Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Higher Ed is Interested in Energy -- But Only If It’s Politically Correct


Today’s Wall Street Journal has a good op-ed piece by Paul Tice entitled “How Climate Change Conquered the American Campus.” He observes that while many colleges and universities have centers on “energy research” those are nearly always focused on the various “green” energy fads and ignore (at best!) oil and gas. Never mind that many of the best-paying jobs available to college grads right now are in the oil and gas industries.

Tice wonders, “How many college students have been discouraged from considering a field in petroleum engineering or traditional energy finance because of the rational concern that the current EPA-led attack on coal will move next to target oil and gas?” Yes, some probably have been, and I would add that some students have probably been turned off because of the caterwauling on campuses (and elsewhere) that those who work in fossil fuels are despoilers of the Earth, enemies of mankind.


Plaintiffs Wanted


Edward Blum’s Project on Fair Representation, the prime mover in Fisher v. University of Texas, is looking for unsuccessful applicants to Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin to sue those fine institutions for racial discrimination in their admissions.  Read the Project’s press release here (links to the websites he’s setting up to find such plaintiffs are included therein).


GWU to Offer Master’s in Lobbying


I guess it was only a matter of time before some university offered a M.A. in lobbying. George Washington University — naturally — is going to offer such a program. This clip has some details, as well as some reactions.

I see this as helping to reinforce two of our worst trends. First, the trend toward college programs in just about everything, including fields that are mostly learned on the job (as lobbying has always been) and second, the trend toward accepting that trying to use government to extract wealth and favors is just a normal part of life.

Hat tip: Drey Lourens

Free College for Inmates?


New York governor Andrew Cuomo set off a firestorm when he proposed that the state spend $5 million on higher education for prison inmates. Apparently, university tuition is so high that parents couldn’t stomach providing college to inmates free of charge.

So Cuomo backed off. But the contretemps revealed that the prison system already already provides college courses for inmates, organized and paid for by Bard College, a liberal arts school within the state. And it turns out that  private charities in California, too, support prison education. Jesse Saffron suggests that private approaches should provide a model for other states.

Jaywalking in Class


One of my favorite ways to rib students in class is by quizzing them on topics they should know, but they don’t.  Think Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking,” but I’m the Jay asking the questions.  In my latest foray, I asked 29 students these three questions:

  1. What country did the U.S. fight in the War of 1812?
  2. What eastern European country/area is involved in “some crisis with Russia”?
  3. Who were the first four U.S. Presidents?

For #1, thirteen students answered Britain/U.K.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Frances, two Spains, and one each of Germany, Korea, Russia, and Japan.

For #2, twelve students wrote either Ukraine or Crimea.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were two Yugoslavias, one Uganda, and one Thailand.

For #3, seven students wrote Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  Among the non-blank, incorrect answers, there were five Franklins, four Lincolns, and one Kennedy.

I never do this to demean students; I want to motivate them with a bit of healthy embarrassment because many of the students who answered incorrectly perform quite well in class. 

Yet, if there is a silver lining to this lack of knowledge, it’s this – perhaps we should worry a little less about indoctrination because there is a chance that nothing students hear in school will stick with them beyond a given class.  



Bowdoin College and Global Citizenship


Earlier this year I had a PBC post on the proceedings at an event, held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and National Association of Scholars, that built on NAS’s comprehensive study of political correctness at Bowdoin College.  The focus of this latest event was on what Bowdoin proudly calls its efforts to ensure that students there are taught to be proper “global citizens.”  Now NAS has posted videos of the presentations at the conference.

Dementia at Dartmouth


At Dartmouth recently, an outbreak of contagious mental illness broke out as radical students and faculty occupied the administration building. According to the Wall Street Journal, the occupiers called for “more ‘womyn or people of color’ faculty; covering sex change operations on the college health plan (“we demand body and gender self-determination”); censoring the library catalog for offensive terms; and installing “gender-neutral bathrooms” in every campus facility, specifically including sports locker rooms.

College president Phil Hanlon agreed to talk if the demonstrators left the building, eliciting the a statement expressing fear of “further physical and emotional violence enacted against us by the racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, xenophobic, and ableist structures at Dartmouth.” They added: “Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack.”

Dartmouth has been in the forefront of both sides of the long-running confrontation between politically correct activists and conservative reaction. Dinesh D’Souza launched his journalistic career as a conservative criticizing the Ivy League College’s affirmative action policies as a writer for the Dartmouth Review, an independent student publication. Today, according to the Wall Street Journal article, “Some 37% of its freshman class comes from a background “of color,” and 10% are first-generation college student.” Attending Dartmouth now costs $65,133 per year.

In other words, Dartmouth’s acquiescence to politically correct extortion has engendered resentment by the constituency it sought to please, as demonstrated by the demands of the demented activists who stormed the dean’s office. Why then would parents pay the price of a top-line BMW annually (or the student borrow this amount) for four years to attend an academic insane asylum masquerading as a top-tier college?

Or, obversely, enroll where history professor Russell Rickford—the faculty ring leader of the student agitations—calls Dartmouth “White Supremacy U.” As the Wall Street Journal summarized the contretemps, “Hostile to free expression, open debate and due process, the politics of anger and resentment can’t be pacified. Reality is not an admissible defense.”

What Does $639,000 Get You?


It gets you a team of Title IX compliance officers–for one year. At UNC-Chapel Hill, that is. Embarrassed by allegations of inadequately dealing with sexual assault claims, the university just hired an attorney from the federal Office of Civil Rights (Department of Education), and will hire six people in total to deal with sexual discrimination and assault. Harry Painter of the Pope Center interviewed the new attorney, who said: “Regardless of what statistics you read, any sexual assault is too much sexual assault.”

But how much Title IX compliance is too much compliance? That’s Harry’s question.

In addition to the team, there is a 22-member task force trying to figure out a new policy for dealing with sexual harassment. And that’s not all:

[T]he university already housed the Carolina Women’s Center, a project focused on gender equity and diversity. Students with complaints could also go to the counseling and wellness center, the campus health services, the public safety department, the LGBTQ Center, the office of diversity and multicultural affairs, the dean of students, the office of student conduct, or the ombuds office, a place where students and staff can go for assistance more generally. There was also, of course, the Equal Opportunity/ADA office, where the new Title IX team is situated.

(By the way, that three-person “ombuds office” is the politically correct way to express “ombudsman office.”)

Oh, and even before this staff expansion, UNC-Chapel Hill had nearly 5 administrative personnel for every faculty member.

Student Debt Keeps Growing


We read in this Above the Law post that student debt has gone over the trillion dollar mark. Some of the most heavily indebted are law school grads, who borrowed their way through to their undergrad degrees, and keep on borrowing to afford the costs of their JDs.

As I recently argued, equity financing is better than debt financing controlled mostly by government. Who would have lent money to many of these students if he had to worry about the prospect of never getting his capital back?

Madison Plays Host to the Abominable “White Privilege Conference”


The 15th annual “White Privilege Conference” was held in Madison, Wisconsin last month. The event always highlights academics who insist that “teaching is a political act” and encourage educators to use the classroom as a means for fighting oppression. If you’ve heard leftists claim that there is very little politicization in our classrooms, this conference tells a different tale.

You can read about the conference in the reporting done by Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute here and here.

The Future of HBCUs


It was refreshing to see that North Carolina Central University recently hosted a student debate on the future of historically black colleges and universities. Jesse Saffron covered the debate (which was argued over two days), and his article shows that students at one of North Carolina’s five public HBCUs addressed some big questions.

Those questions included whether closing weak HBCUs would hurt access, whether it would make the remaining schools stronger, and whether or not the civil rights leaders of the 1960s would have approved of what is, in part, a continuance of segregation. (In fairness, today’s HBCUs are more racially  integrated than in the past, and it is possible that they will continue to move in that direction.) Finally, is maintaining HBCUs constitutional?

Whatever the answers to those questions, HBCUs are vulnerable to the changing landscape of university education. In a world in which traditionally white colleges seek the best minority students they can find–and have the funds to help bring them in–schools with mostly minority students struggle to get and keep good students. Last fall four out of the five public HBCUs in North Carolina experienced a decline in enrollment. Howard University in Washington, considered one of the best HBCUs, is facing financial trouble (Moody’s downgraded its credit rating in 2013 and the president resigned unexpectedly last fall). St. Paul’s, a private HBCU in Virginia, stopped operating in 2012 after losing accreditation for financial reasons. I expect we will see more mergers or closings, even if debaters argue eloquently for their continuation.

Introducing: The Jesus-Free Speech Zone


You’ve probably heard of campus free speech zones. But what about the Jesus-free speech zone?

Officials at Thomas Nelson Community College have come up with an entirely new speech zone concept!

What am I talking about? In his feature story today at The College Fix, Andrew Desiderio reports on a lawsuit that resulted when officials told a student that he must stop talking about Jesus on campus because he didn’t have permission to do so.

College officials told the student they were worried “he might offend someone.”

Time to Put an End to ‘Disinvitation Season’


By now, many have heard about the dispute at Rutgers over its selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker. Rutgers, to its credit, is sticking to its guns. But what my colleagues at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have dubbed the annual “disinvitation season” rolls on nonetheless. The latest absurd row is over the invitation to Greg and Susan Gianforte to give commencement addresses this year at Montana Tech and at Rocky Mountain College. The Gianfortes are multi-millionaires who two years ago sold their Bozeman, Montana-based business, RightNow Technologies, to Oracle for a reported $1.5 billion.

So what’s the problem? Is it that, as The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports, that Greg Gianforte “is involved with an affiliate of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group, and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.?” Yes, in part. Is it that they have spoken out against the possibility of a local ordinance that would add sexual orientation as a protected class for discrimination? Yes, in part. But their greatest sin seems to be that “they promote unscientific beliefs, as evidenced by their contributions to the faith-based Glendive Dinosaur Fossil Museum, which teaches that humans co-existed with dinosaurs.” Some Montana Tech faculty members are planning to boycott the speeches.

There is growing conviction in some quarters that if another person has a belief that strikes one as weird, stupid, unfounded, or bigoted, that person cannot possibly have anything useful to say and must be excised from polite society or, better, silenced. This also applies to people who are merely the other side of the political spectrum, like Condoleezza Rice or Dick Cheney.

This conviction is self-evidently absurd. Dr. James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, has been roundly criticized as racist. Senator Robert Byrd was a member and sometime leader in the Ku Klux Klan. The Reverend Jesse Jackson called New York “Hymietown.” And Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes penned an opinion in support of eugenics in which he (in)famously declared that “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Yet all of these people managed to make meaningful contributions to society. And while these comments and opinions are certainly hard to defend, the fact remains that in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, and surreptitious video recordings, you can always find something to feed the outrage machine. (Ask Stephen Colbert.)

Gianforte, according to reports, was not asked to talk about and is not planning to talk about gay rights or the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. He’s there to talk about his experience in business and technology, a subject that he obviously knows plenty about. More importantly, though, a college or university is supposed to expose people to views they might not have heard before or with which they might not be comfortable.

Too many in academia take the Marcusian view that openness to differing views should only go one way—i.e., that expression is free for left-leaning views only. Recognizing (and resenting) this, some on the right try to fight back by lashing out with the power of the state when it’s available. What both these approaches have in common is that they victimize students in order to score political points. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty:

[T]he peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

College students deserve to have the opportunity to exchange error for truth, or just as usefully, to gain a “clearer perception and livelier impression” of their own views and the views of others. This is as true in commencement speeches as it should be in the classroom.

As a new author on Phi Beta Cons (my thanks to Jane Shaw and George Leef for inviting me!), I hope to help guide the conservative discussion of higher education towards the principle of free speech and open debate on campus. It’s no secret that academia is overwhelmingly left-wing, and that the groupthink and general blinkered attitude of too many at our colleges and universities is hurting our students and our society generally. (My boss, who is liberal, wrote a book on this.) But the conservative solution to this problem cannot be a right-wing purge of the Ivory Tower. Not only would that be wrong, it would be doomed to fail. The conservative solution must be the continuous, untiring, and utterly principled insistence that the “marketplace of ideas” must be open to all the intellectual products available.

Why Unionizing College Athletes is a Bad Idea


Owing to an expansive, unprecedented interpretation of the word “employee” in the National Labor Relations Act, last week a regional director of the NLRB ruled that the football players on Northwestern’s team can proceed with a union election. That ruling has generated lots of discussion and in this Forbes piece, I argue that the players are not really “employees” but in any event, voting to form a union and have the Steelworkers union represent the players would be a bad call.

Better to Be Nerds


The University of Colorado at Boulder has reprimanded its philosophy department for sexist behavior. It removed the department chair, required department staff members to take sensitivity training, and suspended the admission of graduate students for a year.

Why? A team from the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women saw signs of bullying and sexual harassment (not to mention too much social drinking) in the department.

Apparently UC-Boulder’s isn’t the only philosophy department to look bad in the eyes of women. One author, noting the report, wrote sarcastically in Slate that the discipline of philosophy “among the humanities is perhaps the last relic of the good old days of academe, before the feminazis and the ethnics ruined everything.”

It is true that about 27 percent of all philosophy doctorates go to females. Is the figure low because of sexual harassment? Ben Cohen, writing for the Pope Center, is not convinced.

Black Republican ‘Shatters Stereotypes’ at U of Wisconisn


Julian Bradley, age 33, is a rising star in the Wisconsin Republican party. He also happens to be black. Bradley recently gave a talk at the University of Wisconsin about the evolution of his political views. He grew up in “a Jesse Jackson household” and later became a conservative Republican:

In a recent speech at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Bradley said he remembers the strong connection his family felt toward Jackson during the 1984 Democratic convention, feeling as though Jackson and the Democrats knew what was best for his community.

But then there was the issue of abortion, something that had always nagged at Bradley.

Once he realized he was prolife about ten years ago, he began to further question the Democrats’ platform, he said. Research on the differences in the two party’s fiscal policies further helped Bradley realize his beliefs matched up closer to a conservative ideology.

Today, as a candidate for Wisconsin Secretary of State, he champions conservative causes, running with a slogan #ItsTime. In 2013, Bradley launched his “Shattering Stereotypes” speaking tour, sharing his story of transforming into a Republican and rising through the ranks in Wisconsin politics.

Read Kyle Brooks’s full report on Julian Bradley at The College Fix.

AU Students Heckle Dick Cheney, Walk Out in Protest


This happens so often it’s starting to become tedious to write about it.

Last Thursday, former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at American University at an event sponsored by the school’s Kennedy Political Union, a non-partisan, student-run, student-funded organization. As if on cue, students took to Twitter to denounce him as a “war criminal,” and a protest was organized against his appearance.

Of course, the arrival of a figure like Cheney on campus ought to spark dialogue, discussion, and even controversy about serious issues. And some of the student protesters used the occasion to express their views in a wholly appropriate way. But others were quick to ask why “war criminal & America wrecker Dick Cheney” is “still invited to speak at places like American University.”

Could it be because he is a former congressman, cabinet official, and vice president who may have important thoughts on the issues of the day? No matter. He served in the Bush Administration, so he’s persona non grata.

What was most deplorable was the group of students who interrupted Cheney’s speech with foot-stomping and shouting before walking out. Instead of behaving like thoughtful adults and asking hard questions (as other students did), these hecklers decided to behave like children and shut their ears to opposing viewpoints.

None of this is surprising. But that hardly brings any comfort.

University of Gomorrah


Recently, a caller to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR repeated the statistic that one in four young women is raped on American college campuses each year. Rehm’s guest, former president Jimmy Carter, actually had said sexual abuse, not rape, but neither he nor Rehm corrected the caller. Carter was plugging his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power – touted by publisher Simon and Shuster as “an impassioned account of the human rights abuses against women and girls around the world, particularly in religious societies.”

According to Carter, the administrators of “Harvard, Yale, Emory and the University of Georgia” refuse to take action against the predation of young women on college campuses for fear of negative publicity. However, he failed to mention that victims are not prevented from reporting cases to local police, nor that a number of accusations are made by victims for revenge against a male partner, knowing that simply making a charge stains him for life.

This style of blanket condemnation is typical of left-wing utopians like Carter, as demonstrated within the context of his diatribe against men everywhere for “gross abuse,“ including genital mutilation, spousal abuse, work place discrimination, attacks on Christian preachers for not following the dictates of the Bible and the proposition that women are treated worse today than in the time of Jesus.

As for college campus sexual assaults, what’s a mother to do? Young women leave home and join men their own age in an atmosphere that is best described as licentious. No parents to monitor them, complete freedom to come and go at any hour, alcohol and drugs everywhere – and gee whiz! Sex rears its ugly head. Worse, as feminist agitator Camille Paglia points out, college women are drawn into the radical cabal on most campuses that asserts females are superior, yet vulnerable to the male dominated superstructure of American society.

Apparently, college today is not only expensive and vacuous, but girls are susceptible to sexual attack by out-of-control boys trolling the campus for victims. Even if they manage to escape this cauldron of predation unscathed, graduates are faced with a two-front assault by their own president who has caused a deplorable  50% unemployment or under-employment rate for citizens under 25, coupled with a Soviet-style demand to purchase health insurance or be investigated by the IRS.

Perhaps Hamlet had it right: “Get thee to a nunnery!”

Yet Another Cost of Affirmative Action


From an Inside Higher Ed article today on a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination by Miami University:

“Marvin Thrash brought the suit after he was rejected for tenure. He had joined the public university in Ohio as an ‘opportunity hire’ after he was a finalist, but not selected, for an open tenure-track position in paper science and engineering. He argued that his record was devalued because of bias against those hired with affirmative action.”

Well, yes, it’s quite plausible that, if you are hired according to lower standards, some people will devalue your record.  One of the many costs of racial preferences.


Trouble’s Brewing in the Lowcountry


Students and faculty at the College of Charleston are infuriated. They’re upset that trustees tapped Glenn McConnell, currently South Carolina’s Republican lieutenant governor, to be the college’s next president.

McConnell’s opponents say he’s a “Confederate sympathizer” (he once owned a store that sold Confederate memorabilia and has supported flying the Confederate flag at the state capitol) and a career politician with no higher education experience. Even the NAACP has chimed in, claiming that a McConnell presidency will make the College of Charleston less attractive to potential black students.

Backlash regarding the board’s selection has brought some of the college’s management and leadership issues to the forefront.

This week, the college’s Faculty Senate drafted a resolution – to be voted on in April – stating that the presidential search was a “predetermined” sham that ignored the recommendations of a search committee and an outside consulting firm.

The resolution also alleges that the board of trustees has shown a “willingness to interfere in curricular issues” and has not been up-front with the College of Charleston community about a potential merger with the Medical University of South Carolina. The resolution expressed concern about the college’s “potential re-shaping into a research university.” 

Such language may reflect a belief that McConnell and the board have a vision not shared by the College of Charleston faculty. Indeed, in an interview conducted after his appointment to the presidency, McConnell said he’d like to make the college’s liberal arts focus compatible with the needs of businesses and local communities. 

Another issue, according to the college’s Faculty Senate and student government (which has already voted no confidence in the board of trustees), is that academic freedom and faculty decision-making have been undermined by the board’s tepid defense of a controversial freshman reading program that resulted in the South Carolina legislature voting to reduce the college’s funding.

McConnell has defended himself against detractors. He dismisses those who call him a racist by stating that his interest in the Confederacy is based on his broader fascination with Civil War history. And, perhaps to answer his lack of higher education experience, he wrote in his formal presidential application that his career in politics gives him a “network” of public and private contacts that can advance the college’s various initiatives.

It looks like McConnell’s off to a rough start, yet he hasn’t served one day as president. Opposition is intense and vociferous. Will he be able to adequately allay faculty, student, and alumni concerns and fears? Or will his presidency be derailed?


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