Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Where Are the Stories?


Forgive a slightly off-topic post, but I just returned from a month away at Fort Lee, Virginia (I joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a JAG officer earlier this year, and I just completed my first phase of basic training), and I am full of thoughts from the experience.  After spending day after day working out at 5:00 a.m., crawling through dirt, weeds, and poison ivy, learning basic land navigation, firing M16s and M9s, and, yes, sitting through more than a few PowerPoint presentations, I am back at my civilian desk resuming the fight for academic freedom.
  I suppose if I could sum up the month in one phrase, it would be “profoundly humbling.”  I learned how little I knew about so many things, how little I’d sacrificed compared to others, and how much we all need to do to press forward to victory in this war.  Most of all, I was humbled by the people that I met.  In our nation’s first protracted conflict in 200 years fought by an all-volunteer army, it only makes sense that those volunteers would often have amazing stories to tell . . . stories that put to shame the human-interest tripe that fills our TV screens every Olympic season (“Brian overcame a mean mother and bad grades to run like the wind”).  If the nation is interested in hazy and ever-shifting allegations of atrocities against our Marines in Haditha, is it possible that it might also be interested in people like Lieutenant Hooper, who left a law practice after 9/11 to enlist and fight through four deployments and 200 combat missions?  Or perhaps Lieutenant Judah, who decided less than a year ago that it was “his turn” to serve, shed 70 pounds in three months, began a furious workout program, and went on to lead all of us in the worst physical training of my life (an ordeal I dubbed “Judah’s House of Pain”).  Or maybe Lieutenant Lai, an immigrant from Taiwan who joined in wartime because, “I want my children to know that they are Americans.”  Or what about the several attorneys I met who either opposed or had serious misgivings about the Iraq war yet felt called to serve so they could truly “support the troops.”
Is the real story that the Army has missed a some of its recruiting goals (although it has been doing quite well lately)?  Or that every year tens of thousands of citizens of the most prosperous nation in the history of the world voluntarily agree to risk everything to serve in a deadly and open-ended conflict?  As we fight through year five of the War on Terror and year four of the Battle for Iraq, I have never been more confident that their are enough extraordinary people willing to serve to bring victory . . . but only if those who choose not to sacrifice — those who choose to give up nothing in an era of massive economic expansion — continue to support those many thousands who risk it all.

In the meantime, I hope that my own service is worthy of the uniform that I now proudly wear and worthy of my new friends and comrades who I look to with the utmost admiration and respect.

Way Harsh


The higher-education establishment is upset because the draft report of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education has a harsh tone. Read about it here.

I’m pleased. American higher education (and the public) does not need a mushy “things are pretty good, but…” report that will quickly be forgotten. People need to hear that, e.g., there there is “Evidence that the quality of student learning at U.S. colleges and universities is inadequate and, in some cases, declining.”

Three cheers for Chairman Miller for not caving into the demands for a cheerful report. It isn’t warranted.


FAIR Follies


While I know that few serious people believe that academic opposition to military recruiting is actually motivated by diversity concerns, it remains consistently necessary to pound away at leftist rhetoric with, well, actual facts. For the last several years (and certainly while the ridiculous FAIR lawsuit was winding its way through the federal system), we’ve seen the academic left self-righteously deny that this opposition is anything less than patriotic or motivated by anything less than a concern for legal equality and fundamental fairness. The issue is diversity, the academics argue, not patriotism. 

Well now I have experienced both the academy and the military, and the military wins the diversity contest hands down. I attended law school at Harvard and taught at Cornell Law School, and both places were ideological, geographical, and racial monocultures compared to my JAG class. It almost goes without saying that the military is far more ideologically diverse than an Ivy League university (almost any institution is more ideologically diverse than Harvard). The diversity in my own unit was such that ideological assumptions were dangerous. In fact, as a social and economic conservative, I found myself decisively outnumbered by my more liberal colleagues.

Nor was the diversity limited to the world of ideas. My own eight-person squad featured a couple of good ‘ol southern boys, attorneys from California and Ohio, a judge from Boston, and immigrants from Taiwan, Korea, and Venezuela. Collectively, we represented four different native countries and four different native languages.  While my experience is admittedly limited (I am merely at the beginning of my military journey), it seems that it is not the military that is increasingly removed from American culture and the American experience but instead the academy (and its cultural allies in the media). 

During the Clinton administration, there was much talk of a cabinet (and government) that “looked like America.”  Our military does look like America, and it is plain that the academy does not like what it sees. So . . . is their real problem with our military, or our nation? 

What’s New with Terror and the Web


That the Internet is vital to the strategy of today’s terrorists is well known. But the extent and ways in which militant groups make use of it are less understood.


Gabriel Weimann, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, provides valuable insight into this subject in his new book, Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges. In sum, terrorists employ the Internet more elaborately and effectively than ever as a propaganda and recruitment tool, a way to communicate with volunteers as well as mainstream Muslims, and a virtual how-to terror guide and training camp already used by some of the newest terrorists.


Weimann starkly illustrates this perverted subculture, for example, the posting of footage of mutilated American soldiers titled “Jihad Candid Camera” and a Hamas site targeting children with cartoon-like pictures and songs.


This is a valuable book. The terrorists’ mastery of the Web is a crucial weapon in their arsenal.

Churchill Links Galore!


The Rocky Mountain News on Ward Churchill:

The leader of the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus said Monday Ward Churchill should be fired, making Churchill the first CU professor recommended for dismissal because of research misconduct.

Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano also said the university is ready to defend itself if Churchill sues, and stressed that he reached his decision because of “a pattern” of misconduct – including plagiarism and fabrication of material – and not because of Churchill’s controversial remarks about Sept. 11.

More links: The chancellor’s statement. Why Churchill’s inevitable lawsuit will fail. Editorial: “Justice delayed is still justice.” Denver Post news story. New York Times news story. L.A. Times news story.

At least one person isn’t thrilled about Churchill’s all-but-certain dismissal, according to Inside Higher Ed:

Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, said he had mixed feelings about the announcement Monday. Colorado’s faculty committees and interim chancellor appear to have taken numerous steps to assure due process for Churchill and to express support for academic freedom, Bowen said. “If there is reason for concern, it stems from the political rancor that prompted the inquiry and the hostile intervention by political figures, including the governor,” he added.


Ward Watch


Here’s the AP story on Ward Churchill.



Ward Churchill, fired:

The University of Colorado announced Monday that it will dismiss controversial professor Ward Churchill.

“Today, I issued to Professor Churchill a notice of intent to dismiss him from his faculty position at the University of Colorado Boulder,” CU Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said Monday afternoon.

Churchill has 10 days to make a request to have the university president or chancellor forward the recommendation to the faculty senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure. A special panel will then conduct hearings on the matter and make a recommendation to the president on whether grounds for dismissal are supported.



The online petition for Thomas Klocek now has more than 1,000 signatures. Here’s an excerpt from a news release:

The SPME petition to reinstate Thomas Klocek, the Roman Catholic faculty member who was fired by DePaul University without due process for challenging Muslim students’ assertions of Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi’s treatment of Jews, has already amassed nearly 1000 signatures in three days. The petition, which can be viewed and signed at calls for his complete reinstatement without prejudice or penalty.

Morry Fiddler, a professor at DePaul University, writes, ” If I’m not there for a colleague, then who will be there for me?” Other DePaul professors signing the petition to date are Allan Berele, Gary Siegel, Jonathan Cohen and Jerold Friedland.

Bernard Arfin of Stanford University asks, ” What has happened to freedom of speech?”

Simon Levy at Boston University calls the incident, ” A clear violation of academic standards,” while his colleague, Susan Biener Bergman, also at BU, states, ” It seems that at DePaul University, there is a climate of intimidation of anyone having pro-Israel views. What a shame. I thought that academic freedom meant just that.”

Is the Academy Really “Reformable”?


Professor Mitchell Langbert deems academic reform a “charade.” He writesand, trust me, this is food for thought: 

The notion of reform assumes an institution that is worth saving. There is scant evidence that higher education is so, with the exceptions of technology, the sciences, and professions…It is entirely possible that human capital can be more effectively enhanced through alternative institutions that have not received state support.


…The movement for academic reform…argues that improving the institution will be worthwhile because then it will perform more authentically, effectively and efficiently. In pursuing such ends, the reformers become part of the university system.


…[T]oday’s universities foster totalitarian ideologies and support intolerant extremism that, though cloaked in left wing garb, is little different from Nazism…Not only are universities culturally adverse to performing what the public expects (balanced education, for example) but their hiring and assessment policies are impossibly skewed toward favoring faculty who support totalitarian approaches and state-based solutions, and to suppression of any who disagree. The notion of reform in the real-world university context thus is a…charade.


…The spread of universities hearkens a deterioration of American democracy. This occurs in part through decades of advocacy of state-based solutions, Keyensian economics, Marxian sociology and similar university movements that advocate destructive social goals. It also occurs because of values that universities inculcate, such as identity politics, political correctness, uniformity of thinking and conformity to a professor’s whims.


 Langbert’s solution, which indeed is increasingly resonating in higher-education reformist circles?

Society needs to begin to think of creative alternatives to universities that will sidestep the cracked views of a professoriate whose greatest contributions are left wing totalitarianism and the will to power.

A Note on The Chronicle’s Presidential “Leadership” Forum


The Chronicle recently conducted a forum on presidential leadership that prominently featured the rapport between presidents and governing boards. A number of participants took the platitudinous road, urging openness, civility, proactive discussion, more socializing, etc. According to one such speaker, as paraphrased by The Chronicle: “Presidents and trustees need to learn how to agree to disagree….”


Such talk is sweet and good, but it obscures the real dynamic underlying today’s dysfunctional campus governance (and I focus my remarks on public governance): Neither trustees nor presidents–nor the governors who appointed the trustees–have learned how to disagree with the politically powerful and well-heeled special interests which in reality direct and control many colleges. Thus, the problem usually is less headstrong, secretive presidents in conflict with overbearing or distant trustees than exceedingly feeble combined presidential, trustee, and gubernatorial leadership.


One participant and university consultant, William A. Weary, touched on this dynamic in pronouncing amorphous, campus-wide surveys of presidential performances  “garbage,” because they can readily be manipulated by campus constituencies.


From what another speaker, former trustee James A Martin Jr., said, one can infer how extremely difficult it will be to reform governance and put in place strong leaders who will hold these forces in check for the well-being of the campuses themselves as well as the public. “If you say the truth,” commented Martin, “you’re marginalized and told you’re not with the team.”


Presidents, trustees, and governors do too often join in as mere “team players” and cheerleaders, leaving our campuses rudderless, or, as one critic put it, in a state of “organized anarchy.” And opposition to this modus operandi is summarily quashed, for fear of roiling the political waters.    


I suggest that The Chronicle hold another conference–on this lax, three-way, symbiotic “governance” arrangement and the havoc it is wreaking in our universities and society.

College Testing


Here’s a story in Florida about bringing standardized tests to higher education in the same way some of them have been brought to K-12. It mentions the U.S. Commission on the Future of Higher Education and its insistence on the need to measure student learning, one way being to have students take a low-stakes exit exam in basic skills and knowledge. The university leaders cited in the article oppose the measure, making the usual objections about the uniformity of the tests, the difficulty of settling upon test content, and the inability to measure “critical thinking.” But the attempt to find out just how much knowledge and skills young people acquire from their course work is so commonsensical a proposal that it won’t be stopped by administrators worried about the performance of their schools becoming a public issue. What could be worse, to them, than having the test scores of their graduating seniors included in the criteria of U.S. News & World Report’s college ranking, or added to the descriptions in Fiske’s guide to colleges and universities? What would make them work harder to shore up their curricula?

Suicide of a Chancellor


UC-Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton apparently has killed herself. She was one of the most outspoken critics of Harvard president Larry Summers’s remarks about women and science. Denton was also at the center of a compensation controversy, which Victor Davis Hanson outlined on the pages of NR here. Inside Higher Ed has additional details here.

Buck the System


Rep. Buck McKeon has promised to hold several hearings in July and August on immigration issues, including:

A provision in the Senate Democrat immigration bill to allow states to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants without providing the same benefit for all U.S. citizens.

McKeon, a California Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Harbinger of Change in Affirmative Action Campus Rulings?


Keep an eye on how the Supreme Court rules on two affirmative action K-12 cases. The Center for Equal Opportunity says the ruling will provide insight about what the Court’s new members, Justices Roberts and Alito, think of the University of Michigan cases that permitted campuses to continue to consider race in admitting students.

New Guidebook Tells Campuses to Prove Benefits of Diversity


The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the College Board has just published a manual on race-based admissions to help universities determine if their entrance policies are in compliance with the University of Michigan rulings. Its authors are right that race-conscious admissions policies need to be brought out in the open–out from behind the “closed doors” of admissions offices–and that campuses must give evidence of why these long-entrenched but sub rosa policies are needed.

Controversy Over Two Accreditation Groups and Diversity


Two accrediting organizations–the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)–are triggering a much-needed debate about the significance of the concepts of “diversity” and “social justice.”


It’s about time that these groups’ biased and manipulative cooptation of these terms is exposed. This exposure should have a ripple effect, that is, lead to an understanding of how they are misused systematically throughout much of higher education.

Students’ Fighting Options


Female students who have suffered from political bias are fighting back increasingly more boldly. At a recent Eagle Forum Summit, several of them vividly described how they exercise their “on-campus, legislative, and litigation options.”

“Moral Authority”


I have written before about the shameless tactics of the ridiculous “Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary” (or BAMN, for short). When they say they’re willing to employ “any means necessary” to achieve their political goals, they mean it. Their latest campaign has been to prevent Michigan’s citizens from voting on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban racial preferences in the state. MCRI today sends out a press release regarding some of BAMN’s latest tactics:

Today, as a last ditch effort to try to keep the people from voting on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that while collecting signatures to get MCRI on the ballot we violated the Voting Rights Act.  It’s a frivolous claim that is meant to tie up resources and drain our funds. It should be noted that BAMN has brought these allegations to the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court–all have found these allegations to be meritless and we expect the same with the federal court.
The press release also includes a bit of reporting from the Gongwer News Service on Shanta Driver, BAMN’s co-chair and spokeswoman, who has done some thinking outside the box to keep the MCRI proposal off of the Michigan ballot:

…if the courts do not remove the proposal, Ms. Driver said her organization has already begun talking to city and local clerks to not put the proposal on their ballots (ballots are, in fact, printed at the county level).

Asked how clerks could legally refuse to have the proposal on a ballot, Ms. Driver said they have the “moral authority” to take a stand.

Your daily dose of obtuseness…

The Trouble With Law School


A lawyer hits the truth with this WSJ article making the case that law school is horribly oversold.

As I argued here, law school is deliberately kept much more expensive than necessary to serve the legal profession’s desire to have a high barrier to entry around their cartel.

Almost everything a lawyer needs to know he learns after graduating from law school.

“Saving” Title IX


The Feminist Majority Foundation has it all wrong. For Title IX’s birthday (today) they’ve launched a donation campaign to “save Title IX.” You even get an ugly painting for your contribution.  What they want to save it from, I’m not sure. In reality, Title IX needs to be saved from radical feminists who demand equality of outcome over equality of opportunity.  Then maybe so many men’s programs wouldn’t be needlessly cut.


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