Tag: Higher Education

What, Precisely, is the Issue with ‘Elites’?


Conservatives/libertarians and especially Trump supporters often speak about “elites” in pejorative terms. Why is this? I doubt that many among these groups would argue in favor of mediocrity (a la the senator who famously argued that mediocre people also deserve representation on the Supreme Court) and/or of extreme egalitarianism and social leveling. Indeed, quite a few outspoken conservatives and libertarians could themselves be considered to have elite status in view of their professional, economic, and/or scholarly accomplishments. So what is the critique of elitism all about?

Several factors seem to me to be at work…

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Working on a university campus I am most tempted to believe “experts.” In higher education, expert theories and theorists abound. Professors tend to present themselves as authorities as to what is acceptable, or not. Specialists in their fields of study may consider themselves to have reached the pinnacle of academic prowess. However, when I read […]

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AZ Senate Fights to Ban Racist DEI; Dems Furious


Republicans in the Arizona State Senate want to stop racial discrimination and racist ideology. Democrats and their allies think this is a terrible idea.

Sen. Justine Wadsack (R) sponsored a bill to prohibit public agencies from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity. The legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1024, would give Arizona voters a chance to strengthen the constitutional ban on racial discrimination. Once passed by the GOP House and Senate, it bypasses the Democratic governor and goes straight to the voters.

Key to this effort is stopping public agencies from requiring employees or job seekers to sign a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) statement they may or may not agree with. Not only is this compelled speech, it asks faculty to treat people differently depending on their immutable characteristics.

REPOSTED FROM OCTOBER: With the Supreme Court finally discussing President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, it’s a great time for anyone who missed it to check out our previous episode on the economics of student loan forgiveness!

Dr. Beth Akers, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in higher education finance, discusses the economics of student debt, and what the Biden relief plan will and will not achieve.

What kind of person is our education system designed to create? Best-selling author and award-winning essayist William Deresiewicz discusses the failures of our higher education system, how it mis-conditions our elite, and fails to value the humanities, as well as his latest collection of essays, “The End of Solitude.”

Sign up for our event with Bill via Zoom in 1 week! https://jmp.princeton.edu/events/college-kids-are-not-ok-and-what-do-about-it-conversation-william-deresiewicz-end-solitude

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Richard Vedder, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University. He shares analysis on the macro impact of COVID on the U.S. labor market, and the long-term economic prospects of American college students. He reviews insights from his recent book, Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America, on the true cost of higher education to American society amid the student debt crisis, administrative bloat, controversial admissions policies, and intercollegiate athletics scandals. They discuss the need for greater transparency about students’ earnings potential, the key ingredients of higher education reform, and what he refers to as the “three Is”: information, incentives, and innovation.

Stories of the Week: In Arkansas, Governor-elect Sarah Sanders has hired Jacob Oliva, a senior chancellor in Florida’s education department, to lead reform efforts, and focus on school choice and early literacy. Congress recently passed a $1.7 trillion federal omnibus package that provides $70 million in additional funds for statistics, research, and evaluation within the U.S. Education Department.

To Protect Religious Students’ Feelings, Hamline University Jettisons Academic Freedom


I’ve spent nearly 15 years advocating for free speech in higher education and defending the rights of students and faculty to do the same. That’s to say that hopefully the following statement carries a bit of weight: In defending the non-renewal of an art history instructor’s contract for showing a 14th-century painting depicting the Prophet Muhammed, Hamline University president Fayneese Miller made one of the worst pronouncements on academic freedom I’ve ever seen a university president make – maybe the very worst. 

The instructor in question showed the painting – in a class session on Islamic art, it can’t be stressed enough – as part of an optional exercise, one students were given the opportunity to opt out of, and which was preceded with a warning about its content. In spite of the exit ramp offered by the instructor, a Muslim student in the class complained about the display, and the administration took swift action. David Everett, Hamline’s associate vice president for inclusive excellence, denounced the classroom exercise “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful, and Islamophobic.” Days later, he announced that the instructor would be “no longer part of the Hamline community.”

With the Biden Administration’s student loan relief coming down the pike, Annika sits down with Dr. Beth Akers, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in higher education finance. Beth discusses the issue of student debt, and what the Biden relief plan will and will not achieve.

You can find more information about Dr. Akers and her recent writing and appearances here.

Professor Sues U. of Wash. After Being Punished for ‘Inappropriate’ Opinion on Land Acknowledgments


Perhaps you’ve heard of “land acknowledgment” statements, which have come into vogue in educational and cultural institutions. In the higher education context, the gist of such statements — sometimes placed on course syllabi, sometimes spoken at meetings, exhibitions, or performances — is to state that the institution’s campus sits on occupied indigenous lands. This year, the University of Washington’s computer science department encouraged its faculty to issue such statements, offering approved language on how to word them. 

UW computer science professor Stuart Reges didn’t think much of this, viewing the exercise as performance (he’s not alone), so he crafted one of his own to make a point. More than four months later, after being accused of creating a “toxic environment” and subject to a seemingly unending harassment investigation, Reges has sued his employer to vindicate his First Amendment rights. Reges is represented by my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

Louisiana Enhances Student Due Process, Free Speech Protections, While Dept of Ed Threatens Both


Last month, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed two bills into law that will significantly strengthen key civil liberties in higher education. HB 185, introduced by Rep. Charles Owen, codifies important free speech protections for students at Louisiana’s public colleges, while HB 364, introduced by Rep. Scott McKnight, provides critical due process protections. My employer, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), advised Louisiana legislators as they drafted and revised each bill.

HB 185 makes important revisions to Louisiana’s existing campus free speech law. Among its provisions, the law adopts the speech-protective definition of student-on-student harassment established by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which defines student-on-student harassment as conduct “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” HB 185 also prevents colleges from charging security fees to students and student organizations based on the content of their expression or the anticipated reaction to an invited guest’s speech.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” guest co-host Kerry McDonald talks with Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Journalism, and author of the books, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, and The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy. He reviews the history, design, and purpose of the SAT and standardized assessments of academic merit, and how secondary schools and higher education institutions have used, or misused, tests as they relate to race and equality of educational opportunity. He offers thoughts on colleges’ and the American Bar Association’s recent shift away from standardized testing, and the impact on American education and society. Another topic they cover is the Great Migration, the movement of six million Black people from the American South to Northern, Midwestern, and Western states between 1910-1970. They explore the larger lessons about this pivotal episode in American history, and the social and educational policies that might help remediate our society’s ongoing racial struggles.

Stories of the Week: Co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson discuss a school choice program in Michigan, that would have provided nearly $8,000 to help families with private school tuition or other expenses such as tutoring, but was vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Also, most education technology companies have seen a steep decline in valuation since the pandemic, defying many expectations that school closures would accelerate and expand the marketplace for digital learning.

State Governments Delivering on College Students’ Free Speech, Due Process Rights


There’s been no shortage of unconstitutional legislation affecting speech on campus for my employer, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), to cover of late. It’s a breath of fresh air, then, to commend Kentucky, Indiana, and Georgia for passing new new bills protecting student free speech and due process rights. 

The most transformative of these measures is the Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act, which Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law on April 8. Under the law, students facing suspension or expulsion at public institutions of higher education are ensured vital due process protections, including:

‘Challenges to Academic Freedom,’ and Our Readiness to Meet Them


Today, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal runs my review of Challenges to Academic Freedom, a new book of essays considering its subject from a variety of angles. Its authors run through a series of critiques and assessments — of the social media outrage machine, the reach of Title IX and Institutional Review Boards, the barely-there academic freedom protections for adjunct faculty, and so on. I think their concerns are well-placed, and I valued the book’s variety of perspectives and approaches, especially those essays that considered the issue in a more historical framework.  

I’m left convinced, however, that even if we could resolve all the volume’s concerns we still couldn’t give academic freedom a clean bill of health, for a simple reason: We aren’t doing the necessary work of building an appreciation and understanding of its value in the current generation, and that leaves it vulnerable to the more fashionable demands of the current moment. I write:

An Unwelcome Campus Renaissance for the Heckler’s Veto


If you’d seen the multiple reports of campus speakers being shouted down (or very nearly so) on university campuses and thought, “there sure seems to be a lot of this going around,” I’m here to tell you: You’re not wrong. I’ve been on the staff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for 14 years now, and even by our standards the “heckler’s veto” seems to be having a heck of a run

Consider these cases from recent weeks:

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Arthur Levine, a scholar with New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, a senior fellow and president emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and president emeritus of Columbia University’s Teachers College. He shares the main findings and recommendations of a new book he recently co-authored, The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future. He discusses some of the key issues of academic quality, technology, administration, and cost in American higher education today, before and after COVID-19. He also offers thoughts on the role of teacher preparation programs in delivering better academic outcomes for students of all backgrounds. They explore how schools of education can be reformed to better prepare teachers with both the wide background knowledge and practical experience necessary to boost student achievement, and how they can achieve the stellar reputations enjoyed by law and medical schools. The interview concludes with Dr. Levine reading from his recent book.

This episode also features a shorter interview with Dr. Sephira Shuttlesworth, to commemorate her late husband, Civil Rights activist Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who would have turned 100 on March 18th, and share her current work to help students recover from trauma.

Coping with the Trauma of Free Speech


A sign at Colorado State University offers 17 separate campus resources for students who can’t even and are literally shaking because someone expressed an opinion they disagree with.

Yeah, it’s real. Colorado State University offers 17 separate campus resources for students who “can’t even” and are “literally shaking” ( a “Victim’s Assistance Hotline”) because someone expressed an opinion they disagree with..  They didn’t even have to hear the “offensive” opinion to be traumatized by it. Just knowing that someone, somewhere on campus may have expressed an “offensive” opinion is enough. And even if the opinion wasn’t directed at you, you can be offended on behalf of “someone you know” who should have been offended by it.

FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff: ‘We’ve fully entered the Second Great Age of Political Correctness.’


In his new feature for the January 2022 edition of Reason magazine, Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I also work, puts to readers: 

We’ve fully entered the Second Great Age of Political Correctness. If we are to find a way out, we must understand how we got here and admit the true depths of the problem. 

Elite Universities’ Fall of Failure on Free Expression


It probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to Ricochet readers that America’s most elite colleges and universities are often far from elite where their performance on free speech is concerned. Even so, as we’ve been writing at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) over the last couple of weeks, their cultures of free expression have been showing some signs of seriously ill health. A quick rundown:

  • Yale University attracted nationwide scorn this fall for its treatment of a law student, whom it pressured to issue a public apology over an email promoting a social event that made a joking reference to a “trap house.” But as my colleague Adam Goldstein and I wrote recently, another, less ballyhooed incident likewise raises serious concern. Psychiatrist and author Sally Satel delivered a lecture to the psychiatry department at the Yale School of Medicine (where she is a visiting lecturer) discussing the year she spent working in rural Ohio treating people struggling with opioid addiction. Following her lecture, a group of “Concerned Yale Psychiatry Residents” demanded that Satel be stripped of her lecturer title for her “dehumanizing, demeaning, and classist” remarks, seizing upon, of all things, a reference to an “artisanal coffee shop.”
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology came in for heavy criticism after its department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences rescinded its invitation for University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot to deliver its annual John Carlson Lecture. The reason for Abbot’s disinvitation had nothing whatsoever to do with the scientific nature of his planned lecture; it was because he’d previously published a column criticizing university diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and proposing what he believed to be a fairer alternative. As my colleague Komi German documents, that’s only the most prominent in a string of free expression challenges that has seen MIT stumble.
  • Most recently, the Stanford University Undergraduate Senate denied funding to the Stanford College Republicans, who sought to bring former Vice President Mike Pence to campus for a lecture. Audio recordings of the senate’s vote make clear that viewpoint discrimination played a role in the decision. ​​One student senator is recorded saying that “if you’re against the individual speaker, then I think it’s fine to vote in that way.” Or, put differently, it’s perfectly fine to let your personal politics and morality supersede your duty to treat funding requests in a viewpoint-neutral manner.

A theater professor refused to express anger at something that wasn’t meant to cause anger. Coastal Carolina University wants to fire him for it.


If you haven’t heard of Coastal Carolina University’s absurd punishment of theater professor Steven Earnest (and you made it through that headline without frying too many brain cells), you might take a couple of more minutes to read through this week’s press release from FIRE:

On Sept. 16, a visiting artist was working with two students of color after class, and one student expressed that she felt isolated and would like to get to know other non-white students in the department. The visiting artist asked about whether it might be helpful for non-white students to connect as a group, and she and the students wrote out the names of other non-white students on the classroom whiteboard while brainstorming ideas. 

FIRE’s 2021 College Free Speech Rankings Find Increased Student Support for Censorship


Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), working alongside College Pulse and RealClearEducation, published the second rendition of our College Free Speech Rankings. Among the takeaways? Prospective college students who want a college with a strong culture of free expression should consider Claremont McKenna College or the University of Chicago, which come first and second (with CMC taking the top spot held by UChicago last year). By that same token, they might want to think twice about DePauw University, which finishes last for the second consecutive year.

When we published our first edition of the rankings last year, the nearly 20,000 students at 55 institutions made it the largest survey of college student attitudes on free speech ever conducted. Nowhere to go from there but down? Nonsense. This year, we surveyed nearly triple the number of schools (159) and nearly double the number of students (over 37,000). The report takes into account the varied dimensions of free expression on campus, including the ability to discuss challenging topics like race, gender dynamics, and geopolitical conflicts; whether students hold back from openly sharing their views; and official campus speech policies.

The rankings found that more than 80% of students report self-censoring their viewpoints at their colleges at least some of the time, with 21% saying they censor themselves often. Only a third of students say that their college administration makes it either very or extremely clear that it will protect free speech on campus. What’s more, some illiberal streaks among the student population seem to be trending in the wrong direction. For instance, 66% reported some level of acceptance for speaker shout-downs (up 4 percentage points from FIRE’s 2020 report), and 23% agreed that it’s acceptable for people to use violence to stop certain speech (up 5 percentage points). Additionally, students generally showed much greater intolerance for campus speakers with conservative positions.