Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

More Praise for George Mason


USA Today reports that there is most certainly a trickle-down effect to recent victories, straight to the admissions office.

Rendering to God What Is God’s in the History Books


What students have been most likely to learn in college about religion in recent decades is that God and politics must never be mixed. Moreover, as I showed in an essay titled


More Darkness To Reign


The college lobbying monolith dealt defeat this week to an important amendment to the federal Higher Education Act. The amendment would have required campuses which receive HEA funds to report in a public database the donations they receive from foreign sources. As David Horowitz said, the measure would have stanched



I’m glad that Anne has opened up discussion on this subject.

Here is the

The Disappearing Debate


An article in the Daily Princetonian this lovely cool morning begins: “The debate over free speech on colleges campuses has, in large part, come and gone.”


Reading just a bit further, it becomes clear that the student journalist, Chip McCorkle, has written his entire survey of the free speech debate on America’s campuses under the wayward impression that the whole darn thing has been about students’ right to use swear words in class discussion. “Students speak freely at Princeton,” the article goes, “and faculty who use obscenities in class are not questioned.”

At Princeton, McCorkle says, “attitudes are accepting of the diversity of speech and, as outlined in the ‘Rights, Rules, Responsibilities’ booklet given to all members of the University community, University policy protects freedom of speech.”

Of course, that is not true. A Christian student group was long denied recognition by the university because of a disagreement in message. The university has floated plans to curb the freedom of religious association. And FIRE has a summary of the school’s speech restrictions, including the ones referenced in the article. Even the New Jersey division of the ACLU has given Princeton an ‘F’ for bans on computer-based political speech.

And, of course, the right of United States military recruiters to stand on those vaunted patches of south Jersey grass is not very widely respected at all.

But enough about that–they’re cursing up a storm at Princeton and everyone seems to be O.K. with that. Debate closed; hugs for all as the Tigers revel in their tolerance. Just take heed of the article’s last words, because, while there is no free speech problem at Princeton, “it really depends.”





We Don’t Need a Federal Accreditation System


Recent reports issued by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education suggest it is looking at a national accrediting body to replace the regional accreditors. While the Commissioners are surely right to acknowledge the failure of the current system, a better solution would be to de-couple accreditors from the federal student loan program altogether. In the book, Can College Accreditation Live Up to its Promise?, ACTA outlines the serious deficiencies of the accreditation system and some solutions. There we point out that the federal government

Another George Mason U. Tribute


The hottest school in America wins more accolades, this time from Brendan Miniter of the Wall Street Journal.

Congress & Colleges, cont.


Think hard about that line from below: “most college officials still don

Congress & Colleges


Inside Higher Ed reports on yesterday’s House passage of a Higher Education Act:

Democrats don

Rotten Eggs


At The Dartmouth Review, we used to occasionally hold contests for the most banal headline from Dartmouth

Blue Devil Blues


As the Duke lacrosse rape scandal thickens, several team members have broken their silence. The team’s three captains have released a statement insisting “unequivocally that any allegation that a sexual assault or rape occurred is totally and transparently false.”

Despite these proclamations of innocence, the university administration has (rightfully) decided to cancel several games as the investigation unfolds. Meanwhile, the Duke community is grappling with the issues of sexual assault, racial tensions, and town-gown relations.

Today’s edition of the Duke Chronicle features a level-headed editorial addressing the delicate and disturbing questions at play in Durham.

Yale’s Moral Tranquility


Nothing about Yale

The Study Needs Study


There is no electronic link in the Inside Higher Education story on the study purporting to refute grading bias against conservative students. Short of fully examining its methodology, it’s difficult to assess how much it actually contributes to the debate about discrimination. Offhand, however, a few points might be worth making.

From what Inside Higher Education tells us, the study doesn’t seem to take the professors’ politics into account, only those of the students. To test for grading bias, it would be interesting to isolate those cases in which the politics of professors and students were especially at variance. (Given the politics of the professorate, these cases are likely to involve professors on the left and students on the right). Moreover, while student grades were tracked throughout their attendance at the University of Nevada, it’s not clear that changes in student political attitudes were also tracked. A conservative freshman going on to major in sociology or women’s studies might no longer be a conservative once he got into the class of a biased grader. It would also be valuable to isolate those classes in which the subject matter was politically salient — even in sociology, after all, there are courses in statistics and research design. Findings are generally reported only where they are statistically significant. If the most “at-risk-for-bias” cases, so to speak, are lumped together with those that are less so, their impact might wash out and the statistical significance of the correlations be lost.

As has already been pointed out by George Leef, students are generally savvy enough to give professors what they want once they know how badly the professor wants it. Moreover, they’re also often savvy enough to avoid sections and instructors from whom they anticipate trouble. Finally, conservatives majoring in sociology, African-American studies, cultural anthropology, and women’s studies (all fields mentioned in the story) who actually stay conservative, may be too few in number to allow for a statistically meaningful analysis of data.

Some progress


Here is an article in the latest issue of College English. It is written by an academic with sympathies for the Left, but who recognizes some of the ideological problems in the curriculum and the personnel. I don’t agree with many of its conclusions, but it is encouraging to see some insiders beginning to grapple with the issue. Here is one nice passage:

Ten years ago, when service-learning was just beginning to emerge on the scene of English studies, Brace Herzberg described the following overheard conversation between two students: “We’re going to some shelter tomorrow and we have to write about it,” [says the first student]. “No sweat,” [says the second]. “Write that before you went, you had no sympathy for the homeless, but the visit to the shelter opened your eyes” (309). Today, service-learning is an established part of English studies, particularly in composition, and we undoubtedly think about it in more complex ways. But “ventriloquized sentiments” of obedience and assent (Miller 11) are still passing for authentic learning in such scenarios, and those students who are unwilling to cough up “extorted confessions” of prejudice and transformation (Herzberg 309) are often displaced, silenced, or otherwise punished-if not for their politics or their recalcitrance, then for their imagined suspicions of liberal bias, however specious.

And let’s be honest: some of these suspicions do have merit. I’m reminded here of a panel at the Conference on College Composition and Communication devoted to service-learning that I attended some years ago, during which one of the speakers informed us that while he did not allow students to work with religious groups or the local Republican Party, he did allow them to work with politically liberal groups, such as the National Organization for Women and the local Green Party. When questioned about this policy, the speaker unapologetically responded, “My students know my politics on the first day of class. If they don’t like it, there are dozens of other sections of composition they can transfer to.” I know I wasn’t the only one in the room to be troubled by his answer, and such statements are apparently not unique. An almost identical episode was reported at the University of Colorado last year (see Hebel), and at Duke, history professor Gerald Wilson has caught heat for answering the student question “Do you have any prejudices?” with the retort, “Yeah, Republicans” (qtd. in Hebel). Wilson claims to have been joking, and I have no reason to doubt him . . .

re: Classroom Bias


In that piece that John mentions, it’s reported that the argument made by a University of Nevada-Reno sociology prof is that if conservative students have lower overall grade averages, that is explained by the fact that they tend to take more courses in fields (such as economics), where grading tends to be lower than in fields attractive to liberals (such as African-American studies). His research supposedly shows that there isnt any large-scale pattern in grading that hurts conservatives.

That’s probably right, but it’s a red herring. Rarely would you find even a virulently leftist prof assigning low grades to students who disagree with him, for two reasons: 1) to do so is to court trouble and most profs don’t want to waste their time on administrative procedures, and 2) most conservative students are shrewd enough to spill out the answers the prof wants, even if they completely disagree. Therefore, this finding doesn’t do anything to disprove the contention that there is a significant problem with professors turning their classrooms into re-education camps.

There are many anecdotes about this. Consider, for example, a pair of sociology courses taught at North Carolina State this year. The professor gave exams calling for students to regurgitate Marxian platitudes about oppression. The courses received the Pope Center’s “Course of the Month” award.

Sometimes, the professors who want to play the role of “change agent” proudly proclaim that they seek to change the views of their students. I wrote here about one such admission.

College courses should be used to instruct students in bodies of knowledge.
When they are being used for other purposes, administrators should reprimand the instructor. If a course consists of no body of knowledge, but entirely of opinion, it should be dropped from the curriculum.

Michigan Will Decide Affirmative Action


The Detroit Free Press reports that the state supreme court has decided that a “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” can indeed appear on a November ballot. The use of skin color and sex in making government hires and public university admissions decisions could be banned outright if the initiative passes.

Classroom Bias


A sociologist claims to have studied whether conservative students are the objects of classroom bias:

Research suggests that there is no widespread relationship between students

Polling Yale


According to a poll of 1,902 undergraduates published by the Yale Herald this Tuesday, Yalies still don

Italians, Hispanics, and Education


Today’s immigration supporters like to compare today’s Hispanic immigration with the Italian immigration of decades ago, especially in disregard for education and high rates of dropping out of school. Heather Mac Donald lists numerous reasons why the comparison between the two immigrant groups is simply not valid.

Mac Donald adds:

The constant inflow of barely literate recent Mexican arrivals unquestionably brings down Hispanic education levels. But later American-born generations don


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