Saturday, May 31, 2003

Greatest hits here now 

On the left index. If you've just started coming here, these are the entries that should familiarize you with why the blog exists. I've also put up a link to an old, now-inactive site called "Shadow University on the Mississippi" that discussed some incidents a few years ago about SCSU. Hope you have a chance to visit a few of these posts. Thanks.

Confessions of a PhotoShop idiot 

If one of the other alliance want to play with this picture to make a rollover with links to our esteemed membership and with pictures to the membership, I'd be grateful -- I just suck at PhotoShop.

Well, I did play second base 

Flattery will get you everywhere, Scott. Powerline wonders why we, "the keystone of the Northern Alliance," are not in the lists of academic bloggers mentioned in this Chronicle of Higher Education article on academic bloggers. Well, it's hard to classify us, which may be part of our problem. One issue is always the fact that this is a group blog. If you look at Gallowglass' list of academic bloggers, you see Prof. Farrell has tried to break down the list by fields. He has to create "diverse humanities" to handle classifying Critical Mass written by a single English professor or BlogLeft by education professors, while he links Cold Spring Shops and AtlanticBlog as economists' blog even though Stephen and Bill write more about non-economic topics. I look at his list and wonder, where would you put a blog critical of the culture in higher education written by professors of economics, insurance and English?

Like I say, we're a diverse group.

I think it would behoove the Chronicle to follow up on the "professors who blog" story by looking at students who blog. There are many, and many of them share the mission of our blog. Thus many appear on the blogroll, and if you want a central clearing house you should see Josh Mercer's Campus Nonsense. Along with Critical Mass, these are excellent jumping-off points for seeing what's gone wrong in academia.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Webrings, alliances, and coordinated pushes 

We're paid a great compliment by Hugh Hewitt today -- any time someone suggests an effort from here might be part of a "rising power" that could dominate the blogosphere in the way InstaPundit does ... oh what the hell am I saying? Nobody has ever said that before. And thanks to Hugh and the Alliance, never so many readers before.

What he suggests is that the coordinated effort yesterday called forth by Hewitt to blog on the John Carroll memo that led to entries from Lileks, Fraters Libertas, Shot in the Dark, PowerLine and us, could be a means of pushing the agenda of the blogosphere to a particular topic. Maybe, thought I haven't seen any increase in dispersion of my links to other blogs via popdex or blogdex. It's been covered in a lot of places, largely because it's a good story that I think fits people's perceptions, not because I or Mitch or even Lileks write about it. There was in fact another kind of alliance in California trying to pick it up as well from LA Observed to XLRQ and Calblog (who later complained nobody was running with the story besides Lileks). All of which, I think, shows that the blogosphere has lots of nooks and crannies that we find only later.

The type of alliance Hewitt is discussing reminds me of the idea of having webrings. I've used them to find additional sites interested in narrow topics like perhaps my penchant for collecting extinct currencies killed by hyperinflation. (Not just Confederate dollars or rentenmarks, but the offbeat stuff like pengo or Sandanista currency.) But I haven't found that the idea catches on much. The whole idea of the web was to find your own way around, make your own paths to information.

To draw readers, you need to either have a lot of quick information (Instapundit's strategy -- his comparative advantage is speed and having a wide but discriminating net), lots of eyes looking for stuff (that would be the Volokh Conspiracy), awesome writing (Lileks) or a small set of compelling stories that can be updated with some frequency. We've tried to be the last. We don't deal in general political commentary by and large not because we can't but because there's loads of it out there and our marginal value to the blogosphere in joining that hubbub isn't likely to be that big. We also don't because Jack, Dave and I are not always in agreement politically; we're probably more intellectually and ideologically diverse that the Fraters.

What we have at SCSU, however, isn't just the usual academic and PC bullshit. It's l'essence de connerie, (use BabelFish to translate) pure, unadulterated social engineering by those who believe they have the Vision of the Anointed and wish to cast the resisters (us) into Perdition. And not just that: It's the expressions of shock, outrage and disbelief that come when you point out that this is what they do. Kinda like the look on Magic Johnson's face whenever a foul was called on him.

We'll do our best to participate in the coordinated pushes when the Commissioner or other Alliance members call us to action. But please continue to look here for original material from what an East Coast academic called "the epicenter of the academic culture wars." Greatest hits entries about SCSU will appear over the weekend for your perusal.


I got a very intelligent comment from John B. disagreeing with some of my last note. He said some things I want to think about a bit. But for right now, the important point is how nice it is to be disagreed with by an intelligent person in an intelligent way.

At the university, discourse has deteriorated badly, so that by now the kinds of criticism folks on our side of the aisle get from liberals often have one or more of these three elements:

1) People tell us about their emotional reactions to what we have said, with a kind of hidden premise that anything that has made them feel bad must be wrong. "I was deeply offended...I can't tell you how offended I was...I can't imagine how offended I was..." And so on. Statements like these are frequently the way comments begin.

2) There is also name calling. "Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic" and the rest, or simply "ill-informed, insensitive, phalo-centric, Euro-centric", and so on. Often calling somebody a bad name is a central part of an argument, the logical core of the argument. (And it's dangerous. To be called a bad name, especially in cases of race, can easily mean one will be presumed guilty, and then the writers have to prove themselves innocent, which isn't easy. How do you prove that somewhere down in the dark depths of your soul you don't have ugly things lurking, and prove it to an audience that very much wants to find them there?)

3) There is also a strong tendency to presume writers are wrong not only because they are ill-informed or are using poor logic and reasoning, but simply because they are bad people; bad people think bad thoughts, and good people think politically-correct thoughts. Mistakes are not problems to be corrected but sins to be stamped out. The dominant university culture still believe that those with non-politically correct attitudes and opinions are simply bad and have to be stomped on, not reasoned against.

Anyway, John B. gave me things to think about, and he did it in a way that reminded me of how nice it is to be back in discourse with intelligent people and away from contemporary campus culture.

Thursday, May 29, 2003


More Signs of the Times: The week the History Channel ran a couple of hours on torture and mass death under Saddam & Sons. It was about as awful as anything I've seen; my wife had to leave and go watch another channel. But then I heard Amnesty International criticize the US for stopping that psychotic pain. At first it's a little hard to accept that those two of statements could exist on the same planet. But in fact it makes serious sense.

"Decadence" in art and literature is the period at the end of an artistic movement when the indwelling spirit has died and all that is left is the external form. That is, artistic forms and movements come out of something new in human experience, something that can't be expressed in the old forms. Artists struggle to capture the new experience, and evolve into new forms that can in fact do the job. But as the Spirit of a Time that stimulates the new art weakens and finally dies, the form doesn't die nearly so quickly. And with no genuine content, the natural tendency is to give even more attention to form, to let the elaboration on form hide for a time the fact that the real content is dead.

This is where current liberalism is. This all came out of good impulses and perceptions many years ago (although people too quickly forgot the old wisdom that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions). People could believe it was good to want to stop war and poverty, and to want racial equality, and to try to be fair and compassionate, and the rest. And the ways of going about these things that evolved, which did naturally express the human impulse early liberals felt, made sense too. But now, simply, that liberalism is dead. Flat out dead. And all that's left is the increasing emphasis on the external, the form. So we get this: War is bad, so any use of the American military is bad. It doesn't matter what Saddam was or what kind of awesome human misery he and his sons caused that the US military has stopped. All Amnesty International could do is jerk its knees and condemn the US. With no genuine indwelling spirit, all there is is form, and Amnesty International has to follow the old form, again and again and again. This is modern decadence.

Expect more of this. These folks have their lives entirely tied in the old, old Spirit, and they will have an awful time as they confront more and more deeply felt evidence of its failure. They will stress the old forms more and more, and more knees will jerk, and more people will hold hands and sing We Shall Overcome, and the press will pretend tiny groups of people making the same old signs and marching the old marches are still worthy of news (Our campus paper covered as significant a meeting to which five -- yes five -- feminists came. We have more people than that almost any given time in our small private adoration chapel at my church-- which of course would never make the papers.) and professors will keep trying to indoctrinate students, and all the rest. But it's all over, all dead.

And we'll still pay attention to this silliness. But the real interesting questions are about what is going on elsewhere.

Reactionary reaction to racism 

Twin Cities� papers reported last weekend how Bethel College President George Brushaber is reacting to a fifth incident of racist graffiti detected on his campus since January. Apparently he is trying to find the �one person� accountable for these heinous actions. Individual faculty members have even added their own contributions to the Board of Trustees� $10,000 fund that is designed to reward those able to help find and punish the responsible racist.

What kind of reactionary reaction is that? Can Bethel not learn the lessons taught this year at our St. Cloud outpost up the Mississippi River? Why has no one at Bethel yet verbalized the assumption that the graffiti writer must be a member of the campus �community?� Where are the cries of �nostra culpa,� uttered as the mantra of collective guiltists? Why has not Bethel yet commissioned four separate �cultural audits" of the campus? Where are the invitations to sue the college for institutional racism? Why must we wait to hear of new mandatory �diversity training� for all faculty and staff?

Commissioner's homework assignment 

OK, so what about this memo? James Lileks says it's not surprising, that journalists have a lot of unexamined biases and that editors tire of the battle after a bit. I think that's probably right, and makes journalists really no different from professors (and I suspect anyone else, but I'll stick to what I pretend to know.) There are literally hundreds of examples of faculty that don't understand how their words are seen as containing bias, as a cursory visit to will tell you. It sometimes goes further; for example, this particular comment in a rebuttal on NoIndoctrination.
I sometimes get such glib, knee-jerk patriotic "you hurt my feelings" reactions to my lectures. For many of my students, I am their first encounter with the stark reality of the world at large. I expect to be attacked by people whose reality has been largely formed thorough indoctrination into unchallenged patriotism, unexamined Christianity, and a general absence of understanding of world history, especially the role of multinational corporations and the U.S. military in neocolonial ventures. Yes, I do occasionally "soapbox" on topics involving our species' headlong plunge into self-destruction (after all, I do teach anthropology, the study of people). I am guilty of placing the Earth, all its living systems, and human well-being above corporate greed, national policy, hegemonic religion, and the "comfort level" of students in my class. For every "griper" like the one I am responding to on your site, I can furnish dozens of students whose lives have been empowered by my influence.
No, on second thought, perhaps it's worse in the professoriate.

To show it further, Mr. Commissioner, we should connect this to Mike Adams. Prof. Adams teaches at UNC-Wilmington, a place quite similar to SCSU. He performed an "experiment on diversity" by alternatively placing Clinton/Gore and Bush4Prez bumperstickers on his office door. Guess which one drew protest?

Lileks' shrug reminded me of Erin O'Connor's observation in the Adams case

A recurring question posted by commenters on this site centers on the problem of what, if anything, can be done to rescue American higher education from its rapid descent into politicized vacuity. Some say abolish tenure, some say abolish second- and third-rate colleges, some say abolish racial and gender preferences, some say defend the First Amendment. All are, in my opinion, necessary; none, in my opinion, addresses more than a tiny corner of the larger mess. I don't have answers, but I have long noted with frustration that those who do, or think they do, ... don't seem to be able to attract the sort of audience the issue ought to attract. ...they are either hysterically shrill and humorless or ploddingly dull and humorless. Either way, the writing isn't terribly lively; either way, the authors miss the opportunity to use the galvanizing power of humor to reach readers and to bring those readers together in a shared, ultimately non-partisan, sense of purpose.
I don't know about this; perhaps it's because he's preaching to the choir, but I wouldn't call Thomas Sowell either shrill or dull. And when you attempt to be humorous in direct debate with those with whom you disagree, they try to shut down debate or institute other ridiculous rules. As our own Jack has observed, for every Mike Adams, there are several hundred others whispering behind closed doors, in fear of being found out to disagree with the collectivist paradigm that grips our campuses.

It would come as no surprise to me if we found out somehow that dozens of editors have the same thoughts John Carroll expressed but lived in fear of having a memo published as his has now been. It would also be no surprise if he's now vilified "to discourage the others." (See Eric Alterman on Bernard Goldberg, e.g.)

A link short of heaven 

Lileks takes part in the Alliance. We get no link and we ain't Scholars (no shite!). But if you had told me one day last month this humble space would be mentioned, linked or linkless, on the Bleat, I'd've told you to stop washing the Percodan down with Mr. Daniels.

Jeez, I'm not going to sleep tonight.

What's this? The Commissioner gave us homework, and I have to blog on what James already has (I can call you James, perhaps, please, sir)? Awww crap!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

We're in! 

...says Mitch. There's a recording of the Hugh Hewitt show on, so maybe we can hear it for ourselves. I have to run around for relatives in for my son's graduation tomorrow, so we'll have to rely on the kindness of our Allies.

UPDATE:Fraters Libertas and PowerLine confirm. This gives me two weekend projects: a "greatest hits" set of entries on the sidebar, and my second attempt at photo-editing a Northern Alliance banner. Better than doing these damned book reviews.

Now, has anyone told Lileks?

It's not working, and won't 

Signs of the Times: The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article by Stanley Fish, one of the most significant contemporary figures in literature, who is frequently irritating but always necessary to listen to carefully. Fish says that all the efforts in education to not only teach but to turn students into people with social attitudes we approve of are doomed, and they should be. In pointing out the fundamental flaw of the new Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching statement on Preparing America's Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civil Responsibility, Fish says this:

"You can reasonably set out to put your students in possession of a set of materials and equip them with a set of skills (interpretive, computations, laboratory, archival), and even perhaps (although this one is iffy) instill in them the same love of the subject that inspires your pedagogical efforts.....[But] you have no chance at all (short of a discipleship that is itself suspect and dangerous) of determining what their behavior and values will be in those aspects of their lives that are not, in the strict sense of the word, academic....You can't make them into good people, and you shouldn't try." He adds that outside of genuine academic concerns, what we give students is "a mish mash of self-help platitudes, vulgar multiculturalism (is there any other kind?) and a soft-core version of 60s radicalism complete with the injunction (although not the song) to "love one another right now."

From a different direction, one small sign of how badly this mish mash we force on students has failed comes in a Fortune article by Jeff Birnbaum on this morning's CNN homepage He writes on the problems Senator Lieberman faces in getting the Democratic nomination, one of which is that anti-Semitism is actually rising, not falling. A study from the Anti-Defamation League showed that roughly 12% of the population was found to be anti-Semitic in 1998, and that number has risen to 17% now. Worse, the number is 35% among African Americans. After all the multi-culturalism and sensitivity training and the rest, things are significantly worse than they were only four to five years ago.

In the normal world, if you give someone medicine and they get worse, you change the medicine. But political correctness is far from normal. It is a kind of secular religion that works to feed the egos of those who force it on the rest of us. And I'm betting that over the short run the effects of seeing what a failure it is will only force these folks to double their efforts: "The medicine is failing, so use more, much more." And many of the politically-correct have to do this. Their egos and careers are dependant on "finding and eliminating" the evils they aim at. If my university gave up all its social-transformational attempts and just went back to teaching students the content and skills Fish mentions, there are probably 30-50 people on campus who would have to go somewhere else and get an honest job, and at least that many more who would have to rethink their virtue.
Fish ends his article like this: "...while academics are always happy to be warned against the incursions of capitalism, they are unlikely either to welcome or heed a warning against the incursions of virtue." He's right. And the medicine will get worse, until the bulk of the sensible faculty who have been depressingly silent, and in their fears have abdicated their responsibility to actually educate their students, start to see the sense of things as Stanley Fish has, get back up on their back feet, and become professionals again.

Productivity and the professoriate 

Invisible Adjunct replies to my post on tenure with a couple of questions. Let me try to cover them as best I can.

1. IA thinks that tenured faculty would want to stop the "adjunctification" of the professoriate to protect their own profession. As evidence she cites the growing differential between private and academic salaries as showing stagnation in faculty salaries. But changes in wages reflect changes in relative productivity. Labor productivity for highly skilled workers in the private sector may have been greatly enhanced by IT over the last decade. I don't know of anything in the field of academic research or teaching that makes professors more productive. (I'll chime in some day on the value of "smart classrooms" -- I've become a skeptic.) The existence of a growing differential doesn't tell you if it's the numerator growing faster or the denominator shrinking or growing slower. Which is it? I'm not a labor economist, so I'll defer the answer to that to someone who knows the literature better.

2. IA thinks I've ignored the possibility that the equilibrium number of tenure-track professors in some field might be zero. Well, yes, it might be if tenure-track faculty would choose to jump to the adjunct track rather than pay high enough "premiums" -- in the form of lower wages -- to accept a tenure-track slot. Either that or there must be a way to convince students (and not just administration) that there's additional value in a course taught by a full-time tenureable or tenured professor than an adjunct.

3. Do I "assume a good deal more power and agency on the part of faculty than is probably the case"? I'd say no for SCSU -- we're a unionized campus with a union that sees its role as at least adversarial to the administration, if not in fact confrontational. And when I have taught at smaller privates (I think they see themselves as 'elite', too, but your mileage may vary) adjuncts were very rare; there was an expectation that when parents paid $30,000 a year they got full-time faculty who made student appointments at times of the students' choosing. Perhaps what this says -- oh dear, this will cause me more grief from IA! -- is that at larger public institutions the quality of the tenured faculty isn't sufficiently different from the pool of adjuncts. Given that the adjunct pool is largely filled with fresh doctoral degrees, younger professors that connect with students (and have fresher notes), I don't know why that should come as a big shock.

There's a recent paper by Lazear and Oyer (.pdf) which discusses "port of entry" jobs. The adjunct market may in fact be a port of entry. In this view, rather than viewing adjuncts and t-trackers as being substitutes, the relationship is more hierarchical -- the adjunct pool contains those trying to get into tenure tracks, and those in them either move up to tenure or are thrown back into the adjunct pool. In academia, where as I mentioned earlier governance is done democratically through one's peers, using adjuncts to decide who will be "good voters" or "responsible citizens" in governance may have distinct advantages.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Thanks Scott and Elder! 

Wow. I should point to all our readers brought in by Power Line and Fraters Libertas (in response to our call for expansion of the Northern Alliance) that our blog normally ran about 100 readers a day when we were in school, split about 2-to-1 by local readers here on campus. On our heavier days we ran about twice that and split readership 50-50 on/off-campus. So today, when I see we're running about a 150 reader clip, and that nearly half the referrals are from Power Line, my jaw dropped. Now that's some power!

I am trying to channel positive vibes to the Commissioner.

Reich again 

Highered Intelligence gets in on the Reich hypothesis, and Michael thinks Reich forgot the non-pecuniary joys of education:
Robert Reich doesn't want you to go study law because we have too many lawyers, and they don't make that much anyway. But he only sees law school as a means to an end, not an end in itself. He only sees a doctorate in Philosophy as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
I put this right above the tenure post (next item, below) as an interesting juxtaposition. Invisible Adjunct is viewing her education as a PhD historian as pointed to only one end. And Michael does recognize that if you spend six years getting a doctorate in philosophy, you pretty much are pointing towards one career track. But fulfillment, he says, comes from someplace else:
Our time is precious on this planet, and if you can spend six years doing nothing but making yourself into a smarter, more well-read person with a greater grasp of what two thousand years of human thought have to say about the human condition, then aren't you going to be better off? You can still take a lower paying job, one that's not commensurate with your education. You can still go work in Maine. True, you will have your college debt to worry about (or you won't, if you can afford it). But don't you think you'll have a different perspective on life than the person working with you to "go fer coffee?"
As they say here in blogspace, Read. The. Whole. Thing.

Thinking more about tenure 

I've been meaning to get to this for awhile now. The discussion of the role of tenure on Invisible Adjunct (sorry to "signpost" these, but there are ones here, here, here, and here and all the comments infra.) has shown me that this situation is far worse and more serious in other disciplines than in economics. What is the value of tenure? I suggested in one comment there that there's some similarity between working through the minor leagues in sports and working through graduate school to get to the tenure-track job. IA says that if so, people should be warned. Sure, but who will do so? The graduate schools, turning away business because they are looking out for you? The undergraduate advisors, who drew you into your studies to get someone good in their otherwise boring seminars? (Yes, students, we professors can get bored in a seminar too -- we don't like the sound of our voices any more than you do.) Is there anyone besides the aspiring graduate student in whose interest it is to be forewarned of the academic job market? Perhaps I'm being too simple, but I can't think of one.

As I noted in the comment, I think Richard McKenzie has the right take on this. The academic workplace is pretty democratic, by which I mean that one's future pay and working conditions are determined by the people you work with. In the social sciences and the humanities, there is a tendency to shifting fads in scholarship. (This is not as true in business and the natural sciences, though I'm sure there are scattered counter-examples.) In order to engage in the academic life, one will wish to receive some assurance that these shifting fads will not cause one to be suddenly put out in the street because s/he doesn't research in the "in" or acceptable fields. This is a far more compelling argument for tenure than the "external pressure" arguments about academic freedom that attended stories like Paul Sweezey's at New Hampshire in the 1950s.

It neatly explains a couple of things. First, as McKenzie points out, it explains why you see tenure in a university setting and not elsewhere. There's a nice, testable hypothesis -- the more democratic the workplace, the more likely you are to see tenure demanded by workers and granted by employers. Counter-examples, please? Second, the presence of tenure would explain lower salaries in the university. (Econ-types, here's a problem: A 40-year-old tenured full professor of economics has a choice whether to stay in her current job paying $65,000 per year and a private-sector job paying $90,000. There's a 20% probability every year that she will separate from the private-sector job -- i.e., jobs last about 5 years -- and it takes about 6 months to generate another comparable job. She expect to retire at age 65. Should she change jobs if her time rate of discount is 4%? 12%? What is the critical discount rate that tips her decision one way or the other?) Some of the discussion on IA's latest post suggests that the abolition of tenure in England has been met with lower, not higher wages, as the theory would predict -- but it's questionable whether tenure has been reduced. And that doesn't obviate the need to show that the democratic nature of the academic workplace hasn't changed with the change in tenure rules. And, moreover, if it is difficult to pass through the wage increases to tuition-payers then we may not see the rise in wages right away. It may need to wait for a period of higher demand for education.

So what to do with the excess supply of historians and literature professors? One point about the economics of this is that two-tier or three-tier pricing -- a tenure track, a non-tenure, full-time renewable track, and an adjunct track -- does at least produce more jobs than would exist with a single track. Any principles of economics book will teach you that you get more efficient solutions with this type of "price discrimination". And with it comes more classes, more students, and more education. That's a thing worth having. Certainly some PhDs will lose the tournament for the tenure track, but their willingness to work without tenure or part-time produces something of real value. Tinkering with the system may be more costly than we realize.

The Alliance gathers steam 

Well, we knew we could count on PowerLine to help us out. We recognize the commissionership of Hugh Hewitt, however, and we will respect his decision. Shout out for a petition from the Fraters.

I was really afraid the K's entry today would include kiss-ass.

Monday, May 26, 2003

"That's so September 10" 

I'm storing away that line, Stephen. I don't know when it will come in handy, but I know it will.

Congratulations to PowerLine! 

Stop by and wish Deacon, Big Trunk and Hindrocket a happy first blogiversary.

A meeting of the Northern Alliance 

We need to resolve this. Mitch is a little miffed over the failure of Hugh Hewitt (entry of 1/28) to recognize his membership in the "Northern Alliance" of blogs. Well, he missed us too. Though PowerLine was nice enough to consider us in their list, they now defer to Mr. Hewitt.

We are hereby asking Mr. Hewitt to remove this Metro Bias in his selections and place us within the Alliance as a far outpost. We're already snubbed insofar as we can't hear the radio station he uses in the Cities, so we can't join in the fun of hearing his bumper music virtuosity that drive Lileks nuts. We can have two sports talk stations up here -- they both suck, particularly after the Bear kicks out Fox Sports next month -- but my evenings get either the hyperventilating Savage or the somnambulent tones of Jim Bohannon. (If anybody from KNSI is reading this -- get those guys off your schedule right the hell now! We want Hewitt!) And while we understand we're a younger blog and a little more narrowly focused, Big Trunk will tell you we're at the epicenter of what's wrong on America's campuses. We'd like to apply for Ministry of Education.

the Fraters think Mitch should be Waiting for Lileks to king him, and until then there's nothing to be done, I say let's convene a loya jirga.

Image source

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Michael replies 

Highered Intelligence answers my previous post (scroll down, please) regarding Plessy. "Preaching" is too much a reach for what I meant. But there needs to be a careful distinction between "separate via parental choice" and "separate via government fiat" -- which I think was what Michael meant with the parenthetical about the "mandated variety". Brown v. Board of Education has a governmental entity as the defendant; the significance of that identity in my view has been blurred in the past.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Happy blogiversary, HigherEdIntelligence! 

I'll do more than just wish Michael and Jeff a happy first blogiversary at Highered Intelligence. And I'll do more than tell you to go read their blog because it's outstanding (and it is! it IS!)

I want to direct you to a very good post by Michael about a story I just did a bare link to on Tuesday about segregating diversity workshops at Univ. of Colorado. I have wanted to pick up on this because I think these are not only insulting to whites but detrimental to blacks and other minority groups. But I can't say this as well as Michael does:

But let's say that there's some lingering background racism that makes life more unpleasant for minorities than would otherwise be the case. I've never really experienced it, but let's say there is. Is dwelling on it and discussing it ad nauseum really the way to go? I suspect that in doing so, the problem is magnified, brought to the fore of consciousness. Aristotelean perspective kicks in and all of the sudden, because you're dwelling on it, the problem seems much bigger than it was before.

Now, because it's a big problem, you need to make sure everyone else knows that it's a big problem. You find other people who might have had similar (trivial) experiences. You get them to dwell on it, and it becomes a big problem for them, too.

Rinse, Repeat.

The more I think about it, even as I type this, the more I'm becoming convinced that the primarily college-based "racial experience" of going over racism in your life over and over is deeply pathological.

It sure seems so. After you read that whole post, really give them a nice blogiversary and read this one as well on segregation and bussing in Dallas.
Is there segregation going on in Dallas? Yes, I'm fairly certain there is. But it's not the schools that are doing it. The schools are serving their communities. It's not the cities -- there are no laws saying the blacks have to live in a particular area. I think there are two forces at work, two forces that are doing the "segregation." The first is an economic one. Fact: black people in this country are currently poorer on the average than whites. Fact: Housing costs money. Fact: Housing cost is dependent in great measure on location - certain areas cost more. Fact: Schools serve geographic locations by and large. Ergo, many schools serve geographic locations that have similar housing costs and therefore can be likely to draw in greater numbers of white or black students based on the average housing costs.

But this does not explain why schools would be 100% minority, or even close. I fear that this can only be explained by racism -- groups of people wanting to associate with people who look like them.

What's going on in Dallas (at least according to the article) is extraordinarily interesting. First there was busing. Then there was racial hostility. Then the blacks decided to give up and go home.


If you grow up in an all-black, or all-white neighborhood, a neighborhood created by an attitude of racial separatism -- if you are surrounded by the idea that black people should live together and white people should live together -- how are you ever going to escape that? It's going to become part of who you are, part of who you think.

I don't have any solutions. I'm not about to advocate forcing residential racial integration. If people want to segregate themselves, then they should be free to do so. Maybe racial separatism is inevitable until we're genetically mixed up enough that it becomes psychologically impractical. Freedom to live where you want, to associate with whom you wish, is almost always a good thing. But parents should realize the effect their actions have on their children. Choosing to live amongst "your own kind" creates an insular bubble for raising your kids, and it fundamentally affects their world view.

I have a qualm with his last paragraph, for I don't think freedom of association is "almost" always a good thing. It's a right. And if parents make choices to live in racially segregated areas and that somehow harms their children's world view, I say "that's life". Who else should make that choice, if you think parents shouldn't? We may not like that choice, but that gives us no right to revoke that choice. Michael might well agree with that, but agreeing with it means we need to re-think the received wisdom of vilification of Plessy v. Ferguson.

Doing it the right way for 100 years 

John Fund reports on the centenary celebration of the University of Chicago and its history of intellectual diversity. This is a place that holds both Richard Epstein and Cass Sunstein, who says Chicago is a place "where the cluture is more devoted to trying to get at truths." Students held a "Competence Day celebration" after a Diversity Day ... and nobody ostracized the students. And while faculty may be all over the spectrum, the students seemed to be interested in more libertarian organizations.

NAS has a new blog 

Readers will want to check out the NAS Online Forum, a group blog by members of the National Association of Scholars. Welcome to our blogroll! The latest piece is on the KC Johnson case that has been covered closely by Erin O'Connor.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Tragedy of Hamlet, Danish Liberal 

There was a clear ray of hope this week when students from Rockford College refused to let New York Times reporter Chris Hedges turn their graduation address into an anti-war tirade. I saw another hopeful sign in my Shakespeare final papers this semester.

The way people react to Shakespeare is a subtle but clear indicator of the ways in which they are seeing and judging their worlds. Life changes and people�s experiences change, of course, and sometimes it�s hard to gauge how people are judging life because we are all judging our private slices of it. But we all read the same Shakespeare plays, and when we compare how we see and judge the plays we see a good deal about how we judge our lives.

A paper I got from an excellent student on Macbeth examined the forces acting on Macbeth to kill Duncan, but then finally said, �He did it. It�s how own fault. He�s not a victim of anybody or anything. Be a man, take responsibility, don�t whine.� After years of students who saw Macbeth as victim (as they see most everybody as victims) this was very refreshing.

But an even more significant paper was on Hamlet. Here the writer, one of the very best of the 40 in the class, looked at Hamlet as, in essence, a modern liberal. He hears voices from the past telling him he needs seek vengeance in the present, he thinks he is �born to set it right,� he doesn�t think the rules that apply to others apply to him, he is ultimately unconcerned about other people as individuals, he is terribly concerned about himself and sees himself as very special, and all that he does finally results in all sorts of people being destroyed or killed and all of Denmark being turned over to Fortinbras.

The woman who wrote the paper didn�t use words like �liberal� or �conservative� � and I suspect she�s living in her own social and political world where the words from my generation have no more real meaning to her than WPA or �New Deal� had to me. But she has seen the world and what her liberal teachers and mentors are doing to it, and she responded naturally to Hamlet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Get on with life 

I always surprise my conservative and libertarian friends when I say I like Robert Reich. At a lake resort one summer I read a copy of The Work of Nations, expecting not to like it but found it was well-reasoned; if you read it now, there are some things that end up looking sage, if not prophetic. So when friend and occasional blogreader Burt Dubow sent me this Reich article from the NYTimes (registration required), I expected a good article. And it is:
the market value of advanced degrees is unlikely to rise enough to make the investments worth it, especially after the supply of people with such degrees expands. Even before the economy foundered, the median take-home pay of lawyers and doctors was dropping, and many newly minted Ph.D.'s couldn't find university appointments.

Many college graduates would do better to lower their sights in the short term and take a "go-for" job (as in "go for coffee") in an industry or profession that interests them. Even if the job doesn't pay much, it can provide a window on to that particular world of work. Alternatively, with few responsibilities anchoring them to one place, they can pick a city with relatively low unemployment (say, Portland, Me., or Lincoln, Neb.), get a job with better pay and more responsibility, and see a part of the country they might otherwise miss.

If they can afford to go without a paycheck for six months or a year, they might consider taking an internship or volunteering � thereby gaining some useful experience while doing some good. Teaching in a poor rural or inner-city school, for example, offers more hard-won lessons about planning, leadership and marketing (persuading students to give their attention, or administrators to give more books) than any business school. ...

In all these respects, the major benefit is not academic or professional knowledge so much as self-knowledge. Do you thrive in a hard-charging atmosphere or need quiet and stability? How important is it for you to believe passionately in a cause? Or to have a lot of authority over what you do?

I think this is a different view than he had in Work of Nations, wherein he argued that traditional work was being competed to Malthusian wages and that "symbol analysts" would be those who succeeded in 21st Century capitalism. Yet I find there's much to like in this article too. Graduate school is for some just a way to delay life. And as pointed out in this NBER article from 1997, during recessions there tends to be a flood of new PhDs which depresses wages (and could lead to the type of bifurcated academic labor market that the Invisible Adjunct and I have been discussing.) Most admissions offices and graduate schools know that their industry is countercyclical.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Hope they don't run our workshops 

Erin O'Connor points to this story about a group at UC Boulder called Stop Hate on Campus leading a workshop called Internalized Racism Workshop. It "was not designed for White people," they were told. And now Colorado has put a second workshop on campus for whites only.

Couldn't happen here, could it?

Tatonnement for adjuncts 

An interesting post by the Invisible Adjunct on the differences in academic hiring between historians and economists. I think he misses the key insight of the original article he discusses. Let's assume that there is a disequilibrium price being maintained in the market for history professors. Wherever something is scarce, rationing must happen. If there's a shortfall in history positions, the way markets want to solve this is to allow history Ph.Ds to bid down the price. The ideal might be to have all qualified candidates stand in a line and have someone call out salaries starting at $50,000 and going backward. When all but one leave the line, you've found your professor and the market-clearing price. That's a rather absurd example, but many economists think markets work rather like this (what economists from the time of Leon Walras have called "tatonnement").

Now suppose for some reason prices are not allowed to ration. In the case of universities, salaries for new hires are often griped over by current faculty not only in the department the person will teach in, but in other departments. It surely grates on the new history assistant professor that the new economics assistant professor makes $15k more. So there's a tendency to shade the two salaries towards each other. (No fancy name for this; it's simply my observation over twenty years in academia.) We always teach in economics: If prices don't ration, something else will. Since positions are decided by search committees, being a good "fit" for a department becomes the criterion of choice. And this, says Robert Wright, is leading to something dire.

the fit criterion makes academic freedom a cruel joke for scholars who are not on the tenure track. Where fit is the key to getting a permanent job, one must be careful of what one says and writes. Attempts to fit are distorting scholarship and teaching. Woe to the job candidate bold enough to suggest in an interview that financiers were not uniformly pernicious, or that there is more to business history than the concept of class struggle. The academic freedom of the professoriate, in short, is purchased at the cost of the academic freedom of the untenured.
The solution is to use price to allocate jobs. But IA is not impressed with that solution.
Could departments then afford to hire more tenure-track historians? Or would the money simply go elsewhere? That is, would university administration simply take the money saved on salaries and put it into faculty recruitment in other departments, new buildings, technology upgrades and the like?

Would this really tend to raise the value of history PhDs, or would it rather tend toward a further devalution?

Around here, we call the reallocation of that money "the snowplowing fund". But the presumption is that the current salary of history assistant professors is somehow a measure of their value. By what metric do you make that measurement?

Remember, once more, all scarce goods get rationed somehow. If you don't want to use price/salary, and you don't want to use "fit", and you don't want to use job security/tenure ... How do you allocate scarce jobs?

Monday, May 19, 2003

You could count them on one hand 

Viva La Vagina was the finale to Vagina Fest, ending a day of in-your-face discussions and panels. "WEG (Women's Equality Group) wanted to do something that was kind of radical and attention getting."
So guess how many people attended? Five. Hell, our SCSU Association of Scholars meetings get more attendance!

And please, a different adjective for "discussions and panels"?

Off Target 

Here's an interesting story: We had the chance to have a hip Tarzhay vending machine in the student union. But it was voted down despite a $5000 payment offered.
"There's so much corporatization going around, they wanted to keep the student union a safe place, so to speak," said Kim Haiman, a St. Cloud State graduate student and president of the Atwood Memorial Center Council, which voted 3-2 (with one abstention) late last month to keep its space Target-free. [Note: Ms. Haiman herself voted for the machine.] ...
This isn't unusual, according to our local campus paper.
"Historically, the council has been concerned about the commercialization of our building," said Assistant Director of the AMC Edward Bouffard. "We were concerned about selling our souls to the corporate world for money."
The director concurs in the PioneerPress article, but the student notes that commercialization has already occured.

"We've been down that road before," said Margaret Vos, the student union's director. "We've turned down other businesses," including a company that slapped bathroom billboards inside the stalls.

"After two months, we pulled them out," said Vos, adding she's not surprised by anything anymore. "We had so many complaints from students saying, 'I can't even go to the bathroom anymore without being bombarded.'"

Don't think, however, that the 13,175-student school is totally anti-corporate. "We're a Pepsi campus," said Haiman about the vending machines already on campus.

Now I for one view time spent in the bathroom as "down time", and some information to occupy my eyes while other parts of me are 'engaged' is pretty welcome. But perhaps some of our students get "stage fright".

But this is a Pepsi campus -- because Pepsi pays a helluva lot more than $5000. We are not a safe space for Coca-Cola. The only place you can buy Coke on this campus is one store in the student union -- and that one is closed this summer for renovations.

Choosy mothers choose WalMart. Choosy students, can't choose 

Hysterically funny ScrappleFace today.
Wal-Mart announced today that it will offer more books and recordings that most people don't want. The move comes in response to an article in The New York Times which said that the nation's biggest retailer sells too many conservative and faith-oriented books and videos effectively homogenizing the culture. (Link via InstaPundit.)
At least they have a choice. Not so here:
To help meet the goal of creating a safe and inclusive campus, St. Cloud State University has developed a workshop entitled, "Respect and Responsibility." All new students are required to attend this workshop to be eligible to register for their second semester of classes. For more information, please contact the University Women's Center at ... .
As was pointed out to me, the Women's Center is not an academic unit but part of Student Life and Development, meaning that this workshop happens outside the curriculum process at SCSU. Anyone want to explain why? Well, let's let the director do so.
From: Lee LaDue
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 1999

Subject: Prevention program titles

...our program is entitled: Respect and Responsibility: Sex, Race, and Power. Recently, the topic of Diversity and Racism was added,due to hate crimes on campus targeting people of color, so the name attempted to be inclusive of both topics. The students still refer to it as the sex thing...class..., harassment workshop... they have to take.

I don't pretend that this title draws them in however. Our two hour workshop is mandatory. We have about 4000 new first year and transfer students in a year and track their attendance. If they don't attend, their registration is blocked through the touchtone registration system, the following semester. we found that if it wasn't mandatory, the people who most needed to be there, do not attend. So I would keep pushing for a mandatory workshop.

Lee LaDue
St. Cloud State University, Women's Center

So students are required to attend, but faculty? Nah.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Theft as a quality of life issue 

It was probably a pretty somber bus drive to St. Paul yesterday, as the Senate Democrats pitched their tax hike over the side and agreed to a budget that honored Governor Pawlenty's pledge not to raise taxes. Some other compromises were made, but the busriders were not happy.
After an hourlong rally, each of the protesters filed past the governor's office, dropping pale green "Quality of Life" bucks in a basket. The cards bore their signatures and the phrase, "Yes, raise revenues! And raise them fairly. I pledge to support our quality of life."
Well, there's nothing that says you can't drop the real green in the bucket and contribute it to the state. "Raise them fairly" means take the green from someone else. I'm supposed to be pleased by this?
Elliot Seide, a local spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the rally was the beginning of a months-long campaign to restore what they consider needed spending.

"We're going to let them know this is not a spending problem," Seide said. "It's a revenue problem. Sacrifices should be spread fairly."

And what part of your income will bear it?

There is a telling quote in a second article today from DFL Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger.

"We want to make sure the salaries of [state] working people are not cut to solve the budget problem," Hottinger said. "State workers are working families, too. The loss of a state worker's job is just as bad as the loss of a private-sector job."
At the risk of offending my AFSCME member-readers, that's not correct. Any private sector job involves both employer and employee receiving from the transaction something they value more for something they value less. (This is even more so with the presence of a tax wedge between employer and employee, but save that for another day, or go read this.) Raises are connected to increased productivity. In a public sector job, however, the automatic steps that an AFSCME employee receives occur without reference to productivity. Office workers at state universities or the DMV all receive step increases just like an increase to a transportation or maintenance worker, even though their productivity increases at different rates. Look at the offices of state and municipal workers. There are many older workers. If there were better jobs in the private sector, they would leave. In private sector offices, office support staff are often younger; they either make a transition to management or a different career (including perhaps child-rearing.) The fact that AFSCME workers are often long-time state and county workers is a representation that wages in the sector are higher than they would othewise be. Further data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics may help you see that.

The short of it is this: The quality of life for government employees is better than for their private-sector counterparts, and made so by taxes paid by those same counterparts.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Was Jesse at the confab? 

Add to that thought the May 14 blog entry of Mitch Berg (linkydinks busticated, so scroll, baby) about the Four Governors ("there's four of us, so we're better than those tenors! Four, do you hear us?!?")
This was the part of the "Four Governors" broadcast that started me thinking; this isn't about getting their views. It's about defending what I, a member of the loyal opposition, consider the most noxious part of Minnesota Politics: big, wasteful government is considered the norm, the status quo, the fount of all goodness by the part of the public class people like the Four Governors and the Strib editorial board represent, to the point that that philosophy of governance isn't just "the government" - it's the state itself. Dissent from that view is an attack not merely on the government, but on all that is good and holy about the state itself.

Your government is you. You are your government. What's good for your government is good for you.

More talk like that, and they won't let you ride the bus, Mitch.

Get on the bus 

Very good article today by John Fund on OpinionJournal about our governor and the seachange he's created in government budgetting in Minnesota. Meanwhile, some of the "victims du jour" are getting on the bus to take back Minnesota. As noted in the Fund article, GOP Rep. Marty Seifert replies, "You were voted off the island last year. The tribe has spoken. We will balance the budget without raising taxes." Meanwhile at the state's AFSCME chapter, the busriders declare war on "the wealthy".
The fairest way to start is to have large corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.

  • The wealthy and CEO's of large corporations got a free ride in the 90s.
  • Everyone else has sacrificed already, but not the wealthy.
  • The wealthy got most of the tax cuts, working families got the least.
  • We need to start by closing corporate loopholes.
  • Corporations have been paying a smaller and smaller share of state taxes.
  • We need to restore tax rates on households making over $300,000 a year.

Dave Beal at the PioneerPress disputes a good bit of these claims. Class warfare lives in Minnesota! Special session is coming; stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Light up for lower tuition 

Given that our union and its liberal membership support the Minnesota Senate's position on the state budget, and given that the Senate passed yesterday a $1-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes, will the university now reverse its push to shove smokers further and further away from buildings, and perhaps find means to sell cigarettes exclusively on campus? After all, we did it for Pepsi...

Starting from the top 

Following up from the post last night, RightWingNews has a post in which I found a link to a longer interview John Hawkins has with Dr. Walter Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University.
Look at the University of California, Berkeley back in the seventies and eighties. Close to seventy percent of black students who were admitted there did not graduate. The SAT scores of these black students who were admitted there were slightly higher than the national average. But the problem was, the rest of the students at Berkeley were getting twelve and thirteen hundreds on the SAT. So, the black students there were in over their heads and just could not make it in that high powered academic setting.

On the other hand, at Cal State-San Jose, which is not that far from Berkeley, roughly seventy percent of the black students there didn't graduate either. Here's what the problem was. The problem was that the black students who would have graduated from Cal State-San Jose were recruited to Berkeley to become failures. There was an academic mismatch.

Williams compares this to deciding to send a fledgling boxer into the ring for the first time ... against Lennox Lewis. Now a serious question arises from this: Does the logic that applies to a place like Berkeley extend to SCSU (which we'll have to admit doesn't have quite the same pool of excellent students)? Well yes, as Williams points out from extending his analysis to San Jose State. It's like -- seems to be my day for sports metaphors -- the effect of expansion in sports leagues on the distribution and dilution of talent. Adding teams not only means these teams have worse players, but as the new teams bid for player talent the existing teams also have to use less talent. Ask anyone who's watched baseball before and after 1990: Pitching in general ain't what it used to be, even though some of the best individual performances in pitching are happening right now. It may be why the Morehouses (as mentioned in the post immediately below) do well -- they aren't competing in the same league, and have attuned their schools to the needs of their particular market.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Teaching adaptability 

Too good to pass up: From OpinionJournal's Best of the Web comes a link to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial by a Morehouse College sophomore.
In an academic world of public and private institutions, liberal arts colleges, coed universities, all-male and all-female colleges, and technical universities, students are presumably being prepared and offered a glimpse into the real world through their school.

For many, this notion of the world is an environment where people of different races interact daily. I was saddened to hear my friend's opinion that students whose campuses are not racially mixed are not exposed to the real world.

I began to share with my friend what diversity means to me: being around people with varying viewpoints and values.

This is prevalent at my school. Even though 97 percent of the student body is African-American, we are a diverse and eclectic group of people who come from different parts of the country and the world. We all hold unique and extraordinary experiences.

...But then I began to understand what preparation for the real world meant: being adaptable, proactive, goal-oriented and professional. All these characteristics are fostered at my school.

Each college or university is a unique microcosm of the world that offers students the opportunity to study in an environment that breeds diversity regardless of age, gender, social status or race.

James Taranto asks whether this would ever be accepted at a school that was 97% white? Probably not, but I think we could all get a useful lesson from this student. The "environment that breeds diversity" he's talking about comes not from the student that attend it, but rather from faculty that encourage "being adaptable, proactive, goal-oriented and professional". I see a good bit of the training of professionals here, and I wouldn't disagree if someone wanted to argue we create goal-oriented students. But the ideology most faculty teach from encourages students to react to what's around them and puts the onus of adaptation on those around them to be more "socially aware" or "working for justice". I hope this student gets the education he thinks he's getting from Morehouse. It would be a damned sight better than what we're cooking.

Now, just a minute 

The University of Massachusetts may lose its mascot, the Minuteman. "Not since the arrow was removed from the pilgrim's hat on the Turnpike signs has such a debate raged over how the Colonial period is being portrayed in modern Massachusetts." I loved that arrow on the Pilgrim's hat when I was a kid! And the signs used to be green, not blue.

Anyway, the Minuteman may be shelved for marketing, but one gets the feeling that guns might have something to do with it.

"We've verified with focus groups that people don't buy items with Minutemen on them," McCaw said.

The Minuteman is the depiction of the colonial soldiers who faced the British at Lexington and Concord in the opening battle of the Revolution.

There are also, McCaw said, "gender, firearms and ethnicity issues." And Phoenix Design, the firm hired by the university to spruce up its logos, found "it's difficult to illustrate a Minuteman."

Real Minutemen carried guns, although the student who dresses up in a homespun uniform and a tri-corner hat at home games was disarmed years ago.

And that explanation has Michael Lopez fuming.
The UMASS Amherst mascot used to be the Redman... as in feather-in-the-head-me-takum-scalp kind of Redman. That was just thirty years ago... so there's no overarching sense of tradition that the crusty old professors are going to gripe about. It's not like they've been the Minutemen since the Revolution... it's just a mascot that was picked at a time when it was no longer tenable to mascotize the American Indian. (Mascotize? What's happening to my writing?) That was for political reasons, and that set a precedent: you can get rid of a mascot for political reasons.
And thus, the connection to SCSU. Michael is right that the mascot issue has been politicized for years, and that in fact it comes down to a profit problem.
the University has become a massive cash cow with millions of dollars in sports revenues and "brand recognition" and all the accompanying lack of dignity that such commercialization implies. It just hides it behind the politically correct veneer of what passes for "scholarship" in certain departments. The real focus, though, is on the money, on the marketing.
Yeah, but when the school is offered a $100 million new hockey arena if only it will continue to apply the picture of the Sioux on every nook and cranny of the place, what do you do then? Why yes, you have other university presidents rain down on you for taking the cash.

Who you calling white? 

It's beautiful here today in St. Cloud; spring full of redolent flowering trees, though bad for my allergies, is always a happy sign. And with students graduated and gone and my grades turned in, it's a nice time to be here. As things are slowing down, I'll have time to dig through some things I've said "this must be blogged some day", like more tales of union chutzpah, or a where are they now? of former litigants against SCSU (think of it as "the second season"). (Arie, we haven't forgotten you yet.)

For the moment, however, consider the following paragraph from our Priority Strategic Goals:

The campus data system suggests that SCSU has increased faculty of color representation from 10% to 14.5% and the international student population from 450 to 900 students during the past 8 years. The campus has also hired a fair number of persons of color to serve in leadership positions, most notably the institution�s president. Retention and representation, however, continues to be an issue for the campus. On average, retention of students of color (63%) lags that of majority white students (73%). Student of color graduation rates also lag majority white students (29% vs. 40%, 1995 IPEDS 6 Year Graduation Rates). Further, student of color representation is primarily Asian, with Asian students accounting for over half of all students of color. Student of color representation (excluding white international students) is approximately 6% of the total campus body, which is 4% below the average student of color participation in the State of Minnesota (source: HESO, 2003). Faculty and staff of color are also primarily Asian and concentrated in faculty and high-level administrative positions. Additionally, faculties of color tend to be represented in only certain departments (such as BCIS, Engineering and Computer Science). Broader racial representation is needed across campus, across disciplines and across types of positions.
Those strikethroughs were inserted by the Faculty Senate last week at the suggestion of the Committee on Diversity Education. I find this very odd, to use a term that was used in the apartheid era in South Africa to designate some areas. The problem is that it mixes a lot of different people. I remember being called a "black ass" in Russian by a Ukrainian cop when I lived in Kyiv in 1996. In a sense he was right -- if you had the extreme misfortune to view my naked tush, you would hesitate to use the word "white" in your description of it. (You can guess which one is me in the picture.) Yet I am being classified as "white". To call me a member of the "majority" ... majority what? Race? Culture? The latter I could see, but it's unclear where one goes with the tag from there.

And of course it's also an issue what we mean by faculty and staff of color, for they come in all different shapes and sizes. Immigrant blacks are not buying into the racial politics of American blacks (see also this essay by D.C. Thornton), and this wonderful letter to The Volokh Conspiracy argues persuasively against defining literature of color. But, here in the land of flowers and fading fads, we'll be behind the times for a while to come.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future? 

The following resolution was adopted by the Faculty Senate on May 1, 2005:
That the SCSU-PRAVDA campus LIST-SERV be changed as of the first duty day of Fall term, 2005, to function on a moderated basis. All faculty would be required to submit potential postings to the FA-Dependent Review Committee on Campus Culture, which will vote on a consensus-minus-one-except-for-those-people-who-might-sue-us basis.


* The change to a moderated function will be considered experimental. Previous experimental decisions will continue.

* The SCSU-Pravda committee's preliminary findings suggest that this change is warranted. The committee will continue to meet during Fall term to continue seeking appropriate policies regarding SCSU-Pravda in response to Miss Median's fine sensibilities.

* The committee will seek to include further campus input, including most likely a paper survey during Fall 2005 in collaboration with Nichols and Associates from their new St. Cloud State offices, from faculty who are members of special interest groups.

* It is particularly important that new entering faculty not be automatically subscribed to SCSU-Pravda, so that the online discussion does not become one of their first indoctrinations experiences of campus life.

* Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has agreed to manage and publicize such a transition, and foresees no difficulty with implementing this motion.

In a related development, a new splash screen appeared on every campus computer on May 1. Due to massive cuts in the equipment budget, over 400 computers could no longer boot Windows NW (Not Working). According to experts, this was the screen they saw.

Friday, May 09, 2003

End of academic year festivities 

I had the pleasure last night to attend the annual Minnesota Association of Scholars dinner at Macalester College. I was finally able to meet Scott Johnson, a.k.a. The Big Trunk from PowerLine, who asks for us to join the Northern Alliance. It would be an honor -- I keep hearing Wayne and Garth saying "we're not worthy! we're not worthy!" A presentation by Steve Balch of the National Association of Scholars was the keynote speaker -- a very rousing speech, I might add.

Meanwhile, we'd like to announce our winners of our inaugural SCSU Scholars student awards for 2002-2003. Please join us in congratulating Student Scholar of the Year Scott Bushee and Student Citizen of the year Justin Byma. You'll recall us mentioning some of the opinion page articles that Scott wrote for the University Chronicle, and Justin was the chair of College Republicans which guided the "fight" over the Israeli flag scandal (university report on which has still not been released.) Here's a picture of them with a group of the Scholars.

Congratulations Scott and Justin.

For SCSU employees only 

The Faculty Association announced that it will purge the email discussion list that has been the source of so much fun on this campus (at least for me.) They will go to an opt-in to join. Why purge?
The SCSU-Discuss committee's preliminary findings suggest that this change is warranted. The committee will continue to meet during Fall term to continue seeking appropriate policies regarding SCSU-Discuss in response to the EEOC stipulations.

What on earth did the EEOC say?
The University should establish policies and procedures regarding the appropriate use of the LIST-SERV system, including disciplinary standards and consequences.

This action does not do anything as best I can see, except to be one step down the road towards censorship. In the discussion before voting on this some faculty asked why those who didn't like the discuss list culture (which can be quite vigorous debate) didn't just get off the list. One replied, it was the first thing she saw when she came to campus, and it was "traumatizing".

Academics who cannot deal with vigorous debate on a private email discussion list. That's who's teaching your kids.

Well, let's help them out anyway. Here's how you get on and off the list. Please note this is for SCSU staff and faculty only. (Why? you ask. Me too.) Use it while you can, because some day soon this ivory tower is going to seal another door from the inside.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The new PC piatletka 

I'd like to know in what way this is an Independent Review Committee on campus culture?
The IRC committee is the result of an agreement made between the St. Cloud State University Administration and the Faculty Association and is composed of elected representation from each bargaining unit (MSUAASF, AFSCME, MAPE, MMA), elected faculty representation from each academic unit including at least one woman, at least one faculty representing GLBT, at least one representing faculty of color, at least one representing Jewish faculty, two appointed representatives of administration and volunteer students. ...
Every time I hear them run the roll of represented groups, I hum a verse from "Rise and Shine" from my days at church camp:

The animals they came in, they came in by twosies twosies,
The animals they came in, they came in by twosies twosies,
Elephants and kangaroosy roosies.
Children of the Lord.

While some members of the IRC and campus community believe that some of the reports may have serious methodological flaws as well as problematic concerns with respect to their design and implementation, the IRC as a whole also understands that these reports represent formal forums through which underrepresented segments of our campus community have been invited to voice concerns, critiques and problems encountered as employees and students of the SCSU campus community. In addition, each report consistently demonstrates that similar problems, as voiced by these constituencies, exist. IRC works from the framework of understanding that America continues to struggle with systems of oppression, including but not limited to, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism and, anti-Islamic sentiments. As such, IRC maintains that these systems of oppression are also present and exist at SCSU.
Johnny Carson used to say about joke-telling, "If they buy the premise, they'll buy the bit.

Dear IRC: We don't buy the premise.

SCSU is struggling with issues that are deeply rooted in histories of oppression and privilege. These issues necessitate proactive rather than reactive solutions.
I think this is called The Great Leap Forward.

Nice to see real independent thinking, folks.

IRC recognizes that the problems identified in the reports are not limited to any one area of the university and transformation will require everyone�s involvement.
"Resistance is futile. Come to mandatory diversity training now."
Responsibility for effecting change at SCSU must include a commitment to implementation and accountability.
Let me guess: It will take five years. A PC 'piatletka'. (That word needs to be preserved pour le decouragement des autres.)

If the Administration can not see what this committee is setting out to be -- a crowbar through the windshield and a hand grabbing the steering wheel of the campus, to use collective guilt as a cudgel to suppress every last independent thought on this campus -- it will complete its abdication of responsibility for this campus. It will then be up to individual faculty, who as Jack has noted appear complacent. It is that on which these people feed. If you stand up they shrink, for they cannot make arguments for their control of you based on logic and reason. All it takes is your flashlight, reason, and the ability to utter the word 'no'.

Is that a condom in your pocket or are you just happy to shoot me? 

Once again the discuss list fumes over guns. One of the stump speeches given against the non-discriminatory concealed carry permit law that has become law is that we'll have people at the State Fair with guns, probably taking target practice at turkey-on-a-stick. Much handwringing goes on today on our soon-to-be-purged discuss list (details forthcoming, stay tuned) over the proliferation of guns and how more guns cannot possibly be a good thing. Dave sent me a note while this was going on (I pretty much drew all the fire from the rest of campus) suggesting that one could draw a parallel between guns and condoms. After another discuss-list handwringer had asked how many perpetrators of multiple murders would have been granted permits under Minnesota's new law. Dave asks:
�How many perpetrators of mass rape would have qualified to be licensed for �conceal and carry� of prophylactics under Minnesota�s new law?�

What really concerns me now is that there will be thousands more men walking around our State Fair . . . and our campus . . . with rubbers concealed on their bodies. Sure, some may have received state-mandated training in their use by licensed instructors, and some may use them to prevent the criminal spread of V.D. But I mean, really, don�t you think that some men - intoxicated at the Beer Garden or caught up in the moment of looking at nubile young bodies going down the Giant Slide - may be emboldened by knowing that they are carrying condoms, seize the moment, and whip them out?

I recall some highschoolers during my days who stuck a rubber in his wallet "in case of emergency". (What? You hear sirens?) So of course a guy gets to thinking, and to Googling, and I find this article by Michelle Malkin. "If you teach a child how to use a condom, you're promoting safety -- not usage. Why, then, doesn't the same logic apply to guns?"

I don't intend to have the blog become a place to discuss the Minnesota law -- Mitch Berg has cornered that market, and this piece from a friend's blog deserves a full reading -- but what is telling is that when you ask these people for even a shred of evidence suggesting that passage of non-discriminatory CCW permit issuance leads to more gun-related deaths, nobody comes with an answer. And these are supposed to be academics, not your run-of-the-mill mediot. ("Mediot " = "media" + "idiot")

Just so you know, I'm not packing ... either item.

Accountability starts with counting 

George Will writes in the May 12 edition of Newsweek that �hypocrisy of an unusual purity is on display as union leaders try to avoid disclosing truthful financial information to their members.�

Should our faculty�s statewide union leaders consider applying to themselves the same rigorous disclosure standards that are now mandated for businesses under last year�s Sarbanes-Oxley legislation? Should they post their detailed annual income and disbursements to the Inter-Faculty Organization web site?

If they did, maybe our employer, MnSCU, might follow suit. At last December�s meeting of the Audit Committee of MnSCU�s Board it was noted that, �At this time, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is [sic] not required to follow Sarbanes-Oxley, but may want to consider it for the future because bond agencies are looking for it and it is the �gold standard.��

What we see on MnSCU�s site today is only an unaudited summary of such broad disbursement accounts as salaries, purchased services, supplies, repairs, and depreciation. Check out pages numbered 98-99 of this report to review the aggregate spending by MnSCU "system-wide" and for the Chancellor�s Office in FY 2002. If you're a Minnesota taxpayer, do these figures tell you anything?

Monday, May 05, 2003

Exam week mental calisthenics 

No point to this oldie-but-goodie, except to warm up your brain cells. Suppose you have an old fashioned balancing scale with two trays. You own 12 coins that look identical. All are equal in weight � except for one that is either heavier . . . or lighter than the others. Your challenge: in no more than three uses of the scale, find the one, uniquely weighted coin . . . regardless of whether it is heavier or lighter than the others. Hint: there is one correct solution.

Please forget the comments section; earlier answers were based on my faulty definition of the problem; and the answers to this revised problem are incorrect. Also, my solution key was too large to fit in the comments section. For the full solution key, just e-mail me at

Oppressors against Oppression 

People who haven�t been around a campus in the last few years won�t believe this one: A student just dropped by to ask if I would let her into one of my classes that�s already filled. She told me she had wanted to register earlier but her registration had been blocked because she hadn�t gone to one of the re-education sessions that are now required.
The irony is that one of the things she missed at the session was a performance by Jugglers Against Oppression. Because she didn�t watch them juggle and be non-oppressive, they stopped her from registering. Lord...
This is serious business: given our cuts in funding and swelling enrollment, classes are hard to get. The good and necessary classes fill quickly. Having to register very late may well cause her to miss courses she needs and have a crippled semester.

At least the university is making some crucial things clear. If students want to learn how not to oppress, all they have to do is watch what the university does and then do something else.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Rewarding mediocrity 

There was this conversation about the Frederick Lang case at Critical Mass, and someone posted a reply (go to the first link and look for the comment by an Eric Jablow) about grade inflation -- wherein a group of math professors decided 140 out of 420 was a passing grade so as not to fail too many -- that was discussed on Photon Courier.
Of course, we all know what the point really is. The point is for students to obtain a piece of paper--a diploma--which is viewed as a passport to economic success. Increasingly, the perceived value of this diploma is decoupled from any knowledge or accomplishment that it actually represents. It is valued for the circular reason that--it is valued.

This situation is reminiscent of other pieces of paper--stock certificates in certain companies. At the height of the boom, people were acquiring these certificates without much consideration of the current or potential business results of the companies they represented. ("I don't know what it does," said one investor of a stock, "but I know it's moving.") The hope was simply that a popular stock would become more popular and hence increase in price--that is, these certificates were valued because they were valued.

A bubble is not infinitely sustainable. In the market, stocks will eventually collapse if there are no earnings to support their price levels. And, in academia, degrees will not be valued indefinitely unless they represent genuine knowledge and accomplishment. The collapse may not be as immediately dramatic as a market collapse--but it seems inevitable that it will eventually happen.

I learned from a former chairman in my department a way to deflect this. A semester ago I had a principles class that hadn't performed as well as I'd've liked. At the end of the term, I posted grades for all work except the final at the beginning of class. Any questions, I asked? "How come you've given only one 'A'?" one student answered. Remembering the lesson I was taught, I replied, "I don't give grades. You take them."

I then handed out course evaluations.

Nobody remembered what I told them on the first day: If you reward mediocrity, mediocrity is all you'll get.

Flattery will get you everywhere, Stephen 

Cold Spring Shops has links to three of our pieces this week. I'm grateful. To comment on one of his entries, transfer curriculum is a hot topic up here. MnSCU is a relatively recent creation (monstrous, in the eyes of some) that insists that all schools (state universities, technical schools and CCs) be treated equally. There's a 40 hour Minnesota Transfer Curriculum one can take to complete the general education requirement at any state university. In terms of transfers, that means we have to articulate their courses to be ours, even when the courses are required for our majors as prerequisites for upper-division courses. But worse, there are many instances where a course at the two-year school is transfered as an upper-division course. (For one example, here's a case where a course at a community college on the history of World War II transfers in as a 400-level course at our school. 400-level is supposed to be the level for college seniors.) With the university requiring 45 of 120 credits for graduation to be upper division, and with students transferring with their associates degrees and about 65-75 credits, the pressure for this grows.

I pledge to make others look uncaring 

Up for air from grading, I check my email and find this passed along from a student to the faculty discussion list:
I am currently a graduate student in the Social Responsiblity Program. I have been working on the Graduation Pledge this past semester and I am writing to you all to ask for your help in getting the word out to graduating students. For those of you who are not familiar with the pledge, it is a pledge that students sign that state that they will try to pursue socially responsible jobs and seek socially responsible actions in any job they choose (see below). There will be a table at graduation where students can sign the pledge if they choose to and they will recieve a green ribbon that symbolizes their participation in the pledge. The pledge will also be acknowledged during the ceremony. If you could find the time during your final periods to announce the pledge to your classes and inform them about the table at graduation, that would be greatly appriciated by those involved with the pledge.
The pledge, which can be found here, is sponsored by a "peace studies" program at Manchester College in Indiana. Among the steps they suggest for promoting the pledge:
GET CAMPUS GROUPS TO ENDORSE, participate, and get out word to their constituencies (a) student groups--e.g., social service, community service, environmental, peace, human rights; (b) programs/departments/schools within the university--social work,, sociology, environmental studies, women's studies-- or any socially concerned active ones on campus; and (c) offices/councils/centers--career services, community services, women's centers, student government). Another approach is to get senior class officers or reps involved, as they often have good channels of communication with all seniors.
In other words, get leftist faculty to help organize one last way to indoctrinate students.

As David pointed out to me, the second part of the pledge says that "social responsibility is self-determined". Yet at the same time, these groups wish to impose their view of social responsibilty on others. It's to be self-determined ... if you've succumbed to the programming of the university over the years. You are not programmed to like making money; the links to jobs offered on the Manchester and MIT sites are a passel of Green and Naderite organizations, with no assistance to finding jobs with for-profit firms. There is a speech that was given to the Objectivist Club at the Univ. of New Hampshire a few years ago that included this:

Social independence and intellectual independence are both discouraged at our nation�s schools and universities. It is hard to think of any other set of institutions besides our nation�s schools that do more to kill the natural curiosity and individuality of young people.

Schools preach the damnable notion that learning is a duty. From the start students are given the message that they must sacrifice their self-interests in order to get an education -- and that the very purpose of getting an education is to become useful to society.

And commencement is becoming just one more place where the message is reinforced.

UPDATE: Let's show them this winner of the contest. Consider: In any other country, could you even suggest to graduating seniors that they should take lower-paying "socially responsible" jobs?

Friday, May 02, 2003

1/3 require remediation ... and they're all in my class 

While we discuss mostly university life here, we know many readers are interested in K-12 education. Here's a link to an analysis of bills to replace the Profiles of Learning in the Minnesota system.
Today, around 80 percent of Minnesota high school graduates go on to some form of post-secondary study. Yet approximately one-third of students who enter the state�s public universities and colleges require one or more remedial courses. Challenging, well-organized standards can ensure that graduating seniors master a common body of knowledge, thereby reducing the need for costly, time-consuming remedial work.
Which reminds me, I need to read these papers...

Trudging off to be Sensitive 

The arrogance of the holier-than-almost-anybody crowd in the Administration and Faculty Union that King writes about below is astonishing, unless once has lived here long enough to become accustomed to this sort of stuff. Thomas Sowell's *Vision of the Anointed: Social Action as Self-Congratulation* remains a terribly important book in understanding modern campuses and those who control them.
But I'm not so angry at the political zealots who control our campus as I am at the body of largely-decent faculty who have let it happen, and continue to let it happen. Almost everyone here knows how genuinely awful our leadership is, and how unjust and destructive their current actions are, and yet ALMOST NOBODY DOES ANYTHING. Our faculty will trudge off to the insults inherent in their latest round of sensitivity training and say nothing. I'm not sure how much it would take before they would say anything. Actually, what I genuinely fear is that they would do nothing no matter how bad things were. We are frightened and without courage, and --worse-- have become inherently passive; this is a whole generation of faculty who do not act but are acted upon. The implications for our culture's ability to maintain personal freedom are awful.

"Minneota Nice = the Minnesota State Government" 

I've been thinking about the increasingly shrill tone of my fellow faculty and administrative staff over impending budget cuts. So too has Mitch Berg (archives not working, scroll to entry titled "Minnesota Codependent".) This is brilliant.
Then, last week, during the debate on the Concealed Carry Reform bill, some of the anti demonstrators carried signs: "Guns aren't Minnesota Nice". Note, again, the parallel - Minnesota Nice equals a state monopoly on self-defense.

Minneota Nice = the Minnesota State Government.

Now, let's forget the absurdity of anthropomorphizing an inanimate body like government with human qualities like "nice" for just a moment. Let's take it at face value.

The people of Minnesota are in a relationship with this anthropomorphous body; let's call it "State". "State" demands a lot; if you don't spend enough on her, she gets peevish; if you don't give her enough attention at election time, she acts neglected, but if you pay her too much attention she wants more space. She assumes all the power - "I can never trust you with it..." - and then mishandles it. The focus is always on her and her needs.

And in exchange for all this fiscal and emotional attention, we get...passive/aggression cloaked as "nice". Enablement of a genuine addiction, plus she's inviting all her friends to the party. If we only refrain from disturbing here, she'll keep being "nice" to us; we're too tired to want to fight about it anymore.

In other words, Minnesota and Minnesotans are in a codependent, dysfunctional relationship. Even a little abusive; the abuse is all psychological, of course, but it's there, the constant threats of disaster if you don't do things her way.

Our incoming union president says "The Legislature is not valuing public higher education." And the only way you can show you value it is to pay more taxes.
To borrow a phrase, faculty are facing �the perfect storm� at the legislature this session. Diverse factors, such as overzealous tax cutting in recent years, a sluggish economy, and a sudden lurch to the right on state politics following the Wellstone memorial just prior to the election, have combined to produce the worst political environment in decades for pubic employees and higher education constituencies.

...How the budget and labor issues will ultimately be resolved depends upon the willingness of the Republicans to accept the DFL proposed tax increases.

Don't you love this "sudden lurch to the right on state politics following the Wellstone memorial"? What, were we all overcome by some mass psychosis after watching the moron Rick Kahn hand the Senate to Norm Coleman? This quote comes from the legislative lobbyist for the union that takes $652.50 of my money to represent me. Money doesn't buy what it used to.

No mandatory diversity training for bigots 

Within the meet and confer notes between our faculty union and the administration comes this most galling entry regarding mandatory diversity training.
FA: In last Tuesday�s Senate, we approved a committee to design and implement diversity training for anti-Semitism and diversity issues as mandated by the Zmora settlement, and to work together with administration to follow the mandate of the court. We don�t have a name for this committee yet, but we have five members.

...We had passed a motion to form this committee previously, but we modified this motion and took out the idea that it was mandated because we have concerns about mandated training. Bigoted people who do mandated training can end up worse.

First off, where the hell does this person get off referring to bigoted people? Who are they? If you can identify them, then do something about them. If you cannot, then watch what you are saying about people.

Wonder for a moment: What kind of "mandated training" could make a bigot worse off? What do they assume about those of us who disagree to be sent into the PC gulag?

The arrogance of these people, to claim that people are bigoted without justification, without providing evidence, without identifying the bigots, is the kind of fumbuckery that goes on at this campus EVERY DAMNED DAY. Rather than confront the issue and verify that it is real, we have an administration that caves on this issue and puts in mandatory diversity training over the objections of even the plaintiffs and a group of faculty that has decided there's a bigot behind every closed office door that does not display Gore/Liebermann bumper stickers or a poster advertising itself as a GLBaconlettuceTomato safe space. (If that conjures up a vision of the second Passover for you, good.)

So they will turn it from a reasoned conversation with those of us unpersuaded into a pep rally. It will appear more a political party convention than a seminar (or a Wellstone funeral). A sermon, not a discussion. Why?

Because they are cowards. They cannot stand the possiblity that they will be found wrong, as they have over Iraq, over 9/11, over Marxism, over all that they believe. They are shell-shocked by the reaction to their ideology, that people outside academia have not only found them wrong but laughable.

They are on their heels; they wish to hide back in their cocoons. Much like the Lakers did to the Wolves last night, now is the time to press forward.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Let a thousand liberal groups bloom, but weed the conservative garden 

I'm pleased to note this article mentioning us and FIRE. At least we're allowed more than one group on campus (we even have Campus Libertarians! and semi-nude philosophers!) Over on Instapundit I learned of the University of Miami not recognizing a conservative student group because it overlaps too much with College Republicans. Miami is run by President Donna Shalala (or as I usually say it, Sha-Laaaaaayyyy-laaaah!). When I tried to find a list of student organizations on Miami's website, it's curiously silent on the issue. You can look at our list of political and social concerns groups here. Yup, balanced, isn't it? And this doesn't count the everpresent "coalitions". Like this one.

UPDATE: FIRE has more details.

That beam in my eye, grade inflation, and faculty unions 

�Judge not, lest ye be judged.� - Matthew 7:1

Now in the midst of reading scores more term papers this week, I must do a better job of tolerating . . no, accepting . . . no, embracing . . . that�s the gerund I need to use . . . diverse writing styles, creative expressions of grammar, and malapropisms. No, wait, I shouldn�t call anything �mal,� for that would be normatively charged and blatantly judgmental.

Forget it, every student deserves an A. They�re all equally good, because they�re all so . . . diverse . . . and I certainly want to be known as someone who values diversity. Let me not find fault with the specks I see in others� �I�s� . . . or �me�s.� Goodness, if I did, maybe someone might allege a beam of discrimination in my own eye.

Now I get it! Out of fear of being judged intolerant and discriminatory, maybe I should join the safety of our egalitarian faculty union. There I could fight against the idea of merit pay. For who could possibly judge merit across our university�s diverse disciplines?

But wait just another minute. If I did join the union, would I not then be asked to judge as being judgmental those who would judge us? And wouldn�t that just make the beam in my own eye be perceived as being even more gross?

Now I�m confused. Please help me out with your comments.

Across the disciplinary divide 

Cold Spring Shops has pointed me to several articles on the difficulties of cross-disciplinary discussions in academia. (I'm not sure his May archive is working yet; if not click through to the home page and scroll to the morning of May 1.) I was reminded of this at a Claremont conference I spoke at last month at which we had both economists and political scientists discussing the quality of data in global political economy. Look at sessions four and five; the first is on corporate governance and the other on government capacity. The second was largely political scientists using the phrase "good governance" when they really meant "good government". These are very different things; moreover, those measuring "good government" seemed to focus on the quantity of public goods without consideration of the opportunity costs of their provision. (I kept whispering to someone "what about the second derivative?" Being both economists, we got the joke.) Getting the speakers to understand this was, in a word, frustrating.

It's been my impression that this is largely a problem in the social sciences, but between Joanne Jacobs and Kieran Healy, it looks like the problem has spread throughout the disciplines.