Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Battle of the Budget


It’s time for the Battle of the Budget in North Carolina — the budget for the UNC System, that is. To no one’s surprise, system president Tom Ross and his allies want a substantial increase in funds (4.6 percent). At about the same time, a new lobbying group that intends to pry as much money as possible for the system out of the General Assembly has been formed. But Governor McCrory’s budget director, Art Pope, as declared the requested increase to be unrealistic.

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jenna Robinson and Jay Schalin discuss the issues involved and deal unsympathetically with the claim that educational quality will fall unless the universities get all the money they want.

College Students Embrace Digital Currency


Bitcoin (BTC), the digital currency and electronic payment system that allows users to conduct economic activity anonymously while circumventing traditional banking systems (and the governments that regulate them), has in the course of five years morphed from a tech geek fantasy into an increasingly mainstream phenomenon.

Ideologically motivated supporters view the currency as the libertarian and anarcho-capitalist alternative to top-down central banking, inflationism, and bureaucratic encroachment, while investment/finance types have been drawn-in by the currency’s rising velocity (BTC-related transactions reached an average of about 70,000 per day in recent months) and potential market value. Skeptics, however, question whether BTC is actually money. Has it really become a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account? And some doubters are wary of rapid price fluctuations and potential fraudulence that could turn away risk-averse individuals and businesses. Others argue that financial and tax regulators will eventually crack down on the currency, thereby sullying its attractive features.

At any rate, college students have become wildly enthusiastic about BTC. Bitcoin “clubs” have cropped up at a number of campuses, including the University of Michigan, Pennsylvania State University, and Ohio State University. These student groups are motivated to help more businesses adopt the currency and to support philanthropic causes. For example, one Ohio State student founded BitQuick, a BTC exchange site, and has assisted a local barbershop in accepting the digital currency. Other students have created BTC-based startups that specialize in crowdfunding altruistic initiatives (one Penn State freshman is working to fund a clean water project).

Last month, the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, received 14.5 bitcoins (in fiat currency terms roughly $10,000) from a 2007 alumnus. The university claims that it is the first higher education institution in the United States to receive a BTC donation. In another implicit show of support for the digital currency, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a letter to the student and faculty community expressing concern for a group of students embroiled in a legal battle with New Jersey regulators who claim the students’ startup, Tidbit, violates consumer protection laws.

While I’m skeptical of BTC but not digital currency generally (I tend to view BTC as the MySpace of online currency; other, better alternatives will probably appear in the coming years), it is refreshing to see students and even college officials express interest and support for this cutting-edge technology and to aid in the market’s discovery process. And who knows, maybe other universities will begin to emulate the University of Puget Sound and develop innovative ways to boost funding via BTC or spinoff digital currencies.

One thing is certain, though: college students aren’t wasting any time. A group of BTC supporters is working to organize a national collegiate cryptocurrency conference scheduled for April 2015. For those students, Bitcoin is to monetary systems what radio and internet were/are to communication systems. This is an exciting new frontier attracting some of the brightest and youngest entrepreneurial minds. Students want a piece of the action. 


That Feeble Rationale for Racial Preferences


On The Corner this morning, Roger Clegg posted his thoughts on a WSJ article on California universities that are “straining to restore diversity.” Why the strain? Because, said an official, students aren’t getting “the level of diversity they need in order to learn about other culture and communities.” So we are supposed to believe that in a highly “diverse” state where young people grow up surrounded by evidence that people who are “different” are able to succeed, unless the top universities engage in racial preferences so as to marginally raise the percentage of students whose ancestry puts them in an “underrepresented” category, the state won’t have future leaders who will be able to properly relate to many of the citizens.

Roger finds that argument unpersuasive, to put it mildly.  So do I. An individual might go to a perfectly “diverse” college and graduate with a head full of absurd ideas about public policy — Obama for example. Or an individual might go to an all-white, all-black, all-Catholic or other superficially undiverse college and yet graduate not only with “appreciation” for other cultures and communities, but also, and far more importantly, a good sense for public policy ideas that would enable all people to have the greatest chance for success.

California’s current leadership has saturated in diversity and managed to make a gigantic mess of the state.

It’s time for America to stop obsessing about race and “diversity.”


Prager U: The Bigger the Government...


…the smaller the citizen.

Anarchists are apt to favor abolition of the Federal government; the rest of us want to debate when that government should be the first resort and when it should be the last resort.

With that idea in mind, in the newest Prager University course, radio host and best-selling author Dennis Prager presents the deleterious effects of a growing government.  Could a big government actually diminish the goodness of its citizens?




(Best-selling author, columnist, and nationally syndicated radio host Dennis Prager created Prager University to counter the indoctrination, drivel, and apathy that pervades today’s college campuses.  With 5-minute, professionally produced videos from experts in economics, history, political science, and religion, PragerU offers big ideas on big topics, 5 minutes at a time.)

Cornell Offers New Instruction on Sexual Bondage, Sadism & Masochism


Cornell University, a supposedly elite Ivy League institution, is offering a new workshop for students called “Introduction to Kink,” which will feature instruction on sexual bondage, sadism & masochism.

Some Cornell students have even said they hope these events will help combat a slew of recent sexual assaults on campus.

But I don’t think that’s going to work unless they plan to tie up and “bind” only the guys who are doing the sexual assaulting.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s the plan up at Cornell.

Full story here.



What Has Mitch Daniels Been Up To?


Just a year ago, Mitch Daniels, two-term Republican governor of Indiana, took over the presidency of Purdue University. That was newsworthy because university presidents have almost always risen through the academic ranks and are thoroughly steeped in the belief system that predominates in the ivory tower. Daniels, however, was known for his economical approach to government as Director of OMB and later as Indiana’s governor. Would the sky fall on West Lafayette? Some thought so.

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw examines Daniels’ first year. He has applied his parsimoniousness to the budget at Purdue, whittling away some needless spending, and has frozen tuition. He is also looking for educational innovations, something a typical university president might look upon with disdain.

Lots of people are “Fed watchers.” We’re going to be Purdue watchers.

I’ll Second that Congratulations to Bob Paquette


Often, particularly in recent years, the world seems to make no sense. But every once in a while, somebody somewhere does something incredibly right. And that is the case with the Bradley Foundation and American Conservative Union giving this year’s Jeanne Kirkpatrick Award to Bob Paquette of Hamilton College [See George Leef's post below]. Bob has worked tirelessly over the years to create small beachheads of freedom and objective inquiry in some of the Ivory Tower’s most hostile bastions of left-wing ideology, often against great odds and vicious opposition.

I had the good fortune to spend some time with Bob at the Alexander Hamilton Institute last month. He has paid career-wise and salary-wise for his efforts, yet he talks more about the small successes he can see around him, such as students who have been sparked to greater understanding and curiosity through AHI programs and with the various institutions he has had a hand in creating or worked with collaboratively. He expressed grave concerns about the future of the country, feels a deep calling to fight to turn things around, and said he will continue fighting “until they carry me off on my shield.”

Again, congratulation, Bob. And hats off to Bradley and the ACUF for recognizing a fighter from the trenches instead of giving the award to some celebrity pseudo-conservative.



Congratulations, Professor Paquette!


Hamilton College history professor Robert Paquette has been steadfast in the battle to retain the American Founding and non-politicized teaching of our history at his own school and generally. Several years ago, he was instrumental in the creation of the Alexander Hamilton Institute. You wouldn’t think that a scholarly center would be so hard to establish, but it was. Read his account in this Pope Center piece.

And now for the reason for offering congratulations:

Clinton, NY, March 6, 2014 – The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have announced that the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom will be presented to Professor Robert L. Paquette, Professor of History at Hamilton College and a co-founder of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI). The distinguished award – which carries a $10,000 stipend to the honoree–will be made at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Ronald Reagan Banquet on Friday, March 7, 2014 in Washington, D.C.ÿ The prize honors the memory of Dr. Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for her fierce defense of academic freedom.

Poverty and Academia Have Been Very Good to Me!


Gene Nichol is a law professor who now runs the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the Center was founded with the difficult mission of making former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards sound smart). Nichol is sort of the poster child for many of the problems in higher education.

For one, Nichol is a more of a left-wing activist than an objective scholar. For another, he has managed to “fail up” for much of his career, moving to increasingly better jobs despite poor performance at his previous positions. He went from the dean of Colorado’s Law School to dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s more-exclusive law school (losing badly in Democratic primary races for U.S. Senator along the way). Both law schools dropped significantly in U.S. News rankings, as well as other measures such as fundraising, while he was in charge. (Scholarship and teaching, though more difficult to measure, would have also been likely to drop under his guidance).

For those dismal performances, he was rewarded with the prestigious position of president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. It wasn’t long before the alumni of that school ran him out of town on a rail for offending both tradition and common sense. But not to worry: Nichol’s replacement at UNC’s law school immediately offered both him and his law professor wife sinecures safe from the storm clouds of accountability. 

In today’s American Spectator, Paul Chesser describes how Nichol lives a life of luxury while presenting himself as North Carolina’s leading expert on poverty and inequality, thanks to UNC’s largesse.


After Republican-Bashing Video Goes Viral, Professor Bans Taping in Class


Jennifer Kabbany of The College Fix reports today about the backlash a student is facing after he taped a radical leftist lecturer and released the video to the public:

Exactly one week after an 18-year-old University of Wisconsin-Whitewater freshman’s recording of a guest lecturer railing against Republicans went viral – prompting anger and a parade of national news stories – the professor announced the class now has a “no taping policy.”

On Feb. 25, student Kyle Brooks recorded radical SEIU spokesman Eyon Biddle say during a guest lecture in a sociology class that Republicans win elections because of white racism and “white rage,” among many other anti-Republican accusations.

Brooks posted a video of the comments on his Facebook page and it quickly went viral.

On Tuesday – the first day the class met since the infamous recording become fodder for national headlines – the professor announced the no-taping policy, and a 40-minute discussion on whether the class is a “safe” place to talk about ideas ensued, Brooks said.

“She did not mention me by name,” Brooks told The College Fix on Tuesday…

Biddle is a candidate for alderman in Milwaukee, as well as a union leader, and apparently a personal friend of the professor’s. During his guest lecture, Biddle said that “the context of 2010 (election) was, white rage.”

“White people having to pay for health care for blacks and browns and gays,” Biddle continued in a recording first reported on last week by Campus Reform and then by Wisconsin news outlets and nationally at the Daily Caller and Fox News, among others. “Racism, with the first black president. Like, you saw a bunch of American pie hatred just bubble up.”

Click here to read the full story.

Prolonging Adolescence at “Party Schools”


In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, George Leef discusses the party school phenomenon through the lens of sociology professor Karen Weiss’s new book, Party School: Crime, Campus, and Community.

Leef quotes one Party School passage describing the typical college student’s mindset: “For many students today, going to college is simply what young people do. With no particular ambition or plan of study, college is where young people go after high school to postpone adult responsibility and ‘party’ for four years.”

But Leef thinks that the “economics of the college experience” may soon make the prolonged adolescence identified by Weiss less prominent than it is now. 

“Employers have found out that college degrees do not necessarily betoken much knowledge or reliability and are starting to look for better indicators (such as e-portfolios with badges, certifications, and other demonstrations of competence) that do not require graduation from any college. As that movement continues, before long the mere possession of a generic degree from any school, and especially a ‘party school’ will be unavailing,” he writes. 




Another Blatantly Politicized University “Center”


A phenomenon we encounter across the nation is that of blatantly politicized “centers” at public universities. They use tax dollars to promote statist ideas and causes, usually in violation of the law, but they get away with it.

That is evidently the case with the UNC Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. We read about a recent conference it hosted in this piece by Francis DeLuca of NC Civitas.


Why Due Process Matters


Over at Real Clear Politics, Peter Berkowitz takes on Swarthmore College, his alma mater, for its failure to respect due process in its prosecution of a recent sexual assault case. What makes Berkowitz’s piece unique, and so important, is his argument as to why colleges and universities must respect the core principles of free societies, including due process and the presumption of innocence.

He writes:

Another vital feature of liberal education consists of fostering an appreciation of the principles of due process. They are principles free societies have developed over the centuries to adjudicate controversies, establish guilt, and mete out punishment in ways that justly balance the rights of those who claim they have been wronged with the rights of those who have been accused of wrongdoing.

As Columbia’s Roosevelt Montas noted at ACTA’s 2013 ATHENA Roundtable, “all education is education for citizenship.” Much of this civic education happens in the classroom, where colleges ought to be teaching students subjects like U.S. History and Government. Yet, if we want students to absorb an appreciation for the values of a free society, our institutions of higher learning must also embody those values, and they must shape campus culture.

Free speech, due process, and presumption of innocence are bulwarks of freedom and justice. But in higher education, their significance can even be said to transcend the value of individual rights. Protecting them is a vital educational imperative, an indispensable part of modeling what a free and open society looks like.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle teaches, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. … [W]e become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

It now seems Swarthmore doesn’t “do” due process. So what will its students learn?

Honest University Commercial


I nominate the creator of this video to be the next Secretary of Education.  Enjoy.



How Sensitive


Columbia University has called in the emergency diversity squad after a sorority hosted an Olympics-themed costume party featuring students dressed as members of various nations.

You can guess what happened next.

Christopher White reports for The College Fix:

The Feb. 22 mixer has since prompted politically correct pandemonium at the Ivy League institution – with its interim dean of student affairs going so far as to offer counseling for those who were offended.

A Latino campus group called the party “offensive,” saying “stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities.” The sorority in question also begged for forgiveness and promised to launch “social awareness” campus initiatives.

At issue is an Olympics-themed sorority/fraternity mixer at which female students wore costumes to celebrate the Beer Olympics, which is like the real Olympics but with less athleticism and more beer, maracas, potatoes and sombreros.

Some on the “French” team wore revealing, tight French Maid-inspired get ups, while a few on Team Japan wore pigtails and provocative schoolgirl attire that included chopsticks and high socks, according to photos published by Bwog, a campus news website run by Columbia students…

Dean Martinez pledged that the university’s “bias-related response team” would reach out to “potentially impacted communities to offer support and follow-up,” adding such “microaggressions unfortunately are pervasive … we need to continue our collective efforts to substantively address systemic issues that perpetuate such incidents.”

We can only hope that the traumatized students of Columbia can some day recover from these “microaggression” attacks, including any nightmares they might have about French Maids. With help from the “bias-related response team,” even costume-related trauma is treatable, surely.

Read the full story here, including more mind-numbing facts about Columbia’s vigilant “Chicano Caucus.”




The University Probably Didn’t Want This Rock Turned Over


Winston-Salem State University, part of the UNC system, has been a troubled campus owing to allegations from faculty members that the administration was changing grades they had assigned to students. Last year we published an article that exposed this mess, along with the fact that the administration evidently takes it out on anyone who dares to complain. In today’s Pope Center piece, our new writer, Harry Painter, covers a recent hearing at WSSU involving another faculty member who is under attack (suspension, and possible termination) for the horrendous academic misconduct of having referred to her dissertation as a book. It seems apparent that the provost is using that as a pretext for getting rid of a faculty member she doesn’t want around.

A remarkable claim was made during the hearing. The professor stated that most of the way through a semester, many of the students in her class on constitutional law were failing, so the administration put them into another poli sci course for which they were all given A grades.

Another aspect of the case is that the provost also justified her suspension of Professor Davis because of her alleged poor teaching. Was there any prior record of that? Did the administration ever discuss her supposedly poor teaching with her? Apparently not.

It certainly looks as though WSSU has a rogue, thin-skinned administration. Will the General Administration do anything?

Free College for Prison Inmates


On February 16, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to create a state-funded college education program for prison inmates. The governor wants to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees at 10 state prisons, and says doing so will only cost $5,000 per inmate each year (Cuomo’s estimate). 

Speaking to the New York legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus—a caucus with a history of advocating for inmate reintegration initiatives—Cuomo couched his proposal in the rhetoric of fiscal conservatism. He claimed that his “Prison U.” plan will lower recidivism rates and, in turn, reduce taxpayers’ burdens.

According to the governor, 40 percent of New York’s prison inmates return to prison after release. Cuomo said that his proposal will drastically reduce that percentage and will help lower the state’s total annual prison expenditures ($3.6 billion). Since the annual cost-per-inmate is $60,000, the governor argued, the $5,000 required to educate one inmate is a small price to pay for a huge future return.

“Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results. Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime,” the governor said.

One of those existing programs is the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), operated by Bard College, a private liberal arts school in southeast New York. The BPI is funded entirely with private money and provides college courses for hundreds of inmates. It operates in six prisons across the state and boasts that its enrollees have only a 4 percent recidivism rate. 

New York Republicans, and even some Democrats, have vehemently opposed Cuomo’s “Prison U.” plan. State lawmakers have created online petitions and, at the federal level, U.S. Representatives Tom Reed, Chris Collins, and Chris Gibson, all Republicans, have co-sponsored a bill called the “Kids Before Cons Act.” The bill would prohibit state and federal prisons from using Department of Education and Department of Justice money for college programs.

So far, much of the opposition to Cuomo’s plan has been based not on conservative or libertarian principles of limited government and fiscal restraint, but on the fact that law-abiding people and voters will get the short end of the stick. People with massive student loan debt and parents struggling to send their children to college, not convicted felons, should be the focus of any new college-related program, opponents say. 

First principles aside, Cuomo’s plan appears to be based on a few flawed premises. Namely, millions of college-educated Americans without felonious backgrounds are unemployed or underemployed. How will a college degree give felons a leg up in this tough employment environment? Second, the Bard program’s low recidivism rate (cited by proponents of Cuomo’s plan) conceals an important truth: inmates who are focused and motivated enough to complete a degree program are probably less disposed, even without a degree, to return to crime. Finally, it’s important to note that the Cuomo plan does not require inmates to take courses or graduate. Surely some will take courses but not complete their respective programs. This will only serve to increase the annual $60,000 per-inmate cost. 

Army Veteran Arrested for Turning His Back on Hillary Clinton at GWU


An Army veteran who was arrested for turning his back on Hillary Clinton in an act of protest has filed a lawsuit, claiming he was “brutalized” in retaliation for his peaceful demonstration.

Andrew Desiderio reports in today’s feature story at The College Fix:

The federal lawsuit, filed mid-February in Washington D.C., names the U.S. State Department and George Washington University police as defendants. It seeks to have Army vet Raymond McGovern’s arrest expunged from the records, as well as compensatory damages.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represents McGovern, states on its website that the circumstances surrounding the arrest were marked with “stinging irony,” as McGovern was “brutalized and arrested after peacefully standing with his back to Hillary Clinton” as she was giving a speech in which she condemned oppressive regimes…

Now you’ve all be warned: Don’t turn your back on Hillary, or else!

Read the full story here.

Please Take the Pope Center’s Poll Today


The University of North Carolina has been hit with a series of scandals involving athletics. The research of Mary Willingham showed that a large percentage of the players had shockingly low reading ability; the administration has silenced her. In our piece today, Jenna Robinson sets forth the details and then we ask for your opinion on how the university has handled this matter.

You won’t even have to show photo ID to vote.

Faux Courses The Norm


The Bloomberg Business Week piece might as well have been written on Mars. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill does have problems of great magnitude, but they are hardly related to the historical reference cited that buildings constructed on the campus of the nation’s first public university were built by slaves, as if the founders possessed the modern-day white guilt on display today by the bien pensants, the media, government agencies and the education sector. And while the unfolding athletic department scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill  has inevitably involved race, the real story is about the sorry state of UNC’s  academic identity and  its questionable status  as one of the top public universities in the U.S.

The style of the article about UNC’s current woes is indicative of the baleful state of the school’s underlying inadequacies. The current controversy swirls around a professor who created phony classes in African-American and African Studies allegedly attended by money-sports black athletes. Turns out the classes never met, but high grades were recorded for those who signed up and never attended a class, took a test, or wrote a paper. The department chairman who cooked up the faux courses, with the assistance from his staff and encouragement from tutors and administrators from the Department of Athletics, paid himself anyway. The local county district attorney has brought charges against him and, under a new and never used statute in the purview of the North Carolina Department of State, the probe has expanded to examine of the efficacy of courses taught in the entire school.

It is at this juncture the real issue is exposed. African-American and African Studies (AFAM) is dismayingly similar to an array of courses offered in Chapel Hill’s School of Arts and Sciences with similar victimization and group identity politics, including Queer, Transgender, Women’s, and Diaspora Studies. The athletes chose the African theme because most of them are black, not because other courses in this category are more difficult. The truth is, the radicalized curriculum in vogue today has little content and minimal standards of scholarship, just like the AFAM offerings.

Athletes have been taking crip courses at sports-oriented colleges since the 1890s. The problem today is not that these courses exist. The scandal is they are the norm.





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