Friday, November 28, 2003

At least she's honest 

Some courses in universities are "stealth ideological propaganda": Most leftists accuse mainstream economists of being "apologists for capitalism" (indeed, our one "old" institutionalist* in the department had for many years a bumper sticker reading "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm", odd insofar as his views are the dominant paradigm at SCSU). Much of what gets taught in the humanities nowadays is little more than leftist pap to those observers on the right. But sometimes the stealthiness of the ideology just comes out plain. On a flyer found on my wing today:
Weapons of Mass Deception: Propaganda and the U.S. Media


Spring 2004 (other course info omitted by me)

Because the U.S. has a "free press" in that it is not government-owned, Americans are tempted to assume that they can rely on finding "all the news fit to print" from our mainstream media. Why is it, then, that our press is so poor at plaing the "watchdog" role that is needed to keep our system healthy? In what ways are journalists pressured to serve as "stenographers" who simply report what government officials say without investigating their claims?

In this course, you'll examine ways in which the Power Elite, the Oval Office, and the CIA manipulate the mainstream media, and will explore the vested interests which allow them to do so. You'll compare reports in "mainstream," "alternative" and international media, and learn how to interpret competing perspectives. We'll focus especially on the role of propaganda in times of war, including the 1991 Gulf War and the current conflict in Iraq.

Where to begin? This is a course taught in theSocial Science rubric. The catalog description of this course is:
+SSCI 204. Themes in the Social Sciences
Selected interdisciplinary social scientific tools will be applied to a special interest area such as death and dying, poverty, the scientific revolution, the new American Indian. May be repeated once, but general education credit may be received for only one theme. 3 Cr. F, S, SUM.
So I am not at all sure how this particular rendering of the course applies to that course, but the course description is loose enough that they probably will claim some relevance. That + in front of the course title indicates it is a course one can take for distribution credits in the general education program, so that one could take this in lieu of, say, an intro course in psychology or western civilization.

Another common trait: Note that there are six quotation pairs. "All the news fit to print" is appropriate, of course, as a quote of the flagstaff of the NY Times, but both the title and the quotes on "free press" indicate that the instructor has already assumed the outcome of his/her investigation of the press. They have been indicted, found guilty, and sentenced to a life of being referred to as "mainstream", with quotes to emphasize derogation.

The capitalization of Power Elite is interesting, as is the inclusion of the CIA as manipulators of the press. Leftist critics tend to treat the media, and in particular local TV media, with utter contempt, subject to easy manipulation. How is that to be proven? And how is it that we are taught "how to interpret competing perspectives"? Is disagreement with the instructor's preferred perspective, clear from this course description, going to be treated well in the classroom? Or will he be marked down for being manipulated by the Power Elite? ("Power Elite")

*note: There's a big distinction between old and new institutional economics.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


James Taranto notes at Best of the Web (ninth item) that professors at Texas do not like to be watched for their proseletyzing, complaining that it is causing self-censoring. Taranto asks, "Has the professoriate gone soft, or does the new generation of collegians have a fighting spirit our peers lacked back in the day?" Sir, you haven't read here enough.

Eradicating the unspoken 

At Gonzaga University, College Republicans who were bringing Daniel Flynn to speak on his book Why the Left Hates America were told they could not use the word "hate" in their flyers. Through the work of FIRE, though, the president of the university has intervened to rescind a disciplinary letter and educating his staff on free speech. As FIRE's Greg Lukianoff points out,
It is a dark day when universities in a free society start banning everyday words. In this context, it is especially bizarre. You can't very well eradicate 'hate'�as some administrators claim they are determined to do�if you can't even utter the word.

Revealing titles 

A history professor at SCSU interested in Latin America notes that this is the 30th anniversary of Chile's revolution. The professor is announcing the showing of Guzman's Battle of Chile along with some discussions. The Pinochet-Allende debate has long been a rallying cry of the left (I suggest this article FMI on the use and misuse of the democracy-autocracy distinction by Allende's supporters), but this tripe is de rigueur on most campuses. What caught my eye was the reference to the fact that the Pinochet government came to power by coup on September 11.
Ironically, the coup occurred on September 11.
"Ironic"? And if that were not enough, the email that was sent out has no reference to Chile in the subject line, but rather reads:
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 10:35 AM

To: scsu-announce@STCLOUDSTATE.EDU

Subject: Remembering another 9-11
Another 9-11? WTF? I find that outrageous to conflate those two events. As someone noted to me, it is like penis envy (hello Google search engines!) -- the Left has to have its own 9-11 because the rest of us have the WTC, al-Qaeda, etc. So digging around the history they find -- Allende!


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

For extra credit: Attendance, rational choice and student elections 

So what's more odd about grading policies: The debate over grading for attendance? Or giving extra credit for voting in student elections? This came from our student government last night:
St. Cloud State University Student Senate is asking for your help in this important effort to increase voter turnout in our December election/referendum. The Student Senate proposes that, in exchange for your offering a few extra credit points to the voters in your classes, we will provide the class section with the highest percentage of voters free Krispy Cream Donuts. The senate will issue students stamped �I voted� cards once they have cast their ballot. Upon your collecting the cards for extra credit and turning them back into the Student Government office, we will calculate the class with the highest percentage of voters and bring donuts to your next class period (with minimal disruptions of course).
I think the extra credit points are inframarginal; I like donuts (though give me Dunkin cake originals with the handle and a "cahfee regulah" in those cool Dunkin mugs anyday over the hot air KKD.) But at least attendance has something to do with student learning.

Prof apologizes for Bush screed at St. Olaf 

Kathy Kersten at the Center for the American Experiment sends word of her article on a fight over academic freedom at St. Olaf. A sociology professor there sent to his intro to sociology students the fake Bush resume (been around since spring, but we Minnesotans are out here where the Internet gets real slow, y'know), with a preface that read:
I send this to you not as your professor but as a loyal dedicated American who wants only the best for his country.
The resume has been debunked months ago, but debunking seldom stops the wildfire created by fervent ideology with a patina of research -- just ask Al Franken.

The professor was approached first by the College Republicans, but he rebuffed them. Only when Kersten and others wrote to him and the administration did he apologize:

I am sorry I sent this e-mail to the class. Even if it caused students to think about their own commitments that differed from my own, I see now that it was not in keeping with the highest goals that I set for myself as a teacher. I am sorry if I offended the students in the class. Given the political climate that now exists in this country, in the future I will stick closer to the sociological texts I have assigned to my students, and keep my private thoughts to myself.
Kersten treats the incident gracefully, but the result is a heightened awareness of diversity of thought at St. Olaf, with a new conservative student paper and a speaker series. It usually takes incidents like this to get things kicked off at a campus; we should thank that professor for the unintended consequences of his impertinence.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A fraction of a retraction 

The University Chronicle has retracted the anti-Semitism claims made against Dean Lewis in its article, but the paper apparently stands by the claims regarding the withholding of the student�s grade. In its original story the Chronicle quoted the student:
�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'," Hoy said. "He told me if I wanted my grade I would have to take the class over with him�.�

Please help me figure this out. The student received an �A� from whom? Apparently from Professor Stryker. But Stryker had already stopped showing up for her classes by early April. In mid-April, all her classes were officially reassigned to other faculty members in the History Department who became the instructors of record. Dean Lewis, who was also a professor in the History Department, picked up Stryker�s independent study.

In order to believe the student�s story, one must conclude that Stryker, having quit teaching all her other classes, somehow was authorized (certainly not by the Dean) to continue teaching this independent study and submit a grade. Highly unlikely.

Did the Chronicle interview anyone in the History Department to find out the facts regarding the student�s claims? Did the Chronicle make any effort to verify the truthfulness of the story? If not, may I suggest that the Chronicle conduct such investigations, albeit belatedly, for the benefit of its readers?

For the eleventh time 

I got one of those nice glossy emails from Thor Halvorssen at FIRE about all the good media coverage they're getting (like the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times). A list of blog references was in the email, but no reference to our humble efforts. So we'll try again.

Hello! Over here!

No, I don't have any shame. What's it to ya, bud?

Quick add on the retraction 

University Chronicle advisor Prof. Michael Vadnie, asked about the scope of the retraction, says "Absolutely, only what was retracted." I read this to mean they are retracting only the anti-Semitism claims made in the article, not the entire article.

Masters of circular logic 

I'm sensing a trend that the outspokenness of conservative students, more than conservative faculty, is the focus of leftist attacks on campus. Based on my reading of his previous work, the folks at North Carolina-Wilmington (or UNC-Wonderland", in his view) have made a bad decision to poke the hornet nest of Mike Adams. There, student government has voted to revoke the official status of the College Republicans, who wanted to limit their membership to, well, Republicans. And, Professor Adams reveals,
the decision to de-recognize the CRs was, in fact, done without the input of a single Republican. In other words, the SOC excluded Republicans from a vote to force the Republicans to include the Democrats under the threat of excluding the Republicans from campus if they don't. Is everyone following the logic of our leading educators?
Yet that isn't all of it. On the very same day a second group calling itself Students for a Stronger UNCW was denied official recognition. Also refusing to sign the non-discrimination clause, the group was told its purpose was unclear. Prof. Adams makes clear that this was not the issue at all:
...such a view is highly implausible when one examines the following portions of their proposed constitution: "(SSUNCW is) steadfastly committed to defending causes of academic and intellectual honesty, patriotism of country, free speech for all students, fair and balanced classrooms and forums, and the ideals that we deem attributable to a fair and properly functioning campus community."

Since the rejection of that group, I have obtained copies of notes written by members of the SOC, used in the decision to reject the proposed conservative student organization. Among the comments are the following: "What's this? Is it a witch-hunt against 'non-patriotism' (e.g., speaking out against the government?)" and "I wonder about an agenda that proves to be divisive" and "this isn't for a student organization to determine. This should be omitted. Academic freedom is already guaranteed."

That's right, folks. The committee has determined that the group does not have the academic freedom to fight for academic freedom because they already have academic freedom. I promise, I'm not making this up.
No, it's believable all right. Here the work of our Task Force for Restructuring has put forth a proposal for an "Advisory Council for Student Diversity and Social Justice" (see item #1). The discussion (in the bullet points) is an amazing give-and-take between those who want a narrow definition of the council ("because it's about diversity issues, it's not just everybody") to questioning what you mean by diversity ("There are a lot of religion-based groups � where's their voice in this?" and "Are we looking at a different conception of diversity?") What results from this is anyone's guess.

Two suggestions: First, we suggest to UNC-Wonderland that their student government be awarded honorary Master's Degrees in Circular Logic (we could make them take courses, but they'd all get A's). Second, we need a similar name for SCSU. Social Conservatives Suck University? Put your suggestions in the comment box, please.

Standard stuff 

As the Minnesota social science standards committee begins to wrap up their work, with the StarTribune and PioneerPress running dueling editorials and charges flying from left and right -- and this Snark of the Month contender from the City Pages might be the winner for thinking that parents who work for conservative firms are putting their politics ahead of their children -- it might be time to think about results like these cited by the head of the National Endowment for the Humanities in today's OpinionJournal.
One study of university students found that 40% could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century. Only 37% knew that the Battle of the Bulge took place during World War II. A national test of high school seniors found that 57% performed "below basic" level in American history. What does that mean? Well, over half of those tested couldn't say whom we fought in World War II. Eighteen percent believed that the Germans were our allies!

Such collective amnesia is dangerous. Citizens kept ignorant of their history are robbed of the riches of their heritage, and handicapped in their ability to understand and appreciate other cultures.

If Americans cannot recall whom we fought, and whom we fought alongside, during World War II, it should not be assumed that they will long remember what happened on September 11 or why we must be prepared and vigilant today. And a nation that does not know why it exists, or what it stands for, cannot be expected to long endure. As columnist George Will wrote, "We cannot defend what we cannot define."

Yet at SCSU, rather than support NEH's We the People initiative, our collective "braintrust" (I question both words) chooses to align with the New York Times' American Democracy Project. We support "civic action" rather than "civics knowledge".

Friday, November 21, 2003

Additionally on religious freedom 

Related to this post, the LA Times today reports that most students are in fact religious but "62% report that their professors never encourage discussion of religious or spiritual issues."
Larry A. Braskamp, an education professor at Loyola University Chicago familiar with the UCLA research, agreed that students are interested in exploring spiritual issues but get little support from professors. "Faculty are comfortable dealing with the head, as opposed to the heart. They don't want to be indoctrinating students. So when they get into the area of faith, religion and spirituality, they view them as the personal domains of students."

What's more, some students say discussing spiritual or, in particular, explicitly religious topics in the classroom could create friction.

On the Cal State Northridge campus Thursday, Tikia Roach, a freshman planning to major in psychology, said in an interview:"There are too many people to offend. Why even go there?"

Daria Akhten, a Northridge freshman from West Hollywood majoring in marketing, agreed that, "for some reason, people can't discuss religion in classrooms, discussion-style. It has to be really argumentative."

But Akhten said she wishes that professors would discuss "meaning of life" issues in class. For freshmen in particular, it could be an important source of support, she said. "A lot of people are living on campus and they do stupid things, but professors don't talk about that," Akhten said.
Douglas notes that the original story was on Laura Ingraham's show (and of course, she's in MN today!) [Hat tip: Tongue Tied.]

It's not all black and white 

Sometimes, it's poor versus not poor. Notes Academygirl from a report in Newsweek that a top student from a poor rural family is having great trouble getting into school. Is it poverty, or ruralness?
Many schools say diversity�racial, economic and geographic�is key to maintaining intellectually vital campuses. But Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation says that even though colleges claim they want poor kids, �they don�t try very hard to find them.� As for rural students like Spangenburger, many colleges don�t try at all. �Unfortunately, we go where we can generate a sizable number of potential applicants,� says Tulane admissions chief Richard Whiteside, who recruits aggressively�and in person�from metropolitan areas. Kids in rural areas get a glossy brochure in the mail.

Athletics and grade inflation 

Suppose we want more student-athletes to graduate on time. One way to do this, which the NCAA now plans, is to place sanctions such as lost scholarships or prohibition on post-season play for programs that do not graduate enough students. You would think, of course, that this would mean we would also want to have student-athletes better prepared for college than before as well. But no, we can't do that, because those test scores that were used for old NCAA plans like Prop 48 and Prop 16 are discriminatory. So along with requiring higher graduation rates,
In October 2002 the board approved a set of rules changes that let freshman athletes play if they have SAT scores as low as 400 or an ACT sum score of 37, the minimum possible, provided they have a correspondingly high grade-point average in 14 basic high school courses, up from the previous 13 core courses. In 2008 the number of required courses will rise to 16.
So what can we expect? Grade inflation, and a flocking of student-athletes to non-rigorous majors. And, in an attempt in my opinion to stop middling athletic programs from expanding and competing for championships, the rules would cut back on transfer students from junior colleges by having degree completion targets for junior and senior players. And meanwhile, the programs that do well enough for their players to jump to professional sports without graduating would no longer have those incomplete degrees count against them. The NCAA: Once a cartel, always a cartel.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


The University Chronicle has retracted the story about Dean Lewis as we posted here a few weeks back.
The Chronicle hereby unconditionally retracts the suggestion contained in the article that Dr. Lewis is anti-Semitic. It also unconditionally retracts the statement attributed to a source for the article that she heard Dr. Lewis use racial slurs and make derogatory comments. There is no factual basis for these assertions.

The newspaper regrets the errors and apologizes to Dr. Lewis.
As Marie and I noted earlier this week, a retraction will mitigate any damages that arise from a suit against the Chronicle by Lewis. But more importantly, they have taken a courageous step of making sure they had the story right and admitting a mistake when they did not.

The retraction seems limited to the discussion of anti-Semitism; I have written the paper's advisor to ask whether the paper stands by the other claims regarding the withholding of the grade. The article is currently still online; I hope the Chronicle will take it down shortly, or leave it with a notice of the retraction at the top. That would seem only right.

Sorting and grade inflation 

The Irascible Professor has a guest post by Tina Blue, who teaches English at Kansas. She has learned that students who might get just a 'C' are simply dropping her classes.
In each of my "Introduction to Poetry" sections, I had started out with 45 students. But by the end of the semester, I had only 22 in one class and 25 in the other. That degree of shrinkage had never happened to me before.

As I compared my final rosters with the grade book, however, I discovered who it was that had dropped my course.

Almost every student who was getting a C in the course, or in danger of getting a C, had dropped out. Even a few that looked as though they were likely to receive B's had dropped the course.

No wonder almost everyone who stayed through the entire course received either an A or a B final grade. Nearly all the C students had abandoned ship.

The thing is, I know that many of the students who dropped my course were actually enjoying it. But as I was told by one girl I ran into a couple of weeks after she dropped the class, a lot of them just don't feel they can risk getting a "bad" grade -- and in today's academic environment, a C is definitely a bad grade, In fact, a B might even be low enough to seriously damage their records, cost them their scholarships, or hurt their chances of getting into their preferred major or into the graduate program of their choice.
The Irascible One notes that the problem lies with university policies:
Course withdrawal policies at most American colleges and universities have eroded over the years to the point where students can drop a class almost up to the date of the final exam for the flimsiest of reasons. When the IP was an undergraduate at Berkeley back in the "dark ages", a student had 10 class days at the beginning of the semester to drop and add courses. After that, getting out of the course for anything short of a major medical crisis was just about impossible.
We have arrived at SCSU at the point where we give tests before drop date -- which comes midway through the semester, better than ten years ago when it was about 70% through the course -- which encourages students to get out. We've even seen cases of students taking classes and not paying for them, and then sending in the tuition if their grade turns out as they wish. Otherwise they decline to pay, we don't put up a grade, etc. (The university has cut down on this practice in the last two years, but you still see a couple of students trying to get away with it.)

So when we say everyone is decidedly above average, I guess we mean it.

Incentives matter 

Regarding our exchange on the masculinity war, Cold Spring Shops thinks "rather than begging the question, that shifts the blame. Where have the trustees and alumni been? Can better football teams (there's a research project, parity as a cover for expense preference behavior) excuse a multitude of sins in the classroom and interview suite?" The answer is that it depends what the incentives for the trustees and alumni are.

Baby it's a free-for-all 

Macalester College is weighing the possibility of co-ed dorm rooms, as "an attempt to make transgender students feel more comfortable on campus, officials at the private school in St. Paul said." Mona Charen, writing about such housing at East Coast colleges last year, quoted a gay student from Haverford,
Straight men who live together often have a kind of locker-room mentality, with a lot of discussion about dating girls, having sex with girls, saying which girls are attractive. Introducing a homosexual into that environment is uncomfortable. When I looked for housing, all the people it made sense for me to live with were women.
You mean, he didn't want to experience diversity?

UPDATE: Shot In the Dark has the, um, Presbyterian perspective.

Which is the first liberty in the First Amendment? 

Do you know? You're not alone. A survey for FIRE done by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at U.Conn shows that (put them in a bowl!) only 6% of university administrators and 2% of students could remember the order of the liberties of the First Amendment. Less than a third of students thought that religious individuals should spread their beliefs "by whatever legal means they choose." This is instructive in this discussion of a public expression policy, since one of the public expressions under scrutiny is the presence of evangelists on the Atwood Mall. This one student didn't like it.
About 200 students gathered in Atwood to listen to (or mock) a man dressed as a priest and toting a Bible. He ranted and raved as students lollygagged to class.

Now, I support our right to free speech and think that everybody deserves to be heard.

However, the reason Atwood Mall is such a prime location for those targeting students is because hundreds of people have to walk through there everyday to get to their destination.

In the same fashion that smoking areas were established for the respect of non-smokers who have to walk into Stewart Hall, students should be free from harassment because they have to walk through the area. Because it is impossible not to hear and see the solicitors ranting while passing through, students are forced to listen to it. People can always turn off their radios or televisions when unwanted ads infest their homes, but in the mall it is unavoidable. There should be a way to �turn off� or remove out-spoken, threatening presences.

We should be able to draw the line between freedom of expression and harassment so that anyone who is being a nuisance can be removed from the premise.
Other items reported from the survey:
  • 24 percent of administrators believe they have the legal right to prohibit a student religious group from actively trying to convert students to its religion.
  • 49 percent of administrators at private universities and 34 percent of administrators at public universities report that students at their institutions must undergo mandatory non-curricular programs, "the goal of which is to lead them to value all sexual preferences and to recognize the relativity of these values compared to the values of their upbringing."
The fight for religious liberty is being carried forward by FIRE in many places. Parents and students wanting to know what their rights are, and how they are threatened, are encouraged to the FIRE Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus.

UPDATE: Cf. Joanne Jacobs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Appreciating the commissioner 

Hugh Hewitt agrees to cigar and scotch. Marvelous. I will be in San Diego the first week of January for the big economist confab, so that I can finally hear him the way he's meant to be heard (I'm currently stuck with a few late-night internet listening sessions -- and thank you KRLA for unloading that horrible Blue Falcon software!); I'll have the travel humidor in tow. Road trip!

UPDATE: Hewitt permalink installed.

"In my day, we didn't have mentors. And we didn't do workshops." 

Discriminations quotes extensively from a Chronicle of Higher Education essay (paid subscribers only) on why the battle on campuses is a war over masculinity more than anything else.
In one corner reside the standard-bearers of academic machismo: the hard-nosed male professors of math and physics, economics and politics, as well as those stout-hearted men in English, history, and philosophy who have fought the good fight. By their side stand several equally stalwart women -- the tough-minded, the blunt-spoken, the widely published; in short, the women "with balls." In the other corner reside "those people": the politically outspoken women -- feminists, multiculturalists, and the like -- in French and Spanish, psychology and anthropology, environmental and gender studies, who have dragged the campus into its current morass of soft, mushy interdisciplinarity (read "undisciplinarity") and -- workshops. And by their side stand (however limply) those emasculated men who occupy the bottom rung on [his friend�s] ladder of academic virility.
UPDATE: Cold Spring Shops adds:
My impression is that the disciplines the essayist characterized as the "harder-nosed" are those with less imbalance between Ph.D. production and Ph.D. hiring, higher starting salaries, and more difficulty attracting U.S. born graduate students. Thus a problem: why are the disciplines that by any market test would suffer from overcapacity, if my impressions are supported by any evidence, calling the shots in the academy?
Because they become administrators! And lest Stephen think that begs the question, they become administrators because it's the only way for them to move up financially. The hard-nosers largely teach in areas with ample private-market opportunities.

Censorious universities? 

Erin O'Connor links today to FIRE's Greg Lukianoff who writes in the Detroit News on campus speech codes. Yesterday at our faculty senate a draft "Public Expression Policy" was offered which does a fairly good job of protecting free speech. It proclaims the university's mission is "teaching, research and public service". My concern with the statement is whether the limitation below is overly broad:
Any activity and/or any use of University facilities or property shall be prohibited when such activity and/or use interferes with:
  • The University's mission of teaching, research and public service.
  • The rights of other groups or individuals within the University community as set forth in the U.S. Constitution, case law, statuatory law, as well as MnSCU Board Policy 1B.1 Nondiscrimination in Employment and Educational Opportunity.
I encourage readers to comment on this item: Are these limitations an impediment to free speech and academic freedom?

What do they get out of it? 

Does one get diversity at black colleges? Or, as Single Out West asks, "does diversity only matter at places like U. of Michigan?" Said one student,
I just really liked it. I've always wanted to go somewhere to learn more about my culture. This seems like a good place.

{another student] agreed, then added: "I want to get out of New Jersey."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Some people just need attention 

Hugh Hewitt, lord high commissioner of the Northern Alliance, seems to think we're not on the ball up here, suggesting that we are "quietly preparing for winter in whatever far-away town in which they toil." We toil here, sir. The weather has been simply grand the last two days, which is why some of us are enjoying our last chance before lockdown. Cracking open a box of Don Tomas robustos with candela wrappers and two fingers of Isle of Jura will even permit us to smile upon the Pompous One. He may have one of each if he comes to us while snow graces our fair lands.

Meanwhile, R.B. at Infinite Monkeys writes that he too has the administrative, mid-semester avalanche, then he gets his school mentioned by the P.O. Will it slow the HUAC? Not bloody likely.

Consult before you leap 

By publishing the Hoy article in the front page, the Chronicle flunked the journalism standards test. It was a deliberate and malicious �hatchet job� that served no purpose other than attempting to justify Dr. Lewis� recent removal from the dean�s office. It was nothing less than a character assassination.

By refusing to retract the story, the Chronicle seems to have failed the legal test as well. Dr. Lewis� attorney will try to demonstrate that the Chronicle acted with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity. Let�s see. Almost the entire article was based on the interview of one individual. That individual just happened to be one of the plaintiffs who had brought a suit against Richard Lewis.

The Chronicle did not interview any people most likely to confirm or refute Hoy�s charges. It wouldn�t be too difficult for the court to find that the newspaper�s inaction was a product of a deliberate decision not to acquire knowledge of facts that might confirm the probable falsity of Hoy�s charges.

The court will want to know whether the publication of the Hoy story was made in good faith. In Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court said that, in a case involving the reporting of a third party�s allegations, �recklessness may be found where there are obvious reasons to doubt the veracity of the informant or the accuracy of his reports.� How would the Hoy story measure up here? A story about 98 % of which was based on statements of the opposing party in a previous lawsuit? A story adorned with the reporter�s liberal editorialization? This isn�t brain surgery.

Is the Chronicle going to claim its First Amendment rights? The court may already have an answer, following the Harte-Hanks Communications case: �We have not gone so far, however, as to accord the press absolute immunity in its coverage of public figures or elections. If a false and defamatory statement is published with knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth, the public official may prevail.�

The Chronicle announced that it had ceased, after consultation with its lawyer, any further investigation about the article. Too bad that it had not consulted a lawyer BEFORE it ran the story.

Mediocre Middle Schools 

The local papers are covering the release of Cheri Pierson Yecke's new book, The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools. The StarTribune covers it here. Dr. Yecke, currently Minnesota Commisioner of Education, argues that the loss of "ability grouping" (putting students of like ability in classes together and basing the curriculum on that ability level) has led to a decline in student achievement. At my junior high around 1970, you had class markers from 7-1-1 to 7-4-16. The first number was the grade, the second an ability marker, and the third a subclassification. 7-1-1's were required to take a foreign language and got pre-algebra; 7-4-16's got neither. Most of the 7-1-1's, like me, were children of working class families who were encouraged by the experience to become better students. Most of my friends from that class have achieved living standards greater than what would have been expected from their family backgrounds.

Jane Shaw, in the latest issue of Liberty (not online, alas) argues that you see ability grouping in high schools through AP classes. Joanne Jacobs offers some thoughts on this. Jacobs' post is inspired by Mental Multivitamin, who quotes Daniel Pink:
If we're so dumb, how come we're so rich? How can we fare so poorly on international measures of education yet perform so well in an economy that depends on brainpower? The answer is complex, but within it are clues about the future of education -- and how "free agency" may rock the school house as profoundly as it has upended the business organization.
Free agency means, in this sense, freeing parents to act on their own in determining their children's education. Homeschoolers find an increasing number of options for hire to assist in teaching children at their ability levels. What government schools will not provide, market schools will, if there's demand. Pink explores the wide range of options available. RTWT.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Demanding a retraction 

According to an editor's note at the beginning of its letters to the editor, the University Chronicle has been advised to stop looking into an ombudsman analysis of the article.
Following a report Oct. 27, 2003, headlined 'Past actions haunt Lewis,' University Chronicle received two critical e-mails and some negative comments. Later we received a letter to the editor. After conferring with adviser Michael Vadnie, the editorial board decided to refer the complaints alleging unbalanced journalism to its readers' advocate for an ombudsman analysis. Last week Richard Lewis, through his attorney Marshall Tanick, demanded a retraction under Minnesota law. Such a demand can be a preface to litigation. The decision on the demand for retraction is pending. Because the demand for retraction is an intervening factor, University Chronicle attorney Mark Anfinson has advised the editors that it would unwise to continue such an investigation for publication. After consultation, the editors ceased the investigation. Letters for publication that have been confirmed as to identity will run in this edition.
That's slightly misleading still. The decision to not publish a retraction does allow one to defend litigation from Lewis by standing by the story. If they did publish it and But a retraction would allow for a mitigation of the damages. (See this discussion by the Minnesota News Council. A model law is being proposed that would allow publication of retractions or corrections without giving rise to an admission of guilt.) By choosing to cease the investigation, the Chronicle is betting that it will win the suit.

The Chronicle at least did release two letters it received bemoaning the article, a mere three weeks later. Says one alumnus,

The article of 1,121 words contains 942 words of Hoy's account against Lewis (as well as Ms. Eckes' editorialization on her behalf...)

Ms. Eckes fills in the gaps in Hoy's account - with editorialization so obvious that it would be laughable, if it weren't also so unethical. Here are some examples, all in the author's voice:

"(Hoy) did not expect to have her education ruined while being taught the politics behind academia."

"Hoy knew Stryker was being treated unfairly and wanted to put a stop to it."

"...(Lewis) disliked her bringing awareness to the discriminatory issues in the college."

"...Hoy was shocked to find that (Lewis) could and eventually did put a stop to her educational career."

...This article has only one proper place in a real, honest-to-God journalistic newspaper - on the "Opinions" page. To print it as news is a serious error, but to place it as the TOP STORY is a mockery of ethics.
The Chronicle is betting the alumnus is wrong, with taxpayer and student activity fee money.

The death of minority outreach programs (and legacies?) 

That's what this Washington Post article suggests as a result of the Michigan decisions. Because students of color with high SAT scores are harder to find, universities have traditionally bought lists from the College Board. Now Amherst and Mount Holyoke are having to open up their outreach programs to "low-income whites." Defenders of these programs argue, of course, that legacy programs -- reserving some slots for children of alumni -- are making the playing field tilt away from minority students. But legacy programs keep the mother's milk of alumni dollars flowing. Interested readers are directed to this NBER working paper for at least an abstract; the paper, if you can get it (Google didn't turn up a copy that wasn't for pay on the NBER site) has much more on legacy admissions through history. One threat they see: The large increases in class sizes during the baby boom era will increase the demand for legacy slots in the future. More will be rejected. (First link is to Univ. of Houston's Top Education News website, which is one of my treasure troves for stories. Thanks!)

Friday, November 14, 2003

Campus Politics and Higher Ground? 

On our discussion list we were talking over the Chronicle of Higher Education article (link for subscibers only) about the legislators in Colorado who are worried about anti-conservative bigotry on campuses and are asking colleges how they guarantee students� intellectual freedom. King was nervous that this sort of intrusion of politicians into education gave up the moral high ground we have. He suggested I blog this note I wrote back to him:

I don't know. I'm not sure there is any moral high ground, or if it's the ground you occupy because nobody else is bothering with it -- kind of like having conquered South Dakota. (I can say that -- I come from South Dakota.)

A lot of current liberal theory argues that EVERYTHING is political. I can't prove that wrong, no more than anything being psychological, or cultural, or spiritual. They also say the university has an obligation to pull to the left because the culture pulls to the right. In fact, there's no place to define a center that holds, so again they can argue anything they like.

But the practical results are that students are indoctrinated into voting for Democrats, if only because there's nothing further to the left at the moment to vote for, education funds are used all over the place for political purposes, faculty union membership lists are given to the Democrats for fund raising, Republican students get clobbered and have their grades lowered if they stick to their politics (and yes, it does happen. I've seen examples.) and on and on.

Why should Republicans, who also like to get voters, not use their power to make the leftists uncomfortable as the left uses its power to use funding ostensibly for "education" to change political opinions? King's sense of a high ground is admirable, but I'm not sure it has anything to do with modern politics or the faculty and administrators who say that everything is politics, including everything a university does.

Or put more simply, why would Republican politician in their right minds keep voting funds for higher education when they know faculty will turn those funds into de facto contribution to the Democratic party?

Sauce for the Duck M.D. 

Apparently Howard Dean wasn't too clear about how he wanted to be the candidate of the Confederate flagwearer. Peter Robinson at The Corner reports from an AP wire:
A group of students who attended Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's appearance at Dartmouth College on Thursday unveiled Confederate flags as he was introduced.

The group of about nine students, whom fellow students and Dean campaign staffers identified as conservative activists, did not otherwise disrupt the former Vermont governor's speech about paying for higher education.
How did they know these students were "conservative activists"? Oh, right. The New York Post notes the nine students without identifying them as conservative activists.

Another report indicates that someone put up spoof ads for Dean's talk, printed on a Confederate flag background. Dartlog has link- and picture-rich coverage well worth visiting.

Digital records of teaching 

A letter writer to Critical Mass is suggesting using digital recordings in part as a defense against students making false claims of abusive or racist language. Erin suggests that that won't solve on the problems.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Another sign of our vanguardedness 

All San Diego State can do is drop the word "foreign" from its foreign language requirement for general education. Us? Not only can we say you learn nothing of other cultures just by living in them, but we don't even make you learn another language (see Area A)! Advantage: uh, never mind.

UPDATE (11/14 morn):In comments to Joanne Jacobs, Michele of A Small Victory says her school district uses "LOTE = Languages Other Than English". 'Tis just a matter of time now...

Price controls for tuition? 

The Cato Institute picks up the Jacuzzi U. story which was in the NY Times last month (see, for example, the coverage at Invisible Adjunct.) So of course the Congress -- whose increases in financial aid are part of the problem -- are now trying to impose price controls.
The "Affordability in Higher Education Act," sponsored by Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), would impose price controls, threatening revocation of federal funds for schools that raise tuition and fees too fast. This would actually produce the opposite of taxpayer relief: State politicians, lest their colleges lose federal money, would transfer a greater burden to taxpayers, keeping their schools' "sticker prices" low. Tuition-reliant private schools, in contrast, would have to seek aid increases, and might abandon projects that would have allowed them to compete with their heavily subsidized public cousins.

As bad as McKeon's bill is, the alternatives are worse. The "College Opportunity for All Act," sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would raise federal Pell grant maximums from $4,050 per-student this year to $11,600 in 2011, and make it easier for students to borrow money. A similar measure from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) would make borrowing for college cheaper. Even less of the cost of college would be borne by its consumers -- inflation would continue to grow.

Higher education devours every dollar it can sink its teeth into, but its victims aren't students. They actually feed the beast, demanding more and more goodies for it.

Non sequitur alert 

From a letters to the editor of the campus newspaper, bemoaning a "flurry" about "the conspiracy of liberal bias on college campuses":
Teaching is not a science, it's an art. This means it is not beholden to any value of 'objectivity.'
It's a student writing this, so there's still hope?
The problem of bias is a myth. One calls anybody that doesn't agree with them biased.
No, probably not.

Diversity of thought at Wells College 

I imagine most people who read this blog are upset over the "Lobotomies for Republicans!" email at Wells College that is being covered by the Students for Academic Freedom and FrontPage Magazine. There's a bigger issue, though. 34 of the 37 faculty in the social and human sciences department are members of either the Democratic, Liberal or Working Families parties in the state of New York. Only three were registered Republicans. Students at the college expressed concern that they could not speak freely in their classes.

Losing the love of the pen 

Courtesy of Steven Krause, I find a story about how we don't teach cursive handwriting in schools any more. Handwriting has been an integral part of our family's educational history. I was required by my fourth-grade teacher to go back to re-learn penmanship (penpersonship?) with the second graders, so I've had the same experience as Krause. But there's lots of things I had to do in school that have been left behind now, like learning touch-typing. But when my son was told he had to go to an in-between class instead of first grade from kindergarten, the reason was "fine motor skill development" which made it difficult for him to control a pencil. My daughter, who skipped first grade entirely, was approached cautiously by the second grade teacher with respect to her fine motor skills (in typical Banaian fashion, she mastered cursive with ease "to show them".)

My handwriting isn't much better now than when I was sitting with the second graders, but it doesn't mean I don't like to write. And it doesn't mean today, as Krause suggests, that kids know computers are more important to learn. The pen is, at least to me, a tactile pleasure. Typing a love poem isn't the same as writing one -- a bit of calligraphy warms your sweetie's heart in a way the IM will not (regardless of your emoticon set). That is surely part of one's education.

"Theory" gets tenure 

Speaking about bad writing, and we were here, there is the hypothesis of Ophelia Benson that bad writing is its own reward. I think this particular passage is spot-on:
And for the moment, for whatever bizarre reason, 'theory' is what gets promoted and given tenure, therefore aspiring Assistant Professors and adjuncts have to crank it out, whether they actually like doing the stuff or not. But another reason, and one with a more malign effect, is the easy availability of an array of defense mechanisms. Bad writers have a set of self-flattering responses to criticism all ready and lined up, and they trot them out with alacrity whenever anyone suggests that they ought to make sense...

Pronouns are revealing 

"Faculty have lots of free time and get lots of recognition and honors for their work.� Not believing that St. Cloud State University�s President Roy Saigo could have actually uttered these stereotypical words while his faculty members are still working without a contract, this morning I checked out the piece reviewed here yesterday by King. But sure enough, there appear these words.

In the next sentence our President is quoted as saying, �In administration it�s not about what I did, but that the university has risen as a whole.� OK, let�s review our President�s quotes in the article � and count, if we want to be accountable:

Number of times any other university member�s work is complimented, recognized, or acknowledged = 0.

Number of times a first-person singular pronoun is employed = 28.

All too familiar, I�m afraid. Check out the end of this blog from 11 months ago to see how President Saigo was quoted in the Minneapolis StarTribune.

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was a leader whose credo was, �It�s all about me!� He�s no longer in office.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Cooters delenda est 

Sean who owns the Crazy Cooters of the Webloggers League has been talking some smack about the upcoming Scholars-Cooters tilt. It's a week from this coming Sunday. Those who can, do. Those who can't, write fantasy football columns.

Diverse outcomes 

The watch word around SCSU these days is "retention". Only 71% of students enrolling as new freshmen at the university are here one year later (last year the number was below 69%, so that's progress.) Joanne Jacobs reports on two articles in the Christian Science Monitor about the lack of returns to diversity. College presidents see a "minority achievement gap", and in some stores "racial diversity seemed to hinder teamwork". At SCSU, our retention data shows that retention is correlated with ACT score and high school rank. Students with ACT scores 25 (18.5% of our admissions this year) and higher were retained at lower rates than those in the 20-24 range, which was much higher than retention for those with ACT below 20 (28.5% of new entering freshmen). According to data I viewed today but not yet on line, scores for "students of color" (I'm quoting because that's what they were called in the report, it's not my choice) were about 2 ACT points lower. But, as John Rosenberg points out, there's a difference in retention rates for students of color versus white students even when you control for rank and ACT.
Presumably these colleges are attractive in the first place because of their academic culture, but ... in order to be successfully �diverse� that culture must be changed to accomodate the newcomers. This calls to mind Groucho Marx�s famous remark about not wanting to join any club that would have him.

Sometimes you wonder 

...what goes through the head of our President when he says things like this?
Faculty have lots of free time and get lots of recognition and honors for their work.
This is in the new edition of Business Central, the local Chamber of Commerce publication (the new edition is not yet on-line). I saw this puff piece in my dentist's office this morning, not the sort of thing to calm you before the drill. As one poster on SCSU-PRAVDADISCUSS notes, "Is it any wonder that governors, legislators, and the general public view university faculty as people who don't do much when a University President makes such statements in a public forum? Is he held accountable for his statements?" No, he's not as long as the Chancellor and the trustees continue to stick their heads in the sand and renew his contract.


(Or, a year late and a dollar short) Dropped in my email this PM:
As the advisor to the Women's Equality Group, a feminist, activist organization on campus, I'm pleased to announce a Pay Equity Bake Sale happening right here at St. Cloud State Univ..

The sale will be held [contact time deleted] Not only will cookies, brownies and muffins be available, but so will information highlighting current pay equity data.

Feed your sweet tooth and update your knowledge on the major issue affecting women in the labor force.
Big Arm Woman suggested a year ago how silly these things are, while Matt Singer notes how this is a variant of the affirmative action bake sales that have now induced campus thought police to shut them down.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Just bennies, no cash 

The IFO -- the union that covers all the state universities and technical colleges in Minnesota -- has offered a wage freeze in return for keeping health benefits untouched. We are told the negotiators for the state were unable to reach those who could sign off to accept the deal, which might indicate the negotiators want the deal. This offer by IFO had been under a gag order until today. They are suggesting that the four negotiators, including the system chancellor, are not reachable. I suggest calling those state troopers in Texas who went looking for Democratic state senators.

Who controls student newspapers? 

We are still waiting for the University Chronicle's investigation of its attack article against Dean Lewis, which it portrayed as front-page news. According to several sources, there are details in the attack article that were not public information before this piece was written (I guess that makes it news) that instead had to come from those with inside information about Hoy's legal case. To this day the Chronicle has not printed a single reaction to the article even though it says it received several "taking umbrage" with it. Justice delayed...

Meanwhile, Mike Adams reports on the school paper in his university also suppressing speech of the head of their College Republicans.

Like the stable, bet the horse 

Crooked Timber reviews a paper on how the job market in social science and humanities faculties have a great deal of hierarchical sorting. In the comments, Brad DeLong notes that there is a market failure for assistant professors in economics that are "underplaced". I'm not arguing -- our own department has benefited greatly from that failure. But what I wonder is why this continues to happen, particularly when places like Berkeley are supposedly trading in that market? Kieran refers to another paper that uses an anthropological explanation:
departments are tribes, graduate students are women to be married off, and areas of specialization are clan-markers that help define which exchanges are appropriate and which are taboo.
I bet Invisible Adjunct (link fixed, thanks Eric!) has a field day with that metaphor.

UPDATE (11/12): She found it.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Contrast and compare 

Katherine Kersten and Deborah Locke on the proposed social studies standards for Minnesota. No comparison, says Spitbull.

Unhealthy competition? 

State Sen. Dave Kleis, a graduate of SCSU (and a former student of mine, he says -- I have to be honest, I don't remember him!) -- is proposing a bill that would allow state universities and colleges to disaffiliate from MnSCU. MnSCU was formed in 1995 and as Kleis indicates, their budget has continued to grow. It costs almost as much to run the central office now as it costs to run SCSU -- and we educate over 17000 students by headcount!
"I think a lot of us had concerns about a huge bureaucracy, and that continues to grow," he said. ...

Under Kleis' plan, an organization that represents the administration, faculty or students at any school could petition to opt out of MnSCU. The full administration, faculty and student body would then vote in a referendum. A majority vote would be required for it to pass.

"It would be totally a decision of the campus," Kleis said. "Anybody could set that process in place."

Kleis would require the state to provide the same amount of funding to a college or university that leaves MnSCU.

"No one would opt out and get less money," he said. "We want to make sure that stays the same."
It's likely that SCSU would do even better, as the current financing system makes assumptions about scale economies that cause ours, the largest university in the system, to get lower per-student financing than most of the smaller technical and community colleges. Of course, monopolists like MnSCU hate to be broken up, and we're no different.
MnSCU was created to avoid "unhealthy competition" among state colleges and universities, said Linda Kohl, associate vice chancellor for public affairs.

"I think the rationale at the time was the Legislature did not want to see three different systems ... competing with one another for funds," she said.
No, that might lead to efficiency. Sure wouldn't want that. (Story from the St. Cloud Times, which still has a hosed archive system -- this story is from 8 November.)

Likewise, the local student government is petitioning again to disaffiliate with its state student association. Once again the issue is dollars:

"For the amount of money we donate, we feel it (representation) is inadequate," [student gov't VP Rachel] Hughes said. "They are supposed to be lobbying on behalf of SCSU and we feel they are being ineffective."
The students contributed almost $180,000 to MSUSA. A state law prevents them from disaffiliating, so they would need a legislative change. Otherwise, they will not be able to exit MSUSA.

Miss Median strikes again 

Remember this professor? You have to admire her willingness to debate -- I love scrappers -- but it be nice if she could come armed with something more than a sneer. The discussion list (the soon-to-be SCSU-PRAVDA) has been very quiet, she says, but we wascally consewatives are weally well owganized.
The "conservative" student letter in this week's Chronicle follows upon an article about the "Accuracy in Academia" organization in recent weeks. Closely associated with the views from such students and organizations, the weekly Announce-List reminders from a very small
faculty group calling itself the "National Association of Scholars" should not go overlooked just because it expresses views from the margins of academia. Just as the NAS is announcing weekly meetings about "conservative students" suing universities all over the country, we begin to read letters from such students making "free speech" claims in our campus papers. And all these activities are carried out in a way that would past muster even if we had the most stringent "sanctions" in favor of "civility" in place. Yes, very interesting.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the aims of organizations that seek "affiliates" and provide "scholarships" to "conservative students" all over the country can simply read the websites for themselves.
Let's see, is that ten pairs of scare quotes? Hmmm. She can't even get our name right -- we advertise as the SCSU Association of Scholars.

Very small? I don't know why that matters; rights accord to groups great and small. That's why we call them rights.

And our "activities are carried out in a way that would past muster even if we had the most stringent 'sanctions' in favor of 'civility' in place." I bet that really pisses her off. If only she could live in a country that could outlaw us! Well, Miss M, they do. It's called "the Arab world". It's called "the USSR". It's called any place where freedom is shackled by well-meaning ideologues.

But then -- and I do love this part -- she closes her screed with this sentence.
This is a "public service announcement" and does not constitute an invitation for attacks, thank you.
That would be scare quote #11? And this is the problem: People construe free speech to mean freedom from being told they are wrong. If she wishes to speak in a public arena, and SCSU-DISCUSS is a public arena paid by tax dollars, then she also is subject to public reaction that in fact may be negative. And she will be by the usual suspects, such as these.

UPDATE (Monday evening): I've added some material at Liberty and Power.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Cipher solved 

I suggested a couple of days ago that I could not make sense of how we assess our diversity requirement. Highered Intelligence thinks it, um, has figured it out. We report, you decide. Heh.

What possesses these people? 

(Saturday morning): At the request of the person who sent me this entry, I have dropped this post. The issue has been settled amicably by all concerned. I didn't see any directions to here, so I hope I am not deleting something others linked to.

And sometimes they get it right 

Indiana University, who wrestled with and eventually did the right thing with Eric Rasmusen, also seems to have done the right thing with an affirmative action bake sale.
"It is a freedom-of-speech issue. I know some schools have approached these events differently, but prior restraint is not something we would normally engage in," said Damon Sims, associate dean of students.

"This is one of the more significant social and political issues of our time. . . . It is exactly the kind of dialogue that should be encouraged on college campuses."

Tip of the cap to Mr. Sims, and to Joanne Jacobs for the link.


A faculty member at Auburn whose Ph.D. program was eliminated improperly says he is being punished for talking about the case to university trustees. His lawyer claims $25,000 in lost summer support. This after the university president issued a statement to the faculty saying the university "will not take any adverse action against any person who cooperates with the investigation or provides information to the investigator."

Intolerance of viewpoints 

Within the discussion of the case of John Bonnell came a letter to Critical Mass that exposes the intolerance of the left.
Also, I noticed that one of your letter-writers made the remark that what our schools are actually producing is a legion of intolerant, half-educated ideologues. A great example is what happened to me yesterday.

I have a couple of bumper-stickers on my car. One reads "Have You Made a Hippie Cry Today?" and the other has a picture of the Earth with the words "Visualize Me Ignoring You." Provocative, perhaps, but nothing exceptional.

Well, one of the university's enlightened footsoldiers left a note on my car yester day, asking me to "Visualize" him breaking my jaw, and further advising me that I was "asking for it" with my "blatent [sic] public display of hate." I hardly knew how to react. Obviously, the irony isn't worth lingering on, since this was not a rational response to an objectionable bumper sticker. I found it endlessly fascinating, though, and I've hung it on my office wall.
I've noticed that many of the "rainbow Isuzus" that I see have some message telling cellphone users to "shut up and drive". That seems a little more hateful than this letter-writer's choice of stickers. Or these.

The conservatism of U.S. immigrants 

My Armenian grandmother was probably the most patriotic member of my family, and one of the most patriotic people I knew growing up. She would have had no time for the people protesting the war because she had lived through radical Islamic terror in an earlier time. She also voted a straighter Republican ticket than even my mother (who wouldn't talk to me for a day after she took me to vote for the first time in a primary and I asked for a Democratic ballot.) The Elder at Fraters Libertas finds this is also true of Somali immigrants during his day of diversity training:
I learned a great deal about Somali values and culture including:

- Somalis are very independent and individualistic with a strong work ethic.

- Many Somalis don't trust government institutions or banks.

- Somalis are deeply religious and very committed to their faith.

- Somalis are family orientated and support traditional family structures. .

- Somalis do not believe in or engage in pre-marital sex. (It was mentioned that AIDs is almost non-existent in the Somali community because of this)

- Somalis do not believe in indulging in alcohol or mind altering drugs.

- Somali parents are concerned about passing on their traditional values to their children.

- Somali parents are also concerned about the opportunities for their children to pray at school.
Of course the audience was full of respect, and one woman wondered aloud why the Somalis couldn't pray in school. The Elder wonders whether they would have been as encouraging of school prayer for "white, evangelical Christians"?

To her credit, after the town my grandmother raised her family in lost its Orthodox church, she had her family pray in a Protestant church. She also deeply distrusted banks -- we found money in mattresses after she died. This pattern repeats itself in many other immigrant cultures from Hispanic to Hmong.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Getting through to the University Chronicle 

Well at least one letter has gotten in to the Letters to the Editor at the campus paper. The fisrt one calls attention to the USA Today article on campus speech codes I blogged on Monday. The student insists that the greatest bigotry on campus is not the kind you hear in class.
I can tell you for a fact the single biggest form of discrimination on this campus is not bigotry, is not racism and is not sexism. The biggest form of persecution and discrimination comes straight from the SCSU faculty, and it is their outright hatred of conservatives.

I came to college seeking a higher level of education and thinking, yet instead I find myself fighting for my right to think at all.
Says another staff columnist, reminding me again about Fred Reed,
Let's be frank. People do not come to this school, or any other college, to learn. Learning is viewed as a secondary benefit of the primary goal. If learning was the primary goal, people would just sit in a library and read all day. It would certainly be cheaper. Everyone here is after their precious piece of paper, and nothing more. They want to come away from college being able to get that "good job" we were told so much about in high school, and they don't want to learn a thing in the process.

Maybe I'm dreaming, but it would be nice to learn something along the way.
You can, son, if you try. But as we noted before, it's sad to think it's a by-product of credentialism.

Flattering invitation 

I've decided to accept an invitation to branch out my blogging. I will post some things -- mostly not related to higher ed or SCSU, though occasionally I'll have cross-blogging -- at Liberty and Power. I am grateful to David Beito of the Alabama Scholars Association for the invitation. Several libertarian writers who I've long appreciated are in that group, and it's indeed an honor to be invited. I'd name some, but then I'll end up forgetting someone, so just go visit all of them.

I don't think this will reduce much of the juicy goodness of the Scholars blog. If anything, it will divert some of my off-topic economics material to another site and give this one a better focus. I hope you'll agree.

Ashcroft Libertarians 

Mitch's new term for people who discover liberty only after deciding someone they don't like is taking it away from them. Reno Libertarians? Complete nutters. Yeah, right.

Welcome a new Scholar 

We are happy to announce that history professor Marie Kim will now join us on the Scholars blog. Being in the History department gives her a unique view of the difficulties on this campus, and her legal and historical knowledge will add a great deal to the expertise on this blog. Welcome aboard!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

There are no "communities of individuals" 

Please visit Power Line and witness what happens when someone like Daniel Pipes visits Yale.
On Monday evening a group called "Concerned Black Students" convened an emergency meeting to deliberate over an appropriate response to Pipes's appearance on campus. According to the group, Pipes is among those who attack "communities of color" and his appearance on campus must be protested.
You can sing the chorus. Follow the story over there on Thursday. I know I will.

Steamy science education  

John Ray of Dissecting Leftism prints a letter about how liberal arts professors teaching science often get things wrong, and probably do so for political reasons. The letter writer, a student, says
I was told it was the invention of the steam engine that made it possible for England to ship its convicts to Australia and for England and the other colonial powers to establish empires. I had just read "The Hostile Shore" and knew transportation happen entirely in the age of sail. My elementary school history lessons are enough to know the Spanish, English, Portuguese and Dutch colonial empires were all established at least two hundred years before trans-oceanic steam ships appeared.

I was told here in America the very promising steam engine power automobile was defeated by an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease. In an effort to contain this disease, public watering trough were destroyed removing the water source needed by the owners of steam powered automobiles, most of which did not have condensers and therefore required several liters of water per mile to operate.

No word on why steam engines in steam ships which by definition do not lack for water for cooling fell into disfavor at about the same time."

Fred's right again 

Fred Reed (of whom my son and I are longtime fans) suggests separating the diploma from a statement that students actually learned something. He comments in his inimitable style:
Note, incidentally, that the function of professors is not primarily to teach, but to select the material and to insist that students show up for class. Sure, sometimes the prof offers useful explanation or discussion. The study of spoken languages requires a teacher. Yet there are few subjects that a bright and determined student couldn�t learn with a textbook and a library. Other students shouldn�t be studying at all.

A crucial question: Who would write the universal test? There�s the rub. If the present professoriate got anywhere near it, they would intellectually disembowel it, translate it into Ebonics, and stuff it full of crypto-Marxist blather like a taxidermist given to excess. I would suggest a committee of people who had worked in their fields but could prove they had never taught.

Universities would of course fight the idea fang and claw, in hideous English. ... [But a]s long as the degree, however worthless, is the measure of merit, we will get more propaganda, lower standards, and less cultivation.

(Hat tip: Cold Spring Shops.)

Forgot my history 

Kind reader Prof. Jordan Curnutt sends me information that the Blackhawk referenced by the Chicago professional hockey team (and on the uniform I mentioned Monday) is a person, not a tribe, the leader of the Sauk tribe in the early 1830s (from which we get Black Hawk's War), fought in northern Illinois. I must have missed that question on my US history exam. Many thanks, Prof. Curnutt!

Who uses adjuncts? School and student selection 

I am waiting for Invisible Adjunct to discuss this article about the effects of using adjuncts on student learning. Ideally here at SCSU, we use adjuncts to cover topics for which we do not have full-time faculty sufficiently trained. I went to a small liberal arts school, for example, that allowed a local lawyer to come in to teach business law. This seems meet and right. But as the article notes and as IA has discussed for months, there has been a much greater reliance on adjuncts over the last fifteen years. I bring up this piece because it has a very interesting result: The students who take courses from adjuncts are not a random sample of the student body. Instead, students with higher ACT scores tend to take more classes from full-time faculty. So while there are results suggesting that dropout rates are higher when more adjuncts are used, there is the simultaneous problem (or "student selection bias") that schools that use more adjuncts also draw more students that may not succeed at school (if ACT scores are a predictor of student success, which I realize will raise a red flag with some.) The size of that effect might not be too large, though, as the result seems to depend greatly on what field you go into. Looking at two students in the same subject area, the one with a 10% higher ACT score is only 0.8% less likely to take a course with an adjunct. There also doesn't seem to be any effect of the use of adjuncts on taking subsequent courses in a particular field, pass rates for subsequent classes, or on dropout rates. What they do, however, is increase the enrollment in classes. That is, use of adjuncts has probably increased the availability of courses for students; the magnitude of the effect, however, doesn't appear to be very large.

Not knowing when you lost 

A debate at faculty senate last night revolved around a student request for receiving credit or a waiver for a "diversity course" (scroll down to the sub-section of that title from our general education program) for students that go on study abroad programs. The consensus that carried the day was that no, learning about another culture by living in it isn't learning about diversity. Some faculty were perplexed because they would think living in another culture is per se multicultural. One faculty member replied by comparing her students to another set, both of whom went into inner-city Detroit on a social work project. Her people "got out into the community" while those from the other school treated it as summer camp and stayed separate from the others. Another faculty member said the only way to learn about diversity was to take courses from professors from "historically oppressed" groups. The despise they held for Western Europeans was palpable.

Multiculturalism was originally the goal, but we lost this battle long ago, when the wording of the program was changed from "multicultural, gender and minority" courses to "diversity". In an assessment document for the diversity program here (scroll down to bottom third), the goals of the program include this:

Students will identify unjust, de-humanizing, and oppressive policies and practices of individuals, authorities, and social institutions within the dominant culture and their impact on the treatment of various disenfranchised groups.
That's not inquiry. That's enforcing a worldview at a public university. It includes this as a criterion:
The course must promote respect for human dignity and differences by methods that employ and strengthen the cognitive, affective, and critical powers of students by impartial and critical examination of facts, beliefs, interpretations of facts, and arguments, and by other ways of knowing.
I have no idea what the hell that means, and I rather insist that you don't either. Again, this is from an ASSESSMENT document. How do you measure this???

UPDATE: Cold Spring Shops asks whether disenfranchised groups would "include Aristotelians in the English Department?"

Sports lesson for commissioner 

Let me remind the Commissioner that his complaints about Ohio State's spot in the BCS is a function of margin of victory. The Cardiac Buckeyes will have to get by a tough Michigan team. A convincing win there will vault them. Having watched two games of each team, I am predicting a Michigan win.

Meanwhile, the Scholars' fantasy football team has run off eight consecutive wins, beating teams run by bloggers Sean, Jon, Dave, Kevin, and a host of other bloggers. Two up with five to play before the playoffs. Behold my greatness, and weep.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Net tuition 

An editorial in the Valley Morning Star (in the Rio Grande area of Texas) highlights the effect of giving higher student aid on tuition.
As long as the money keeps flowing, and parents and students are willing to shoulder increasing amounts of debt, no mechanism exists to force colleges to contain the costs they pass on to students.
Students probably are willing to take on the debt, out of inexperience and out of a time horizon that seems lengthy to your average 20-year-old. I read a report on a paper (it's here, but it has lots of statistics, so consider yourself warned) that about 30% of the price increase in tuition above the CPI inflation level is due to increases in financial aid. Quality adjustments probably account for an additional 15%. The remainder is unexplained, and interestingly the increase is stronger in their paper for comprehensive public universities (which are most likely those that are -- or at least were -- accessible to low-income families.) I've heard it often argued that the Hope scholarships are a middle class transfer policy, and the amount of evidence that is out there on this is rather substantial (for example, this paper.)

Tax rebates hurt public education? 

At our chapter meetings lately we've been discussing the difficulty of working with our union. Many in the group feel it doesn't represent us and have wanted to quit ... and some have. I've been less willing to leave, as I feel some need to try to change it from the inside. When I ask people if they would like to get rid of the union, they don't really want to, but they feel it is unrepresentative. Yesterday I received a letter from the union's central office that simply infuriated me.
The preeminent purpose of public higher education is to provide accessible, affordable, and high quality educational opportunities for students. No one embraces this premise more than the faculty of Minnesota�s state universities. Indeed, students are why we are here and we are why they are here. ...
Reading Invisible Adjunct's comments from "Prof at Big State U." would suggest otherwise.
Big State U.'s mission is to confer the baccalaureate so that the state's residents (voters) can enter the workforce with a college degree on their resume (and a corresponding bump in their paycheck). Education is a byproduct, something that occassionally happily happens because faculty and staff give a damn anyway. Higher tuition and fees defeat the purpose of credentialing if they mean said residents/voters enter the workforce (and the economy) saddled with student loans.
IA somewhat agrees with this and believes "adjunctification" is the result. I had a student come in today to complain that s/he should get her/his money back from a class because her/his textbook contained typos in two different tables. Does that sound like students who view faculty as "why they are here"? Nah.

But that's not what even got me hacked off at the union. It was instead this:

We perceive a genuine lack of respect and lack of appreciation for what we do, rivaling, if not superceding, the actions of past governors, chancellors, and Boards of Trustees. We acknowledge and respect the current economic crisis faced by the state of Minnesota; however, even in better times, Jesse Ventura referred to us as �the black hole.�
And then, in the email version but not the one they posted on their website they included the words, "Remember the tax rebate?"

The arrogance here is remarkable. We are entitled to the money, says the action memo (and according to email I received this was placed by the government relations people at the IFO), and giving it back to taxpayers is "disrespectful". But what have we done to earn their respect? Sue them? Discourage students from attending? Divide departments due to petty disagreements? Or just make pretty PowerPoint presentations and buttons? Gotta give to get, we say.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Airbrushing hockey 

At the National Hockey Center here at SCSU is a shrine to Minnesota hockey stars of years past. One of these is Sam Lopresti, who was a goaltender in the early 1940s for the Chicago Blackhawks and an attendee of our school. Of course, however, Blackhawks is a Native American tribe and these are under attack at SCSU, so, according to this letter to the editors at the St. Cloud Times, someone has covered up the team logo from his shirt.
Whose recent decision was it to paint over the Chicago Blackhawks emblem on his jersey? What gives you the right to change history? A doglike emblem in the center of the words Chicago Blackhawks? And heaven forbid if the Blackhawk image should be seen on Tyler Arnason's jersey display.

This political correctness that plagues St. Cloud State University is becoming an irritant. It is time for the silent majority to become the vocal, questioning majority.

What's next? Banning Pontiac automobiles, Tecumseh engines, and Land O'Lakes butter from St. Cloud State? Come to think of it, animals have feelings too. I don't know about that Husky logo.

It's worth reading the comments (remember that you'll need to look in the archives for this letter after today, and they disappear after a week.) One reader suggests SCSU put its money where its (president's) mouth is:
If it is the official position of SCSU that minority-based mascots are evil, SCSU should not participate in games against such opponents. Forfeit the games. Draw even more attention to the cause by perhaps giving up a chance at a conference, regional, or national championship for the sake of getting the point across.
It will be a cold day in ... wait, it's snowing outside!

Reaping bad press 

When your issue appears on the front page of USAToday, you know you've made some headway.
Most college presidents argue that their campuses and classrooms encourage the free exchange of ideas. Where else but here, they say, can difficult issues be debated?

But as campus officials look for ways to accommodate the growing diversity of their student bodies, an increasingly vocal number of students � most of them white and predominantly conservative or Christian � say there is little room for their opinions and beliefs.

On campuses large and small, public and private, students describe a culture in which freshmen are encouraged, if not required, to attend diversity programs that portray white males as oppressors. It's a culture in which students can be punished if their choice of words offends a classmate, and campus groups must promise they won't discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation � even if theirs is a Christian club that doesn't condone homosexuality.

The article documents several groups that have been pushing to combat administrative and leftist faculty intransigence to viewpoint diversity. As Erin O'Connor notes, "There are a lot of administrators and professors out there who still don't get it (some are quoted in the article)." For that alone, you should read the article.

The face of evil 

Wendy McElroy describes how evil is wrought in many tiny steps:
I was once asked to describe the devil. (I interpreted the question to be about the general nature of evil in man rather than about religion.)

I replied: If the devil is the living flesh of evil, then here is who I think he is. Far from appearing as a hideous demon, he is the average-looking person who walks into a room and shakes your hand with a smile. By the time he leaves, the standards of decency of everyone within that room have been lowered ever so slightly.

Perhaps he offers general statistics on divorce or child abuse to convince you to suspect your husband of infidelity or your neighbor of molestation. No evidence of specific wrongdoing is offered, of course. But since such "crimes" do occur, you are advised to be vigilantly on guard against them in your personal life. And so, you begin to view your spouse and neighbors with a bit more suspicion, a little less trust and with the tendency to interpret every action as possible evidence of wrongdoing. The very possibility of an offense is taken as evidence of its presence.

Perhaps he spins a political theory that inches you toward viewing people, not as individuals to be judged on the basis of their merits, but as members of a class. And so, your co-worker is no longer an individual; he becomes "black" or "male" or "gay" and his actions are interpreted according to his category.

Slowly, you come to view the world through the eyes of the devil.
RTWT. (Hat tip: Intergalactic Capitalist)