Economic professor William Anderson is writing about Duke, but his observation applies to most universities — some professors take scholarly work seriously and others use their positions to beat the drums for their ideological causes. He goes back to the ugly lacrosse case and concludes with the recent uproar over a study showing that black students are apt to gravitate away from hard majors and into soft ones. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. Feelings have been hurt and that trumps everything else.
We thought it was reason to celebrate when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed HB 2281 into law, mercifully eliminating a Chicano Studies curriculum - La Raza Studies, as it was also called. Today however, one of the regular "brainstormers" at the Chronicle of Higher Education writes that a very good thing has been destroyed.
Peter Wood has published a new article at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Innovations Blog, "Racism at Wesleyan?" In it he reviews the recent controversy over an affirmative action bake sale at Wesleyan University, where Ward Connerly will be speaking today at 4:00. Peter argues against censoring the term “racist” but points out that the word can be abused as a label “to intimidate and to polarize,” as was the case at Wesleyan University. He writes that eliminating racial preferences in college admissions will help diminish racism:
We would as a society be better off if we jettisoned race from our consideration of how public goods such as college admissions are distributed. Getting rid of race, like getting rid of racism, is far from easy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the preliminary steps. One of those is de-institutionalizing racial categories.
His essay comes at a timely moment, when some politicians are making an effort to erase the words "racist" and "socialist" from our vocabulary.
Thanks to a tip from our CUNY affiliate, NAS published an article exposing the gaffe of a Brooklyn College faculty member, Jocelyn Wills, who wrote in an email, "Please spread the word among your colleagues and friends on Faculty Council, that we need to correct the lily-white imbalances of the Dean's Search Committees, all four of them." NAS pointed out 4 problems with such a statement: 1. It is blatantly racist against white faculty members. 2. It assumes that racial balance should be the norm. 3. It calls on colleagues to discriminate based on race. 4. It disrespects the non-racial merits of the people Wills wants to help. The day after this article was published, the New York Post covered the story in "Lily-White Prof-Panel Slam," which notes that Wills resigned after she was elected to the search committee.
An anonymous reader commenting on the NAS.org article "National Security Threatened by Devotion to Diversity" recently reported:
The diversity doctrine not only harms the quality of higher education and, quite possibly, national security; it can also get in the way of campus crime prevention. The following incident illustrates just that. On Tuesday, November 10, a woman employee at my college answered a knock on her office door. Upon opening the door, she was immediately sexually assaulted. A violent struggle ensued between her and her attacker. Due to her screams, the assailant eventually fled the scene. The victim was taken to the hospital and treated for her injuries. She was able to give a competent description of the man who assaulted her. The crime, committed in broad daylight, was scary enough. However, what followed was even scarier. In the aftermath of the crime, campus police posted a sketch and a description of the suspect. The perpetrator was described as a "stocky, five-foot-five Hispanic male" who wore a white sleeveless T-shirt and black gloves. Students and employees were urged to be aware of their surroundings and to alert campus police of any suspicious individuals fitting the description. So far, so good. Then, within 24 hours of the incident, the campus police chief sent a warning via college e-mail, asking that everyone "refrain from engaging in profiling." According to the chief, the sketch had resulted in a number of calls that had "inordinately focused on race, rather than suspicious behavior." The college president also chimed in, cautioning the campus community to not "stereotype anyone on a visual basis," and a couple of well-known PC devotees on the faculty seconded the president's motion. It was truly laughable -- if it had not been so serious. Considering the possibility that descriptions of criminals by race, gender, color or ethnicity will soon be taboo -- and that estimates of a perpetrator's age, height and weight might also be viewed as politically incorrect -- I can easily envision the PC version of the crime that recently happened on my campus. It would sound something like this: "The victim was a person employed by the college. He/she described his/her attacker as another person. In an effort to avoid profiling, a sketch of the assailant will not be made public. What we can tell you is that the person wore a white sleeveless T-shirt and black gloves. However, we caution against any visual stereotyping, particularly of persons wearing white T-shirts and black gloves. We also urge everyone to focus on suspicious behavior, not on the person him/herself." Unfortunately, Army Chief of Staff George Casey does not have to worry about diversity becoming "a casualty." It looks like it is here to stay.
The NAS has long and wisely opposed the use of racial, ethnic, or other criteria unrelated to merit in (among other aspects of campus life) student recruitment and admissions. Those who support this view will find troubling the following requirement embedded in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1,990-page health-care bill, which as I write she is trying to bring to a vote, and which fomer Lt. Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has unearthed:
Secs. 2521 and 2533 (pp. 1379 and 1437) establishes racial and ethnic preferences in awarding grants for training nurses and creating secondary-school health science programs. For example, grants for nursing schools should "give preference to programs that provide for improving the diversity of new nurse graduates to reflect changes in the demographics of the patient population." And secondary-school grants should go to schools "graduating students from disadvantaged backgrounds including racial and ethnic minorities."
The academic community en masse should, but of course won't, reject such heavy-handed and unfair federal manipulation of student admissions in the name of diversity. This bill - among its other ill effects - will only add to division and lowered academic standards throughout our educational institutions.
Today's Inside Higher Ed has a piece on a new book lauding "affirmative action" (that is to say, selective racial preferences). My good friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a strong opponent of preferences posted a comment and all hell has since broken loose. My thoughts: I haven't yet read the new book, but what I wish the people who keep demanding racial preferences at elite schools would explain is what is so darned important about going to one of those "elite" schools. The courses aren't taught any better just because the faculty is loaded with "academic stars." If anything, it goes the other way. Students at schools where the professors actually handle most of the teaching are likely to get more out of a course than at schools where the profs are mainly preoccupied with their publications. I don't think the mania for admissions preferences is really about the students. Rather, it's about the academic administrators. It makes them feel good about themselves to believe that their little social engineering efforts matter a lot. When mean people like Roger Clegg say that they should drop racial preferences, that's like telling them to stop playing make believe and grow up.
In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh defends his record (“I am not a racist”) and further points out the double standard allowing left-liberals off the hook for statements that are clearly racist. Mr. Limbaugh, be glad you didn't go into academe! Limbaugh's defense highlights several problems for any one who dissents from the Leftist party line, particularly on race: First, playing defense 24/7 is no way to move forward. It places dissenters in the untenable position of answering "when did you stop being a racist?" Repeated denials inspire the race hustlers to keep asking the same question. To Rush Limbaugh: You wanted to purchase a football team that played both offense and defense. There is a lesson here. Second, the Left dominance of higher education really does matter. Many individuals are in a state of denial about the insidious influence K-16 education has on the professions that shape public opinion: schools of journalism, education, law, social work are monoliths of the Left. Add the power of left-wing accreditation bodies and you have "the sound of one hand clapping"--the left hand, of course. Above all, there is the problem of ignorance and miseducation of our youth. Yes, surveys may show that graduates retain some of the values they had prior to entering college. Yet they are not educated well enough to refute left-wing attacks. Let me give you an example: Since 1995, I have advised College Republicans and Campus Libertarians. The knowledge base of libertarian and conservative students has seriously eroded. If I ask "why are you a libertarian? Why are you a conservative?" The answer is superficial: "because I am not a liberal." Oy vey! These students may retain a vague belief in individual freedom, nondiscrimination, and meritocracy but they fail to argue effectively against the Left. Why? Because they have never been exposed to information subverting the smug assumption that Leftists have always have been "the angels of history." Conservatives and libertarians are (and always have been) the villains, according to this fairy tale. That brings me to my book Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader (University Press of Kentucky, in association with the Independent Institute, 2009). This reader debunks the crazy notion that belief in individual freedom, capitalism, and colorblind law = racism. The book highlights how Frederick Douglass, Branch Rickey, Zora Neale Hurston, Clarence Thomas and others consistently championed the bedrock belief that all discrimination is wrong--and they embraced a philosophy of limited government. They experienced first-hand how the State acts as sponsor of discrimination. Back to the football analogy. Here is the offense: those "angels of history" on the Left--labor unions, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and LBJ--committed some of the worst racist actions in our history. Labor unions demanded a ban on Chinese immigration--the first race-based exclusion of an entire race. Wilson segregated the federal government. LBJ declared that an anti-lynching bill was worse than lynching itself. FDR defended quotas to keep Jews from overwhelming Harvard (where he sat on the Board of Trustees). Roosevelt also wrote that interracial "mingling" (marriage) produced "horrific results." As president, FDR blocked Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and interned Japanese Americans during World War II. Not surprising. In each of these cases, the classic liberals in my book fought against those typically portrayed as "angels" in history. It is time for so-called liberals to give up the race hustle and learn their history. In so doing, they may discover some heroes of the classic liberal sort--neither Left nor Right--but committed to racial freedom and equality.