HOME SHORT TAKES OUR ESSAYS PODCASTS LINKS ABOUT US CAU  Subscribe MTC on Facebook  Find us on Twitter


OUR ESSAYS


April 15, 2014

More Decline in the U. of Chicago Core

View from 58th Street.jpg

By Adam Kissel

Five years ago, I told the sad tale of curricular decline at the University of Chicago, whose core curriculum changes had met widespread national criticism ten years earlier. I am disappointed to report that the university's offerings have declined further since 2009.

The University of Chicago's Core was once the gold standard in higher education. Though it went through many changes, when it was at its best, world-class scholars provided undergraduates with general and liberal learning that not only prepared them for the cultural challenges of their time and developed their own intellectual and other human powers, but also engaged them in the great transgenerational conversations about self, society, world, nature, and the ultimate things and goods. As former dean of the College Donald N. Levine has outlined in Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning in America (University of Chicago Press, 2006), intense scholarly and practical conversation informed the changes, and generally the College could explain to students what they were in for and why.

Continue reading "More Decline in the U. of Chicago Core" »

April 13, 2014

Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students?

hazel soares.jpg

By Richard Vedder

Here's a scary statistic about American higher-ed: more than 40 percent of college students don't graduate. But that number hides enormous variations in drop-out behavior. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has issued a "state supplement" report filled with interesting statistics; Here are some:

  • Completion rates are vastly lower for part-time students relative to full-time ones;
  • Students attending private schools are more likely to graduate than those at public institutions;
  • Far more two-year public college students fail to complete their degree than successfully do so;
  • Interstate variations in completion rates are large;
  • Roughly 20 percent of those completing schools graduate from an institution different than the one they originally attended, although that proportion is lower at four-year schools;
  • Those entering colleges right out of high school are much more likely to get a degree in six years than those who wait to attend college;
  • Women are more likely to complete school then men.

Continue reading "Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students?" »

April 9, 2014

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?: Part 2

Thumbnail image for philosopher5.jpg

Today's respondents to our symposium question, "Should we be unhappy that the liberal arts are going down?," are Patrick Deneen, Peter Wood, and Peter Lawler.

                                                          ***

Patrick Deneen, Notre Dame

We should be unhappy that the liberal arts are "going down" in theory but not in fact.  Because the liberal arts, of course, have already "gone down;" indeed, the remnant of what was once called "the liberal arts" on most of today's college campuses hardly deserves that name.  

On most campuses there is barely any semblance of a curriculum shaped around a coherent understanding of the liberal arts, and most of the focal disciplines responsible for trusteeship of the liberal arts long ago gave up their role to serve as conservators of a fragile tradition.  Instead, faculty in those fields became hostile in general to the thing they taught - the Western tradition - and used the tools of their disciplines to undermine the legitimacy of what they taught.  Most books were either understood to be repositories of backwards thinking - sexism, classism, colonialism, racism, heteronormativity, ableism - or tools for their defeat.  In other words, the works from which it had been once widely understood were read because every generation was entitled to learn anew from them - Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and so on - could no longer "teach" us anything that we didn't already know.  Such authors and their books were simply props for confirming our progressed views.  No wonder people on both sides of the lectern lost an interest in reading and teaching classic works, increasingly substituting them for "cultural studies" that confirmed prevailing orthodoxies.

Continue reading "The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?: Part 2 " »

April 8, 2014

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?

philosopher5.jpgAs students and their families rethink the value of the liberal arts, defenders of traditional education are understandably ambivalent. On the one hand, the diminished stature of the liberal arts seems long overdue, and this critical reevaluation might lead to thoughtful reform. On the other, this reevaluation might doom the liberal arts to irrelevance. To that end, Minding the Campus asked a list of distinguished thinkers a straightforward question: should we be unhappy that the liberal arts are going down? Here are responses from Heather Mac Donald, Thomas Lindsay, and Samuel Goldman.  

                                                                ***

Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute

We shouldn't only be unhappy if the liberal arts are "going down." We should be ashamed. Our highest duty as a civilization is to keep alive those works from the past that gave birth to our present freedoms and that constitute the most profound expressions of what it means to be human.

I see no evidence that a "critical evaluation" of the liberal arts is underway, beyond an ignorant flight on the part of some college students towards more allegedly marketable majors.  This idea of a job-ready major is a fallacy; outside of vocational training and some select STEM fields, few majors, whether economics or philosophy, have a direct connection to most jobs. 

But while the marketable major is an illusion, there is no question that the conceit is driving many students away from humanistic study.  The irony is that colleges are themselves wholly responsible for endangering those fields that were once their very raison d'être.  For it is their sky-high tuitions that are fueling this migration into purportedly more bankable fields and their adolescent politicization of the humanities that is failing to give students a reason to look back. 

Tuition levels are the result of universities' own decision-making--above all, their insatiable drive to expand their student services bureaucracy.  No branch of that endlessly growing bureaucracy is more senseless and self-indulgent than the diversity superstructure, founded as it is on a demonstrable lie: that colleges are bastions of discrimination against minorities and females. 

Continue reading "The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?" »

April 6, 2014

Walter Russell Mead:
The Coming Reformation of Higher Ed

WRM.jpg

These are slightly edited remarks delivered by Professor Mead at a Manhattan Institute luncheon on April 1 in New York City. He is James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and he currently teaches American foreign policy at Yale. He has served as Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and runs a popular daily blog on foreign policy and American culture, Via Meadia.

***

I thought what I would do today is first look at the higher education crisis in context and then talk specifically about some of the ways we can think about where change must come and will come. It's important to understand that the crisis in higher education is part of a much broader crisis in American society. A number of important institutions around us are exhibiting some of the same symptoms that we see in higher education. A cascade of demand for services is meeting a system that can't respond effectively to the demand. We are seeing a bottleneck of provision of services, rapidly increasing costs and problems with quality of services in higher education, the legal profession and perhaps most dramatically, in health care. As society becomes complex, we are going to see a growing demand for these services, so people will need to know more and will need to come back often for retraining. So, we are not talking about the abolition or obsolescence of higher ed. What we are saying is we have a set of institutions that are not well-organized to meet an increasing demand. And sometimes when you listen to the debate you get the impression that people in the academy think of those advocating reform as the barbarians at the gates trying to destroy these endangered citadels of learning. It seems to me much more fundamentally that reformers are friends of higher education.  We are not talking about less; we are talking about different.  

Continue reading "Walter Russell Mead:
The Coming Reformation of Higher Ed" »

April 2, 2014

A Sorry Attack on the Common Core

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for apple.jpg

By Sol Stern

The Common Core State Standards have their critics, left and right, and some of the objections are worth listening to. Although the Common Core train has left the station, we still don't know whether it will reach its destination of producing more literate and knowledgeable citizens. So it would be useful to have an informed debate about how the states, our "laboratories of democracy," are doing in implementing the Standards and particularly whether they are moving forward with fidelity to the Common Core's call for a restored American curriculum built with "rich content knowledge." 

Unfortunately, two recent Minding the Campus articles here and here denouncing the Standards and the newly reconfigured SAT exam by Peter Wood, the admirable president of the National Association of Scholars, contribute little of value to this critical conversation. That's because his vitriolic attack on the Common Core is mostly evidence-free.

Continue reading "A Sorry Attack on the Common Core" »

March 31, 2014

The Mike Adams Case and Why It Matters

MikeAdams.jpg

By Greg Lukianoff and Ari Cohn

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) receives countless requests from professors claiming that they've suffered in hiring and promotion because of their political or personal viewpoints. These cases are notoriously hard to prove and to win--and that's why University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Dr. Mike Adams' court victory this month is so important.

FIRE first became acquainted with Adams in 2001, when he came to us for help after UNCW conducted an egregiously misguided investigation of his personal email. The university launched the investigation after he criticized a student who, just days after the attacks, mass-emailed a missive sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists. Despite this ordeal, Adams carried on at UNCW, performing at a high level. He continued to publish in peer-reviewed journals, amassing 11 publications in 12 years, and he had won multiple "Faculty Member of the Year" awards. 

Continue reading "The Mike Adams Case and Why It Matters" »

March 30, 2014

MOOCs Are Not the Future

onlineed.jpg

By Rachelle De Jong

If you take a train from Spain to France, you'll halt at the border, exit the train, and board another train on the other side. The stop isn't an exercise in border security. There's a much smaller reason: 237 millimeters, to be exact.

In Spain, most trains run on a gauge of 1672 millimeters, while in France, the gauge is 1435. It turns out that for most purposes, the more efficient track width is the broader one, but because most of Europe operates on the 1435 gauge, it's Spain, not France, that's converting.

The explanatory theory of "path dependence"--maintaining inefficient systems because modernizing the infrastructure proves too costly--underlies an argument often leveled against higher education. The primary mode of instruction, the lecture, hasn't changed substantially since medieval universities popularized the format. Despite technological advances that have made most other industries much more efficient, higher education is stuck in the past. 

Continue reading "MOOCs Are Not the Future" »

March 27, 2014

The End of Big Time College Athletics?

kaincolterap-638x444.jpg

By James Piereson

For decades critics have lamented that big time college sports have a corrupting influence on college and university campuses. Big time sports push aside the educational goals of the university, recruit athletes to campus who have little interest or aptitude for learning, turn football and basketball coaches into national celebrities, and in general create a circus atmosphere on campus that is not conducive to study and learning. Though the critics make a good case, they have had little success in taming the athletic beast on campus.  The reasons are not hard to find:  many universities rake in millions of dollars every year from television contracts, ticket sales, and the sale of athletic merchandise.  In addition, success on the football field or basketball court attracts favorable publicity and ever more donations from alumni and benefactors.

After laboring for so many years without success, the critics may finally have hit the jackpot in a decision handed down the other day by a regional division of the National Labor Relations Board.  In a stunning decision, the NLRB ruled that football players at Northwestern University are in fact employees of the institution (like janitors or cafeteria workers) and are thus entitled to form a union to bargain over pay, health benefits, and working conditions.  In reaching this decision, NLRB took into account the many hours of work players must devote to practice compared to how much time they spend in study, the degree to which they are supervised by coaches, and the millions of dollars per year garnered by the institution from its football program.   The decision strikes at the heart of big time college sports based upon the claim that athletes are student amateurs who cannot be paid for their participation on college and university teams.  

Continue reading "The End of Big Time College Athletics?" »

March 25, 2014

The Awful New Rules on 'Gainful Employment'

uphoen.jpg

By Richard Vedder

The Gettysburg Address is just over 300 words long, while the Declaration of Independence is 1,137 and entire U.S. Constitution is 4,400 words. But the Obama Administration's new rules pertaining to "gainful employment," applicable to many higher-education institutions, including virtually all "for-profit" ones, run about 185,000 words and 841 pages, slightly longer than the Bible's New Testament. Never have so many words been uttered to achieve so little, cause so much anxiety and destroy so much wealth, only to ultimately signify nothing.

These regulations are, simply speaking, awful, further cause to reduce the federal role in higher education. People who lose billions annually running a postal monopoly and cannot even provide decent Internet access to a poorly conceived health-care system certainly should not be trusted with regulating the creation and dissemination of high levels of knowledge.

Continue reading "The Awful New Rules on 'Gainful Employment'" »

March 23, 2014

Plato, Rawls and the Liberal 'Comfort Zone' at Harvard

JRAWLS.jpg

By Peter Augustine Lawler

The reason that Sandra Y.L. Korn's article in the Harvard Crimson went viral is that she audaciously wrote what so many sophisticated Americans now think: that "academic justice" should be privileged over "academic freedom."  The Harvard undergraduate contends that self-evidently unjust opinions  contradicting both the findings of academic studies and politically correct university policy should be banned from the campus and especially from the classroom.

Ms. Korn is sure we know what justice is.  When it comes to opposing racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and so forth, we've achieved wisdom.  That wisdom has become easy, and much of education consists of outing those, past and present, who do not share it.  In that respect, the point of academic freedom is to defend the truth, not pander to those who contradict the truth.  Ms. Korn, in fact, could find only one Harvard professor lacking in wisdom concerning justice, Harvey Mansfield.  Mansfield is one of the few Harvard professors to loudly and proudly vote Republican, and probably the only Harvard government (political science) professor to vote that way.  Although it's just, in some ways, that the classroom mirror the "diversity" that is America, it shouldn't, in justice, mirror our political diversity or pretty equal division into Democrats and Republicans.

Continue reading "Plato, Rawls and the Liberal 'Comfort Zone' at Harvard" »

March 20, 2014

He Said, She Said--This Time Professor and Student

ludlow.jpg

By Cathy Young

A philosophy professor and a journalism student are involved in an unusual he-said she-said sex case at Northwestern. The student filed a federal Title IX lawsuit last month, alleging that professor Peter Ludlow sexually assaulted her two years ago and that the school took no disciplinary action, despite finding that he had engaged in "unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances" (but not rape). Later, the young woman sued Ludlow himself. In fact, according to the university, Ludlow was denied a raise and an endowed chair, and was warned against one-on-one social contact with undergraduates and prohibited to drink alcohol with them--but was permitted to continue teaching with full privileges.  Brenda Slavin, the head of Northwestern's Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention who investigated the case, has said that, contrary to the plaintiff's claim, his dismissal was never considered or recommended.  Ludlow is currently scheduled to take a new job at New Jersey's Rutgers University, where officials were apparently unaware of the harassment charges when they made him the offer.

Continue reading "He Said, She Said--This Time Professor and Student" »

March 18, 2014

'Rape Culture' Fraud--Unmasking a Delusion

trapeculture.jpgBy KC Johnson

Anyone who follows the contemporary media closely is doubtless familiar with the suddenly ubiquitous phrase "rape culture." In the context of higher education, the phrase implies two interlocking beliefs. First: despite crime statistics showing sexual assault (as well as all violent crimes) to be very uncommon on campus, colleges and universities are, in fact, hotbeds of rape (but not, it appears, of all other violent crimes). Second: despite the fact that most college faculties and nearly all administrations are extraordinarily sympathetic to the activists' position on gender issues, the campus culture over which these figures preside nonetheless--somehow--actually encourages the prevalence of rape at college.

That little, if any, evidence exists to sustain either of these beliefs has not deterred the "rape culture" believers; if anything, the lack of evidence for their claims appears to have emboldened them. Nor have they been deterred by the revelation of high-profile false rape claims on campus (ranging from the Duke lacrosse case to the Caleb Warner affair at North Dakota); if anything, the increasing build-up of sympathy for clearly railroaded males has intensified the rage of those who discern a "rape culture" on campus.

Continue reading "'Rape Culture' Fraud--Unmasking a Delusion" »

March 16, 2014

What the Common Core Will Do to Colleges

common_core_blog.jpg

By Peter Wood

Changes in the SAT, announced on March 5 by the College Board, adjust the test to the ongoing decline in the nation's public schools. The new test lightens vocabulary and math and eliminates the penalty for bad guessing. The new SAT grows out of and accommodates the Common Core State Standards, the controversial set of K-12 standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The Common Core's standards amount to an assault on the college curriculum. That's because colleges will have to adapt to what the Common Core teaches--and what it fails to teach. It teaches a mechanical way of reading that is poorly suited to literature, philosophy, history, and the rest of the liberal arts.  It also fails to teach the math students need to begin a college-level curriculum in the sciences.  

Continue reading "What the Common Core Will Do to Colleges" »

March 13, 2014

Good Data Not Good for Bad Colleges

S.T._Dana_Building.jpg

By George Leef

More often than one might think, Americans on the "Right" agree with Americans on the "Left" when it comes to higher education. A few years ago, the Pope Center hosted an event that brought together three critics from each wing of the political spectrum to explore the intersection of their views.

I suspect that there will be similar agreement over the argument that the nation needs far better data on the results of college for students. 

Continue reading "Good Data Not Good for Bad Colleges" »

March 11, 2014

Trigger Warnings--A Ludicrous Step Toward Censorship

victorian-lady-fainting.jpg

By Cathy Young

Twenty years ago, critics such as Christina Hoff Sommers, Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, and Karen Lehrman described the bizarre "therapeutic pedagogy" in many women's studies classrooms, where female students were frequently encouraged to share traumatic or intimate experiences in supportive "safe spaces."  Today, at many colleges, academic therapism has spread to other fields.  Welcome to the age of the trigger warning.

The trigger-warning vogue began a few years ago on feminist websites, and then spread to other "social justice" blogs.  The idea behind them is that for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), something that reminds them of the trauma can trigger painful flashbacks and panic attacks.  Initially, the warnings were primarily for sexual assault and partner abuse. Eventually, on some blogs, they spread to just about everything that could be potentially upsetting  to any person of politically correct sensitivities: sexism, racism, homophobia, "ableism," "victim-blaming," "slut-shaming," "fat-shaming," "body-shaming" and a host of other sins and oppressions.  (My personal favorite, from Melissa McEwan's Shakesville site, is a warning for "discussion of gender policing"--that is, of norms dictating proper bounds of masculine and feminine behavior.  How startling to find such a discussion on a feminist blog!) Warnings for mere references to gun violence, suicide, self-harm and various mental disorders, as well as things that trigger phobias--from spiders to small holes (really)--have proliferated as well.

Continue reading "Trigger Warnings--A Ludicrous Step Toward Censorship " »

March 9, 2014

The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake

WOODSAT.jpg

By Peter Wood

The College Board is reformulating the SAT.  Again. 

The new changes, like others that have been instituted since the mid 1990s, are driven by politics.  David Coleman, head of the College Board, is also the chief architect of the Common Core K-12 State Standards, which are now mired in controversy across the country.  Coleman's initiative in revising the SAT should be seen first of all as a rescue mission.  As the Common Core flounders, he is throwing it an SAT life preserver.  I'll explain, but first let's get the essentials of how the SAT is about to change.

Continue reading "The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake" »

March 6, 2014

Making College Pay Off

the-smart-society-strengthening-americas-greatest-resource-its-people.jpg

Peter D. Salins

In the United States and every other advanced society today, the share of the population with some level of postsecondary education (college in ordinary parlance) is a key indicator of its educational stature.  Here, as in every other aspect of formal education, America once led the way.  Sadly, today America is losing its edge. We are falling further behind the world's advanced economies with every passing year, especially when it comes to the emerging generation of young adults.  Some of this erosion is due to rapid postsecondary gains in other countries over the last few decades, but a more important reason is that our progress in this sphere - impressive for four decades after World War II - has essentially come to a standstill.

Overall, the American higher education system is still by many standards better than that of any other country.  Unlike its global counterparts, its institutions are more numerous and varied, making the system as a whole marvelously adaptive to the wide range of cognitive abilities and occupational interests of its students - without resorting to the kind of invidious stratification seen overseas; its facilities are more modern, better equipped, and better maintained than those in any other country; and unlike its lower education (i.e. K-12) sibling, it is not a government monopoly.

That said, for adult Americans to continue to be the best (college) educated people in the world, the U.S. higher education system must change.  There are four generic problems facing the preponderance of American colleges and universities, most of them festering for decades, but getting worse as college enrollment has expanded and student selectivity declined: they admit too many unprepared students, they invest too little in undergraduate instruction, they are too cavalier about graduation rates, and their financing is so erratic that millions of qualified high school graduates don't even go to college, and those that do are overly burdened with debt.  

Continue reading "Making College Pay Off " »

March 4, 2014

What's Going On 'At Berkeley'?

Thumbnail image for BERK.jpg

By Judah Bellin

"What is it about Berkeley that stands out?" asks a woman who appears to be a professor at the beginning of Frederick Wiseman's new four-hour documentary At Berkeley. She talks about making quality education available to all and transforming the future of both California and the country's "diverse population." But she is not identified. At Berkeley does not provide the names of the people it depicts, nor does it use a narrator or a timeline for events it portrays.

To Wiseman, the university's complex ecosystem is more important than the individuals in it. He is successful on this front, making At Berkeley truly an immersive experience. At one moment, you're sitting in on a seminar where a professor and his students are discussing Thoreau and Emerson; at another, you're watching a performance of Sherwood Anderson's "Our Town"; at yet another, you're observing biology students dissect and stuff birds. But more than that: you also sit in administrative sessions, seminars on undergraduate instruction, and faculty committee meetings. To that end, At Berkeley provides some insight into how American higher education actually works today--and the ways in which it doesn't. 

Continue reading "What's Going On 'At Berkeley'?" »

March 2, 2014

Ole Miss Seeks to Put First Amendment in a Noose

Meredith.jpg

By Harvey Silverglate

Question: When is an obnoxious expression of a point-of-view a crime in our supposedly free society? Answer: When college administrators and federal law enforcement officials find it in their career interests to appeal to political correctness and play holier-than-thou, all at the expense of liberty, as the latest controversy at the University of Mississippi demonstrates. 

On February 16th, three Ole Miss fraternity brothers allegedly placed a noose and a Confederate flag on the campus statue of James Meredith. Meredith, a hero in the civil rights movement, enrolled at then-segregated Ole Miss in October 1962 with the aid of a court de-segregation order and 500 U.S. marshalls whose job it was to enforce that order. (I have to admit to a yearning for the "good old days" when the Department of Justice actually protected rather than eroded constitutional rights on college campuses - but that's a story for another column.)

Continue reading "Ole Miss Seeks to Put First Amendment in a Noose" »

February 27, 2014

In College Fundraising, the Rich Get Richer

College_Hat_Money_MI-resize-600x338.jpg

By Jonathan Marks

College fundraising was up 9 percent last year, says the Council for Aid to Education, but there's a worrisome statistic: 17 percent of the $34 billion raised went to ten already wealthy institutions. The poorest of the ten is NYU, which already has an endowment of about $3 billion, 28th richest among American colleges and universities.

Inequality among colleges and universities seems to be increasing. Commentators on the left, right, and center now question whether massive endowments like Harvard's, a staggering $30 billion plus, serve higher education well. Felix Salmon and others consider Harvard "a hedge fund with an educational institution attached, the educational institution more than paying for itself in the tax exemption it confers upon the entire endowment." Some, like Salmon, have called for revoking higher education's tax exemptions; others have called for taxing the wealthiest endowments; and still others have called on the best endowed colleges and universities to spend more on improving higher education nationally. While they wait to see if any of that will happen, donors should consider whether flinging more dollars at the mountains of cash on which their favorite grantees sit will do much good.

Continue reading "In College Fundraising, the Rich Get Richer" »

February 25, 2014

'Role-Model' Affirmative Action: Not Needed, Not Legal

NSF.jpg

By John S. Rosenberg

One of the criticisms of affirmative action acknowledged even by many liberals is that the preferential treatment it bestows tends to benefit those who need it least. For example, it is hard to imagine a group of minority students less in need of special, career-enhancing assistance than graduate students in STEM fields at Stanford, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and UCLA, and yet those four institutions have received a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to form a new consortium -- the California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate -- to provide special programs for them and eventually minority STEM students at other institutions.

The targeted minorities are the usual URM (underrepresented minority) suspects: "African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders." Presumably poor Appalachians, Arabs, and Albanians are not "underrepresented" in STEM fields, not to mention Anglicans or Adventists.

Continue reading "'Role-Model' Affirmative Action: Not Needed, Not Legal" »

February 23, 2014

Look What Freshman Composition Has Become

Slutwalk.JPG

By Mary Grabar

"Real learning takes place outside the classroom," the late communist history professor Howard Zinn famously said.  Zinn practiced what he preached and led his students at Spelman College and Boston University on marches and protests. 

The 1960s saw plenty of teach-ins and marches by students and some radical professors.  But even then it would have been hard to imagine how the staple of first-year coursework, Freshman Composition, would be used to turn students into activists, subverting the idea of "composition" itself and leaving some students free of any ability to write.

Continue reading "Look What Freshman Composition Has Become" »

February 20, 2014

Want to Have Sex? Sign This Contract.

consent-is-sexy-mattm-copy.jpg

By Cathy Young

The idea that sexual consent requires an explicit "yes"--one step beyond "no means no"--has long been the dogma of feminist anti-rape activists.  In the early 1990s, when Ohio-based Antioch College incorporated this principle into its code of student conduct to mandate verbal consent to each new level of intimacy, it was widely ridiculed as political correctness gone mad. Yet policies similar to Antioch's, though not as detailed, were even then spreading to college campuses across the country.  In 1994, a senior at Pomona College in California was nearly prevented from getting his diploma because of a sexual assault complaint brought with a two-and-a-half year delay, in which the alleged victim admitted that she never said no but claimed that she never gave consent, which the college policy defined as "clear, explicit agreement to engage in a specific activity."

Now, for the first time, this standard may be codified into law--not criminal law (as yet), but law regulating sexual assault investigations on college campuses.  SB-967, a bill proposed in the California state legislature in response to the "crisis" of campus rape, would establish "affirmative consent" as the standard for disciplinary proceedings for sexual assault complaints.  The bill allows that "willingness to participate" in sexual activity can be conveyed through "clear, unambiguous actions" as well as words, but also cautions that "relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding."

Continue reading "Want to Have Sex? Sign This Contract." »

February 16, 2014

'Dignity'--New Verbal Weapon of the Left

holder.jpg

By Peter Wood

The academic left has created a great deal of mischief by appropriating wholesome words for unwholesome ends. This game has been perfected with diversity, inclusion, social justice, and sustainability--all words that mean roughly the opposite of what they sound like.  Diversity on college campuses denotes both lockstep conformity on identity group politics and radical stereotyping of people by race.  Inclusion means excluding anyone who dissents from the prevailing orthodoxy.  Social justice often means overriding fundamental freedoms and individual rights to impose arbitrary rule by elite redistributionists. Sustainability means transferring authority to decide how to use our resources from the marketplace to ill-informed bureaucrats.  

The latest entry in the topsy-turvy world of inverse semantics is the benign-sounding word, "dignity."  Attorney General Eric Holder took the new buzzword out for a spin in a speech to the Swedish Parliament on February 4, in which he touted the United States' commitment to the "dignity" of "every human being."  

Continue reading "'Dignity'--New Verbal Weapon of the Left" »

February 13, 2014

Iced Out: We Held a Conference
and Bowdoin Stayed Home

bowdoin-hubbard-hall-spring-2012.jpgBy Peter Wood

On February 6 the Maine Heritage Policy Center sponsored a small conference in Brunswick, Maine. The idea was to present a follow-up to the National Association of Scholars' lengthy study, What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students, by following one of its many threads. KC Johnson, one of the speakers, published an excellent account of the conference itself, "An Update on the Mess at Bowdoin."  But there is more to say about the how and why of this venture.

What Does Bowdoin Teach? was an attempt to picture an elite liberal arts college in its entirety, top to bottom--curriculum, faculty, students, academic life, social life, politics, culture, sports--leaving out nothing essential, and guided by the search for what the college actually accomplishes in the minds and the lives of its students. We chose Bowdoin mostly out of accident: the same study with much the same results could have been accomplished by studying any of dozens of other elite colleges. The biggest advantage Bowdoin gave us was its size: 182 faculty members, 1,700 students. It was small enough to be studied in something approaching its entirety--though naturally we fell short, especially in areas such as admissions where the college kept close guard over its secrets.

Continue reading "Iced Out: We Held a Conference
and Bowdoin Stayed Home" »

February 11, 2014

Dropouts Cost More Than $12 Billion a Year

dropouts.jpg

By Richard Vedder

Critics of American higher education usually focus on the deficiencies of college graduates ---for example, their critical thinking isn't much better than that of college freshmen, or they increasingly end up in relatively low-paying jobs requiring few high-level skills. Yet an indefatigable retired South Carolina college professor, sometime state legislator and relentless purveyor of collegiate statistics, Harry Stille, points out in a new study that a "continuing national scandal" arises because massive amounts of resources are devoted to unsuccessful attempts to educate students who ultimately drop out of college.

Dr. Stille measures not the success (graduation) rate, but its inverse -the failure rate, for public institutions. Nationally, almost two out of five college students fail to graduate in six years, using data that corrects for some of the measurement problems arising from student transfers. He calculates what state subsidizes students from state appropriations, estimating that nearly $12 billion in appropriations annually are largely wasted on students who drop out. Moreover, as Stille observes, that $12 billion is the tip of the iceberg, as other resources are also used educating those drop outs. He calculates the perceived wastage of state appropriations by state, with numbers ranging from a low of $16 million in New Hampshire to a walloping $1.207 billion in Texas. Doing an admittedly back of the envelope calculation, I would estimate that the present value of all of the costs of educating these non-graduates over a generation approaches one trillion dollars.

Continue reading "Dropouts Cost More Than $12 Billion a Year" »

February 9, 2014

Can We Halt Administrative Bloat?

fallof caulty.jpeg

By Benjamin Ginsberg       

In 2011, I published The Fall of the Faculty pointing to the problem of accelerating administrative bloat at America's colleges and universities.  The book's reception exceeded my expectations with professors throughout the United States (as well as Canada and Europe) writing to me with stories of mismanagement, administrative incompetence, bureaucratic waste and fraud and the sheer arrogance and stupidity of their administrators.  Many letter writers declared that I must have done my research on their campuses since everything I described had happened there.  Others declared that my examples were not extreme enough and offered stories from their own schools that often topped mine.     

Everywhere, it seems, legions of administrators are engaged in strategic planning, endlessly rewriting the school mission statement, and "rebranding" their campus.  All these activities waste enormous amounts of time, require hiring thousands of new deanlets and, more often than not, involve the services of expensive consultants.  This rebranding business is so foolish that it is difficult even to caricature.  With the help of consultants, the University of Chicago School of Medicine rebranded itself "Chicago Medicine," while my own university's medical school rebranded itself "Hopkins Medicine."  I hope these new brands came with consultants' warranties. I have a feeling that the next group of administrators will want to introduce their own brands after, that is, rewriting their schools' mission statement.

Continue reading "Can We Halt Administrative Bloat?" »

February 6, 2014

How Would Colleges Fare Under the President's Ratings System?

Thumbnail image for Access Affordability and Success.jpg

By Andrew P. Kelly and Awilda Rodriguez

Last fall, President Obama unveiled a controversial plan to promote college affordability by changing the way the federal government distributes student financial aid. The proposal calls for a new system of federal college ratings that would measure how well colleges perform on measures of access, affordability, and student success.

Most college presidents argue that these three things are linked in an "iron triangle": that you can't improve on one of them without negatively affecting the others. Through this lens, enrolling more disadvantaged students is a worthwhile goal, but it will lower completion rates. Reducing costs will boost affordability and encourage access, but it could compromise the quality of the education provided. And so on. 

Never before has a reform targeted all three sides of the iron triangle at the same time. Whether it will succeed depends in large part on whether the iron triangle is indeed an iron law. Are there colleges hitting high marks on all three sides? How many colleges might be in trouble under a new ratings scheme?

Continue reading "How Would Colleges Fare Under the President's Ratings System?" »

February 5, 2014

Harvard's President Faust Explains It All

DGF.jpg

By Peter Augustine Lawler

The president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, was asked by The Wall Street Journal to defend the skyrocketing cost of attending her university. The total residential cost, now $60,000, has risen much more quickly than the rate of inflation.

She assures us that not only Harvard but the other relatively nonelite private, residential colleges remain "worth it." She reminds us of the return in "lifetime earnings" and "intellectual development." But anyone would immediately think there might be cheaper ways of getting both.  And being saddled with mega-debt, it's often said, can drastically limit the options of a graduate of ordinary means in either choosing an entrepreneurial opportunity or pursuing graduate or professional education.   

Continue reading "Harvard's President Faust Explains It All" »

February 2, 2014

Don't Beat Up on the Faculty

PROF.jpg

By Ron Lipsman

The essays that appear on this site are often critical of academic faculty. The criticism is frequently legitimate, as faculty are oftentimes complicit in the formulation and execution of academic policies that should garner disapproval. Alas, faculty are too often found at the forefront of efforts to: install speech constraints on the campus community; impose admission quotas based on race, gender, ethnic origin and other illegitimate grounds; and enforce a deadening group think in academic discussion that brooks no support of free market capitalism, American Exceptionalism, faith-based life or - heaven forbid - doubts about global warming. Essays in this journal bemoan the decay of American universities from bastions of individual thought devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, truth and beauty into heavily regulated job mills that are rife with propaganda and largely in the business of brainwashing its students in favor of the progressive movement's agenda.

All true! But even so, it is still the case that the academic profession - much like the medical profession - has been subject to powerful forces that have rendered life much less rewarding for those who pursue the profession. The forces that have smacked doctors - who, until a generation or so ago, were amongst the most admired and rewarded communities in the country - are well-known. It is my purpose here to outline the lesser known assault - namely, the developments that have rendered the academic profession less pleasant and rougher to navigate than it was when I entered it more than four decades ago.

Continue reading "Don't Beat Up on the Faculty" »

January 30, 2014

Welcome to Robin Hood University

RHood.jpg

By Richard Vedder

When I attended Northwestern beginning in the late 1950s, most students paid exactly the same tuition, room and board fees. Today, only a minority of college students pay full tuition ("the sticker price") from their own funds. At exclusive private schools, some students pay nothing for tuition, room and board, but others pay $50,000 or more. The variations in the amount students pay from the sticker price is undoubtedly much greater than a generation or two ago, although no one even tries to calculate that statistic.

At Harvard, the practice even became institutionalized, with low income students (e.g., family incomes below $60,000 a year) paying nothing, and those above that  paying 10 percent of their income up to $180,000, with many still more affluent students paying the full fees. Harvard, in effect, imposed its own private income tax of 10 percent over a wide income range. 

Continue reading "Welcome to Robin Hood University" »

January 28, 2014

Criminal Law and the Moral Panic on Campus Rape

gatto.jpg

By Cathy Young

As the Obama Administration steps up the federal effort against an alleged epidemic of campus rape, some states are contemplating measures of their own. A recent Newsweek story on a bill pending in the California State Assembly, discussed by K.C. Johnson on Minding the Campus, raises a number of troubling issues: among them, potential spillover  from the campus crusade into the criminal justice system and actual spillover from the radical feminist blogosphere into the mainstream media. 

The legislation, AB 1433, introduced on January 6 by Southern California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, requires colleges and universities to promptly bring to local law enforcement all campus reports of violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery or aggravated assault) and hate crimes--unless the complainant requests anonymity.  Federal law--the 1990 Clery Act, named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University (Pennsylvania) student who was raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986--already requires colleges to record all crimes reported to campus authorities in a public log and in an annual security report, and to disclose them to the U.S. Department of Education.  

Continue reading "Criminal Law and the Moral Panic on Campus Rape" »

January 26, 2014

Have MOOCs Replaced the Classroom?

bigstock_Online_Education_11092172.jpg

By Rachelle De Jong

Clayton Christensen's 1997 book, The Innovator's Dilemma, posed the question, why do good companies fail? In industries ranging from computers to telephones to cameras to stock markets, the companies that monitored market trends, tended to their customers, and invested in high-returning capital capsized in a sea of start-up innovations (PCs, cell phones, digital cameras, and online markets, in these cases).

Some say the same is true of higher ed--except that wise schools, perceiving the trend, can embrace the disruption before it disrupts them. So what would happen if colleges embraced the MOOC? That's the question looming behind a number of starry-eyed op-eds that sing the MOOC's upending powers to jolt academe into twenty-first century efficiency. 

Continue reading "Have MOOCs Replaced the Classroom?" »

January 23, 2014

The White House Overreaches on Campus Rape

obama.jpg

By Cathy Young

Wednesday's announcement of a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is the culmination of the Obama Administration's years-long efforts in support for the feminist crusade against campus rape.  It is too early to tell what new remedies for sexual assault on campus the task force will propose.  So far, however, the initiative relies on the same old approach: wildly inflated numbers, the rhetoric of female victimhood, and complete disregard for any rights that the accused may have.  

The report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," asserts that one in five female college students are sexually assaulted during their college years, with one 12% of these victims reporting the assault to law enforcement.  These figures draw on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, conducted in 2005-2007 at the request of the National Institute for Justice, and a 2007 federally sponsored national study of rape from the National Crime Victims' Research and Treatment Center.

Continue reading "The White House Overreaches on Campus Rape" »

January 20, 2014

The Problem with Obamacare's 'Gender Neutrality'

Teresa.jpg

By John S. Rosenberg

Conservative critics have long argued two related points against liberals: 1) that modern liberalism has turned its back on what for generations, even centuries, was one of its foundational principles, that individuals should be treated by the state "without regard" to race, creed, or color, and 2) that its abandonment of that principle was so rushed and embarrassingly awkward that liberalism has stumbled into theoretical incoherence.

A bright, shining example of that incoherence is evident in Obamacare. In a powerful recent column the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto makes hash of the "gender neutrality" imposed on Obamacare's insurers. "One of the main selling points of Obamacare," he writes,

was that it was a feminist triumph. "Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition," read the lead sentence of a March 2010 news story in the New York Times, whose author, Denise Grady, then explained: "That's the new mantra, repeated triumphantly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and other advocates for women's health. But what does it mean?"

Continue reading "The Problem with Obamacare's 'Gender Neutrality'" »

January 16, 2014

No Anti-Israel Momentum at the MLA

MLA convention.jpg

By Jonathan Marks

The Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association narrowly passed a resolution last Saturday urging the State Department to "contest Israel's denial of entry to the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities."  The anti-Israel movement within academia will try to present this as evidence for the movement's momentum, but it is really evidence of the opposite.

Begin with the resolution itself. When it was initially proposed, it included a reference not only to the West Bank but also to Gaza. It also referred to Israel's "arbitrary" denial of entry.  Removing these references certainly made passage of the resolution more likely, since supporters had presented no evidence concerning Gaza and very little concerning the arbitrariness of Israel's policies. But, as Cary Nelson points out, once the word "arbitrary" was removed, the resolution became ridiculous, since it now condemned Israel "for denying entry to people who might pose valid security risks." As opponents of the resolution argued, "foreign academics are free to enter the West Bank after acquiring a visa or permit." Requiring such a visa or permit is "standard procedure all over the world," and the overwhelming majority of visa requests are granted.

Continue reading "No Anti-Israel Momentum at the MLA" »

January 14, 2014

How to Make MOOCs Work

Thumbnail image for moocS.jpg

By Peter Sacks

The ongoing hype over MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) parallels the cold fusion debacle of 1989. The technology sounded like a panacea, a cheap and endless source of energy.  Then it flopped. Another great notion down the drain.

Similarly, educational entrepreneurs once believed that massive online courses would revolutionize higher education. MOOC providers, partnering with some of the nation's best universities, such as Stanford, Harvard and MIT, would offer free or cheap online lectures and courses taught by the nation's most talented college professors.  Subsequently, virtually anybody with a computer and an internet connection could receive a first-rate education.

A widely discussed University of Pennsylvania study of MOOCs, however, dampened those hopes. Analyzing some 1 million users of 16 courses Penn offered via the MOOC provider Coursera, researchers found that an average of just 4 percent of MOOC users actually completed the courses. The completion rate ranged from 2 percent to 14 percent, depending on the type of course, the intended audience, and so on.  "Emerging data.... show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user "engagement" falls off dramatically--especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course--and that few users persist to the course end," the study said. 

Continue reading "How to Make MOOCs Work" »

January 12, 2014

Defending the Humanities and Heather Mac Donald

Thumbnail image for aris.jpg

By Peter Wood

Heather Mac Donald may be the Ida Tarbell of our age: a writer who combines a meticulous eye for facts, intellectual brilliance, a sure sense of the historical moment, and deep moral seriousness. Tarbell is famous for her History of the Standard Oil Company, serialized in McClure's Magazine between 1902 and 1904, and is celebrated today by the Left for her having struck a blow against Big Business. She even merited her own postage stamp in 2002, along with three other women journalists.

It may be a while before Mac Donald wins such philatelic immortality. Like Tarbell, she is a deft expositor of the excesses of large enterprises that have grown unaccountable and corrupt.  But Mac Donald's preferred topics are big city government and, increasingly, academia. The Left has a hard time coming to grips with the prospect that the latter day equivalent of Standard Oil may be the University of California.  

Continue reading "Defending the Humanities and Heather Mac Donald " »

January 7, 2014

Can We Save Higher Education?

The-New-School.jpg

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds

This is an excerpt from "The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself," published this week by Encounter Books. The author, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, is also a columnist and a nationally prominent blogger at Instapundit.

***

College students and prospective students will have an effect simply by becoming better informed and less willing to pay top dollar for an inferior product.  Indeed they are already doing so.  Ultimately, you can't run a college if you can't fill the seats with paying students, and that will be harder and harder to do for schools that don't produce visible value, particularly as college enrollments are already declining, with 2012 enrollment a half-million below 2011's.  Those schools that get ahead of the curve here will prosper, while those that lag behind will not.

Continue reading "Can We Save Higher Education?" »

January 2, 2014

Coming Soon to a Campus Near You: Racial Micro-Aggression

campus.jpg

By Robert Weissberg

You may have read about the UCLA professor whose class was taken over by 25 of his students and other protesters on grounds that he was guilty of racial "micro-aggression."  Among other things, the professor, Val Rust, was accused of micro-aggressively undermining student advocacy by explaining that the word "indigenous" isn't capitalized.

Rust is a UCLA professor emeritus of education teaching the dissertation course in the Division of Social Sciences and Comparative Education (a course to help students fine-tune dissertation proposals prior to the research and writing). The sit-in's leader, Kenjus Watson, in a written statement, claimed that Professor Rust (not mentioned by name) corrected the student's grammar in a way that reflected an ideology while repeatedly challenging the value of dissertation proposals that addressed social identity and the dynamics of oppression, power and privilege (Rust called the proposed research too subjective). According to Watson, Professor Rust's persistent ideologically-driven criticisms and detailed corrections created a hostile class environment. 

Continue reading "Coming Soon to a Campus Near You: Racial Micro-Aggression" »

January 1, 2014

How About Post-College Exams?

GraduateSchoolTests.jpg

By Richard Vedder

In a recent Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton observed that "Gallup's hundreds of business clients report that many, if not most, college diplomas don't tell them much about graduates' readiness for productive work."  The information gap particularly hurts students attending non-selective admission colleges of so-so reputation: how do they demonstrate to potential employers that they are competent and potentially highly productive? Indeed, how do those colleges generally tell the world that they are more successful in graduating productive individuals than their reputation as measured by magazine rankings suggests?

I am particularly interested in these questions because I DO college rankings (for Forbes) and know that given large information gaps that we now have, current rankings are very weak in evaluating the post-graduate success of students by institutions. Hence I have been begging folks like the Education Testing Service and ACT to develop new test or survey instruments to permit better assessment of the performance of universities in preparing students for the world of work, as well as instruments that would help individuals demonstrate their post-graduate potential.

Continue reading "How About Post-College Exams?" »

December 22, 2013

Why Grade Inflation Hurts Social Mobility

Harvard.jpg

By Peter Augustine Lawler

The friends of "disruption" in higher education typically cite grade inflation as proof that liberal education is substance-free. They are correct to assert, as Thomas Lindsay recently did on this site, that grade inflation is a real problem.  But the disrupters haven't identified the real problem with grade inflation: It makes liberal education seem to be worth less than it really is. 

Grade inflation, in my view, is a quite deliberate project of our most elite schools to secure the elitist advantage of their students from effective competition. Indeed, the center of grade inflation is the Ivy League.  As far as I can tell, the grade inflation is meant to protect the "brand" of the meritocrats earned by being admitted. To be sure, it's not that the students at Harvard or Princeton don't work hard.  It's just that their efforts occur in a safe and secure environment.  They're protected from real competition from excellent students at lesser schools.  Nobody is ever to say that an A at my Berry College is as good as an A or even A minus at Harvard.  So we professors in the sticks can't really win by sustaining grading standards too different from those used by our most prestigious schools.  

Continue reading "Why Grade Inflation Hurts Social Mobility " »

December 19, 2013

ASA and the Politicization of Academe

ASA.jpg

By Peter Wood

The membership of the American Studies Association (ASA) on December 15 voted by a two-thirds majority to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities.  Minding the Campus has provided good coverage of both the events leading up to this vote and its immediate aftermath.  David Bernstein at George Mason and Jonathan Marks at Ursinus College have kept a close watch on the developments for MTC.  And observers in many other quarters have issued thunderclaps at varying decibels--and effectiveness.  The decisions by Brandeis University and Penn State-Harrisburg to cancel their institutional memberships in ASA give some heft to the outrage. 

My organization, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) urged ASA members to reject the boycott.  Now that it has passed, some NAS members are urging a further step.  They would like us to join in a proposed counter-boycott aimed at persuading universities to refuse to pay for ASA membership or for travel to ASA events. As the nation's largest association of university faculty members committed to traditional academic standards, what NAS does or doesn't do on a matter like this has some importance. 

Continue reading "ASA and the Politicization of Academe" »

December 18, 2013

If A Is Average, Say So--
the Dawn of Honest Transcripts

Thumbnail image for report-card4-244x300.jpg

By Thomas K. Lindsay

A recent Harvard Crimson piece has raised eyebrows. From "Substantiating Fears of Grade Inflation, Dean Says Median Grade at Harvard College Is A-," we learn that the estimable Harvard has done for grades what the Weimar Republic did for the mark. At Harvard, we read, the "most common grade is A." But anyone surprised at Harvard's hyperinflation hasn't been paying much attention, and anyone who thinks Harvard should be singled out for this has been paying even less. Higher education nationally has for decades been slouching toward Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon--"where all the children are above average."

While Harvard's undergraduates enjoy higher grade point averages than others, the truth is that A's are now the most common college grade everywhere. Professors Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy's study of the last fifty years of college grades finds that, in 1960, 15 percent of all college grades were A's, which were outnumbered by D's and F's combined. The most common grade was a C. Today, an A is the most common grade given nationally (43 percent); A's and B's together now account for 73 percent of all college grades at public universities and 86 percent of all private school grades. 

Continue reading "If A Is Average, Say So--
the Dawn of Honest Transcripts" »

December 15, 2013

The Strange Justice
Of Campus Rape Trials

Department of Education.jpg

By KC Johnson

Now that college hearings on rape and sexual assault are much in the news, particularly for their arbitrary procedures and unjust results, there's a basic question to answer: why are colleges doing this at all? Why do they need to develop their own investigative and punishment procedures to duplicate a process that already exists in the criminal justice system?

Sexual assault is the only violent crime routinely investigated by college disciplinary tribunals. Imagine, for instance, the outcry if colleges claimed a right to investigate murders or attempted murders by students that occurred on campus. Neither the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) nor the activists that have demanded weakened procedural safeguards have ever offered a convincing answer to this question: why should a college disciplinary system clearly unsuited for investigating murders nonetheless be tasked with meting out justice for alleged sexual assaults. Nonetheless, as OCR made clear most recently in its settlement with SUNY, the agency believes that colleges have an independent duty to investigate claims of sexual assault--even when law enforcement concludes that the accuser is lying.

Continue reading "The Strange Justice
Of Campus Rape Trials" »

December 13, 2013

Disarray at the University of Texas

Powers_Horns_jpg_800x1000_q100.jpg

By Richard Vedder

In Texas, academic disputes often are Texas-sized: protracted, bitter brawls where civilized rules of conduct are often ignored. Another chapter in a long a drawn out soap opera has played out in Austin, with UT President Bill Powers retaining his job after a Board of Regents meeting regarding his fate.  Powers will soon finish his eighth year as president, making him the second longest serving leader in UT history, and will pass his 68th birthday by the end of this academic year.  Since Powers is clearly at retirement age, and several Regents have been concerned about the direction the school is taking, many expected Powers to ease into retirement.  But things are seldom that simple at UT.

The UT situation may seem a bit like a reprise of the 2012 University of Virginia brouhaha when that institution's Board of Visitors briefly fired Teresa Sullivan. But the UT saga is far more protracted and dirtier. Full disclosure: I played a bit role in the drama, having co- authored a report on UT faculty workloads contributing to the ensuing kerfuffle.

Continue reading "Disarray at the University of Texas" »

December 11, 2013

'Rape Culture' and Free Speech

UWMAD.jpg

By Cathy Young             

Much has been said about the campus "war on rape" and the way it imperils students' due process rights, but there is another casualty as well: the free exchange of ideas on college campuses when it comes to the subject of sexual offenses.

A particularly revealing recent example comes from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  On November 5, Katherine Krueger, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Badger Herald, ran a long piece explaining why the previous day's edition had featured a letter to the editor from a student named David Hookstead questioning the existence of "rape culture." Krueger wrote that she had made the decision to run the letter "after careful deliberation and debate with our managing editor and opinion editors." 

The fact that Krueger felt the need to justify the letter's publication is remarkable enough; but the reason she gave for publishing it was even more striking.  Hookstead's letter, you see, was an object lesson in "what rape culture looks like," since it expressed "morally repugnant, patriarchal and offensive" views that are "an embodiment of rape culture" itself.

Continue reading "'Rape Culture' and Free Speech" »

December 8, 2013

A Wolf at the Door of Academe

Thumbnail image for wolf.jpg

By Peter Wood

The wolf at the door of American higher education is online instruction.  Traditional residential colleges hear it snuffling at the threshold.  They know they are vulnerable. They cannot compete on price.  Online is intrinsically cheaper.  They compete awkwardly on utility.  Online instruction is a more efficient way to convey knowledge and skills in a lot of fields.

Pushing back against the wolf is, of course, not the only option.  There are plenty of lycanophiles who would like to see wolves roam freely in the groves of academe.  Creative destruction is their abiding vision, and they see our older forms of colleges and universities as a herd of superannuated antelopes in need of a good culling. 

And then there are those, like Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who have vigorously argued that colleges should make friends with and domesticate the wolf.  They argue the future of higher education lies in making online learning an integral part of the traditional college curriculum.  The wolf will happily take its place on the hearth and play tenderly with the children.  Christensen's argument gains force from the many colleges and universities that have already created their own online programs or accepted online courses elsewhere for academic credit.

Continue reading "A Wolf at the Door of Academe" »

December 5, 2013

A Watered-Down Boycott Resolution on Israeli Institutions

asa1-580x434.jpg

By David E. Bernstein

From the bowels of academia comes news that the National Council of the American Studies Association has voted in favor of boycotting Israeli institutions. The boycott resolution goes to the full membership for an up or down vote.

The National Council's vote has been hailed as a huge victory for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It's not.  As originally proposed, the boycott was to apply to individual Israeli scholars, who, for example, wished to participate in the ASA's annual conference, if they received Israeli government or university funding.  Since few Israeli scholars would have the means to travel to the U.S. without funding from their university, that would have been a meaningful means of exclusion.

Instead, the final resolution is limited to a refusal to by "the ASA 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."  So there is no call for a boycott by the membership acting as individuals, and no exclusion even by the ASA of normal cooperation with Israeli scholars. 

Continue reading "A Watered-Down Boycott Resolution on Israeli Institutions" »


MONTHLY ARCHIVES:

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute
The Manhattan Insitute's Center for the American University.