Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Big Bucks for Hillary’s Talk at UCLA -- Not Popular


Last spring, Hillary Clinton was paid $300,000 for giving a talk at UCLA. As we read here, the Daily Bruin subsequently did an online poll to see what students thought about that expenditure. A substantial plurality (48 percent) agreed that “large sums are inappropriate and demonstrate poor prioritizing on the part of the university and the Luskin lecture series.” Another 27 percent thought it unfortunate that such a large sum had been spent but thought that UCLA might not be able to get “the same level of notable speakers” without paying so much. (Hillary and many other “notable”speakers give pat speeches that are about as enlightening as elevator music, so what’s the big deal about bringing them to campus at great expense?) Finally, 21 percent of respondents said that it was worth the money.

I think it illustrates the point that Henry Manne recently made in this Pope Center piece that non-profit managers just take their profits through their spending choices. They aren’t allowed to pocket excess revenues, so they spend the money on things they like, such as opportunities to rub elbows with famous political figures.

This kind of thing is terribly widespread. Several years ago, East Carolina history professor Tony Papalas wrote this piece about the absurd talk Gloria Steinem gave on campus, for $10,000. Intellectual content less than zero, but she pocketed a hefty check. Tony later told me that there had been an effort to get Al Gore to speak, but that his price tag (as I recall, $175,000 plus a personal jet to transport the former veep to and from the Greenville, NC campus) was too high. At least sometimes, college presidents can say “no.”

Who’s Supervising the Gatekeepers?


Writing at See Thru Edu, my colleague Jay Schalin critiques regional accreditation agencies and offers a sound alternative to those “fiefdoms unto themselves” and “cartel-like” institutions:

[The] best accreditors of all would be private lenders. After all, they absolutely need to discover whether they are lending money to students attending a credible school or a fraudulent diploma mill, since their borrowers’ ability to pay depends in a great deal on their educations or vocational training. Their profits, and therefore their jobs, depend on it. 

Schalin also criticizes the U.S. News & World Report rankings, writing that they “[favor] inputs and image over outcomes and rigor.” I saw the deleterious effects of those rankings at my law school alma mater, the University of Baltimore School of Law. During my 2L year, I discovered that UB Law and a dozen or so other schools had fudged post-graduation job placement rates, an illicit tactic that can be used to climb the rankings. The intense pressure to attract students and artificially gain prestige via the ranking system had put schools like mine in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” situation and may have caused some schools to fraudulently entice prospective students.

Click here to read Schalin’s piece in its entirety.


Another For-Profit Gets Shaky


I really did not expect private for-profit schools to falter so quickly. The latest school to be in trouble is Anthem Education, which, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will be closing two of its three Missouri locations. While the school, which has 34 locations around the country, did not confirm the closures, it conceded that it is going through tough financial times. It has filed notice of probable layoffs in several states.

This is the second major for-profit school to get into  trouble recently. Corinthian Colleges, one of the largest with more than 100 campuses, is closing all its colleges. While U.S. senator Tom Harkin conducted a two-year campaign against for-profits, Corinthian’s problem stemmed specifically from investigations by the U.S. Department of Education of alleged false and misleading practices.

Anthem, one of the schools targeted by Harkin, has seen a severe drop in enrollment. Harkin’s report said that its numbers fell from 21,696 in 2006 to 12,792 in 2010.

I thought that for-profits would be more nimble than this. I thought that they could cut their costs in response to declines in demand. But I seem to have been wrong.

Ironically, Inside Higher Education reported the news about Anthem the same day that it reported on a talk by Bill Gates, whose foundation has spent half a billion dollars trying to reform higher education. Gates praised for-profit schools for their student support systems. IHE quoted Gates as saying, “For-profits know within 10 minutes when a student hasn’t gone to class so they can figure out why.”

But these days they don’t have so many students to worry about.

Farewell to KC Johnson’s Great Durham-in-Wonderland Blog


Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson took an interest in the Duke lacrosse case in 2006 following the outrageous “sentence first, trial afterwards” behavior of many members of the Duke faculty. He began to look into the case and found much to write about, so he started a blog called Durham-in-Wonderland. He exposed a great deal of the ugliness surrounding the case. Quite recently, he exposed the deceptions in William Cohan’s lame attempt to rehabilitate Mike Nifong and suggest that the Duke players really must have been guilty. Now, he is closing the blog and  his final post  is well worth reading for all it tells us about the prevailing mindset in higher education.

Bravo for an enormous amount of work, motivated by nothing except the desire to see an injustice exposed.

AASCU Comes Out Swinging Against “Pay It Forward”


Last year, there was a lot of talk about the “Pay it Forward” concept of higher ed financing, under which students would pay no tuition while in school, but later repay the state based on their income. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities has just released a paper that’s very critical of the idea. The author of the paper, Thomas Harnisch, does a good job of explaining why this concept won’t have the lovely, egalitarian consequences that leftists envision, but he also makes what I think is a questionable claim that there are “right-wing” supporters who “believe that the policy change could introduce market dynamics into college financing and ultimately eliminate taxpayer subsidies….”

I don’t know of anyone who got enthusiastic over “pay it forward” for that reason. Harnish adverts to Milton Friedman’s 1955 paper on education in which he suggested that government might front students who wanted to pursue useful training programs and later collect the money back, but that is quite far from the financing scheme that the “pay it forward” enthusiasts have in mind for college in 2014. Friedman did not argue that his plan would eventually eliminate government support for higher ed, but only that it might alleviate a market imperfection. Later in his career, Friedman backed away from that idea. In 2003, he confided to Rich Vedder in an email that he thought a much better case could be made for taxing colleges than subsidizing student enrollments.


Wooing Women to STEM


A New York Times blogger, Claire Cain Miller, recently praised Carnegie Mellon, Harvey Mudd College, and the University of Washington for increasing the percentage of women in computer science (and, in the case of Harvey Mudd, engineering).

I worry about the effort. Why is it so important to woo women? Aren’t they able to decide for themselves what they want to do? And is computer science really a good place to find high-paying jobs?

In any case, the things these schools are doing to attract women in to “STEM” ranged from the obvious to the dubious.

  • Harvey Mudd put  more pictures of women in its brochures and bought in more women to guide campus tours.
  • Carnegie Mellon created a mentoring program and stopped requiring programming experience to enter the program.
  • The University of Washington revised its introductory course to focus on “creative and real-world applications.” (That’s the dubious one to me.)

Miller turned up an interesting statistic. Many “experts” lament the fact that only 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. In 1985 the figure was 37 percent. Do women know something that the experts don’t?

Foresighted or Blind-sided?


It will take years before a consensus emerges over whether there is or isn’t a shortage of STEM graduates. But opinion is beginning to shift to skepticism as labor market information fails to show tight markets except in a few specialized fields.

Is one university, Campbell, in North Carolina out-of-step? It’s starting an engineering program in the middle of North Carolina, not far from Research Triangle Park and in the shadow of two prestigious engineering programs—Duke’s and NC State’s. Jesse Saffron investigates the reasons why.

Is “Strict Scrutiny” Such an Elusive Concept?


In its Fisher v. Texas decision, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit, instructing it to employ the standard of strict scrutiny (as opposed to lazy deference) to the University of Texas’ racial preference system. The Fifth Circuit reheard the arguments and earlier this week released a 2-1 decision in favor of the university. But was there any strict scrutiny? Evidently not. The two judges in the majority bought the university’s claim that it needs to have “critical masses” of students from “underrepresented minority groups” in order for all students to enjoy the supposed educational gains that only arise under those conditions. The majority paid no attention to the arguments that preferences have some serious costs, which should figure in strict scrutiny analysis.

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jennifer Gratz examines the Fifth Circuit’s decision and finds it weak and evasive (as did the dissenter, Judge Emilio Garza).

So the case continues. The ideal outcome would be for the Supreme Court to cut the Gordian Knot and clearly rule against the use of racial preferences.

Thoughts on the Fifth Circuit’s Fisher Remand



Jane Shaw has kindly invited comments on yesterday’s decision by the Fifth Circuit panel in the Fisher v. University of Texas remand, so here are a few.
First, the majority opinion apparently believes that it is all right to engage in racial discrimination in order to achieve the educational benefits that accrue from having a critical mass of this or that racial group.  Yet the precise nature of the “educational benefits” at the University of Texas are never defined, nor is the term “critical mass.”  And how, in particular, can a court ensure that there is the “narrow tailoring” that Justice Kennedy demanded in this case – that, specifically, there are no race-neutral ways of achieving the relevant educational benefits – when these terms are undefined?  As a practical matter, it seems that the framework erected by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger is not working very well.
Second, the reason that racial preferences are being used in addition to the Top Ten Percent Plan is that the TTPP admits the “wrong kind” of blacks/Latinos – that is, they are lower class instead of upper class.  But surely some blacks/Latinos of the “right kind” are admitted under the TTPP, and surely some of the blacks/Latinos admitted under holistic review are of the “wrong kind.”  Yet the University seems confident that it can predict that the random interracial conversations occurring on campus will be improved by drawing more from this pool of blacks/Latinos versus that pool of blacks/Latinos – so confident, in fact, that it is willing to overlay racial preferences on top of the TTPP.  
And this takes us back to my first point:  Precisely what “educational benefits” from these conversations are heightened not only by having different amounts of melanin, but different incomes within a melanin group?
It is quite true that one cannot assume that all African Americans and all Latinos think alike or have the same backgrounds.  But that is precisely why all stereotyping, preference, and discrimination based on race should be rejected.

Reading The Race Card



I read 30 years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education that in 90% of PhD programs in US universities, there were no black candidates. I was reminded of this statistic listening to a report on National Public Radio in mid-July, concerning the decision by Washington & Lee University to remove Confederate battle flags from the school’s chapel.

What caught my attention was the following statement by W&L president Ken Ruscio: “Total American minority population is, on the undergraduate side, about a little over 11 percent. The total American minority on the law side is 16.6 percent. Within that group, African American students are, on the undergraduate side, a little under 3 percent, and at law, about 8 percent.”

After grappling with Ruscio’s syntax, the net-net appears to be that three percent of undergraduates and eight percent of law students are black. Thus, despite the usual minority outreach efforts, the number actually enrolled as undergraduates and law students is quite low compared to the percentage of blacks in Virginia (and nationally).

This sounds odd in the context that affirmative action to alter the public school system to raise black performance  has been in place over 40 years, including  forced busing, less challenging curriculum, counseling and tutoring Yet black percentages in higher education have hardly budged.

There is an apparently unbridgeable gap between black and white learning achievement in early education that carries the argument to a place few want to venture. But at the college and post-graduate level, the statistical reality needs to be confronted.

The problem may not be due to racism or black failure but to the shrill demands of white liberals and black activists: The reality is there just aren’t enough blacks to fill the spaces in higher education they demand. The same is true for society where the paucity of black professionals is blamed on racism by whites.  

Recognition of this reality would relieve tension in race relations and stop the endless cycle of black leaders falsely accusing  white society for  failing to end racism and discrimination -  to them the reason for low performance compared to whites and Asians.

The statistics say otherwise. Actually, praise is due to white society for its historically unprecedented willingness to change society as recompense for past discrimination. Yet, white liberals and black activists have created an industry of laying the problems of black achievement  at the altar of institutional racism. This “white guilt” argument is tiresome and damaging. Wrong-footed efforts to solve a faux problem is creating a permanent mediocrity in higher education and society.

Examples  of the decline of academic standards to pay extortion to minorities for their failure has become systemic in colleges and universities. Recent events at the University of Wisconsin (discussed here) epitomize the irreversible implementation of the  race-based annihilation of academic standards.

But if  you look at the numbers instead of listening to the propaganda, the black community would not be suffering from lowering self-esteem and blameless whites should be released from accusations of racism and the drive to alter standards downward. Both black and white citizens have been hoodwinked by activists who are never satisfied with realistic progress, only theoretical utopian outcomes beyond human accomplishment.

This seemingly never-ending impasse occupies a large amount of civic attention. The Obama administration is dedicated to combating racism, and the mainstream media  report on racism as arguably the most important issue on the domestic political agenda. The truth is that racism is not the underlying problem dividing America. It’s the fanciful goals dreamed up by the white Left that blacks cannot attain in numbers to suit them.

Here’s why. If we round off the total population of the U.S. at 300 million, and accept that ten percent of the total achieve advanced degrees, that adds up to 30 million. The black population of the country is 11.6 percent. Round that figure to 10 percent and you are left with 30 million total blacks. Take 10 percent of that number–as  we did with the total population that received advanced degrees–and you come up with 3 million. It becomes obvious that the problem of too few blacks in the top professions is not caused by racism but by statistical reality.

Taking into account that 1.6 million blacks are enrolled or have achieved advanced degrees, then black success in higher education is worth celebrating. Yet the race war that should not be continues to divide the nation.

Let Student Loans be Discharged in Bankruptcy?


There is a good case to be made for it. Ike Brannon of the George W. Bush Institute (he’s no left-winger) argues in favor in this Weekly Standard article.

But it isn’t just a boo-hoo, let’s help suffering kids piece. Brannon would change the law so that if a student declares bankruptcy to escape from his loans, the school or schools that “educated” him would have to take over the payments. That would radically change the incentives, both of colleges and students. Colleges would have to contemplate the risk of admitting disengaged, ill-prepared students. They’d also have a strong incentive to raise academic standards so that students couldn’t just coast through. Students would have an incentive to show that they are serious about education and would benefit from college.

Any politicians with the guts to propose this?

The Unstoppable Mania


These two propositions seem to be true: There is never enough diversity to suit the diversity advocates and college administrators almost never deny those advocates their wishes. It’s as if colleges were under a spell cast by the diversophiles (to use Peter Wood’s term) — “Diversity is your top priority…. you will never say ‘no.’”

Today’s Pope Center Clarion Call by University of Wisconsin economics professor W. Lee Hansen certainly supports those propositions. He writes about UW’s “Inclusive Excellence” plan, which sailed through the faculty senate without any criticism and commits the university to a host of things that supposedly enhance “equity.” High-demand majors, for example, are expected to work for “representational equity” and professors are to assign grades with that same “equity” in mind.

Will these moves do anything to improve education — that is, to help individual students advance to their fullest? Hansen thinks not. The fixation on groups will do nothing for any student, no matter what group he or she is thought to represent. On the contrary, “inclusive excellence” means diverting attention away from educational excellence.

A Defeat for Fisher


The big news today is that the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District decided against Abigail Fisher in her lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin. A three-judge panel in a split decision said that the University of Texas had met the test of “strict scrutiny” in using race in admissions.

But only two judges made that decision, and Fisher intends to appeal. So do we have a Jarndyce v. Jarndyce (the fictional Charles Dickens case that went on for generations)? Or is affirmative action acceptable again–forever? Phi Beta Cons has some of the best experts on this and I look forward to their analysis.

Campus Rape Hysteria, cont’d


Over on The Corner, Heather Mac Donald discusses the latest critique of how schools handle rape accusations; this example comes from the New York Times’ dissection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ response to claims of sexual assault. It is, she says, another example of  “industrial-strength feminist victimology, denying the possibility of females exercising personal responsibility when it comes to deliberate binge drinking and hooking-up.” I could not agree more.

Specializing in Unemployment


The global economy may be on the way to recovery, but for many graduating students job market woes are still an obstacle. With new data showing the classes of 2009 and 2010 doing worse than the class of 2008, some might wonder if it will ever get better. Students are trying everything to gain an advantage and, for some, that means turning to esoteric and niche fields where they won’t be vying for positions with quite as many peers. But is this a sensible strategy?

Well, they won’t have to look far for such programs. From “Adventure Education” to a dual major in “EcoGastronomy”—yes it’s a program for environmentally-friendly eating—the list of highly-specific university programs has been growing in recent years. And while these disciplines may sound innovative and exciting, the reality checks that ivory tower over-specialization bump into may tell the story better.

For every student who pursues this sort of highly-specialized degree, a dozen more are taking classes from these trendy disciplines, often as part of their “general education” requirements.

One telling example is a freshmen seminar at Appalachian State University called “What if Harry Potter is Real?” Rather than giving incoming students a survey of important world historical events, the class gets caught up in the weeds of post-modern musings and ‘what-ifs.’ By focusing on “issues of race, class, gender, time, place,” the class manages to be attractive to both professors who specialize in historical critique and fun-seeking students without a teaching one bit of actual history.

Students at top universities are in trouble too. MIT students can explore a slice of history in a course on American professional wrestling. More like a sliver. By offering classes centered on fun but not-so-foundational topics, institutions like these encourage their students to ignore the big picture. They create a tendency toward hyper-specialization that sticks with students when they move on. 

Part of the problem is that some of those who achieve super-specialized degrees go on to become the professors who teach these classes. Specialization has picked up considerably as academics strive to differentiate themselves, carving out tiny spaces of expertise in an effort to make themselves irreplaceable. But while all these new offerings sometimes help professors achieve their ends, they’re wreaking havoc on the actual education of students.

All those niche professors are not only encouraging students to follow them down the rabbit hole, they’re now failing to provide the general education that transforms students, regardless of their major, into graduates prepared for an ever-changing job market and civic-minded citizens capable of critical thought and effective communication.

Overly-specific education is also directly detrimental to students’ future job prospects. Today’s economy increasingly favors the intellectually agile, and students without a broad educational background are losing out. A degree in information technology (IT) may have seemed like a job guarantee to the students who flooded that field in the 1990s. Then, the tech bubble burst, the economy shifted, and those who had no other skills found themselves unemployed. Job market shifts have always been a reality, but churn in the labor market has picked up, making the drive towards specialization more dangerous. In fact, students now in school can’t expect to hold the same job throughout their career and are likely to have multiple careers throughout their lives. Without a return to the basics students will graduate into a world that wants them to be everything and find that they can be nothing.

Talk about Violence


So now we have a summit on sexual assault at Dartmouth—one of a series of protests, congressional hearings, “Dear Colleague” letters, and massive regulations designed to help vulnerable women cope with the “toxic” sexual environment on today’s campus. 

Undoubtedly, each year some women are cruelly raped on campus and face a bureaucratic or even hostile response from university officials. But they are few in number. It is widely agreed that most rape is “date” or “acquaintance” rape and usually involves a lot of heavy drinking on the woman’s part as well as the man’s. Yet women as victims have become a cause-célèbre.

Forgive me if I think that this is another sign of “it’s all about us.”

Fifty years ago this summer it wasn’t all about us. Hundreds of college students, most of them from the North, went to Mississippi as part of an effort to force segregationists to allow blacks to vote. The Freedom Summer students came mostly from affluent or middle-class families and were there as “bait.” Civil rights leaders had become frustrated at being unable to stanch the violence against blacks in Mississippi. As Politico writer Josh Zeitz points out, they reasoned that the presence of, and violence against, white middle-class college students would attract the kind of attention that local black residents would not.

Whether one approves of that strategy or not (I did, and I was one of the students), it worked—with results even more vicious than the leaders expected. Some of the students had not even arrived in the state when three young men were murdered (two white men from the North, one black man from Mississippi). The leadership had probably expected beatings, not lynchings.

The young men’s murders did shock the country, brought the FBI into the state, awakened the Democratic Party, and ultimately led the Mississippi summer to become a civil rights milestone.  

Now, that was violence.

What We’re Up Against


The establishment speaketh. The establishment could have written its latest essay in its sleep.

Appearing last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Hunter R. Rawlings III, former president of the University of Iowa and Cornell, uses the usual buzz words about what reformers want college to be:  …”factory model”  … “professionals as piece workers” … “everything that can be counted is counted, and everything that cannot be counted doesn’t count” … “utilitarianism” …  “does not concern itself with quality”… “the goal is knowledge, not profit…”

Awhile back I criticized the august Dr. Rawlings when, in a speech at Princeton, he attacked state legislatures for being the biggest (not the only, but the biggest) problem in higher education. Why he brought that up at Princeton, I’m not sure.

Now he’s after the university business model, with Exhibit A being the efforts by Governor Rick Perry and his associates to push out William Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin. Exhibit B is the aborted ouster of Virginia Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia.

Rawlings says other all-too-familiar words as well:

Transparency and accountability are laudable goals and sound good as populist slogans, but, to be applied effectively to universities, they need academic substance and depth. We are all concerned about the cost of college. But we cannot separate cost from value. Cheap does not mean good; it just means cheap.

He then goes on to say, “The real question is, What is the value of one’s education?”

But he never answers the question or says how he would go about finding it out.

After all, transparency and accountability are just “populist slogans.”

Digital Reading: A “Threat” to Learning?


In an interesting opinion piece published today on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron argues that rapid transition to e-reading (with Kindle or iPad devices) has “complicated” professors’ attempts to engage students and “threatens” those students’ ability to learn the humanities. Baron says that a close and thoughtful reading of classical literature requires a hard copy: 

Readings in the humanities tend to be lengthy, intellectually weighty, or both. The challenge of digital reading for the humanities is that screens – particularly those on devices with Internet connections – undermine our encounters with meaty texts. These devices weren’t designed for focused concentration, reading slowly, pausing to argue virtually with the author, or rereading. Rather, they are information and communication machines, best used for searching and skimming – not scrutinizing. 

For literature lovers, the attraction to physical books is probably a universal one. The act of holding a book in our hands and immersing ourselves in a text can be a sublime and even cathartic experience. For others, the joy comes from showing off a book collection at a house party. But the technological advances in digital readers make Baron’s argument - that digital reading isn’t designed for “reading slowly” and “pausing to argue virtually with the author” - seem ill-conceived. For example, I read one of the biggest economics treatises ever written, Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, on my Kindle Fire. I’ve read dozens of other dense works of fiction and non-fiction on it, too. I can highlight entire passages, add my own notes, look up esoteric words in a digital dictionary, and Google a citation that piques my interest with the tap of my finger and within a matter of seconds. 

Baron’s main contention is that e-readers are not compatible with “intellectually weighty” or “meaty” texts and that they create too many distractions. But even if we assume that is true, it has nothing to do with the real problem plaguing humanities courses, which Baron mentions early in her piece: students are no longer required to read as much and they get away with consuming short works and abbreviated passages. This problem – the lowering of standards and expectations - has nothing to do with the rise of digital reading.

E-reading, as it has developed in recent years, has made it much easier for a reader to engage with and access literature (’s “one click” purchasing technology and book recommendations are remarkable!). If professors find that some students are seeking shortcuts and not taking course syllabi seriously, that’s an entirely separate dilemma that should not lead to knee-jerk reactions or reflect negatively on the medium through which course material is being (or not being) absorbed. 

Texas: Déjà Vu All Over Again


A guest reflection from Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus and university professor at the George Washington University (his most recent book, Presidencies Derailed [Johns Hopkins University Press], seeks to extract wisdom from the experiences of university presidents whose contracts have ended unhappily):

It has been said that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.  That is surely true at the University of Texas where the chancellor of the university, Francisco Cigarroa, recently attempted to dismiss the president, William Powers. Watching the events transpire, one could not help but recall the 1970 excitement in Austin when Frank Erwin, the then chairman of the board at UT decided after conflicts with the dean of arts and sciences, John Silber, to as he put it “make Silber famous” by dismissing him.

Erwin, a historic ally of Governor John Connally, and Silber a robust Texas liberal crossed swords over the chairman’s desire to divide the college of arts and sciences into two schools, one in the sciences and the other in the social sciences and the humanities. It was generally believed that Erwin’s intention was to reduce Dean Silber’s powers by bifurcating his empire. Silber argued for the intellectual necessity of a united arts and sciences. Ultimately Erwin prevailed.  Silber departed for Massachusetts where he became president of Boston University and politically wiser for his experiences in the West administered with a strong hand. He served for almost four decades in one capacity or another, bringing what had been a mid-level largely commuter institution to the threshold of membership in the American Association of Universities (AAU) arguably one of higher education’s most elite organizations whose membership is limited to 64 research campuses.

From 1970-1977 I worked for John Silber at BU in several capacities, the last being vice president, before departing for Connecticut where I was named president of the University of Hartford.  On my last day at BU, President Silber showed up in my office around 5:00 PM with two glasses, a plastic bucket of ice, and an unopened bottle of very fine scotch.  We sat there together drinking for a couple of hours as he shared with me the wisdom of his career.  The most significant point was that the first thing to do as a president is to figure out who does the hiring and who does the firing.  It is the only way to stay ahead of your critics, he said, and then he recalled his experiences with Erwin.  Silber said, “When Frank Erwin decided to fire me, hundreds of faculty and well over 1000 students petitioned for my retention.  Frank Erwin with only one vote prevailed.  I always took that lesson very much to heart.”

Contemporary events in Austin and not too distant events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where president Theresa Sullivan managed to thwart efforts by a cabal of board members at the University of Virginia to dismiss her makes me wonder if today Silber might have prevailed in his disputation.  The voice of students and faculty and other stakeholders may be more persuasive than it was back in the day.


Ripple Effects


The Koch brothers’ gift of $25 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for scholarships has had some ripple effects. As the Huffington Post reports, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the country’s biggest unions, has withdrawn its scholarship funding. The union’s donation had been on the order of $50,000 to $60,000 a year plus contributions by local union affiliates.

It appears that Michael Lomax’s crime (Lomax is president of the UNCF) was not so much accepting the gift but actually speaking before the “summit” that the Koch brothers hold annually to bring sympathetic donors, grant recipients, and grant seekers together. And even worse was the fact that Charles Murray (coauthor of The Bell Curve, but the author of many other books as well) spoke at the meeting, too. The taint was overwhelming. “Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF’s organizational support of the Koch brothers’ ideological program.”

A rather strong inference to draw from a single appearance that was probably designed to raise money from other donors as well.


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