Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Congratulations, Professor Paquette!


Hamilton College history professor Robert Paquette has been steadfast in the battle to retain the American Founding and non-politicized teaching of our history at his own school and generally. Several years ago, he was instrumental in the creation of the Alexander Hamilton Institute. You wouldn’t think that a scholarly center would be so hard to establish, but it was. Read his account in this Pope Center piece.

And now for the reason for offering congratulations:

Clinton, NY, March 6, 2014 – The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have announced that the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom will be presented to Professor Robert L. Paquette, Professor of History at Hamilton College and a co-founder of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI). The distinguished award – which carries a $10,000 stipend to the honoree–will be made at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Ronald Reagan Banquet on Friday, March 7, 2014 in Washington, D.C.ÿ The prize honors the memory of Dr. Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for her fierce defense of academic freedom.

Poverty and Academia Have Been Very Good to Me!


Gene Nichol is a law professor who now runs the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the Center was founded with the difficult mission of making former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards sound smart). Nichol is sort of the poster child for many of the problems in higher education.

For one, Nichol is a more of a left-wing activist than an objective scholar. For another, he has managed to “fail up” for much of his career, moving to increasingly better jobs despite poor performance at his previous positions. He went from the dean of Colorado’s Law School to dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s more-exclusive law school (losing badly in Democratic primary races for U.S. Senator along the way). Both law schools dropped significantly in U.S. News rankings, as well as other measures such as fundraising, while he was in charge. (Scholarship and teaching, though more difficult to measure, would have also been likely to drop under his guidance).

For those dismal performances, he was rewarded with the prestigious position of president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. It wasn’t long before the alumni of that school ran him out of town on a rail for offending both tradition and common sense. But not to worry: Nichol’s replacement at UNC’s law school immediately offered both him and his law professor wife sinecures safe from the storm clouds of accountability. 

In today’s American Spectator, Paul Chesser describes how Nichol lives a life of luxury while presenting himself as North Carolina’s leading expert on poverty and inequality, thanks to UNC’s largesse.



After Republican-Bashing Video Goes Viral, Professor Bans Taping in Class


Jennifer Kabbany of The College Fix reports today about the backlash a student is facing after he taped a radical leftist lecturer and released the video to the public:

Exactly one week after an 18-year-old University of Wisconsin-Whitewater freshman’s recording of a guest lecturer railing against Republicans went viral – prompting anger and a parade of national news stories – the professor announced the class now has a “no taping policy.”

On Feb. 25, student Kyle Brooks recorded radical SEIU spokesman Eyon Biddle say during a guest lecture in a sociology class that Republicans win elections because of white racism and “white rage,” among many other anti-Republican accusations.

Brooks posted a video of the comments on his Facebook page and it quickly went viral.

On Tuesday – the first day the class met since the infamous recording become fodder for national headlines – the professor announced the no-taping policy, and a 40-minute discussion on whether the class is a “safe” place to talk about ideas ensued, Brooks said.

“She did not mention me by name,” Brooks told The College Fix on Tuesday…

Biddle is a candidate for alderman in Milwaukee, as well as a union leader, and apparently a personal friend of the professor’s. During his guest lecture, Biddle said that “the context of 2010 (election) was, white rage.”

“White people having to pay for health care for blacks and browns and gays,” Biddle continued in a recording first reported on last week by Campus Reform and then by Wisconsin news outlets and nationally at the Daily Caller and Fox News, among others. “Racism, with the first black president. Like, you saw a bunch of American pie hatred just bubble up.”

Click here to read the full story.

Prolonging Adolescence at “Party Schools”


In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, George Leef discusses the party school phenomenon through the lens of sociology professor Karen Weiss’s new book, Party School: Crime, Campus, and Community.

Leef quotes one Party School passage describing the typical college student’s mindset: “For many students today, going to college is simply what young people do. With no particular ambition or plan of study, college is where young people go after high school to postpone adult responsibility and ‘party’ for four years.”

But Leef thinks that the “economics of the college experience” may soon make the prolonged adolescence identified by Weiss less prominent than it is now. 

“Employers have found out that college degrees do not necessarily betoken much knowledge or reliability and are starting to look for better indicators (such as e-portfolios with badges, certifications, and other demonstrations of competence) that do not require graduation from any college. As that movement continues, before long the mere possession of a generic degree from any school, and especially a ‘party school’ will be unavailing,” he writes. 




Another Blatantly Politicized University “Center”


A phenomenon we encounter across the nation is that of blatantly politicized “centers” at public universities. They use tax dollars to promote statist ideas and causes, usually in violation of the law, but they get away with it.

That is evidently the case with the UNC Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. We read about a recent conference it hosted in this piece by Francis DeLuca of NC Civitas.



Why Due Process Matters


Over at Real Clear Politics, Peter Berkowitz takes on Swarthmore College, his alma mater, for its failure to respect due process in its prosecution of a recent sexual assault case. What makes Berkowitz’s piece unique, and so important, is his argument as to why colleges and universities must respect the core principles of free societies, including due process and the presumption of innocence.

He writes:

Another vital feature of liberal education consists of fostering an appreciation of the principles of due process. They are principles free societies have developed over the centuries to adjudicate controversies, establish guilt, and mete out punishment in ways that justly balance the rights of those who claim they have been wronged with the rights of those who have been accused of wrongdoing.

As Columbia’s Roosevelt Montas noted at ACTA’s 2013 ATHENA Roundtable, “all education is education for citizenship.” Much of this civic education happens in the classroom, where colleges ought to be teaching students subjects like U.S. History and Government. Yet, if we want students to absorb an appreciation for the values of a free society, our institutions of higher learning must also embody those values, and they must shape campus culture.

Free speech, due process, and presumption of innocence are bulwarks of freedom and justice. But in higher education, their significance can even be said to transcend the value of individual rights. Protecting them is a vital educational imperative, an indispensable part of modeling what a free and open society looks like.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle teaches, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. … [W]e become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

It now seems Swarthmore doesn’t “do” due process. So what will its students learn?

Honest University Commercial


I nominate the creator of this video to be the next Secretary of Education.  Enjoy.



How Sensitive


Columbia University has called in the emergency diversity squad after a sorority hosted an Olympics-themed costume party featuring students dressed as members of various nations.

You can guess what happened next.

Christopher White reports for The College Fix:

The Feb. 22 mixer has since prompted politically correct pandemonium at the Ivy League institution – with its interim dean of student affairs going so far as to offer counseling for those who were offended.

A Latino campus group called the party “offensive,” saying “stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities.” The sorority in question also begged for forgiveness and promised to launch “social awareness” campus initiatives.

At issue is an Olympics-themed sorority/fraternity mixer at which female students wore costumes to celebrate the Beer Olympics, which is like the real Olympics but with less athleticism and more beer, maracas, potatoes and sombreros.

Some on the “French” team wore revealing, tight French Maid-inspired get ups, while a few on Team Japan wore pigtails and provocative schoolgirl attire that included chopsticks and high socks, according to photos published by Bwog, a campus news website run by Columbia students…

Dean Martinez pledged that the university’s “bias-related response team” would reach out to “potentially impacted communities to offer support and follow-up,” adding such “microaggressions unfortunately are pervasive … we need to continue our collective efforts to substantively address systemic issues that perpetuate such incidents.”

We can only hope that the traumatized students of Columbia can some day recover from these “microaggression” attacks, including any nightmares they might have about French Maids. With help from the “bias-related response team,” even costume-related trauma is treatable, surely.

Read the full story here, including more mind-numbing facts about Columbia’s vigilant “Chicano Caucus.”




The University Probably Didn’t Want This Rock Turned Over


Winston-Salem State University, part of the UNC system, has been a troubled campus owing to allegations from faculty members that the administration was changing grades they had assigned to students. Last year we published an article that exposed this mess, along with the fact that the administration evidently takes it out on anyone who dares to complain. In today’s Pope Center piece, our new writer, Harry Painter, covers a recent hearing at WSSU involving another faculty member who is under attack (suspension, and possible termination) for the horrendous academic misconduct of having referred to her dissertation as a book. It seems apparent that the provost is using that as a pretext for getting rid of a faculty member she doesn’t want around.

A remarkable claim was made during the hearing. The professor stated that most of the way through a semester, many of the students in her class on constitutional law were failing, so the administration put them into another poli sci course for which they were all given A grades.

Another aspect of the case is that the provost also justified her suspension of Professor Davis because of her alleged poor teaching. Was there any prior record of that? Did the administration ever discuss her supposedly poor teaching with her? Apparently not.

It certainly looks as though WSSU has a rogue, thin-skinned administration. Will the General Administration do anything?

Free College for Prison Inmates


On February 16, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to create a state-funded college education program for prison inmates. The governor wants to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees at 10 state prisons, and says doing so will only cost $5,000 per inmate each year (Cuomo’s estimate). 

Speaking to the New York legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus—a caucus with a history of advocating for inmate reintegration initiatives—Cuomo couched his proposal in the rhetoric of fiscal conservatism. He claimed that his “Prison U.” plan will lower recidivism rates and, in turn, reduce taxpayers’ burdens.

According to the governor, 40 percent of New York’s prison inmates return to prison after release. Cuomo said that his proposal will drastically reduce that percentage and will help lower the state’s total annual prison expenditures ($3.6 billion). Since the annual cost-per-inmate is $60,000, the governor argued, the $5,000 required to educate one inmate is a small price to pay for a huge future return.

“Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results. Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime,” the governor said.

One of those existing programs is the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), operated by Bard College, a private liberal arts school in southeast New York. The BPI is funded entirely with private money and provides college courses for hundreds of inmates. It operates in six prisons across the state and boasts that its enrollees have only a 4 percent recidivism rate. 

New York Republicans, and even some Democrats, have vehemently opposed Cuomo’s “Prison U.” plan. State lawmakers have created online petitions and, at the federal level, U.S. Representatives Tom Reed, Chris Collins, and Chris Gibson, all Republicans, have co-sponsored a bill called the “Kids Before Cons Act.” The bill would prohibit state and federal prisons from using Department of Education and Department of Justice money for college programs.

So far, much of the opposition to Cuomo’s plan has been based not on conservative or libertarian principles of limited government and fiscal restraint, but on the fact that law-abiding people and voters will get the short end of the stick. People with massive student loan debt and parents struggling to send their children to college, not convicted felons, should be the focus of any new college-related program, opponents say. 

First principles aside, Cuomo’s plan appears to be based on a few flawed premises. Namely, millions of college-educated Americans without felonious backgrounds are unemployed or underemployed. How will a college degree give felons a leg up in this tough employment environment? Second, the Bard program’s low recidivism rate (cited by proponents of Cuomo’s plan) conceals an important truth: inmates who are focused and motivated enough to complete a degree program are probably less disposed, even without a degree, to return to crime. Finally, it’s important to note that the Cuomo plan does not require inmates to take courses or graduate. Surely some will take courses but not complete their respective programs. This will only serve to increase the annual $60,000 per-inmate cost. 

Army Veteran Arrested for Turning His Back on Hillary Clinton at GWU


An Army veteran who was arrested for turning his back on Hillary Clinton in an act of protest has filed a lawsuit, claiming he was “brutalized” in retaliation for his peaceful demonstration.

Andrew Desiderio reports in today’s feature story at The College Fix:

The federal lawsuit, filed mid-February in Washington D.C., names the U.S. State Department and George Washington University police as defendants. It seeks to have Army vet Raymond McGovern’s arrest expunged from the records, as well as compensatory damages.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represents McGovern, states on its website that the circumstances surrounding the arrest were marked with “stinging irony,” as McGovern was “brutalized and arrested after peacefully standing with his back to Hillary Clinton” as she was giving a speech in which she condemned oppressive regimes…

Now you’ve all be warned: Don’t turn your back on Hillary, or else!

Read the full story here.

Please Take the Pope Center’s Poll Today


The University of North Carolina has been hit with a series of scandals involving athletics. The research of Mary Willingham showed that a large percentage of the players had shockingly low reading ability; the administration has silenced her. In our piece today, Jenna Robinson sets forth the details and then we ask for your opinion on how the university has handled this matter.

You won’t even have to show photo ID to vote.

Faux Courses The Norm


The Bloomberg Business Week piece might as well have been written on Mars. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill does have problems of great magnitude, but they are hardly related to the historical reference cited that buildings constructed on the campus of the nation’s first public university were built by slaves, as if the founders possessed the modern-day white guilt on display today by the bien pensants, the media, government agencies and the education sector. And while the unfolding athletic department scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill  has inevitably involved race, the real story is about the sorry state of UNC’s  academic identity and  its questionable status  as one of the top public universities in the U.S.

The style of the article about UNC’s current woes is indicative of the baleful state of the school’s underlying inadequacies. The current controversy swirls around a professor who created phony classes in African-American and African Studies allegedly attended by money-sports black athletes. Turns out the classes never met, but high grades were recorded for those who signed up and never attended a class, took a test, or wrote a paper. The department chairman who cooked up the faux courses, with the assistance from his staff and encouragement from tutors and administrators from the Department of Athletics, paid himself anyway. The local county district attorney has brought charges against him and, under a new and never used statute in the purview of the North Carolina Department of State, the probe has expanded to examine of the efficacy of courses taught in the entire school.

It is at this juncture the real issue is exposed. African-American and African Studies (AFAM) is dismayingly similar to an array of courses offered in Chapel Hill’s School of Arts and Sciences with similar victimization and group identity politics, including Queer, Transgender, Women’s, and Diaspora Studies. The athletes chose the African theme because most of them are black, not because other courses in this category are more difficult. The truth is, the radicalized curriculum in vogue today has little content and minimal standards of scholarship, just like the AFAM offerings.

Athletes have been taking crip courses at sports-oriented colleges since the 1890s. The problem today is not that these courses exist. The scandal is they are the norm.




A Letter to Future College Students


My colleague Greg Lewin recently wrote this letter to a high school senior who is choosing colleges. It sums up a lot of our thoughts about college education–what it is, what it should be. Perhaps you know students who would find it useful. A selection:

Choosing which courses to take in college may not seem like a huge decision. Checking boxes to fulfill a patchwork of requirements seems almost too easy. But in essence, you are asking yourself, “What knowledge will equip me with the wisdom required to make life’s big decisions?”

At least, that’s what you should be asking yourself. That particular question was never posed by Freshman Greg. Instead, Freshman Greg set to tackling such imponderables as, “Will this class fit in my schedule?” “Will this professor be fun?” and “Does putting hot dogs in my oatmeal count as breakfast or dinner?”

Read the whole thing here.

Duke Student Who Turned to Porn to Pay Tuition Turned Down Full Scholarship at Vandy


A Duke University freshman going by the name “Lauren,” has been making headlines this week after she was outed as a porn performer. “Lauren” started performing in porn videos, so she says, because her family was faced with a crushing $60,000-per-year in tuition and fees at Duke that she had no ability to pay.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt is not something I want to carry around and it’s absolutely ridiculous that that’s what the state of our nation is,” she told Real Clear Education.

What a sob story, right? I mean, she was practically forced into the porn industry–the way she tells it.

Not so fast. Lauren isn’t exactly the financially destitute victim she made herself out to be. In fact, she turned down a full ride scholarship to Vanderbilt University.

That’s right–a full scholarship at one of the nation’s top-ranked schools.

Something doesn’t add up here.

18-year-old “Lauren” told Real Clear Education that she felt “empowered” by taking money for sex on screen. If that’s true, why does she feel the need to misrepresent her decision to do porn as something she was forced to do in order to pay for college?

Looks like what we are actually dealing with here is a young woman from a privileged background (Her parents must be wealthy enough that she didn’t qualify for Duke’s generous need-based financial aid.) who wants to cloak her decision to sell her body in the language of destitution and victimhood. And the absurdity of this story doesn’t end there.

“Lauren” even went so far as to say that her decision to do porn was something she did to combat “rape culture” on campus. You know–because nothing strengthens respect for women like the hideous epithets hurled at women and the brutal physical treatment of women in modern porn.

It won’t surprise you to learn that “Lauren” is a Women’s Studies major at Duke.

You Thought You Were Educated


I said to a gathering of brainy undergraduates and graduate students:  You will be attending a drinks party in London in your role as a freshly minted investment banking trainee. You will open your mouth in conversation  and verify that you are not really up to par in a world dominated by graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. You will be mortified and likely ostracized from the smart set.

But you thought you were educated after four years at a well known liberal arts university. More than likely, you were not.

Rather, you breezed by the front gate of college with your impervious self-esteem and faux 4.5 grade average and gamboled through “Sexuality of Polish Women Artists,” “Gender as Power,” “Transsexual Influences in the Renaissance,” and other such rot that you, in your confident belief in yourself, chose to take because you have been told you are so smart, and have been all your young life. Not for you the drudgery of required courses chosen by older and wiser professors as critical subjects that previously served to assure professors you are not in need of class-time-wasting remedial instruction. No, you were the anointed one the college accepted, figuring you could puzzle out yourself the essence of higher education. Turns out you couldn’t.

Within academia, the big questions pondered are the cost of higher education, which school is best for a student, or calculations to assure a return in future salary against tuition investment. Or the impact of Internet courses, administrative bloat, low income and minority recruitment, and the compromises required in coursework and grading methods to ensure competitive sports programs (a real plus in attracting applications). The scandal in the curriculum at top-rated colleges and universities is certainly on the agenda but few have the gumption to face off with the empowered and impacted professoriate who run the university asylum–the successors to the radical scholars who destroyed the traditional core curriculum for its racism, chauvinism, and imperialism.

Yet, the question gnaws. How can society function as more and more college graduates, as Randy Newman put it in his classic song Rednecks, “go into LSU dumb and they come out of LSU dumb too”? The answer is by re-instituting what was often called the General College, two years of required courses for freshmen and sophomores. Whether or not the curriculum matched a student’s major or his career, it assured parents, the public, and the students that they were literate, numerate, and possessed a sense of the sweep of history and knowledge of the calculus of politics and government. That they could hold their own in a London drinks party.                                                                                                  

An Excellent Essay on an Intriguing Blog


Over the years, the Pope Center has published quite a few articles by SUNY-Oswego English professor Thomas Bertonneau. (An aside: I’ve known Tom for quite a few years, going back to the mid-90s when we both lived in Michigan. If you ever need to know anything about classical music, he’s the best person to ask!)

On a vibrant blog called The Orthosphere, Tom has an essay entitled “H. G. Wells and Education: How Students Respond to Big Ideas.” I recommend reading the essay, which is based on the reactions from students who are required to read some of Wells’ work. Here’s a key paragraph:

A good reason to assign Wells is that, in a broad sense, he is a liberal, just as most students are, and he wants things they think they also want – an egalitarian society, dispossession by the state of surplus personal wealth of others, universal free healthcare and universal free education.  Wells has, however, no respect for democracy, a liberal fetish, a student fetish.  The World Republic of the post-atomic war is the dictatorship of a usurping vanguard, which finds its opportunity in chaos and despair when it takes things in charge.  Karenin’s global system of education requires the abolition of every natural language except English, so as to ease the administrative labor of the governing council.  One writer is rightfully shocked: “They take away any individualism from the world, one sole heart under one government.”  The second part of the sentence baffles me, but the outrage in the first half encourages me.  As propagandized as students are, if only given a chance, they might think their way out of their jejune inculcation.

Read the Whole Thing — and perhaps check out the blog too.

I’m Taking Zombies Next Semester!


Central Michigan is offering a course on apocalyptic literature – “From Revelation to The Walking Dead.”  I’m sure some readers are laughing.  Perhaps there are others who think, “well, at least it covers Revelation.”

I’d like to be positive about this practice of offering fashionable electives.  There’s nothing wrong with lighter courses as long as students spend more time on heavier ones.  Alas, a comment from a student at the end of the article does not give me hope for this instance:

“Studying ancient biblical texts isn’t most people’s cup of tea…But, when you add zombies, it instantly becomes everyone’s cup of tea.”

Imagine if Publius needed to invoke the night walkers to argue in favor of the Constitution.

Prager U: America’s Debt Crisis Explained


“If you are under, say 30, you have a tsunami-sized problem coming towards you – and you probably don’t even know it.” 

In the newest Prager University course, Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, helps us understand the magnitude of the debt problem that the U.S. faces now and in the future.

(Best-selling author, columnist, and nationally syndicated radio host Dennis Prager created Prager University to counter the indoctrination, drivel, and apathy that pervades today’s college campuses.  With 5-minute, professionally produced videos from experts in economics, history, political science, and religion, PragerU offers big ideas on big topics, 5 minutes at a time.)

U.S. Colleges Allowing Chilean Communist Radicals to Teach Students


¡Viva la revolución!

Chilean communist-anarchist revolutionaries are currently touring the U.S. to teach American students “radical student activism, student organizing, and sharing their experiences in building an anti-capitalist student movement,” according to a description of the tour.

A number of American colleges and universities are hosting the communist-anarchists. One such event at Hampshire College is organized by something called the “Hampshire Anarchist Network.” (Sounds like a happy group, doesn’t it?)

Kartin Marquez, a student at Amherst College, has the full story today in an exclusive report for The College Fix.


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