Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Ward Connerly on the Move


Here’s a story in Diverse magazine about Ward Connerly’s efforts to introduce state ballot initiatives to discontinue racial-preference programs. The movement needs signatures to reach the ballot in Arizona, Missouri, and Nebraska, and it’s already on the ballot in Colorado and Oklahoma. For information, check out the Arizona, Nebraska, and Missouri Civil Rights Initiatives.

Malkin on Constantine


In the New York Post. She has a good rundown of past hate-crime hoaxes, though I’d like to chip in another from my alma mater.


This Could Make Electronic Homework Submissions Tough


UPDATE: I am a moron.

I went to log into my Gmail account this morning and saw this:

New! Gmail Custom TimeTM  

Ever wish you could go back in time and send that crucial email that could have changed everything — if only it hadn’t slipped your mind? Gmail can now help you with those missed deadlines, missed birthdays and missed opportunities.


Pre-date your messages
You tell us what time you would have wanted your email sent, and we’ll take care of the rest. Need an email to arrive 6 hours ago? No problem.

Mark as read or unread
Take sending emails to the past one step further. We let you make emails look like they’ve been read all along.

Make them count
Use your custom time stamped messages wisely — each Gmail user gets ten per year.

Worry less
Forget your finance reports. Forget your anniversary. We’ll make it look like you remembered.

Fundraising 101


Barack Obama has raised about ten times as much money as John McCain from college employees and other educators, and Hillary Clinton leads McCain by a factor of about six. Details here. (Hat tip here.)

Hampshire College, Bastion of Oppression


Another day in the life of higher ed:

Students at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass., walked out of class this morning to protest what they saw as administrators’ insufficient commitment to fighting racism, the Associated Press reported.

As part of a series of events called Action Awareness Week — featuring a teach-in, a speak-out, and a writing workshop on oppression — a group of students had presented a list of 17 diversity-related demands (also posted on Facebook) to Hampshire’s president, Ralph J. Hexter.

Among other things, the students were calling for additional faculty and staff positions in multicultural affairs, mandatory “anti-oppression training” for all employees, and residence halls exclusively for students of color and for “queer-identified” students. A few hundred students staged the walkout, an organizer told the AP, when the college’s president did not immediately agree to their demands.

But Mr. Hexter, who is one of academe’s few openly gay presidents, has had several lengthy meetings with the student activists, and he plans to sit down with them again this afternoon, said Nancy Kelly, senior adviser to the president. —Sara Lipka


Turn of Events for Plagiarist Prof’s Hate-Crime Case


The New York Post via Instapundit:

A Manhattan grand jury has subpoenaed the university records of the controversial black Columbia Teachers College professor who found a noose hanging from her office door – signaling that the investigation is broadening to examine possible links between the teacher, her closest friends and the racially charged incident, The Post has learned.

According to sources, the subpoenas obtained recently by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force and prosecutors demanded the college hand over a laundry list of records pertaining to embattled professor Madonna Constantine, whose colleague found a 4-foot hangman’s noose on her office doorknob last October.

The incident happened at the height of the school’s probe of plagiarism charges against her.

We’ve blogged about Constantine before.

Naysaying a New Study on Politically Imbalanced Faculties


A study soon to appear in the journal PS: Political Science & Politics affirms that faculties tilt left but, as Inside Higher Ed reports, “deflates the idea that cadres of tenured radicals are somehow corrupting America’s youth — or scaring them into adopting new political views.”

Daniel B. Klein, who has written about predominantly liberal, pro-government faculty, criticizes the authors for not having “done more tracing why students move from one political category of identification to another,” in which case, he adds, “they likely would have found some correlation with the political leanings of professors.”

Moreover, Klein sharply faults the study for neglecting the “opportunity cost.” “Even if it were true that students totally took a Bart Simpson attitude toward their college professors and were completely uninfluenced by them, I still think it would be a tragedy that during those four years, they were not getting the good stuff,” i.e., they were deprived of exposure to the ideas of such figures as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek.

The dominance of left-wing faculty has consequences. Period.

Survey Says


Highlights from the CHE poll:

While Americans are clearly worried about college costs, one finding in the survey captures how conflicted they are about the issue. When asked if the federal government should have a role in controlling tuition at public and private colleges, the results were almost evenly split: 51 percent said yes, 49 percent no. …

At a time when the leading members of the Senate Finance Committee are focused on wealthy colleges’ use of their endowments, the issue seems to have little traction among most of the public. Only 18 percent of those surveyed said it was an “extremely important” issue for the next president, although Democrats rated it higher, at 25 percent. …

Despite the fact that nearly eight of 10 college students today attend public colleges, 41 percent of respondents say the quality of a higher education is better at a private institution. By seven points, 45 percent to 38 percent, respondents from households with incomes below $35,000 rated private colleges more highly than did respondents with household incomes of $35,000 to $75,000. …

In answer to another question on the poll, 46 percent of respondents said college professors were more liberal than they themselves were, compared with 25 percent who said they were about the same.

Obama’s Would-Be Leap Toward Federalized Education


With all Barack Obama’s vague waxing messianic, the specifics of his agenda, and notably his socialist-style plans for education, have tended to go unnoticed.

But those of us who hold to quaint notions like parental educational choice should be alarmed by Obama’s quite-explicit campaign blueprint “Plan To Give Every American Child A World Class Education,” and its linked document, “Barack Obama’s Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education.”

The plan is breathtakingly octopodal from the standpoint of intrusive, comprehensive federal intervention — a windfall for the array of Obama’s financial supporters in the world of educational special interests.

From educational programs for pregnant women to transformation of teacher education via mutually self-reinforcing school-university “partnerships,” this latest cradle-to-grave social-engineering scheme for federally influencing education would, as Lee Cary writes in American Thinker, transform education — in ways not among the principles put forth by the Founding Fathers.

Fear of Flying Lives


Here’s a notice in Publisher’s Weekly stating that Columbia University’s Union Theological Seminary is going to host a conference on Erica Jong’s ’70s novel Fear of Flying. The title is “The Fear of Flying: Can a Feminist Classic Be a Classic?”

UD Repackages Indoctrination Program


University of Delaware President Patrick Harker drew praise last fall for suspending a freshman-dorm program for indoctrinating students on gender and race issues, but then bounced it back for review to the UD Faculty Senate.

The faculty has now issued its “new” guidelines, which, according to the Wilmington News-Journal, amount to the same old, same old, albeit with more faculty involvement. The faculty has not repudiated program content such as Shakti Butler’s definition of a racist as “all white people living in the United States” and her statement that “people of color cannot be racists.” Nor has it elimimated the ritual of coercing freshmen into baring their souls to busy-body dorm staff about when they first discovered their sexual identity. And, to add insult to injury, the faculty dared to snivel that Butler’s dicta should not have been posted on UD’s website in the first place — in the apparent belief that parents and others have no right to examine the program.

In the words of one student, “It’s basically going to be the same crap, different people.” President Harker, take note.

NAS Rides Sentry


Fresh from the National Association of Scholars:

The recent release of the Department of Education’s records on foreign gifts to American institutions of higher education has given rise to concerns that some colleges and universities may not be reporting large foreign gifts in a timely or thorough fashion. In view of these concerns, the NAS has agreed to act as a clearing house for reports that we believe raise legitimate concerns about the foreign gift reporting practices of particular institutions.

The NAS is thus encouraging the public to be alert to this matter — and to pass on to it information relevant to the disclosure of substantial foreign gifts.

Thanks, NAS.

Anti-Jewish ‘Rut’ at UNM


A retired University of New Mexico professor, Richard Berthold, recently added to the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish vitriol in academe. He compared Israel with Nazi Germany and opined that Jews have used up their karma.

A UNM student, Lynn Provencio, justly protests in the New Mexico Daily Lobo that the professor’s “view, reminiscent of pre-World War II European academic views, is becoming very common in U.S. academia today as well as in Europe.”

Provencio notes, however, that all is not distortion and prejudice at UNM, whose school of journalism has invited Khaled Abu Toameh to speak on campus in April. Toameh is an Israeli-Palestinian journalist internationally respected for his courage and integrity in reporting.

Provencio rightly commends those who issued the invitation “for stepping out of the rut” and countering bigotry with “knowledge and honesty.”

Incapacious Pedagogical Tent


Michael W. Galbraith, a professor of leadership studies at Marshall University Graduate College, has written a book to help junior college teachers to “discover what beliefs, values, and attitudes you hold” and thus to “have the basis for a focused and action-oriented vision or philosophy for your teaching.

Mal Kline notes Galbraith’s claim to present a range of visions that animate college teaching and his recommendation that beginner professors complete a:

self-administered, self-scoring, and self-interpreted inventory [that] will place you in one of five philosophical orientations:

• “Liberal;
• “Behaviorist;
• “Progressive:
• “Humanistic: or
• “Radical.”
But nowhere to be found is:
• Conservative;
• Libertarian;
• Objectivist;
• Traditionalist; or even
• Moderate.

Kline is spot-on in concluding that Galbraith in fact “does not envision an exceptionally huge tent philosophically that feeds into the faculty lounge.”

A Hatchet Job on FIRE


Greg Lukianoff of FIRE writes here about the hatchet job Simon DeDeo has done on his organization. The attack took place on the website Open Left, but DeDeo is an editor of Wikipedia’s FIRE page.

Civility Hotly Imagined


Monday marked the beginning of a conference with the theme “Imagining a More Civil Society: The University and the Jewish Community,” which is sponsored by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

But camraderie and sweet reason did not exactly reign supreme. One attendee, who contacted me, said that participants repeatedly and heatedly asked the four university presidents who spoke at the opening forum why campus leaders defend some causes, such as the genicide in Darfur, but “do not stand up for the Jews.” And, as Inside Higher Ed reports, the participation of one president, Michael V. Drake of the University of California at Irvine, as well as other concerns, led Jewish students to issue a protest letter and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld to commandeer the microphone before a Q&A session.

U.C.-Irvine has been charged in recent years of being steeped in anti-Semitism and is still dogged by a student-organized “Holocaust in the Holy Land” week in 2006 that equated Israel with Nazi Germany. At the conference Drake was taken to task by attendees who say he has only tepidly condemned the bigoted campus activities.

“It’s not a rah-rah environment,” Hillel’s president, Wayne L. Firestone, said of the purpose of the gathering. Would one expect otherwise, given the hideous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel events on campuses in recent times?

Disappointing Justice O’Connor


There’s an article in Inside Higher Ed today that reports on a panel of “leading scholars” at the American Educational Research Association, all of whom concluded that there’s no way in the world that the performance of black and Hispanic students will improve enough to meet Justice O’Connor’s 2028 deadline for getting rid of university admission preferences for them.

Twenty years out, there’s of course no way of knowing if they’ll be right, but even if they are that doesn’t mean (a) that the preferences should continue (or should have been allowed by Justice O’Connor in the first place), or (b) that the Left has any idea of how to close the white-Asian/black-Hispanic gap.

On the first point, I’ll just note that, in order to justify racial discrimination, you need a really, really good reason — and no such reason exists for university affirmative action. Nor, incidentally, is one offered in this article; rather, it is just assumed that every group should have its share of slots, what Justice Powell called “discrimination for its own sake” and rejected many, many years ago in Bakke.

The second point is more interesting. The solution for closing the gap in the article is encapsulated in a wonderfully Orwellian phrase, “the reconceptualization of merit.” In other words, if there’s a gap in SAT scores, just change the definition of merit so that the gap doesn’t matter. (As I’ve written before, the Left doesn’t really believe in standards.)

The panelists are also unhappy at the educational opportunities given black and Hispanic children at many public schools. Did any of them suggest that perhaps those children should be given more choice about where to attend schools, or that incompetent teachers ought to be more easily fired? No mention of that in the article if they did.

There’s also no mention in the article that any of the panelists pointed out that seven out of ten black children are born out of wedlock, or that half of Hispanic children are (versus only one of four whites and less than that for Asians), and that growing up in a home without a father makes academic excellence less likely. See, e.g., a recent Phi Beta Cons posting of mine.

As I’ve also written for NRO — hey, if I don’t cite myself, who will? — “It is ironic but likely that preferences are themselves a critical element in keeping the gap wide. They enable politicians to sweep the real problems under the rug by, to mix a metaphor, using preferences to paper over them; and preferences also remove the incentive for academic excellence at the same time that they stigmatize and encourage a defeatist and victim mentality among their supposed beneficiaries.”

Life Off the Tenure Track


In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Penn State professor Dirk Mateer writes about his and his wife’s experiences as non-tenure-track academics at the school. Life isn’t too bad, but not a bowl of cherries either.

What I find especially interesting is Mateer’s point that research universities like Penn State are slowly moving away from the idea that everyone on faculty has to juggle teaching and research, and are embracing specialization. He likes teaching economics, he does it well, and Penn State is putting his comparative advantage to good use in the classroom.

One has to wonder, though, if the tenured professors who do little teaching are worth what it costs to keep them on the payroll. Some probably pull in enough grant money to be profitable, but many others (particularly in the “soft” fields) probably don’t. Why not put research activity to the test of the market?

Sunlight: the Best Disinfectant


Don’t miss Stanley Kurtz’s “Following the Foreign Money” today on NRO, an exclusive look into international-gift disclosures from American colleges and universities, which Kurtz has acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. Take a look to see how much your alma mater receives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or China — you’ll find the roster of grantee institutions here, listed by state.

The next step is for alumni, current students, and college-town reporters and bloggers to do the digging to make sense of these records — the investigative-reporting equivalent of distributed computing.

For instance, wouldn’t some Columbia alums like to know how all that money from Switzerland is being used? If the gifts come from Swiss banks, we may never know who gave them — but Columbia may reveal how they’ve been spent, if enough students and alumni make enough noise about it. The answer may be totally innocent: people the world over have benefited from clinical breakthroughs developed at the Columbia University Medical Center, some of them very rich and very grateful. But the answer may be more troubling. So let’s get to work.

Ward Watch


This morning’s Washington Post has a story on Ward Connerly and his anti-racial-preference initiatives in five states. It’s a decent roundup, though with respect to Colorado it merely says that Connerly’s group has submitted signatures when in fact the initiative has qualified for the ballot.


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