All posts tagged: University Education

Like the Campus Thought Police

Smith College police chief Daniel Hect was put on administrative leave after becoming an object of campus hate. Chief Hect’s crime was ‘liking’ (not writing) tweets that fall outside of academia’s ever shrinking zone of toleration. Behold the offending tweets: “Stay the course Pres. Trump” “BUILD THAT WALL!!” “The National Rifle Association wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas!” The tweets express opinions that most Trump voters would likely support. And the chief stands accused not of originating these tweets, but of merely liking them on his own personal Twitter account. If you are not familiar with Twitter, know that liking doesn’t always imply support. The official reason given for Chief Hect’s suspension was, as Smith’s President wrote, because “members of our campus community have voiced a lack of trust” in him. Given the protests, “lack of trust” is quite the understatement. Interpreted in the most favorable light, the students might be worried about the chief’s views on immigration. Smith College is devoted to the spirit of the sanctuary campus movement within “the …

The Dearth of Conservatives in Academic Philosophy

It is no secret that conservative political views are underrepresented in the academy. In Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, John A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. cite surveys that put the number of professors who self-identify as conservative in the humanities at between four and eight percent. It should therefore come as no surprise that conservative political views are scarce in philosophy. While it may seem impolite to raise this issue when the philosophy profession is contending with a rather different diversity problem, the fact itself is philosophically interesting. It is strange, for instance, how rarely philosophers agree about a wide range of thorny philosophical problems, and yet they appear to be unified on a range of complex issues that divide the American public roughly in half. Why are there so few political conservatives in philosophy? Some hypotheses stand out immediately. One may notice that philosophy requires a critical attitude that sits uncomfortably with the characteristically conservative respect for authority. As a profession, philosophy also does not offer career …

Harvard’s Flawed Response to Ronald Sullivan Joining Weinstein’s Defense Team

The criticism of Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan by some student activists for his decision to join the defense team of Harvey Weinstein, and the ongoing response of Harvard University to that criticism, raise important concerns about the ability of Harvard to maintain an intellectual environment of high integrity. This still evolving story weaves together four themes that are hardly unique to Harvard: the #MeToo movement and how universities should respond to it; the conflict between that movement and some fundamental principles of American jurisprudence; the approach of universities to the education and emotional comfort of their students; and how university leaders should respond when threats are made to their core institutional values. The concatenation of these issues in the Sullivan affair threatens to create a toxic brew. The story begins with Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a man of remarkable accomplishment. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School (HLS) where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association. Following graduation, he directed the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia, …

Forget About Decolonizing the Curriculum. We Need to Restore the West’s Telos Before it’s Too Late

The campaign by left-wing student protestors and some faculty to force Western universities to “decolonize the curriculum” has been surprisingly successful. A movement that started at the University of Cape Town in 2015, with the demand that the city’s university remove its statue of Cecil Rhodes—“Rhodes Must Fall”—quickly made its way to the U.K., with student activists calling for his statue at Oriel College, Oxford to be taken down. At its heart, the movement seeks to challenge what it characterizes as the dominance of the Western canon in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the under-representation of women and minorities in academia. It also, like many movements inspired by critical theory, maintains that a person’s beliefs and worldview are largely determined by their skin color, sexual orientation and gender. In a society “still shaped by a long colonial history in which straight white upper-class men are at the top of the social order,” argues Priyamvada Gopal, a Cambridge University lecturer, “most disciplines give disproportionate prominence to the experiences, concerns and achievements of this …

Liberal Orthodoxy and the New Heresy

I teach college in a small city in Arkansas, deep in the American Bible Belt. I am a historian of Africa and in my department that means that I also teach a world history survey. I always start with the expansion of modern humans out of Africa and their encounter with other types of humans: Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denesovians and what seems like an ever-growing list of newly discovered human-like creatures. It’s less the case now, but when I started twenty years ago this part of the course was initially met with polite but firm resistance, which gradually gave way to a sort of furtive curiosity. I eventually realized that even my cleverest students knew very little about human evolution except that it was false and that they were supposed to reject it. They came to the university having been taught that evolution was part of a larger attack on their faith and values, but they had never really been exposed to anything but a sort of parody version of it. A small number of …

The Problem with ‘The Journal of Controversial Ideas’

A group of academics recently announced plans to launch a new journal focused on research that its authors fear could lead to a backlash, putting their careers and perhaps even their physical safety in danger. With these concerns in mind, the journal will allow authors to publish their work anonymously, subject to peer review. Some are applauding the launch of what will be titled The Journal of Controversial Ideas. They view it as a needed response to an academic and potentially broader culture that is increasingly afraid to grapple with sensitive topics and seeks to suppress ideas that may have merit but are socially unpopular. However, we think the creation of a journal like this, while serving as a prophetic warning about the new moral culture taking hold of academia and the future of our institutions of higher learning, may be a counterproductive way of dealing with the problems it addresses. First, it is worth asking whether the concerns prompting the creation of this journal are warranted. Some writers and academics claim that stories of …

The Institutionalization of Social Justice

Over the past few years, social justice activists have demonstrated an increased ability to suppress controversial viewpoints. To take a few examples: A few months ago, mathematician Theodore Hill described in a Quillette essay how progressive groups were able to get a research paper of his on a biological phenomenon known as the “Greater Male Variability Hypothesis” removed from two separate journals, as well as to intimidate his co-author into silence. Hill’s article was published just a week after another article by endocrinologist Jeffrey Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School, who described how social justice activists had managed to get an academic journal to initiate a review of an already-published research paper by Brown University medical researcher Lisa Littman on gender dysphoria. Brown also deleted a reference to the paper from its website. Both Hill and Flier point out that they’ve never experienced anything like this before. Hill wrote: “In my 40 years of publishing research papers I had never heard of the rejection of an already-accepted paper.” Flier noted: “In all my years in …

The Hysterical Campus

Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted with permission from The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, by Heather Mac Donald, published by St. Martin’s Press. © 2018 Heather Mac Donald. Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas that they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberties of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand. I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row in 2017, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA. The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk in April about my book The War on …

Can Heterodoxy Save the Academy?

“When we decided to do a conference, we weren’t sure if we would get 25 people in the audience—and here we filled the Times Center,” says Debra Mashek, executive director of Heterodox Academy during an interview in midtown Manhattan. “There is broad consensus there is a problem on campus in terms of open inquiry and viewpoint diversity.” It’s understandable why Mashek was uncertain about attendance. Academic conferences usually are organized around particular areas of study or well-defined ideological viewpoints. But by its very nature, Heterodox Academy doesn’t provide any such organizing principle. Begun in 2015 as a blog, and now a network comprising over 1,800 academics, HA asks members to endorse the proposition that universities and colleges must uphold and protect political and ideological diversity. But the times we inhabit make championing viewpoint diversity an urgent project. And last Friday’s one-day inaugural conference near Times Square attracted a full house of about 350 academics, university administrators, students, and journalists. The event featured speeches and panel discussions from speakers who addressed the crowd from all points …

What’s Wrong with the American Academy

A colleague of mine in the economics department once said, “when the price of bullshit is zero, demand is inelastic.” A corollary of this principle is that when the price of bullshit is zero, the supply of bullshit is infinite, especially when there are tangible gains for bullshitters.  Last year, I was a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona, which was in the process of starting a new interdisciplinary department (The Department of Political Economy). About a decade ago, the department chair got a grant from the Koch Foundation, which has donated to several universities around the United States. Because Charles Koch has a libertarian bent—he advocates drug legalization, criminal justice reform, and low taxes, among other things—a number of ‘progressive’ and socialist groups have gone after people who receive grants from the Koch foundation.  My point here is not to make a political statement. I don’t have especially strong feelings about Charles Koch, who I disagree with on some issues, and agree with on others. Instead, I want to use my case to illustrate what’s wrong with the …