Peter Bonilla tells the heartening story of two recent court cases that resulted in legal victories for the protection of free speech rights. In one case a federal court addressing a public university and in another, a state's highest court addressing a private university upheld free speech protections for faculty members sanctioned for expressing views their administrations disliked.
Confucius Institutes—which present themselves as exemplars of cultural exchange with the U.S., but in reality allow China to monitor American professors, pressure universities, and seek out opportunities for academic espionage—have had a large role in Chinese attempts to influence U.S. institutions. The National Association of Scholars has had a similarly large role in shutting them down.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made restoring campus due process and the presumption of innocence in sexual harassment cases a top priority. DeVos has proposed regulations that use language closely tied to that of the federal courts. In the meantime, a wave of lawsuits against colleges and universities by accused students has revealed a desire on the part of the courts to correct a badly flawed system.
From mandating social justice bona fides for faculty candidates to enforcing climate alarmist groupthink in “gold standard” journals, the diversity creed is threatening science pedagogy and scientific advance. David Randall describes the current state of affairs and ponders the possibility that we are losing the last redoubt of objectivity on our campuses.
The Great Books of the Western Canon were once ubiquitous in American undergraduate education, the crucial entry way to humanity’s “Great Conversation” of ideas. That ended in the latter part of the twentieth century. But “Western Civ” survives. Glenn Ricketts provides a survey of existing programs where Western civilization is still part of the core curriculum.
With the antidiscrimination suit brought against it by Students for Fair Admissions, Harvard University finds itself front and center in the affirmative action battle zone. It’s deserved. From the Bakke case that started it all to the current lawsuit, Harvard has played a conspicuous role in denuding the merit-based system.
Colleges and universities are enforcing ever more stringently an impoverished view of diversity that says members of genetically ascribed groups share a rigid set of thoughts, attitudes, and experiences. Historian Charles Geshekter explains that in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s 1978 deification of “educational pluralism,” it couldn’t have been otherwise.
Psychological science, currently embroiled in a “replication crisis,” has a more difficult problem concerning the use of statistics. Psychologist John Staddon points out that deducing the causes of individual behavior from group studies, particularly when there is variability within groups, is a fatal error of psychological research today.
Jon K. Chang reminds us that important parts of the American academy remained highly sympathetic toward the Soviet Union, long after Stalin's deadly reign became widely known. So intent were the leading scholars of Soviet studies on painting a benign picture of the Soviets, many took pains to sugarcoat Stalin's brutal removal of Soviet ethnic minorities.
John Agresto tells us that today’s liberal arts critics are wrong to discard the past, to teach that the best that has been said or written can only burden us with “old ideas and antique prejudices.” A more generous understanding of the liberal arts not only illuminates but can “carry us ahead not simply against the winds of public opinions and prejudices but against the stifling forces of academia itself.”
“There is an indisputable connection between the prevalence of firearms in the United States and killings,” writes Barry Latzer. But given the “historical popularity of firearms, explicit legal support (the Constitution’s Second Amendment), the effective lobbying of the National Rifle Association, and the efficacy of guns for self-defense,” confiscatory gun control laws are unlikely. Better we take targeted, incremental measures where there are policy gaps we know we can close.