students. A group of Stanford alumni penned a letter threatening to withhold financial donations to the university unless Stanford conducted an “improved survey” that used the methodology of the AAU. The signatories included Stanford Ph.D. Paul Gowder, whose dismissal of campus due process was previously eviscerated by Scott Greenfield.

The AAU’s 2015 survey, which my colleague Stuart Taylor strongly critiqued, returned a figure suggesting that the campus sexual assault rate was roughly the same as (and perhaps even higher than) the rape rate in war-torn areas of the Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war.

What’s the purpose of a survey if activists already know the result they desire? It clearly isn’t to discern information. Instead, the goal at Stanford—just as with Gillibrand and McCaskill—is to generate apocalyptic figures, which then can justify the diminution of due process.

Yale Tries to Dodge New Protests

Last fall, Peter Salovey, president of Yale, badly botched the student protests that broke out over the insignificant issue of proper campus Halloween costume. Now he has made a few decisions in hopes of avoiding another round of protests.

First, he announced that the “masters” of Yale’s twelve residential colleges will now be known as “heads of college,” a leaden term, but one Yalies can’t confuse with “masters” as in ‘slave masters.” Heaving this ancient academic title overboard was meant to distract potential protesters from decision number 2: keeping the name of notorious defender of slavery John C. Calhoun on one on of the colleges.

Related: What the President of Yale Should Have Said

Salovey says, “Removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it.” Really? Probably not, or we would see a demand for names of more slavers to be enshrined at Yale so that slavery could be addressed more fully. Salovey explains that an “interactive history project” will examine Yale’s past, starting with Calhoun, “elucidating two aspects of our campus’s history about which we can be proud, but also those that we find troubling.”

Got that? In addition, two new residential houses will be named for Benjamin Franklin and Ann Pauline Murray, a black feminist and civil rights activist who graduated from Yale in 1965. Salovey mentions that Franklin was a slaveholder as well as an abolitionist, thus reminding Yalies that if they want to remove all slavers from campus recognition, it will now have to include a campaign against Franklin.

Suing the Office for Civil Rights

The prospect of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) being sued has been much in the news lately. Talk began with an announcement from FIRE—on the fifth anniversary of the issuance of the “Dear Colleague” letter—that it was soliciting an accused student to sue OCR. Attorney Andrew Miltenberg then filed two such suits, on behalf of an accused student from Colorado and a state legislator from Georgia.

In a break from the past, the Dear Colleague letter reinterpreted Title IX to grant the federal government authority to order colleges to enact specific disciplinary procedures for handling sexual assault (and sexual harassment) complaints filed by one student against another. Each of the changes ordered or strongly urged by the administration increased the likelihood of a guilty finding; the best-known change required colleges to use the lowest burden of proof, preponderance of evidence (50.01 percent), to determine guilt.

Related: An Illegal Program OCR Won’t Strike Down

OCR issued the Dear Colleague letter without going through a notice-and-comment period, which the Administrative Procedures Act requires for new government regulations. Subsequent claims by OCR head Catherine Lhamon as to why the office pursued this unusual course—that it didn’t need to do so, because the preponderance standard previously had been offered in resolution agreements with two of the nation’s thousands of colleges; or that the Dear Colleague letter merely provided guidance—don’t pass the laugh test. The most likely explanation: the delay caused by notice-and-comment would have ensured that the Dear Colleague letter wouldn’t have appeared until after the 2012 elections, robbing the letter of its value confirming the administration’s identity politics bonafides.

Republicans control 34 of the nation’s 50 governorships; many of these states have been under GOP control for more than a decade. Every state’s higher-ed law is different, but all give at least some control (usually through appointment of trustees) to a governor. Any of these 34 state education boards would have had standing to challenge OCR’s new mandate. Yet none have—a reminder that campus due process has no constituency, and with the exception of Lamar Alexander and James Lankford, the Republican record on this issue is very poor.

Any lawsuit coordinated by FIRE—or the two Miltenberg lawsuits already filed—first will need to survive a challenge on standing that a university threatened by OCR would not face. But the “Dear Colleague” letter not only lowered the evidentiary standard, but also mandated the right of accuser to appeal, pressured colleges to accelerate their adjudication processes, and discouraged cross-examination. So for standing purposes, the likeliest case would involve a student—as in the recent cases at James Madison and George Mason—whose not-guilty finding got overturned on appeal.

More often than not, when universities have lost motions to dismiss in due process lawsuits, they’ve quickly moved to settle the case. The federal government has no incentive to settle, so this litigation likely will be protracted. What would the effects be if any of these lawsuits succeed?

In theory, colleges could return to fairer adjudication systems—they could increase the burden of proof, end the double-jeopardy scenario where not-guilty findings can be appealed, and create more robust investigations. It seems unlikely that many colleges would actually pursue such a course. But the termination of the “Dear Colleague” letter would, at the very least, remove any chance that judges could rely on it—as occurred in the recent Cincinnati decision—to side with universities in due process lawsuits.

Returning to the pre-“Dear Colleague” letter status quo also would allow for a more even-handed discussion of why colleges are legally compelled to adjudicate felony allegations by students in the first place. The recent article by Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk uncovered at least one resolution letter, from 2005, in which an OCR regional office made clear that colleges had no obligation to investigate criminal offenses.

Bush-era court decisions to the contrary seemed far more limited than anything the Obama administration has proposed. A decision from the 11th circuit, for instance, made clear that its findings were dictated by the unusual facts of the case—that the University of Georgia recruited a basketball player who had committed sexual misconduct at his previous school. And the only non-athlete case from the Bush years that foreshadowed the Obama policies—the Kelly case at Yale—featured a judge who seemed to ignore the provisions of the Supreme Court’s 1999 Davis ruling. (You can read materials from the Kelly case file here.)

Progress toward a fairer campus adjudication system—much less a structure where colleges no longer investigate felonies at all—can only occur once the “Dear Colleague” letter ceases to exist. Hopefully the courts will be up to the task.

Feds Fund Search for Microaggressions

Earlier this month, The Washington Free Beacon, the conservative online newspaper, reported that the National Science Foundation was spending over half a million federal dollars “to videotape male engineering students while they work in labs” to see if they are committing “microaggressions” against women. The Daily Caller was more openly sarcastic, with a headline that read, “Feds Blow $548,459 To Study ‘MICROAGGRESSIONS’ Toward Female Engineering Students.”

But was the derision deserved? The description on the NSF site made me wonder if the University of Michigan-based study might have some potential merit, despite being titled “Microaggressions in Engineering Student Teams.” Granted, the term “microaggressions”—coined in the 1970s to denote subtle unintentional slights based on race, gender, and other group characteristics—often refers to absurd “offenses” such as calling America a melting pot or getting ethnic names mixed up. But the University of Michigan study ostensibly focused on real biases, conscious or not—such as female engineering students in coed teams being relegated to less important tasks or having their input ignored. Is this worth studying? Certainly, if there is evidence that such a pattern exists. Without further details, dismissing the study as a waste of tax dollars seemed somewhat harsh.

After an email exchange with the principal investigator, University of Michigan psychology professor Denise Sekaquaptewa, I found out that the press reports had some inaccuracies: for one, the study does not focus solely on men’s microaggressions toward women but also tracks offenses by women, toward other women and sometimes toward men. Yet, in a more basic sense, the critics were on point.  Whatever valuable data this study may yield, it is primarily an exercise in trivial pursuit coupled with speech policing—directed at a problem that may not exist.

What sorts of behaviors will count as “microaggressions” in the study, which will observe mixed-gender teams of students working on group projects for an engineering class? (Each team of four or five students agreeing to participate in the study will have three video-recorded work sessions.) Sekaquaptewa told me that it would be “a variety of negative behaviors including those that are considered microaggressions in the psychology literature”:

We code for the use of sexist or racist language, such as the use of gendered pronouns, making fun of an individual’s name (e.g., because it is hard to pronounce), or demeaning jokes; assumptions of inferiority, which includes ignoring or interrupting a team member such that an individual’s contributions are not heard, or expressions of surprise at an individual’s level of accomplishment; sexual objectification, such as general comments that objectify men or women, or unreciprocated advances; general rude behaviors, such as sarcasm, unwarranted criticism, condescension, or disengagement.

In other words, a student’s casual reference to a generic engineer as “he” is enough to the women on the team to be victims of a microaggression-riddled hostile climate. So is a single unreciprocated flirtation, or, presumably, a comment about the sex appeal of an absent student or an entertainer. (At least “objectification” is treated as a two-way street!).  And who decides when enthusiastic praise for someone’s accomplishment becomes an “expression of surprise,” or which criticism is unwarranted—or, for that matter, what jokes are demeaning?

At this point, no preliminary findings from the teamwork observations are available. But Sekaquaptewa did share some data from another portion of the study: interviews with 43 engineering students in ten focus groups, conducted in the fall of 2014. One in four had “experienced or observed microaggressions” during teamwork on a group project, and 72 percent “reported witnessing microaggressions” as part of their general experience at the College of Engineering.  (Of those, about half reported microaggressions based on race or ethnicity; a similar proportion reported gender-based microaggressions.)

Did some of these microaggressed-against students face genuine sexism or racism? Possibly so. But, in a fundamental way, the study is based on a faulty premise.

The study’s stated goal is to test whether microaggressions make the climate in engineering less friendly for women, “leading to a gender gap favoring men in the important engineering outcomes of learning, performance, and persistence” and contributing to women’s underrepresentation in the profession. Yet, while engineering remains a male-dominated profession, one thing that is not a factor in this is greater attrition among women in engineering programs. Earlier NSF-funded research, completed in 2005 and published in 2008-2009, disproved the notion that women drop out of engineering programs at a higher rate than men did. As tech blogger Stephen Mraz put it:

Women are a minority in engineering schools, making up only 20% of engineering grads. In contrast, women earn over half of the bachelor degrees in agricultural, biological, chemical, and social sciences. But women aren’t bailing out of engineering once they get a taste of it in college. In fact, the studies found that a female freshman in engineering is just as likely as a male freshman is to complete the course of study.

One can debate whether women’s much lesser likelihood of choosing the field is due to innate sex differences in personality traits and interests or to cultural forces including the “masculine” image of engineering—or to some mix of both. But microaggressions in college engineering programs are clearly not responsible for keeping women out.

This is confirmed by earlier and recent data. A study published in The International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education in 2014 found that, among mechanical engineering majors tracked from 1987 to 2010, women were more likely than men to complete their degree within six years — the gap was very small for whites but fairly sizable for black students. The authors also noted that, across all engineering majors, “women do nearly as well or better than men in all racial groups, and Black males and Hispanic males stand out as having low graduation rates in the starting major.”

(Interestingly, another recent study found that male students who leave science, engineering and technology programs are more likely than their female counterparts to drop out of college altogether rather than switch to another major—a fact that seems to support widespread concerns about males lagging behind in higher education. But don’t look for federal grants to investigate whether microaggressions are driving them out.)

What does Sekaquaptewa have to say about this? In her email, she insisted, “Although achievement gaps have recently decreased, there remains a gap in persistence for women,” (a claim contradicted by all available evidence). She added, “Women are much less likely than men are to stay in the engineering profession post-graduation.” The second assertion is true, but this gap seems to be related primarily to childbearing and childrearing. Again, one could argue that more should be done to help female engineers balance career and motherhood—but eradicating sexually objectifying comments and gendered pronouns in college engineering teams will do nothing to address this problem.

So yes, it’s fair to say that the NSF is wasting more than half a million dollars—pocket change by federal standards, but your tax dollars nonetheless—on a study that is likely to do little more than encourage petty grievances. Then again, I have learned one valuable thing: if a study has the word “microaggression” in its title, you absolutely can judge the book by its cover.

Profs Go to the Mattresses Against Israel

Decades ago, American professors largely stuck to teaching their subjects and kept their political passions separate from their academic work. Read, for example, Alan Kors’ account of a graduate school experience of his, where a decidedly leftist professor rebuked the class for just writing what they thought he wanted to hear and assigned the students to read and write cogently about Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Sadly, things have changed drastically and today the norm among professors, at least in many of the “soft” fields, is to strive zealously for political change. We hear about their proselytizing in the classroom day in and day out, but that has now spilled over into scholarly associations. They aren’t just for professorial exchanges any longer. They have been dragooned into the realm of political advocacy and activism.

Related: BDF–Jew-Hating Propagandists on the March

The poster child for this ugly development is the campaign for an academic boycott of Israeli universities. Because the government of Israel pursues some policies that pro-Palestinian professors loathe, these professors demand an end to contacts with Israeli universities until the nation alters its approach to the Palestinians.

Among the academic associations where the boycott movement has had success is the American Studies Association (ASA). Back in 2013, the association’s National Council passed a resolution calling for the boycott. The ASA’s statement about the resolution declares:

“We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.

“Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.”

Related: The Campus War over Israel

Then-president of the ASA, Professor Curtis Marez defended the action, stating here, “The boycott is the best way to protect and expand academic freedom and access to education.”

That stance has nothing to do with the study of American culture, but it satisfies many ASA members who are consumed with rage against Israel and cannot confine that rage to their own writing and speaking. It does not, however, satisfy some ASA members who maintain that the association has been “hijacked” by others to make it serve their political agenda.

But this involves more than just losing an argument to majority vote – about two thirds of the members voted for the boycott – because the law restricts what non-profit organizations may do. Four ASA professors have just filed suit against the association, claiming that the boycott is outside the scope of its charter and thus violates District of Columbia law.

The case, Simon Bronner et al. v. The American Studies Association has been filed in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia. Legal support comes from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights.

Kenneth Marcus, president of the Brandeis Center says of the suit, “It’s about any association officer or director who is thinking about using their association as a tool to advance their own ideological agenda. This should send a signal that if association activists are not concerned that BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) resolutions are anti-Semitic and may be a violation of academic freedom, they should be concerned that they may violate corporations law.”

In short, this is a suit over drawing a line. Non-profit organizations such as the ASA have legal boundaries that are not supposed to be transgressed, boundaries that should keep activists from using them for their own purposes. That is the same problem we find in classrooms when professors turn them into soapboxes for their own ideological preaching, as University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt did.

Too often, college administrators turn a blind eye to these line violations. Let us hope that the judge who hears this case is made of sterner stuff.

Race Baiting in the Name of Justice

The annual White Privilege Conference, not open to the public, concluded yesterday at an undisclosed site in Philadelphia. Caucasians mustn’t worry though — the sponsors say they aren’t anti-white. It’s just that having white skin is an oppressive virus or disease that must be repented in the name of mutual respect.

The teachers and lecturers at the conference — mostly multicultural consultants who make a living inducing white guilt and shame at predominantly white institutions — think American society is hopelessly stacked against minorities and the only way to fix the system is for white people to acknowledge and shed their immense “privilege.” The event featured “social justice” topics, such as “White Women: Internalized Sexism and White Superiority,” and “White Followership – Centering People of Color and Building Effective White Practices for Racial Justice & Systemic Change.” The conference also branched into new territory with discussions about gay and transgender rights, as well as Islam and Islamophobia.

Related: Notre Dame’s Class on Shaming White People

Sponsors of the conference included a number of mainstream organizations not usually associated with race baiting, including Haverford and Swarthmore colleges, the Sierra Club and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

The University of Notre Dame, where I am a student,  has also adopted the “White Privilege” cause, offering a one-credit sociology course, or “White Privilege Seminar” and paying the expenses of students in that course to attend the national conference in Philadelphia.

A controversial appearance of the Black Lives Matter movement’s founders at Notre Dame during a January week honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, increased anxiety over the White Privilege Seminar. Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi spoke during the week, and Cullors, while speaking of Dr. King’s legacy, said, “We don’t need a black Christian cis-normative man to take us to the Promised Land.”

Tometi and Cullors used their event to promote a conversation about gender ideology while also verbally attacking the police. Though they conceded that Dr. King had a great leadership role in the civil rights movement, the women believe that their movement demands other, female leadership.

Stating at the event that, “our principles really uplift black women, cis and trans, to be in this dialogue,” Cullors also noted that “history books, schools, institutions erase us or limit our [black women’s] investment in the work.”

Cullors and Tometi believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is inhibited by the police, whom they view as “a very big enemy.”

Cullors stated, “I do not believe in prisons, in jails, in police, in court systems, as the way to punish our people, as a way for accountability. I’ve seen how it destroys and decimates individuals, families and whole communities.”

‘Christonormativity’

Notre Dame’s Multicultural Students’ Programs and Services, Gender Relations Center, Center for Arts and Culture, Student Government, Department of Africana Studies, and Division of Student Affairs all sponsored the event, which was intended to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during Notre Dame’s “Walk the Walk” week. Designed by University president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C and the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, the week included “a series of university and department-sponsored events, community-building dialogues and opportunities of reflection.”

Notre Dame’s White Privilege seminar employs similar rhetoric, and takes for granted the validity of the causes for which the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting. According to the course description, participants will learn to be “more aware of injustices and better equipped with tools to disrupt personal, institutional, and worldwide systems of oppression.”

Last year’s White Privilege conference, which my Catholic university paid students to attend, taught attendees that Christianity is a system of oppression that must be disrupted, according to its program. Speakers spoke of “Christonormativity,” or a “system of oppression which assumes Christianity as the norm, favors Christians, and denigrates and stigmatizes anyone that is not Christian.”

The 2015 White Privilege Conference also analogized Christians with the 9/11terrorists.

“With increasing frequency, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Christian extremists are terrorizing Americans, most frequently blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and immigrants…the perpetrators of American hate crimes follow the same irrational and misguided ideologies as the 9/11 terrorists,” reads the program.

“The purpose of this course gives it away,” Bill Dempsey, the Chairman of Notre Dame watchdog group Sycamore Trust, told Minding the Campus. “It is obviously no dispassionate sociology course appropriate for a university. It is designedly a training course for participants in an anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-white movement whose primary weapon is disruption. That Notre Dame would not only solicit trainees but even cover their expenses surpasses understanding.”

Notes:  The army allowed 400 soldiers to take a Privilege course last year at Ft. Gordon in Georgia, according to Judicial Watch.

In presidential politics, Hillary Clinton called on white Americans to recognize white privilege several times this year, once during the January Iowa primary campaign before the black and brown forumin Harlem in February, and once last week at  the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Convention in Harlem, after the awkward racial joke involving Mayor DeBlasio, and  just before the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia.        

Mizzou Wipes Out Respect and Excellence

The University of Missouri has eliminated Respect and Excellence.  I have to write this in a hurry because it won’t be long before others will seize on this gift.  Respect and Excellence are the names for two residence halls at the University.  They are being closed because the University suddenly finds that its enrollments are plummeting.  Two other dorms were closed already in light of the crisis.

Let’s bask in the irony for a moment or two longer.  The University of Missouri arrived at this juncture by cravenly submitting to the demands of activists and the threats of football players who decided to abet the activists.  On November 9, System President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned rather than face down those threats.

Respect—respect for the abiding values of higher education, respect for civic disagreement, respect for intellectual freedom—went on an unpaid leave of absence from the University of Missouri that day.  As for Excellence, it wasn’t all that clear that the University of Missouri was a congenial place for Excellence before November 9.  But on receiving the news that Demands were moving in, Excellence cancelled her lease and moved out.

Rumors are that she transferred to the Oklahoma Wesleyan University or possibly Ohio State.

Mizzou map

 

Why Not Use Endowments to Lower Tuition Costs?

Connecticut is going through the motions of trying to tax Yale’s $25.6 billion endowment to help relieve the state’s $266 million shortfall. That effort will fail, but public opinion is starting to question the appropriateness of government-conferred tax benefits for university endowment funds. At Harvard, alumni as politically diverse as conservative Ron Unz and progressive Ralph Nader are running for the Board of Overseers on a “make tuition free” platform.

What legitimate public purpose do endowments serve? The co-authors of this article spent several months exploring this question, looking at roughly 800 university endowment funds on which good data are available and concluding that, with some exceptions, endowments do little to make colleges cheaper and more accessible to students.  Suppose a wealthy donor gives a school funds to endow $100,000 annually in scholarships. Our research shows that probably on net $100,000 in endowment income leads to a student tuition fee decline of only about $13,000. As more endowed scholarship money flows in, universities typically either raise tuition fees more aggressively, or allocate less of their own resources to scholarships.

Related: Endowments Are Still Massive, So Spend

Princeton University had more than $2.8 million in endowment per student as of last June 30-enough to generate $112,000 in spending per student if four percent of the endowment were spent annually.  Princeton’s tuition fee for this year is $43,450. More typical schools have modest endowments generating at most $1,000 in per-student annual revenues.

Yet the more typical school likely has a sticker price at least $25,000 a year less than the highly endowed institutions. The average amount students actually pay after taking account of scholarships is only $3000 lower at the 20 highest endowment schools, compared with schools with more typical modest endowments. That is despite the fact that the high endowment schools have over $20,000 more endowment income per student.

If endowments only modestly make college more affordable, where does endowment income go? A goodly portion (we estimate about 37 percent) goes to support instruction, both by hiring lots more professors and by paying them a lot more. While there are about 12 professors for every 100 students at highly endowed schools, there are only half as many (6) at more typically endowed institutions. Similarly, while full professors at the poorer school average about $90,000 a year in salary, at the highly endowed schools, the figure is more than $155,000.

Related: Is an Endowment a Nest Egg or a Gambler’s Stake?

Some of this increased instructional money probably leads to smaller classes and more contact between students and professors, some of whom are both well-known scholars and fine teachers. Yet as any keen observer of higher education knows (one of us has been a professor for more than 50 years), the highly endowed school faculty mostly have very low teaching loads so they can write papers on often obscure academic specialties, and the more highly paid teachers not only live quite well (particularly when consulting and other income is considered), but often avoid undergraduate students like the plague. As Adam Smith said of professors 240 years ago after Oxford started paying them from endowments, they had “given up altogether the pretense of teaching.” Additionally, the statistical evidence also says about 25 percent of endowment income goes directly for research.

Not all schools behave the same way. Berea College, in relatively poor Appalachian Kentucky, uses its endowment to essentially make college free, foregoing high salaries and extremely low teaching loads to promote student access. A few other schools (College of the Ozarks in Missouri, and, historically, Cooper Union in New York City (now charging tuition) have done the same.

Do big endowments promote prestige and perceptions of high quality? Looking at the relationship between endowment size and rankings on the Forbes Best College list (which we help compile), we find some positive relationship between endowment size and rank, but it is not the dominant determinant.

Still, the five schools with the highest per student endowments (Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Pomona College and Harvard) are all very highly ranked.

Related: Another Bad Idea-Mandatory Endowment Spending

Universities argue endowment allocations are determined by the intent of thousands of donors, many of whom wish to promote things other than low tuition. Yet the Berea example demonstrates that colleges poorer than the Ivy League schools can use alumni support to make college free. Why hasn’t Harvard, Yale or Princeton ever mounted a capital campaign with a-goal of providing no-cost undergraduate education? A no-cost Harvard would set a powerful example and encourage other schools to forego the expensive university arms race in order to reduce financial burdens of attending college.

As tuition fees and student debt loads soar, and as doubts grow about the true return to students of a college education (total enrollments have actually fallen over the past four years), scrutiny of endowments is likely to grow. Pell Grant data reveals that highly endowed schools typically have a much smaller proportion of low-income students. Should they continue to be incentivized to strengthen their academic gated communities for the affluent by accumulating ever larger endowments, largely financed through special tax breaks to donors and capital gains tax exclusions? There are arguments for doing so, but our research suggests that if special tax privileges for endowments are curtailed by Washington policymakers, the colleges have only themselves to blame.

An Illegal Program OCR Won’t Strike Down

In my research as a labor economist, I discovered that the Lawton program, offering aid exclusively to minority and disadvantaged students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is operating illegally—Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits Federal aid going to members of certain racial and ethnic groups, and not others, as Lawton does. That was 11 years ago, and the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education still hasn’t managed to rule on my formal complaints.

Not that there is any doubt about the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grants. Eligibility continues to be restricted to minority groups specified as “African American, Hispanic American, Native American, South East Asians.”

To my periodic inquiries about the delay in ruling, OCR offers several stock responses.  It claims in a February 2009 letter that my complaints “involve highly complex legal issues.” OCR claims in that same letter it “is proceeding as expeditiously as possible.” In an October 2013 letter OCR refers again to the “complexity of the issues involved.”

Anyone wanting to inquire about the status of my complaints or any other unresolved complaints will be frustrated by OCR’s record-keeping practices. Based on a recent FOIA request for a chronological listing of all Title VI complaints filed against post-secondary institutions, I discovered that OCR no longer lists the names of institutions whose long-standing complaints have not been resolved. I could identify my complaints only because I knew their docket numbers and the dates they were filed.

The cards seem to be stacked against any quick ruling on my complaints. I suspect UW is trying to find some way to rationalize its continuing discrimination under the Lawton Program. At the same time, I suspect OCR is trying to find some way to avoid ruling that the UW is violating Title VI. The likely reason: concern that doing so would jeopardize similar racially-exclusive scholarship programs at other colleges and universities.

Hey, Stanford: ‘Western Civ Has Gotta Grow’

Back in 1987, in a paroxysm of self-contradiction, Jesse Jackson engaged in what would have gotten him tossed in the clink had he done anything comparable in Djakarta or Chungking.  He led a crowd of banner-waving students at Stanford, taking advantage of a western nation’s heritage of free assembly and free speech, even when the assembly is noisy and the speech is foolish.  They were complaining about the school’s modest requirement of two semesters in Western Civilization.  “Hey hey, ho ho,” cried out the poetical preacher, “Western Civ has got to go!”

And go it did, replaced by the usual college fare, which might range from a sensible course in history to politically motivated twaddle: “Dance in Prison” or “Food Speaks” or “Queer Theory in Comparative Literature.”  What did not replace it?  Shared courses in great works of art, literature, history, or philosophy, or an alternate course in the civilization of India or the civilization of China.

So now, a group of students at The Stanford Review has circulated a petition to reinstate that modest requirement, and a manifesto making the case for its necessity.  The authors of the manifesto cite Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell on the poor preparation of the students he teaches, who “have little or no familiarity with the political, intellectual and cultural history that shaped the American legal system.”  These students “have never heard of Hobbes and Locke, do not know the causes of the American Revolution, are unfamiliar with the Lincoln-Douglas debates…. don’t know what separates Protestants and Catholics,” and so forth.  McConnell concludes: “One thing a great university provides is education about what educated people should learn.”

That, right there, should point the petitioners towards the most powerful argument in favor of their proposal, one they could hardly emphasize too much.  It is that graduates of Stanford as the curriculum is now constituted will be – I am reaching for a technical term – ninnies.  The petitioners do note that Stanford engineers will be engaging in research that will change the face of the world, covering the land in robots like locusts and threatening the jobs of nearly half of all workers.

Imagine these inventors, ambitious and clever, but utterly incapable of thinking along with the great heritage of western philosophers and theologians, ignorant of history, and possessed of tastes determined by mass entertainment rather than by Rembrandt or Keats.  They are the technocrats of the future, morally anarchic, easily attracted by schemes that would subordinate all human activity to centralized direction – by people like themselves. Hence, there is an urgency about the manifesto; an urgency which I believe is entirely warranted.

The opponents of their proposal, if I may judge by comments upon it, and by twenty-five years of listening to the opponents of our own Western Civilization program at Providence College, are afflicted by delusions of adequacy. They are under the odd impression that they actually know things. They believe, for example, that twelve years of American schooling will actually have imparted considerable knowledge of English literature and of the European literature upon which it is founded.  They believe that college students already can say sensible things about Wordsworth, when most do not know who Wordsworth is, and those who do, cannot write grammatical prose. They think that they are ready to learn about “other cultures,” when they have no firm grasp of what it even means to have a culture, since they have precious little knowledge of their own.  These students are not the radicals here. They are altogether satisfied with their ignorance, even smug about it.  They are content with the nostrums of our time, peddled by mass politics and mass entertainment, which degraded phenomena are increasingly indistinguishable from one another.

The petitioners at Stanford are forthright in proposing that only one civilization, the Western, be studied, because the Western has, as a matter of brute fact, provided the terms of political, moral, and scientific thought for the whole world.  Their opponents will trot out the usual accusations of racism and bigotry.  But the petitioners understand that Western errors in philosophy are not going to be addressed by a slapdash course in Hinduism – the educational equivalent of a meal of tandoori chicken.  Kant’s errors must be addressed by Kant’s opponents; Pieper, Maritain, Pope John Paul II, Alasdair MacIntyre.

The political reason to study the West is not to promote our current predilections, but to understand what they are, where they came from, what they might have been had we taken other routes, and what they might yet become, for better or for worse.

But there are nearer and better reasons for the course. The great majority of students at Stanford speaks English as a first language, and will live in the United States. All of the rest speak English as a second language, and among them will be many who speak another European language. If they are ever going to fall in love with poetry or with our treasures of plays and novels, it will almost certainly be the English.  “Multiculturalists,” those who peddle the tandoori chicken rather than Sanskrit, are not going to replace close study of the Old Testament with close study of the Rig-Veda.  They replace it with nothing.  An English speaker who fails to learn English poetry is not going to learn poetry in Urdu.

The same goes for other areas of cultural achievement. If you cannot be bothered to learn who Augustine and Thomas Aquinas were, you are probably not going to try to figure out the precise differences between Buddha and Lao-Tzu. That is not to say anything about those men and their merits.  It is simply a fact.  Stanford is in California, not Thailand.

If you cannot be moved to curiosity by a hundred thousand works in your native tongue and in the languages that influenced it; if you turn your head away from the First Baptist Church on your own Main Street, and all the other churches and their schools, and from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and Bach’s Passion According to Saint Matthew, then you are simply fooling yourself if you think you can be immersed in eastern civilizations without learning the original languages and living in India or China for thirty years and worshiping in their temples. Otherwise, you will not even rise to the level of the dilettante.

The irony is that only someone who actually has a culture is prepared to learn about another; as a master in the grammar of his native tongue is prepared to learn another.  But these days we prefer our education to be like our politics: superficial and silly.

UConn’s Civil Rights Failure

Criticism, including mine, greeted the University of Connecticut’s plan to build a new dorm to house its 40 black student males. That pressure caused the “black dorm” to be revised: it would be “open” to non-blacks who identify with the “African-American male experience”. Stubbornly college officials held fast to the idea that blacks would be assigned to separate spaces in the dorm in order to create a “living community” for black male students, to “help” one another and create a “living community” that would elevate a low black graduation rate.

But why is it  acceptable for a public–government-funded–university to start classifying, stereotyping and differently treating its undergraduates on the sole basis of their skin color? Didn’t the nation as far back as the unanimous 1954 US Supreme Court Brown decision ban as odious and unconstitutional practices, as suspect and baseless, classifications based on a student’s race?

Today, however, when it comes to black students, governmental bodies still fall back reflexively to the impulse for racial separatism. That’s bad enough when militant black students, full of rage, demand separate facilities and “safe spaces” on campus. It’s worse news when the colleges, like the University of Connecticut, surrender to such demands to buy campus peace. Worse, when public college officials on their own initiate separate dormitory spaces based on skin color–as a supposed benefit for their black students–that’s Orwellian double talk, reprehensible racial paternalism and outright condescension.

Such separatism is, also, on its face ostensibly illegal and unconstitutional.

Shockingly, the UConn trustees and Governor of Connecticut have been silent accessories to racial tripe. They have obliged college officials who want to set up on its Storrs campus separate spaces–corridors or floors–for black males in a dorm. Not unexpectedly, UConn is witholding its records that will expose its racial steering and demarcations for the dormitory housing. They have clammed up, and hid from public inspection the identity of the “private” educational foundation that is funding the dorm, and they’ve scrubbed, through redactions, the identities of college officials who have signed off on it.

This is what happens when officials evade the law and banter in double talk. They actually intend to cluster in sections or on floors the black men. And to justify their race-based actions they seek to bamboozle black men and others on campus into seeing this separatist scheming as an “educational” benefit for the black males–arguing that because black men’s graduation rates are lower as a group than their peers of other “races”, black males at UConn are “at risk.”

And there’s the rub. 

Seeing  black male students not as individuals but as racial entities, as stereotypes, as “different” from their peers of all other colors, is a 21st century repeal of civil rights laws that firmly declared an end to all that. So, where are the strong voices on civil rights to oppose this obfuscation of higher education’s once inviolable principles of equal opportunity, access, and equality of treatment? UConn isn’t alone but it’s unique in its pretensions that it’s doing blacks a favor by backtracking and ignoring state and federal laws that prohibit differential treatment solely because of a person’s skin color. That’s so wrong.  It’s time for the sane voices to speak up in disgust.

Alleging Sexual Assault When an Affair Ends

Have you noticed how many of the campus accusations of rape/sexual misconduct are reported after the 3rd, 4th, or 5th sexual encounter? It’s possible, of course that rape-minded males on campus like to let a relationship proceed a while before forcing themselves on a woman. Or it could be that something happens in the midst of a sexual relationship (or a series of hook-ups) that sours the female on a sexual partner. For instance, she may see him with another woman, or she may run into a female from the campus gender lobby and learn that all men are pigs and all disappointing sex can be counted as rape. After all, the famous Catharine MacKinnon said as much:

“Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated.” (Feminism Unmodified, 1987). Of course, she may feel violated by his rudeness, promiscuity or failure to call the next day. Whatever. It’s all rape. Or so says a leading voice in the feminist canon.

This meditation is prompted by a victory of sorts by one of the railroaded males. “John Doe,” a  student at James Madison University, was cleared of sexual misconduct,  but convicted on appeal and expelled under a blizzard of Kafkaesque procedures (no notice of the meeting, no names of judges provided, no copy of the new charges—though he was allowed to read it and take notes). Elizabeth K. Wilson, an Obama-appointed federal judge, ruled that Doe’s suit alleging lack of due process can proceed. Accounts of the case are provided by Robby Soave of Reason (“The accusation is among the more dubious ones I‘ve ever read about.”) and Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner.

On appeal, the accuser was supported by statements from her residential advisor and her Title IX representative. Both say that the first of five sexual encounters between accuser and accused was not consensual. (The accuser’s roommate said it was consensual). The pair exchanged friendly messages after the first encounter, and she took the initiative in other sexual meetings. After the third, however, she showed up at his dorm carrying her pillow, but left when she saw another woman sitting on his bed. Hmmm. Could this have been a MacKinnonian violation?