Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

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.

Re: Academic Freedom for Non-Academics


I think Contreras is making a problem where there is none – there is no “academic’s cloak” denied to non-institutionally-affiliated scholars. I’m no lawyer, so I’m plenty open to persuasion, but at the very least, he falls far short of proving his case.

Academic freedom has two meanings in America. An institution grants the first kind: Most employers can fire employees basically at will, but colleges, even private ones, promise not to fire academics whose work becomes controversial. Obviously, there’d be no point in colleges promising not to fire people who don’t work for them, and think tanks, etc., can decide whether to provide similar guarantees.

But the second one, the one Contreras seems to be writing about, comes from the government: The government won’t prosecute you for academic inquiry. He makes a feeble attempt to prove there’s a legal difference between professional academics and private individuals engaged in scholarhship. My basic point is that the First Amendment applies to everyone, and the courts, by and large, have fairly and consistently interpreted it that way.

The only Supreme Court case he explicitly cites is Keyishian v. Board of Regents, from which he pulls this quote:

Keep reading this post . . .

Academic Freedom for Non-Academics?


(UPDATE ADDED)  Something to cogitate on, from Alan Contreras.

Why, he asks, is the idea of academic freedom as a protected right limited to university professors? Why doesn’t it apply to those engaged in research in think tanks, foundations, publishing houses, and businesses?

Let me cite a few of Contreras’s novel insights, all of which relate to the notion that campuses’ uniquely protected status as the nation’s main conductors of information and principles to young adults has long been failing:

Keep reading this post . . .

In Memoriam, WFB


It’s impossible to speak about the legacy of William F. Buckley, Jr. without making special reference to his role in higher education.

His first book, God and Man at Yale, permanently raised the stakes for culture wars on campuses. He was intimately involved in the founding of the Young America’s Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, two organizations whose impact on campus conservatives have been enormous. It was always clear, at least to me, that Buckley had a special role in his work for college conservatives.

For editors of college conservative newspapers, it seems awfully unlikely that our work would be possible without the foundation laid by William F. Buckley. My colleagues, past and present, sent e-mails throughout the day noting his passage. In that sense, I feel as though I owe some of my best college experiences, as editor-in-chief of the Michigan Review, to Buckley.

Would there be a Michigan Review if it weren’t for Buckley and National Review? Doubtful.

Lightning at FIRE



The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is now more, well, afire, than ever. It has launched Campus Freedom Network (CFN), which enables students and professors to interact at split-second speed.



One more big score for freedom.

Buckley and the Bookman


From Gerald J. Russello, editor of The University Bookman:

We note with great sorrow the passing of the great William F. Buckley, Jr.  All conservatives – indeed all Americans – have many reasons to be grateful for this happy warrior and graceful writer, who stood so forcefully for the permanent things of human existence.  Those of us who follow in his footsteps will forever be indebted to him.

The relationship between the University Bookman and WFB goes back many years, almost to the beginning of American conservatism when Buckley asked Russell Kirk to contribute a column for his budding publication to be called National Review.  And for many years, National Review graciously included Kirk’s quarterly Bookman with NR.  We cherish our long relationship with NR, and the man who made it possible.

On behalf of the staff and advisory board of the Bookman, our condolences go out to the Buckley family.  May he rest in peace.

Remembering WFB


On the day William F. Buckley, Jr. has died, let’s recall one of his great quips, circa 1956, in which he announced that he’d “sooner be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand members of the faculty of Harvard University.”

On GMU and ‘Interesting Economics’


Doublethink has an interesting article about George Mason University’s libertarian-leaning economics department. The school specializes in “interesting economics” – counterintuitive theories about pretty much everything.

We should celebrate anything that makes the field more attractive, of course, provided it doesn’t come at the expense of academic rigor. “Interesting economics” also can apply economic logic to everyday problems, making us all better off.

One misgiving I have, though, is that it challenges economists to come up with the most offensive or outlandish theories possible, and then stick to them even if they’re proven wrong. See, for example, Steven Levitt’s “abortion cut crime” theory, or read my review of Steven Landsburg’s More Sex is Safer Sex (in which he actually posits that the government should run a dating service, and charge used condoms as admission).

Living Wage Activism on Campus


([Another] update added after the jump.)

The Independent Women’s Forum has a new report, written by a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, about the “living wage movement” on campuses, in which students agitate for higher wages for university employees.

The report argues that such actions actually hurt low-wage employees, much the same way minimum-wage laws do. When you increase the cost of something, even labor, people buy less of it. Minimum-wage laws help some workers make more money, but others then go unemployed because they’re too expensive to hire.

Unfortunately, the report is light on actual data from campuses that have taken these measures. Colleges, like all non-profits and government projects, are insulated a bit from market concerns, so it’s at least conceivable that, by and large, they’d just eat the extra cost of paying their lowest-level employees more. I can’t seem to find the average proportion of a university’s budget spent on these wages, but compared to professors’ salaries, office staff, student aid, supplies, etc., I can’t imagine it’s very high. (If anyone has numbers, shoot me an email at rverbruggen nationalreview com.)

Keep reading this post . . .

New Pope Center Paper on Legal Education


Yesterday, the Pope Center released a new paper on legal education in North Carolina. Authors Andrew Morriss and William Henderson advocate a liberalization of the legal-services market, including legal education. North Carolina, like most states, insists that only graduates of American Bar Association-accredited law schools can take the bar exam, but Morriss and Henderson see no justification for that restriction.

At the luncheon for the presentation by Morriss and Henderson, I was sitting next to former Duke Law School Dean Paul Carrington, who said that decades ago he had been part of a Ford Foundation study group that had advocated reducing law school from three years to two. (I think that you could have a useful law school program that lasted just one year, but if students want to stick around longer, fine.) Why didn’t that suggestion go anywhere? Carrington explained that since medical school takes four years, the big shots in the legal profession felt that it would lower the prestige of the legal profession to go to only two years of study.

Well, there’s a really good reason to use up a lot of a student’s time and money.



Below the jump, readers weigh in on my recent posts about campus nuclear reactors and res-life programs.

Keep reading this post . . .

Blacks & Title IX


It’s not just white guys hurt by feminists:

A study released today by the College Sports Council shows that, due to their student gender ratio approaching 2-1 female to male, nearly all of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are out of compliance with Title IX’s proportionality standard.  According to the study:

  • 72 of the nation’s 74 HBCUs that are co-educational and have athletic programs were out of compliance with the strict proportionality standard.
  • 29 of the schools out of compliance would have received an “F” from the Women’s Sports Foundation in their latest report card on gender equity in college athletics.
  • 43 schools, though they didn’t get an “F”, are still vulnerable to lengthy and expensive litigation.
  • Only 2 schools (Allen University, Morris College) were in compliance.

Phi Beta Cons in the New York Sun


This article about Weather Underground founder William Ayers’s ties to SUNY has both a quote from a PBC post and kind words for the blogger:

An SUNY trustee during the Pataki era who was not reappointed by Mr. Spitzer, Candace de Russy, had it right when she said, “That campuses continue to affiliate themselves so uncritically with such persons is beyond perverse.” If even the Clinton campaign is reportedly raising eyebrows about Ayers, what’s the point of bringing him to talk to SUNY students? And where is the Candace de Russy of the Spitzer administration?


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