Students Did Poorly, So Punish the Accreditor?

by George Leef

Many Americans harbor foolish notions about higher education, among them apparently that if many of the students at some school do poorly, the way to fix things is to punish the agency that accredits it. That’s the subject of this piece of mine on SeeThruEdu.

First, the American Bar Association is under attack because it accredits some law schools with low graduation rates, especially for minority students. Now, I’m no friend of the ABA or its accreditation standards that serve to create lots of make-work jobs and prevent efficiency, but it is not to blame for the fact that lots of law students fail to graduate.

Second, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is facing the hangman because it accredited Corinthian (now defunct) and still accredits lots of low-tier institutions that have generally poor student outcomes. Again, however, if students fail to do what is required of them to pass courses, that’s neither the fault of the school nor the accrediting agency. It’s the fault of the students. Some schools get a high percentage of weak, disengaged, distracted students who just aren’t up to the challenge, but it doesn’t help to kill off the accreditor.

What we need to kill off is easy government financing that lures in many students who should not be in law school or college.

Required Reading: Social Justice

by Jennifer Kabbany

Justice for people of color. Justice for illegal immigrants. These are two themes that have emerged this summer as popular topics for freshman reading programs at universities across the nation, Inside Higher Ed reports, noting the assignments come “in a year when presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has spouted anti-immigrant rhetoric and black men have died at the hands of the police.”

The plight of the illegal immigrant is told in book assignments such as: “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot and the Battle for the American Dream,” “Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America” and “Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant.” The subject of “racial injustice” is handled with books such as “Citizen: An American Lyric,” “Americanah” and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” 

The reading assignments “should make them uncomfortable,” Patricia Maccorquodale, dean of the Honors College at the University of Arizona, told Inside Higher Ed. “It should get them to think outside their comfort zones and their own experiences. It should get them to think about privilege and how it’s produced structurally in society.”

This summer’s themes should not be surprising given the National Association of Scholars’ extensive report last year which found summer reading assignments for incoming college students are often overly political, ideological, and anti-intellectual. Selected books mainly focus on “racial oppression, environmental catastrophism and social activism” and ignore “classic fiction or nonfiction, good modern literature, or history.”

Speaking of “environmental catastrophism,” that’s another popular theme among reading lists this summer. The widely discredited “Silent Spring” is one such assignment. Another is “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” And food injustice is another big one this year, Inside Higher Ed reports, citing assignments such as “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” and “The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor.”

A Calm Hand on the UNC Tiller

by Jane S. Shaw

At first, I was not enthusiastic about the choice of Margaret Spellings as president of the University of North Carolina system last year. Since she was a former secretary of education I thought she would either be something of a figurehead or else an “expert” breezily bringing Washington, D.C., knowledge to the Old North State.

I was wrong. At least based on her first five months in office, she seems to have taken the helm, avoiding the newcomer’s weak “I’m-going-to-listen-to-all-the-constituents“ approach and instead competently negotiating the shoals of the state legislature, the governing board, and university faculty and staff. She has done this even though her tenure began with loud student protests (I don’t know quite what the students objected to except that she was a Republican).

Her major appointments have been solid (such as hiring Andrew P. Kelly from the American Enterprise Institute) — paid for by reorganizing her office and laying off some employees.

I respect her for championing, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed yesterday, the controversial $500-tuition law just passed by the North Carolina legislature, calling it an “innovation…and a game-changer.” (I too have championed it, twice.)

She has an attitude that might bring success. As she told IHE, she wants to expand accountability measures for each campus (the process is called performance funding, which is much talked about but rarely implemented well). She said that accountability measures could be an alternative to micromanagement by the governing board or the federal government.

The hiring process that brought Spellings to UNC was a controversial one, overseen by John Fennebresque, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, who had a stormy tenure. But if Spellings turns out to be as good a helmsman as she seems to be, Fennebresque will have a lot to be proud of.

Campus Carry and the Texas Tower

by David Clemens

I grew up with guns. Toys first, then a single shot .22. Before long I was taking a Swiss Vetterli, as tall as I was, to school for show and tell. So the operatic liberal (and presidential) gun hysteria leaves me bemused. I agree with the sticker you see at gun shows: “A Gun Society Is a Polite Society.”

Now Reuters stringer Jon Herskovitz notifies us of a lawsuit filed by three University of Texas professors alleging that UT’s open carry policy violates their … academic freedom. The lawsuit, filed by Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, names as defendants the Texas attorney general, the university’s president and its board of regents. According to the Texas Tribune, “… professors say they teach courses that touch emotional issues like gay rights and abortion.”

The lawsuit reads in part “Compelling professors at a public university to allow, without any limitation or restriction, students to carry concealed guns in their classrooms chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom.” Nice try, but their lawyer should have explained that the First Amendment and academic freedom, while sounding similar, are really unrelated.

I was in Austin last January for the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) annual convention when a handful of members and some Craigslist extras marched on the Texas Capitol to protest the state’s new “campus carry” law. On the Capitol steps, they built a silly little “circle of safety” out of books.

That Longhorn professors want to keep guns off campus couldn’t be more ironic. Fifty years ago, Charles Whitman, after murdering his wife and his mother, climbed the tower of the University of Texas and began shooting people as much as 500 yards away. He hit 49, killing 16 before an off duty policeman, Ramiro Martinez, shot and killed him. Liberal critics deplore that the new law takes effect on the anniversary of the “gun-related” Texas Tower massacre, reports Herskovitz, but the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. Herskovitz neglects to mention that Ramirez was aided by students who had deer rifles racked in their pickups or nearby homes. South African J.M. Coetzee, then a grad student but later a Nobel Laureate in Literature, said, “I hadn’t fully comprehended that lots of people around me in Austin not only owned guns but had them close at hand and regarded themselves as free to use them.” Fancy that.

Thank goodness they did because it was “close at hand” weapons and the students’ marksmanship that pinned down the maniac, saving who knows how many lives. Bill Helmer, also a grad student, observed that “… what [the students] did turned out to be brilliant. Once [Whitman] could no longer lean over the edge and fire, he was much more limited in what he could do. He had to shoot through those drain spouts, or he had to pop up real fast and then dive down again. That’s why he did most of his damage in the first twenty minutes.”

Guns didn’t make Whitman kill (he stabbed his wife and mother). Harry Crews in a chilling essay titled “Climbing the Tower,” says, “… Whitman calmly and with incredible accuracy shot mothers and husbands and children, shot them dead because it was in him to do it, because his life and everything that made it had taken him there.”

At my college, if there is an active shooter like Whitman or Virginia Tech’s Seung-Hui Cho, we are expected to “freeze in place” (translation: “become a sitting duck”). No, those Longhorns had the right idea back in 1966: if shooting starts, shoot back. Or, you can cower inside your circle of books, complaining about academic freedom, and wait for the executioner.

Students Aren’t Taught Climate Science, but Climate Alarmism

by George Leef

One of my favorite H.L. Mencken quotes goes like this: “The aim of practical politics is to menace the populace with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary, to keep the people clamoring for politicians to save them.” Mencken would recognize what’s going on today with the way the statists use climate fear to lure people into supporting their agenda of continuous expansion of the powers of government.

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, University of Delaware climatology professor David Legates muses on how our colleges and universities are going along with that by importuning students with climate alarmism rather than teaching climate science. That makes them, he writes, “easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today.” What passes as scientific literacy on this amounts to instructing students that they need to “save energy, calculate their carbon footprint, and reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Moreover, universities go along with the alarmist crowd by running such programs as Delaware’s “Environmental Film Festival.” This event featured six films of which Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth wasn’t the worst. And instead of having discussions led by faculty members who actually teach in the fields of science involved, the school chose professors who had no background in them, but were on board with the idea that we face environmental disaster unless we give the government vast power to control human activity.

Professor Legates also observes that faculty members who don’t go along with the alarmism fare poorly in academia. He has experienced that first-hand, when the University of Delaware caved in to Greenpeace when it demanded access to his emails and research. Moreover, young faculty members would have to be really obtuse to miss the messages that if you go along with the climate change agenda, you can get grant money, but if you don’t you put your career in jeopardy.

“Climate science,” Legates concludes, “must return to being a real science and not simply a vehicle to promote advocacy talking points.” He’s right, but the “liberals” who now run America don’t want people to be literate about science any more than they want them to be literate about economics, history, or anything else where knowledge would incline people to oppose the march toward (as Ludwig von Mises entitled one of his books) Omnipotent Government.

A “Fair Chance” -- for Campus Crime?

by Vic Brown

Last month, the Obama administration held a White House ceremony to launch its new “Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge.” Representatives of 15 higher educational institutions were in attendance, and it was reported that 25 such schools have signed on as the initial participants in this program.

Simply put, these schools promise to reduce barriers to admissions for convicted and now-released felons, helping them to get a fresh start and to build a new life based on education. There is fine print that gives the colleges a lot of wiggle room on if, when, and how they actually question these applicants about their criminal history, but the goal of the initiative is clear — to lower admissions barriers, admit more former felons, and contribute thereby to society. 

Out of curiosity, though, I looked up recidivism rates for convicted and released felons, and found that the statistics compiled by the National Institute of Justice might give these 25 schools some pause for further thought.

The Institute reports here that 68% of all released offenders are re-arrested within three years of release, and fully 77% within five years. Additionally, re-arrest rates are high for all major types of crime: 82% for property offenders, 77% for drug offenders, and 71% for violent offenders. If I were working in a college or university admissions office today, and my school had signed on to the pledge, I would have real concerns about whether admitting these offenders is really a very good idea.

I suppose the argument can be made that education will reduce recidivism among those admitted to institutions of higher learning, but the starting point is exceedingly high, and even a 50% reduction in recidivism rates would still result in about a third of these admitted students to be at risk for re-arrest for additional crimes. 

We have heard much about making campuses a “safe space” for students, protecting them from horrible things like free speech and differing opinions. Might these students be exposed to real threats to their safety as a result of this program?

A Cheaper Ride

by Jane S. Shaw

It’s official. The North Carolina legislature has passed a law mandating that three universities in the University of North Carolina system reduce their tuition to $500 per semester beginning in the fall of 2018. The state promises to make up for the losses, at least for now.

Lower tuition will increase access, won’t it? And isn’t greater access the mantra of politicians, faculty, and administrators? Maybe not, since a lot of people are grousing about it.

The three schools are Western Carolina University, UNC-Pembroke, and Elizabeth City State University. Initially two other schools were included, Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State, both of which are historically black universities.

But there was opposition,as I reported earlier, based on a feeling that the lower tuition would hurt the reputation of the campuses. Two of the HBCUs were removed.

Even now, there is opposition. The News & Observer reports:

Tony White, 69, a Western Carolina alumnus now living in Atlanta and retired CEO of Applied Biosystems, said he wishes the bill would have excluded his alma mater or included all UNC system schools.

“What makes Western Carolina one that needs special treatment from the legislature to say that our students have to get a cheaper ride than everyone else?” White asked. “We think that’s going to damage the long-term positioning of the university as a premium university.”

In other words, high price raises reputation (the Chivas Regal effect).

Others like Stephen Leonard, an associate professor of political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, said the plan could change the mission of minority institutions by opening them up to anyone who wants to attend college at $500 a semester.

“Using the existing admissions standards, students coming from underprivileged circumstances would be less competitive,” Leonard said.

In other words, historically black (or in the case of UNC-Pembroke, historically American Indian) colleges may become more racially or ethnically integrated.

One is forcibly reminded that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

A note on the significance of the price change: The current tuition at Western Carolina University is $1946.50, but the actual cost of attendance is much higher. Not only are there lodging and meals, but $2,767 in fees must be paid. Western Carolina says that the actual cost of attendance beginning in the fall of 2018 will be $7,354, compared with the present $8,800. Thus, it’s not as dramatic as it seems.

But for Western, at least, out-of-state tuition may be more important. The school in Cullowhee, North Carolina, is at the far western edge of the state and much closer to Atlanta than to, say, Raleigh. Total costs for out-of-state students will go down from $13,997 to $9,354.

That could have an impact.

Students Benefit from Privatization

by Stephanie Keaveney

At this point, it’s no surprise that protest-happy students find opportunities to demonstrate their outrage all over campus.

Between protesting the selection of new UNC system president Margaret Spellings and issuing lists of demands regarding race on campus, students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill also found time to be outraged about the privatization of on-campus bookstores. Pope Center intern and UNC-Chapel Hill student Andrew Garofolo explains why their animosity was misplaced in today’s Pope Center commentary.  

According to Garofolo, the 10-year, $30 million agreement to transfer operation of student stores to Barnes & Noble comes with numerous benefits, including an agreement that Barnes &Noble must provide $2 million per year for need-based academic scholarships.

While the protests against this move were grounded in a belief that it would lead to massive layoffs, there has not been a single instance of this. But even so, as Garofolo points out, “If thousands of students are going to benefit from the transition via lower book prices and more scholarship opportunities, we shouldn’t wring our hands over a couple of job cuts.”

In reality, some of these student protesters are probably also the students who are buying their textbooks from third-party sellers or illegally downloading them to save money.  A recent survey showed that 44 percent of students don’t use the campus bookstore because of the price premiums.

The benefits of a corporate monolith like Barnes & Noble operating the student stores are likely to help students in numerous ways, as Garofolo concludes, “Reduced costs, more scholarships, and greater convenience are just some of the benefits that privatization provides.”

Gallup Says Racial Preferences Unpopular

by Roger Clegg

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in Fisher II, a poll of the public by Gallup, with questions drafted with Inside Higher Ed, finds that the general public disagrees with the Supreme Court and college leaders. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed by Gallup between June 29 and July 2, 2016, said they disagreed with the decision. The ruling was backed by 31 percent, and 4 percent had no opinion.

You can read IHE’s article here, which gives details on how deep and wide the public’s disapproval is. Note also that the article has a sidebar about a related August 4 webinar and a September 15 conference (I’ve agreed to be a panelist at the latter). 

I’m quoted at the end of the IHE article:

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes the consideration of race in admissions, said he was not surprised or alarmed by the poll results. “Americans have been brought up to believe that it’s a bad thing to treat people differently because of their skin color or where their ancestors came from,” he said. “None of this is surprising.”

Clegg said that public colleges and universities that feel secure in considering race in admissions should also remember that voters or legislators can pass laws that bar them from doing so. And in fact, that has happened. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right (in some circumstances) of the University of Michigan to consider race in admissions. In 2006, the state’s voters barred public universities in the state from considering race in admissions–and that ban stands.

Asked about greater public support for considering athletic ability or alumni status than race in admissions decisions, Clegg acknowledged that the motivations of colleges for wanting to favor athletes or alumni children were not “the noblest” of all college motivations.

But he said that he agreed with the public that it’s better to consider those factors than race. “Discriminating against people on the basis of skin color is uniquely ugly, and I am not surprised and not bothered by the fact that more Americans should be offended by that than because applicants can throw a football well.”

Coming of Age in America

by Carol Iannone

It is certainly not a “rape culture,” but just how satisfactory is the college sex scene for women today? Although feminists want to deny it, the sexes are different, and today’s promiscuous, profligate, licentious campus hook-up culture favors men, who for the most part can be more casual about sex (not that that’s good for them), while women generally become more emotionally involved.

To begin with, many college women today probably feel compelled to have casual sex in order to compete in the collegiate meat market, to function in the hook-up game, or to have male companionship at all. There are more women than men on many college campuses nowadays (thanks in part to Title IX decimation of men’s sports on many campuses), so the sex ratios are unfavorable for women. This is true even in the 50-50 divide at the most selective campuses, such as in the Ivy League. To favor women, the odds have to be better than 50-50.

In addition, privacy, more important for women than men, is diminished in the quasi-collectivist coed dorms and bathrooms of today, where bowls of condoms may well be on prominent display, sending the signal that free sex is fully condoned by the college “authorities,” such as they are, and probably giving some sensitive women the feeling that they have wandered onto the set of a pornographic movie. Orientation materials and student events promote and trumpet sexual license of all kinds, and many campuses have sex fairs in which various erotic diversions, including sado-masochism, are displayed, enacted, and commended to the young people.

“Free love” has been promulgated since the French Revolution in one form or another but became more widespread in the twentieth century. Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928 but with a long shelf life, presented a picture of young Samoans having breezy, no-fault sex starting in adolescence and with no societal disapproval. In later decades feminist Erica Jong promoted her ideal of the “zipless f-word.” Many young women are encouraged to think that full liberation would mean having sex with the easy nonchalance of a man and the eagerness of the Tahitian maidens greeting the sailors of the Bounty.

For example, Amanda Knox reveals in her memoir, Waiting to Be Heard–about her horrendous experience of being falsely imprisoned for murder while a student in Italy–that she determined to use her time abroad to experiment with anonymous sex. “Casual sex was, for my generation, simply what you did,” she explains, and relates how friends back home would tease her for her relative reticence. “Hellooo, Amanda. Sex is normal,” she could hear them saying. But her experiments left her feeling only emptiness. Ironically, the poor flatmate who was to become the murder victim at the hands of a local hanger-on, wisely instructed her, “Amanda, maybe uninvolved sex just isn’t for you.”

Furthermore, since God intended sex not to be recreational, but part of marriage, men tend to achieve sexual fulfillment rather easily, especially when they are young, while women often do not. A 2013 story in the New York Times revealed that in one college study 40 percent of women reported achieving climax during their last casual hook-up, while 80 percent of men did. (This was presented as a matter of “inequality.”)

So it may well seem to some women that the contemporary college scene offers them a sex life that is coerced, at least in some ways and to some extent; emotionless, without affection and certainly without commitment or even the promise of a second hook-up; and without the much-touted promised ecstasy.  No, it is not a culture of rape, but in some ways it is, just not the kind of rape feminists mean.  

One Prof Does His Best to Save the Humanities

by George Leef

 ”The humanities are hurting and there is no indication that they will experience a renaissance anytime soon,” writes Professor Jeffrey Anderson of SUNY — Cobleskill in today’s Pope Center piece.

He is not content to let that trend continue.

At his school, with a focus on agriculture and technology, most of the students accept that they have to take a few humanities courses to graduate, but think they should be easy. Anderson has devised a course that is not easy, but nevertheless appeals to most of the students because it makes the humanities “hands on.”

Therefore, he has devised a course called “Founding Farmers,” and it blends agriculture with a great deal of reading about our early history and culture. Focusing on food in colonial America, “the course exposes students to appropriate historical content and challenges them to develop skills in close reading of texts, thinking critically, and writing.” The students also had to prepare food that would have been eaten in colonial times and explain why it was important.

Evidently, most of the students really “got into” Founding Farmers. Anderson suggests that professors think about devising other such courses that make the humanities more hands on. I think he’s on to something.

Ban the Box?

by Roger Clegg

No, not that box (that is, the criminal record box) — this box (the college degree box).  That’s the box that George Leef discusses in this interesting Forbes column.

A Waste of Money and a Nightmare

by Jane S. Shaw

The editors of NRO have written a long and powerful editorial opposing Hillary Clinton’s plan for free tuition for families earning up to $125,000. The title of the piece gives you the idea: “A Remarkably Awful Student-Debt Plan.”

A quote from it:

Mrs. Clinton’s promise of “free” higher education at state schools would certainly prove to be a gigantic waste of money and a nightmare of inefficiency and corruption: That’s what federal programs are. But it is worse than that. The current model of federal support for higher education consists of supporting students and families, who then choose among the institutions of higher learning competing for them and the revenue that accompanies them. Take tuition out of the picture, and you no longer have anything that resembles a market. Mrs. Clinton proposes a “federal-state partnership” to end tuition; what that means in reality — what it always means — is the federal government stepping in as a director, funder, and, eventually, manager. It represents the beginning of what would amount to a federal takeover of the state-university system.
And there’s lots more.

Proof You Don’t Have to be Very Smart to be a College Prof

by George Leef

In this Campus Reform piece, we read about an adjunct prof at Southern State Community College in Ohio. He recently earned his 15 minutes of fame via a Facebook post in which he advocates shooting up National Rifle Association headquarters. He wants to make sure there are no survivors.

For one thing, even if you are silly enough to think that the NRA is to blame for America’s gun violence, calling for more armed violence to kill everyone at NRA HQ is awfully dumb. For another, this guy now has to contend with a load of equally silly investigations to find out if he is a real threat.

I’m not so much bothered by his childish post (ten year old boys talk like that), but the fact that the state of Ohio lets him teach impressionable students.

Academics Got No Respect on Brexit

by Jane S. Shaw

British academics were almost uniformly in favor of “Remain” when Britons went to vote on leaving the European Union last month.

  • More than 100 administrators of British colleges (mostly vice-chancellors) wrote an open letter urging a “Remain” vote.
  • Economists’ models (used by the Treasury Department) showed that each British family would lose $4,300 a year if the country left the EU.
  • A Times Higher Education poll just before the election found that 90 percent of university staff favored “Remain.”

But as Times Higher Education reports (on the Inside Higher Education site), those views were largely ignored. Michael Gove, a leader of the U.K. Independence Party, famously said, ”People in this country have had enough of experts.”

Now, the experts are trying to figure out what happened. Was it the anti-intellectualism of the voters? A matter of class? Distrust of the Establishment? Economists’ failure to predict the 2008 crash? Or poor use of social media?

All possible explanations are in the mix.

Student Loans, New Jersey Style

by Jane S. Shaw

Shortly before Hillary Clinton announced her “free-college” plan today, a July 3 article in the New York Times described the aggressive collection tactics of New Jersey’s student loan agency. Featured is a woman who continues to pay $180 a month (and has 92 payments left) in order to pay off the student loan of her son, who was murdered. (Yes, a very New Jersey story.)

To give you an idea:

New Jersey’s loans, which currently total $1.9 billion, are unlike those of any other government lending program for students in the country. They come with extraordinarily stringent rules that can easily lead to financial ruin. Repayments cannot be adjusted based on income, and borrowers who are unemployed or facing other financial hardships are given few breaks.

The loans also carry higher interest rates than similar federal programs. Most significant, New Jersey’s loans come with a cudgel that even the most predatory for-profit players cannot wield: the power of the state. New Jersey can garnish wages, rescind state income tax refunds, revoke professional licenses, even take away lottery winnings — all without having to get court approval.

In 2010,when the Obama administration shifted to providing all federal loans directly, not by guaranteeing the loans of private lenders, some states that had their own lending agencies dropped or downsized them. But New Jersey expanded its agency, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. Half of the agency’s budget depends on revenues from its loans, the Times says.

“I never thought that sending my daughter to college would ruin our lives,” said one woman who was sued when her daughter faulted on $140,000 in loans.

My view: Yes, the student loan business is a “racket,” but especially because of increasing evidence—in fact, proof—that the loans allow colleges to raise their prices, creating a never-ending cycle.

Doing something for today’s graduates, who may have been somewhat hoodwinked into borrowing too much, has its place—such as restoring the right to declare bankruptcy under some circumstances. But proposals for the future distress me, such as Clinton’s “debt-free” and now “free” college, loan cancellations, and forgiveness for getting the right jobs (with government and not-for-profit organizations). The first two are impractical and the last two create a moral hazard for those just entering college now.

What is most distressing is that people from Hillary Clinton to the Lumina Foundation’s Jamie Merisotis fail to see the loan racket (state and federal) as a systemic process that needs to be stopped or at least reinvented. Its features are 1) the fiction that everybody must go to college; 2) lavish loans that students don’t have to pay for till they graduate (or drop out) and that they often don’t even understand; and 3) loan forgiveness programs that fool students into thinking that they will be rescued when they act irresponsibly.

This University’s Bias Response Team Gets Results!

by George Leef

Are university bias response teams just for show, silly stuff meant to keep hyper students content? Not at the University of Northern Colorado.

We read in this story that a “transwomen” student complained about an adjunct professor who thought it would be a good idea to discuss the issue of “trans rights” in class. Apparently, the student thought that it was the prof who needed to be “educated.”  Result: the prof was not invited back to teach at the school. Maybe he’s busy educating himself on this topic. Or maybe he learned that it’s best not to discuss anything so emotionally charged.

One Bad Decision Isn’t Final Victory for Racial Preferences

by George Leef

Just how bad was the Supreme Court’s recent 4-3 decision in the Fisher case? The Court let stand the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that there was nothing constitutionally amiss in the University of Texas’ admissions policy, which gives preference to applicants based on whether or not their ancestry means that they would make the student body more “diverse.” Many observers thought that the decision would go against the university and perhaps even strike a serious blow against this sort of governmental discrimination.

But it wasn’t to be. Justice Kennedy swung away from his previous skepticism about the use of racial classifications and wrote a meek and deferential opinion that allows Texas to continue its racial discrimination. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Cato Institute legal scholar Ilya Shapiro looks at the decision and the future of the campaign against racial preferences. He excoriates the ruling but isn’t pessimistic about the loss.

“Litigation will now resume in challenges brought by Asian American students against Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” Shapiro writes. “Will courts recognize the constitutional hole in colleges’  ‘holistic’ review, employing a black box to facilitate racial balancing?” He thinks that the courts eventually will.

I’m also somewhat optimistic. The use of racial preferences is attracting more opponents than ever, including some on the left who want to drop race in favor of socio-economic status. That would be another bad idea, but it does put additional pressure on the feeble structure holding up racial preferences.

Shapiro concludes, “At some point, the Supreme Court has to realize that the hallowed ‘diversity’ interest is both pretext and ephemera and that an admissions program that uses race in a constitutional manner is a self-contradicting position.”

Why Liberal Professors Use Fiction to Teach the Research Paper

by David Clemens

At a 2016 Young Rhetoricians’ Conference panel last week, I presented a paper on “The Literate Painting as an Antidote to Psychological Man and `the Gravity of Our Own Time.’” I argued that paintings that allude to Western cultural treasures (literature, philosophy, architecture, sculpture) can help us resist the nihilism infecting art, culture, politics and education. My co-panelist, a California State University professor, followed explaining her approach to teaching freshman composition. Her presentation was titled “Understanding Global Community and Identity through 21st Century Middle Eastern and South West Asian Literature.” Her presentation description reads, “Literature offers a wonderful vehicle to teach students critical global issues such as universal human rights, religious pluralism, gender equity, women’s education, arranged marriages, and cultural diversity, creating an environment that promotes global citizenship in a composition classroom.” She has her students read contemporary fiction such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner, and Mahbod Seraji’s Roofs of Tehran.

Afterward, there was time for discussion, and one veteran professor asked whether teachers really ought to be using fictional works when teaching freshman composition. Good question, and a perennial argument between professors who think freshman comp is a service course preparing students to write successful essays in other courses, and professors who feel that they can’t ignore what might be their only opportunity to expose students to literature. But now, a third voice has been added to the debate:  professors who believe that the purpose of freshman comp is to use fiction to embed in students a liberal suite of “critical global issues.”

I, too, once used fiction in teaching Comp. but, over time, experience taught me that it was a mistake. I explained to the panel audience that I now opposed introducing fiction into courses “whose primary purpose is discovering and presenting factual truth about the real world.” For example, I have publicly disagreed with serious Holocaust scholars, as well as Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern, who approve of using fictional or fictionalized works when teaching the Holocaust because of fiction’s emotional impact. I argued that “using fiction in this way is red meat for Holocaust deniers who can dismiss such class materials because they are invented, false, products of the imagination, no matter how compelling. Even Oprah insisted on a line between fiction and reality.” In Schindler’s List, Liam Neeson looks nothing like the real Oskar Schindler. Worse, Steven Spielberg’s film is a glorious example of black and white cinematography. What happens, I asked, “when you depict monstrous evil in a way that produces aesthetic pleasure?”

My argument was lost on the young rhetoricians. One audience member echoed my fellow panelist, citing the desirable emotional persuasion of fiction and repeating the new freshman comp. necessity of making “global citizens.” Then she went even further, calmly insisting that “I have to tell the students what to think” about the fiction “so that they can then write a research paper about the book’s `message.’”

But wait—isn’t one quality of great literary works their complex, suggestive, and intractable ambiguity? What, for example, is Moby Dick “about?” To the progressive left, it’s about racism, sexism, capitalism, and the lack of LGBT characters. It’s no wonder the liberal arts are withering when teachers use fiction to teach the research paper and students learn that all they can expect to find in literature is stale ideological “messages.” I recall hearing the Irish critic Denis Donoghue nail it when he said that literature professors today “use literature to talk about what interests them apart from literature.”

More of the Same in North Carolina

by Stephanie Keaveney

The North Carolina General Assembly has successfully passed a state budget which includes a $168 million increase to the University of North Carolina system’s budget. The now $2.8 billion budget includes unnecessary increases to nearly all campuses in the name of “enrollment growth” as explained by Jenna Robinson in today’s Pope Center piece.

North Carolina, like many states, relies on a needlessly complicated funding formula that includes very little scrutiny of the actual practices at the state’s universities. Robinson explains that “Essentially, universities add up their needs, subtract tuition revenues, and then report the difference to the legislature—which almost always funds the full amount.”

Of course, this leads to bloated administrative budgets and unscrutinized waste.

The only saving grace in the UNC budget stems from management flexibility cuts. These are cuts from the budget that are not determined by enrollment figures. This year, the UNC Board of Governors will allocate a total of $62.8 million in flex cuts across the system.

Once the universities are notified of their expected contribution to the flex cuts, they will examine low priority positions and programs to eliminate.

As Robinson points out, “Until a better formula for growth is adopted, ‘flex cuts’ are the best tool the legislature has to curb university excesses.”