Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Hate Crime Hoax Exposed as Fraud, Students Still Demand Justice


Recently there was a hate crime committed at the University of Chicago that was so vile, so ugly, that the feds got involved. It didn’t take long to discover – yep – it’s the latest campus hate crime hoax, of which there are many.

In this case, “a University of Chicago student who claimed his Facebook page was hacked and filled with racist and violent messages against him and another student has now admitted he faked the attack,” reports Matt Lamb of The College Fix.

But here is where the story gets even more annoying.

“Intended to shame the school into making drastic changes around race and speech on campus, the hoax appears to have worked,” Lamb reports. “The students behind the ruse, the hoodwinked university and the school newspaper have argued that the hoax … should not detract from fixing the school’s ‘culture of racial intolerance,’ in the words of a petition demanding policy changes.”

Yes, that’s right. The racially charged hacking incident was just a scam to push a diversity agenda, and even after it was discovered as an outright lie, it’s still being used to that end.

For those interested in reading about the anatomy of this misadventure, The College Fix has all the sordid details.

Tags: hate crime hoax , university of chicago

Few Colleges Make Efficient Use of Their Space


Some years ago, the Pope Center published a paper by economics professor Robert Martin in which he argued that college officials would much rather spend their time trying to raise more money than in trying to lower costs and improve efficiency. In this Real Clear Policy piece, Tom Lindsay supports his argument, specifically with regard to the very inefficient use of facilities we typically find at colleges. He quotes architectural planners Philip Parsons and Gregory Janks, who say that “Colleges have been prodigal.” Indeed so.

Some schools have been trying to make more efficient use of space to lower their costs, and we will no doubt see more of that as the incentives swing away from merely getting bigger to getting more efficient. Lindsay provides several examples in his article, including Kean University in New Jersey and BYU-Idaho. And there is also the ultimate space-saving innovation, online courses.

Creative destruction occurs when people find better and more efficient ways of doing things. There wasn’t much reason to search for them in higher education’s fat years, but it appears they’re behind us.


Where Are the Entrepreneurs?


We’ve all heard arguments against the prevailing wisdom that “everyone should go to college”—we’ve even written them! But in the Washington Post last month, entrepreneur Peter Thiel (of PayPal and Facebook fame) offered a fresh perspective. He explained that pushing everyone into college will damage our economy.

“Instead of doing something new,” the top college graduates tend to go into safe fields such as investment banking and management consulting. They merely “jockey to collect rents from old industries instead of working to create new ones that could raise the standard of living for everyone.”

That’s why the iconic figures he mentions—Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerman, and Steve Jobs—are important illustrations. “They aren’t famous because of the similar ways in which they left school,” he said, but “because of what each of them did differently from everybody else.”

And there’s more in that little op-ed, such as his comparison of the university and the Catholic Church in the 16th century. “A Reformation is coming, and its message will be the same as it was 500 years ago: Don’t outsource your future to a big institution. You need to figure it out for yourself.”

Hillary Speaks!


This fascinating Washington Post story gets into the background to Hillary Clinton’s big speech (big financially, at least: she raked in $300,000) at UCLA — her “Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership.” Particularly interesting is the fact that UCLA agreed that its recording of the talk would be only for its archives and the public would get only a two minute “highlight video” on YouTube, which would be taken down after one year. Was there truly any thought leadership on display? You’d have to ask one of those who bought a $250 ticket for the event. (That bothered a UCLA grad, lawyer Charles McKenna, who emailed the university to ask why a public university was charging $250 to listen to a public official talk. The school ignored him.) Her speech was also available on a big screen for those who couldn’t get a ticket. Had any of them recorded her speech and made it public, I surmise that person would face a battery of Hillary’s lawyers making copyright infringement claims.

In any case, it’s remarkable how willing UCLA officials were to accommodate HRC.

Hat tip: Martin Wooster

Helpful Advice for College Trustees


The sad truth is that many college trustees — probably a large majority — take that position just for the pleasure of it. They aren’t worried about improving the school; many are only vaguely aware of problems like low academic standards, the lack of anything resembling a serious core curriculum, and needless spending. But tickets to big games, receptions, and getting the VIP treatment — now we’re talking!

Those who might have other ideas will find few sources of information or inspiration, but one such source is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). ACTA recently published a very useful pamphlet entitled “Implementing Governance for a New Era” and in today’s Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw discusses it.

Here are some of the points that trustees who aren’t content to be mere institutional ornaments might think about.

Does the school do anything to assess academic progress? Few do, on the assumption that just passing classes must indicate that students have learned something. That, however, is a mistaken assumption and trustees should push for the use of an instrument to show how much progress students have made, for example, the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

Does the school have a speech code that restricts debate, discussion, and the dissemination of information? If so, they have authority to change or abolish it.

Do athletic programs cost more than they bring in? If so, is that cost worthwhile? Trustees can insist on accurate figures, then decide on the proper trade-offs.

College presidents are not supposed to be in complete command of their higher ed ships, but it has turned out that way due to a pretty somnolent group of trustees at most schools. ACTA is doing something important in trying to arouse them before the collision with looming icebergs.


Welcome to My World


If there is one way to sum up my first three months as a Faculty Senate chair, it’s that I’ve taken the red pill that unearthed the reality of 2014 higher education.  If there is a second way, it’s in this “Plight of the Public Regional College” article in the Chronicle (warning: paywall).

This red pill exposed me to conversations where previously I was not fully in the know. As a faculty member, I’m in the center of my world of teaching and research.  But,when I learned what kept upper administration up at night, I saw that many colleges face declining enrollments, which forced discussions on ways to either bend the curve upwards or to right-size. While the latter is a viable option in the strategy textbooks, it’s not to go-to plan for schools that depend on state aid.

I get to straddle the fence between administration and faculty, which, pun intended, can lead to painful situations at times. Some faculty think that administrators just want to make their lives miserable, and some administrators have good intentions, but the lack of (or time away from) classroom experience can lead to decisions that are not in sync with conditions on the ground. A less confrontational view of this struggle is that because of  tunnel vision, faculty may find it difficult to grasp university-level problems, while administrators have to make tough decisions to appease multiple stakeholders – which ultimately will not make everyone happy.

There are days where I wish I had my own school. But, in the big picture, this is a valuable “internship” in modern university life.

Synchronized Swimming for Sea Monkeys


The title of this post is the title of a study that outgoing senator Tom Coburn made fun of in his 2014 Wastebook –a compilation of wasteful government expenditures. But Duke emeritus psychology professor John Staddon defends the study on the Pope Center site–and other studies that have laughable names.

In his view, the harm caused by studies that superficially sound wasteful is outmatched by harms from the government’s monopoly of research funding, the bureaucratic demands of that monopoly, and the self-satisfying bonuses that the monopoly gives to its minions.

University Bureaucrat Won’t Let Ferguson Crisis Go to Waste in Trying to Look Busy


Below is a message sent to the George Mason University community, pertaining to the events in Ferguson, MO. It pushes the usual leftist buttons, including the current favorite, “safe place.

To all:
By now you have likely heard the result of the grand jury’s deliberations in the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Many in the Mason community have been following this case closely and are likely experiencing a range of reactions to the case and the most recent news. Some students, faculty, and staff may want to talk with one another about these events. In fact, several staff and faculty members have been working together with students to provide a venue for such open conversation.

It is vitally important that we provide a safe space for conversation during times like this. As a result, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education will be hosting a facilitated community discussion, an “Open Space for Dialogue,” today from 1pm-3pm in the ODIME Multipurpose room (SUB I – Room 2400). This is an opportunity for those interested to gather together to connect with other members of the Mason community to discuss their reactions and support one another. I hope you will consider joining in this community event.

Each of us in the Mason community deals differently with events such as this. Dialogue may occur in classrooms student centers, and residence halls. Those looking for counseling and/or referrals, please note the appropriate resource. Students can call Counseling and Psychological Services at 993-2380 and speak to a counselor.  Faculty or staff members can contact employee relations for assistance at 993-3878. (If you have health insurance through Mason, the Employee Assistance Program is part of your health care plan. For the 24/7 phone number to call, please visit )

Rose Pascarell
Vice President for University Life

More about UCLA’s diversity mandate


Many universities across the nation require students take some sort of “diversity” class as a graduation requirement. Those requirements are often based on “studies” which purport to show such courses help foster tolerance. But it turns out, those “studies” are often based on bad science, and the demand for diversity classes based in part on emotion and rhetoric.

That is certainly the case at UCLA.

An analysis of the studies used to push a new diversity mandate through the academic senate shows the studies are highly questionable, weak, and inherently subjective, explains Josh Hedtke, a UCLA student and reporter for The College FixHedtke picked apart three studies cited in the diversity mandate proposal to illustrate how each one lacked scientific rigor. 

He also interviewed one of the requirement’s most vocal proponents, who didn’t ”feel comfortable” answering tough questions about it, and refused to say if UCLA should also mandate a U.S. history course (currently it does not).

Hedtke notes

Ultimately, the diversity proponents have to rely on emotion because their intellectual and moral cases for a diversity requirement are severely lacking. The proposal is so muddled and full of assertions and evidence that are not rigorous that it is impossible to take seriously.

But we have to take seriously the intentions of the diversity proponents, because there is no telling how far they will take their diversity fetish if they are allowed to proceed unabated.

The UCLA diversity proposal cited a study by Scott Page, who the proposal says “has made a compellingcase [sic] for the power of diversity to spur innovation; in some respects, even outweighing the contribution of ‘ability’ in problem solving.”

If the drafters of the diversity requirement are willing to include this idea as evidence in their proposal, that means that, at minimum, they don’t think it is a completely ludicrous idea. What a scary world it would it be if such an idea became commonplace.


Tags: diversity mandate , UCLA

UCLA Diversity Edict Signals Victory For Radicals


A news item from UCLA appears innocuous: “The University of California at Los Angeles Academic Senate has voted, 85-to-18, to approve a plan to require all undergraduates in the primary undergraduate college at UCLA to complete at least one course in a diversity topic.” Yet future historians will likely elevate the announcement as the symbol of the final victory in the campus wars initiated in the late 1970s by a  new breed of radical scholars. Spawned in the Leftist doctrine of the 1960s and early 1970s, their objective was the annihilation of traditional Western values in higher education.

Applying Soviet-style disinformation methods, traditional teachers on the verge of tenure were maliciously attacked with innuendo, whisper campaigns, anonymous letters, and public vilification accusing them of racism, homophobia, chauvinism and even imperialism (for daring to support U.S. military objectives). Chancellors and presidents stood by in cowardly silence as good and decent men and women were banished by the new radical elite. As the civil war in academia raged on out of public view behind ivy-covered walls, new hires were subjected to a litmus test that placed adherence to “human rights,“ diversity,” and “politically correct” attitudes ahead of academic achievement. By the 1990s, faculties in liberal arts colleges and departments were almost entirely composed of  radicals who discriminated against traditional scholars. By the late 1990s, each member of the professoriate sang from the same multicultural and politically correct songbook or walked the plank.  

After eliminating or staining  professors who represented the established order, it was a simple step to axe required courses in history and English and manufacture new courses in politically motivated curriculum, emphasizing feminism, gay rights, black identity, and environmentalism. A basic liberal arts  required curriculum, once the identifying characteristic of ”educated” ladies and gentlemen, has been abandoned, creating new generations of  cultural zombies who,  deprived of  the rich  4000-year old inheritance of Western civilization, are re-shaping the world in their own superficial image. Video games, “sexting,” Facebook, and Twitter are representative of a culture in decline.

The new order on campus that has degraded society can be seen in the scandals involving money ball athletes enrolling in “slide” courses to maintain eligibility. However, it’s not  about jocks taking crip courses, it’s the sad reality most offerings today in the field of the liberal arts are designed to gauge or influence student sensitivity to discrimination, not scholastic ability. The African-American course offerings at UNC-Chapel Hill, where public outrage is reaching a crescendo after ghost courses were uncovered, is no better or worse than the content offered within gender studies, sex technique, transvestite careers, lesbian and queer rights and the rest of the bull hockey masquerading as legitimate class work.

Had the athletes involved in the UNC case been white, they just as easily would have taken gender studies for an easy A as black studies or Swahili. Athletics are a red herring distracting honest inquiry into what’s wrong at Chapel Hill and hundreds of other schools of higher learning. The curriculum today is tainted by radicalism and identity politics, giving rise to fraud and misadventure by athletes and ordinary students. And college administrators reflect the degradation of standards. After all, they are pawns to faculty doctrine.

Which Kinds of Anti-Asian Discrimination Are Okay?


The  New York Times today has run an op-ed by Yascha Mounk, who teaches expository writing at Harvard, about his school’s policy of discriminating against Asian Americans in admissions and, in particular, the policy’s historical parallels with Harvard’s anti-Jewish quotas of yesteryear.  All good stuff, and it’s good that the Times ran it.

The only off-note is two or three paragraphs that defend Harvard’s policy of giving racial preferences to African Americans and Latinos in order to achieve a “critical mass” of them.  That kind of discrimination is okay, says Mr. Mounk, but giving whites a preference over Asian Americans is not.

Really?  If you have a quota-floor for African Americans and Latinos, then you have a quota-ceiling for Asian Americans and whites.  But, as we have seen, Mr. Mounk doesn’t like quota-ceilings for Asian Americans.  So Mr. Mounk must be arguing either (a) that it’s okay to have a quota-ceiling for Asian Americans vis-à-vis nonwhites but not vis-à-vis whites, or else (b) he thinks that the quota-floor for African Americans and Latinos should be entirely at the expense of whites, and never at the expense of Asian Americans.  That is, either it’s okay to discriminate against Asian Americans in favor of African Americans and Latinos but not in favor of whites, or else it’s okay to discriminate in favor of African Americans and Latinos against whites but not against Asian Americans.

Now, can either (a) or (b) be justified?  The first hinges on their being something particularly unobjectionable about discrimination in favor of any “underrepresented” minority group, and the latter on there being something particularly unobjectionable about anti-white discrimination.

I don’t think that Mr. Mounk is arguing (b), and I don’t think that there’s anything in the Supreme Court’s “diversity” caselaw to support (b) either.  So we are left with (a).

But wait:  If it is okay to give any “underrepresented” group a preference over any “overrepresented” group, then why shouldn’t it be permissible to discriminate against Asian Americans in favor of whites?  After all, Asian Americans are much more “overrepresented” at Harvard than whites are.  In fact, of the four groups we have been talking about—whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans—only whites are significantly “underrepresented” in comparison with the general population, according to Harvard’s own numbers.  And this is without drilling down further:  Surely there are some white subgroups (Eastern European non-Jews, for example) who are outnumbered even in absolute terms by some Asian subgroups (Chinese Americans, for example).

The best approach, though, is to say it’s all spinach (discrimination), and to hell with it.

Walter Williams on the Plague of Grubers


With Thanksgiving Day on the horizon, perhaps we should express our thanks to MIT professor Jonathan Gruber for so clearly revealing the way the academic elite actually thinks about their role — that of doing whatever it takes to make Americans go along with their plans for perfecting society. In that vein, Walter Williams has a wonderful piece today entitled “Elite Contempt for Ordinary Americans.”

Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, writes, “One little-noticed feature of Gruber’s speeches was the type of place where he felt comfortable talking about the use of deception and mocking American intelligence. His speeches took place at the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rhode Island. Universities are home to the academic elite — people who believe that they have more intelligence than and superior wisdom to the masses. They believe they have been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Gruber and his fellow academic elite have what they consider to be good reasons for restricting the freedom of others. But every tyrant who has ever lived has had what he considered good reasons.”

One of the most annoying features of Gruber’s talks was the way he breezily dismissed doubts about and criticism of his handiwork, as if he had considered everything and knew with utter certainty that his plan was ideal. That’s the kind of attitude we so often see among cloistered academics (although it isn’t unique to them) who will never suffer any of the adverse consequences of their meddling with society. The men who drafted the Constitution probably had some inkling that if government were given too much authority, it will fall under the sway of people like Gruber and for that reason attempted to keep the government out of most of life. Medical care would today be much better if we had not allowed the feds to start trying to improve it. Same for education, housing, and many other aspects of life. The unhappy fact that so much of our lives is now subject to politics gives academic know-it-alls like Gruber dangerous power.

Words (about Date Rape) Can Hurt You


The president of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania has resigned under pressure, apparently due to a YouTube video in which he stated that several rape allegations at the university had been false. While Inside Higher Ed writes about the resignation here, the details of his remarks are discussed in a November 10 article.

What did President Robert R. Jennings say?

Listening to the YouTube excerpt, I heard heartfelt, avuncular advice given to the women in the school. The event was a convocation for female students at the historically black college. There was occasional applause as he warned women about how men were likely to take sexual advantage of women and that they must be cautious.

As IHE says, Jennings “advocated for modesty.”

When it comes time for us to make that final decision, we’re going to go down the hall and marry the girl with the long dress on…That’s the one we’re going to take home to Mama because there is something about the way you carry yourself and respect yourself that commands and demands respect from us.

He also explained that false allegations—concocted to make women feel better about what they had done—could drastically damage the life of the men they accused.

IHE says that other factors, such as a lag in fund-raising, may have contributed to Jennings’ resignation. In an analogous way, Harvard’s Larry Summers was fired for a variety of reasons, but the immediate cause was a statement that offended some women.

Watch your words, gentlemen.

College Leaders Desperate for Solutions on Binging and Sexual Assault


This fall, hot topics about college have included two big problems: binge drinking and sexual assault. Neither problem is new and schools have previously tried to deal with them but to little avail. Because they’re getting lots of attention, however, it’s essential for college leaders to look concerned and busy finding solutions. In today’s Pope Center piece, Harry Painter writes about the flurry of activity in that regard at UNC.

Although “numerous policies are already in place across the UNC system to curb binge drinking,” Painter writes, officials “believe there is more to do.” Thus, UNC is — wait for it — assembling a new committee to make recommendations.

Sadly, one change that might actually make a difference is off the table, namely changing the policy that supposedly prevents underage drinking. Painter writes, “When students who want to drink are threatened with punishment for tailgating or are unable to buy beer at the game, they ‘pregame,’ which means binge drinking at home before leaving for the event. If the goal is to prevent tragedies, allowing open and controlled drinking is more likely to do that.”

Bad stuff happens on college campuses all the time, but occasionally media attention creates the “we have better look like we’re doing something” mindset in top officials, so they create committees and issue reports and announce new policies that do little or no good except to take the heat off for a while.

Assess the Student, Not the Prof


The president of St. John’s (the “Great Books” college) has written a column pointing out that not just professors but students should be held accountable for what they learn.

In an Inside Higher Education essay on assessments, Christopher B. Nelson writes that “obsessing about the responsibility of the teacher without paying at least as much attention to the responsibility of the student is hardly going to produce helpful assessments.”


True learning is not about having the right answer, so measuring whether students have the right answers is at best incidental to the essential aims of education. True learning is about mastering the art of asking questions and seeking answers, and applying that mastery to your own life.

Nelson is, of course, pushing back against what he calls a “whirlwind” of interest in assessment by accreditors, government, and institutions themselves. Like others in the humanities, he is rebelling against “check the box” assessment, but he does not consider assessment impossible. In fact, he cites the new Gallup/Purdue “well-being” survey of college graduates as suggesting ways to assess student success over the long run.

Strange Doings at Wellesley


An anti-Zionist poster and pictures of children killed by Israelis, both put up in prominent places by an on-campus pro-Palestinian group, created tension at Wellesley—and then the two leaders of the Jewish student group Hillel were abruptly dismissed.

The two who lost their jobs were part-timers, one a director of Wellesley College Hillel and the other a chaplain. The school said that it will start immediately to look for a full-time rabbi to serve as chaplain.

The Boston Globe quoted Wellesley’s dean of students as saying that the change took place with the “sole purpose of strengthening Jewish life.” That’s not the way the students saw it, though. Said one: “The college’s handling of the situation was really bizarre and upsetting for the entire Jewish community.”

Millennials Miss the Mark on Free Speech


In September, at UNC-Chapel Hill’s sixth annual First Amendment Day celebration, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Greg Lukianoff explained to a full auditorium of students and professors that those expressing the most antagonism toward free speech today are Millennials, people in the 18-30 age range.

While that contention seems to go against our intuition, a cursory glance at a typical college campus reaffirms Lukianoff’s findings, what with “trigger warnings” and campus speaker “disinvitations” becoming ubiquitous throughout the country. 

Not only do the “progressive” students who support such free speech incursions seem to be offended by the slightest emotional and intellectual pinpricks, they also want to shut down debate and muzzle their enemies’ voices. 

One such authoritarian “progressive” is Zach Traynor, a Dartmouth student who recently wrote an op-ed for his school’s newspaper stating that America “has gone too far in allowing people to say whatever they want, and should curtail speech that is obviously harmful to society, such as hate speech.” He writes:

Those in support of aggressive civil liberties will protest: What is stopping the government from moving past sensible restrictions on free speech, once they are in place, to something more Orwellian, as in China or other authoritarian regimes? At face value, that is a fair question, but given America’s deeply-held cultural norms and the power of the Internet and social media, such a scenario is highly unlikely. We need only small but significant change to the freedom of speech in this country: namely, the prohibition of unambiguously destructive, hateful speech.

Have Mr. Traynor’s reassurances allayed your concerns, “aggressive civil liberties” advocates? 

Ungainly “Gainful Employment” Rule


George Leef’s latest Forbes column begins:

At the end of October, the Department of Education released its much-awaited “gainful employment” rule. It is supposed to fix (or at least improve) the problem that many students who pursue vocational training with federal student aid money wind up without a job that pays well enough for them to meet their student loan payments.

As I’ll explain, the rule won’t solve that problem, but only limit the range of choice for students.

And Mr. Leef does just that:  Read the rest of his column here.

It’s All About the Money


Janet Napolitano, formerly of the Homeland Security Department and now president of the University of California system, is insisting that the state give the system an additional $100 million—or she will retaliate by raising student tuition by five percent a year for five years.

In “Tuition Showdown,” published elsewhere on NRO, Kevin Williamson discusses this threat (her adversary is none other than Governor Moonbeam). He also analyzes what a college education ought to cost and refers to the extravagant spending of California universities these days (UCLA paid Bill and Hillary Clinton speaking fees totaling $550,000).

By the way, Napolitano is getting $570,000 per year plus $9,950 per month to rent a home, $8,916 a month for a car, and $142,000 to relocate from Washington, D.C. But according to the California Aggie (the student newspaper at UC- Davis), her salary still puts her “in the bottom 25th percentile of presidents of similar academic institutions.

Richard Kahlenberg’s Predictable WSJ Article


While many “liberals” are fuming that the Supreme Court will probably revisit the old battlefields of racial preferences now that the Fifth Circuit has declined to rehear Fisher v. Texas, others are trying to capitalize on it by pushing a different approach to “diversity.” One of them is Richard Kahlenberg, who has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Achieving College Diversity Without Discriminating by Race.” Kahlenberg wants preferences for students from lower socio-economic classes, which he maintains would create better diversity than using racial preferences.

I don’t support that because I think the entire diversity project is misconceived, as I explain in the comment I posted on the WSJ site:

I’m not sure if Kahlenberg has ever been a college professor, but I have. Most professors, certainly those who teach subjects where there is a true body of knowledge to be mastered, are not the least bit interested in diversity. They couldn’t care less about the ancestry of a student, the socio-economic circumstances of his family, his sexual orientation, or any of the other things that “progressives” obsess about. They actually want a homogeneous student body — homogeneous as to academic ability and interest in learning.

The big “progressive” hobby of using government to socially engineer the country to their liking causes a great problem for serious educators, namely that classrooms become increasingly filled with mismatched students who have scant interest in studying. That causes downward pressure on academic standards and grade inflation.

Everyone is unique. We should abandon this folly of trying to make colleges “diverse.”


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