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Minding the Campus

  • How to Fight for Free Speech on Our 'Sensitive' Campuses
    Minding the Campus on July 28, 2010

    About fifty undergraduates from around the country gathered outside of Philadelphia, on the campus of Bryn Mawr College, between July 15 and 17th, to discuss the struggle for free speech on American campuses. The event was the third annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) conference organized by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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  • The Sad Transformation of the American University
    Minding the Campus on July 26, 2010

    By Herbert I. London This is the slightly edited introduction to the author's new collection of essays, Decline and Revival in Higher Education ( Transaction Publishers ). Dr. London is president of the Hudson Institute, one of the founders of the National Association of Scholars, and the former John M. Olin Professor of the Humanities at New York University. book_reg_B84A0192-DB43-AEA5-19F4316BB9740083.jpgWhen I entered Columbia College in 1956, the college had a deep commitment to liberal opinion. Father and son Van Doren (Mark and Charles), the recently appointed Dan Bell, my adviser named Sam Huntington, the legendary Lionel Trilling, and a brilliant lecturer named Amitai Etzioni graced the campus and, more or less, leaned left at the time, albeit over the years several had their political orientation change. Yet there was one constant: These professors eschewed orthodoxies, notwithstanding the fact that in a poll of faculty members Adlai Stevenson won the 1956 presidential sweepstakes hands down. Different views were welcome. Controversy was invited. "Political correctness" had not yet entered the academic vocabulary, nor had it insinuated itself into debate and chastened nonconformists. I was intoxicated by the sheer variety of thought. For me this smorgasbord of ideas had delectable morsels at each setting. It was at some moment in my senior year that I became enchanted with the idea of an academic career.

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  • The Short-Selling of For-Profit Education
    Minding the Campus on July 22, 2010

    By Charlotte Allen The letter, dated June 17 and addressed to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, made serious allegations of wrongdoing in the already controversial for-profit education sector: that representatives of career colleges were trolling for students at homeless shelters, loading education debt onto a problem-beset population with poor prospects for academic success in order to funnel federal loan funds into for-profit coffers. Now it turns out that the letter was orchestrated by, and its very language prepared by a Dallas woman, Johnette McConnell Early, who was being paid to investigate for-profit colleges by an investment firm that might be hoping to turn its own profits by short-selling the colleges' securities.

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  • Seeing Academic Repression Everywhere
    Minding the Campus on July 19, 2010

    By Anthony Paletta acrep1.jpgIn the epilogue of a new compendium volume, Mark Bousquet notes that, "In July 2007, the American Sociological Association reported that one-third of its members felt their academic freedoms were threatened, a significantly higher figure than the one-fifth ratio recorded during the McCarthy years." Sounds dire, doesn't it? Well not if you've spent the prior 500 pages learning just how fantastical the contributors' conceptions of academic freedom are. The book is Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex, edited by Anthony J. Nocella, II, Steven Best, and Peter McLaren. It's a bad sign when the appearance of Bill Ayers, Ward Churchill, and Howard Zinn as contributors on a book cover leaves one still unprepared for how unfathomable its premises are. Academic Repression purports to demonstrate how corporatization and right-wing assaults have marginalized academic freedom and genuine liberal thinking at our universities. Really?

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  • Your College President Is Your Pal
    Minding the Campus on July 15, 2010

    By Frank J. Macchiarola Tales of the modern-day college president were reported by the Washington Post in a July 12th article, "College Presidents Taste Life Outside Their Offices," by James Johnson and Daniel de Vise. The president, we were told, is more accessible and easy to talk to, less formal and willing to do things with students unheard of just a few years ago, including joining in a student snowball fight on campus. Many of them have transformed themselves from authority figures to buddies and big siblings as they show their human side. It is something that many parents and students have come to expect as they pony up tuitions that continue to grow even as their resources do not. The presidents want to show their respective publics that they know their students and their needs and will make a great effort to satisfy them. The trend toward more effective marketing of the campus leader comes at the same time that colleges are offering greater creature comforts to their students - health clubs, new labs and classroom buildings, better appointed living quarters and increasing variety in campus dining. Thus, the accessible college president is like the concierge in a first-class vacation resort. In addition, the college can make contacts for students off campus - internships, study abroad programs, joint degree programs, new majors, distance learning and enhanced placement services for graduates. It strives to be "the college for all seasons." Although the article did not suggest it, the reality is that colleges are falling in line with other institutions in a transformation of major parts of American culture. They are putting extraordinary emphasis on what the consumer would like to have. In some significant ways, the institutions are becoming what the market expects of them. Their actual mission statement begins to describe what will sell. These institutions surrender the sense of self and the understanding of core values that traditionally represented who they were and what they were doing. In many respects they believe that their survival requires them to cast their lot with the future rather than the old past.

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  • How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others
    Minding the Campus on July 12, 2010

    When college presidents and academic administrators pay their usual obeisance to "diversity" you know they are talking first and foremost about race. More specifically, they are talking about blacks. A diverse college campus is understood as one that has a student body that -- at a minimum -- is 5 to 7 percent black (i.e., equivalent to roughly half the proportion of blacks in the general population). A college or university that is only one, two, or three percent black would not be considered "diverse" by college administrators regardless of how demographically diverse its student body might be in other ways. The blacks in question need not be African Americans -- indeed at many of the most competitive colleges today, including many Ivy League schools, an estimated 40-50 percent of those categorized as black are Afro-Caribbean or African immigrants, or the children of such immigrants. As a secondary meaning "diversity" can also encompass Hispanics, who together with blacks are often subsumed by college administrators and admissions officers under the single race category "underrepresented minorities." Most colleges and universities seeking "diversity" seek a similar proportion of Hispanics in their student body as blacks (since blacks and Hispanics are about equal in number in the general population), though meeting the black diversity goal usually has a much higher priority than meeting the Hispanic one. Asians, unlike blacks and Hispanics, receive no boost in admissions. Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as the quota-like mentality that leads college administrators to conclude they may have "too many" Asians. Despite the much lower number of Asians in the general high-school population, high-achieving Asian students -- those, for instance, with SAT scores in the high 700s -- are much more numerous than comparably high-achieving blacks and Hispanics, often by a factor of ten or more. Thinking as they do in racial balancing and racial quota terms, college admissions officers at the most competitive institutions almost always set the bar for admitting Asians far above that for Hispanics and even farther above that for admitting blacks.

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  • What Happened at Berkeley in November
    Minding the Campus on July 8, 2010

    By Donald A. Downs 4123344197_3c3696375a.jpgWe now have a long and fascinating report by the campus police review board on last fall's disruptive protests at the University of California, Berkeley. The 128-page document, entitled "November 20, 2009: Review, Reflection, and Recommendations," released in mid-June, is the product of months of yeoman work garnering volumes of evidence. It chronicles and evaluates responses to the events sparked by resentment over tuition increases and cutbacks in the wake of California's financial debacle. Berkeley deserves credit for thoroughly investigating the situation. And the report is worth reading for many reasons, one of which is because it casts light on a dilemma that Berkeley and many other schools have been unable to resolve since the famous Berkeley "Free Speech Movement" of 1964 launched decades of illegal student protest: how to balance students' passions for social justice (and sometimes other motives) with the rule of law.

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  • NYU's Perilous Adventure in Abu Dhabi
    Minding the Campus on July 6, 2010

    By Charlotte Allen New York University will open its vaunted campus in Abu Dhabi this fall, and so far it does seem to be the best campus that money can buy---Gulf oil money, that is. The story of the NYU-Abu Dhabi linkup, the brainchild of John Sexton, NYU's strategically ebullient and relentlessly donor-courting and expansion-minded president, is a story of many paradoxes. The greatest paradox of all is that this first step toward creating what Sexton calls a "global network university" of NYU campuses all over the world is being entirely bankrolled by the government of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, which is a good thing for NYU because the university's $2.2 billion endowment (shrunken by nearly one-third in the recent financial crisis) is by far the smallest of any private U.S. university with the world-class ambitions that Sexton claims for NYU.

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  • The Ongoing Folly of Title IX
    Minding the Campus on June 28, 2010

    Connecticut's Quinnipiac College, best known for its political polling, is now at the center of the newest round in the controversy over Title IX and women's sports. In a trial that opened last week, a federal judge must decide whether competitive cheerleading should count as a sport for gender equity purposes. The case illustrates the complexities -- and some would say, the inanities -- of the debate over gender and college athletics.

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  • Make-Believe Grades for Real Law Students
    Minding the Campus on June 24, 2010

    Almost every morning, after taking a shower, I get on the scale to see if I have lost some of the extra weight that I do not want or need. I have tried many ways of shedding the pounds, with diet and exercise at the top of the list. The pounds refuse to disappear. After reading Catherine Rampell's piece, "In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That," in the New York Times, I realized that there is a simpler way. A slight adjustment to the scale, so that the measuring starts at minus 15 pounds rather than zero, could bring instant relief. I could truthfully -- if not honestly -- say that according to the scale, I was now less than 175 pounds. This droll reverie faded to disappointment as I pondered the implications of adjusting law school grades in the fashion recounted in the Times

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