Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Benefits of Tenure


Daniel Drezner, who recently achieved it, lists ten.

My favorite: “When the moon is full, I get to kill a student.”

D.C. Beset by Frivolous Art


Apparently a laser light show — or, rather, a piece of “illumination art” — was projected onto the National Cathedral:

Last night, Hofstetter ran a series of glass plates through a 6,000-volt projector and said artisty things like “Light is hope, fire is energy. These colors mean hope and energy.”

The images projected on the cathedral “speak of unity and reconciliation . . . and human oneness,” said the Rev. Sam Lloyd, the cathedral’s dean.

In truth, the sight of the neo-Gothic cathedral swaddled in a phantasm of psychedelic lights was a little jarring, the way the Mona Lisa would look with a rainbow ‘fro wig. The whole concept seemed vaguely overwhelming, like those midnight planetarium laser shows of yore, only without the Pink Floyd soundtrack and all the reefer.

Ridiculous. Maybe they can bounce the next light show off some of district’s forthcoming Socialist Realist statuary?


The Political Difficulty of Ending Multiculturalism


How can we argue for a return to traditional liberal-arts curricula and the repudiation of multiculturalism in higher education when our president so openly embraces the idea of group identity? Republicans may as well be Democrats on this score.

President Bush holds Cinco de Mayo dinners at the White House, in addition to his yearly celebrations of Ramadan. It seems that under Bush the Republican Party has gone far into multiculturalism. I guess he wasn’t kidding during his campaign in 2000 when he rejoiced that parts of America were looking and sounding like Latin America, and that in nominating him the Republican party had ended any debate and had chosen to “welcome” this transformation of our country. In fact they may be worse than Democrats, because they feel they have to go farther to flatter minority groups.

Re: Campus Rape


Travis, good point about the legal definition of rape in many states — I brought that up myself back when Mac Donald’s article came out.

I think there’s at least something to the argument about drunkenness, though. If you define “too drunk to consent” as “too drunk to participate,” you’re right — physically, if a man is too drunk to participate, sex cannot occur, while the same is not true of a woman. If the laws were clear about that, I’d support them.

But the laws I’ve seen typically say something very unclear along the lines of “incapable of consenting,” which means not literally incapable of saying yes, but drunk enough that yes doesn’t count. I think this is vague enough that there’s room for overlap with men — men can be drunk enough that, if they were women, they’d be considered “incapable of consenting,” yet still be able to, you know…

UPDATE: Should have made this point before, but in the UNH survey, 8 percent of men said they’d had sex when they were too drunk to consent. This is barely lower than the 11 percent of women who said the same thing.

Re: Rachel’s Law


I’m a bit late to the party on this one, and while I support the law, I think it’s important to put it in perspective. I do not think it would significantly change how foreign libel judgments are handled, or provide academics with much more protection than they have now.

Today, each court system is pretty much on its own. In other words, if something is available in England (it’s irrelevant how many copies it sells, just like in America), you can sue the author there. That’s a pain and everything, but (A) it’s their country and their courts, and they should do with them as they please, and (B) what Rachel’s Law proponents gloss over is that even in the current system, U.S. courts normally do not enforce other countries’ libel judgments – particularly if they are inconsistent with the First Amendment. I am neither a lawyer nor a human encyclopedia, but I can’t find a single exception. In Matusevitch v. Telnikoff, for example, an American court explicitly refused to enforce a British libel judgment, and based its decision on the disconnect between British and American libel law.

Rachel Ehrenfeld herself points out that “the 1965 Uniform Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act allows the enforcement of foreign monitory judgments in the U.S.,” but declines to mention the de facto libel exception. In her case, she, not the person who sued her (and won) in Britain, brought the matter before the American court system. The court declined to get involved, because the person who’d sued her in Britain did not fall under the jurisdiction of American courts. She was never in danger of an American court demanding she pay up.

Now, this system came up spontaneously, and I’m first in line to support writing it into the law. That’s basically what Rachel’s Law does — explicitly states that before enforcing foreign libel judgments, U.S. courts must make sure they’re consistent with our own laws. I just don’t think it’s that dramatic a change from the status quo.


Re: Defining Campus Rape


I don’t dispute the claim, viz. Heather Mac Donald’s, that campus rape numbers are so high because of drunken, apparently consensual liaisons. And it seems unfortunate that university bureaucrats’ notion of rape is at odds with the common understanding of the crime.

Yet, it is also important to note that this common understanding doesn’t sync up neatly with rape’s legal definition either. In Massachusetts and many other states, a person becomes incapable of giving or refusing consent at some point on a drunken binge. Under Mass. case law, consent is presumed refused in these instances, and a rape has occurred. In this way, I imagine the New Hampshire survey’s usefulness has to do with its adherence to rape’s legal definition, and not its general definition.

With reference to this ‘too-incapacitated-to-consent’ genre of rape, some complain that the man, also drunk, is systematically identified as the aggressor. This strikes me as an argument rendered fallacious by a consideration of the mechanics of sexual intercourse, which most states define as a ‘penetrative’ act. The ball is quite clearly in the man’s court, and being drunk, even as it diminishes the legal importance of a clear denial of consent by a woman, does not absolve a person of criminal misbehavior. Conservatives hedging towards the demands of chivalry should not find that objectionable in the least.

Toward a Federal ‘Rachel’s Law’


Of vital interest to academics is the legislation just introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman that would protect U.S. writers from libel suits in the courts of countries that do not ensure the same freedoms of speech that the United States provides.

New York state recently passed such legislation to protect writers based there. What drove this law was the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, who was sued in Great Britain for alleging, in her book Funding Evil, that a Saudi Arabian prince had provided support to al-Qaeda. For the press release, click here.

Fake Guns Cool at UC


To “celebrate” the 60th anniversary of the “Nakba” (Arabic for “Catastrophe,” the Palestinian name for the founding of Israel), the U.C. Berkeley organization Students for Justice in Palestine staged a “security checkpoint” on campus.

The point of this bit of theater was to convey to students “Israeli oppression.” Realistic toy guns were a main prop. The campus police came, took a look-see, and left.

I wonder what the university would have done if the tableau had been reversed — if, to illustrate Palestinian aggression, the main actors had portrayed Palestinians attacking Israelis with suicide bombs?

Photos here.

UNH Releases Campus Rape Report


The University of New Hampshire has released a document entitled “Unwanted Sexual Experiences at UNH,” reports Inside Higher Ed. From September 2005 to February 2006 (just six months), “25 percent of women and 10 percent of men reported at least one unwanted contact” — and “7 percent of women and 4 percent of men report unwanted sexual intercourse.”

Here’s how the report defines “unwanted”:

those situations in which you were certain at the time that you did not want to engage in the sexual experience and you either communicated this in some way (e.g., you said no; you protested; you said you didn’t want to; you physically struggled; you cried; etc.), or you were incapacitated (e.g., drunk, passed out, etc.).

In the context of Heather Mac Donald’s “The Campus Rape Myth,” I’ve previously discussed the incidence of sexual assault on campus. Unfortunately, in verifying or rejecting Mac Donald’s theory (that rape is rare on campus; more commonly, students get drunk and have consensual sex, which bureaucrats later deem male-on-female rape), this report is of limited usefulness.

Keep reading this post . . .

Reader Mail re: Predatory Education


From a graduate student:

I hear this all the time at school, and much of the liberal argument comes from a Marxist materialist view — that is the fetishism of commodity makes it impossible for people to “choose” to avoid bad loans or credit card companies when they show up on their campus.

I find it interesting that the same people who think a 15-22 year old is smart enough to “choose” to have an abortion, “choose” to get drunk, and “choose” to be promiscuous, claim that student isn’t smart enough to “choose” to avoid signing up for a loan or credit card because there is a free T-shirt attached.

Julie Stewart

West Virginia U. Votes No Confidence in President


From the Chronicle:

Faculty members at West Virginia University have voted no confidence in Michael S. Garrison, the university’s president, and are calling for him to step down “for the good of the institution,” Paul Fain reports on The Chronicle’s Web site.

Demands for the president’s resignation come in the wake of a recent scandal in which the university retroactively awarded an M.B.A. to the state governor’s daughter, Heather M. Bresch, even though she had not completed enough credits to earn the degree, Fain writes.

The university’s provost and the dean of the business school resigned from their posts as a result of the scandal, “although both remain on the faculty, and Ms. Bresch’s degree was revoked,” he notes.

Universities Study Internet Facilitation of Terrorism


Hats off to Tel Aviv University and the Technical University of Berlin, which recently presented a vital counterterrorist study to NATO leaders. It shows that organizations enabling worldwide terrorism, namely, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Jihad, have websites hosted by America’s top Internet-service providers. These sites provide tutorials on bomb building and draw vulnerable U.S. and UK Muslims into a life of terrorism. Why should we share digital space and service with terrorists?

Update on ResLife Program


University of Delaware faculty and students are taking a vigorous and substantive stand against the reinstatement of a grossly indoctrinating dorm life program. The proposed program was not accepted this week by the campus’ Faculty Senate, which will meet again next week to debate the matter.Encouraging.

Tom Wolfe on Big Thinkers


Over at Uncommon Knowledge, Tom Wolfe walks through the history of academia’s favorite big thinkers — Darwin, Freud, Marx, E.O. Wilson.

Also, this prompted me to read “Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died” for the first time. It opened my eyes to the fact that Larry Summers got off easy for a Harvard man who dares to suggest that men and women aren’t exactly the same:

In his personal life [E.O.] Wilson is a conventional liberal, PC, as the saying goes–he is , after all, a member of the Harvard faculty–concerned about environmental issues and all the usual things. But he has said that “forcing similar role identities” on both men and women “flies in the face of thousands of years in which mammals demonstrated a strong tendency for sexual division of labor. Since this division of labor is persistent from hunter-gatherer through agricultural and industrial societies, it suggests a genetic origin. We do not know when this trait evolved in human evolution or how resistant it is to the continuing and justified pressures for human rights.”

“Resistant” was Darwin II, the neuroscientist, speaking. “Justified” was the PC Harvard liberal. He was not PC or liberal enough. Feminist protesters invaded a conference where Wilson was appearing, dumped a pitcher of ice water, cubes and all, over his head, and began chanting, “You’re all wet! You’re all wet!”

Feminists do tend to come up with such thought-provoking chants.

Re: News Out of California


Some more details on the San Diego State University drug arrests — it took a female’s death by overdose to set in motion the undercover investigation, named Operation Sudden Fall, which netted 96 people, including 75 students.

And how some students can “compartmetalize.” One alleged dealer was just about to receive an M.A. in homeland security and had worked with the campus police as a security officer. Another student, arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine and guns, was a criminal justice major.

Shine Sun on Petrodollars in Our Universities


We’ve long needed a study of the outpouring of donations to U.S. campuses from Arabian Gulf states. Now we have it from Jay Greene, who finds that these states have donated more than 16 percent of all reported foreign gifts and contracts from foreign sources to American universities. Greene states:

The economies of these countries contribute less than 2% of global GDP, so they give at roughly 8 times their share of wealth. By comparison our top 10 major trading partners (excluding Saudi Arabia) have contributed 47% of the foreign gifts and contracts to US universities and constitute 44% of global GDP.

How keen the Saudis’ and emirs’ devotion to our universities!

Ralph Peters describes Saudi Arabia as “funding evil” and “the cradle of terror.” Its leaders and others in the Persian Gulf, he writes, are “inbred desert barbarians with a zero-sum mentality about heaven and earth,” and they favor “strict religious and cultural apartheid.”

Peters is right in his prescription about how to approach the Gulf states’ potentially huge ability to skew academic scholarship. Universities and think tanks should:

Keep reading this post . . .

Is It Too Easy to Get College Loans?


There is a lot of hand-wringing over the alleged college-loan crisis these days, but could it be that government officials have made it too easy to borrow, thus encouraging careless and irresponsible spending by students? That is exactly what my Pope Center colleague Jenna Robinson says in this week’s Clarion Call.

She writes from personal experience, not just speculation.

What a Commencement Address!


What if a college, instead of inviting some hack politician or preening moralist to give the commencement address, asked P.J. O’Rourke? Then you’d get a talk like this.

Rather than dozing off, I think that the students would love it. Much of the faculty, though, would walk out in protest.

‘Evangelicalism Rebounds in Academe’


The subheading of this feature in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education reads, “Even at elite colleges, doors are opening for religiously committed students and faculty members.” Is the suggestion that normally the religiously committed would not be worthy of an elite college, or that normally the doors would be closed to them, however worthy they might be? Just curious.

Don’t Dismiss Expelled


Aside from ugly and excessive close-ups and a thunderously pounding soundtrack (which may be more the fault of the theater’s equipment than the film itself), Ben Stein’s Expelled is entertaining and informative. Among the bracing clarifications the film provides is that Darwinian evolution is not even necessary for the study of modern biology and medicine; that Darwin and religion are at odds, as Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson has written; that the Nazis did indeed take Darwinian science as inspiration; and that science is even more fanciful about the origins of life than religion could ever be (one anti-Darwinian hypothesizes that organic life may have begun on the backs of crystals).


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