To Phi Beta Cons Readers:

by Jane Shaw & George Leef

We are sorry to inform you that Phi Beta Cons will be shutting down this week. This is the last PBC post.

National Review Online, our parent publication, is revamping its website organization, so that more material will flow directly from the homepage. 

The fluid state of web communication means that nothing is ever certain, so we accept this example of “creative destruction”—in spite of the blog’s lively history and continuing impact. It was started in March 2006 by John J. Miller, then an editor for National Review. Its knowledgeable contributors have helped make sense of the world of higher education and informed the public of the good, the bad, and the incongruous on our college campuses.

Thank you, readers, for your support. And don’t feel that the tumultuous world of higher ed is closed off to you.

And feel free to contact either of us. With your help, we can continue to improve education in this country.

George Leef and Jane S. Shaw

How to Wreck a Good University

by George Leef

In Friday’s  Pope Center article, Jason Fitzgerald of Penn Strategies, a Harrisburg firm that has dealt with many grads of Penn State’s Harrisburg campus, laments that the administration seems far more interested in spending money on student comforts than on one of its best departments.

That would be the Political Science Department, where the number of faculty members in a strong (and non-politicized) department is dwindling. Conversely, the administration is ladling money into needless frills.

Unfortunately, many schools are suffering the same fate

Saving America: J-School Must Go First

by Bernie Reeves

TV news readers and print jockeys are blatantly biased to the Left. How did this happen?

It began around 1965 in universities and colleges. The radical students and their mentors formed groups to demonstrate against the Vietnam War, with special emphasis on the draft. It was confusing to keep up with all the causes: feminist rights; black power; gay rights; American Indian claims for land; birth control;  animal rights. Collectives were born, merged, or went way. Or enthused young Boomers engaged in acts of terror, like Bill Ayers and his inamorata Bernadine Dohrn and their Weather Underground apparat.

In 1970, the shooting of four student demonstrators by the Ohio National Guard galvanized the anti-war movement. Those who chose to remain in academia to seek graduate degrees were angry  and definitely critical of their country. They interlaced  radical ideology in lectures and class discussion. Several were granted tenure, the golden fleece for academics: a job for life, sabbaticals, setting schedules, teaching at will and espousing anti-American,  semi-socialist theories with no adverse consequences from the administration.

Now ranking members of the liberal arts faculty, the radicals began to exercise power by seeking out those in their department who clung to the 4,000-year efficacy of Western learning. One by one, the radicals identified and targeted promising tenure-track professors who had dared not change their antiquated ways. Before he or she knew what was happening, they were smeared and tainted as racist, chauvinist, or imperialist in front of the faculty tenure committee. By the late 1980s, nearly all the faculty was composed of like-minded teachers. It was now easy for the radicals to vet applicants to assure they toed the party line.

Imbued with power to go to the next step, radical professors banished  the General College, two years of required courses, taken sequentially, to assure centuries of Western learning were inculcated into the minds of young students. From General College, students learned college-level study habits and a broad-based  concept of civilization good enough to confront life –  even without two more years of college. Professors were not wasting class time in remedial studies for unprepared juniors and seniors, a common complaint today.

Under the radicals, required courses were either eliminated or re-jiggered around the new curriculum guidelines – emphasizing women’s studies, black studies, gender studies.  In all liberal arts courses, the denigration and ultimate destruction of Western culture was espoused. The new courses were non-sequential, lacking substance, and unabashedly left-wing. And out into the real world came little PC automatons full of opinions and very little education.

Where the most harm occurred was in journalism departments and schools. Not until the mid-1950s. with some exceptions, did colleges anoint these trade schools for news writers as full members of the university family. Until then, J-schools were two-year programs, like nursing, excluded from the grand eminence of legitimate departments. J-Schools, previously housed in their own buildings, continue to be segregated today on campus, expressing their superior attitude, when actually the departments are  below par academically.

During the 1960s, college newspapers, operated by J-school students, had something to write about amongst the issues flying around them. Without real studies in authentic subjects –  beyond learning the inverse pyramid and asking who, what, when and where –  kid journalists were easily duped into left-wing views. Efforts to beef up journalism studies did not lead to in-depth required courses in history, geography, political science. Instead, all those empty hours were taken over by radical scholars and old Beatniks who espouse Marxist interpretations of history, civil rights studies, sociology, race relations, affirmative action goals, and the burgeoning reality of politically correct and multicultural interpretations.

The first waves of the new J-schoolers, indulged yet opinionated, were naturally enthused by the Woodstein syndrome. Journalists were raised to the rank of super-heroes, where they remain. However, researcher Max Holland has uncovered evidence that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post were not entirely honest in their Watergate reporting (go to www.washingtonuncoded ). Then came Janet Cooke, also at the Post, whose fabricated feature story began a long and shameful series of fake stories, cooked-up data and unattributed sources.  Not only are journalists since the 1970s poorly educated, their political views are tainted to the Left

There it is then. Radical scholars remove truth from studies and emphasize an agenda of victimization.  J-schools produce biased,  unethical, and vainglorious journalists dedicated to left-wing opinions. Unquestionably, higher education is the root cause of the dangerous decline of standards in America. Tearing down and starting all over again is the only solution.

A Do-It-Yourself Kit for Enlightenment

by David Clemens

Socrates left us a DIY kit for enlightenment: Ask a question. Listen. Reflect on the answer. Repeat.

University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson took Socrates to heart. Edmundson asked, “Why read?” and we got a book full of answers. “Why teach?” he asked, and the answers filled a second book. Now to complete the trilogy, “Why Write?” his latest book asks. Why indeed. Isn’t everything optics now and tweets?

Having asked, Edmundson gathers a drawing room full of friends to hear their answers, friends named Woolf, Blake, Eliot, Wilde, Emerson, Yeats, Shelley, Keats, and Dylan (Bob) to name a few. As you can imagine, this book is no Young Writers’ EZ Handbook of the 50 Best-Selling Plots, although there is no shortage of practical advice. Fundamentally, in his chapter on “Writing to Strengthen the Mind,” he suggests that “In order to write, you have to think” after having earlier declared that “I don’t know how, without writing or intense conversation, we could ever learn how to think.”

Besides writing and thinking and conversing, he finds that “Graduate school in the humanities cultivates many abilities. But one of the chief ones is the capacity to sit down and shut up and listen while someone with more experience tells you how you can improve.” As always, Edmundson generously seasons his observations with the evidence of personal experience, such as the time he was told of his weaknesses as a scholar and writer. “It was a hearty dish, served without sugar, and it’s stood me well for a long time.”

Other chapters explore other motives, such as writing “To Have Written,” “To Get the Girl/To Get the Guy,” for “Money,” “To Learn Something,” “To Stay Sane,” “To Get Even,” and so on. Each motive is tested and illustrated by the group of friends in the drawing room. Of “To Get Even,” Edmundson says, “I know of a writer who made a great success of a first novel based on her family. The little girl in the corner had apparently been storing up a record of all the familial insults like an angry accountant.” George Orwell, too, according to Edmundson, had a “vindictive streak” and “admitted that one of his motives [for `Why I Write’] was to get back at the schoolteachers and bosses who had thought too little of him, or thrust him aside.”

Edmundson is accepting of his friends’ various reasons for writing, but in his intimate, conversational, gently inquisitive tone, he suggests that:

one might say that writing’s ultimate goal should be to do something for others as well as for oneself. Writing is about enlarging the mind, the expansion of consciousness, the addition, as the critic R. P. Blackmur liked to say, to the stock of available reality. We’re told that writing is about finding the truth and infusing it with some beauty, too. But what does that mean?

Another question.

The 29 chapters of Why Write? sparkle along like a brook in springtime. Question, answer, reflect, question. The last section, “The Writer’s Wisdom,” rushes by like the close of Moby Dick, every page holding a nugget of golden wisdom. “Some people keep track of their lives with their photographs and their home movies –and that’s fine. But that’s a record of the outer life, not the inner.” No, he says, “there’s more to life than the way it looks. There is also how it feels. There’s also what you did and how you changed.”

In the end, Edmundson’s book is as much about “why I wrote” as it is about Why Write? It’s deeply personal and broadly philosophical, filled with the distilled reflections of a lifetime asking sharp questions, listening to thoughtful answers, and then asking more questions.

(All quotations taken from an advance reading copy; Why Write? will be released August 31).  

Is It Just a Joke?

by Carol Iannone

I viewed FIRE’s documentary film, Can We Take a Joke?, on streaming. (FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is the leading watchdog for freedom of speech on campuses.) I do appreciate the film’s effort to present free speech and intellectual freedom concerns in a wider cultural context and to appeal to young people with the importance of these concepts. But I found myself dismayed at the film and have at least two objections.

First, I don’t see how Lenny Bruce becomes the standard bearer for free speech as we understand it in the academic context. I’m not for persecuting foul-mouthed comedy but it’s not the same thing as what we are fighting for in academia, which is the right to engage in the pursuit of truth, to argue points of view with logic and evidence, to uphold the integrity of scholarship, and so forth. As I see it, if Lenny Bruce and his many spiritual descendants are responsible for anything in America, it is not for any new birth of freedom, but for the increasing filth and perversity that saturates our popular culture and media.

Second, I was amazed that the film presents the gay rights movement as one that succeeded through intellectual argument rather than through calls for censorship and censure. Regardless of the merits of the arguments in support of that movement, it is undeniable that it has been one of the most ruthless in the application of political correctness, intimidation, bullying, and so forth. So the example of intellectual suasion given by the film undercuts its own premises. 

 

The Wrong Simile?

by Jane S. Shaw

Ever since the crash of 2008, commentators have been warning of a coming crash in higher education. They – I among them – have seen out-of-control student debt, rising tuition, administrative bloat, lack of academic rigor, low graduation rates  – all the well-known flaws of higher education – as forming a bubble that eventually must burst, as the housing market did. Add to those the disruptive alternatives to college such as coding schools, free or low-cost online education, gap years, and a massive overturning of traditional schools seems inevitable. Charles Sykes, in his new book, Fail U., suggests the same.

But it hasn’t happened yet, and many think it won’t. As my colleague Jesse Saffron wrote, “Regarding the question of whether mainstream higher education is facing an existential crisis, the facts suggest that the answer, at least for the foreseeable future, is ‘no.’”

Why hasn’t the crash occurred? A colleague, David Clemens, gave me a clue when he said, “If my college were really a business, it would be out of business it’s so poorly run.”

Perhaps we have made a mistake by looking at universities as units operating in a traditional marketplace.

Instead, let’s compare the university scene to a large, highly respected, and powerful system that transcended the mundane world of the marketplace – the medieval Catholic Church. (This example, like the housing bubble, is not original with me; I’m just taking it more seriously now.) The Catholic Church was not a market-based phenomenon; it was a complex arrangement of forces—economic, social, moral, political, and, of course, religious—that had enormous control over the people of Christendom.

The Church was a universal (that is, across-Europe) institution, marked by solemn ceremonies in black robes and regalia; formal hierarchies (bishops, priests, monks, friars); promise of life in the hereafter; inquisitions to stamp out heresy; charitable hospitals; its own recondite language; and enormous wealth provided by proprietorship of vast expanses of land and by tithing by the masses.

Most of these aspects have counterparts in the university today. The robed rituals, the hierarchy of titles, the pressure against free speech, the medical facilities, the intellectual idiom, and the wealth – all are visible today in our colleges and universities. While universities don’t offer promises of the hereafter, they offer more immediate promises — material wealth in the near future. And today’s taxpayer must pay a tithe or more; in some states, 10 percent of the state budget goes to higher education, and the majority of schools are tax-exempt.

What knits these forces together into a remarkably stable system lasting hundreds of years? In my view, it was faith that gave the Catholic Church its power, and it is blind faith in the promises – from good jobs to economic growth — that gives higher education its power today.

And so far, that makes it pretty stable.

Is College Worth It?

by Stephanie Keaveney

Tuition costs are out of control, graduates struggle to find employment, and colleges are more interested in building luxurious dorms than educating their students. So is there still a benefit to a college degree? That’s the question Charles Sykes asks in his new book, Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education, which George Leef reviews in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call.

According to Leef, Sykes provides a convincing argument that higher education is a false promise. From debunking the “college premium” to decrying the atmosphere of intolerance, Sykes builds an all-inclusive condemnation of modern universities.

Although Leef finds the book convincing, he foresees disagreement from those satisfied with the current state of higher education:

Undoubtedly, Fail U. will be blasted by defenders of the academic status quo…They will say that Sykes exaggerates and sensationalizes the problems of higher education. I don’t think he does.

In the end, Leef finds a great deal to praise in Fail U. He concludes:

The best thing about this book is that it will convince large numbers of average Americans that they should think long and hard before committing loads of money to college.

You can read the whole review here

Federal-State Partnership? Or Extortion?

by Vic Brown

In a post in these pages last week, I mentioned president Robert Duffett of small Eastern University making a pitch that Hillary Clinton’s “free” college tuition proposals be expanded to include private schools, not just public colleges and universities. Eastern, of course, is private and would benefit greatly from this enhancement to the Clinton program.

Now comes F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University, to opine in The Washington Post that the real cause of spiraling tuition is that states have cut back on their own subsidies to the public system, and the schools have had to hike tuition to remain solvent. He has an answer, though, and it’s fairly straightforward. King contends that we need a federal-state partnership that “leverages federal dollars to incentivize states to maintain a base level of funding for their public colleges and universities.” Pretty simple — if states do not cough up a specified level of funding, the federal dollars disappear, and presumably are allocated to more compliant states. Some would call this extortion. In fact, so would I.

The arguments by King at LSU, and Duffett at Eastern, struck me as odd in another way. In begging for more federal and state dollars, why don’t they at least pay lip service to the need for their institutions to do their part, by cutting costs? Businesses do this every day to remain competitive, but the concept doesn’t seem to have found much of a foothold in the academy.

But this is understandable if one considers that the funds are being requested from government bureaucracies, and politicians don’t have the words “cost cuts” in their operating manual, either. With few exceptions, the federal and state budget process is an exercise in deriving increased tax revenue to fund increasingly expensive government programs. State cuts to public higher education run counter to this general trend, and King’s immediate response is to fight back, to compel increased funding through the threat of withholding federal dollars.

Since government policy makers and bureaucrats seldom talk about true cost reductions (real decreases, not decreases in the rate of growth), why should the presidents of these schools even go there? Better to remain as long as possible in this parallel universe, where all that matters is revenue from the taxpayers. Eastern’s president looks for “new” federal dollars, LSU’s president wants to use existing federal dollars as a cudgel against state lawmakers who would dare to reduce funding.

College Isn’t a Public Good

by George Leef

So argues Tim Worstall, a Brit who writes often for Forbes. One of the arguments we hear all the time from the higher ed establishment is that college is a “public good” and we won’t get enough people into and through college unless we subsidize it. In this piece, Worstall shows what is wrong with that claim.

One Thing I Like about the Start of School

by Jane S. Shaw

I have always found the Beloit College “mindset list” amusing to read (although some years are better than others) and I think that professors should heed it. This is the list of things that characterize the knowledge and experience of income freshmen — this year, those students born in 1998. Beloit is trying to remind profs that some of their assumptions — and their analogies in lectures — need updating.

So this year’s list, just released, makes such statements as:

Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.
They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. 
They have no memory of Bob Dole promoting Viagra.
SpongeBob SquarePants has always lived at Bikini Bottom.
The United States has always been at war.

Next, the Beloit team should listen to professors’ lectures and cite some of the allusions from the past that leave students shaking their heads.

Accusation = Sentence

by George Leef

That is Neal McCluskey’s assessment of the Education Department’s new regulations aimed at for-profit colleges. In this [email protected] post, he writes, “Just accusing a school of predatory behavior hurts it, generating lots of bad press, encouraging more suits and investigations, and usually resulting in schools settling with government accusers without admitting guilt….”

Read the whole thing.

Oh great — another opportunity for crusading politicians and bureaucrats to do something they love — grandstanding — by making accusations against for-profit colleges.

There is only one actual solution: go back to the days when students spent their own money for higher education, not money strewn all about them by the government.

 

A Female Privilege Ends at Michigan State

by Jane S. Shaw

Should a public university have a student lounge exclusively for women?

Mark J. Perry, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, suggested a few years ago that Michigan State’s women-only lounge is inappropriate at a public university. “Wouldn’t a women-only lounge that discriminates against men be in violation of Title IX?” he asked. While the federal Title IX is usually used to promote rights for women, it actually bans discrimination on the basis of sex.

This year, Perry filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. (He is a professor University of Michigan at Flint, part of the rival university system.)

Now Michigan State has announced that it will close the lounge (which was a relic of the past, when both women and men had same-sex lounges).

InsideHigherEd covered the latest news. The article by Scott Jaschik noted that some women think that Michigan State’s decision is unfair. “Advocates for the women’s lounge say there are relatively few places on the main campus where women can study in peace, without male students talking to them and sometimes harassing them,” wrote Jaschik. More than 5000 people have signed a petition asking the administration to keep things the way they are. After all, says the petition, there’s a co-ed lounge that’s twice as big right next to the women’s lounge. (Another way of saying that is that the women’s lounge is half as big as the co-ed lounge, with nothing exclusively for men.)

As Jaschik noted, Mark Perry had some comments on his July 21, 2016, blog:

The vitriol, hatred, and hostility directed towards me by email, voicemail and on Twitter have been disturbing and disappointing, more than I have ever experienced in my life – much of it couldn’t be printed here due to the offensive content, but “You’re a piece of human garbage Perry and I hope something happens to your daughters, etc.” gives you an idea of some of the comments that I’ve received by voicemail this week (some have been forwarded to UM-Flint’s campus police).

It’s not clear whether Michigan State’s decision is based on Perry’s complaint or something else, but the school appears to be coming into line with state and federal law.

The Ruthless Folly of SLOs

by David Clemens

InsideHigherEd.com reports that Biology Professor Robert Dillon was suspended from the College of Charleston for not having acceptable, accreditor-required student learning outcomes (SLOs) on his syllabus. Professor Dillon, in turn, is suing the college and questions the value of SLOs. This contretemps confirms that no matter how misguided SLOs may be, their proponents are ruthless. And accrediting agencies, anxious to appear scientific and corporate, are big proponents.

In my view, Dillon is right and the college cum accreditors are wrong. In The Origin of the Universe and the Origin of Religion, Sir Fred Hoyle writes that “When a starting point is wrong, the more impeccable the logical development the worse the result.” And SLOs’ starting points are spectacularly wrong: 

  • SLO theory holds that all learning is observable which is facially preposterous. Learning is internal and unavailable for analysis.
  • SLO theory holds that all learning is measurable. Some learning (mastery) in some subjects is measurable (mostly CTE and trades) but much learning in many subjects is not measurable (poetry, dance, fine art).
  • SLO theory holds that all learning is immediate. In fact, it can take years for a lesson to be fully realized. The seeds of David Denby’s college lessons on King Lear never flowered until decades later when his own mother became frail, demanding, and tyrannical.
  • SLO theory implies that all learning is permanent. SLOs were supposed to state what, following course completion, a student will be able to do. To make a guarantee of future performance is ill-advised, at best. As a teacher, I can tell you what a student did, but I can’t rationally promise you what a student will do in the future.

SLO theory, in fact, is warmed over behaviorism, not about learning at all, just conditioning. The Pavlov and Skinner crowd are concerned with stimulus and response, input and output, and not with the being that turns the one into the other. Hence, the most glaring of SLOs’ flaws is that they are silent about a major ingredient in learning: the student. That’s why when attainment of SLOs is used in teacher evaluation, it places the blame for student failure solely on the teacher. Maybe that’s the attraction.

A more rational depiction of the teacher-student learning encounter comes from Rob Jenkins in The Chronicle of Higher Education who is talking to students when he writes:

Whether you choose to accept [my] help — ultimately, whether you choose to learn anything — is up to you.

My role is not to tell you what to do, like your shift manager at the fast-food restaurant. Rather, I will provide information, explain how to do certain things, and give you regular assignments and assessments designed to help you internalize that knowledge and master those skills. Internalizing and mastering are your responsibility.

At my college, we face the same SLO juggernaut as Professor Dillon. Of course, teachers must follow orders, but they don’t have to agree or swear belief in those orders. For the last several years, our solution has been to state official course SLOs on our syllabi, but also to include the following disclaimer:

As a credentialed teacher, I want to state my belief that Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) violate both the spirit and the tenets of academic freedom.  I further affirm that my participation in SLO formulation and assessment has been under duress and coerced by threats of institutional probation and/or loss of accreditation.  I believe SLO assessment represents an un-negotiated increase in workload, and in my professional judgment, SLOs have no demonstrable positive effect on learning. They create a fundamental, detrimental change in what I do as a teacher, and it has not been demonstrated that SLOs achieve anything beyond creating an illusion that the student experience can be qualitatively measured. Furthermore, such measurement occurs in terms that may actually be irrelevant or antithetical to real learning.

In this way, obedience and profound dissent are nicely conjoined.

Conceding the Culture War

by Carol Iannone

Daniel Henninger is certainly right to point out how a second Clinton presidency would mean the further and deeper entrenchment of freedom-destroying political correctness, especially in  higher education (“The Clinton Default Mistake: Her Presidency Will Use the Federal Enforcement Agencies to Enforce Political Correctness,” Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2016). But if he means to imply that diversity originally meant something positive, “absorbing new immigrants, alongside blacks and women via affirmative action commitments,” he is quite mistaken and, furthermore, illustrates once again why conservatives are losing, or have lost, the culture war: that is, to believe that the original versions of various progressive agendas, such as feminism, such as diversity, were good, but descended into excesses that are bad.

These things were liars from the beginning, to paraphrase Jesus, and the fathers and mothers of it, that is, the lie. Diversity from the beginning meant group rights, enforced egalitarianism, absolute parity by group in all areas. If group equality becomes the supreme value, it necessarily tramples over individual rights, and over other values that are or should be the prime focus of the various institutions into which diversity is introduced. In academia, those values would include intellectual honesty, academic integrity, freedom of expression, and individual merit. By allowing a benign, desirable, justified dimension to these progressive agendas, conservatives concede an enormous amount of territory, and then are just left scrambling alongside to point out where the concept is going to excess.

Often, conservatives’ own premises are not clear, even to themselves. Henninger notes the unconscionable proliferation of diversity bureaucracy on campuses today, in which “university administrators know their next job depends on showing evidence of achieving diversity metrics. So they push them, relentlessly. In 20 years, diversity went from an idea to an industry.” But the industry was implicit in the idea. And, for that matter, what would have been the right stopping point for diversity, for feminism, for “social justice”?  

One More Problem with Students -- They’re Moral Relativists

by George Leef

What’s the matter with American college students? Besides the fact that many of them are lazy, feel entitled to good grades, and can’t be civil towards anyone who questions their “progressive” beliefs, there is something else — they’re moral relativism.

In today’s Pope Center article, Professor Richard Cocks, who teaches philosophy at SUNY – Oswego, laments that many of his students have been indoctrinated with moral and cultural relativism in their K-12 years and gives this close-to-home example: “My son’s high school English teacher wanted her students to say that child slavery in Ghana is morally permissible, the unstated premised being that there are no absolute moral principles that apply to all cultures at all times and places.” Lurking behind that, Cocks maintains, is the notion that it’s wrong to be “judgmental” about other cultures. (Of course, that doesn’t apply to western culture, which is fair game for the most outrageous attacks.)

When students get into his class, he finds that many are so imbued with that “who am I to criticize another culture” notion that when he brings up such atrocities as female genital mutilation in Sudan, they reply, “That’s just your perspective.” It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion that their relativistic education has left them lacking in a moral compass.

Cocks goes on to explain how he deals with this problem by getting them to see that justice is not specific just to some human cultures, but is universal, even extending to some animal species. He has been able to convince students that “there are indeed moral principles that apply to everyone and criticism of other cultures is not being ‘intolerant.’”

I think it speaks volumes about the state of American education that so many students think it’s “intolerant” to criticize the most abominable practices in other cultures, but can’t see anything wrong in their own nasty attacks on those who disagree with them on issues like gun control, abortion, minimum wage laws, and so on.

 

Segregation Is Back

by Jennifer Kabbany

Two stories on higher education this week captured national headlines. The first centered on students of color at the Claremont Colleges who did not want to room with white peers. The second focused on a professor who told students they would be marked down if they used the term “melting pot” on assignments. 

To be sure, the stories offer a very worrisome commentary on the state of affairs on college campuses today. But if you are surprised by the reports, you have not been paying attention. 

On students of color who did not want to room with white peers, that is nothing new. Black students have been openly demanding segregated “safe spaces” from white students for a year now. Places such as UConn and Berkeley offer segregated living spaces, for example.

Indeed at universities nationwide, segregated spaces for students of color has become a welcomed occurrence, seen not only in housing but also in campus social gatherings, protests and grief sessions.

As for the professor who forbids the phrase “melting pot” in her classroom, how is that a shocker when universities across the nation are teaching that the term is a microaggression? From California to Wisconsin to Indiana, this phrase has been presented on campuses as offensive because it suggests to minorities they must “assimilate/acculturate to the dominant culture.”

So students self segregating or professors banning the term “melting pot” are not random, isolated incidents. They are brushstrokes within a much larger, and troubling, higher education picture.

Private Colleges Start to Line Up at the Clinton-Sanders Money Trough

by Vic Brown

This was predictable, and it certainly didn’t take long. Robert Duffett, president of Eastern University in suburban Philadelphia, wrote an interesting commentary in The Philadelphia Inquirer this week.  

Discussing the Hillary Clinton “free college tuition” proposal for families making up to $85,000 this year, and expanding over the next five years to include those families making up to $125,000, Duffett thinks this is a great idea. His only one, tiny suggestion to make it even better is to expand it to private colleges and universities, rather than the way it is currently framed — applying only to tuition at public institutions of higher learning.  Eastern University, as you might guess, is private and Duffett is contemplating the damage that the Clinton proposal would inflict on his school and others in the private sector.  

Leaving aside for the moment his hilarious characterization of higher taxes as “tax benefit limitations,” President Duffett cites Eastern University graduation rates as exceeding national norms, and thus providing a benefit to all concerned. I looked at the published data, and he is correct. The Eastern University “reasonable graduation rate” (six years for a four-year program and three years for a two-year program; I’ll let others decide if this is indeed reasonable) is 62%, compared to a national average of 56%. 

So, to put it in brutally simple terms, Clinton and Duffett and all of the other proponents of these tuition expansion programs expect the taxpayers to fund tuition for a huge number of  college students — even though almost half of them never graduate, nationwide. In Eastern’s case, well over a third do not graduate — hardly a robust selling point.

Clinton’s proposal, if enacted as proposed, promises to create wreckage among the private colleges and universities. Politicians will not be able to resist the outcry from the private college presidents like Dr. Duffett, and will of course begin to expand the program to include them as well. Eastern and its peer colleges will gratefully accept the additional federal money, continue to graduate somewhere between 5 and 6 students out of every 10 that enroll, and let the taxpayers foot the bill for all of this tuition, so much of it wasted.

I would greatly prefer that Dr. Duffett and his fellow college presidents start thinking in the other direction — how to slim down their curricula, reduce non-instructional costs, and develop outstanding programs that consumers are actually willing to pay for.  And to please, please stop expecting the taxpayers to come to the rescue. 

How Did Bad Journalists Get that Way?

by George Leef

In this Accuracy in Media article, Tucker Carlson bemoans the state of journalism these days.

He condemns the practice of journalists who air their opinions on social media, noting that it has a “corrosive effect on the public’s trust.”

And how did things get this way? Carlson describes journalism school as “an indoctrination center” — a “sameness factory that pumps out people with identical opinions.” Worse, those factories are “only accessible to a certain kind of person — the exact kind of person we don’t need any more of in journalism — affluent, entitled, activist.”

Carlson is right. By capturing the “commanding heights” in the training (rather, indoctrinating) of journalists, the left has succeeded in one of its main goals, namely dictating how people must think.

Are “Microaggressions” Migrating to the Workplace?

by Roger Clegg

The answer to that question, alas, may be yes.  George Leef’s latest Forbes column discusses a recent complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by an employee who thought a “Don’t Tread on Me” cap worn by another employee was racist.  The EEOC seems to be taking this pretty seriously, and Mr. Leef is not amused.  As with similar complaints in the campus context, there are First Amendment concerns here, and the column discusses them, too.

Are College Presidents Overpaid?

by George Leef

Leftist commentators constantly harp on the compensation of business CEOs, often employing extremely misleading data. but for some reason, the compensation paid to people they’re predisposed to like is never a problem. I’m thinking of entertainers, union bosses, heads of big philanthropies and college presidents. This week’s Pope Center Clarion Call is about the last in that list — college and university presidents.

In the piece, Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder asks why they are often paid such lofty salaries and bonuses when there is little or no evidence that the students are learning much. He also points out that compensation for top university presidents has been rapidly increasing over the last couple of decades. Does that reflect improved performance, or merely that as more money has poured into higher ed, the leaders were perfectly positioned to make sure that a lot of it went into their pockets?

Part of the explanation is that presidents are often able to stack the board with their allies. Another is that search firms have an incentive to recommend new presidents who will come at a steep price, since the firm is paid a percentage of the salary.

Vedder likes what Mitch Daniels has done at Purdue. Daniels asked the board for a contract that actually lowered his base compensation compared with his predecessor, but which also contained bonus opportunities geared to performance measures. Such a contract makes good sense. Probably very few college presidents would want a contract like that — the job is so much more pleasant if you don’t have to worry about details such as student learning — so it will be necessary for trustees to push for contracts like the one Mitch Daniels has.