Friday, October 31, 2003

All it takes to be a conservative institution... 

The University of Chicago is hardly a conservative place. It is simply a place where conservatives are less likely to be harrassed (note that I very explicitly do not say a place where they are not harrassed). That is all you need in the academic racket to be perceived as a conservative institution.
By AtlanticBlog, who also notes an article on how some donors and their families are finding their endowments used for unapproved ends.

Unambiguous results of college education 

Joanne Jacobs runs through the usual lament that the payoff to college education isn't what it used to be. Of course not. You increase the supply of college graduates "in Ambiguous Studies from Pass Through U" and you are bound to decrease the wage differential for a four-year degree. Less-glamorous vo-tech courses that teach specific skills still return about the same premium ($1905/yr, according to the College Board.) My question: To what extent is this because of choices of majors vs. a general glut of college graduates in all fields?

Why I'd vote for Lieberman 

He can thank Michael Moore :
Let's get rid of Bush...there are many democrats running...but it's not about choosing anyone but Bush, it's about choosing anyone but Lieberman.
If Lieberman is getting wind up Moore's skirt, I need to read him more carefully.

Standing up to teachers 

The furor over the Minnesota social studies standards has increased, with four members of the drafting commission now issuing minority reports. Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke wonders why they waited until now.
Critics of the social studies standards say the proposal includes too many standards, represents a conservative bias and contains standards that are age-inappropriate.

One criticism is that Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower get multiple mentions but Kennedy and Johnson do not receive any. Another is that controversial events like the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II are omitted.

This week the state teachers union, Education Minnesota, sent a letter to Yecke listing its concerns.

Thirty history professors from the University of Minnesota also have sent a letter voicing opposition, saying that, among other weaknesses, the standards "offer a fundamentally incomplete and unbalanced portrayal'' of world history.

On Friday, a group called Minnesota Against Proposed Social Studies Standards submitted a petition containing 1,470 names to Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Yecke defended the draft. The proposal does have too many standards, she said, because it always was the intent to whittle them down through the upcoming editing process. Those that are age-inappropriate can be altered or moved, she said.
Again, we note -- it's a first draft that's drawing all the attention. In another article, teachers were voicing concern over students not having "the benefit of in-depth investigations, interdisciplinary approaches and authentic assessments." This is of course rubbish and symbolic of the takeover of our schools by an ideology that will not recognize America's role in moving the democratic experiment forward. And it appears Yecke and Governor Pawlenty will stick by their guns. Said Yecke,
The majority of parents and the public want to see history standards that reflect the greatness of the country. I don't believe in the hate America agenda, and it would be inappropriate to have that agenda in our standards.
Good for her to call out these sycophants of the liberal agenda.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Whoops, they say 

At the bottom of the Letters to the Editor to the Chonicle this week lays this note.
Editor's note: Several letter writers have taken umbrage at the recent story setting forth one former student's criticism of Richard Lewis, former controversial dean of the College of Social Sciences. The University Chronicle editorial board has decided to investigate the claims of editorializing and biased reporting, which it takes seriously. The matter is being referred to University Chronicle Readers' Advocate Joe Palmersheim for analysis under the guidance of adviser Michael Vadnie. An ombudsman analysis, incorporating the facts and the criticism surrounding the story, will appear in University Chronicle prior to Thanksgiving break.
- Editor Eric O'Link
Not that Palmersheim or Vadnie will care what I have to say, but the article that we reported on Tuesday was clearly not ready for publication. Just because you can't get people to comment because of the delicacy of the situation around Lewis' firing is not reason to present a one-sided case. It should have been a flag that there was much more going on here, and the story was still immature for publication.

Oh, and Eric? He's a controversial former dean (in your opinion). He's in no way "formerly controversial". Editors should edit.

Potty mouth 

This fellow can teach for me any day. High school girls were leaving lip prints on bathroom mirrors at school, so the principal gathered them in with the maintenance worker that was cleaning the mirrors.
To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers, and then there are educators.

Campaigning on campus -- Playing with OPM 

While walking through the student union today I noticed a table to promote the school levy. Isn't it interesting? When the students are behaving like students on campus and in the nearby neighborhood they are treated as pariah, but it's OK to ask them to vote for a property tax levy that they will never pay (if they live on campus -- and even if they live off campus the renters tax refund will give them back the excess.) It's a rather shameless case of playing "OPM" -- Other People's Money. The Minnesota Taxpayers League has been running ads lately highlighting the cry-wolf behavior of the local area government before.
Cities, counties, and school districts ran a scare campaign this spring in an attempt to defeat Gov. Pawlenty�s budget proposals. Time and again, their forecasts of disaster should that budget pass have proven to be false. One city�St Cloud�actually claimed that the cuts in local government aid would result in 100 layoffs; in reality, only one employee was laid off,� said Linda Runbeck, President of the Taxpayers League.
The educator unions have kicked in $5,500 and a school board member has given $6,000 to support the levy, while opponents are working with less than a thousand. I'd suggest they come over here and explain to students how they'll be out the use of their money for more than a year while they wait to get their tax refunds, and how the tax hikes will mean fewer jobs in the St. Cloud area.

Tenure-track, probationary or tenurable? 

Invisible Adjunct makes an excellent connection between the case of tenure denial at Carroll College and the KC Johnson story. IA's point is at the bottom of her post:
I understand why Johnson believes faculty have too much power over the tenure review process, and can appreciate why he would argue that faculty decisions should be accountable to some other body. But what I find almost shockingly naive about the argument that adminstrators and trustees must step forward to require "careful accountings" of the tenure process is the confident assumption that said administrators and trustees are as committed to the institution of tenure as the faculty who are, in Johnson's view, "unwilling or unable to create an intellectually diverse campus." What makes Johnson so sure that administrators and trustees are willing and able to create an intellectually diverse campus?
She's right: They're not, as any reader of this blog will have seen time and again.

I think the issue here is the understanding that faculty have when you hire them. Telling some-one they are non-tenurable (fixed-term, adjunct, visiting, etc.) makes very clear that you are working on a contract that does not provide the option for lifetime employment. You must earn your way, and prove yourself over and again. Most people in the private sector do this as a matter of course, which is largely why they view the tenure system as suspect. But what do we mean when we say that the option is available? At SCSU, the term we use is "probationary": There is a presumption of tenure if one completes "a demonstrated cumulative record of positive performance and professionally competent achievement consistent with the goals of the institution." Do it, and you're in. Don't do it, and you're out. It's simply a decision of what constitutes that cumulative record. I could go on and on about the degradation of the standard, but that's a separate point. Tenure is a presumptive right in that contract for anyone that meets the standard.

At Carroll College, it appears the contract faculty sign grants tenure "based upon the needs of the instructional program of the college and a candidate's potential for contributing to those needs." Now, if the university is cutting the religion or chemistry program that's certainly a reason for denying tenure -- even AAUP recognizes that as legitimate -- but the article says that the programs are growing and the courses taught by the faculty denied tenure are popular. I suspect Carroll's administration is going to have a hard time with this case because they could easily have written the contracts to tell faculty that the positions were "tenurable" without the language on instructional needs. You could offer even a contract that says financial exigency will be grounds for denying tenure. Of course, you then get a poorer pool of applicants -- these are the tradeoffs anyone hiring help faces, in any industry.

Likewise, nowhere in the KC Johnson case did anyone testify that one is supposed to be 'collegial' in order to receive tenure. The testimony he provided to Congress is something I agree with, but Invisible Adjunct misses the point of Johnson's Shadow File created by faculty whose only complaint was over Johnson's politics, something surely extra-contractual. He was lucky that they put the complaints in writing, and he wonders how many others were denied tenure without a similar paper trail. IA can disagree over how big a problem that is, because we'll never really know, will we?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Ready? Draw! 

David Beito from the Alabama Scholars Association and the Liberty and Power blog sent out a note on an entry they had about an artist whose exhibit in a university theater was moved for fear of offending the patrons. The artist's work included some nekkid men, as Mom used to say. 'Offensive!' said the university president at the university, who is trying to move it to less visible quarters. Prof. Beito is properly defending the speech rights and academic freedom of the art professor. They also note that the theater is currently showing a production of Arsenic and Old Lace, "a play about serial homicide and poisoning."

Unqualified Offerings and I agree -- it isn't our taste, but that's irrelevant. Jim compares this in a subsequent post to the story about a boy who got bounced out of school for drawing stick figures of a Marine shooting a Taliban fighter. The 14-year-old has a father and a stepfather both in the military and in the Persian Gulf area. Like him, I did draw pictures of jets fighting and bombers bombing WW2 and, because that happens to be my age, the Seven-Day War with Israeli and Arab planes. This was not just at school, but at a Methodist summer camp. Nobody called my mom.

Exercising rights isn't always right 

As usual, Eugene Volokh sets the right tone on a campus speech issue. Concerning the Roger Williams University debate he adds,
So the university is trying to stop groups from expressing viewpoints that the university concludes contain "hate" or "create a hostile environment" ... for certain groups -- which presumably means messages that "seriously alarm" groups, "slander" them, or are "sexually, racially, or religiously offensive" (since that's what the University seems to view as "harassment").

Somehow, the university claims that this can coexist with "the right of campus organizations to hold different points of view and to disagree," but obviously there are certain points of view and certain disagreements that the university wants to banish. If you criticize homosexuals -- if you are "anti-Islamic" -- if you express views that the university thinks are "racist" (I wonder exactly what those are) -- you risk defunding, being labeled a harasser (one who creates a "hostile environment"), and, if I read the Student Handbook right, potential discipline and loss of computer access.

This is not, it seems to me, how debate on gay rights, or for that matter on race or on Islam should proceed -- by trying to shut out one set of voices, while supposedly "affirm[ing] the right of campus organizations to hold different points of view and to disagree."

Volokh is more sure that RWU is acting within its rights than I was -- and on this I'd defer to a more knowledgeable legal scholar -- but it is not faithful to the purpose of higher education.

A revisit of in loco parentis? 

A faculty member posted to the campus discussion listserv about student reactions to Homecoming and the willingness of the administration to punish students for off-campus behavior.
The students didn't understand how SCSU could discipline them for off-campus behavior and, upon learning that under many conditions it could, found this to be unfair, discriminatory, etc.

What became clear in the discussion was that student conceptualizations of their relationships with SCSU were inappropriate. They seemed to consider the student-SCSU relationship as if SCSU were their employer or (entertainment?) service provider. Many strongly argued that SCSU has no legitimate interest in their non-classroom behavior just like they believed that an employer or business has no interest in non-work or non-customer related behaviors.

These problematic student conceptualizations could explain many problems. It seems to me that SCSU needs to surface and correct such misconceptions during the student orientation process. It is not enough to threaten to punish students. They need to understand that SCSU really can, and why.

Indeed, it was clear that students need to better understand their relationship with the university in general. Their inaccurate beliefs were almost perfectly predictable based upon social (working, lower) class.

The faculty member was asked to elaborate further but alas did not. I'm certainly not clear on what the social class reference at the end was about. I also wonder whether there's a distinction to be made between a public and a private university here? I would encourage readers to look at the introduction to our student code of conduct. I have checked the prohibited conduct list and find no direct reference to off-campus actions, but does the intro may give them enough broad latitude to act on off-campus behavior?

Crayon Diversity Award 

SharkBlog has initiated a Crayon Diversity Award, and sure enough another administrative overreaction to an affirmative-action bake sale has won the award going away. One of my commenters previously noted that the issue would go away if only the administration would stop reacting. Well, that misses the point: the bake sale point ends up not being about affirmative action but about free speech. Read the overreaction and find the tell-tale �I�m all for free speech � but ..." sentence. Down that road lies censorship.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Red town, blue gown 

Do you ever wonder how many academic watch Fox? (I don't; I take four newspapers and don't bother with TV news.) In a letter to the editor following a dispute between a columnist and an official of the network, John Rosenberg highlights the misperception that universities are all Democratic. The letter states,
In "News for Nincompoops?" John Moody of Fox News ridicules the idea that people who voted for George Bush "come from backward parts of the country," while Al Gore supporters were "urbane, witty sophisticates" [Free for All, Oct. 18]. But a map of the United States showing how congressional districts voted in 2002 clearly indicates that districts that are home to a university almost universally voted Democratic.
But, Rosenberg shows, the districts around Penn State, U. Iowa, Ohio State and U.Va. are all heavily Republican. And Minnesota 6, home of SCSU. Talking to people around town you get the feeling that St. Clouders are from Venus, professors are from Mars.

Come out, little skeleton 

In a front-page article, the student-run University Chronicle has extensive comments by former student Robbi Hoy about her case against Dean Richard Lewis, recently fired reassigned to special projects communicated via carrier pigeon. Hoy originally was a plaintiff in the anti-Semitism suit. She claims that Lewis withheld a grade for an independent study she took with another of the plaintiffs, Laurinda Stryker. Her grade was eventually issued, and she received $7500 and a letter of apology from the university.

The article is simply a recitation of Hoy's story, but one needs to make a careful reading here, though. A dean cannot "withhold a grade". When I write a grade for a student, it goes on an official form directly to the registrar's office. The dean has no opportunity to review the grade before then. In this particular case, Stryker stopped teaching in the middle of the spring term during which Hoy took the course, because of the stress Stryker experienced during this time. The courses had to be picked up by other faculty. Dean Lewis, as a former member of the same History Dept. that Stryker was in, pitched in to help pick up the stray bits of her workload, which included Hoy's independent study. What Hoy never says is whether Lewis received the work she had prepared for the course. She says

When my independent study was done and I was waiting for my grade, Lewis informed me that I would be getting an incomplete when I had gotten an 'A'.
But who said she had an 'A'? Stryker? If so, it was a very simple matter for Stryker to fill out the grade sheet and send it to the registrar. If she could not come to campus for some reason, she could simply mail or fax a letter authorizing Dean Lewis to sign the gradesheet with the A on her authority. Indeed, a dean submitting a grade for a class without the faculty member's signature would be a very dangerous precedent. Giving an incomplete maintains the faculty member's academic freedom to issue grades to their students as they judge them. The student handbook is quite clear
When a student who is otherwise doing satisfactory work in a course is unable, for reasons beyond her/his control, to complete all course requirements during the term, he/she may be given an "I" for incomplete. The incomplete must be removed by the student within one semester, except an incomplete given spring semester must be removed by the end of the following fall semester.
If the student never gave her work to Lewis to evaluate, and if Stryker was not coming back to teach the following semester (which she did not), he had no choice but to get her to take the course over.

This should get you to wonder, if you're with me, "why did they give this woman a grade and 'shut up' money?" Because this administration does not support its deans, and it always settles lawsuits. As Geoffrey Tabakin, another plaintiff, says in the Chronicle article, "It is not just about one dean or one student, but an administrative problem that is being placed on Lewis." Amen to that. Bet you won't hear that from Stryker or Zmora, however.

UPDATE: Another faculty member reminds me that Stryker did in fact come back to teach in Fall 2001, only to again drop out in the middle of the spring semester. So she could have handled the incomplete for Hoy at that time though by now the case was being litigated. It's unclear to me, however, whether Stryker was expected to return. It appears, based on a look at the course offerings from that term, that Stryker must have had upwards of 150 students that term left in the lurch. If Stryker issued an 'A' to Hoy, I wonder what she did with the others? And I have a note she forwarded to the campus listserv from 5/17/01, so she was not entirely incapacitated.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Another school gets Dilbert diversity training 

This time at Northern Illinois (home of the previously unbeaten Huskies.) I'm going to bet ours was worse, though at least you're likely to be spared the Rush jokes.

<***> Studies Depts. as aesthetic expression 

Arnold Kling argues that universities compete for students increasingly by offering aesthetic values. Following the theme of Virginia Postrel's new book, The Substance of Style -- which is on my nightstand but getting crowded out by The DaVinci Code right now, thanks Dave! -- Kling thinks that maybe those something-studies departments are just an expression of one's own quest for finding something that is like them.
Postrel argues that consumers use aesthetics to express their identity. Her bumper-sticker phrase that describes the identity-driven motive for consumption is, "I like that. I'm like that." This is very evident on college campuses, where there are special buildings for the African-American student union, for Jewish students, and for other segments. Ethnic-group clubs are the most thriving student organizations on campus. One of my academic friends wryly notes that "there is a dean for all three genders, for each ethnic group, and for every intersecting combination." Entire academic departments, such as Black Studies or Women's Studies, have emerged to serve no purpose other than "I like that. I'm like that."
That might sound good, and certainly the multicultis think it swell. But it doesn't bode well for the university to remain in its current form.
Another key to avoiding diseconomies of scope is the ability to let go of poorly-performing professors and uncompetitive departments. The information age rewards dynamic excellence, not stable mediocrity.

The sectors of our economy that are growing most rapidly are characterized by the highest rate of failure. Economic growth is a process of trial-and-error learning. If errors are not corrected and failures are not quickly shut down, then experiments become too costly to conduct. If most new businesses fail, then most new academic departments should fail, also. Without a process for quick failure, institutions have to be somewhat reluctant to create new departments.

Jack Welch of General Electric reportedly decreed that if a division of GE was not in the top three in its market, then that division would be sold. No such ruthlessness exists in academia. Mediocrity and failure are tolerated indefinitely.
I wonder how one measures the top three HURL programs? Hopefully not by GPA.

Speeding under the influence of massage 

I hate to play "can you top this?", but with the Elder's story of a speeding ticket I cannot resist. I have back trouble and my church council president is a chiropractor. He has a massage person and after an adjustment and a massage I'm a pretty mellow dude. I was going to meet Jack for some bourbon (and I've had that Macallan, Elder, but Jack and I get this special cask bourbon from a local distributor who has never refused to try to find an odd brand I'll fancy) and I went after a particularly good massage. There's a road that passes by a local high school. 45MPH until you get up to the school, then down to 30, then back to 45. I should know better as my son went to that school, but of course I have this goofy smile from the massage and I have bourbon in the back seat, and I forget to slow down. I went for apologetic and honest ... about the chiropractor and the massage. If he looks in the back seat and sees the plain brown bag, I'm toast. Instead, he gives me a smile and a warning. I've seven months to serve of good behavior.

Surely, there's a bumper sticker for this? "In case of the Rapture, I'm getting an adjustment"?

Comparative advantage 

Loyal reader Burt Dubow sends me a New York Times article on the competition for trophy professors among research institutions. This one exhibits a lot of jealousy over such outsized salaries going to research and not to teaching.
What's good for a university's reputation, however, isn't necessarily good for its students' education. Since the standing of top-rung professors, their bankable asset, depends on what they write, not how they teach, their main loyalty isn't to their students or their institution.
That's rather silly. As Adam Smith wrote, 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner but from their regard to their own self-interest.' And that self-interest also drives the good teachers. Some people may feel a calling to teaching, but most are motivated more by their own self-interest: a desire to stay in academia without high achievement in research. (And acting on the call to teach is an act of self-interest, not benevolence.) There isn't anything wrong with teaching-for-profit. Nor is there anything wrong with research-for-profit. Since the latter has more of a tournament feel, (q.v. this working paper as well) it's not surprising that research institutions are engaging in bidding wars for faculty.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Happy bloggiversary, Photon Courier! 

There are two excellent comments to the previous entry from David Foster, the blogger who runs Photon Courier, and who celebrated his bloggiversary yesterday. Drop him a hello, and follow his link to this photolog of a "peace rally" in D.C. today. Galling. He also asks why professors are not calling out the hatemongers who commented on the review of Ted Honderich in the Chronicle of Higher Ed wondering if suicide bombing can be defensible.

To answer his question, this lack of backbone from the sensible 2/3 of academia is something Jack and I have batted about this blog before. I think Jack's argument about the decadence of modern liberalism fits. It takes time for the new Spirit to form, and longer for it to imbue in academia to where the decadent can be shown for what they are.

Friday, October 24, 2003

It can happen anywhere 

Via PowerLine comes an article by Natan Sharansky on how dangerous it is to support Israel on college campuses. My friends in business schools laugh sometimes at the problems I have working in a College of Social Sciences. But it can happen there, too.
During a frank and friendly conversation with a group of Jewish students at Harvard University, one student admitted to me that she was afraid � afraid to express support for Israel, afraid to take part in pro-Israel organizations, afraid to be identified. The mood on campus had turned so anti-Israel that she was afraid that her open identification could cost her, damaging her grades and her academic future. That her professors, who control her final grades, were likely to view such activism unkindly, and that the risk was too great.

Having grown up in the communist Soviet Union, I am very familiar with this fear to express one's opinions, with the need to hold the "correct opinions" in order to get ahead, with the reality that expressing support for Israel is a blot on one's resume. But to find all these things at Harvard Business School? In a place that was supposed to be open, liberal, professional? At first I thought this must be an individual case, particular to this student. I thought her fears were exaggerated. But my conversations with other students at various universities made it clear that her feelings are widespread, that the situation on campuses in the United States and Canada is more serious than we think. And this is truly frightening.
Sharansky worries for future US policy towards Israel being made by students trained this way. He should be. Hell, even showing a flag causes problems.

Rump unionism 

Mr_Cranky reports that under 40% of AFSCME workers at the University of Minnesota are striking presently, as their strike vote had only 38% of membership voting for the strike. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the university says less than half of union members stayed out on Wednesday, while the union puts the number closer to two-thirds. The pickets outside the university president's offices were joined by about 100 students, which Mr. Cranky notes is under a quarter of one percent of university enrollment. Question: How many of the 100 were brought by their classes and encouraged to participate? How many were given credit in a course for their picketing and street theater? The over/under is 50, with steam on the over.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

They wouldn't know an individual if they saw one 

Discriminations is carrying a story on how colleges and universities are finding it difficult to manage the requirements of the Michigan decisions. We recall from almost four months ago this article by Peter Kirsanow, and now it appears to be coming true. From today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only):
Among the college officials on hand here and at similar gatherings held around the nation since June, the chief fear was that the Supreme Court may have opened the door to new legal assaults on race-exclusive scholarship and financial-aid programs, by holding that colleges must treat students as individuals, rather than as members of particular racial groups.
It's no longer clear if employment decisions can be decided by race, nor if one can have separated dorms. The very phrase "affirmative action" is being discouraged, says Arthur Coleman, a former Clinton official in the education department.
[He] urged those present to not even use the term "affirmative action," which typically has referred to efforts to remedy past racial discrimination, and, he said, would be "a red flag" for potential legal challenges if used in admissions policies....

"You are not in the position of being social-justice police," Mr. Coleman warned. "We are not fundamentally talking about affirmative action when we talk about diversity in higher education. Let's get that concept embedded in how we think about these issues."
This is going to break the hearts of our gang here. They are still holding out hope for attaining "critical mass" which, as a commenter on Discriminations suggests, should be followed according to the laws of physics.

Let students choose their tuition? 

That seems to be what the University of Texas at San Antonio is doing, and they're choose to let tuition rise by 20%. But that's still well under the 31% increase at UT-Austin, and the students are asking for some of the money to be put aside for financial aid and/or to give a tuition break to students within 30 credits of graduating ... which would be likely the students on the committee setting the tuition. Maybe the promise of discounts will keep sophomores and juniors from jumping ship? Again, it's an elasticity question, and the more I think of it the less obvious it is that the proposal is self-serving.

Mountains, molehills, fill in the blanks 

Letters to the editors of the University Chronicle today leads with the guy who doesn't want to be blamed for getting his picture constantly in the newspaper, and students arguing over how Homecoming weekend was handled by the university, the police, and the campus paper. Says one:
There were several Twin Cities TV crews around this past weekend and I feel they were disappointed that there were no incidents. From my perspective, I think no incidents was a great thing for our school and community.
It was made better by great weather and a football victory.

Horowitz showed up, and a debate broke out 

After the contentious "10 Reasons" ad about slave reparations, Brown University was pretty upset about ol' David Horowitz, so upset that they couldn't invite him to speak. Two and a half years later, he finally got his chance, and it sounds like all went well. Of course, leftists on campus asked for him to come back and give them equal time. Said Brown's director of institutional diversity,
In a lecture like last night's, "you have one point of view talking to an audience."
Funny, I haven't been invited to equal time for a "respect and responsibility" brainwashing presentation. And that is mandatory. Horowitz was a lecture in a hall presented by College Republicans that you could choose to go to or not.

Embarassed to make a buck 

Part of my problem in family life is that nobody understands my moments of glee around the house. When I read this article (it's the SC Times, so if you're not reading today you're going to have to scour the archives for it) quoting our associate VP for administrative affairs (a.k.a., Budget Lady) saying "Summer session was never intended to be a for-profit endeavor," I broke out into peals of laughter at breakfast. The nine-year-old-know-it-all gave me a disgusted look. (I just finish with one teen, and the little one decides to be precocious. Damn.) Now I know Budget Lady took economics, so let me remind her: support services and utilities are mostly fixed costs, unless you mean to close the buildings, turn off the electricity and lay off all the support staff for the summer. We made $1.4 million. Let's be happy. Also interesting, credit-taking was up 3% in the summer over a year ago, just ahead of a 15% tuition increase starting fall. For extra credit, calculate the elasticity.

UPDATE: Douglas Bass sends a note that our experience with tuition increases is about average.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Free speech is free speech 

Students for Academic Freedom and FrontPage magazine are defending College Republicans at Roger Williams University for their publication of a newsletter that responded to a diversity presentation by two liberal gay rights speakers. Here's the link to the issue of the paper: I warn you first that the .pdf file of the newspaper is quite large, and second that it is quite graphic -- there's no way I'd show it to my nine-year-old. Here's the question: As a private university, does the administration have the right to close down this publication? (Were it a public university, I'd say absolutely not. Here I'm not as sure.) As an institution of higher learning, should it? This is, in short, a replay of the SMU story from last month in terms of administrative reaction.

Whaddya suppose this is about? 

The Faculty Association is the exclusive representative for all faculty and, as such, should be open to concerns, comments and perspectives of all its members. The underlying issues should be given consideration, discussed and processed. As an organization, we have to be able to look at issues from all perspective. Toward this end, I am willing to meet with faculty to listen to their concerns.

The faculty association has a representative democracy governance structure. As you know, each department elects representatives to Senate. The Executive Committee is made up of elected (from either the university or college) representatives.

This type of structure is fully operational when there is representation from all areas. Or else, indeed, voices are lost.
This letter was mailed to us Tuesday morning by the FA President. Yet Tuesday afternoon, when given the opportunity to extend the franchise to vote on the committee to search for the interim dean, what do they do? Keep the vote to their faculty senate.

Do they care about any voices other than their own? Does the perspective of fair-share members matter? Does it really matter if you're in or you're out? Stand by, as we expose more on this issue.

KPIs for academic distinction 

Thomas Reeves at the NAS Online Forum (permalinks bloggered -- see entry of 10/21) reflects on the Lee Bollinger editorial I discussed earlier. In it he asks how to achieve the vision Bollinger has.
Assuming that a campus seeks academic distinction (and one can by no means take this for granted), what specific steps might be taken by a top administrator anywhere to recreate the productive and valuable atmosphere described by Bollinger? How might a president or chancellor go about creating a free and intellectually sophisticated culture on campus that would produce the sort of first-rate educational experience that almost any ambitious campus might reproduce? Several suggestions come readily to mind for your consideration, each one a potential book in itself.
His answers are to (1) defend academic freedom, (2) defend student speech rights, (3) promote ideological diversity on campus, and (4) maintain high academic standards. On the last he expands:
That means working to eliminate nonsensical courses and majors, seeing that grades are awarded responsibly, and discouraging the use of student evaluations, which too often lure professors into the worst sorts of pandering. (We have recently learned that a professor's physical attractiveness plays a role in the scoring.)
He also discourages hiring adjuncts in favor of full-time faculty (paid for by firing "legions of minor administrators") and encourages fundraising.

We've mentioned our strategic plan before, which now is focused on developing KPIs -- key performance indicators. A key performance indicator on Reeves' standards would be the destruction of civility codes and speech codes, an assessment of the number of conservatives on the campus, the ending of HURL follies and their hyperinflated GPAs, and the increase in university endowment for non-athletic and non-beautification projects. On this score, how does our current administration score?

Sometimes I see others have more fun 

What a pity that economists can't use phrases like this when they read crap?
"Feminism's Broken English," by Duke's Robyn Wiegman -- a teeming mass of abysmal sentences, yearning to be coherent ...
The writer is simply channeling Leonard Pith-Garnell in Bad Conceptual Theater. We never get to do that stuff in Principles of Economics, though I do toss out the Accountancy Chanty once in a while.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Smoked crustacean 

Check out DC's dinner. Heh. I swear I saw these dudes smoking in front of Stewart Hall.

A summary of recent campus free speech issues 

David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy offers a summary article (requires free registration) on campus free speech issues, leading with the rash of affirmative action bake sales that have been shut down.
The purpose of the bake sale was to make a political point, not to engage in discrimination. The bake-sale organizers were engaging in a clever bit of street theater; so clever, in fact, that it led some student groups opposed to the event's message to persuade Peterson to use a foolish interpretation of a nondiscrimination policy to shut it down.

Unfortunately, public universities in California have a history of stifling dissent on racial matters, and of kowtowing to student interest groups that claim to be offended by their fellow students' speech.

Taking our flags and going home 

We learn in the Redstartribune that the fellow who sued to get the Confederate symbolism off the Georgia state flag is now in St. Cloud and has demanded that an old Georgia state flag there be taken down at the VA hospital. In response, the local administrator at the hospital took down all fifty state flags "rather than leave one of the states unrepresented." Mr. Coleman is applying to enter SCSU.

"Discussing" academic freedom 

I use the quotes because it seems to me that academics discussing academic freedom should be preaching to the choir (or having Monkeys and Fraters discuss favorite cocktails -- I'm a Rob Roy.) Yet the continuing issue of the Alabama Scholars and their newsletter continues to make news. Their faculty senate is "discussing" the issue. When the vice president of the university says that "the question is whether organizations can use Campus Mail if they do not claim to be affiliated with the University", it sounds far too much like a loyalty oath, and that's not right. See Liberty and Power for more.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Directions for new parents 

Critical Mass has a letter and comments on how poorly our experiences from the 1970s prepares us for advising our children on where to go for college. RTWT, and then read the ISI guide from Winfried Myers and start arming yourself and your children.

Chronicle unhappy 

The University Chronicle lead editorial also takes the administration to task for the handling of Dean Lewis' reassignment.
University Chronicle would like to present both sides of this story as it unfolds. Thus far, we have the confident words of a lawyer who promises a lawsuit against SCSU and who points out that the university has not yet refuted his client's claims. On the flip side, we have SCSU's flimsy statement - and not much else.

The administration seems to be making a habit of hiding behind "no comment." We understand that administrators, including President Roy Saigo, are busy. But serious charges against a university - including a lawsuit - should be met with some comment. The university needs to tell its employees and its students where it stands on these charges and how it plans to handle the situation.

There's an adage in journalism that says, "No comment is a comment."

In this case, it's the loudest comment the university could make.

There are two inaccuracies in thier chronology. The university was given an announcement of the reassignment at 5pm Monday (note: our administration has mastered the Bill Clinton press technique of releasing bad news on Friday afternoons or after 5pm). The Times was working from that release, since they were citing the administrator's plan by the numbers in last Tuesday morning's edition. And it's pretty clear that the rumor mill had nailed the story on campus by the previous Saturday. The Chronicle should do more reading at the Scholars.

Claremont Institute honors Rush 

As I recall, I saw Clarence Thomas first on C-SPAN right after the confirmation hearings. He had a big cigar going (always something that impresses me -- I miss the Rockford Files when Garner could have a heater!) and gave a thoroughly upbeat speech. I think it was an attempt by Claremont to give him a little love at a time he was being eschewed on the chicken dinner circuit. So when I read onInfinite Monkeys that Rush Limbaugh is getting an award, I kind of think it isn't an accident. And so, while I'm also thinking of it, here's Donovan McNabb's line from yesterday's game against the Giants:

9 completions in 23 attempts for 64 yards, no TDs, one INT.

Maybe Claremont can get Rush to help teach the Giants to tackle a freaking punt returner.

The blind SCTimes finds an acorn once in a while 

Well well. It appears our editors at the city newspaper have begun to connect a few dots on the shenanigans of our administration. In Sunday's paper (link only good Monday, thus I'll extensively quote) the lead editorial was titled "SCSU policy on diversity, age appears inconsistent." No kidding!
St. Cloud State University's seemingly endless struggle to make the campus a more welcoming place experienced some ups and downs in recent weeks.
The most positive development was President Roy Saigo's decision to move forward in creating an action plan to improve diversity. But just a few days later, the administration's decision to remove the dean of the College of Social Sciences spurred threats of a lawsuit for age discrimination.

So what should be made of all this?

Regarding the former, Saigo is right to move ahead. Regarding the latter, data privacy laws and potential court action could well squelch any chance the public has of learning all the facts. Taken together, though, they present a perplexing picture for the community.
We think the president was right to move ahead in killing IRC, for reasons the Times understood.
Consisting of faculty members, students, employees and administrators, the 19-member panel was to review four independent assessments of the university and recommend ways to improve tolerance. The IRC, though, struggled in its mission. The best it could do was issue a preliminary report, which even lacked majority support.

This committee was a golden opportunity for those directly involved at the university to offer solutions. For whatever reasons, that didn't happen despite two deadline extensions.
As we pointed out months ago, the silly voting rules of this committee made it impossible for them to reach any decisions. Moreover, one member of the committee that I spoke to found it contentious, disinclined to conduct any independent fact-finding, and in pursuit of a single agenda. Some members quit the committee in frustration; others simply stopped attending. The Times has been aware of this for awhile, but has ignored that thought now. The Times now calls for Saigo to "craft" a diversity plan from the ashes of IRC, but it seems quite unlikely that the committee has generated anything new. If Saigo wants to adopt parts of the four reports he's already received -- most of which were crap, as regular readers of this blog are no doubt aware -- he's had at least six months to do so.

As to our dean's situation, the Times writes:

University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials provided no details for the move, noting personnel data for public employees is not public under the state's data practices act.

Such responses highlight another disturbing -- and very daunting -- aspect of the university's challenges with diversity. Laws might require silence and secrecy, yet resolving claims of discrimination takes openness.

So what is the public to make of the Lewis reassignment? It's no secret he was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit that accused the university of anti-Semitism and retaliation. Yet that suit was settled with the university making no admission of wrongdoing.
I am still wondering if the Times is making the link to the discrimination suit themselves or if it's being fed to them. (Our "internal communications" person in the communications office is a former employee of the paper.)

We have some facts to rely on, dear editors at the Times. You would have a hard time knowing it, as the official memo reads thus:

In keeping with provisions 1.02 and 1.03 of the Personnel Plan for MnSCU Administrators, Dr. Richard Lewis has been reassigned to coordinate special projects for Provost Michael Spitzer. Beginning spring semester, Dr. Lewis will return to the faculty to teach in the Department of History.
But a set of minutes of the college meeting with the Provost Spitzer notes some facts.
  1. Provost Spitzer took responsibility for the decision; Saigo didn't have the courage to show up, though his underlings (not members of the college) were arrayed in the back. This is called "leadership style".
  2. Dick's office "will be relocated from Whitney House to the Alumni House." Well, he's still in Whitney as of last weekend, a week later. He still does not have a phone. I wonder if the vaunted data privacy acts will not permit us to hear what special projects he and Spitzer are coordinating by carrier pigeon.
  3. "One faculty member stated there could be good reasons for this action being taken and that there are different perspectives on this." Since I was there to hear that, and she said it right after I asked why he didn't just send a memo (answer: guilt), don't think for a moment that this person will not be identified. Note that this refers to her former affiliation in HURL (not a member of this college). She is now here.
The Times in conclusion says
Overall, in his three-plus years as university president, Saigo has consistently said combatting discrimination is an ongoing challenge. And it's developments like these that make his words ring true.
And the developments are all the result of Saigo's own actions. Stay on this story, SCTimes!!

UPDATE: The University Chronicle (links more permanent, thank you) offers a full rundown.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Research and the Red Sox 

I'm sorry that I haven't written more today, but I am working on some research, getting some stories for the blog, and of course bemoaning the Red Sox. Burying myself in work is a common relief from pain, and today is a day of dulled pain.

I'm mostly disappointed with analyses that argue the statistics show Grady should have pulled Pedro before pitching to Matsui. To say he was too much a player's coach in Game 7 is to argue that at no other point in the season did Grady's extreme patience with his players win a game, including the three with Oakland or leaving Nomar in the three hole in Game 6. The second word in 'second guess' is 'guess'. You really want me to believe that had Embree given up the rope to Matsui that we would not be screaming that Little pulled his best pitcher from Game 7? And after that, Pedro committed the unpardonable sin of...a flare from Posada into short center that lands between three guys.

Posters on this board call him Gump. People hear the southern accent and automatically subtract 15 IQ points. Many years ago it was called "Stengelese". Seems that guy did pretty well.

One of these years we are going to win. As a fan, I know it. And this team was one of my favorites. If you watched this game against the Phillies, you'd love them too. While it hurts to lose, when you lose the last game on an extra-inning homer you can't feel like you blew it. Balls sometimes find holes and knucklers sometimes hang. We will prevail one day. At least we're not Oakland, 0-9 in games where we could clinch a series.

Meanwhile, Saint Paul and JBcontinue their defamation. This despite my embrace of the Twins. I'm from NH, guys, not Boston. We love the Sox, and we also know Boston is full of crap. Don't lump us together. Send me more Scotch tips to comfort my weekend, friends, or you are dead to me.

A former faculty member writes about the dean's mess:
This can only end one way: a diversity course on Ageism for faculty and staff, but not administration. HURL will offer a course on organizing a "Grey Pride Parade."
A course on ageism for students already exists (HURL 409 -- now proposed to be a three-credit class.)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Differential payment for mentoring 

Professor Rebecca German sends along this ad for a position in the sciences that includes this statement:
"Appointment is anticipated at the ASSISTANT Professor rank. In exceptional circumstances appointment at the ASSOCIATE or FULL Professor level may be considered for candidates who offer extraordinary opportunities to further the University's commitments to mentoring underrepresented students in the sciences."

SCIENCE 10 October 2003, Vol 302, p 326
I do not know if this comes from Prof. German's university or elsewhere (I can't see the ad itself -- I've linked to the issue's index). The message is pretty clear: we'll hire at higher levels for underrepresented groups. We've seen that here before; there used to be a fund that could be used to create new faculty lines that would enhance "diversity". Lines have been authorized for searches that would be suddenly called "failed" because an acceptable "diversity" candidate could not be found. I do not think the practice continues today, but I am not sure.

UPDATE: Critical Mass today posts more, including a link to the ad.

Updating the fired dean story 

The StarTribune and AP are also broadcasting the story about our dean that was terminated. The spin always comes back to the fact that he was individually named in the anti-Semitism suit that was settled last year. I do not believe that is an accident, nor do I think it's an invention of the reporters at the StarTribune and St. Cloud Times.

The provost stated in our college meeting that discussed our future without Dick -- a meeting that lasted less than fifteen minutes -- that the former dean's office is in a room without a phone. And yet ...

The university said in a statement that Lewis, formerly dean of the College of Social Sciences, will coordinate special projects for Michael Spitzer, provost and vice president for academic affairs
Wouldn't coordination work better with a phone?

I have learned from several sources that Dr. Lewis' belongings were boxed and put outside his office last Friday afternoon. The meeting, held Monday at 1pm, was called at 3pm the previous Friday. I have never seen this done before, particularly in the middle of a semester.

The dean is a former member of the faculty and worked at SCSU since 1976. The disdain for his long service displayed in the shabby handling of his termination is the most shocking aspect of what has happened (so far.)

Given our long history of lawsuits (as noted by a reader at the Times Monday) and the fact that Lewis is represented by a well-known lawyer with expertise in dealing with at-will employment -- Lewis was employed under this contract -- it should be another bumpy ride for the folks in the administration.

I am still developing this story.

UPDATE: The software the St. Cloud Times uses for archiving causes all the URLs to change daily, making linking to their stories nearly impossible. That's relatively new. I'll copy over some parts of the article and post them here later.

A new Minn. higher education blog 

Welcome to the blogosphere Douglas Bass of St. Thomas, who authors the blog Belief Seeking Understanding. He will focus on the "Bible, technology and higher education." His post on adult learners contains some interesting items on the increase in lifelong learning, coming predominantly from females;
In 1996, women students of all ages comprised 56% of all college students-in large part due to the high distribution of adult women leaders (46% of all women enrolled in college were 25 or older). While the portion of adult female students is expected to decline to 41% of all women enrolled in college through 2008, female students are project to comprise 57% of the total enrollment so that numbers are expected to increase in all age brackets for women. This trend suggests that many classrooms for traditional students are also likely to become female dominant in the future, based on gender distribution.
EDITED: Misspelled Douglas' name. Sorry!

It is really on now 

OK, Alliance members. I'm getting a little perturbed with these petty complaints and active rooting for Yankees. I am wise to your bool cheat. If you want to be members of the coalition of the willing the Red Sox to win, I expect some changes from you two. Kudos to Mitch and James for keeping themselves neutral.

Martinez vs. Clemens. The stars are aligned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Idea of a University 

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger writes a thoughtful essay on what the purposes of universities are. (Link for subscribers only.)
Universities remain meaningful because they respond to the deepest of human needs, to the desire to understand and to explain that understanding to others. A spirited curiosity coupled with a caring about others (the essence of what we call humanism) is a simple and unquenchable human drive, certainly as profound an element of human nature as the more often cited interests in property and power, around which we organize the economic and political systems. Moreover, universities at their best have nurtured a distinctive intellectual atmosphere in which one is forced to live in a world of seemingly infinite complexity, while holding onto the natural but quixotic hope that someday it all will be resolved.
Read the whole thing. If I get a free link, I'll put it up. (Some of our readers are generous this way.)

Hear no evil, see no evil 

The author of "Coloring the News", a book about diversity programs at newspapers and other news organizations, explains how he's been treated after writing the book.:
My experiences with 'Coloring the News' confirmed that there are sanctions for speaking out too candidly about this subject. Traveling through the intersection of journalism and our nation's racial tensions requires a hard head, if not a helmet. Though some reviewers gave the book's arguments and evidence fair treatment, there were many instances when the unacknowledged ideological leanings of a news organization or professional groups made constructive dialogue all but impossible.
To the American left, fair and balanced only applies to counterweighting critiques of their own positions.
Juan Williams had prepared a package with Bernard Goldberg and me, but it did not reach the air for more than six weeks. The reason? Higher-ups at NPR's "Morning Edition" mandated a rather odd second segment to follow the next day with two pro-diversity figures who are not known for scholarship on the subject. This "balance" seemed to be happening to appease those at NPR who thought giving airtime to us would validate our arguments. This concern seems less apparent when the liberal perspective is voiced without a counter-balancing conservative one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

How we solve lawsuits 

Looks like a reader at the St. Cloud Times , commenting on the fired dean, has learned the SCSU System of Lawsuit Resolution (known as reductio ad absurdum 'round these parts)
"No reason this case can't be resolved quickly. SCSU has plenty of experience. Most of us know the elements of a settlement by now:
(1) Give the guy his job back -- plus a five or six-figure 'mea culpa' payment. If things really get stickly, it may be necessary to establish a pool of a few hundred thousand to be divvied up by anyone who claims to have been the 'victim' of similar discrimination.
(2)Establish a new Office of Ageism or (preferably) establish a new program of ageism study (requiring all students to take at least one course). Might even be able to get Pfizer to help fund a Viagra Chair position.
(3) Commission two to three studies to tell SCSU how unfair it has been to senior faculty members -- at least one to be conducted by AARP.
And as a sweetener to accomplish an early settlement: Give the plaintiff his choice of four prime seats at the sporting event of his choice the next time the Fighting Sioux are on campus.

A dean removed 

I am still reseraching this issue. I'll be back with you on it shortly. There's far more than meets the eye.

"I recently received a letter from a student" 

From a history professor at St. Cloud State. I am the person who went between this professor and the professor who gave the assignment discussed. I have read the letter-assignment and can verify its contents. In the interest of all concerned, names are not included.
I recently received a letter from a student. I did not recognize the name on the envelope but she indicated that she had been in my Western Civilization class several years ago and that she was writing to fulfill a requirement in a SCSU course. The letter came with an insert from the instructor, a faculty, that this letter was an assignment in his course and that the reader was welcome to respond to the letter by contacting him.

In the letter the student wrote that she just learned, from the required readings in the class, about all the atrocities Christopher Columbus committed against the indigenous people. She protested why she had never been taught of Columbus� crimes in high school and wondered why Columbus Day was celebrated. I was genuinely puzzled to receive this letter because my Western Civilization class she apparently had with me did not cover the period of European expansion at all. One of my colleagues, who knew the instructor personally, offered to inquire whether there were any criteria given for choosing to whom these letters would be sent and, in addition, whether the student would receive the same grade if she had written that, after taking the course, she had decided Columbus Day was worth celebrating.

The instructor replied to my colleague that the students had been told to write letters to their former high school teachers and that it was not his intent to have a letter addressed to any faculty on campus. He further explained that since students were already familiar with the mainstream version of the Columbus story his objective was to expose students to alternative perspectives on the topic so they could develop a well-rounded viewpoint.

I am not sure whether I am happy to learn that I was not an intended target of this assignment. I do not want to discuss any specific viewpoints expressed in the letter. I simply wonder what we professors have to achieve here by having students write these letters to their former teachers, in which the high school teachers are condemned for willingly distorting historical facts or intentionally withholding truth from students. The instructor may have determined that our students need extra stimulation, such as a letter writing activity, for better learning experience. But what is the wisdom of requiring students to send out these letters to their former teachers criticizing them for having failed to teach a specific, admittedly �alternative,� viewpoint? I am sure that students were free to develop their own opinion on the issue but, after all, they were required in class to read about only one viewpoint whereas they were encouraged to read outside the classroom any sources that provide different perspectives. Students may learn the skill of writing letters of protest from this assignment, but what about the teachers who suddenly receive letters from their former students and find themselves blamed for not having taught in the past in their history courses (how many years ago�it is everyone�s guess) the specific viewpoint that this instructor decided to teach? Are we expecting them to engage in a debate with their former students, or the instructor? Are we trying in any way to enlighten and educate high school teachers? If so, wouldn�t it be a little bit arrogant on our part?

Monday, October 13, 2003

Standards at SCSU Chronicle are slipping 

A student who doesn't like pro-life signs seems to have a problem with the First Amendment.
I can only assume that those signs were placed there in order to proudly display that homeowner's beliefs and ideals. Well, thanks, I know I feel better after knowing how or whom you voted for. People place all kinds of crap in their front yards: there's fake deer, fake old ladies' bottoms bending over, plastic flamingos (which, I'm sorry, should just be burned.) Anyway, most of these items tend to lack any sort of really aesthetic or artistic merit. Either way, why do we put this crap in our front yard? My grandma does it, as well as countless millions. Is there some part of us that just yearns for cheap yard ornamentation?
This from a newspaper that has been harassed by its own student government. This is what scares me about the right of re-constitution. Inventing the First Amendment anew each generation is probably beyond people like this.

What academics can contribute in a small city 

One of the things we get rewarded for in our contracts is community service. Most people think this is a tradeoff versus teaching and research, but it doesn't need to be. Mark Jaede's column can be seen as an attempt to combine these. I don't agree with him about his particular point. Bernard Lewis points out that Catholicism and Protestantism are part of a single civilization (even if one wishes to point to Northern Ireland) whereas Christianity and Islam are competing civilizations. Nevertheless, I think it's an interesting article and nice to see in our local paper, and written without condescension to the "unwashed public." That last part is all too rare.

Your headline here, just $24,000 

People sometimes can't get enough "warm fuzzies". The liberal mind set insists that any good news about diversity show up on page one. So when the Otto Bremer Foundation gives $24,000 (enough to teach a writing course to about 200 students) it might not be news, but if it's for funding the SCSU diversity plan, it makes page one. Some interesting notes on this article:UPDATE: The AP picked the story up, but the University Chronicle had the sense to treat it as a minor item.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

More on putting off-campus behavior on academic transcripts 

A second St. Cloud Times article appears today discussing how the university intends to use the code of conduct to punish off-campus behavior. Students aren't happy.
I pay the school to get an education. I don't pay them to watch what I do off campus. Once I'm off campus, it's none of their business what I do with my time.
It's worth noting that often the violators aren't students. Of the 111 cited during move-in weekend, 40 were not students; at Mankato last week, less than half of the 45 appear to have been. On the other hand, those convicted in the hockey riots at U of M last year appear to have been students. According to the last article, students at U. Minn. will now be expelled for inciting riots, "previously, students could be disciplined only for on-campus behavior."

Friday, October 10, 2003

Carnival of the Capitalists  

This looks promising, according to Infinite Monkey R.B. The first six hosts are all sites worth reading.

Preparing for the worst 

The newspaper today continues its coverage of the potential for riots during Homecoming. Continuing discussion of the three strikes rule that punishes landlords for their student-tenants' obnoxious behavior features the one guy Jerry who seems to be in all these articles. Turns out the fellow owns a bed-and-breakfast in the university neighborhood and finds he can't rent the place for Move-In and Homecoming weekends according to this second article. Again, moving to the nuisance.

According to the neighborhood group, 100 homes in the area have been converted to student housing from being homesteaded by families in the last five years. Looking at this graph, it's rather difficult to see how we can be the cause of that -- enrollments were stable from 1996 to 2000. And if parking concerns are to be believed (and there's Jerry again!), more students must be living outside the neighborhood than ever.

Followup on Alabama censorship 

The talk by David Bernstein at went off without a hitch at the University of Alabama, but as discussed yesterday the continued harrassment of the Alabama Scholars Association at UA appears to be escalating. A spokeswoman for the university says,
The issue is determining what qualifies as an actual UA faculty organization and what is really a national organization. There is an ongoing discussion of how the Alabama Scholars Association fits into that.
The university seeks to stop recognition of the ASA as a faculty organization (and thus entitled to the same university resources as other organizations.) ASA notes that the university has an AAUP chapter on campus that is fully recognized. We ask fellow bloggers to publicize this event as it represents another assault on academic freedom.


I make no secret of the fact that I am the non-Republican of the Scholars. Yes, I'm one of those libertarians that some others in the Alliance have scoffed, largely because I'm as pro-free-market as any Alliance member. (C'mon! I dare ya!) And one of the critiques of free markets that I often hear is that it creates a mass, mean, lowbrow culture.

I've recently added two blogs that are worth reading for their consideration of modern culture. Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok have started The Marginal Revolution; Cowen in particular has written extensively on how capitalism creates culture. Their blog linked recently to an interview with a music historian on how capitalism creates music. It's worth a listen.

Terry Teachout, meanwhile, writes on About Last Night:

By maximizing and facilitating cultural choice, information-age capitalism fused with identity politics to bring about the disintegration of the common middlebrow culture of my youth. Let�s return for a moment to those unlettered folks who don�t know who painted the "Mona Lisa." I assume, since you�re reading this, that you�re distressed by this unmistakable symptom of the widespread cultural illiteracy with which what Winston Churchill liked to call "the English-speaking peoples" are currently afflicted. But it so happens that a great many American intellectuals, most of them academics, would respond to your distress with a question: so what? To them, the very idea of "high art" is anathema, a murderous act of cultural imperialism. They don�t think Leonardo da Vinci should be "privileged" (to use one of their favorite pieces of jargon) over the local neighborhood graffiti artist. And as preposterous as this notion may seem to you, it is all but taken for granted among a frighteningly large swath of the postmodern American intelligentsia.

Which brings us right back to the problem of cultural illiteracy. How can we do anything about it if we can�t even agree on the fact that it is a problem�or about what basic cultural facts ordinary people should be expected to know? The answer is simple: we can�t.
I'd like to see a discussion between Cowen and Teachout some day: Are their views contradictory, and if so how can a pro-free marketer like myself resolve them? Or is there something in common here? After all, it's capitalism that increased middlebrow culture. It seems to me that Teachout's view stands as a critique of the information age. Erin O'Connor also relates Teachout's critique to Virginia Postrel's new book. I have both Postrel and Cowen on my (overloaded) nightstand of books to read. Any suggestions of what to add?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Silly, bored games 

James at Infinite Monkeys (western outpost of the NA) has decided that outrage of black leaders over Ghettopoly is badly overdone. So he wants to recall them, visions of school vouchers dancing in his head. He argues, moreover, that Ghettopoly is going to be a hit with young blacks.
In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, everybody acts as if they're in a rap video. It's beyond caricature, man. It's satire. It's so satire, it's beyond satire, and into something deep and meaningful: and that is, the truth. ... I mean have you seen the Youngbloodz music video on MTV, Black Leaders?

Black people have turned making stereotypical images of themselves into a multi-million dollar industry.

And you're complaining about a board game.

I think I've come up with a new diversity admissions essay. "I was listening to Youngbloodz with my friend James when ..."

Rushing out your work and then retracting 

Best of the Web today leads with coverage of an article in the American Prospect by economist Jacob Vigdor, in which he argues that the media pay more attention to black quarterbacks because they draw more viewers on televised games. Therefore, Rush Limbaugh is wrong, a conclusion the Prospect would love. James Taranto thinks the argument Vigdor makes is flawed on two counts: First Rush argued that sportswriters were overrating black quarterbacks because of social concerns, while Vigdor says it's due to a "preference for diversity" among the public. Second, Taranto notes that putting teams with black quarterbacks on Monday Night Football is the decision of network executives, not sportswriters.

Let me add a couple of things. (Full disclosure first: I have met Vigdor at a conference once and read another of his papers.) First, the root of Vigdor's argument is that there is customer discrimination towards black quarterbacks. Both network executives and sportswriters would be foolish not to be drawn by that preference to provide more TV coverage and more flattering articles. If nobody trusts buying a used car from a woman because they don't think she can look under the hood as well as a guy, the owner of the dealership rationally favors males in hiring used car salespersons. Limbaugh would not like this result because he thinks the majority of the public is conservative and color-blind. Maybe, maybe not.

Taranto also links to the article Vigdor co-authored on which his Prospect article is based ... only to find it gone but with a trace in the Yahoo cache. It is rather suspicious that it was up for a year and now gone. Moreover, as I read it, it doesn't seem to say exactly what is being said in the Prospect piece. Suppose that black TV viewership of Monday Night Football (this is the sample on which Vigdor was testing) is greater than white viewership. Suppose as well that members of each race prefer to see their own race playing on the field. Quarterback being a central position, it is possible to see "stacking" of own-race players in highly visible spots; hence, the greater share of black viewership of Monday Night Football. By Vigdor's own analysis, he can't tell for sure if it's stacking or preference for diversity. The paper tries to explain it away using other data and that the magnitude of the effect is too large for it to be stacking.

As I pointed out before, it's also possible that fans as well as sportswriters like to watch the effort of scrambling quarterbacks, who are disproportionately black. Vigdor's paper relied only on quarterback ratings to measure quarterback quality, so he did not control for the possibility that all viewers wanted to watch were QBs who run regardless of race. He and his co-authors rely (at pages 13-14) on the observations that (a) an index of racial tolerance from an unrelated survey is negatively related to time spent watching TV and (b) the audience for the ESPN games (where there's no evidence of a black QB effect) are people who watch a lot of TV and therefore either colorblind to QB race or worse, biased against black QBs. That's an awfully large stretch. He has no evidence from the Nielsen sample itself on racial attitudes of respondents.

This is not to say Vigdor is necessarily wrong, but to say that making strong policy statements to the press on the basis of a working paper is a risky venture. I don't know if, when he wrote this, he was trying to Rush-bash or advertise his own work as he builds his young career at Duke. The fact that he took the paper down after it was up a year makes it harder, though, to sustain the second hypothesis.


After the riots at MSU Mankato last week, there's a great deal of apprehension over the homecomings on other upper Midwest campuses. Our university has decided that off-campus student behavior can be reflected in academic records.
St. Cloud State, however, is adding some new twists this year to deter partiers from getting out of hand, said [Nathan] Church, the university [student life] vice president, and St. Cloud Police Chief Dennis Ballantine.

St. Cloud State officials recently received clearance from the Minnesota attorney general's office to punish students academically for off-campus violations, Church said. Ads in the student newspaper next week will let people know that such acts as setting fire to cars won't look good on their permanent academic records.

Students "might be suspended or receive some kind of discipline," Church said. "That could certainly deter potential employers."
It turns out, according to the campus newspaper, that "Church also offered a warning that police can enforce the Student Code of Conduct on off-campus residencies. According to a campus neighborhood group there have been four suicide attempts and eight emergency room visits from students in the area in September. I would think Sept., December and May would be the worst anyway, and the article offers no comparative data. So I don't know how to evaluate that number.

A thought from Cold Spring Shops: Charge out-of-state tuition to those who violate the law. As long as it doesn't make them eligible for more student loans, it will reduce rioting by some, but it depends on the elasticity of demand for rioting.

UPDATE: The Elder Frater wants to know what the 1988 homecoming riots were like here? I was visiting another university in California that academic year, but according to most people I've spoken to, it wasn't anywhere like the scenes shown on local TV from Mankato. The neighborhood, as I've said before, has some residents that know how to deal with student neighbors, while others do not.

The map to 2004 

While the Commissioner is handing out awards on Recall 2003, I have one for best one-paragraph post-election analysis. I give it to Hindrocket for this:
A DNC spokesman said that 'California is a Democratic state and will remain so. Arnold proved that, because he ran on Democratic issues as a pro-choice and gay rights candidate.' It strikes me that anyone who thinks the California election was about Arnold being 'pro-choice' wasn't paying attention. Yet this theory may be revealing in a sense. Democrats may really have gotten to the point where they think the defining political issues are abortion and homosexual rights, rather than taxes and job growth. Which is, in large part, how they got into this mess in the first place.
As all the cool kids say, damn skippy.

Corruption is corruption 

While I'm on the ASA kick, I'd like to note Prof. Charles Nuckolls' comments on a post I made on administrative tenure. He and Prof. David Beito have an article last weekend in the Birmingham News which further makes the case. I would be more likely to agree with them on faculty governance if we spoke of universities where faculty could clearly speak for themselves. In our unionized setting, however, a "shared governance" model takes on wholly different qualities and defanging the administrative serpents could remove a countervailing power against the corruption of the academic mission to which faculty unions may fall prey. There is no reason to prefer faculty corruption over administrative corruption, particularly when granted coercive union powers.

Neither snow nor sleet, but the university lawyer... 

... shall stop campus mail from conservatives. So notes David Bernstein, whose talk at the Univ. of Alabama, co-sponsored by the Alabama Scholars Association has not been advertised. This is part of a long row between ASA and UA, which no longer will circulate copies of ASA's publication, The Alabama Observer, via campus mail. The reason given is that UA no longer recognizes ASA as "part of the university". Watch David's posts at the Volokh Conspiracy as well as Liberty and Power (a group blog whose authors include members of ASA.)

UPDATE: Just after I posted this, Liberty and Power posted news that the flyers have been delivered, a mere few hours before Bernstein's talk (it is scheduled to begin in five minutes). Justice delayed...

Wherefore art thou Polonius? 

Dave got back late from class and sent me an email to blog. Since I've been writing a review all day today (and watching my Sox win tonight!), let this serve as an overnight tidbit.
I was teaching a course in Financial Institutions to 34 seniors. Since we were to discuss commercial banking practices, I opened the evening by asking, "Who can tell me who said, 'Neither a borrower, nor a lender be'?"

Not one single soul knew the answer. Totally taken aback, I said, "What do you learn in your Gen Ed courses? Oh, that's right, you're busy taking MGM [now Diversity --kb] courses that claim to study Oppressed Nude Hang-Gliders." (At least most of the class roared with laughter, but it was somewhat subdued among those who realized how much they had missed.)

So fire me for speaking my mind in class! We need more Shakespeareans!
At least we've got Jack.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Only some may "hate" 

At Gonzaga University, flyers for a lecture by Dan Flynn, author of "Why the Left Hates America" were ordered to be either modified or removed by the administration. The Young Americas Foundation chapter on the campus informs that now,
[f]urther erosions of students� free speech occurred when the trustees of Gonzaga University passed new rules on who students can sponsor as a guest speaker on campus. Now the administration must give approval of the topics that speakers will present on campus. According to the new guidelines, university officials may forbid a guest speaker or event if �the speech or event would not constitute a legitimate educational experience or otherwise contribute to the University�s mission,� leaving the student�s expression of thought and diversity of ideas to university bureaucrats.
Somehow I don't think this would be concern for people who invite Mark Morford or Ted Rall.

Meanwhile here at SCSU, the faculty senate has rejected the civility code, though some voted against it because it didn't go far enough.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Harrowing rebuke 

The California Association of Scholars is asking the chancellor of the Cal State University system to rebuke trustee Alice Huffman for this comment:
There are a few people in this world that still believe that white men born in America are superior. If you want a live example, my disclaimer, all you have to do is tune into the recall election and you will hear Arnold Schwarzenegger . . . Swatzenegger . . . that last part of his name doesn�t register well with me . . .
It's not only a derision of candidate Schwarzenegger but also poor parsing. You can see Egge (the name of an economist in the Cities, by the way, that I've met a couple of times) is the word for 'harrow', which is the act of breaking up clumps of land into pieces for planting. That used to be done by hand, so it suggests quite menial roots for Schwarzenegger's family. The CAS wonders what would have happened if someone had mocked the name of a black candidate for governor?

A new form of price discrimination in tuition rates 

After the homecoming riots at MSU-Mankato last weekend, one senator is proposing to charge hire tuition to students who riot. Outrage is bipartisan.
Rep. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said she will reintroduce a bill that would withhold state grant money to students convicted of participating in riots. The measure was stripped out of the final higher education funding bill last year after concerns about punishing student rioters differently than non-students who join in.

Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger, DFL-St. Peter, who represents Mankato, said he will co-author a bill enacting higher tuition rates for students convicted of rioting.
Principles of economics students -- please study this form of price discrimination and determine if society is helped or hurt by the pricing mechanism. Hint: Answers should begin with "It depends..."

And the point is... 

...the scientific method is to be taught, not a conservative or liberal viewpoint. So says an opinion article in the Rocky Mountain News, which has been discussing the Academic Bill of Rights. Students for Academic Freedom, authors of the bill, have a full story. The latest article, authored by three professors at Metro State in Denver, probably aren't fans of Rep. Davnie in the story just below this.
Knowledge has advanced for the last several hundred years by the scientific method - in which the truth is based on testing a hypothesis, retesting and evaluating evidence. Rational argument is the foundation of scholarly inquiry.

Unfortunately, too many liberal arts departments in Colorado are now dominated by faculty who are fervently opposed to rational discourse - and even opposed to the notion that a theory can be labeled "true" or "false." Instead, these professors embrace the principle that truth does not exist. Their rule is sometimes called "relativism" or "post-modernism" or "deconstructionism" or some other multisyllabic "ism."

The basic point of this outlook is that there is no "truth," and it is pointless to go searching for it. All "truths" are equal and anyone stating otherwise is deluding himself and imposing his biased view on others. Judgment is forbidden, and since there is no objective measuring stick, nearly everything is permitted.
And never, ever, put a capital T on Truth.

Monday, October 06, 2003

How will parents see Jim Davnie? 

Jim Davnie is a social studies teacher and a DFL state representative from Minneapolis. He goes screedy on the new social studies standards that are to replace the Profiles of (Not) Learning. We are being left out of the mainstream of education because we are adopting a conservative set of standards.
No one disputes the need for statewide standards that are rigorous and challenging. However, many of these benchmarks are not developmentally appropriate for the grade levels indicated. They also amount to a statewide curriculum, a sharp undermining of both legislative intent and the traditional Minnesota concept of local control.
First off, what is developmentally appropriate is a highly individual question. What works developmentally for my son won't work for my daughter. We are interested in outcomes, not process. We want to know what kids learn. You don't like that they learn about Annie Bidwell and not John Kennedy? Fine, fix that. But oh no, Rep. Davnie, you got bigger axes to grind.
With the release of this draft of the new social studies standards, it becomes obvious that the administration of Gov. Tim Pawlenty was guided more by politics than sound educational judgment. Within the 54-page document lies a biased and deeply conservative view of history, coupled with a libertarian view of civics and economics. Most Minnesotans will not find their values reflected there.
I've looked at the economics standards, since I know one of the members of the drafting panel, and all that's in there is market economics. That is the society you live in, Rep. Davnie, one built on free markets (which probably would be freer if voters returned Mr. Davnie to the classroom full time).

As to history, he actually says the standards would discuss the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence too much.

The standards as proposed rely heavily on the ideals contained in the seminal documents of our history for inspiration. But America's greatness comes not just from those glorious words we say, but also from the stories of her people striving, as fallible humans, to make the promise of those words real.
History as personal stories is a popular method, no doubt, and some of the great books of history I've read do so using personal stories. But the point of the personal story of striving to make the ideals of the Constitution real isn't the person. It's the ideals. As Katherine Kersten wrote last month:
Many students today have difficulty distinguishing between a celebrity and a hero. We can help them to discern that all-important difference by acquainting them with champions of democracy and inspiring them to say, "I want to be like that."

To that end, our students need to hear the heroic stories of George Washington at Valley Forge and Nathan Hale's last words. They should also hear the voices of ordinary Americans, like Union soldier Sullivan Ballou, who wrote movingly to his wife before the Battle of Bull Run about his love of country. Novels and stories are another powerful vehicle for conveying the virtues of the citizen and patriot. My own children have thrilled to Johnny Tremain, and I still remember how moved I was at reading Edward Everett Hale's "The Man Without a Country" in ninth grade.

Our task as educators is to help young people see that America is worthy of their love and to help them become worthy of their heritage as American citizens.
Or consider the counterpoint to Davnie written by high school principal Nancy Flynn:
You can look at the standards and see a long list of facts that need to be taught, or you can view them as opportunities to give children the knowledge of history in a creative, compelling manner.
Where would you like to send your child? To Davnie's school or Flynn's? Who wants goals and objectives, and who doesn't wish to have standards that make schools accountable?

The HURL hits keep rolling 

Just out from your Department of the 3.7 GPA, another new course proposal that should be thrown into evidence of where current higher education is going.
HURL 408/508 Global Human Relations. A global study of racism, sexism, heterosexism, class issues, and the interrelationships of global social justice issues.
Well, sure, a global study. (Don't) Think globally, act (like an ass) locally or something like that. But if you read the other courses, this looks the same as the five we reviewed last week. What's new? Let's visit the course outline. Again, this is advocacy masquerading as academic work, at a public university in a state cutting its higher education budget. And they wonder why people won't pay more for it?

Friday, October 03, 2003

My instincts are proven right 

Everyone who knows my baseball fanaticism knows it includes a massive dose of statistics, bred into me through Bill James' Baseball Abstracts through the 1980s. That sort of led to the kind of thinking that drove my post on Rush last night. The Bill James of football is Allen�Barra, and he provides additional facts in my analysis that Donovan McNabb might be overrated.

HURL Follies finale 

I'm afraid to put these in the Greatest Hits column just yet, but the coverage from other blogs like Shot in the Dark have been marvelous (thanks, Mitch!) But I suspect they will. Given all we've seen so far (parts I, II, III and IV) you almost could have predicted this one, n'est-ce pas?
HURL 420/520 Human and Animal Relations/Rights. Critical examination of human perceptions, values, and treatment of animals and the consequences for humans, animals, and the environment in a global context. Prereq.: 201 or 497. 3 cr.
Here we have the Human Relations course prototype. This strikes me as conceit, which comes across in the course objectives as well.
To expose and study unexamined values and biases toward human animals and non-human animals.
To investigate the interconnections between human perceptions and treatement of animals, and consequences for humans, animals, and the environment.
To investigate claims and challenges about the use of animals for human projects.
To study emerging information and advocacy toward new relationships between human and non-human animals.
"Unexamined", except by the proposer of this course. "The environment" in a course on animal rights by a human relations instructor. "Advocacy" as an objective of a university course in a public school. These are hallmarks of courses in that program: Your tax dollars at work.

Some outline items, well, res ipse loquitur.

5% Understand the concepts of speciesism, animal rights, and the issues of oppression and justice relating to animals.
10% Deconstruct the hidden values in language which serve to obscure and justify species domination.
Like "bad doggy".

The definition of irony ... 

... is taking a survey of user satisfaction from Blogger and having their server go down mid-survey.

A thought for civility codes 

I continue to be impressed yet depressed about discussion on campus over a civility code. At our meeting last Wednesday the campus ombudsman -- who should change his title, given the yobbo using the title at the Sacriligious Bee -- presented a frank discussion of the code. I was pleased with the open discussion but dismayed that some still think we should have a code to prevent some form of speech that nobody could define. "We can't define it, but we know it when we see it." (Sorta like xenophobia, eh?) There was no support from those outside of the Scholars for the "toughen up, buttercup" view of dealing with speech we don't like. They should listen to Jonah Goldberg:
So let me just get this out of the way as quickly as possible. Criticizing someone else's criticism � even when a government official does it � isn't an assault on free speech. It is free speech. And leadership does not require saying "thank you sir may I have another" every time some yutz takes an unfair swipe at you. If giving as good as you get intimidates people from speaking their mind, maybe that's a good thing, because it most likely means those people haven't thought through their positions well enough to offer an opinion worth listening to. If that makes you sad, if that makes you want your boo-boo-kitty and a cookie from your mommy, that's fine. But spare me the prattle about how dissenters are being intimidated. Either offer some facts or stop your whining.
(Thanks to Fraters Libertas, whose invitation to a trivia match vs. the Hewitt Media All-Stars is intriguing.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Good day for academic freedom -- too rare 

William Sjostrom wonders who speak for universities.
No academic should ever append to a piece that the views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the university, because universities do not have views on policy matters extraneous to the university.

When the war started in Iraq, a group protesting the war asked the faculty union to support them. As a member of the union executive, I opposed the idea, on the grounds that to do so would interfere with the academic freedom of the union's members to explore, study, and express views on the war. For reasons entirely obscure to me, I succeeded. A good day for academic freedom.

Don't confuse me 

There's enough discussion of the Brooks article on conservatives in the academy without me, but the best comment came in a letter to Critical Mass.
I tend to think of conservatism as an intellectual tradition and tendency that I respect but do not endorse for reasons that I can give at some length. But 'conservative' as used of you and me has nothing to do with actual conservatism. In this all-too familiar commons-room usage, the term only means *unprincipled* or *vulgar*. It has no intellectual content at all. ... It's sheer incomprehension, from people who ought to know -- and teach -- better.
Slight correction: it's sheer willful incomprehension. I remember my mother putting up one of those refrigerator magnets that said "My mind's made up. Please don't confuse me with facts." I had no idea that was a research agenda.

Conspiracy theory 

Did someone issue a new policy on affirmative action bake sales? UC Irvine now joins SMU in squashing them. Two differences: One, UCI is a public university, making them more subject to the First Amendment than SMU. Two, the Racial Privacy Initiative is being voted on Tuesday. I'd call this despicable. This article notes that the same group ran the same sale last year without incident.

Rush to offense 

He should have known better: Rush Limbaugh's statement about Donovan McNabb might be correct (and more of that in a moment, because I'm sure I'll have to explain it) but it stood to reason that this was not what ESPN hired him to do. Limbaugh had to know that any statement of that sort would be used to embarass him and force ESPN to seek his ouster. PowerLine's Deacon is correct:
Limbaugh is being critical of sportswriters, not African-Americans. It would not be McNabb's fault if he were overrated; it would be the fault of the (mostly white) writers who overrate him. Limbaugh is being "insensitve" to African-Americans only to the extent that he is casting an African-American as the benefiicary of bias, not the victim. In today's America, this position may be insenstive, but only because our sensivities have become warped.
But there's more to this, because I think there may in fact be an overrating of quarterbacks that have the same skills as McNabb. Mr. McNabb is considered good not because of his passing ability -- his passing rating of 86.0 last year was below that of Matt Hasselbeck, for example -- but because he is a good rusher. Watching someone throw the football is not as exciting as Michael Vick's scamper against the Vikings that is in every "greatest hits" video NFL Films produces. Now let's suppose two things:A very casual empricism leads me to think the second is true. Just this season, the top four QBs in rushes per game are Kordell Stewart, McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Quincy Carter. The one QB of color down the list for this season is Steve McNair, who is a very different kind of QB than the others.

There can be any number of reasons why QBs run -- often, it's for their lives -- but in some cases like Stewart, McNabb and Vick it's part of the designed offense. And these guys will show up on a lot of highlight films. Since effort is often a good story for sportswriters to report, the effort of these players will show up in many game stories and mid-week buildups. Thus the impression Rush has -- which I think is correct -- that players like McNabb, rushing QBs, draw a lot of press.

Now the question is, do rushing quarterbacks (of any race or ethnicity) do better in winning championships or do passing quarterbacks? To take a germane case, consider Doug Williams, an early black quarterback who did win a Super Bowl in 1987. He averaged under 3 rushes per game -- McNabb over 7. He was much higher than this in 1980 with Tampa Bay, but they went 5-10-1 that year after having made the NFC Championship game the previous season. Think to yourself -- where are the successful rushing QB Super Bowl winners? Do we really think of Joe Montana as a rushing QB? Elway? The closest is Steve Young, and frankly McNabb is no Steve Young. (Limbaugh could have asked Young this, as both were on the set when Limbaugh made his statement.)

I have no idea if this is what Limbaugh meant. If it is, I can say with some certainty that NFL Countdown is not the place to make that argument, because it's hard to document with any sensitivity to the nuances that argument makes. Can we separate rushing QBs from bad offensive lines? Does the rushing QB lead to wide receivers not running routes as well (since they might have to block downfield?) And does perhaps the presence of a Vick or McNabb cause teams to skimp on hiring good offensive linemen that can pass-protect in key games where you can't use the rushing QB as often? (Quick: In his five post-season games, how many times did Fran Tarkenton run? Answer: 6.) Good luck getting that over Chris Berman's swami skit. But I believe the media thinks rather simplistically about cause and effect in sports, and this may be another example.

(For those who wonder my interest in sportswriters' perceptions of athletes and race, see my paper in this book or this paper by Findlay and Reid which drew from an unpublished work I did, or some later research by economists at U. North Texas.)

HURL Follies IV -- Galvanized Foolishness 

The first three in the series are here as parts one, two, three. I apologize for the lateness of today's post but my internet connection at the office was hosed and I couldn't get to another computer until now. I assure you, this one is worth the wait.
HURL 418/518 Xenophobia. Study of xenophobic attitudes and practices and their impact on human rights in other countries. Examination of U.S. interventions and issues of torture, terrorism and related war crimes. Prereq.: 201 or 497. 3 credits. Demand.
Yes, in your local college's bulletin there would be a listing for a course that examines U.S. interventions. Nobody but the US? You mean to say, for example, there's no xenophobia in Zimbabwe? Certainly not, says our course offering.
Course Objectives:
  1. Define, recognize and analyze institutional, interpersonal and individual xenophobia and its interrelationship with other forms of oppression.
  2. Develop multiculturally informed perspectives that will allow students to comprehend the complex layers of national oppression within a global, national, state system.
  3. Discuss and define the xenophobic mind set forming process [sic] that helps galvanize the U.S. population behind the war making efforts in other countries.
The last one simply is too much to allow to stand. The course proposers are going to DEFINE the xenophobic mindset ("I don't care who wins the war as long as I get to write the definitions") that helps GALVANIZE the U.S. population??? A sweeping, bitter indictment of the entire population? Xenophobia has a definition already, but these people -- unschooled in political science and barely schooled in psychology -- intend to expand this to define a mindset. Wherein will be their proof that the mindset even exists?

Their course outline includes "militarism and the xenophobic construction of the 'savage' other" and "imperial interventions and the xenophobic mindset". Reasonable people can dissent from recent U.S. military interventions, though I hope when shown wrong they are honest enough to change their minds. But "galvanize a population" says that an entire nation is stupid, unable to discern truth, and with malign intent. And for this you receive three college semester credits????

Who will have the courage to tell them this is not a university course? Don't hold your multiculturally informed breath.

UPDATE: Thanks, Michael, I will make sure Blogger understands that mindset can be used as a single word.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Term limits for academic administrators? 

So suggests David Beito at Liberty & Power, as a substitute for post-tenure review.
Schemes to impose post-tenure review in public universities (now on the table in many states) will have effect of making it easier for administrators to fire or further intimidate the small remnant of libertarians, conservatives, academic reformers, and other assorted dissidents. For this reason, I suggest that defenders of academic freedom oppose post-tenure review and oppose it stridently.

A far better cause to embrace would be a campaign to impose term limits for academic administrators. Term limits, unlike post-tenure review, will actually contribute to the goal of breaking the power of professional administrators over the faculty. They will also help to advance the now embattled values of academic freedom and high standards.
I'm not convinced this is universally a good idea. Within our system, deans do not have tenure or a retreat home. They serve solely at the pleasure of the university president. This tends to make them relatively cowardly and makes it hard to hire good ones. (One good candidate in a search I was involved in didn't realize there was no tenure until he was on campus. Only good manners kept him from leaving for the airport at once.) It creates a bias in favor of hiring only internal candidates to be deans, which isn't always a good thing.

Department chairmen are already term limited here (and the union proposes to reduce the term in our upcoming contract), but not at Beito's University of Alabama.

Democratic citizenship isn't "student-centered instruction" 

Courtesy of Betsy's Page, Brendan Miniter notes the Fordham study we discussed a few weeks ago.
Social-studies theorists seek to create social activists. Students need not know the facts to be effective change-agents; they're taught that facts are a matter of opinion. Indeed, they need only believe that they are correct as they reject the tenets of society. The result? Elementary-school lessons that use Thanksgiving to teach that we owe redress to American Indians.

The results have been disastrous. Young Americans are ignorant of history and are increasingly poor citizens (old-fashioned term!). The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who voted fell to 32% in 1996 and 2000, from 50% in 1972. A study in 2000 found that only 28.1% of college freshman kept up to date with politics, a record low and down from 60.3% in 1966. "The current generation of young people may set a new standard for both civic disengagement and civic misinformation," writes J. Martin Rochester in his Fordham essay.

HURL follies III -- Reprogramming begins early 

Third in the series (here are the first and the second) of course proposals from the Department of Human Relations and Grade Inflation. I almost chose not to run this one as it looked relatively mundane.
HURL 414/514 Gender Issues in Education. Overview of school experiences of girls and boys. Special focus on girls and issues of self-esteem, peer pressure, academic performance, curriculum, school culture and extracurricular activities. Theories of pedogagical chance are studied.
"Special focus on girls" is not a shocker -- I can hear the retort "there's been special interest on boys for centuries!" out of the mouths of these nincompoops, and frankly I've become inured to this "retribution motive". No, what caught my eye were the course objectives. I'll just list the three of the six that I find troublesome.
2. To understand the special problems that girls face in terms of self-esteem, eating disorders, peer pressure, parental influences, media images, and sex-role stereotyping.
Yes, those darn parents. They are a "special problem". Did anyone in HURL ever read Huxley, or are they too busy reading and learning to hate Bush?
3. To redefine masculinity and boys' issues in socialization learning styles and communication.
Not to understand or analyze, but to "redefine". The theme from the "Six Million Dollar Man" is in my head (and the stupid AOL 8.0 commercial). "We can build boys gentler, more sensitive ... better." It makes me want to "ride the Tilt-A-Whirl".
6. To define pro-active strategies for change in educational settings.
They will not only rebuild boys, they will create activists. As you can tell by now, creating activists is a recurring theme. Too bad education isn't.