Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Harvard Professor Claims Jesus had a Wife


Mrs. Jesus Christ is the latest rage at Harvard Divinity School.

Harvard professor Karen King has doubled down on her claim that a papyrus scroll she discovered that refers to Jesus’ “wife” is an authentic, historical, fourth century document.

Other scholars have rejected it as a fake.

Click here to read more.

A Pitiable Defense of “The Value of the Humanities”


Oxford University professor Helen Small has penned a book entitled The Value of the Humanities. Alas, if you expect a book offering strong arguments in favor of offering such courses and encouraging students to take them, you’ll be very disappointed.

Monterey College professor David Clemens reviews the book today in this Pope Center piece, and finds that Small devotes her pages to disparaging a number of arguments that are often raised in favor of the humanities, while giving no arguments that she finds worthwhile.

Professor Clemens counters with arguments for the humanities that he (and others) do find persuasive.


Impeached for Doing Your Job?


What gets you a credible threat of impeachment in Texas? Doing what you are supposed to do.

Wallace Hall is a regent of the University of Texas system. He and other regents discovered that faculty at the University of Texas law school were receiving sizable  ($500,000) forgivable loans. Bill Powers, president of UT-Austin, fired the dean of the law school.

But now Powers and his friends in the legislature are trying to impeach Hall for investigating too much. There is the potential for an Illinois-type “clout list”—powerful people who get their children or grandchildren into the university whether they are qualified or not.

But that and other investigations by Hall incensed Powers and legislators They went after Hall for demanding too many emails. A legislative committee has just issued its report, listing what it claims are impeachable offenses.

These proceedings are ludicrous against someone who is doing what Governor Perry appointed him to do—oversee a sprawling university system that seems to be full of mismanagement.

The press, however, seems to take the side of the legislature. Only Jon Cassidy of is showing that the Emperor (the impeachment committee) has no clothes.

Congratulations to Anne Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) for standing up for Hall.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali Replies to Brandeis


Ayaan Hirsi Ali replies here to the craven decision by Brandeis to cancel the honorary degree the school had planned to give her and allow her to speak at commencement.

Add “Islam is not a religion of peace” to the list of things you can’t write or say if you want to stay out of trouble in the American higher ed system.

Black Female Sociology Professor Attacked by Superiors; Students Run Out in Tears!


But this isn’t the kind of story you’re expecting. The professor in question is Anne Wortham, a libertarian-minded sociologist who doesn’t accept the standard collectivist ideas that pervade her discipline. For that apostasy, she has had to endure some nasty criticism by fellow academics and has also experienced students going berserk at hearing her question their cherished beliefs. Read about Anne in this Freeman interview.


Judge Awards Embattled Christian Professor $50,000 and a Promotion


Jennifer Kabbany reports the latest news from the case of Mike Adams, a conservative professor who claims he was denied a promotion because of his outspoken political and religious beliefs:

A U.S. district court judge on Tuesday ruled that the University of North Carolina-Wilmington must promote a conservative, Christian professor who had been denied full professorship because of his beliefs, and ordered administrators to pay the educator $50,000 in back-pay.

The ruling comes on the heels of a March 20 jury verdict which found that employees at the public university retaliated against the professor, Mike Adams, for his conservative, Christian views.

“The court hereby orders the defendants confer upon plaintiff full professorship as of the date of this order, with pay and benefits in the future to relate back to August 2007, when plaintiff’s 2006 promotion application would have gone into effect had it been successful,” states the ruling by Judge Malcolm Howard…

I believe our NRO pal David French was one of the attorneys involved in this case, so hats off to the big D.

Read the full story here.

UNC System Suffers From “A Sickness in the Soul”


When I first moved to Raleigh in 1999, I often heard comments to the effect that the University of North Carolina system was the state’s “crown jewel.” Almost everyone bought that idea.

Fifteen years later, however, if you said that, you’d probably get a laugh. The UNC system has been a breeding ground for scandals in recent years. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin recounts quite a few of them and concludes that they indicate “a sickness in the soul.”

Central to this problem is the fact that there isn’t much independent scrutiny of the system. Much like the old Soviet Union, information is tightly controlled by those in power. Among Jay’s suggestions for breaking the system’s stranglehold on information is for the Board of Governors to have its own executive director, someone not answerable to the system. It would also help if the alumni associations stopped acting like lapdogs and started taking an interest in the academic integrity of their schools.

Brandeis Caves In -- No Honorary Degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born woman who escaped from an arranged marriage and left her native country, first for the Netherlands, and she now lives in the US. She has been an outspoken critic of mistreatment of women around the world, but particularly in Islamic countries. She is a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

Brandeis University was going to award her an honorary degree — until a protest erupted from Muslim students who object to the fact that she calls Islam a religion of violence. An online petition demanded that the university reverse itself because of her “hate speech” and her supposed desire to “eliminate” Islam. Naturally, Brandeis caved in. You can read the story here.




Pro-Life Students Labelled ‘Domestic Terrorists’ at UC Santa Barbara


Pro-life students have been labeled “domestic terrorists” at UC Santa Barbara.

UCSB student Austin Yack reports the latest in his feature story today for The College Fix:

Pro-lifers who display graphic images of aborted fetuses to tout their message are like “domestic terrorists” who invade communities and make women feel unsafe, said a UCSB student and active supporter of a feminist studies professor recently charged with battery after an altercation with pro-life demonstrators at the university.

“They are domestic terrorists, because the definition of a terrorist is someone who terrorizes,” said UCSB sophomore Katherine Wehler, a theater and feminist studies major, in an interview with The College Fix. “That’s exactly what those girls were doing,” she said of young pro-life demonstrators on campus who are at the center of the controversy…

UCSB, you may recall, is where a feminist studies professor was charged with criminal battery last month after she attacked a teenage pro-life student on campus.

Now they have the nerve to say that pro-life students are the ones doing the “terrorizing.”

Read the full story here.

Higher Ed is Interested in Energy -- But Only If It’s Politically Correct


Today’s Wall Street Journal has a good op-ed piece by Paul Tice entitled “How Climate Change Conquered the American Campus.” He observes that while many colleges and universities have centers on “energy research” those are nearly always focused on the various “green” energy fads and ignore (at best!) oil and gas. Never mind that many of the best-paying jobs available to college grads right now are in the oil and gas industries.

Tice wonders, “How many college students have been discouraged from considering a field in petroleum engineering or traditional energy finance because of the rational concern that the current EPA-led attack on coal will move next to target oil and gas?” Yes, some probably have been, and I would add that some students have probably been turned off because of the caterwauling on campuses (and elsewhere) that those who work in fossil fuels are despoilers of the Earth, enemies of mankind.


Plaintiffs Wanted


Edward Blum’s Project on Fair Representation, the prime mover in Fisher v. University of Texas, is looking for unsuccessful applicants to Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin to sue those fine institutions for racial discrimination in their admissions.  Read the Project’s press release here (links to the websites he’s setting up to find such plaintiffs are included therein).

GWU to Offer Master’s in Lobbying


I guess it was only a matter of time before some university offered a M.A. in lobbying. George Washington University — naturally — is going to offer such a program. This clip has some details, as well as some reactions.

I see this as helping to reinforce two of our worst trends. First, the trend toward college programs in just about everything, including fields that are mostly learned on the job (as lobbying has always been) and second, the trend toward accepting that trying to use government to extract wealth and favors is just a normal part of life.

Hat tip: Drey Lourens

Free College for Inmates?


New York governor Andrew Cuomo set off a firestorm when he proposed that the state spend $5 million on higher education for prison inmates. Apparently, university tuition is so high that parents couldn’t stomach providing college to inmates free of charge.

So Cuomo backed off. But the contretemps revealed that the prison system already already provides college courses for inmates, organized and paid for by Bard College, a liberal arts school within the state. And it turns out that  private charities in California, too, support prison education. Jesse Saffron suggests that private approaches should provide a model for other states.

Jaywalking in Class


One of my favorite ways to rib students in class is by quizzing them on topics they should know, but they don’t.  Think Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” but I’m the Jay asking the questions.  In my latest foray, I asked 29 students these three questions:

  1. What country did the U.S. fight in the War of 1812?
  2. What eastern European country/area is involved in “some crisis with Russia”?
  3. Who were the first four U.S. Presidents?

For #1, thirteen students answered Britain/U.K.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Frances, two Spains, and one each of Germany, Korea, Russia, and Japan.

For #2, twelve students wrote either Ukraine or Crimea.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were two Yugoslavias, one Uganda, and one Thailand.

For #3, seven students wrote Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Franklins, four Lincolns, and one Kennedy.

I never do this to demean students; I want to motivate them with a bit of healthy embarrassment because many of the students who answered incorrectly perform quite well in class. 

Yet, if there is a silver lining to this lack of knowledge, it’s this – perhaps we should worry a little less about indoctrination because there is a chance that nothing students hear in school will stick with them beyond a given class.  


Bowdoin College and Global Citizenship


Earlier this year I had a PBC post on the proceedings at an event, held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and National Association of Scholars, that built on NAS’s comprehensive study of political correctness at Bowdoin College.  The focus of this latest event was on what Bowdoin proudly calls its efforts to ensure that students there are taught to be proper “global citizens.”  Now NAS has posted videos of the presentations at the conference.

Dementia at Dartmouth


At Dartmouth recently, an outbreak of contagious mental illness broke out as radical students and faculty occupied the administration building. According to the Wall Street Journal, the occupiers called for “more ‘womyn or people of color’ faculty; covering sex change operations on the college health plan (“we demand body and gender self-determination”); censoring the library catalog for offensive terms; and installing “gender-neutral bathrooms” in every campus facility, specifically including sports locker rooms.

College president Phil Hanlon agreed to talk if the demonstrators left the building, eliciting the a statement expressing fear of “further physical and emotional violence enacted against us by the racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, xenophobic, and ableist structures at Dartmouth.” They added: “Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack.”

Dartmouth has been in the forefront of both sides of the long-running confrontation between politically correct activists and conservative reaction. Dinesh D’Souza launched his journalistic career as a conservative criticizing the Ivy League College’s affirmative action policies as a writer for the Dartmouth Review, an independent student publication. Today, according to the Wall Street Journal article, “Some 37% of its freshman class comes from a background “of color,” and 10% are first-generation college student.” Attending Dartmouth now costs $65,133 per year.

In other words, Dartmouth’s acquiescence to politically correct extortion has engendered resentment by the constituency it sought to please, as demonstrated by the demands of the demented activists who stormed the dean’s office. Why then would parents pay the price of a top-line BMW annually (or the student borrow this amount) for four years to attend an academic insane asylum masquerading as a top-tier college?

Or, obversely, enroll where history professor Russell Rickford—the faculty ring leader of the student agitations—calls Dartmouth “White Supremacy U.” As the Wall Street Journal summarized the contretemps, “Hostile to free expression, open debate and due process, the politics of anger and resentment can’t be pacified. Reality is not an admissible defense.”

What Does $639,000 Get You?


It gets you a team of Title IX compliance officers–for one year. At UNC-Chapel Hill, that is. Embarrassed by allegations of inadequately dealing with sexual assault claims, the university just hired an attorney from the federal Office of Civil Rights (Department of Education), and will hire six people in total to deal with sexual discrimination and assault. Harry Painter of the Pope Center interviewed the new attorney, who said: “Regardless of what statistics you read, any sexual assault is too much sexual assault.”

But how much Title IX compliance is too much compliance? That’s Harry’s question.

In addition to the team, there is a 22-member task force trying to figure out a new policy for dealing with sexual harassment. And that’s not all:

[T]he university already housed the Carolina Women’s Center, a project focused on gender equity and diversity. Students with complaints could also go to the counseling and wellness center, the campus health services, the public safety department, the LGBTQ Center, the office of diversity and multicultural affairs, the dean of students, the office of student conduct, or the ombuds office, a place where students and staff can go for assistance more generally. There was also, of course, the Equal Opportunity/ADA office, where the new Title IX team is situated.

(By the way, that three-person “ombuds office” is the politically correct way to express “ombudsman office.”)

Oh, and even before this staff expansion, UNC-Chapel Hill had nearly 5 administrative personnel for every faculty member.

Student Debt Keeps Growing


We read in this Above the Law post that student debt has gone over the trillion dollar mark. Some of the most heavily indebted are law school grads, who borrowed their way through to their undergrad degrees, and keep on borrowing to afford the costs of their JDs.

As I recently argued, equity financing is better than debt financing controlled mostly by government. Who would have lent money to many of these students if he had to worry about the prospect of never getting his capital back?

Madison Plays Host to the Abominable “White Privilege Conference”


The 15th annual “White Privilege Conference” was held in Madison, Wisconsin last month. The event always highlights academics who insist that “teaching is a political act” and encourage educators to use the classroom as a means for fighting oppression. If you’ve heard leftists claim that there is very little politicization in our classrooms, this conference tells a different tale.

You can read about the conference in the reporting done by Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute here and here.

The Future of HBCUs


It was refreshing to see that North Carolina Central University recently hosted a student debate on the future of historically black colleges and universities. Jesse Saffron covered the debate (which was argued over two days), and his article shows that students at one of North Carolina’s five public HBCUs addressed some big questions.

Those questions included whether closing weak HBCUs would hurt access, whether it would make the remaining schools stronger, and whether or not the civil rights leaders of the 1960s would have approved of what is, in part, a continuance of segregation. (In fairness, today’s HBCUs are more racially  integrated than in the past, and it is possible that they will continue to move in that direction.) Finally, is maintaining HBCUs constitutional?

Whatever the answers to those questions, HBCUs are vulnerable to the changing landscape of university education. In a world in which traditionally white colleges seek the best minority students they can find–and have the funds to help bring them in–schools with mostly minority students struggle to get and keep good students. Last fall four out of the five public HBCUs in North Carolina experienced a decline in enrollment. Howard University in Washington, considered one of the best HBCUs, is facing financial trouble (Moody’s downgraded its credit rating in 2013 and the president resigned unexpectedly last fall). St. Paul’s, a private HBCU in Virginia, stopped operating in 2012 after losing accreditation for financial reasons. I expect we will see more mergers or closings, even if debaters argue eloquently for their continuation.


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