Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

What’s Going On at University of Maryland -- Baltimore County?


University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) appears to be one of the most successful but largely unknown schools in the US. Last week, UMBC’s president, Freeman Hrabowski, spoke at North Carolina State and in today’s Pope Center piece, Jesse Saffron, who attended his talk, writes about it. UMBC students seem to thrive in the environment of high expectations and no-excuses that Hrabowski has engendered. UMBC is another of those institutions that isn’t prestigious, but offers a stronger education than students would get at many schools that are regarded as being prestigious.

Students Film ‘Feminist Porn’ in Columbia Univ. Library


Feminists at Columbia University have filmed a “feminist porno” film inside the university library. The 3-minute film includes topless women kissing, smearing eggs on each other, smacking each other with riding crops.

Coco Young, a student who was formerly a model, told the New York Observer their intent in the pornographic nature of the video is to “repulse” viewers, not arouse them.

“Men get hooked because they want to see naked girls, but then we do gross things and are not attractive at all,” Young said.

Julianne Stanford reports the full story today at The College Fix.

How could so-called “feminism” get any more ridiculous than this?


Prager U: The Least Free Place in America


“Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”

— U.S. Supreme Court, Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957)

In the newest Prager University course, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), discusses why many colleges have become a place “where alternative thinking goes to die.”




UNC Scandal Starts to Resemble Watergate


The famous question during the Watergate hearings was “What did the president know and when did he know it?” In this new post, Jay Schalin puts the same question to the UNC administration with regard to its handling of the boiling scandal over student athletes.

Just as the cover-up proved to be much worse than the crime in Watergate, so too with UNC. Rather than coming clean, the administration tried to discredit the researcher, Mary Willingham, who brought to light the severe academic deficiencies of many of the athletes. That has backfired. What next?

UNC Athletic Scandal Update


There are some new developments in the UNC athletic/academic scandal. For one, the administration realized it had put itself out on a limb by attacking critics too harshly (particularly when those critics are likely to be proven correct), and has made some rather tepid admissions of wrong-doing. Also, more people in the know — a reading specialist and a former dean — have come out of the woodwork to back up an academic advisor’s claims that the school is admitting athletes who read at an elementary school level (or worse). More here.


College English Already in Trouble, But Common Core Will Make Things Worse


Mary Grabar has been teaching English for years, and has some scars to show for her willingness say politically incorrect things. English departments are mostly under the control of professors who are imbued with all the academic fads concerning race, class, gender, and so on. Things are bad now, but certain to get worse once Common Core takes hold, she argues in this Pope Center piece. Common Core will lead to further erosion of the ability of students to read and write about books, thus accelerating the death spiral of college English.

Dinesh D’Souza vs. Bill Ayers


In his first public appearance since being indicted on alleged violations of campaign-finance law, Dinesh D’Souza went head-to-head with Obama pal and former Weather Underground terrorist, Bill Ayers.

At one point during the debate, a Vietnam Veteran rose to demand that Ayers explain how he could be against the Second Amendment and still be for violent resistance.

Sandor Farkas, a student at Dartmouth College, reports the details in an exclusive report for The College Fix.

Click here for the full story.


How Not to Promote the Humanities


Once again, the gulf between the higher-education establishment and reformers is painfully visible. But in this case, the critics are defending higher education, while the establishment can’t seem to find the right words.

The Heart of the Matter is a report from the august American Academy of Arts and Sciences written by a commission composed of luminaries such as the presidents of Duke, New York University, and Amherst College (to name a few). Issued last June, it was supposed to defend the humanities and social sciences. (I recently read the report in preparation for a public discussion about it at North Carolina State University on March 7.)

The social sciences can do all right by themselves, but the humanities are indeed in trouble. Reading this paper, you would assume that it is because the humanities don’t get as much money as science and technology are getting. As I wrote this week, the paper is intellectually lightweight and utilitarian in content, and since it was a plea for money, it was written in language that these scholars considered appropriate for politicians and bureaucrats. Read it for yourself and I think you’ll agree. Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars called it a wretched defense of the humanities. Gilbert Sewall, writing on NRO, said it falls flat.”

So, who defends the humanities? The best defense I have seen is Heather Mac Donald’s stunning article in the Wall Street Journal (it is no longer available to non-subscribers). She actually has respect for the humanities, which she calls a dialogue with the past. That dialogue became “a defining feature of Western civilization, prompting the evolution of such radical ideas as constitutional government and giving birth to arts and architecture of polyphonic complexity.” Sadly, there’s no bracing language like that in the American Academy’s report.  

Pat Robertson Joins the MOOC Revolution


Pat Robertson’s Regent University has just launched a new free online educational platform — a Christian alternative to open-source academic sites such as the Harvard-backed EdX and its rival Coursera.

Calling it “A Christian MOOC,” dean of arts and sciences Gerson Moreno-Riaño says LUXVERA will provide “an accessible and extremely affordable education with excellent academic content.”

More details here.

College Offers Full-Credit Course on Beyoncé


Did you miss Beyoncé’s strip-tease performance at the Grammy’s on Sunday? Don’t worry! To catch up on all the latest Beyoncé news and gossip, all you have to do is drop by Rutgers University.

Rutgers now offers a full credit course called “Politicizing Beyoncé.” The class pairs Beyoncé’s music videos and lyrics with “readings from the Black feminist canon.”  

This class, presumably, aims to teach you how to shake your money maker all the way to socio-political liberation. Just a guess. . .

Meanwhile, out of the top 30 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. — not a single one requires students to take a course in U.S. history.  

Question: How do you feel about academia’s educational priorities?

University of Michigan Students Prefer Real Diversity


Last Monday, the Black Student Union at the University of Michigan, under the guise of improving diversity, called for administrators to comply with seven racial demands. These included more money for racially segregated groups, race-based scholarships, and at least a 10 percent black enrollment quota. Most of the demands are plainly illegal under Michigan’s constitution, but the university’s conciliatory response to the bullying tactics from the group (with threats of “physical action”) prompted U-M’s college libertarians to question whether the university is serious about real diversity or the cheap, skin-deep imitation.

To date, university officials have championed superficial diversity, and not even the kind that matters. They have found great pride in praising U-M’s racial enrollment statistics and producing pretty brochures highlighting all the different skin colors on campus, while failing to acknowledge the abysmal “diversity” of graduation rates.

Two student leaders of the campus libertarian group, Derek Magill and Cody Chipman, sent a letter to university administrators and regents this week, asking the university to restore real diversity on campus — diversity of thought.

This group, of all groups, is keenly aware of just how monolithic the university is when it comes to intellectual diversity. In December, they filed a lawsuit against the university for political discrimination in denying funding to their group while happily funding other left-leaning political groups on campus. Not surprisingly, their lawsuit has not been met with nearly the same sense of urgency as the Black Student Union’s discriminatory and unconstitutional demands.

Keep reading this post . . .

Do We Need More Diversity Among Scientists?


In this essay, John Rosenberg notes that the National Institutes of Health has created a new position to “improve” diversity among scientists who receive federal funds. He then asks the obvious questions: Do we need this? Is it legal? To both, the answer is in the negative.

This episode shows just how ridiculous the mania over group equality has gotten.

New ACTA Report Shows Elite Colleges Neglect Core Components of Education


It will come as no surprise to readers here that many top liberal arts colleges have failed to live up to their reputations. But just how bad is it?

ACTA’s new report, Education or Reputation?, answers that question. The report looks at the top 29 liberal arts colleges to evaluate measures ranging from general education and grade inflation, to college management, to free speech. Consider that:

  • Not a single institution except for the military academies requires a foundational, college-level course in American history or government. Only two require an economics course; only five require a literature course.
  • Instead of cutting costs to lower tuition and help students graduate without crippling debt, half of the institutions allowed administrative spending to grow faster than instructional spending.
  • All 29 institutions have speech-code policies leaving students with less freedom than they would have in a grocery store or public park.
  • Eleven of these institutions paid their presidents base salaries of $400,000 or more to run colleges that typically have fewer than 2,000 students. These presidents are paid as well as — or better than — President Obama.

Don’t miss the whole thing!

How Benign Is Internationalization?


Sometimes it’s easy to see just where the Left controls the university — in classes that are blatantly political, through school-sponsored speakers who promote socialistic policies, at politicized on-campus centers, etc. Now there’s a new arena for the Left — internationalization.

While internationalization can include benign elements such as promotion of study abroad, Jay Schalin sees evidence of a growing movement to undermine Western values and institutions under the rubric of teaching “global citizenship.” Schalin discusses the Association of International Education Administrators (AEIA) and its “bible,” the Sage Handbook of International Higher Education, which he describes as an important source of anti-Western attitudes. Nor is the AEIA an isolated organization; it has well-known allies, such as the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) and the American Council on Education (ACE).

The idea that the “globalization” goal in our universities can lead to the promotion of hostility toward the West is something that has been largely ignored. Now it is at least under discussion.



What Are Employers Looking For?


It’s not a high college GPA, according to a very small, informal survey of successful business people by Hamilton College professor Bob Paquette posted on See Thru Edu. His respondents dismissed the GPA as a smokescreen that can be inflated with creative scheduling. What they wanted to see were hard classes and personality traits indicating tough-mindedness, creativity, and social skills. Granted, his sample consisted almost entirely of entrepreneurial or claw-your-way-up-the-ladder types, so the results are likely skewed a bit toward the rugged individual. It’s very possible that bureaucratic HR drones in large corporations and the government rely quite a bit on GPAs.

Bob’s money quote came from a rags-to-riches construction executive who said that “Many of the best universities produce the worst employees.”

Excellent Program in Business and Economics Where You Wouldn’t Expect One


Fayetteville State University is part of the University of North Carolina system. It’s an HBCU, and the typical student who enrolls has a pretty weak academic background. Nevertheless, an excellent program in economics and business has sprouted at FSU. In today’s Pope Center piece, Jesse Saffron writes about it.

Prager U: Why Be Happy?


In the newest Prager University course, Dennis Prager articulates one of his life’s passions — teaching people that happiness is not a selfish pursuit, it is a moral obligation.


Inverting the UNC Scandal


My friend Jon Sanders at the John Locke Foundation, who used to do “Course of the Month” for the Pope Center, has penned a delightful post premised on the idea of the UNC athletic scandal being viewed the other way around.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds on Our Outmoded Educational Systems


University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds (a.k.a. “Instapundit”) has a new book out entitled The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the book, which is filled with sharp insights about the roots of our K–12 and higher-ed systems and the causes of their inefficiency. (Hint: the fact that they were imported here from Germany by people who admired regimentation and thought Americans needed more of that has much to do with it.) Reynolds is optimistic that the information age, which is the antithesis of regimentation and cannot be controlled by special interest groups, will bring much-needed change and efficiency, and probably blur the old notion that K–12 and higher education need to be distinct endeavors.

Mitch Daniels Points Way to Higher-Ed Reform


Given the sorry state of much of higher ed today, it’s always nice to be able to write about some good news. This week, that news came from Purdue University’s president, Mitch Daniels. He recently penned an open letter to the Purdue University community discussing the first year of his presidency and outlining his vision for the future. That vision includes a tuition freeze, streamlining, performance measures, and innovation.

Over at ACTA, we couldn’t be more pleased with Daniels’ goals, and we say as much in our latest press release.

Mitch Daniels has been a bold and effective leader, and we hope he can continue pointing the way toward higher-ed reform.

Tags: Mitch Daniels


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