Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Undoing White Supremacy


At this site of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, you can find all the information you need to attend the White Privilege Conference in Springfield, Mass., in two weeks.

“The annual White Privilege Conference (WPC),” it says, “serves as a yearly opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression.” People there will learn of this year’s theme, “Critical Liberation Practice: Creating Transformation for Social Justice.” But the organizers assure it will be an inclusive and constructive gathering, for “this conference is not about beating up on white folks.”

Oh, the Lure of that Petromoney


Compromising much-ballyhooed principles of equality in exchange for lush partnerships with Mideast higher-education institutions is in fact common on American campuses.

Charlotte Allen surveys these arrangements, citing only the University of Connecticut as having resisted the siren song of petrodollars on grounds of principle.


Hug Bans


FIRE rose up to fight speech codes and the like on campuses. But it appears high time for it or a similar organization to challenge the often-ridiculous repression at the K-12 level — of which a prime example is recounted by Deborah Langbert.

First came a ban on hugs and high-fives at a Fairfax County, Va., middle school. Why? Because a 13-year-old male student put his arm around his girlfriend while walking down the school hall.

This year, the Mesa, Ariz., school district also instituted a hug ban. In the wake of protest — a fulsome 20-minute hug-a-thon across the street from school — ingenious school officials tried to cut a deal with students that permitted hugs of two seconds or less in duration.

And there it is, the next pitched battle on the horizon, the battle against hugging codes.

Up with Updike


Novelist John Updike will deliver the prestigious Jefferson Lecture for the NEH this year. Details here.

The Campus ‘Hookup’ Culture


Kathleen A. Bogle, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, links this era of risky sexual behavior in colleges to the demise of dating, increased alcohol abuse and sexual assault, rising coeducational enrollments, a rebellion of students against behavioral restrictions, and a more fundamental change in students’ ethos.

Bogle’s analysis is illuminating, but she falls short on delving into the moral, spiritual, and cultural solutions to abusive hookup behavior.


Academic ‘Antagonymics’


Ashley Thorne and Peter Wood interview the two candidates running for the AAUP presidency — in the context of a discussion of the opposite meanings which the NAS and AAUP assign to the concept “academic freedom.”

Words that encompass such contrary meanings are antagonyms, of which academic freedom is an example. Thus the AAUP uses the term to mean “the right to bluster,” while the NAS defines it as “the obligation not to.”

The Nation on the Killing of Criticism


There is a sharp piece in The Nation this week on the state of the humanities in higher education. The author, William Deresiewicz, takes the MLA Job List as an indicator of where things stand, and when he looks at the ads he sees one odd and incoherent profile after another. It’s a damning survey, all the more so as it appears in the leftist weekly:

To be fair, the list reflects not so much the overall composition of English departments as the ways they’re trying to up-armor themselves to cover perceived gaps. More revealing in this connection than the familiar identity-groups laundry list, which at least has intellectual coherence, is the whatever-works grab bag: “Asian American literature, cultural theory, or visual/performance studies”; “literature of the immigrant experience, environmental writing/ecocriticism, literature and technology, and material culture”; “visual culture; cultural studies and theory; writing and writing across the curriculum; ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies.” The items on these lists are not just different things — apples and oranges — they’re different kinds of things, incommensurate categories flailing about in unrelated directions — apples, machine parts, sadness, the square root of two. There have always been trends in literary criticism, but the major trend now is trendiness itself, trendism, the desperate search for anything sexy. Contemporary lit, global lit, ethnic American lit; creative writing, film, ecocriticism — whatever. There are postings here for positions in science fiction, in fantasy literature, in children’s literature, even in something called “digital humanities.”

What’s going on? Three things, to judge from their absence from Graff’s history, that have never happened before. First, the number of students studying English literature appears to be in a steep, prolonged and apparently irreversible decline. In the past ten years, my department has gone from about 120 majors a year to about ninety a year. Fewer students mean fewer professors; during the same time, we’ve gone from about fifty-five full-time faculty positions to about forty-five. Student priorities are shifting to more “practical” majors like economics; university priorities are shifting to the sciences, which bring in a lot more money. In our new consumer-oriented model of higher education, schools compete for students, but so do departments within schools. The bleaker it looks for English departments, the more desperate they become to attract attention.

In other words, the profession’s intellectual agenda is being set by teenagers.

Soft Bias


Mark Bauerlein has taken up a subject much discussed on PBC recently — a course taught at Harvard by the former president of Haverford College on “how colleges teach social justice” — and fashioned an excellent essay.

He nails the point exactly. Professor Tritton was no ranting demagogue, but his course did nothing but reinforce existing leftist notions. The students read tendentious screeds from the likes of bell hooks, but never got any of the strong arguments against the very concept of “social justice” from scholars such as Hayek and Nozick.

This brings to mind John Stuart Mill’s statement that he who knows only his own side of an argument usually doesn’t even know much of it. Your typical American college student bears that out.

A Professor, Stolen Art, and Nazis


What more could you want in a controversy? Elise Viebeck has the details over at the Claremont Independent.

Is Faculty Unionization a Good Thing?


Writing this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, professor emeritus Charles Baird argues that faculty unionization is not a good thing. Unionization tends to undermine academic standards and breeds discontent, he contends.

Furthermore, faculty unionization suffers from the same moral defect as unionization in general under American law: It deprives individuals of freedom of choice by saddling everyone with a majority choice. Where individual choice is possible — as it certainly is with regard to the matter of union representation — majority rule is unjustifiable coercion.

Hail to the Victors


Email from Jennifer Gratz:

Today Judge Lawson dismissed all claims against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and ruled that the Initiative is constitutional.  Jennifer Gratz, who was the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and is now with the American Civil Rights Institute said, “Despite numerous attempts to thwart the will of the voters by the radical group, By Any Means Necessary, and their allies, the people of Michigan will finally have their voices heard.  Fairness and equality are now unequivocally Michigan law.”

ACTA Report on Higher Learning in Georgia


ACTA has issued an important report on the university system of Georgia, mainly University of Georgia in Athens and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The study analyzes public education in the state in terms of general education, intellectual diversity, governance, and cost, and it should offer lawmakers and educators ample material for discussion and improvement.

On intellectual diversity, ACTA gives the system an F. Here’s why:

When asked “On my campus, some courses have readings which present only one side of a controversial issue,” 55.3 percent of students agreed.

Asked, “On my campus, some panel discussions and presentations on political issues seem totally one-sided,” 54.1 percent agreed.

Asked, “On my campus, some courses present social and political issues in an unfair and one-sided manner,” 38 percent agreed.

Asked, “On my campus, some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views,” 56.3 percent agreed.

Asked, “On my campus, there are courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor’s political or social views in order to get a good grade,” 48.5 percent agreed.

Asked, “On my campus, there are certain topics or viewpoints that are off limits,” 38.6 percent agreed.

Princeton and STDs


The conservative Princeton Tory has quite the scoop:

Shortly before the unexpected departure of Princeton’s chief medical officer this summer, an investigation by the State of New Jersey revealed that since 2003, Princeton’s McCosh Health Center has failed to comply with state laws for reporting STDs. The state investigation, which involved a visit from a surveillance team and an official warning, was concealed from students and administrators. Vice President Janet Dickerson, who directly supervises the head of McCosh, did not learn of the state investigation until three months after it occurred. When a Tory reporter asked her to comment on the case she was caught unawares. “I’m looking surprised here,” Dickerson said, “and it’s not often that I look surprised.”

McCosh’s motive for concealing the event was not clear, but details gathered over several months provide context for what was a major breach in protecting public health at a health center harried by ethical difficulties. The investigation comes at a time of instability. A month after the investigation, Daniel Silverman, head of University Health Services and McCosh Health Center, left Princeton to work for a consulting firm that he had assisted in winning no-bid contracts from the University.

David Mamet, Not Liberal For a Long Time


David Mamet’s recent article on becoming an ex-liberal was good, and I can see why people are excited about it. But it has been obvious for some time that Mamet has been taking his leave of liberalism, particularly in his 1994 play Oleanna, a crackling portrayal of the devastating and soul-corroding effects of sexual-harassment activism and political correctness in academia.

Claremont McKenna Kills Student Loans


The story, via Charles Johnson. Of course, in the past I’ve celebrated these attempts to make college affordable.

I’ve also asked the question: How far down the prestige chain will this trend work itself? Right now, it seems like only the wealthiest colleges can completely waive tuition for the poor and middle class, and the next tier, including Claremont McKenna, has to settle for replacing loans with grants.

It’s a double whammy: Not only do the lower-tiered schools have less money, but they also (presumably) have a higher proportion of students from the income levels these programs tend to help. That’s why, so far at least, you see such a steep dropoff from the Ivies (free tuition if your family makes less than $60,000) to the next tier (grants instead of loans, or even just a reduced amount of loans) to the next (same old tuition and loans).

Pro-Mason Party


What a basketball team can do for a school:

Cinderellas, listen up. On the eve of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which starts this week, officials from George Mason University have released a report describing the effect of their miraculous Final Four run two years ago.

What George Mason officials found is promising news for the next team hoping to wear the glass slipper. In 2006, the Patriots knocked off three superpowers—Michigan State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Connecticut—before finally falling in the national semifinals.

In the two years since, the university has seen a 22-percent jump in freshman applications and a 350-percent rise in admissions inquiries. While officials of the public institution in Northern Virginia cannot attribute the increases solely to that one magical season, they believe the tournament played a significant part.

“We were already on the rise,” said Robert E. Baker, an associate professor of sport management who studied the tournament’s effects. “This just pushed the fast-forward button.”



You now have no excuse for not seeing the anti-PC film Indoctrinate U.

Take Her Off the Women’s Studies Syllabus!


Author Doris Lessing in WSJ:

This was not at all what many thought “The Golden Notebook” to be about. The book’s exploration of a woman’s inner life, feelings of hostility and resentment, and unhappy experiences with men came off as inflammatory and “man-hating.” Critics initially savaged the book. Feminists, however, embraced it, much to Ms. Lessing’s annoyance. “I hated the 1960s feminists,” she says. “They were dogmatists, you see. In comes ideology, and out goes common sense. This is my experience of life.”

Ms. Lessing points to a current dogma: political correctness. “It’s a continuation of the old Communist Party. It is! The same words, the same attitudes . . . ‘the Communist Party has made a decision and this is the line.’” At first, she says, political correctness had a good beginning; she remembers saying that the language that we use is sexist, racist and so on. But then, “that became a dogma. Because we love a dogma, you know, we really do. We can never just let things develop easily from an idea, it seems to me there’s always a group of fanatics who grasp it and make it a dogma.”

Title IX and Historically Black Colleges


In America women outnumber men in college attendance, but in the black community the disproportion is particularly striking. As a new article in The Root notes, historically black colleges have “enrollment ratios approaching 65 percent female to 35 percent male.”

From that, the piece makes an interesting argument:

Adding sports teams would seem to be one common sense solution to draw more male student applications.

Unfortunately, schools that want to start a men’s team will run into a virtual roadblock in the federal law known as Title IX.

In 2002, Howard University cut men’s wrestling and baseball while adding women’s bowling in order to avoid possible Title IX problems. Notwithstanding, more than five years later, Howard is still not in compliance with the strict proportionality standard, and according to the most recent data would have to cut an additional 82 athletes from men’s program’s — that’s more than 40 percent of all the male athletes currently attending the university.

I’m not sure male athletes are the group you’d want to target to increase male enrollment overall, but this does show the perversions Title IX creates by assuming men and women to be equal in athletic interest.

Also, I found this striking, and it deserves more coverage:

In 2005 a model survey option was offered in the U.S. Department of Education’s clarification for Title IX compliance. Unfortunately, to date, the NCAA is actively discouraging universities from using surveys to measure the interest of their students.

Is the NCAA simply cowing to political correctness, or is there actually some incentive for it to take this ludicrous position? I think it’s stupid for the government to design a survey and use it to tell colleges how many male athletic programs they’re allowed to have, but any survey will reflect reality a lot more than the current “women like sports as much as men, honest!” approach does.

Stop the Presses! New Diversity Study!


There’s a story today in Inside Higher Ed about a new study of, yawn, campus diversity: I’m sure the diversiphiles will find much to like, but it really provides the most ammunition to those of us who believe that the desire for a politically correct racial and ethnic mix does not justify admissions discrimination on the basis of skin color and national origin.

In particular, the study’s author acknowledges that (A) there is a “surprising lack of evidence” that such diversity is a compelling interest (which is what’s needed, as a legal matter, to justify racial and ethnic discrimination), that (B) even this study provides only “soft” evidence of diversity benefits, and that (C) in any event, there’s plenty of diversity and its benefits at UC Berkeley – which, for over a decade, has not been using admission preferences and at which blacks and Hispanics (the groups for whom preferences are typically awarded) are underrepresented, to use the fashionable term.

On this last point, I’d hazard a guess that the interracial dialogue is better at a school where everyone knows that everyone else got in according to the same standards. I remain unconvinced, by the way, that the kind of bull-session interactions the study focuses on are so valuable and predictable – and that what is learned is so otherwise unobtainable – as to justify anything as ugly as racial discrimination.


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