Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Warding Off


The distinguished academic Ward Churchill has responded to the vile charges raised against him:

Rather than assessing my work in terms of the methods and procedures of my discipline, the committee – which included no one with expertise in American Indian Studies – chose to determine for itself the “historical truth” about disputed matters. Unable to condemn my substantive conclusions, it engaged in a detailed post hoc critique of my citations. …

I have published some two dozen books, 70 book chapters and scores of articles containing a combined total of approximately 12,000 footnotes. I doubt that any even marginally prolific scholar’s publications could withstand the type of scrutiny to which mine has been subjected.

His entire response may be read here.

Re: Churchillian


Thanks to David and John for their very kind posts on Anne’s op-ed. Some of the comments over there on Inside Higher Ed are, well, real head-scratchers. (One guy demands to know how we came up with our sample. It’s explained very clearly in the report.) Erin O’Connor should have a response up on ACTA’s blog this weekend, and I’m sure it’ll be worth a look.

While so many people have apparently been busy not reading ACTA’s report and then deciding to publicly comment on it anyway, I’ve been parsing the University of Colorado’s report on Churchill’s academic misconduct. Let me tell you, it is a real doozy. Check out some of the words the authors use to describe some of the assertions made in Churchill’s work:

    • “literally incorrect” (p.16)
    • “both literally false and unsupportable” (p.19)
    • “gross historical inaccuracies” (p.22)
    • having “has virtually all of the details of that history wrong” (p.22)
    • “[g]etting the general point correct but virtually all of the historical details wrong” (p.22)
    • “certainly not the careful professional work one would expect of an ethnic studies scholar writing on important historical events in Indian studies” (p.22)
    • designed to “create the appearance of independent support for his claims, while simultaneously discouraging or, at least, making far more difficult, any effort by other researchers to check his claims by failing to pinpoint the precise location of his claimed support in an otherwise lengthy work” p.23
    • part of a “pattern of other misconduct” (p.23)
    • a “deliberate research stratagem to create the appearance of independent verifiable support for claims that could not be supported” p.23
    • a “consistent research stratagem to cloak extreme, unsupportable, propaganda-like claims of fact that support Professor Churchill’s legal and political claims with the aura of authentic scholarly research” (p.23)
    • “his seeming quotation…is not a quotation at all” (p.29)
    • he “knowingly evaded that truth” (p.31)
    • “patently incorrect statements” (p.31)
    • “seriously and deliberately misrepresented” (p.31)
    • “bewildering” (p.36)
    • he “does not connect the dots” (p.36)
    • he “fabricated his account” (p.38)
    • “no evidence—not even circumstantial evidence—supports his claim” (p.38)
    • using something that is “not even a scholarly source” (p.64)
    • “no evidence to support Professor Churchill’s claim” (p.65)
    • “another example of Professor Churchill’s practice of referring to essays that he claims to have written himself as if they were independent authorities” (p.66)
    • he “has misrepresented several of the published works that he cites” (p. 68)
    • “fabricated” (p.69)
    • “statements…become more extreme over time, moving further from the sources he cites, without supplying any additional references” (p.73)
    • “misconduct was not accidental, but deliberate” (p.87)
    • “recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors” (p.95)
    • “pattern of failure to understand the difference between scholarship and polemic” (p.95)
    • “unacceptable scholarly techniques” (p.97)
    • “production of shoddy and irresponsible work” (p.97)

The Committee also writes, “Were Professor Churchill a scientist, rather than a researcher engaged in social science research in ethnic studies, the equivalent would be (1) the misstatement of some underlying data…and (2) the total fabrication of other data to support his hypothesis” (p.24). Yet only one member dared to recommend his firing for such grave offenses.

So let’s get the academic establishment’s logic straight here: if you make stuff up (including rash accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. Army), write articles in others’ names and then quote them as support for your claims, deliberately avoid the facts of the situation, and get caught, which is what Churchill did, you’re a victim and you deserve to keep your job. Even though the whole point of your occupation is the search for, um, truth.

But if you point out obvious problems in the academy and propose reasonable solutions entirely consistent with academic freedom, which is what ACTA’s report does, you get slammed as an enemy of all that is right and good.

Anybody else see a problem here?


Grim Irony


Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, writes that he is weary of reading conservatives who write about how bad things are. What has especially inspired his reflection was a submission on the excesses of a Women’s Studies Department at a major American university. Bottum believes that the cause of his weariness is “that I’ve increasingly stopped caring what happens on mainstream American campuses.”
  He declares further that ”the culture wars are over, ended by terminal boringness,” and that ”for the most part, the complaint about how bad things are has no purchase left—and ought, I think, to have no purchase left. No one is left to persuade, one way or the other, and the way things are now is pretty much what we’re going to be stuck with for a long time to come.”

In sum, he says,  ”The great conservative complaint of the last fifty years has, I think, finally run its course. Time to move on.”
 I can sympathize with Mr. Bottum, and he makes a good point that conservatives need to be more active in offering positive solutions, but his reflection will strike many who have been battling the academic horrors for decades as grimly ironic. For a long time we heard that the radical, destructive academic theories of recent decades were fads that would soon pass, and would have little purchase outside the academy, so there was no need to worry about them. Now that they’ve more than proven their staying power, and have accomplished the remaking of the academy and the destruction of large parts of our society as well, people are finding themselves bored by them, even as they resign themselves to their continued ascendancy!
  Nevertheless, these awful developments do have to be fought. It is a long twilight struggle and you can no more give up on it than you could have given up in the fight that pitted the free world vs. communism, or than you could ever give up in the fight of truth against lies.  

Will the Immigration Bill Protect Us from Terrorists?


Before the immigration bill was adopted in the Senate, Kris Kobach, a professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, warned that it would “handcuff” local and state police in the War on Terror. The bill, he wrote, “would limit local police to making arrests only for criminal violations of immigration law, not civil violations”–a dangerous provision given that “[all] of the 9/11 hijackers immigration violations were civil, not criminal. So police officers would have no power to arrest such terrorists.” 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, for example, violated civil law by not changing to a student visa when he entered flight school. What other such “hidden surprises” (Kobach’s phrase) lurk in this bill? The matter needs to be thoroughly explored. We need assurance that the enforcement of this new immigration bill does not endanger our national security.

Re: Churchillian


Reading Anne’s Defense of ACTA’s most recent report, “How Many Ward Churchills,” one comment from her critics made me laugh out loud. Professor Timothy Burke of Swarthmore complains that the report’s authors “want to avoid REAL argument of the kind that scholars routinely engage in.” 

And exactly what kind of argument is that, Professor Burke? Is it this: “Seriously, unless you bother to get off your ass and stop reading catalogues online, you have no idea what happens in classrooms.” Professor, we all know the kind of argument that scholars engage in, and we also know what happens in classrooms. In my experience, whenmost professors discuss their specific and narrow fields (unless their field of study is explicitly and pervasively ideological, like “women’s studies”), the argument is much like you imagine: technical, logical, relatively calm, and reasoned. Veer even a little from that area of expertise, and you often get the exact kind of sneering condescension evidenced by the professor’s “ass” comment.  

There are many, many professors that are consummate professionals. My best law school professors did not share my political views, but their classes were fair, intellectually challenging, civil, and extremely interesting. But there were other professors at that same school who larded up classes like contracts, civil procedure, and torts with extended diatribes against the Bush administration’s foreign policy and the Clarence Thomas nomination (I’m dating myself here). 

In a typical college career, a student will take between 30 and 40 different courses. How many of them have to be ridiculously politicized to constitute a problem? 5? 10? 15? At law school, easily one third of my classes were absolutely polluted with condescension and vitriol towards conservatives (and especially Christian conservatives). Of course I chose to wade into the minefield of classes like “Family Law” and “Child, Family, and the State.” But why must classes that deal with stereotypically “women’s” issues be no-go zones for conservatives? 

To understand the essential ridiculousness of Burke’s argument, imagine his response to a group of conservative academics denying systemic problems in academia if the reality were reversed. Imagine that 90% of elite college academics were conservative with a large group of those conservatives anchoring the absolute extreme right wing. Then imagine that thousands of those professors offered courses that, by design, glorified military service, defended American involvement in Vietnam and Iraq, and routinely mocked protesting leftists as idiotic, evil, murderous, or racist. Imagine that the professors least likely to obtain tenure (even after controlling for educational background and numbers of publications) were self-described liberals. Imagine that “women’s studies” trained women to become pro-life activists, argue for a return of the nuclear family, and glorify homemakers as the feminine ideal. And then imagine if the conservative status quo defended those realities by saying, “well, it’s only a minority of classes that are truly political.” 

The great bogeyman of the academic Left is the Christian conservative movement. Yet an academic never has to go to church or send his children to church. The polar opposite of the evangelical mega-church in American society is the great leftist tent revival in academia, but to participate fully as citizens in this country, we have to attend that revival, and we have to send our children and grand-children there as well. Oh, and (when it comes to public universities) we spend our tax dollars to pay for it, regardless of the school our kids attend. 


“True Blue vs. Deep Red”


Yesterday I attended a vibrant panel discussion in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center and titled “What’s the Big Idea? True Blue [collectivist, statist, multiculturalist, secular] vs. Deep Red [indicative of belief in limited government, laws of nature (fixed standards of right), the traditional family, proven tradition, often religious]: The Ideas that Move American Politics.” 
The symposium explored the great divide within American politics and culture which reflects these fundamentally different “foundational ideas” about nature, history and religion. In about ten days a transcript of the discussion will be posted on the Bradley Center web page.
Although the sixteen distinguished panelists only touched on the “True Blue” character of today’s academy, University of Virginia political scientist James Ceaser concluded in a “framing essay” prepared for the event that “[t]he future of American politics lies in the outcome of a race between the loving efforts of…exurbanites [those “Reds” flocking to areas outside of cities to raise their families] and the efforts of universities [“seminaries of blue”] to convert their offspring.” (The document is posted on the above-mentioned site.)
With so much at stake in this race, I would urge the Bradley Center to devote an entire conference to the role of higher education in driving this nation’s politics.

Feith Not Warmly Received


It appears that Doug Feith will not be “welcomed with flowers” when he starts his new job at Georgetown University. Professors, graduate students, and administrators have organized a small protest to oppose the hiring of Feith, a Georgetown Law alumnus, to a non-tenure track two-year teaching position at the School of Foreign Service, according to the NY Times.  Feith, a former Pentagon official who is considered a key architect of the Iraq War, will be teaching a course on antiterrorism policy in the Bush administration. 

It is interesting that Feith, a neoconservative and Bush appointee, would find such hostility, while Clinton appointees, such as former CIA Director George “slam-dunk” Tenet and former Secretary of State Madeleine “Who cares about Rwanda?” Albright were hired “without event.” One professor points out the obvious, “I hope this story does not play out as ‘pointy-headed academics diss Republicans.’” Too late, champ.

For more analysis, “No Faith in Feith.”

Burying the Problem Under Process


Is the Pennsylvania House serious about the academic freedom hearings it is conducting? Or is it intent on denying there is a problem by playing games with process? Julia Seymour, who has been following the hearings, asks more specifically: “So how is it that an investigative committee is doing such a poor job of getting out information on the hearings, of scheduling the hearings when students cannot attend, and lining up witnesses the majority of whom say there is no problem–out of self-preservation or delusion? Is it ineptitude or are these hearings an intentional put-up job? Or is it simply that each member of the committee already has their mind made up…?” Seymour’s observations about these proceedings resemble my description of the recent Kabuki-theater style “review” of intellectual diversity by a State University of New York board committee: one-sided, trumped up, full court, and pre-determined not to find abuses of academic freedom. Investigations by lawmakers and governing boards of the state of academic freedom on public campuses need to be closely watched. It may be necessary to investigate the investigators for fairness and open-mindedness.  

Publish or Perish


What are colleges and universities supposed to do when students threaten suicide? Slate asks.



Anne D. Neal responds to critics of ACTA’s report on Ward Churchill here.

On the Duke Case, Sensible and Silly


For a thoroughly sensible comment on the Duke lacrosse case, Stuart Taylor’s National Journal piece is not to be missed.

On the other hand, The Chronicle of Higher Education features an essay by Elizabeth Chin, who was visiting at Duke in the spring, teaching an anthropology course entitled “Girl Culture/Power.” She identifies herself as “a good liberal” and predictably couldn’t resist letting the lacrosse case run away with the course, summoning up all kinds of deep issues of race, class, and gender.

She writes, “I felt that I was facing at once the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity I had in my 15 years as a teacher. I had to figure out a way to keep the classroom a safe space for all the students, while allowing people on both sides of the issue to hear and understand each other.”

I suppose that it never occurred to Professor Chin to say, “This is an allegation of criminal behavior against three individuals. It is unproven and however it eventually turns out, has no impact on us. Let’s get back to the material on the syllabus.” To a “good liberal,” EVERYTHING has to be about race, class, gender.

Compassion and Courage--and Modesty, Too


The president and the president-elect of the American Association of University Professors congratulate themselves on getting arrested for blocking traffic in Manhattan.

Never before in its 91-year history have the officers of the American Association of University Professors heard the call to be arrested in the line of duty. But there we were — Cary Nelson and Jane Buck, incoming and outgoing AAUP presidents and close friends — on a New York street on April 27 waiting to be handcuffed and taken to a police station and booked. The AAUP, adding a professional to a basic human right, long ago joined the United Nations in recognizing that all employee groups have the right to choose for themselves whether to be represented collectively.

The whole thing is quite a tale of heroic civil disobedience, conveniently recounted by . . . the heroes themselves. 

Putting that aside, has anyone noticed how many new “basic human rights” keep cropping up on campuses? I suppose it’s a useful rhetorical device if you’re trying to extend emergency-contraception subsidies, or defend racial preferences, or climb the next rung of the perpetually escalating “living wage” . . . or browbeat a school into recognizing a union for graduate students.

Churchill’s Misconduct: The Larger Picture (II)


What can be done to reverse the ethical decay within the professoriate that I described below, and of which Professor Churchill’s misdeeds are illustrative? Regrettably, there are few signs that academics themselves will lead the way. In my Chronicle essay–which I cited below–I suggested practical ways in which trustees (should they be able to muster wisdom and courage) could help to drive this urgently needed change of ethos:

The boards of trustees and regents of our colleges and universities act as fiduciaries for the public interest in holding the professoriate accountable for maintaining its end of the social compact…[and for] fulfilling the transcendent purpose of academe.

[To this end]…trustees should also act more directly to make ethics a…day-to-day reality, throughout higher education…That requires supporting the adoption of – and providing funds for – policies that foster continuing education in the tradition and ethics of higher education, and the social compact between society and the professoriate that is at its core. Executive leadership in other professions – from medicine and law to post-Enron business – is already moving in the direction of proactive education in ethics.

Such programs should be required for new faculty members at an institution, those currently teaching, and for trustees themselves…The education should consist of the study of the policies and traditions historically set forth by academic professionals themselves, including the AAUP….

More specifically, trustees should establish and finance workshops, designed by faculty leaders, that address typical ethical dilemmas in the academy. The most successful strategy for teaching research ethics…has been such a case-study approach. Participants discussing a common problem will be helped to see themselves as a peer collegium, building the skills that academic ethics, peer evaluation, and shared governance require. A book like Academic Ethics [by Neil Hamilton] would be an excellent vehicle for such meetings…

Faculty [and trustee] workshops…should be scheduled with a particular focus on the acculturation of new members early in their [respective service]…


To strengthen accountability…college presidents could be required to provide governing boards with annual reports describing the affirmative actions undertaken to provide education in tradition and ethics. Such a report would confirm the importance the board places on ethics at an institution…[It] might also explain any ethical misconduct that may have occurred and what should be done to reduce the likelihood of that kind of behavior.

Typical faculty contracts are extremely vague on compliance with standards of ethics. The board could, therefore, ask the faculty to draft a statement of academic ethics that cuts across the disciplines…to mitigate against disciplinary “silos”…[F]aculty members [would be asked] to sign a document indicating their willingness to comply with the statement.

Education in the tradition and ethics of higher education can do much to reduce the moral confusion within the academy, with its attendant institutional strife and erosion of social trust…It can provide a hundredfold return to society: an academic culture of highest aspiration.

Churchill’s Misconduct: The Larger Picture (I)


Ward Churchill’s irresponsible behavior is one example among many of an ethical breakdown within the professoriate. As I wrote in an essay titled “Professional Ethics Begin on the College Campus” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 19, 2003): 

Examples [of such behavior] include lateness for class, use of vulgarity in scholarly forums, showing favoritism among students, improper use of campus funds, plagiarism, sexual liaisons with students, failure to properly perform administrative duties, and, most basic, unwillingness to uphold the value of truth in teaching and research.

…The 1966 ‘Statement on Professional Ethics’ of the American Association of University Professors…states that professors ‘accept the obligation to… practice intellectual honesty.’ The political bias exhibited in the classroom…utterly contravenes the responsibility of faculty members to respect the values of truth and honesty…Things are made worse by the fact that the traditional core values underlying the academic mission are themselves under unprecedented assault from postmodernists and others whose epistemological and moral subjectivism now permeates entire disciplines. To hold that the professoriate cannot acquire knowledge, much less superior knowledge, of a subject is to cut out from under academe the very ground upon which it rests.

In addition,…the academic peer collegium is often lax in its approach to its administrative responsibilities to discipline its members. Again, the AAUP’s statement asserts that faculty members must ‘strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues’…John Kekes, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany…  describes a number of highly unethical administrative practices that are, he tells us, ‘routine’ on campuses. Peer evaluation of research is ‘rigged’…[Faculty] search committees…make judgments ‘on the basis of considerations such as race, ethnic origin, and gender, that have very little bearing on how well they [the candidates] may do as teachers or researchers.’

[Finally]…reports over the past decade have documented how seriously faculty members take their professional responsibilities. For example, a 1993 Acadia Institute study of 2,000 faculty members found that only 55 percent believed that they should exercise substantial responsibility for the conduct of their colleagues, and just 13 percent thought that faculty members in their department did so.

Churchill’s Response


Six Pages of “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” (a word document, from

Some analysis from CAMPUS.

Higher ed in China


From this Wall Street Journal article it seems that the United States and China share a problem — an overabundance of college graduates without much in the way of knowledge or skill.

Re: A Critical Voice


Mark’s post is yet another demonstration of the extent to which the faculty hiring process has been completely politicized. But the politicization is not necessarily the result of a conscious effort to exclude conservatives but instead from a (correct) understanding that the area of study has become so completely dominated by the left that virtually every applicant will fit the precise ideological mold of the department. A department that would post such a job opening does not even consider whether the applicants would be anything other than the radical leftist theorists they seek. But these assumptions can and should be challenged. And they can perhaps be challenged in court. 

The job description itself is most likely not unlawful (because of the meaningless invitation for a “broad variety” of candidates to apply), but its application almost certainly is. Without question, the university is looking for a person who studies “the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexualities across national boundaries” from the particular viewpoint that dominates the department. The “social activism” they wish to study is leftist social activism. As Erin O’Connor notes, ”This is a job description that is not just looking for someone with a particular expertise, but for someone whose expertise is tied to specific demographic and political factors.”
Yet public universities are bound by laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, and religion. They are also bound by constitutional prohibitions against conditioning the receipt of public benefits (in this case, a job) on the abandonment of constitutional rights. For example, a formal (or informal, but still binding) rule that said, “Republicans need not apply” would violate the First Amendment rights of Republican applicants.

Interestingly, there is another group of citizens (aside from so-called “queer theorists”) that study things like the intersection of sexuality and gender across national boundaries. That other group is conservative Christians who are concerned about the social, political, and cultural ramifications of the increased acceptance of homosexuality and other sexual practices traditionally considered immoral.
 Is anyone willing to place bets that a well-qualified conservative Christian with a strong record of publications and activism in social conservative circles would get even a moment’s consideration from the Louisville faculty?  Is there a well-qualified conservative Christian willing to put the invitation for a “broad variety” of applicants to the test?

“A Panhandler’s World: Where the monies flow from university coffers”


…by Bruce Thornton, should be read by all parents, students, alums, donors, and taxpayers. Here is an excerpt:

If you have a child in college or are yourself a college graduate, university panhandlers are constantly pestering you for money. Public institutions have seen state-money diminish, and private schools are competing fiercely to offer students the frills and amenities that keep prestige – and the salaries of administrators – high. The solution for both is to hit up alumni and the parents of students for the extra money needed to fund expansionist ambitions.

Meanwhile, the universities have failed miserably at doing what presumably justifies their taxpayer subsidies…

…[T]ell them no…and send a check instead to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, or the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, or the National Association of Scholars, or anyone else committed to restoring higher education to its true purpose: teaching young people how to be free citizens with independent minds.

Read more.

A Critical Voice


One of the best commentators on academic politics and practices is Erin O’Connor, who runs the blog Critical Mass. She’s an interesting story, a classical liberal who left a tenured post in English at Penn to teach in a private high school in New England. She has a recent post on a job opening at a university. First, the job description:

The departments of Women’s and Gender Studies and Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville invite applications and nominations for the Audre Lorde Chair in Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality, to begin August 1, 2007. The Audre Lorde Chair is a tenure-track, assistant professor position jointly based in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Department of Pan African Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. We seek a candidate who can contribute to the intellectual life of both departments and whose teaching and research emphasis is the intersection of race, gender, class and sexualities across national boundaries. The Audre Lorde chair will teach courses in both Women’s and Gender Studies and Pan African Studies, and will develop coursework in lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer studies. A preferred area of focus is the study of social activism along and across these axes of difference, and the optimal candidate will serve the university’s urban mission by enhancing both departments’ connections with the local community.

Such descriptions are common in the humanities and social sciences, common enough to convey to many a neutral set of scholarly values. O’Connor’s analysis of the job ad nicely lays out the tendentious, political agenda at work:

One of the things that is most remarkable about the contemporary academy is how the institutionalization of advocacy–in the form of various affirmative actions, and in the form of the academy’s overall leftward tilt–has yielded not only departments whose missions are more overtly political than scholarly but jobs that merge academic specialization, political affiliation, and demographic particulars in such a way as to produce endowed, tenure-track openings such as the one announced above. Yes, the description says “a broad variety of candidates” is invited to apply, but one suspects that this variety is tacitly understood to exist within a narrowly circumscribed set of parameters having to do with political affiliation, sex, race, and even sexuality. This is a job description that is not just looking for someone with a particular expertise, but for someone whose expertise is tied to specific demographic and political factors; in other words, the ideal candidate for the Audre Lorde chair will be someone whose scholarship will be complemented by a particular phenotype, a particular set of preferences, and a particular set of non-scholarly commitments. . . .

The whole post is well worth reading.

A Most Telling Carnegie Admission


The Carnegie Foundation (in its Perspectives) acknowledges that:

…in universities…neither students nor faculty are accustomed to communicating across ideological divisions…In part because faculty may be unaware of the values and beliefs implicit in their approach to a subject, they may not raise assumptions for explicit examination…[or] imagine how one might make a persuasive case for an opposing view….

About this surprisingly damning admission of academic one-sidedness, read more.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review