On the basis of positive reviews by Tyler Cowen:
I found this book subtle and thought-provoking throughout. Here is one good bit:
In fact, many conservative academics feel more at home in the progressive academy than in the Republican Party. This alienation is not because most conservative academics we interviewed are Rockefeller Republicans. In some respects, they are more conservative than self-identified Republicans in the general population. Instead, the Republican Party tends to trouble even the most conservative professors because they share with the American founders a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements. This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism that has shaken up the Republican Party in recent years…
What also comes through in this book is the remarkable diversity of thought among the so-called “intellectual right.” ... I feared I would be bored by this book, but I found it a work of quality scholarship, yet highly readable too.
And by Jonathan Marks in today's WSJ:
Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. are not complaining—conservatives both, they are tenured political scientists at Claremont McKenna College and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. They aim to understand those conservatives who, despite being “widely stigmatized in academia,” have nonetheless made a home in higher education: What are they like, and how do they think they are doing? ...
Messrs. Shields and Dunn hope that their account, which suggests that “conservatives can survive and even thrive” in academia, will persuade their counterparts outside academia not to dissuade young conservatives from pursuing careers at universities where they are sorely needed. However hard conscientious progressive academics may struggle to understand arguments with which they disagree, that struggle will be much harder if they cannot, as the philosopher John Stuart Mill suggests they must, hear those arguments “from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest and do their very utmost for them.” The integrity of our colleges and universities will be hard to preserve in some fields if more young conservatives cannot be attracted to them.
As a conservative who has made a good life as a college professor, I could hardly sympathize more with Messrs. Shields and Dunn when they argue that colleges and universities are not the dens of far-left iniquity that our fellow conservatives sometimes make them out to be. Yet the academic job market is such that even students free of any stigma take a big risk in embarking on academic careers, and the authors acknowledge that conservative academics really are a “stigmatized minority.” It is therefore hard to imagine very many young conservatives following me and Messrs. Shields and Dunn into academia—and it’s hard to justify encouraging any but the most hardy to do so.
I am reminded of the scene in Men in Black, where J asks K if "it's worth it." It sounds like Marks and I would give an aspiring conservative academic the same answer K gave.
Former Homeland Security boss and current University of California President Janet Napolitano's authoritarian streak is acting up again (HT: UCLA faculty blog):
Napolitano ... ordered new action against Berkeley law school dean Sujit Choudhry, who resigned this week after his former administrative assistant filed a civil lawsuit against him and the UC regents. In the lawsuit, Tyann Sorrell alleged that UC officials mishandled her complaints that Choudhry subjected her to continuous unwanted kissing and touching over several months until March 2015.
Napolitano directed Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to bar Choudhry from campus for the rest of the term and institute disciplinary proceedings against him through the Academic Senate, which could result in suspension or dismissal. Napolitano also told Dirks that UC does not intend to defend Choudhry against Sorrell’s claims in court...
Of course, it's not just Big Sis, but practically every other university administrator in the country. Under the Obama administration's aggressive interpretation of Title IX and with the willing assistance of a slew of university diversity administrators, most schools have thrown out inconvenient things like due process and the presumption of innocence. One allegation--no matter how transparently bogus--is enough for the campus Robespierres to call for someone's head ... and to get it.
From the UCLA Faculty Association:
I'm not really surprised that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have got over 75% of total campaign contributions from UCLA employees, although I'm a tad surprised there aren't more of my colleagues feeling the Bern. After all, we are the official state university of the People Republic of Westwood, where ideological conformity is our motto and intellectual diversity the words that may not be spoken in polite company.
Speaking of Democrat dominance of the campus, notice that the pitiful and pathetic Martin O'Malley campaign pulled in more money than all but one GOP candidate.
But I am surprised by how well Ted Cruz is doing. This place and almost two-thirds of Bernie's haul. Fascinating. Yet puzzling.
There is a new paper out on the corporation form and the concept of reification. My initial reaction to the paper was, how can you write on that topic and not cite the seminal work of my friend, co-author, and colleague William Klein. My second reaction was to have a bad headache caused by plowing through this sort of writing:
Combining the reified status of the corporate form with its convenience for the perpetuation of a particular kind of political economy, it can be argued that the highly problematic ontological and epistemological status of the corporate form may very well not be the result of simple theoretical and methodological aberration, and will probably not be solved by better theory formation.
As the NY Times observed all the way back in 1999:
The journal Philosophy and Literature has taken to holding an annual Bad Writing Contest, with prizes going to the work of some of the country's top scholars. There is even an Internet site that automatically creates a ''post-modern'' essay, replete with bloated jargon and incomprehensible sentence structure, every time someone logs onto it (www.cs.monash.edu.au/cgi-bin /postmodern). (''If one examines a post-dialectic conceptualist theory, one is faced with a choice: either reject post-dialectic conceptualist theory or conclude that culture is capable of truth,'' was a recent creation.)
Yet the debate has taken a new twist recently with a decision by Edward Said, the new president of the Modern Language Association, to use his first official column in the association's newsletter to denounce bad writing. In an essay on how science is growing at the expense of the humanities, he accused literature departments of fostering incomprehensible writing and factionalism, resulting even more in their ''diminishment and incoherence.''
It wasn't just Mr. Said's position as head of the largest and most influential organization of literary scholars that caught people's attention, however: Mr. Said himself is a progenitor of a new kind of literary and cultural criticism that has frequently used difficult language.
One of the country's most prominent literary critics, Mr. Said concedes that his own writing hasn't always been easily accessible, but he said in an interview: ''I moved away from that kind of thing many years ago, because I feel myself that it's terribly important as an intellectual to communicate as immediately and forcefully as possible.
Indeed, clarity ought to be the first goal of every academic. Bad writing is contrary to the very purpose of academic inquiry:
In 2006, Daniel Oppenheimer, then a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, published research arguing that the use of clear, simple words over needlessly complex ones can actually make authors appear more intelligent. ...
A disconnect between researchers and their audiences fuels the problem, according to Deborah S. Bosley, a clear-writing consultant and former University of North Carolina English professor. “Academics, in general, don’t think about the public; they don't think about the average person, and they don't even think about their students when they write,” she says. “Their intended audience is always their peers. That’s who they have to impress to get tenure.” But Bosley, who has a doctorate in rhetoric and writing, says that academic prose is often so riddled with professional jargon and needlessly complex syntax that even someone with a Ph.D. can’t understand a fellow Ph.D.’s work unless he or she comes from the very same discipline.
Indeed. I have been thinking, reading, and writing about reification and the corporate form for almost 3 decades and I have no idea what point the author was trying to make. Interestingly, the corporate law sentence got a Gunning Fox index of 36, while the invented post-modern literary sentence only got an index score of 21. "An interpretation [of the index number] is that the text can be understood by someone who left full-time education at a later age than the index."
There are lots of explanations for why people write this way, but I think a lot of it has to do with obfuscation. How do you assess the merits of an idea if you can't parse it?
Former Homeland Security Big Sister Janet Napolitano was a crappy choice to run the University of California for many reasons. One thing that worried many of us was her propensity for snooping and invading the privacy of innocent people. And now it's come true:
UC Berkeley faculty members are buzzing over news that University of California President Janet Napolitano ordered the installation of computer hardware capable of monitoring all e-mails going in and out of the UC system.
“The intrusive device is capable of capturing and analyzing all network traffic to and from the Berkeley campus and has enough local storage to save over 30 days of all this data,” Ethan Ligon, one of six members of the school’s Senate-Administration Joint Committee on Campus Information Technology, wrote in an e-mail Thursday to fellow faculty members.
Information that the hardware gathers, Ligon wrote, “can be presumed to include your e-mail, all the websites you visit, all the data you receive from off campus or data you send off campus.”
Of course, as usual, Big Sis' minions claim it's all for our own good and we have nothing to worry about:
The university system is defending the new monitoring as necessary, and says that it is not routinely reviewing anyone's email. While some faculty leaders may yet be convinced about the need for the system, many are speaking out against the secretive way that it was deployed without going through standard faculty committees that in the past have had the chance to be briefed on technology security measures.
One of Sis' minions actually told the press that "Privacy perishes in the absence of security," which sounds like something Orwell's Ministry of Truth would have come up with.
Speaking about the intellectual climate on campus, Summers says, "The main thing that’s happening [on campus] is what always happens, professors teach courses, students take courses, students aspire to graduate, they make friends, they plan their lives… That said, whether it's the President of Princeton negotiating with people as they took over his office over the names of schools at Princeton, whether it is attacks on very reasonable free speech having to do with adults' right to choose their own Halloween costumes at Yale, whether it's the administration using placemats in the dining hall to propagandize about what messages students should give their parents about Syrian refugee policy, there is a great deal of absurd political correctness. ...
Summers also blasts "microagressions" as crazy. "The idea that somehow microaggressions in the form of a racist statement contained in a novel should be treated in parallel with violence or actual sexual assault seems to me to be crazy. I worry very much that if our leading academic institutions become places that prize comfort over truth—that prize the pursuit of mutual understanding over the pursuit of better and more accurate understanding—then a great deal will be lost."
Great column. Go read the whole thing but here's a taste:
Racial and ethnic diversity, it is said, helps students learn about different points of view and prepares them to live and lead in a multiracial and multicultural society. This new orthodoxy creates a relentless focus on race and ethnicity in admissions, and at times even more so in faculty hiring.
... Ezra Klein of Vox amassed data suggesting that the greatest cleavages society were not between racial and ethnic groups, but between members of different political parties. A high percentage of members of both parties, for instance, expressed horror at thought of a daughter or son marrying outside the faith. Large majorities of both parties would be likely to hire a member of their party over that of another. As Ilya Somin has noted, such partisanship has troubling implications for democracy. Partisans will be more likely to dismiss opposing views reflexively, making beneficial decision making far less likely.
Thus, assuming we accept diversity as essential in higher education, it would seem that we need at least as much political diversity as diversity with respect to race and ethnicity. Students would learn about different political and ideological viewpoints if exposed to those espoused by Republican as well as Democrats, by conservatives as well as liberals. Indeed, political diversity provides a more direct way of gaining access to different viewpoints than relying on race and ethnicity, which are at best proxies for viewpoints. Society as whole would benefit because citizens would learn not to reflexively dismiss viewpoints. .
Yet higher education has largely shown no interest in political or ideological diversity.
High education: Hoist by its own petard.
In today's WSJ, there was a letter to the editor that made me chuckle:
Wouldn’t it be terrific if these products of participation-trophy childhoods could be weeded out during the application process to allow for matriculation of deserving kids who understand democracy and who genuinely appreciate the value and privilege of an elite education? I can only hope that this might happen before the entire Ivy League devolves into a progressive-socialist nightmare.
"Before"? As John McWhorter wrote (also in today's WSJ):
The problem is that the university campus is already one of the most exquisitely racially sensitized contexts a human being will ever encounter in America—a place where, for example, comedians such as Chris Rock have stopped performing because audiences are so P.C.
Today's elite institutions are the most politically correct spaces in the world. The real world thus will come as a real shock.
Will runs through a bunch of higher educations recent greatest hits and concludes:
So, today give thanks that 2015 has raised an important question about American higher education: What, exactly, is it higher than?
L. Gordon Crovitz discusses the University of Chicago's statement on free speech on campus, which seems increasingly pertinent these days:
The University of Chicago formed a committee under law professor Geoffrey Stone “in light of recent events nationwide that have tested institutional commitments to free and open discourse.”
The committee report, released in January, cited former university president Robert Hutchins, who defended a speech on campus by the 1932 Communist Party presidential nominee by saying the “cure” for objectionable ideas “lies through open discussion rather than through prohibition.” Another former president, Hanna Gray, said: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.”
The Chicago statement on free expression echoes these sentiments: “It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
Instead, “the university’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the university community, not for the university as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.”
Purdue and the Princeton faculty have voted to adopt the Chicago principles. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is encouraging other universities to sign up.
I'd love to see UCLA adopt the Chicago principles. But I won't be holding my breath.
I've said it time and time again: this PC crap has gotten way out of hand. But now even a liberal talking head as far left as Chait gets it:
That these activists have been able to prevail, even in the face of frequently harsh national publicity highlighting the blunt illiberalism of their methods, confirms that these incidents reflect something deeper than a series of one-off episodes. They are carrying out the ideals of a movement that regards the delegitimization of dissent as a first-order goal. People on the left need to stop evading the question of political correctness — by laughing it off as college goofs, or interrogating the motives of p.c. critics, or ignoring it — and make a decision on whether they agree with it.
Go read whole thing.
Fire.org reports that Yale Students Demand Resignations from Faculty Members Over Halloween Email:
Students called for the resignation of Associate Master of Silliman College Erika Christakis after she responded to an email from the school’s Intercultural Affairs Council asking students to be thoughtful about the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes. According to The Washington Post, students are also calling for the resignation of her husband, Master of Silliman College, Nicholas Christakis, who defended her statement. ...
Christakis drew on her experiences as a child development specialist to question whether a university should dictate what students should and shouldn’t wear on Halloween:
I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.
In addition to expressing concerns about how policing students’ costumes can limit the exercise of imagination, free speech, and free expression, Christakis asked:
Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
The response to Christakis’ email was explosive. More than 740 Yale undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, faculty, and even students from other universities signed on to an open letter telling Christakis that her “offensive” email invalidates the voices of minority students on campus.
This PC crap is getting out of hand. Some days I want to do something really offensive just to give the PC idiots the finger. But I like my Dean too much to bring that sort of trouble on her head. So I watch what I say. But when I'm ready for retirement, look out....
By Molly Worthen in the NY Times:
Lectures are essential for teaching the humanities’ most basic skills: comprehension and reasoning, skills whose value extends beyond the classroom to the essential demands of working life and citizenship.
A lecture is not the declamation of an encyclopedia article. In the humanities, a lecture “places a premium on the connections between individual facts,” Monessa Cummins, the chairwoman of the classics department and a popular lecturer at Grinnell College, told me. “It is not a recitation of facts, but the building of an argument.”
Absorbing a long, complex argument is hard work, requiring students to synthesize, organize and react as they listen.
What law school needs, of course, is the small section discussion element that manu undergraduate courses offer.
There was an incident at UCLA recently, the precise content of which remains a matter of factual dispute, that has once again highlighted the problem of free speech on our campus. My friend and colleague Jerry Kang, who is now UCLA's Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, penned a heartfelt response, much of which I agree with, but with which I also take issue in large part. Specifically, Jerry writes:
What’s tiresome is that these incidents follow the same worn script. Some students decide to celebrate, using caricatures. Students of color are stunned and protest. Universities respond (or don’t). The accused deny the accusation or express puzzlement why anyone has taken offense. Next they show remorse (or don’t). Pundits push back, complaining about over-sensitivity, political correctness gone wild, and the First Amendment. Anonymous hate mail, tweets, comments, and even death threats explode on all sides. Eventually, some resolution — often unsatisfying — is cobbled together. Things recede slowly to “normal.” Until next party season, at the next university. Rinse and repeat.
I get it, but I'm afraid I don't buy it. My objection is that the First Amendment is not just a tool for pundits--it is at the heart of what a free nation is about. And the First Amendment clearly protects one's right to be offensive, so long as that offense does not escalate into so-called fighting words. As the Supreme Court explained in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coal., 535 U.S. 234, 245 (2002) (emphasis supplied):
It is also well established that speech may not be prohibited because it concerns subjects offending our sensibilities. See FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726, 745, 98 S.Ct. 3026, 57 L.Ed.2d 1073 (1978) (“[T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it”); ... Carey v. Population Services Int'l, 431 U.S. 678, 701, 97 S.Ct. 2010, 52 L.Ed.2d 675 (1977) (“[T]he fact that protected speech may be offensive to some does not justify its suppression”).
In contrast, there is no right to be free from being offended. At the end of the day, I therefore find myself in complete agreement with my friend and colleague Eugene Volokh, who was quoted extensively by Conor Friedersdorf in The Anti-Free-Speech Movement at UCLA in The Atlantic (of all places). You should go read the whole thing, but here's the money quote:
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, one of America’s foremost First Amendment scholars, has published several Washington Post items explaining why these reactions are legally dubious. “The suspension of the fraternity and sorority is likely unconstitutional,” he wrote. “Costumes that convey a message are treated as speech for First Amendment purposes (see, e.g., Schacht v. United States (1970)and Cohen v. California (1971)). And a university may not punish speech based on its allegedly racist content; see, e.g., Rosenberger v. Rector (1995), which holds that a university may not discriminate against student speech based on its viewpoint.”
He adds that “interim speech restrictions imposed before a full investigation and adjudication have historically been seen as more constitutionally suspect (as so-called ‘prior restraints’), see, e.g., Vance v. Universal Amusement, Inc. (1980); and the prior restraint doctrine is applicable to restrictions imposed by universities, see Healy v. James (1972). But in any event, even setting aside the prior restraint doctrine, suspending an organization’s social activities because of the offensive message conveyed by the organization’s past speech violates the First Amendment.”
BTW, Eugene's got multiple posts on his own blog on the topic that expand on the legal issues (go here and scroll down).
So I must agree with Friedersdorf that "UCLA administrators should publicly apologize for ... caving to the illegal demands of student activists." Which will probably have those activists coming for my head too.