Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Terrorist Threat by Muslim Female Student Against UIC


Yesterday, reports former police chief Jim Kouri, the FBI arrested Mahtab Shirani, a Muslim woman enrolled at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Shirani is alleged to have sent an anonymous e-mail to a university administrator threatening a repeat of the shooting incident that had taken place the previous day at Northern Illinois University. The threat stated that a group of five individuals would carry out the attack sometime during the spring 2008 semester.

The FBI praised the campus police department and the administrative staff for dealing with the threat professionally and expeditiously. Kudos to both the campus police and the FBI for preventing a potential terrorist act as well as alarm on campus.

MEF Education Grants


The Middle East Forum has just announced the establishment of the MEF Education Fund, a program instituted to support researchers and institutions focused on the Middle East and radical Islam, i.e., unbiased studies in these areas.

Generating such scholarship is crucial to our national security. May the new program flourish.


Does UNC-Charlotte Need a Football Team?


A lopsided feasibility study recommended that the school spend big bucks (coming largely from an increase in student fees) to start up intercollegiate football, reaching the NCAA’s top division by 2016.

Is it a good idea? I’m very skeptical and say so here.

Long ago, an economics professor of mine who had done quite a bit of work in Puerto Rico said that the island “looks wonderful from a distance, but when you get up close — ugh.” I think that’s also true about big-time college football.

More Guns, Less Campus Crime



PHOENIX — Horrified by recent campus shootings, a state lawmaker here has come up with a proposal in keeping with the Taurus .22-caliber pistol tucked in her purse: Get more guns on campus.

The lawmaker, State Senator Karen S. Johnson, has sponsored a bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week, that would allow people with a concealed weapons permit — limited to those 21 and older here — to carry their firearms at public colleges and universities. Concealed weapons are generally not permitted at most public establishments, including colleges.

Georgetown: In Defense of Petrodollars


Rep. Frank Wolf wrote to DeGioia February 14, expressing concern about the effect on scholarship of a Saudi prince’s $20 million gift to Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Since receiving the gift several years ago, there’s been “no outside interference [with the Center's work] of any kind,” Georgetown President John J. DeGioia wrote.

DeGioia glosses over the real point, commented Middle East scholar Martin Kramer. At issue is how impartial and intrepid academics will be in confronting governments and academic institutions indebted to beneficent donors. On the Center’s vaunted influence on various federal agencies concerned with foreign policy and national security, Kramer warned:

The faculty of the Center have consistently underestimated and downplayed the threat posed by radical Islamism. Prior to 9/11 and since then, they have played a considerable role in obfuscating the dangers facing the United States–something our officials can ill afford now and in the future.

IPT News now presents more compelling evidence that Georgetown is begging Wolf’s vital questions. Has the center criticized Saudi Arabia where criticism is due? Has it asked whether Saudi petrodollars fan anti-Americanism and extremism?

No, because Georgetown is reckoning that lofty assertions of its “integrity” will suffice. Wolf, who has not yet commented on DeGioia’s letter, should demand a more critical response.


Bottomless Pit of Anti-Israel Bias at Columbia


What does a powerful and unaccountable university do when the outcry of bias directed against it becomes so loud that it must respond? But, of course, it creates a committee or department designed to create a semblance of evenhandedness.

And who does it choose to preside over such entities? Well, more biased honchos. Thus, the New York Sun reports, officials at a Columbia University department established in 2005 to counter an anti-Israel slant in Middle Eastern scholarship on campus have named as its director a professor who, one, signed a letter labeling Israeli policy “the occupation and oppression of another people” and, two, backed a statement in support of Israelis who refused to serve in military operations in Gaza and the West Bank during a violent uprising by Palestinian Arabs.

Don’t look for Israel to get a fair shake in this “balanced” environment.

Getting in Trouble for Reading a Book


Just when you think the dementia in American universities has peaked, along comes a story like this.

A worker is in trouble because some co-workers were offended that he was reading a book that makes the KKK look bad. Never mind the content of the book. The mere fact that it has anything to do with the KKK makes it offensive.


Re: Social Justice


Just wanted to chime in with Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice.

Re: Social Justice


Another book that shouldn’t be overlooked in this regard is the late Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. He brilliantly explored what he called “end-state” theories of justice (things are unjust if the richest has more than X times the wealth of the poorest) and historical theories of justice (where you have to look at the nature of the transactions that led to each person’s degree of wealth or poverty).

Too bad that Tritton didn’t look for advice on readings for his course at PBC before he taught it!

Peering into the ‘Residence Life’ Mindset


Peter Wood has written a devastating piece about the “residence life” movement and especially the mindset of its zealots. Peter interviewed someone who attended, as it was not an open meeting.

Here’s a quotation that should get you hankering to read the whole thing:

In practice, this is a revolution that attempts to turn all the minutiae of daily life in dorms and dining halls, on campus quads and student unions, into learning opportunities that have (or should be) thought through by the res life experts in search of specific ‘learning objectives and outcomes.’ Students should never just hang out. They should seize the moment to discuss their co-optation by the structures of racial oppression in American society, their need to fan the flames of awareness of their carbon footprints, their too facile readiness to accept heteronormativity, and other matters of moment.

Collage ‘Threat’ at VSU


FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff appears in a video relating to what he calls “one of the worst abuses of student rights” he’s ever encountered.

The video is concerned with the tribulations of Hayden Barnes, a student at Valdosta State University who was expelled for a “threatening” collage, as well as with a tiny free speech zone that, risibly, is only available two hours a day to students wishing to exercise their constitutional rights.

Time to put the pressure on VSU.

Eradicate Campus Irradiators


Canwest News Service reports that the approximately 1,400 irradiation machines in universities, hospitals, and blood banks across the U.S. and Canada are a main terrorist target because of their potential “malevolent use” in a “dirty bomb.” According to the Washington-based National Research Council, these devices contain cesium-137, a powdery, radioactive, “highly dispersible” byproduct of nuclear power generation used for various medical and research purposes.

The NRC urges that these irradiators be replaced ASAP. Amen to that.

Social Justice Syllabus


Also this one: A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell.

A Conservative Social-Justice Syllabus


Over at Inside Higher Ed, the former president of Haverford recounts his experience teaching a class in social justice at Harvard. When making up his reading list, he ended up skewing to the left, because, he says, “As one might predict, scholarly writing is tilted towards the liberal and it is difficult to find serious work from rightward perspectives.”

What about Hayek’s “The Mirage of Social Justice”? Or Irving Kristol’s “What Is ‘Social Justice’”? Or the recent National Assocation of Scholars study of social-work curricula? One may disagree with these arguments, but they are serious. At the Inside Higher Ed site, we should (respectfully) submit some other examples in the comment roll.

Lavatory Studies


The New Yorker has a piece on it.

An excerpt:

Molotch then passed around a piece of writing by Clara Greed, of the World Toilet Organization (the other W.T.O.), and read aloud a passage about “the restroom revolution which is going on in the Far East.”

“Does she use the phrase ‘Far East’?” a young woman asked, sounding incredulous. “It’s really Western-centric, obviously.”

The author points out that the “sybllabus reads almost like a parody of Allan Bloom’s worst nightmare.” True, true.

The Clog in the Pipe


Naomi Schaefer Riley in the WSJ, on left-wing professors:

The Daily Princetonian, meanwhile, found that, as of last month, not a single Princeton employee had given money to a Republican. The faculties of Harvard, Stanford and Columbia were slightly more balanced, with more than 80% of donations at each institution going to Democrats.

She goes on to dispute some of the assertions surrounding the “Left Pipeline” study on why there are so few conservatives in higher ed.  

A Weekend Helping of Jargon


Herewith, the name of a paper I heard presented at a conference on African Christianity this weekend: 

“Exploring the Inchoate Domain between the Public and the Private: Christian Counselling Practices in Botswana Producing the Indeterminate.”

“Exploring the Inchoate Domain”? “Producing the Indeterminate”? An ordinary man might have had trouble fashioning a title so resolutely impervious to comprehension. It takes a special type of smart to couple generic gerunds with utterly vague abstract nouns.

You see, when anthropologists and historians tire of exposing their audience to, say, original research, they simply take a previously researched topic and cram it into whatever theoretical construct happens to be in vogue these days. Since each theory produces its own jargon, the size of its lexicon proportionate to how totalizing the theory is (Kant, Marx, Rawls, and Habermas, very much so), we get introductory sentences like this: 

Habermas’s notion of the ‘salon’ as producing a fin de siecle culture for a specific public in the context of an emerging European bourgeois elite indicates an indeterminate in-between of what increasingly became defined as the private space of social interaction and the public space of interaction with the state and it political institutions.

The author’s contention is that faith-based counseling organizations in 21st-century Botswana fulfill this same social function, if you can make any sense out of what that is. Zzzzzzzz. 

p.s. I can add nothing to the fifty or so appreciations I’ve read of WFB, except to mention that the famous Buckley-Chomsky colloquy proved so popular among a group of friends at Harvard (conservative and liberal, diligent and dilettante alike) that it was fashioned into a drinking game, with each of the debaters’ points and eccentric mannerisms honored with a sip of a gin & ton, or whatever. It was collegial, brainy, and a lot of fun — just the feeling I think Buckley would hope to elicit.

Re: Crime Pays in Academe



Normally I wouldn’t respond to so poor an argument as this one, but it turns out that the group Free Exchange on Campus counts some major players among its member organizations, including the ACLU. So here goes.

A few days back Candace and I blogged about an article noting the trend of ex-cons becoming criminology professors under the argument that they’re particularly knowledgeable. In addition, several universities have former terrorists on their faculties. I actually said the article went too far in analogizing criminal criminologists to pedophiles in day-care centers, but such nuances escape Chris Goff of FEOC. (Conservatives all think alike and make the exact same arguments, so why bother reading them before linking, right?)

He writes:

Keep reading this post . . .

So Much for Open Debate at Bucknell


Last week, over half of the press run of the most recent issue of The Counterweight, the magazine of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, was vandalized. (Disclaimer: I served as editor of The Counterweight while at Bucknell.)

Here are the details from a BUCC press release:

The first issue of this semester was printed and distributed on Monday, February 18. Within 24 hours, over 1,000 copies were stolen from locations across the Bucknell campus.

A large proportion of the remaining press run was distributed again on the morning of Tuesday, February 19. In approximately one hour, all of the issues were again taken. Soon after, a report was filed with Bucknell’s Office of Public Safety.

The issue was assumedly stolen because it featured several controversial articles criticizing the University’s sponsorship of Focus the Nation, a national teach-in about global climate change. This event was the latest example of University-supported indoctrination and deliberate political activism. Sarah Schubert, editor-in-chief of The Counterweight said, “This vandalism is unacceptable because it amounts to censorship; on a college campus, the free and vigorous exchange of ideas should be wholeheartedly defended by everyone.”

The issue was reprinted and distributed across campus on Tuesday, February 26. Bucknell’s President Brian C. Mitchell also released a statement on Tuesday, condemning the vandalism, saying, “This act of apparent theft and harassment undermines the right of The Counterweight, and in fact of all student publications, to express their views.” The Office of Public Safety has launched an investigation into the incident.

A PDF of the issue is available here.

Thomas Sowell on Higher Ed


With yesterday’s news I dropped off watching Uncommon Knowledge’s five-part interview with Thomas Sowell, but former Townhall columnist Jennifer Biddison writes to inform me that the last two have been about higher ed. As usual, Sowell is worth watching, though to longtime Sowell devotees such as myself, it’s largely points he’s made before.

One of the more interesting observations regards how self-interest affects faculty decisions. Because so many professors want to hold classes between 10 and 2, campuses have more buildings than they really need; they’re packed in those hours, but go empty most of the rest of the time. Also, grade inflation is in the best interest of teachers even without student evaluations – give everyone an A, and no one bothers you during office hours.


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