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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

‘Abortion-Goo Girl’s’ Adviser



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What manner of mentor approved Aliza Shvarts’s sickening, videotaped, senior “art” project consisting of bathtub bleeding (from actual or simulated abortions, whichever the case may be) and a Vaseline-plus-blood display?

Here are insights about Shvarts’s adviser, Pia Lindman, who, apparently unwilling to defend her own sick judgment, has refrained from public comment and now removed Schwarts’s video from her (Lindman’s) performance “art” website.

Lindman’s own “art” has focused on self-mutilation and made use of S&M paraphernalia, and Schwarts seems to have well imbibed her teacher’s “wisdom.”

Faculty hiring and student “guidance” don’t come any sicker than this.

Muslim Apartheid Grows on UK Campuses



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A forthcoming report by Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, will show that multi-million-pound donations from Saudi Arabia and Muslim groups are funding Islamic study programs in British universities.

Glees, who earlier stated that up to 48 universities had been infiltrated by Islamic radicals, says in the report that these centers are propagating anti-Westernism and one-sided views of Islam and the Middle East. Morever, the government does not believe there are enough such “strategic” studies and will likely soon call for more.

Glees warns:

Government policies “push the wrong sort of education by the wrong sort of people, funded by the wrong sorts of donor … The Government .. will create the very situation [it] wants to avoid: the development of self-imposed Muslim apartheid in the UK … Britain’s universities will … generate two national cultures: one non-Muslim and largely secular, the other Muslim … We will have two identities, two sets of allegiance and two legal and political systems.

This, and the government’s appointment of Ataullah Siddiqui as its chief adviser on Islamic studies — Glees alleges that Siddiqui has ideological links to extremist Islamic groups — “hugely increase the risk of terrorism.”

The solution? Forbid universities from accepting these donations. Require them all to be publicly disclosed, and launch a public investigation into foreign funding.

The U.S., whose universities are increasingly accepting such funding, should take heed.

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Hair Today



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The Fordham Institute has a new blog on education, Flypaper. The main focus is on K-12 rather than higher ed, but PBCers nevertheless may have an interest. Besides, you will not find a more sophisticated debate over education secretary Margaret Spellings’ hairstyle anywhere else on the web (watch the video).

A Straw-Fetus Argument



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Some drivel from “academic freedom” advocates in the Chronicle:

A Yale University student’s art project that portrays her as inducing her own abortions has drawn a firestorm of criticism from all along the ideological spectrum, but it is protected by intellectual and artistic freedom, said officials of groups that defend academic freedom.

Yale should not only refuse to bow to outside pressure to cancel an exhibition of the artwork, the officials said. But the university should also use the exhibit as a tool to explain the value of free expression, even in cases when what is said—or displayed—is offensive.

The episode at Yale has prompted questions about what constitutes legitimate academic work and how far universities should go in giving voice or providing a platform to students who express outrageous and offensive opinions

These writer’s-voice statements — and the quotes from others to back them up — show a willful ignorance of the issues here. No one cares about the expression; it’s pretty much agreed that we need to tolerate repulsive ideas. Were the artist to paint a picture of an induced miscarriage, or write a fictional story about it, or even advocate the practice, “academic freedom” advocates would have a point.

Unfortunately, what’s at issue here is the behavior of trying to impregnate one’s self repeatedly for the sole purpose of inducing miscarriage — and the university giving credit for it.

Go, ACTA!



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From Anne Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni:

I would like to invite you to visit ACTA’s newly redesigned website at
<http://www.goacta.org>. There, you will find one-stop shopping for our programs
for trustees, alumni, and policymakers — as well as all of our many
publications. You’ll also find a calendar of upcoming events, our most notable
press coverage, our press releases, and more.
And if you haven’t seen it already, our redesigned blog is worth a visit, too.
Dubbed “ACTA’s Must-Reads,” <http://www.goactablog.org/> it highlights — as
they appear — important pieces that reform-minded trustees, alumni, and
policymakers need to see.

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The Immoral Imagination



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Wise words from Roger Kimball on the Yale “art” nonsense:

The invocation of “art” doesn’t change that one whit. Indeed, as a society, we suffer today from a peculiar form of moral anesthesia: an anesthesia based on the delusion that by calling something “art” we thereby purchase for it a blanket exemption from moral criticism—as if being art automatically rendered all moral considerations beside the point.

Yale ‘Art’ Project Didn’t Really Happen?



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Was the project really to lie to a student newspaper as “performance art”? The school says so.

The “artist” stands behind her earlier characterizations, however:

But in an interview later Thursday afternoon, Shvarts defended her work and called the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.” She reiterated that she engaged in the nine-month process she publicized on Wednesday in a press release that was first reported in the News: repeatedly using a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself, then taking abortifacient herbs at the end of her menstrual cycle to induce bleeding. Thursday evening, in a tour of her art studio, she shared with the News video footage she claimed depicted her attempts at self-induced miscarriages.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether she was ever pregnant. “The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

I wish I had something profound to say, but I’m afraid I’m not qualified to comment on modern art.

That Other Department



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SecDef Gates recently talked about the military and academia:

The final topic I want to discuss briefly is a related one: the state of relations between the Department of Defense and academia. While there is a very strong relationship built upon past and present research – especially in the hard sciences – I worry that in the public sphere there is often the view that we are at loggerheads.

His remarks are best described as “diplomatic” — i.e., he doesn’t give hippie professors what they truly deserve, which is a good tongue-lashing. He does make several sensible proposals, including this call for colleges and universities to promote ROTC and military recruiters:

The small number of universities that do not permit ROTC programs tend to be higher-profile, and thus receive a disproportionate amount of attention whenever the issue of the military on campus comes up. We must move past whatever antagonism to ROTC still exists and demonstrate respect at the highest levels for those who choose to serve – whether that is by attending ROTC commissioning ceremonies, actively promoting the military as a career option, or giving full support to military recruiters on campus regardless of whether that access is tied to federal funding.

Best Blog



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The best right-of-center college blog in America is…

Dartblog!

So says the America’s Future Foundation, which has just awarded $10,000 to Dartmouth senior Joe Malchow for his work online.

Second place went to the Oregon Commentator. Third place to Surveillance State.

Congrats to all.

Whitney Biennial, Here She Comes



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Here’s the Wash Post and CHE on Yale’s leading student artist. Her work sounds deeply disturbed. Yale, of course, is defending her “right” to produce “performance art.”

‘Conversation and Debate’ at Yale



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I don’t even know what to say, except maybe that you shouldn’t read this on a full stomach:

Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.

College Grads Don’t Cause Prosperity



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The higher-ed lobby tries to get policy makers to believe that increasing the number of college grads will bring about greater prosperity, but that’s the old logical error of mistaking correlation for causation. James Hohman and Jack McHugh hammer that point home in this  piece centering on the faltering state of Michigan.

The Dems Debate Affirmative Action



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Ever the optimist, I’m heartened that neither candidate was jumping up and down to defend racial preferences. 

Obama asserted, “I still believe in affirmative action,” but it sounds pretty watered down: Race might get you a preference, but only if it’s part of an overall picture of disadvantage, so that poor whites also get it and rich blacks do not. Clinton’s follow-up endorsed only need-based affirmative action, saying nothing at all in favor of the race-based variety.

And I’m glad that the question was asked, as it will be in the four states voting this November on preference bans: Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nebraska.  Here’s hoping that McCain expresses unequivocal support for those initiatives, no matter what the Democratic nominee says or doesn’t say.

Unprepared for college



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This Boston Globe story could have appeared almost anywhere in the U.S. — high percentages of students entering college are ill-prepared and need to take remedial courses.

That’s pretty old news. I suggest a follow-up piece looking into the results of those remedial courses. My own experience with students back in the ’80s was that even after taking remedial English, most of them were still ill-prepared for college work. I just don’t think it’s possible to make up for years of educational neglect, in math and especially reading and the use of the language, in just one semester. These remedial classes are regarded as miracle pills, but they aren’t.

Do any colleges require students who have taken a remedial course to re-test before beginning the regular curriculum?

Environmental Bureaucrats



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They’re all the rage on campus. Inside Higher Ed has the scoop.

Another Poor Choice for Summer Reading at UNC



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The University of North Carolina has made a reputation for itself for its proclivity to select highly tendentious, politically charged books for its summer reading assignment for incoming students. (Actually, it’s not much of an assignment, since there are no adverse consequences if a student completely ignores the book and discussion session.) In this week’s this week’s Clarion Call, my colleague Jay Schalin writes about the choice they’ve made this year.

It’s just the sort of book you’d expect, insisting on government coercion to remedy a “problem” that is merely an irritation, namely social pressures to go along with the crowd when in public. The author, a gay college professor, calls it “covering” and wants to give legal protection to all expressions of one’s individuality. Why should soon-to-be UNC freshmen spend their time reading this call for more regulation, litigation, and grievance-mongering?

Star Parker to Speak at St. Thomas



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The Catholic university’s decision not to invite her has been reversed, a reader points out.

The Oddities of Restricted Endowments



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The New York Times has an interesting article on endowments over the weekend. An amusing anecdote:

When Stanley J. Seeger gave Princeton $2 million for Hellenic studies nearly three decades ago, the gift’s income paid for two courses in modern Greek and trips to Greece for five.

But the Seeger money, which must be spent only on matters Greek, is now worth $33 million, multiplying through aggressive investing like the rest of Princeton’s endowment. So the university offers Greek, Greek and more Greek — 13 courses this semester, including “The Image of Greece in European Cinema” and “Problems in Greek History: Greek Democracy,” as well as trips to Greece and nearby areas for more than 90 students and faculty members last year. The history department recently hired its second Byzantine specialist. And the fund paid half the cost of a collection of 800 rare coins from medieval Greece.

Also, apparently there is significant variance in the degree of restrictions universities face:

Aides to the Senate Finance Committee, which sent out a query in January about endowment practices to the 136 wealthiest colleges and universities, say they have received 131 responses and have begun to scrutinize them. The responses, some of which universities have made public, show that at some, including Harvard and the University of Texas, 80 percent or more of the endowment is constrained by donors’ wishes. But the responses do not begin to detail the variety of these restrictions.

Another source says that, on average, about 50 percent of funds are restricted at private schools, 75 percent at wealthy public schools — meaning that it would be very difficult for the government to decide what the “right” amount is for colleges in general to spend on reducing tuition.

Animals: Tasty and Informative



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I hate to harp on conservative bias, but the Chronicle of Higher Education homepage surprises me today. Of the campaign to stop academic researchers from using animals, it says:

Many scientists are keeping quiet about their work rather than abandoning it. Some science advocates, concerned about the effects of that silence, are trying to build pro-research activism, based on a model from Britain.

“Science advocates” who are “pro-research,” presumably as opposed to anti-science activists?

This isn’t about science or research generally, but about the use of animals in research. One can support both scientific research and limits on it — I happen to agree the animal-rights crowd is crazy, but that doesn’t make it OK to misrepresent their aims.

The New Yorker on Nadia Abu El Haj



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Jane Kramer’s New Yorker article (not online) on the controversy over Nadia Abu El Haj’s book, Facts on the Ground, is biased and totally non-informative about the nature of the book itself. As PBC has noted, the book sparked a dispute about its author’s bid for tenure at Columbia, which has now been granted. Two good analyses of the book appear here.

They detail how Abu El Haj does not have the requisite linguistic ability to do work on Mideastern archaeology, which involves knowing a number of ancient languages. She mistakenly says that the Hebrew word “bayit” is a “secularizing” term and does not mean “temple,” when it does, or can in certain contexts. Nor does she have sufficient background in archaeological sources and texts.

She is an anthropologist working in the “construction of knowledge” school of thought. She uses many anonymous sources, and this is serious when she claims, for example, that evidence counter to the Israeli “narrative” that she posits has been hidden or destroyed. And at a couple of points she seems to justify Palestinian looting and destruction of sites as a form of political resistance.

Evidently, her dissertation was more closely based on facts and scholarship and was properly reviewed at Duke, but when she turned it into a book, she went way beyond what her evidence legitimately entitled her to say.

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