U-M Donor Retracts $3M Gift: Multicult Naming Guilt

by John S. Rosenberg

In a multicultural man-bites-dog story, Mark Bernstein, the chairman of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, and his wife, Rachel Bendit, are withdrawing their previously announced gift of $3 million because their names would go on the building to be built with those funds.

Inside Higher Ed, quoting an article in the Detroit Free Press, reports this morning that the gift was intended to go toward the creation of a new, modernized multicultural center on campus whose construction was one of the demands of black students during protests in 2014. The problem? 

University of Michigan protocols called for the building to be renamed Bernstein-Bendit Hall. But the university’s current multicultural center, named for newspaper founder and equal rights activist William Monroe Trotter, is the only building on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus named for an African-American. The center would still have been called the Trotter Center, but many objected to having the name taken off of the building.

After hearing these concerns, the Free Press reports, Bernstein and his wife withdrew their gift, which means the Trotter name will remain. “We spent time with faculty, students, staff and alumni who shared with us their sense of loss,” Bernstein stated, “and who expressed their fear that the only African-American name on a building at U-M would be diminished or erased.” This is wrong, he continued. “We did not want to silence Trotter — this one, lonely African-American voice on our campus. This was, of course, not our intention, but it could have been the result.”

How satisfying it must be for Michigan’s faculty, students, staff, and alumni to have their “sense of loss” restored, and at the cost of only $3 million lost to the University. And how multiculturally sensitive and virtuous it must make Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein feel not to give that money. And how dumb University of Michigan officials must, or should, feel about their “protocols” that require donors names to go on buildings against their wishes. These people all deserve each other.

How Hamilton College’s Diversity Requirement Came About

by George Leef

Many colleges and universities now have a “diversity” requirement — even if they don’t require students to take anything else. The whole curriculum could be a hodge-podge of dubious, disconnected courses, but students absolutely, positively must be exposed to DIVERSITY. As if young Americans would otherwise have no clue that people aren’t all the same and they ought to get along with everyone.

Often, school officials justify these courses by saying that the students want them. But as we learn in today’s Pope Center piece, at one school, Hamilton College, the “student demand” was ginned up by a few faculty leftists who used a small number of SJW type students to push for its diversity requirement. The author, Professor Mary Grabar, has been at Hamilton for a year as a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute and in the piece she explains how a few faculty members managed to get college administrators to institute the only curricular requirement it has.

“Due to their efforts,” she writes, “starting in the 2017-18 academic year, every concentration will require a dedicated course or combination of courses to teach about ’structural and institutional hierarchies based on one or more of the social categories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, and abilities/disabilities.’” In other words, students must be exposed to the leftist obsession with groups. Whatever else they might study, the faculty leftists will shove this stuff down their throats. Doing so, they hope, will plant the seeds of numerous progressive tropes about society in young minds.

The faculty member most responsible for this, Grabar writes, is Women’s Studies chair Margo Okazawa-Rey, who was allowed to spend a considerable (but unknown) amount of college funds to take a number of students to a “social justice leadership training school” in Tennessee. For the students, the experience was “transformative” according to Okazawa-Rey. More likely, it reinforced their existing leftist ideas and helped radicalize them for campus protests.

Those protests led in turn to a series of demands, including, of course, more diversity!

Grabar concludes, “It’s apparent that such professors, armed with boundless funds, go to incredible lengths to radicalize students. Then they capitalize on their ‘heartfelt’ emotions to create demands for still more emphasis on their favorite project — ‘diversity.’”

No wonder that Hillary wants to keep the higher education bubble going as long as possible (as I discussed in this recent Pope Center article) because it helps support and expand her base of Americans who want to accelerate our plunge into statism.

More Evidence that the Feds Are Pushing Up Tuition

by Jane S. Shaw

Even the New York Times is now recognizing that federal funding of colleges and universities raises tuition. In a column last week discussing Hillary Clinton’s plan to provide free college for families earning less than $125,000, Binyamin Applebaum gathered some of the evidence that has been building over the past decade.

The strongest case was made in 2015 by the New York Federal Reserve. Looking at a wide range of schools, it found that as the federal government raised the per-student maximums on subsidized loans, those colleges and universities raised their tuition on average by 60 percent. For Pell grants, the figure was 40 percent and for unsubsidized loans, 15 percent.

Applebaum, quoting Andrew Gillen, has now found “another piece of evidence”:

The government limits the total amount undergraduates can borrow, but for the last decade it has allowed graduate students to borrow unlimited sums. Before the change, undergraduate tuition was rising more quickly than graduate school tuition. Since the change, the pattern has reversed, according to Andrew Gillen, an independent education analyst based in Washington.

So far, that’s anecdotal, but the mounting findings should poke a hole in “free college” promises. It would help some students but would wreak havoc on the taxpayer. (For other reasons why the “free college” proposal is a bad idea, see George Leef’s recent column.)

What Hillary Clinton and Colby College Have in Common

by George Leef

Colby College has the dubious distinction of winning FIRE’s “Speech Code of the Month” award. Why?

Samantha Harris, one of FIRE’s stalwart attorneys, explains on The Torch that Colby has decided that its Bias Incident Report Log, formerly open to public view, will henceforth be password protected. She writes, “When a college takes measures to hide information from the public, it usually means the school is doing something privately that it knows would not stand up to the glare of public scrutiny.”

The whole business of “bias incident reporting” and administrative responses is Orwellian and at a few schools, the publicity has been bad when people find out what’s going on. Best keep it hush-hush.

University Raises Adjunct Pay, Is Attacked Because It’s Not “Livable”

by George Leef

Adjunct are about to get a substantial increase in pay at the University of Memphis, going from $1,500 per course to $2,100 per course. Naturally, many are pooh-poohing that because it still is far short of a “living wage.” According to the Marxian thinking that holds sway, workers should be paid according to their needs and some adjuncts need much more if they’re to live decently.

In my latest piece for SeeThruEdu, I argue that there’s nothing wrong with universities saving money by hiring people at market prices. The low market rate for adjunct profs is a signal that the field is glutted and it would be a mistake to override that signal out of compassion for the few adjuncts who struggle to live just on that pay. They ought to find more remunerative work.

A Closer Look at Hillary’s Higher Ed Proposals

by Jesse Saffron

Hillary Clinton recently announced that she wants to make college “free” for students from low-income and middle-class families (those earning less than $125,000 per year) by 2021. In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, George Leef analyzes that proposal and concludes that it would escalate Education Department micromanagement, lower academic standards, and harm small private colleges.

Leef also analyzes Clinton’s proposal to have a three-month moratorium on student loan repayment, as well as her plan to create a special loan forgiveness program for young entrepreneurs.

“There’s never been any doubt that a Clinton administration would mean more federal intervention in higher education,” writes Leef. “These new campaign proposals show how much further the Democratic nominee will go to keep the higher education bubble inflated.”

Read the full article here.

A Worthwhile Essay Competition

by George Leef

The University of Texas at Arlington has announced its annual Webb/Smith Essay Competition and the topic this year is an excellent one: the financial crisis in higher education. Read all about it here.

Hat tip: Lenore Ealy

President Fires Provost; Board Fires President; Who’s in Charge?

by Vic Brown

Back in April, I posted a commentary on how the boards of trustees at LaSalle University and Dickinson College had apparently done a less than stellar job in vetting their presidential candidates.

We might think that larger universities would do a better job, since the stakes are high at larger enterprises that serve thousands more students.

But we would think wrong. It seems that Temple University’s Board is on the verge of terminating its president after only three years on the job, unanimously expressing a lack of confidence in him after he recently terminated his own provost for reasons purportedly related to financial aid cost overruns.

The point remains that any board has no more important duty than to thoroughly vet presidential candidates, and to closely monitor their performance once selected. The cost of mistakes in this area is high indeed, and I continue to wonder how deeply these boards dig into the actual workings of the universities that they are charged with guiding.