Friday, April 30, 2004

Have a nice weekend 

Waiting for one more final exam to be turned in, and in my email pops this:
This is a reminder that you have signed up for a workshop at the date and time listed below.
Workshop Registration
SOFTWARE: Human Resources
TOPIC: Diversity Training
LOCATION: XXX (deleted by me)
DATE: 05/03/04, Mon
TIME: 4:00 PM
Grrr. If they let me anywhere near the microphone tomorrow on the NARN, you can bet on hearing a few choice words about that. Get your seven-second delay ready, boys.

I'll be testing the wireless this weekend to see about live-blogging that dog.

Still blowing on the embers 

Infinite Monkeys follows up on the Dunn affair by noting that Prof. Dunn has been charged with filing a false hate crime report. This clip from the LA Times story on the charges is telling.
Reached by phone Monday at her home in Redlands, Dunn declined to comment.

Her lawyer, Gary S. Lincenberg, also declined to be interviewed. But he issued a news release saying that Dunn "maintains her innocence and hopes that this case will not divert attention from the racism problems on the Claremont College campuses."
The article proceeds to provide recitation of the alleged cross-burning (which wasn't necessarily tied to race as much as to alcohol) and a comment written on a bust of George Washington Carver (the small reaction to which might have induced Dunn's alleged crime).

Articles like the Times piece only provide Dunn with what they want, selling a perception of institutional racism that is not backed by the facts. Having burned the Reichstag and gotten only a court summons for her troubles, Dunn uses a compliant press to blow on the embers.

Big brother may be reading 

The saga of the University of Southern Mississippi is drawing to a close, according to Robert Campbell at Liberty and Power. No details have come out yet, but a settlement has been reached between two fired tenured professors and the university. The odd thing about the hearing before the trustees yesterday is that the university's president brought in three boxes of intercepted email that had then been reviewed by an attorney. Campbell points out that most universities have this kind of access to email, including SCSU.
Although the University does not routinely monitor all messages, it does have the authority, at any time, to inspect the contents of any University equipment, files, or mail on it's [sic] system for any legitimate business, legal or disciplinary purpose. Reasons for review include, but are not limited to: reasonable suspicion of a violation of a rule or law or University policy; investigation of system problems; litigation or anticipated litigation; or a need to perform work when an employee is not available.

Employee users of the University's e-mail system must understand that most communications created, received or backed-up on the system are considered to be public documents and thus, may be subject to requests for public disclosure. Employees should bear in mind that this construction may apply even to e-mails that contain, for example, personal remarks.

Evaluation by acolytes? 

University Diaries says she's given up on course evaluations, and points to this article in today's New York Times as a good reason why. Says she:
I've studied, observed, read, and experienced these things for decades, and I've concluded that they're corrupt. They corrupt our demeanor, our seriousness, and our grading. They grant factitious wisdom and influence to students, teaching them to regard professors as petitioners. Like so many aspects of the market-driven university, they deprive the student of the one great and good thing only the university can give: the chastening experience of devotion to thought rather than to the self.

Critical Mass heads for the exit 

At least from her academic post at Penn. She has found that her Ph.D. in the humanities is attractive to private schools (but not for writing standards, eh, M?) and allows those who've gone to teach in independent schools to do what they thought they'd do in the university.
The schools themselves have been as different from one another as people are--but at all of them, the refugees say, entirely independent of one another, that the work they have found in the world of independent school teaching far surpasses the academic life. All say they are able to do the sort of intensive, personalized teaching they dreamed of doing as college teachers, but could not do in a higher ed setting; all say they feel more intellectually alive than they did in academe; and all say, too, that they have a much greater sense of purpose and of professional satisfaction than they did in academe. They are palpably happy, and the differences they are making in kids' lives are real and meaningful. They also have summers off and, having jumped the assembly-line production schedule of the academic track, can follow the far more ethical and constructive course of pursuing their own research and writing projects when and as the spirit moves them. The pay ain't bad, either.
No word yet if Critical Mass will follow Invisible Adjunct off the blogosphere.

This is significant insofar as Erin has been one of the most popular writers about the leftist cant that permeates academia. There are others to read, including Cold Spring Shops and the sheepshead deck, University Diaries (we need to sing Janice's praises more often here), and Academistics and the groupbloggers like Crescat or CT, but it is beginning to feel like the world of higher ed bloggers is getting smaller.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Into the valley of nonmandatory diversity training marched the five hundred 

Another bombshell exploded in the mandatory discrimination fight yesterday afternoon as plaintiff Geoffrey Tabakin sent the campus an email titled "The 500 Club -- You May Belong". The 500 Club refers to this quote at the end of the St. Cloud Times article (these archive really badly, so link could be dead after today):
About 500 employees are not required to attend the training.
Many faculty are wondering who these five hundred are. They have bad memories, since Tabakin quotes from a memo that all faculty received from Provost Spitzer on January 13th of this year, in response to a faculty senate motion regarding the administration's "implementation of the Zmora settlement". I've edited this; I'll scan the document for electronic use later.
Diversity training programA number of ongoing initiatives have been developed and implemented in a draft of a written training plan. In response to the specific requirements of the settlement agreement, during the week of August 25, 2003, planned convocation activities offered a series of workshops, presentations, and training sessions that included components on anti-Semitism. Provost Spitzer and the Faculty Association notified faculty participants and members of the university community of these opportunities, and faculty and staff were again informed via signed letter from Anne Zemek de Dominguez (campus legal advisor who is serving temporarily within the affirmative action office --kb) of the expectation that each of us would attend at least one session. ... during convocation and faculty training week workshop facilitators were asked to send their "sign up" sheets to Dean John Burgeson so that he could keep a record of the number of attendees. At least 500 employees received training pursuant to this mandate.
So this says that 500 have been through it, and the newspaper says that 500 will not be required to attend next week. The same 500? How would we know? All faculty and administrators received letters from President Saigo to their home addresses informing them of their obligation to go. There has been no attempt to sort between the 500 and the "ingrates ... now to be taught a lesson", in Tabakin's words. There are roughly 775 faculty on the books, including adjuncts, and many more administrators.

His piece de resistance is reference to and availability made of Spitzer's affidavit in defense of Tabakin's filing for and extension of the court's jurisdiction in the case and the upcoming hearing on whether the settlement terms have indeed been met. This document, of which I have received a copy, is along with the January 13th memo, at the heart of the matter. In it the provost argues that mandatory diversity training in a university is different than it would be in the corporate world or a government office.

Mandatory training in a public, academic institution such as St. Cloud State University includes elements often not found when developing mandatory training in the corporate and private sectors. For example, training within the University context means developing a visible and consistent presence of diversity education that creates a dialogue in the University community at all levels, especially where diversity education impacts on curriculum, scholarship, and the mission of the University. This requires the participation of the entire University community, especially faculty who have the responsibility for advancing the academic and scholarly agendas of the university.
So while he says that it would be different, a part that would not be different would be the "mandatory" part. This is very different than what was said in a Meet and Confer on April 10th, 2003, between the Faculty Association and the administration -- including Spitzer -- about which I have already written.
FA: ...We had passed a motion to form this committee previously, but we modified this motion and took out the idea that it was mandated because we have concerns about mandated training. Bigoted people who do mandated training can end up worse.

AD: I agree with that approach.

FA: We initiated the motion to demonstrate faculty support for the kind of training needed, but we did not support the notion of it being mandated, we only supported need for training and that faculty have a role in designing and implementing the training.

AD: A real question is that mandatory training can become very counterproductive. I appreciate your modification. Did the court order leave any flexibility?

FA: The word �‘mandatory�’ is in the order.

AD: But there are ways to deal with that without violating the agreement.

AD: In terms of encouragement of people to come to training.
So even a year ago, they were looking for ways to dodge the mandatory diversity training requirement of an agreement they signed, and now they profess that they are shocked, SHOCKED!, to find out that they didn't meet the agreement. They say in M&C that mandatory is a problem, but in his affidavit Spitzer says that diversity training in a university "requires the participation of the entire University community, especially faculty who have the responsibility for advancing tacademicmic and scholarly agendas of the university." Which sounds an awful lot like what the university signed to do in the settlement, and does not sound like what has happened until next week.

There is discussion about why Tabakin has chosen to pursue this when he himself does not agree about mandatory training. The answer, I feel, was given by a StarTribune article about the settlement in December 2002 which is no longer available online but which I blogged at the time.

Geoffrey Tabakin, who teaches kindegarten education and courses in genocide studies and was involved in the suit, accused administrators of being "more interested in face-saving than substantive changes to address the problem. ..."
At the time I overlooked that quote. But it fits so well with the continuing behavior of our Shadow University.

Hostage exchange politics 

If you like this kind of inside baseball thing, the StarTribune includes this quote on horsetrading Cheri Yecke's confirmation.
Kelley insisted that DFLers on the Education Committee aren't using Yecke's confirmation as a bargaining chip to leverage legislative concessions out of either Gov. Tim Pawlenty or the Republican-dominated House. But Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, wondered if a little horse-trading might come into play, especially if a confirmation vote is put off indefinitely.

"The longer it goes on, the more likely that the governor could try to make deals with individual legislators," said Pappas, one of six committee Democrats who voted to recommend Yecke's dismissal. "I don't really like linkage, but that does go on around here."
That's bullpuckey. If there's linkage, it's between the chafing of teachers over the standards and EducationMinne$ota campaign contributions to the DFL. ($256,900 to the DFL party office alone in 2002, according to "Give us Christopher Columbus or we'll shoot this education commissioner." Pappas and Kelley are fishing for deals.

Cheating going up in classes? 

A faculty member sends this link to a story tonight on ABC Primetime on classroom cheating. The rationale students use is "it's prevalent, I have to in order to survive."
Joe is a student at a top college in the Northeast who admits to cheating regularly. Like all of the college students who spoke to Primetime, he wanted his identity obscured.

In Joe's view, he's just doing what the rest of the world does.

"The real world is terrible," he told Gibson. "People will take other people's materials and pass it on as theirs. I'm numb to it already. I'll cheat to get by."

Primetime heard the same refrain from many other students who cheat: that cheating in school is a dress rehearsal for life. They mentioned President Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal and financial scandals like the Enron case, as well as the inconsistencies of the court system.

"Whether or not you did it or not, if you can get the jury to say that you're not guilty, you're free," said Will, a student at one of the top public high schools in the nation.

Mary, a student at a large university in the South, said, "A lot of people think it's like you're not really there to learn anything. You're just learning to learn the system."

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute for Ethics, the Los Angeles-based organization that conducted the 2002 survey, said students take their lead from adults.

"They're basically decent kids whose values are being totally corrupted by a world which is sanctioning stuff that even they know is wrong. But they can't understand why everybody allows it."
So it's not only that students don't behave with integrity when nobody is looking. Is it any wonder that honor codes have practically disappeared from university student handbooks?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


I hope Governor Pawlenty puts more effort into the fight to keep Cheri Yecke as education commissioner after the Senate Education Kangaroo Court Committee voted on strict party lines to reject her nomination to the post. Pawlenty's press release is a good start.
Today's vote by the Senate Education Committee was a vote against innovation, accountability and reform in education. Dr. Yecke has been taking on the status quo -- and winning -- which is why Senate Democrats voted along party lines to reject her.

Throughout Minnesota history, confirmation of commissioners has been based on qualifications and fitness for service. We have never had a Commissioner of Education with better qualifications, experience and vision for reform. In just fifteen months as commissioner, she has led the overhaul of the maligned Profile of Learning and replaced it with new learning standards, established school evaluation tools so that parents can know how their schools stack up, and undertaken many other reforms.

Imagine what the Senate Education Committee could have done if they had invested the same time and energy in improving education that they've spent tearing down a reformer.

Today's vote had nothing to do with qualifications. It had everything to do with a Democratic Party that is void of ideas and afraid of the future."
The last point the governor makes is quite interesting: Kelley's cabal took more time roasting Yecke than discussing the stealth social science standards. Think about it. Apparently Senator Kelley has more time to read Yecke's book than to read standards.
Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, cited several instances of strident language from Yecke in her book on middle schools. He said her attacks on the use of cooperative learning cast a bad light on the work being done in many schools.
This lead Yecke to quip that perhaps Kelley could do for her book what Bill O'Reilly did for Al Franken's.

The Minnesota DFL has now fully engaged into the Daschle/Leahy method of Borking. It's noteworthy that Borking has come before the national Democrats went into decline and minority status. Will the same happen to the Minnesota DFL?

UPDATE: Mitch and I are channeling the same thought: "Steve Kelley is the Tom Dashcle of Minnesota."

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Zoning out 

Cold Spring Shops reports that Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois both have free speech zones on their campuses. This is outrageous, and Stephen reports that FIRE has taken an interest, as it has in the past. Some NIU students are rallying in protest. Keep an eye on Cold Spring Shops for further details.

The students will just make more whine 

I guess I should read the StarTribune. The silent Northern Ally Eloise points out that Princeton has approved the grade distribution plan that I discussed earlier here and at Liberty and Power. My fear is that when you state percentages in this way, the maximum becomes a minimum. A professor of an intermediate microeconomics course -- typically the hardest course in the undergraduate major -- told me of his students telling him after a test that the professor "would of course have to curve" the grades. He declined, and "remarkably" grades on the next exam improved.

Stirring the curriculum at Harvard 

Michael Tinkler, commenting on the changes in the curriculum contemplated at Harvard:
If I could dictate a sole required course over in that division for our students it wouldn't be biology, though -- it would be statistics. I think a good statistics course is essential for the committee's goal that "Graduates of Harvard College should be able to understand the news and expository articles in journals such as Science and Nature."
Agreed. I could rant about some faculty here who misunderstand the meaning of median, I suppose, but the problem is really that we don't teach enough about the meaning of, say "40% chance of rain today" or "risk of loss of principal in this investment" or things like this. At SCSU we allow courses in math or statistics to act as if they are interchangeable for general education. That's probably a step in the right direction from the old gen ed math course, but I would prefer that all students be required to take BOTH math and statistics.

Coverage of diversity training 

David Beito and Liberty and Power weighs in on mandatory diversity training here, calling it "far worse, for example, than a requirement for faculty to attend mandatory prayer meetings at a state university." I've signed up to go on Monday, May 3 at 4pm, and I am hoping to live-blog the event. I would let others do so as well and even lend them the blessed Centrino laptop.

My dinner with Horowitz 

I was very lucky last week to get to have dinner with David Horowitz and five other people at a St. Paul restaurant that I'll leave nameless because they were out of lettuce. (I mean, look, how do you run a restaurant without lettuce when you have salad on the menu?) I was reading Doug Bass' description of the MAS banquet the following night and since Doug took notes and I didn't, you probably can rely on his description of the evening. I was surprised, however, by the reaction of some of the professors in attendance. They were uncomfortable with the stridency of his comments. Horowitz seems to revel in the characterization of himself as "David Howitzer". At one point he said, "I'm sick of people characterizing faculty as 'liberal'. They're not liberal. If they were liberal your organization wouldn't exist. They are leftists. Bolsheviks." His booklet for Students for Academic Freedom is little and red, a not-very-subtle dig.

Indeed, nothing about Horowitz is subtle, which I think is one of his two strengths. The other is of course his ability to pierce through leftist cant because he was part of it for so long. His explanation of the Academic Bill of Rights is that of a wedge issue, something that gains leverage to get one wants in the university. Again, I think faculty are loathe to think politically about their institutions -- that's supposed to be left to chairmen and deans. Perhaps it's because I am a chairman that I believe Horowitz is correct in his thinking. I doubt most faculty are going to view him as a role model, but his role, he said himself at the banquet, is as an outsider knocking down the walls of leftist academia. He leaves it to others to rush through the breach.

The man has quite an energy level for someone who must be approaching retirement age. He talked himself hoarse Friday night but tried to answer all questions. I left hoping he has enough shells left in the howitzer to finish his vital work.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Father and son bonding experience 

From my friend and colleague John Palmer, we bring you "L� Arc des Perdants Anonymes".

When we started collecting cups for the project,� said Matthew (John's son and co-creator of the arch), �we intended to build a giant pyramid. But then we thought we should do something more specific to celebrate the losers and the continual process of losing. That�s when we came up with the idea of building a triumphal arch.�

Followup on diversity training 

The local paper and the AP wire carry the story today. The diversity warriors are in a howl over the discussion in the papers over "collective guilt".
...whoever else raises the meaningless flag of "collective guilt" should be proud of themselves for managing to get this red herring onto the MPR broadcast regarding the upcoming training..... How's that for a powerful expression of white privilege on our campus and in our state ??
I have not heard the Minnesota Public Radio broadcast that mentions this yet. And it's really surprising for groups that proclaim the presence of "institutional racism" to then decry "collective guilt" -- they would seem to be two sides of the same coin.

Someone else says that this is not about "academic freedom". As the cases at University of Virginia and those cited by Alan Kors in this famous article, the attempt to influence thought and effect beliefs strikes at the very thought of freedom of conscience and thought which are the reasons why academic freedom is granted.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The sins of leadership visited on the university 

Official word of mandatory diversity training came from President Saigo late yesterday, including this admonition:
I hope that each of us will cooperate in good spirit, within a positive context of personal and institutional growth and development. Although I believe we all will work together to make the training successful, I also must re-emphasize, very strongly, that this is not an optional matter and that disciplinary action, as outlined in each bargaining unit�s contract, will be enforced should you not complete the training. I am optimistic that we will not be required to take any such actions.
Scholar Dave responded:
I shall not attend any mandatory diversity training sessions this May. Do with me as you will.

I believe it is not my duty to cover for the failure of the MnSCU officials, SCSU administrators, and/or FA leaders to have abided by a court's decree. Nor is it my duty to cover for those who still refuse to come forward and identify themselves as being personally responsible for having suggested that mandatory diversity training be part of any court settlement.

My strongly held belief is that mandatory diversity training for any group does, ipso facto, embrace and endorse the insidiously divisive and stereotypically repugnant concepts of collective guilt and diffused individual accountability. [If I had chosen to go] I would sign up for one of these mandatory sessions, show up, and sign my name, followed by the words:

I attend this session, not because I in any way fear any threatened punishment by the administrators of SCSU, nor because I accept at all the premise of collective guilt that underlies the concept of mandatory group diversity training . . . but only because I love my students, our college, and our university, and in no way want to see their names further sullied in the press or by the court.
Or by failed leadership.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Told you I'm an East Coast guy 

Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

New York
You're competitive, you like to take it straight to the fight. You gotta have it all or die trying.

But I hate the Spankmees.

What our students do 

They work more than they study, according to a new survey from our own survey center. Median hours of work for our students is 20 and median time spent studying is 10 hours. (The median for time spent "going out with friends, sports, dates and similar activities" is also ten hours, plus five watching the tube.) There's also a wealth of information in the survey on students' biggest issues on campus (guess what?!? Parking 28%, Diversity 9%), and on drinking (less than 30% of student stop at two drinks when they choose to drink. No surprise there, eh?)

I think that's newsworthy, but not our local newspaper, which trumpets "33% of students support Kerry". And yes, they do. 25% support Bush, 31% don't know (plus 7% honest enough to say they won't vote.) No surprise there, because in a separate question 36% identify themselves as Democrats, 27% as Republicans and 14% consider themselves independent (as opposed to the 2% who said they considered themselves part of the Independence Party of Jesse Ventura.) Students aren't wild over any candidate right now, which isn't surprising. Perhaps the candidates should just offer them beer.

Plays we need in St. Cloud 

The mood of many on campus is sour after the announcment that mandatory diversity training is really mandatory, but let's see if we can distill honey out of gall. Critical Mass has excerpted a play called Spinning into Butter, which describes how administrators react to a racist letter left on the dorm room door of a student of color. Here's a snip of the dialogue between deans after reading the letters.
Dean 3: ... we have to decide what to do. ... We have a dangerous racist in our midst.
Dean 2: I suppose someone from security could watch his dorm, or if he wants to--
Dean 3: (Interrupting, overlapping) No no no. The question is: How do we punish this racist?
Dean 1: Won't we expel him?
Prof: Or her?
Dean 3: (Overlapping) That's a defensive action. We have to be pro-active on this. We must make it known, loud and clear, that this sentiment, this trash, is not Belmont. That Belmont cannot be reduced to this outrageous action. We should issue some sort of statement right away, condemning this--
Dean 1: (Interrupting) I think we should try to find out who did it first, before we go around issuing statements.
Dean 2: Technically we should call President Garvey and ask him what to do.
Prof: Garvey won't know what to do. He's so out of touch. Burton's right. I think we should make a public gesture of some sort. We should call a campus-wide meeting so we can discuss what's going on.
Dean 3: Yes.
Dean 1: Don't you think we should talk to Simon [the student who received the notes] first?
Prof: Look, we pride ourselves on our inclusiveness. We claim to embrace cultural diversity. And yet some racist is running loose on campus, and I would wager that this idiot is very much like all our other students in appearance and manner and class, and that's what we need to reveal. That racism isn't somebody else's problem. It's our problem. If we handle this right, it could be a real learning experience for the students.
Dean 2: All right, then. Good. This seems like the sort of response we should have, doesn't it? If it leaks out to any of the parents and some irate mother calls me, I can say, 'We've already organized a campus meeting in order to reduce any stress or obviate any adverse reactions....' Something like that.
&c. I believe that this play would make a fine Convocation Day activity, an opportunity to let some faculty take a turn imitating administrators, and a learning experience that might be more productive than Jugglers Against Oppression. And none will dare call it mandatory.

Yeah, what he said 

The Elder advises that if you are a MST3K fan, you need to listen to the Northern Alliance Radio Network at 2pm Saturday. Plus more of Mitch, Captain Ed and the rest of the gang. I will be spending a lovely weekend at home in the Cloud.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Another reason I need Star Trek's transporter beam 

Rich Lowry, Al Franken's love slave, and our Northern Alliance colleague Big Trunk are having a party in St. Paul tonight. Dammit, dammit, dammit. I hate living so far away. Also going on, a debate with David Corn from The Nation.

For those keeping score 

John Rosenberg reports these statistics from the University of Virginia for admissions and applications this year.Regardless of graduation rates -- which for African-American students is pretty high at 87% for UVa -- the ability to get into the school is much greater for students of color.

Grieving political bias 

Students at Colorado State University are pushing a Grievance Procedures Bill that would require faculty there to place a grievance procedure notice on all syllabi, which would include instruction on how to address "harassment or discrimination based on political beliefs or ideology". This comes after the Colorado Legislature declined to pursue the Academic Bill of Rights and instead pass measures like this. No word on progress for this at other public institutions in Colorado.

Mandatory diversity training, take two 

I suppose we'll have to discuss this, as much as I'd like to forget it. One of our major issues on this blog a year ago was the anti-Semitism (or anti-anti-Semitism) case settlement. Last fall one of the elements of the settlement, mandatory (or not, depending on who you asked) diversity training, was supposed to take place during Convocation exercises. Only, it turns out, it may well have been insufficient. On April 12 this year, one of the plaintiffs in the case went to the judge and asked for a ruling whether defendants were in contempt of court for not providing for the case. The discussion turns on whether the training was sufficiently mandatory, and had a sufficient component on anti-Semitism to meet the agreement. The judge has held over the case until July for determination if the agreement's stipulation on diversity training has been met. This consulting firm will provide training sessions now for finals week.

Let me add a few new points. First, the settlement is now available online for readers that are interested, courtesy of this blog. The point in contention is point 15 form the settlement. Second, the university is now saying that it will engage in progressive discipline for faculty that do not participate. ("The trainings will continue until morale improves.") Third, the plaintiff, the only member of that group still at SCSU, has now been quite throroughly ostracized not only by the administration but by the union as well. A long-time faculty senator, he has decided to resign from the union as it will not support him as he sees it should.

Nobody will claim parentage for Point 15 ("Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.") We do not know the goals of the training, nor are those of us who might object to this given alternatives, which even federal government employees are supposed to have. (Thanks to Jim W. for that link.)

Most faculty, who are viewed as bigots unable to tolerate diversity training, are unhappy but resigned to their fate. Says one usually sensible professor:
Quite frankly, this sounds like a great deal. The university is willing to pay me my standard salary, which is about twice what I make when I write books, to learn about an issue that has had great repercussions at my employment site and within my profession. Sure it isn�t my first choice of activities, but it is something that can help me do my job better, if I take it seriously. I spent over a thousand dollars this year attending meetings to help me better serve my students, this time, I get paid. Compared to the $20 dollars I SPENT Monday for the opportunity to read magazines for 60 minutes and then visit with my physician for 5 minutes, this is a terrific opportunity.
I don't doubt that the benefit of the training will exceed the costs to a significant group of our faculty, but that's more a statement on the productivity of those faculty than on the benefits of the training.

Should we just suck it up and attend? "It's only 75 minutes," I'm told, and "we can't continue to look so recalcitrant." I answered this on the campus discussion list last night.'s not the 75 minutes or the $50 that matters, but this: The life of the university is kept alive each day by the vigorous pursuit of critical truth, the free exchange of ideas by emancipated, individual human beings. What repels in this training -- in all these trainings -- is that academics must check their pursuit of the life of the mind and spirit so as to obey the dictum that pervades the American university: Thou shalt not offend those that are protected. This is the failure that is an orphan, because we run from it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Throwing out the baby with the bath water 

Anyone who's gone to college has a registration-day horror story, and we're no different. But one of our problems has been double holds, which permit a student to register for multiple sections of the same course.
"I have held classes for students almost every semester since I have had priority registration, which started my second year at SCSU," Vicki said. "The main reason why I have done this for students is because he or she wants a specific professor instead of some of the other choices. I have held classes for up to two weeks before."
Vicki is using a pseudonym, because if she gets busted for this there are penalties. The university says it wants to stop this, but says detection is very difficult -- our registrar says, "The only way we know for sure if a student is holding classes is if they come and tell us" -- so instead of dealing with this the administration is increasing the penalty for it. A rudimentary understanding of economics would teach that increasing the penalty on a crime with a detection rate of near zero is ineffective. The administration seems to know this, so they have asked MnSCU to revise the registration system to not permit students to register for two of the same course. Fine, but that applies not just to the current semester but across all semesters!
If there is any question as to why a student is taking a class over, or trying to register for the same class twice, the student will have to get permission from an adviser. This new system would keep track of all grades the student has received. If a student were to take a class over that they received a C in, they will also need permission because it is not necessary to take that class over.
But it is necessary, since in many programs with high demand for majors, GPA minima are used to allocate seats. Many principles of economics textbooks use the question of how to allocate seats in high-demand courses to motivate discussion. Why is it only in those classrooms that price is considered as an allocation device?

How commissioners train 

Northern Alliance grand mufti Saint Paul notes that Education Commissioner Cheri "Grace Under Fire" Yecke has a writing style that befits blogging, or at least the PioneerPress. This following quote is from a Yecke editorial that became part of a failed school board campaign in 1992 in Cottage Grove.
"So why is nothing being done? Why are dozens of families with high-ability children leaving this district? If OBE (outcome-based education) is so good for all children, as we are being led to believe, then why don't we have dozens of families fighting to get into this district?''
The PioneerPress piece that Saint Paul quotes says she used "a style of persuasion and advocacy that Yecke continues to use today. She mixes personal anecdotes with selective references to research favorable to her side. She takes an extreme example from her opponent's argument and hammers it hard." I'm sure it's only rightwingers that do this, yes?

Monday, April 19, 2004

Who's this Kelley guy? 

The Duluth newspaper carries a favorable biography of Steve Kelley, who is seen as being the one-man Senate Education Committee.
Kelley won't say how he'll vote on Yecke when one is taken; it could come as early as Thursday. But her confirmation is widely expected to rise or fall with his decision because other members of the DFL majority are sure to follow their chairman's lead.
It's mostly fluff and an attempt to spin him as a moderate. Interestingly, he went to a private school and yet he's allowed to write standards!

Colloquy on ABoR: Movement 

I've argued several times that the Academic Bill of Rights is an attempt to turn two wrongs into a right. I've been puzzled by the position of the National Association of Scholars, our parent organization, which has at times sounded like it's in favor. But in the Colloquy section of the The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, NAS President Steve Balch has moved his position.
Formally recognizing the value of intellectual pluralism in adversarial fields, and deliberately multiplying the institutional sites wherein it can flourish, may be the best remaining course. The most direct way of doing that would be to allow distinct schools of thought within adversarial fields to organize themselves in a state of partial independence from their rivals, with some significant control over hiring and tenure decisions affecting their members. Academics of a variety of factional persuasions would then be at greater liberty to develop their positions and advance their careers free of the heavy peer coercion they now often experience. Some schools of thought might be unified by a philosophic sensibility, while others would find agreement in a particular methodological or subject-related perspective. Some might span a number of disciplines, while others would be confined to one.

Means of self-organization could vary. In a large university system, departments at different campuses might be allowed to reflect competing viewpoints. Within a single large institution, departments could be subdivided into semiautonomous programs, each exemplifying a distinct outlook. Alternatively, special interdisciplinary programs could be set up outside regular departments for the purpose of harboring a significant perspective that is underrepresented across the institutional board. "Perspective sensitive" programming and "interdisciplinarity" have, of course, become common in academe, usually with the effect of further strengthening prevailing views. Here, they would be put to a new and fruitful use.
Sort of a Balkanization of the departments, which I think breeds some confusion. (We have at least three psychology programs here at SCSU, mostly because these folks couldn't get along with each other.) But it does have merit, not least of which because it's demand-driven rather than establishing quotas for various groups.

As David Horowitz will be visiting Minnesota later this week, I think now is a good time to discuss whether it's time to move the debate over ABoR to Balch's vision, or perhaps this view from the Ithaca College Republicans, which still deserves more attention than it's received.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Cherry-pickin' Kerry 

Mitch mentioned that I would look at the data on the Kerry Middle Class Misery Index; unfortunately life intervened to prevent me from doing so until now. And meanwhile PowerLine has some trenchant observations provided by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Everyone seems to understand that it's cherry-picking the data, but a few points are still waiting to be made. Thanks for leaving that to me!
  1. If you have an economy coming out of a recession and you want to accentuate the negative, it's fairly easy to use lagging indicators -- economic data that turn positive months after the recovery and new expansion begin. And while the number of unemployed is one lagging indicator as everyone knows. So too are bankruptcy rates and median family income*. The upshot of this analysis, as Michael Phillips points out, is that Kerry's misery index could come back to bite him in the arse, as the lagging indicators included in the series turn positive. One more positive employment report, and this thing could be shelved for quite some time.
  2. The focus on employment in manufacturing, and in particular the outsourcing debate, is quite misguided. The current issue of Foreign Affairs carries Daniel Drezner's excellent rebuttal, noting that the extinction of manfacturing jobs has been going on for some time. Jude Blanchette argues as well that the bevy of goods made available to people at constant or even declining prices is something to be praised not damned. Kerry continues to believe that the middle class earns its money by making stuff, but fewer and fewer people do that, worldwide, and not even John F'n Kerry can stop the engine of progress. Instead we produce services, knowledge, information. And some day even those things will be produced elsewhere as the churn continues, here and abroad.
  3. One question begged by the Kerry Index is why he focused on only public university tuitions and left out private universities? I'm sure one reason is that private university tuitions have risen slower during the economic downturn, as states balanced their budgets by reducing middle-class subsidization of higher education. So in essence the middle class is more miserable with lower taxes and less subsidization of higher education than it would be with lower tuitions and higher taxes? I must have slept through that class.
  4. FactCheck notes that when they called Gene Sperling, the ex-Clinton aide that made up the Kerry index, why he had cherry-picked the three prices in the series -- health, gasoline, and college tuition -- he replied that they are "the major things people see and feel." Well in a sense, gasoline is the most visible of the prices we observe, though as I continue to point out to people, the price you'd need in inflation adjusted terms to make this as bad as 1980 is over $2.75 per gallon. This is one reason why Kerry has to focus on changes rather than levels of prices. But it's also misleading, in that gasoline represents less than 3% of the bundle used to evaluate CPI (CPI-U, for urban dwellers, which is the measure most people use). Medical care is under 6%, and college tuition about 1.25%. So he uses a little less than 10% of the CPI to concoct 3/7ths of his index.
Thankfully the index is dying a quick death, taking less than 48 hours to become a joke on Leno.
Yesterday John Kerry introduced something called the "middle-class misery index." He created a whole new formula to judge how miserable we are, and then he said, "Right now the middle-class misery index is the highest it�s ever been." Well, of course it is � he just invented it yesterday!

UPDATE: Thanks, Elder! It is indeed Michael. James, where ya been?

* -- A footnote: Kerry fudged the 2003 median family income number, which is not available, by having it grow at the rate of "usual weekly earnings". Even that could haunt him, as hourly earnings are turning more positive of late, while the weekly earnings figure naturally takes a pause when firms are rapidly adding employees.

Smith redux 

The case of Professor James Miller at Smith College, which Erin O'Connor and I covered first last year has come back around. After finding last year that the two members of Miller's department had violated his academic freedom, Miller was allowed to reapply. But again, on a 5-4 vote -- without the two faculty members who wrote the questioned letters -- the department has voted anew against tenure for Professor Miller. Part of the charge was that Miller had written articles for conservative publications like National Review Online and The Weekly Standard; this article discussing anti-war sentiments in academia in particular on NRO drew some comments from faculty members in letters explaining their votes against tenuring Miller. Miller continues to write topical articles regularly for Tech Central Station, though none of these are in academia. He was, however, interviewed about his troubles last year in national show's like The O'Reilly Factor, and therefore brought some bad press to Smith. Is he being punished for this?

I noted when I last looked that Miller had two articles listed in EconLit. That is now four, including this article last year. So he has continued to be productive, and Miller has had four outside reviewers read his materials. And students interviewed in the student newspaper were clear that while he's a Chicago-trained conservative, he's a valued professor.
"He's definitely a conservative," said Ami Dave '04. "He makes statements that might outrage you, but he provokes you into speaking. I thought he was adding diversity to the conversation," she said.

Miller "has a reputation for being very conservative," said Merica Stoffan '04, who said some people may not sign up for Miller's classes for this reason.

Stoffan has taken three classes with Miller and enjoyed them, she said. "There are things you can learn by listening to someone you don't agree with that you don't get by listening to professors that try to make you feel loved all the time," she said.

Miller is clearly a conservative, but "it was definitely not a hostile environment at all," said Lauma Skruzmane '04.

Miller's game theory class "opened new horizons" for her in terms of different ways of looking at economic issues and at decisionmaking, she said.

"I guess I don't necessarily stand by him in the way he's handling the tenure situation or the way the college is handling it. I just think he was a good addition to the economics department," Skruzmane said.
There does not seem to be much question that on the basis of objective standards Miller deserves tenure. Tenure decisions are, of course, inherently subjective -- it's not like the LPGA Hall of Fame, where you're automatically in when you win so many tournaments. But we have a case where disagreements over methodological fundamentals -- Chicago-style economic rationalism versus what appears to be some who dissent from rationalism -- may be in play. Is that cricket?

More on grade inflation 

Following up on stories I've done here and at Liberty and Power (and see further David Beito's response), the Wall Street Journal follows up with more. They suggest a different corrective:
The result is today's credibility gap, where grades at our premier institutions are no longer real indicators of performance. In the same way that steroids have put a question mark over a whole decade's worth of baseball slugging records, all those Ivy A's now come with their own asterisks.

And the status quo corrupts a fundamental obligation of any university: not only to educate its students but to give them honest, objective assessments of how well they measure up. Which is why we are partial to college transcripts that would list a student's grades along with the percentage of classmates awarded the same grade in a particular class.
Again, the reason GPAs are used by potential employers of college graduates and by graduate and professional school admissions committees is that they have information content. When you have to add data to the same report, it indicates that the information value of the previous datum has decreased. That is, GPAs no longer tell you what you want to know: what is the quality of the student. Adding more data to convey the same information is a decrease in efficiency, not something to crow about.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Standards elsewhere 

The Alabama Scholars Association has contributed to the creation of new social science standards.
The examples of prominent blacks in history were almost all in athletics, entertainment, or civil rights. Hardly any were included for business or science. There were other weaknesses too. Despite the world-shaking impact of 9-11, the document virtually ignored the role of Islam as a religion.

The discussion of key founding documents was often superficial. It said little about individuals who influenced the Declaration of Independence, such as John Locke, or the underlying principles of unalienable rights and consent of the governed. It was entirely silent on important parts of the Constitution, such as the second, ninth, and tenth amendments.

The questions dealing with the human impact on the environment almost always stressed negative examples such as oil spills.

It said nothing about the importance of evaluating students through consistent and rigorous grading standards.
So ASA created a committee and worked with the state's education department to get some improvements. Some, but not all.
Unfortunately, despite the repeated urging of our committee, the Alabama Scholars Association, the Eagle Forum and several board members, the COS committee and the Board of Education rejected an amendment to require students to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as original primary documents.

The proposal lost by a single vote because Governor Riley, a member of the Board, left the meeting before the vote. We can not understand why the Board rejected this common sense amendment.

Many defenders of the status quo argue that teachers will assign the founding documents anyway but our experience in several years of teaching introductory courses at the University of Alabama indicates otherwise. We often find that students have not read either the Declaration or Constitution before entering freshmen classes.
Riley, a R(INO)epublican, has also led a fight for tax increases using rather aggressive tactics. What's worth reading in the document from ASA is the relative quiet in which the Course of Study was debated and decided. A marked change from here.

PiPress: "Let governor choose his team" 

After the BarSpitoon's hatchet job Sunday, it is four days later when the Pioneer Press comes round to the idea that commissioners should be confirmed regardless of their politics.
We believe quite strongly that a governor should be able to populate his cabinet with the commissioners of his choice, provided they are qualified, ethical and have a clean legal record.

Minnesota is ill-served by a confirmation process that threatens to descend into Washington-like partisan warfare. Such a system can only serve to convince good people that public service is a bad career choice. Such a system can only result in further partisan gamesmanship. Such a system is a prescription for gridlock at a time when Minnesota state government desperately needs collaboration, cooperation and a shared sense of purpose and the common good.


The Senate should move quickly to confirm Yecke and Molnau (and Rich Stanek at Public Safety and Pawlenty's remaining upper management choices, for that matter). Let the governor govern with the management team of his choice.

Ultimately, Gov. Pawlenty � and his cabinet � will answer to the voters for those choices. That's as it has always been. And as it should be.

UPDATE: The Daily Globe of Worthington agrees.
Bringing out all the juicy adjectives that are often thrown around in these cases, DFLers accuse Yecke of being an extremist right-winger, an ideological zealot who wishes to dictate strongly conservative education standards on an unwilling public.

... In the larger picture, however, this is not just about Molnau and Yecke. It's about using the confirmation process as a political tool. We think it is better to abandon the political posturing and remember that Pawlenty himself said he refuses to play along with "political hostage-taking."

Advice for press corps 

I've let myself get caught up in a discussion with another MN blogger over Bush's performance in his press conference (which I actually watched on tape -- gosh I am a geek). Last night Special Report runs a segment on what was up with the questions. Tightly Wound has a suggestion for them if they care.
...when you are presented with the opportunity to ask the current President of the United States actual questions about the way Iraq and related foreign policy will be handled, all you manage to pull out of your collective asses is "Twelve-step Lite for Recovering Baby Boomers." And that, my friends, is where you lose a large segment of the population. You know, the segment that DOESN'T still think it's 1970? The segment that kinda thinks that baby boomers are a whining bunch of bastards who can't get past the fact that they're no longer 18 and burning bras and draft cards? Yeah, that segment? Bigger than you think it may be. Just sayin'.

That's how I feel all the time 

Between sessions of my night class (we take a break, during which I retreat to the office to take a belt of Isle of Jura check email) I flip on the webcast of Hewitt. Mitch? Check. Sounds like Elder, OK. And that must be Podhoertz. And then you hear Lileks, who later says some really nice things about the show and a really important thing about Hollywood. He's right about the hand signals, and about the post-show thrill.
Afterwards I walked out into the first pure perfect spring evening we�ve had this year, jumped in the car and slid a CD in the slot. Windows down, music loud, 75 MPH, heading home, thinking the same old thoughts you always get after a radio show.

Now a burger. And a beer.

I had a longer drive, of course, and veg-head that I am the burger is made of rice and mushroom and because church council was still to come no beer. But ah, the night and the music! It is, of course, the first album I played at KSPC in 1980. "Revolt into Style", Mitch -- this here is bumper music!

I've figured out the radio experience by way of Steven Wright:

You know when you're rocking in a rocking chair, and you go so far that you almost fall over backwards, but at the last instant you catch yourself?

Chutzpah award contestant 

Don't you just love this press release from FrankenNet?
"MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting's conduct in this matter has been disgraceful. To shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media industry."
And apparently, looking at the crapola left in the comments to Mitch's post on FrankenFlap, this type of good business sense is quite common. Yes, calling one of your affiliates disgraceful and irresponsible should help get you more affiliates. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, whadda moroon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Where there's smoke... 

According to Minnesota Education Reform News , alarms are sounding in the anti-Yecke camp.
Carrie Lucking, a social studies teacher in state Sen. Steve Kelley's district and founder of the Alliance to Block the Confirmation of the Commissioner (ABC), is alarmed. According to a message sent to ABC members:

Ms. Yecke is circling the wagons. Her supporters are sending letters to the Senate at an alarming rate. This must be counteracted...The Senate says they�ve been hearing more from Yecke�s supporters lately than from us! This is a problem! We outnumber Ms. Yecke�s supporters, but our voices must be heard.
Scholar the Owl wonders if the BarSpitoon hit piece has backfired. The Taxpayers League is having a rally tomorrow morningfor, inter alia, the Commissioner's confirmation. A vote on Yecke has been delayed due to a death in one senator's family.

The beatdown on the STrib's editorial 

Powerline points us to this fisking of the BarSpittoon editorial that I was too lenient with on Monday. Money quote
The important point is that she has antagonized the teachers union which has had a chokehold on state education policy for decades. As for "educational experts" why do we care if she has antagonized them? Who made them "stakeholders?" Who the hell are they anyway? I can't believe Pierson Yecke's "management style" could possibly be worse than Ms. rude-girl-gogo-boots and miniskirt, Christine Jax, Ventura's Education Commissioner.
Hell yeah, as Jesse might have said. RTWT, which includes this article about a Minneapolis school board member that might pull her child out of public school. Would she then be disqualified to write social science standards?

More fun than one should be allowed to have 

I wrote my kid sister last night after my stint on the Hugh Hewitt Show (from the dungeon the lovely studios of AM1280 the Patriot) and reminded her of the high giggle our father would emit when something simply tickled him. It was a different laugh than the joke laugh, more glee than humor. And that's what the show was for me: a gleeful experience, fun punctuated by moments of sheer terror when Mitch would be looking for me to say something and I had to think fast. And it was made better by a call from Saturday show good friend DC from Brainstorming and the incredible amount of work, advice and encouragement from the Generalissimo. I would love to do it again, but while we're on again tonight, I will be in the classroom, doing the other thing that makes me occasionally gleeful.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Fifth grade activists 

Friend and loyal reader Burt sends along a link to this show in Chicago which describes a group of fifth-graders in a rundown school in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago that are lobbying for a new school. Byrd Community Academy, whose students are almost all African-American, have invited reporters to the school to see its decrepitude. The school district seems to prefer to move students out of the building eventually rather than build a new building for Byrd's students.

I suppose you could argue, like the assistant principal does, that the project "is already a success because of what it's taught the kids about solving problems without arguing, fighting and threatening." But given the rather poor scores students are receiving at Byrd, wouldn't it make more sense to get the students interested in learning basic skills? If the project induces that, then it will be well worth it.

Idiots in plain sight 

This guy probably should teach at SCSU:
In the end, we like policies like affirmative action not so much because they solve the problem of racism but because they tell us that racism is the problem we need to solve. And the reason we like the problem of racism is that solving it just requires us to give up our prejudices, whereas solving the problem of economic inequality might require something more -- it might require us to give up our money.
Michael gives this quote the beating it deservers.

History News Network 

At Liberty and Power, David Beito responds to my grade inflation post by suggesting instead that we use rankings.
For example, if the class has twenty students, they would be ranked 1 to 20. Ties could be averaged. If there students are tied for number 1, for example, each would be ranked 2 (the average of the ties). Ranking would not replace grading. Because the ranking and the letter grade for each class would *both* appear in the transcript, however, this reform would introduce greater truth in grading. Thus, a student receive an A in this class of twenty but still be ranked twenty in the class.
Many schools, particularly law schools, give an overall class rank based on GPA. While David's point has merit, it would mean that recruiters and HR professionals would have to acquire more information from a transcript than before -- GPA is popular because it is supposed to contain much information in one number. Use of rankings admits that the information content of that number has been reduced by inflation (just as price inflation reduces the information content in changing prices for milk or gas.) Nevertheless, if the demand for information on relative student academic quality is high enough, it will be worth it for employers to sift through the ranking data.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Show prep 

You'll note that I've linked up AM1280 the Patriot and the NARN sites in the template now, but indeed we are to go national for two days as substitute hosts for the Hugh Hewitt Show. Here are the stations we'll be on, if you're interested. My thin and breathily nervous voice should appear tomorrow between 5-7pm CT. A chance to talk to Frank Gaffney! Better get ready. Posting might be light tomorrow.

UPDATE: Thanks for the broken link tip, Brad!

Over the same terrain 

James describes the drive between Minneapolis and Fargo (his hometown):
...once you clear the great urban smear that extends 40 miles west, it�s you and the highway. Nothing to see; move along. After St. Cloud come the Expanse - 70 + miles with only two towns of any note, Melrose and Freeport. The latter has a smiley face on the watertower. I�ve always wanted to stop by. I never have.
Central Minnesotans all know Charlies, the cafe in Freeport that beckons those who cannot wait for the Chain of Chain Restaurants in Alexandria. It recently changed hands. The food is relatively non-descript, as is the town but for the churches. Indeed, as you roll up that road you get churches that dwarf places like Albany, Freeport, not to mention the mega-chapel at St. John's in Collegeville. But after Freeport comes pretty much nothing before Alex, and after that a few lakes and fade to Fergus.

I make the same drive as James; rather than parents to visit, I see my son who goes to college in the Fargo-Moorhead area. (At least for now; if his grades don't improve I expect my first experience in boomerang child-rearing.) I bought a new car last fall with a CD changer so as to survive that drive. Even so, when you drop the kid off or leave him for another month or so, it's hard to come back.

Coming back is hard. After Alexandria the traffic inexplicably thickens. Before you get to Alex, it�s light. After Alex the road has five times the traffic. I can only guess that most of middle Minnesota funnels through Alex to hit the highway into the city.

The result? Well, sometimes you�re in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sometimes you�re doing 80 MPH. Tonight I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic that went 80+ MPH for 95 miles, and if you don�t think that�s a harrowing experience, well: try it.
I do, and it doesn't bother me very much. Many people here in St. Cloud commute in either direction, Alex or the Cities, and they talk about courtesy speeding. It's not the level but the variance of speed that is dangerous, and regular drivers know to fall into the speed that the traffic moves and not fight it. It's like a lightening-fast invisible sheepdog guides us down the road. Lane changers are frowned at, as well as those who tailgate.

As to funneling through Alex, well, for those of us in the know in St. Cloud, Alex is easier to get to and has as much water and golf as Brainerd. Brainerd has the Blue Ox? Well, Alex has Big Ole. Lots of traffic after Alex, James? The people have spoken.

Whistling past the graveyard 

JB, it's still an issue. Steve Kelley got a front-Sunday-opinion-page rebuttal to the claim that his handling of the Yecke confirmation is partisan. To Steve, it's only Republicans calling in protest, completely ignoring MAPSSS, MinnBEST, and those still learning their ABCs. (If I have to link to those people again for you, you need to read here more often.) And yet not two months ago, Kelley said,
"I get e-mails and phone calls every day saying: 'Don't confirm her,' " Kelley said. "Her supporters have not contacted me."
So if we contact you we're partisan and if we don't she has no support? And he wants us to believe that he intends "to act on confirmations thoughtfully, objectively and with an eye to the good for all of Minnesota." You, sir, are a liar.

And of course, the BarSpitoon has joined in with Kelley, despite the coverage its own education reporter has given the affair.

In more ordinary, more civil times, we might be tempted to question, even deplore, the DFL's threat to use the confirmation process to jettison two of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's commissioners. But these are not ordinary times. And Cheri Pierson Yecke and Carol Molnau are not ordinary cabinet commissioners.
Situational ethics in action.

It's hard to have it so easy 

Do we shelter our high-schoolers so much that they can't cope with the changes to college life? According to an article in yesterday's BarSpitoon, the answer appears to be 'yes'. At SCSU we are getting more and more stories of students having mental-health issues, but these numbers tend to be a little bit misleading. First, from the article:
at Carleton College, also in Northfield, 42 percent of the students will have had at least some mental-health counseling by the time they graduate, Carleton officials said. By far, the most common diagnosis is depression, which affects some 15 to 20 percent of college students both nationally and in Minnesota. Severe anxiety is a close second.

Those numbers are about the same for the population as a whole. But stressed-out college kids are particularly vulnerable, experts say.
15-20% of us nationally are depressed? And if it's the same nationally as in universities, from where comes this vacuous phrase "stressed-out kids are particularly vulnerable", which seems tautological.

The change from high school to college can be overwhelming, sure. We all have had the experience of the freshman dorm from which many friends from orientation are gone by spring. What makes it more stressful today than twenty-five years ago?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Wow, that was fun 

Just got off the air for the Northern Alliance Radio Network, where for the second hour we interviewed Steven Hayward, whose new book is The Real Jimmy Carter. Wonderful interview with a very knowledgeable author. And he was an econ major -- but of course!

Friday, April 09, 2004

High school success predicts college success 

I don't know why this is a shock to anyone. For readers with high-schoolers who are input minimizers, which is pretty much all of them, read this. What matters most? Get good grades, do your homework and keep taking math. Not a surprise to those of us over forty, btw.

UPDATE: Cold Spring Shops elaborates.

Now turn us on 

Several of the Scholars are emailing about Ludacris' performance and Dave's post a few days ago. The campus paper's coverage of the event starts like this...
On a typical Wednesday night, most of the women at SCSU can be found at the library modeling studious habits and presenting a high moral integrity that would make their parents proud.

But last night, many of the SCSU women could be found at Halenbeck Hall, among a crowd of 5,000 chanting Ludacris lyrics chalk full of sexual innuendos that promote sexual actions most people would be embarrassed to talk about.

Perhaps the best example was displayed when Ludacris rapped his current radio hit, "Splash Waterfalls." His chorus was responded to by women asking Ludacris to, "Make love to me," and inevitably, "F- me."
"Inevitably" because the chorus is a call-response, and those words are the response. You'd think after so many years of diversity education at SCSU we could get unique responses, though. What about, "I don't think this music is a good idea. It is sexist and plays on some of the worst stereotypes about men and women both. I see it as, frankly, kind of juvenile." Or "he's using a woman's body to sell a product."

Yeah, I don't get rap.

Supply-side solution to grade inflation 

Proposed at Princeton:
AMID CONCERNS about grade inflation, Princeton University officials have proposed limiting the number of A's to less than 35 percent of the grades awarded in undergraduate courses and setting a common grading standard in all departments on the campus.
Source : Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only, sorry.) Grade distribution of HURL, Fall 2003:

Grade Number Given Percent of Grades Total Credits
A+ 38 2.79% 96
A 713 52.35% 1644
A- 101 7.42% 282

At least they're down from 3.7.

UPDATE: Univ. of Houston's Education News service has the New York Times article on this story.

UPDATE 2: Additional thoughts of mine at Liberty and Power.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

PiPress greenlights Borking 

While I might agree with the PioneerPress editorial that Pawlenty's claim of Democrats discriminating against conservative women in the confirmation battle over Carol Molnau and Cheri Yecke are specious -- the editorial seems to want to have it both ways.
The DFLers reject the claim [of gender bias]. To them, competence matters the most in high government office. They said they judge the governor's appointees on merit and performance and the lack of both, if that's the case.
OK, though fourteen months is a pretty long probation particularly for Yecke, who already did the job in Virginia. And while the Senate may wish to weight performance over qualification, its use of this long a probation period usurps the supervisory function from the governor, who hires these people to work for him, to the Senate. That would seem to violate the spirit of dividing government into branches. But later the editors write:
Pawlenty is correct that his appointees are charged first with carrying out his wishes. If they are removed from their positions, he will appoint a new commissioner who will move forward on the same issues. Consequently, the debate from Democrats has as much to do with the governor's policies as it has to do with the commissioners who embrace those policies.
So now they want to say that it's OK to remove someone because you disagree with policies, but that the governor can just send someone else with the same policies. But if they do, they'd be rejected too. Did these editorial writers learn civics under the Profiles?

Headline I thought I'd never see in the Chronicle 

Students celebrate Christianity. {slaps forehead]

How connections grow 

This one is personal; since I run this blog, I think I'm entitled.

My first brush with the wonders of the internet came through fantasy sports and in particular my love of baseball. Eleven years ago eleven people I didn't know and I formed a rotisserie baseball league; five of the original twelve will draft tonight, and for the first time hear each other over a conference call. Until three years ago none of us had ever met, yet with one other owner I had exchanged Christmas cards and birthday greetings for years. When my son lost his mother (my ex-wife) while I was overseas on an assignment, that fellow sent some of the best advice and encouragement I received.

So last night I'm testing a chat area online for my friends and ask one of the newer owners how he was, he told me about a project he's undertaken to raise money for his niece to receive a new heart. There are many fathers who play fantasy sports, and many fathers who are bloggers, and I thought it would be nice to post this note here to ask for donations for Abbie. I've never met her or her uncle, but the bonds we create over the Internet seem pretty real when you look at her picture.

UPDATE (3:30pm): Just got an email from Willy that a donor heart has been found. Abbie is probably receiving it right now. It's a day of great blessings!

Saint Paul not wild for Title IX 

I must have missed a doozy of a third hour on the NARN last week (I was sipping James Page in first class returning from California after successfully navigating between Mitch and JB Doubtless in Hour One.) Frater Saint Paul doesn't think much of women's basketball and after tussling with the PowerDudes Saturday, he gets it all off his chest again today.
To restate my conclusion, as a sporting event, women?s basketball is not compelling and on it?s own certainly not deserving of the Pearl Harbor sized headlines, loving editorials, and special sections printed in the local papers.

Which makes one wonder why the general public is subjected to such things. After much deliberation, I?m left with the suspicion that the only reason to get behind women?s basketball this enthusiastically, dare I say fanatically, is for its usefulness as a social statement. It?s a tool for those advocating a certain radical vision of equal rights among the sexes. More bluntly, it?s a advance for the cause of mainstreaming feminism in American culture.

Understand, my conclusion has nothing to do with the simple fact that women are playing sports functionally designed to be played by men or that they?re getting equal opportunities for athletic scholarships.
I agree that the game is not terribly compelling (though I admit to watching the UConn-UM national semi, it was to see how Whalen stacked up to Diana Taurasi, who I think would be a serviceable point guard in the men's college game.) I have several very conservative friends who watch Div. II women's college basketball and speak about their recruiting classes and so on, and most of it is about as interesting as watching a violin recital for your eight-year-old niece.

But let's be clear as to why it is on the air and why it is getting coverage. The NCAA pumps up women's basketball because it's the closest thing to a female revenue-sport, and Title IX is forcing schools to create these programs. SCSU has a women's hockey team not because we're competitive -- so far, we're not -- but so that there are thirty or so more female athletes that can balance against the men. Not all schools can do that. The University of South Dakota, which doesn't have women's hockey, now has to cut its baseball program to allow it to fund women's sports to meet Title IX. And as Sid Hartman pointed out a few days ago, Minnesota has had its ADs fighting to force broadcasters to show women's sports on air as part of a package for men's sports. This is not uncommon.

The NCAA has made Title IX a cause celebre. It instructs its presidents, ADs and coaches to promote women's sports. It should come as little surprise then that it gets coverage beyond the merits of the sport, and even less surprise that some people exposed to it end up embracing it. As to fans here loving the Lady Gophers, it's Hartmanism -- the support of all things Minnesota, the desire for relevance in a world that passes by in silver tubes in the air, particularly for those of us outside the Twin Cities.

And I think Saint Paul has another point to make: Why does the NBA fund the WNBA as a loss-leader? I hope he'll write on that game, which is even more unwatchable than a regular-season NBA game.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Voted least likely to win a Women's Studies scholarship at the nursery 

Via Lileks, who also adds a new entry to my .sig collection.
Guys in dresses is one thing. Angry guys in dresses is a different matter.
Hewitt, he's all yours.

He's playing my song 

... and it's a train whistle. Cold Spring Shops thinks as well that the twenty big ideas of the National Council for Economic Education should be the basis of the social science standards. If the Secret Committee for the Senate Standards would like to place those in lieu of the claptrap in their now, I'll sing their praises. Stephen also notes the work of the late, great Paul Heyne. One of my memories of grad school was a dinner with him and my public finance prof; his text is still the sine qua non of intro books. No graphs, great end-of-chapter questions that could take a well-spent lifetime to answer.

Be careful what you wish for 

For months now the opponents of the social science standards have engaged in attacks on the politics and character of the citizens who wrote the House-approved standards. EdWatch has decided that turnaround is fair play, so they've enunciated the views of the writers of the Senate's alternative secret meeting standards. This article from frequent Scholars visitor M gets cited.
Kozol's work convinces me that by being a citizen of the city where I teach, in solidarity with my students, I can equip the next generation of citizens to improve all of our situation.
Here's an example of his equipping of the next generation: "Thou shalt never go near a suburban school."

UPDATE: To be clear, M did not say that last quote but one of his students, of whom he "is proud", did instead. My apologies for any confusion.

Fall in for KPI 

An "anonymous" letter from a reader on strategic planning at SCSU.

One can go and �take� the KPI survey and not answer any of the questions, just to see what they ask. I found only a few that made any sense at all.

One that I really found confusing was in Diversity and Social Justice category: �The University will strive to create and maintain a welcoming environment for students, faculty, staff, and administration from all walks of life. This includes maintaining a rich environment that models respect for difference and providing a supportive and nurturing climate for all university students, faculty, staff and administrators of color.�

Among the options for meeting this KPI were these two:

1-Disparities in the salaries and benefits/support, retention, and promotion of employees based on race, ethnicity, gender, and age will decrease in any given planning period.

2- The University will provide comparatively more competitive opportunities, salaries, and incentives for hiring, retaining, and promoting highly qualified faculty, administrators, and staff in any given planning period.

These struck me as a bit odd. I recall the overall result was that while there might have been a little salary inequity between males and females in earlier years (factoring in differences in years of experience and discipline), that the most recent data used (2000?) essentially found no salary inequity based on gender or race. So if the statistical analysis showed no disparities, how can we list decreasing disparities as a goal? Is this also saying that there is a disparity in promotion based on race, ethnicity and/or age? Do we know that this is true?

And are we then saying with #2 that it will be okay to go �violate� the salary grid in order to give faculty, staff and administrators of color higher salaries? Or are we saying that we�re going to throw out the contract and allow for higher salaries for [any] highly qualified faculty?
S/He's discussing KPIs #9 and #7 in this document. Note the data they cite to use for measurement of #9:Sounds like a quota to me. For the other they will not only look at starting salaries but "mean salary by bargaining unit" (read, academic department.) But in a contract that gives raises regardless of merit (if raises are given to anyone, they are equal to all), are we now going to say the only thing meritorious of unequal raises is membership to a protected class?

Hoax, schmoax: It's a great story 

NARN quarterback Mitch Berg points us to today's Michelle Malkin article on the Kerri Dunn affair, which includes some hilarious moments (like a press release from the campus rabbi to explain an ethnic slur) and this one quote which sums up so much.
As is typical in these cases, the perpetrator and her loyal supporters are in denial. Dunn, who was involved in past tangles with the law over shoplifting charges, blames the police for being irresponsible and "irreparably damag(ing) her reputation and emotional health." Minority students shrug at the fraud. "I'm not concerned with whether it's a hoax or not," said Pomona College junior Adam Briggs of the Pan-African Student Association.
The comparison to Tawana Brawley is telling; here again is the story of our own Tawana.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

A Ludacris double standard? 

Twelve months ago SCSU�s University Chronicle reported on the controversy caused by this billboard that was posted in the city of St. Cloud by a local radio station.

Many called this billboard disgusting and degrading to women. At the time, SCSU�s Women�s Center started its Community Coalition against Sexism. The group reportedly sent out letters asking companies to pull their advertisements from the radio station and considered boycotting advertisers who would not comply.

Now this year SCSU�s administration has seen fit to allow hardcore rap performer, Ludacris, to hold a �concert� on our campus this Wednesday evening � two days after the start of Passover, and right in the middle of Holy Week. Those not familiar with Ludacris may want to check out some of his more educational lyrics. For example in his classic composition, �Hoes in My Room,� Ludacris waxes philosophical about �pimpin� for hoes,� a �midget hoe,� how �Niggas fu** bitches,� �pussy smell,� �tupper-ware titties,� �faggot Bill O�Reilly,� �chicken-sh**,� �mothafu**in,� and how to �put our foot up the asses of fat, gorilla, monkey-mouth bitches.� [RTWT if you have the stomach for it.]

So maybe you think that feminists on our campus would be at least as outraged by the appearance of Ludacris as they were a year ago by a billboard. Well, apparently not. The head of SCSU�s Women�s Studies Program today posted a piece that claimed to rationalize her decision not to boycott the performance or even to protest the appearance of Ludacris. Try, if you can, to decipher the meaning of this explanation of an apparent double standard.

We can engage in constructive dialogue about misogyny in popular cultural expressions generally, as opposed to isolating hip-hop music as the scapegoat for violence against women and the moral decline this society is facing. I say this because I understand hip-hop to be a rather complex cultural form that is tied to, and embedded in the larger social relations of this society. That is, hip-hop is tied to multinational corporations such as (Sony, Warner Brothers, EMI, MCA BMG and Polygram � only one of which is US owned). [HUH?] I also understand that in Hip-Hop�s potential to be transgressive, [HUH?] in that it speaks to the angst of urban youth, it can also reinforce some of the same social variables found in the larger society: exploitation, sexism, homophobia and violence.

HUH, again? What did she just write? Apparently there must be some deeper than black-and-white issue to analyze here. Or maybe I just can�t force myself to accept the fact that SCSU has now sunk to the level of the state�s University of Diversity and Perversity, on a mission for MnSCU to lower all academic (and now moral) standards to Minnesota�s lowest common denominator.

I'm voting for NOTA 

Reader Phil sends me to this forum of our IFO presidential candidates who are answering questions posed by the Feminist Issues Committee. Read 'em and vote none of the above.

Protecting Shamus 

According to Agence France Press, Scottish junior soccer (OK, football, ya Europhile, ya) is being afflicted with the self-esteem bug. This atop the weird ban on parents taking pictures of their soccer kids in England. The Littlest Scholar has entered the world of softball this year for the first time and shows no signs of liking soccer. She has even requested to wear my old Red Sox cap. Makes her father proud. (Hat tip for first link: minginminnesota.)

Just confuse them 

The lastest of the Campus Conversations (read: administration sticks wet finger into air, decides policy) asks us to solve the question of which "key performance indicators" or KPIs we should retain in our strategic plan. (If you are reading this late at night due to insomnia, the strategic plan cures all.) This asks for input on how important you think "academic distinction" and "diversity and social justice" are. Answers, we are assured, are anonymous. That isn't exactly true -- someone has to filter the log-in data. When this survey turns to faculty attitudes, which I'm sure it will, how willing will people be to say the university spends too much time on this strategic priority? One may claim the data is anonymous, but at the end of the day someone has to be sure that the data really have been cleansed to the point that recognition is impossible. That's a really, really hard thing, as university libraries even are finding out. Libraries are responding by minimizing stored data -- but that would seem to work only up to a point.

I spoke with some people in the private sector this AM who have the same types of issues. One says he always lies on requests for survey information because of the invasion of his privacy. Students apparently feel the same way, as they have now stopped reporting demographic information on their SATs, for example. Non-reported ethnicity is now "the largest minority group taking the SAT." As a result, data on relative performance of minority groups on the SAT are suspect. So too will be data acquired by the survey.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Kerry voted for NCLB before he voted against it 

Another of the Northern Alliance brethren contributes this analysis of Kerry's voting record on No Child Left Behind, from reputed right-wing rag the Los Angeles Times. When Ron Brownstein says that "[h]is proposed revisions mostly favor the adults working in the school system over students and their parents," you know you've done something really bad. Brownstein continunes,
The demand for loosening the accountability standard is based largely on the myth, now embraced by Kerry, that the law punishes schools designated as needing improvement.

In fact, schools face no changes until they have failed to raise student performance for at least two consecutive years. Even then, they are only required to develop an improvement plan and, more important, to allow parents to transfer their children to other public schools. If the school fails to improve student performance for three consecutive years, it must provide low-income parents stipends to obtain extra tutoring for their kids, often from respected providers like Sylvan Learning Center.

In other words, when students don't make progress, the law initially demands that schools offer parents more options � the chance to switch schools or receive extra tutoring. "These are not things that parents will tell you are punitive � they are benefits," said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Education Trust, a group that advocates for low-income children.

I don't like you, so we're divided 

The battle over Cheri Pierson Yecke's confirmation as MN education commissioner is now delayed until April 13th after a day of hearings. MPR's jaundiced coverage calls her an "extremely polarizing figure". I mean, look at this paragraph:
Gov. Pawlenty appointed Yecke 14 months ago. Since then, she's been a highly visible and extremely polarizing figure. Yecke has taken the most heat over her proposal for new social studies standards. She hand-picked committees of educators and parents to develop the learning requirements.
That's not a quote of someone else; that's Tim Pugmire editorializing under guise of news. And while she received an endorsement from the Minnesota Rural Education Association (what was their representation in the alternative social studies standards, by the way? Check out EdWatch's scorecard), that in itself is unusual. Pugmire at least reports one fact:
The inclusion of testimony from opponents and supporters is an unusual approach for a Senate confirmation hearing. Commissioners typically appear alone for a brief exchange with lawmakers. Yecke says she accepts the fact there are deeply divided opinions about her confirmation.

"Well it seemed that nearly every person who spoke in opposition had problems with the social studies standards," Yecke said. "So, it appears to be that that's driving some discontent."

The opponents are running a smear campaign, including inflammatory comments such as calling Yecke "totally scholastically retarded". Because someone calls her such a name, she's considered "divisive", and that's what passes for political discourse in Minnesota.

Diversity training for lawyers upheld 

Our NA friends at Power Line report on that the case of Elliot Rothenberg, who is threatened with suspension from the bar if he does not meet an "elimination of bias" requirement. Big Trunk is offering a course called "Bias in the Legal Profession: What Bias?" and has invited the Minnesota Supreme Court to speak about its ruling. Alas, no takers. I will ask Trunk if non-lawyers like me can attend the course.

Trunk recommends also reading Bias CLE 599 to 1, a blog written by a lawyer who filed an amicus brief for Rothenberg. With any luck, one or more of these people will be a future guest on Northern Alliance Radio. Watch for program announcements.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Shouldn't economics standards be written by at least one economist who teaches? 

I guess not if you author the alternative standards. Scholar the Owl has gotten the list of authors of the standards, and here's the team for YOUR SENATE'S economics standards:
"3. Economics Writing Team

Joseph A. Ritter
Associate Professor
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs

Tracey Deutsch
Assistant Professor
Department of History
University of Minnesota

Rick Theisen
Social Studies Teacher, grades 10-12, Osseo High School, Osseo,
Minnesota, 1966-July 1, 2000"
Deutsch is a historian and Theisen is no longer an active teacher. Ritter was an economist at the St. Louis Federal Reserve and I don't believe he is a full-time professor at the HHH. Exactly what is it about these three that make them competent to write these standards?

Square peg, round hole 

According to another email from the lobbyist, Senator Kleis' opt-out bill for schools to exit MnSCU has died in a Senate committee without a vote. I'm trying to get Senator Kleis to confirm this. So even if we don't fit in, we'll have to get along.

UPDATE (April 5): Sen. Kleis confirms by email that the bill is dead for this session.

Whom do you (price) discriminate towards? 

OK, this is weird: From an email by our union's lobbyist today,
Sen. Sandy Pappas, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee will be presenting her recommendations for items to be included in the Senate Omnibus Higher Education Bill today. Among the items that will be included will be legislation that would allow undocumented noncitizens to attend Minnesota public higher education institutions at resident tuition rates. The people affected by this legislation are young people who were brought to this state by their parents when they were children, and have attended Minnesota elementary and secondary schools. They now find it difficult to go on to higher education institutions because they lack documentation. They are ineligible for in-state tuition rates and financial aid.
And yet, if you are an American serving in the armed forces and lose your residency in Minnesota, you must pay out of state tuition rates to attend SCSU when you leave the service. What is the meaning of this?

Wow, the Chronicle has another libertarian! 

We've been pretty harsh on the Chronicle this year, but let's give credit where credit is due: They've at last got someone to write a libertarian piece. Ever since they lost last year's student-scholar Scott Bushee, the quality of the editorial page has deteriorated, which makes this easily the best editorial done. Clean, concise and to the point.
The hypocrisy of the government as a whole in dealing with this situation is amazing. Minnesota is one of 14 states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, yet the state prohibits same sex marriage.

In a country that is supposed to be free, there are too many limitations being placed on citizen's rights.
I doubt Ms. Kropp has defended this position consistently, but if she can show it we'll make her a candidate for this year's award.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

President salutes King 

St. Cloud State University President Roy Saigo early today stopped by the office of the Economics Department Chairman, King Banaian, to congratulate him and members of the SCSU Scholars on their blog's 100,000th page view.

Underscoring the university's newly articulated position that differences in political beliefs are as significant as those of "race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, [and] religion," President Saigo offered these words:

It's my belief that it's only through the expression of a multitude of divergent and complementary perspectives that students can learn to think critically in a dialogically correct setting. I embrace diversity of opinion, just as diversity embraces me. I see a day when diversity will engulf the entire ecosystem of my university, empowering me further with an aura of inclusivity and cosmic justice.

I will strive to develop new Key Performance Indicators that will show the progress I am making in welcoming diversity of political opinion to my campus. In all my future surveys about how well I'm communicating, I pledge to ask respondents to identify for me their political ideology, as well as their age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, length of service, and university position . . . as well, of course, as their I.D. number. I want to be better able to identify for myself the rich, diverse, and colorful threads that weave together the tapestry that I've come to love as my university.

In the comments section that follows, all blog visitors are invited to add their own words of congratulations and thanks to King. No fooling!