Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

“Catch-22” at IUPUI


A tale of utterly moronic repression of intellectual freedom at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is getting around, thanks to Nuvo, an Indianapolis newspaper.

Keith John Sampson, a janitor at IUPUI, landed in big trouble last year with the campus’s apparently zealous Affirmative Action Office. He’s been slapped down for reading a book critical of the Ku Klux Klan while on a work break. A black co-worker of Sampson, who saw him reading the book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan, filed a racial harassment grievance against him, after reportedly telling him that reading a work about the Klan was akin to (in Nuvo’s words) “bringing pornography to work.” The AAO, ignoring Sampson’s efforts to describe the content of the book, proceeded to brand him as “insensitive” and to order him to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of his co-workers.

Sampson now welcomes the chance to speak publicly in the interest of intellectual liberty about what he calls his “catch-22″ ordeal. The IUPUI leadership should discipline its AAO and see that all parties who so ignorantly and reflexively wronged Sampson apologize.

Tony Blair to Teach at Yale


In both the schools of Management and Divinity, it seems… Weird.

Apparently he is also starting something called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which “will promote understanding between the major faiths and increase understanding of the role of faith in the modern world.”  Whereas the several thousand other foundations devoted to the same have failed.


Will Petrodollars Trump Protest?


The Saudis have made a multi-million-dollar deal with two California campuses to have the colleges create and run educational programs in a new university on the Red Sea, writes Inside Higher Ed.

Will U.S.-style academic freedom and nondiscrimination be respected in a place where educational institutions legally discriminate against women, gay people and Jews? “We expect the diversity principles to be central, to be honored, in every arrangement the university makes,” responded Barrie Thorne, chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Berkeley and a professor of sociology. “If they aren’t being honored, they could well expect protest, but nothing to protest yet.”

Perhaps such high-minded protectors of diversity will diligently oversee and vocally speak out against the abuse of academic freedom on the Red Sea campus. On the other hand, it could be that bounteous funding will vitiate their will to protest.

Vet Flight School Admissions


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is failing to implement post-9/11 laws restricting access of non-U.S. citizens to flight schools, a number of which are affiliated with our campuses. It is a “failure on every level,” warns Rep. James Oberstar. ABC News recently reported that thousands – yes, thousands – of non-U.S. citizens have attended flight schools and been granted pilot licenses without having been made to hew to the new requirements.

This means we’re at risk because some of our bureaucrats can’t seem to be bothered with following our own laws.

Samantha Power: a retrospective and, probably, a prospective


Samantha Power will almost surely reappear if there is an Obama presidency, though she is for the moment out as senior foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign.

She’s been on a speaking tour in Britain these days to promote her balanced, very readable biography of the playboy diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was a sort of go-to guy for the UN before being killed in Iraq, where he was the organization’s head of mission. Like the best biographies, it reads as a parallel study of the events (i.e., seemingly every humanitarian catastrophe from Cambodia to Lebanon) in which its subject was involved. She was promoting the book when she let slip the “monster” comment about Hillary.

Power is an academic and, glancing at her résumé, one inevitably confronts the suspicion that she’s sort of a flake. She is a professor in something called “the practice of global leadership and public policy,” and she has made a living out of human rights activism.

Yet, those who have read her, heard her, or been in a class with her know that she is a wonderfully critical thinker and is coldly pragmatic about human rights causes, which certainly sets her apart from many of her confrères.

Her recent appearance on BBC’s Hard Talk is a demonstration of her attempt to balance her academic and political commitments. She does a poor job on some things (e.g., her parsing of the term “genocidal violence” around minute 11), but is extremely honest about others (how preoccupations about not letting Serbia see its campaign of ethnic cleansing as successful ended up costing lives in 1994 and ’95, around minute 14, and her explanation of why it would be counterproductive to commit American troops to Darfur, in minute 15).

Her calling-out of Europe for not having a security policy (16:30) is music to my ears, especially coming from someone you might assume to be a dove. But then you see her obfuscate on Pakistan (18:45) and try, very unconvincingly, to explain how Obama saying he would “take action” against al-Qaeda in the face of Pakistan’s refusal to do so somehow does not mean military action. The dilemma of being a surrogate, I suppose. And then there is the bizarre moment when Power herself doubts whether Obama would withdraw troops from Iraq 16 months into his term, which is definitely not something his surrogate should be saying (or, rather, it is something she should be saying, but not if she has his campaign prospects in mind).

Anyways, I trust this is not the end of Prof. Power’s political life, something for which I am thankful.


Academics as Sheep


Robert has drawn our attention to the Steven Pinker article of 2005 affirming differences in scientific ability between men and women. To my knowledge, Pinker was the only scientist to defend Lawrence Summers when he came under siege for mildly and speculatively suggesting that sex differences might be among several factors to account for the paucity of women in the top rungs of the sciences.

And even the Pinker article is about 90 percent hemming and hawing and bowing and scraping. The rest of the many scientists doing research in sex differences did not have the courage to defend Summers, no doubt assuaging their consciences by saying it was the “way” he said it that was offensive, or the “context” that was inappropriate, or some such thing. (Did the otherwise big-mouthed Richard Dawkins have anything to say at that time?)

But this is the caliber of the scientific community today. Doesn’t it become clearer and clearer by the year how things happen as they do in totalitarian states? This may seem far-fetched, but the willingness to go along and to shrink from standing up for the right, even when the danger is minimal or non-existent, seems to be a strong force in human nature. This allows certain false ideas to gain and to hold greater power than they could otherwise.

People are sheep; they abandon principle the minute they sense where the power is. (Apologies to the sheep community – this is just a metaphor. The sheep are doing only what their God-given nature prompts them to do, and they are very sweet about it, too.)

Kudos to the Harvard Crimson


It ran a good, brave piece today, “Noble Lies: At Harvard, affirmative action takes its toll,” by Sahil K. Mahtani.

The bottom line is exactly right – even if you think that PC faculty diversity provides some benefit (and any benefit is, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated), you must weigh it against the undeniable and myriad costs of hiring discrimination (which is what you are doing if you consider race and ethnicity in making the decision).

It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified individuals, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their students, colleagues, and themselves (this is the point made by the piece); it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the faculty; it creates pressure to discriminate subsequently, for raises, promotions, and the like; it breeds hypocrisy within the school; it encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it mismatches professors and institutions, guaranteeing failure for many of the former; it papers over the real social problem of why so many blacks and Hispanics are academically uncompetitive; it gets schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership.

Oh, and it’s illegal, by the way.

Re: Sports Tail Wags the Educational Dog


Apparently the realm of college sports has its defenders. An e-mail:

You’re nothing but an elitist twerp. Harvard deemphasized football because they couldn’t compete, not because of some high-minded educational purpose. And yes, graduates of schools with big-time programs do affiliate themselves with their teams. That’s certainly better than the affilations that Harvard students have, e.g Gay Feminists, Anti-Fur Activists, Leftist Anarchists etc. It’s on the fields of play at college that are sown the seeds of victory. But effete present-day Harvard pussies aren’t aware of that as they prepare themselves for their productive careers in hedge fund management (perhaps they’d be better off learning how to use a pair of hedge clippers) and progressive journalism (i.e. giving away national secrets). Lose your rose-colored glasses as I’m sure you learned a lot less in your college days than anyone enrolled at UNC Charlotte.

On that first charge, let me submit a plea of nolo contendere, though elitist twerp-dom is by its nature an identity to which one constantly aspires, yet which is rarely, in fact, achieved. Someday, someday.

As to the imputation that I had somehow defended Harvard, let me apologize: It would also be to my great amusement to see Yalies, Harvardians, whoever, try to “sow the seeds of victory” on any sort of field against, say, the University of Florida. That is a game I would surely turn out for, if only to appease a morbid sense of sadism vis-à-vis the ninnies in crimson. That said, insofar as university sports really are not about training a normal college student to be an athlete but about pretending that a brute is a college student, I think Harvard could field quite a good team were it to offer up some 20 spots solely on the basis of athletic talent. Why not, I suppose….

I do wonder, however, about my correspondent’s kind of Neanderthal reflex in defense of college sports. These are games, after all. And for whatever devotion universities have — many times forsaken — to the acquisition to truth, I nonetheless cannot imagine that its attainment lays in throwing or kicking any sort of ball across a wooden or turf surface. Reasonable people, I suppose, are free to disagree.

Re: PLO at Cornell


In the interest of evenhandedness, a former Israeli ambassador did speak at Cornell in April of 2001, so the school isn’t historically opposed to the idea. Michael Oren spoke in 2006.

To my experience, anti-Israel sentiment is more common on campuses than elsewhere, but there’s also plenty of pro-Israel ideas floating around.

PLO Ambassador Gets Large Audience at Cornell


The Palestinian Liberation Organization representative to the U.S., Afif Safieh, gave a speech at Cornell University this week, the Cornell Sun reports. The Palestinians, he told students, “have become the Jews of the Jews.” Think the Israeli ambassador will be given equal time on the campus to air his compatriots’ feelings about the carnage visited by Hamas on the Jews? Not likely.

Re: Sports Tail Wags the Educational Dog


What is particularly baffling about the drive to recruit star basketball players at Harvard is how remarkably little Harvard students care about their sports teams. I would hazard a guess that a majority of Harvard students have never even gone to a college sporting event (excepting the Harvard-Yale game, the main draw of which is not football but lavish alumni and student tailgates).

That said, I do not find it as objectionable as the UNC-Charlotte example, for the simple reason that the students will pay for UNC-Charlotte’s football while alumni and the basketball endowment will, I gather, foot the bill in Harvard’s case. 

As to the Times’ claim that Harvard’s reputation will be sullied: If it has not already been sullied by grade inflation, a joke of a general-education regime, and a flowering of postmodernism that has enveloped all the traditional departments with the possible exception of Economics, a few “ballers” really will not hurt matters.

Re: Girl Power


I enjoyed that article as well. However, I think Sommers is catering to political correctness in one way – she talks about research into sex differences in ability, but calls it research into differences in “career choices.”

Take these grafs:

So why are there so few women in the high echelons of academic math and in the physical sciences? In a recent survey of faculty atti­tudes on social issues, sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University asked 1,417 professors what accounts for the relative scarcity of female pro­fessors in math, science, and engineering. Just 1 percent of respondents attributed the scarcity to women’s lack of ability, 24 percent to sexist discrimination, and 74 percent to differences in what characteristically interests men and women.

Many experts who study male/female dif­ferences provide strong support for that 74 percent majority. Readers can go to books like David Geary’s Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences (1998); Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002), and Simon The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Brain (2003), for arguments suggest­ing that biology plays a distinctive—but not exclusive—role in career choices.

Baron-Cohen is one of the world’s leading experts on autism, a disorder that affects far more males than females. Autistic persons tend to be socially disconnected and unaware of the emotional states of others. But they often exhibit obsessive fixation on objects and machines. Baron-Cohen suggests that autism may be the far end of the male norm—the “extreme male brain,” all systematizing and no empathizing. He believes that men are, “on average,” wired to be better systematizers and women to be bet­ter empathizers.

The scientific sources side with the 1 percent, not the 74 percent – women have different brains (or “wiring”) than men do, and thus tend to have less ability in math and science (“systematizing” fields). This is inconsistent with the 74 percent of profs who believe women have the same ability in math, but simply choose other fields. (Of course, both factors are probably at work, so why wasn’t that an option in this poll?)

Pinker himself wrote:

Keep reading this post . . .

Wisdom on School Choice


A review of Chester Finn’s new memoir about his efforts at reforming education, Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik, reports:

Mr. Finn applies the same troublemaking honesty to the sacrosanct matter of school choice. He has not given up on charter schools and voucher programs. However, citing his own experience with them in Dayton, Ohio, he now argues that, to be good, schools must not just be free but also internally strong, with a good curriculum and good instruction. Declaring his old beliefs “naïve,” Mr. Finn concludes: “Market forces alone will not speedily lead to stronger academic achievement.”
This is welcome and hard-earned wisdom from one of our most intrepid and experienced school reformers. Just as conservatives were led to overstate the efficacy of “democracy,” so were they led to overstate the efficacy of free markets in school reform. Democracy and free markets are good, but they are only procedural. They are only as good as the substantive cultural understanding that they advance.

Re: Girl Power


John is right. You should read the article. Note well the monumentally silly programs the feds are paying for, such as this one: “Michigan is experimenting with ‘interactive’ theater as a means of raising faculty consciousness about gender bias. At special workshops, physicists and engineers watch skits where overbearing men ride roughshod over hapless but obviously intellectually superior female colleagues.”

The “gender equity” crusade won’t give us better science, but it will waste a lot of money and interfere with the work of scientists, men and women alike.



The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has just issued a report card, Shining the Light, on the performance of the University System of Georgia. Here is the executive summary. Take a look at USG’s performance in the key areas graded by ACTA with a “passing” (P) or “failing” (F) mark:

General Education: P

Intellectual Diversity: F

Board Structure & Transparency: P

Board Accomplishments: F

Cost & Effectiveness: F

One aspect of this analysis struck me as particularly appropriate. In evaluating USG’s general education requirements, ACTA excluded from consideration “narrow, esoteric or single author courses,” i.e., it not only looked at what core courses are required but also at their breadth and richness.

It is to be hoped that ACTA moves on to grade many more of our public – and private – universities.

Even at Harvard, Sports Tail Wags Educational Dog


Harvard has decided to get serious about winning the basketball title in the Ivy League, according this NYT article.

This is even less comprehensible to me than the allure of adding football at UNCC, which I wrote about recently. Suppose that Harvard should manage to win the Ivy League. That guarantees that its team gets to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Why is that worth the effort, especially when you consider that the relatively weak-performing students they’d have to recruit in order to move up to the top of the Ivy League — weaker academically than the current basketball players, to be sure — will require a lot of special treatment.

At most schools there are some sports fans who live vicariously through the ups and downs of the teams, elated when “we” win and despondent when “we” lose. All of that is very fleeting. Is the University of Florida a better university because the school’s basketball team won back-to-back NCAA championships? Does that really matter a year or even a week later?

Overselling Higher Ed in Britain


We learn in this Daily Mail article that the government in Britain is bribing universities to take very weak students.

Why? “Ministers say the target of getting 50 per cent of 18 to 30 year-olds into higher education is needed to equip more workers with high level skills.”

There’s that demented notion again — that government planners know the right percentage of people to lure into higher ed.

At least there is some dissent. “Critics are increasingly questioning the quality of some courses and asking whether university is always the best way of acquiring such skills. . . . They also warn that growing numbers are recruiting students with poor grades, casting doubt on their aptitude for degree-level studies.”

Exactly. The Brits should learn from our unhappy experience of overexpanding higher ed.

Girl Power


Women make up a majority of college students, but men still dominate areas such as science, math, computers, and engineering. Christina Hoff Sommers warns of government solutions to this “problem,” in The American. I like her last graf:

American scientific excellence is a precious national resource. It is the foundation of our economy and of the nation’s health and safety. Norman Augustine, retired CEO of Lockheed Martin, and Burton Richter, Nobel laureate in physics, once pointed out that MIT alone—its faculty, alumni, and staff—started more than 5,000 companies in the past 50 years. Will an academic science that is quota-driven, gender-balanced, cooperative rather than competitive, and less time-consuming produce anything like these results? So far, no one in Congress has even thought to ask.

Gird Yourself for Laughter, Gagging


There is rarely a work so singularly moronic as this defense of Madonna Constantine, the serial plagiarist of Columbia’s Teachers College, on whose case Candace, Robert, and yours truly previously wrote.

Declaring himself “an advocate of black radical feminism,” Anthony Kelley, a columnist for the Columbia Spectator, supports the view that:

[T]his is just another instance of white supremacy and sexism at work wherein a black woman’s credibility is systematically made illegitimate. … [S]o few black women are in academia, and those who are there face tremendous opposition from their institutions, especially if their scholarly work centers around the intersectional nature of black women’s oppression (i.e. as the subordinates of both white supremacy and sexist oppression because they are both black and women simultaneously). These allegations of plagiarism, some claim, are continuations of the historical devaluation of black womanhood and should be recognized as such.

Moving beyond the fact that it takes Mr. Kelley 72 words to identify Prof. Constantine as a black woman, it doesn’t seem to occur to him that a white professor faced with these charges would probably be shown the door; that the evidence is overwhelmingly stacked against Prof. Constantine; and that calling an Ivy League school of education, the flakiest of all schools, institutionally racist not only makes one wonder what an non-racist institution would look like, but also is at odds with the decision to employ Prof Constantine in the first instance and then give her tenure.

The best part, though, comes after Mr. Kelley invites us to “assume” that Prof Constantine is a plagiarist. Hard to do, I know, but let’s just try… He writes:

Instead of punishing (or “sanctioning”) her, we should be making special efforts to extend compassion to her and those who feel wounded as a result of her actions. … Imagine a forum in which Professor Constantine and her accusers engage in the life-sustaining practice of dialogue, actively listening to each other’s concerns and extending heart-felt compassion in understanding each other’s pain. Imagine the reconciliation that could arise from such a space. Imagine the impact such a forum would have on our community. Instead of just giving lip-service to the idea of dialogue, we would be demonstrating its importance and effectiveness, even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. Imagine an end to the lies. Imagine embracing truth. Imagine healing. 

Were this a parody, it would be a very bad parody for the simple reason that the rhetoric is so over-the-top that I could not imagine anyone, even a Columbia undergraduate and exponent of radical black feminism, writing or saying it. As usual, reality always outperforms the most fanciful farce.

Many thanks to the good people of IvyGate for drawing attention to this specimen.

Mac Donald vs. Koss on the Prevalence of Campus Rape


Researcher Mary Koss defends her statistic that 20-25 percent of college girls will suffer “rape” before graduating, which Heather Mac Donald had attacked in an article I’ve previously blogged about. Mac Donald replies in usual must-read fashion here, devastating a study Koss cites to back Koss’s own:

The 2000 Department of Justice study of campus rape found that those women whom the researchers characterized as rape victims “generally did not state that their victimization resulted in physical or emotional injuries.” . . . Moreover, 65 percent of those whom the researchers called “completed rape” victims and three-quarters of “attempted rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report”—a judgment inconceivable from a real rape victim.

The most strikingly absurd comment from Koss is this one:

Keep reading this post . . .


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