— On the Campus —

December 18, 2012

Never let a tragedy go to waste: URI Professor Calls NRA Terrorists, then Wages Insular Self-promotion Campaign

Marc Comtois

in the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, URI History Professor Erik Loomis is getting national attention (h/t) for his tweets calling the National Rifle Association terrorists and other rational, academic thoughts (your tax dollars at work, Rhode Island!). As reported at Campus Reform:

“[I] want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick,” Erik Loomis, a professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI), tweeted.

It “looks like the National Rifle Association has murdered some more children,” he added.”

Can [we] define NRA membership as dues contributing to a terrorist organization?" he asked in a separate tweet.

Loomis’ comments come on the heels of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 young children and six faculty members dead.

The professor contended Democratic lawmakers should exploit the tragedy to force more restrictive gun control measures into law.

“You are goddamn right we should politicize this tragedy,” Loomis tweeted. “[F]uck the NRA.”

“Dear Republicans, do you know the definition of family values?” he continued. “It’s not having our kids FUCKING SHOT AT SCHOOL! Fuck the NRA.”

The professor could not be reached for comment at the time of publication and URI was did not provide a spokesperson for comment to Campus Reform in time for publication.

According to the school website, all members of the URI community pledge to help foster an “inclusive environment recognizing and respecting diversity.”

According to his resume, Loomis, who got his PhD from the University of New Mexico in 2008, has research interests in Environmental History, Labor History, Late 19th-Early 20th Century U.S. History and the U.S. West. He has 2 papers pending publication: "Lives Under the Canopy: Spotted Owls and Loggers in Western Forests," to be published in Natural Resources, Law Journal, Summer 2012 and "Preserving Nature to Preserve the Republic: Laurens Bolles, New Mexico's Cold War Conservatonist," to be published in New Mexico Historical Review, 2013." He is also working on a book, "Empire of Timber: Work and Nature in the Pacific Northwest Forests". Based on these articles and his interests, it looks like Loomis would really prefer to be working out West. Wonder why he ended up at URI?

Meanwhile, instead of responding directly to the Campus Reform interview request, Loomis has decided to continue to wage his battle in the comfort of the Twittersphere. Oh, and he would really like someone to pay him to write a book for all of the attacks he's enduring because he so bravely spoke out...on Twitter....from a college campus. As a few of his tweets explained:

The right-wing intimidation campaign against me for saying the NRA was a terrorist organization continues. Will not succeed....In fact, I'd like to write up my story of right-wing intimidation for a magazine....I feel a reasonably major publication should be interested in this. Could be wrong, but I don't think so.
Rahm Emmanuel was quoted as saying something along the lines of never letting a crisis go to political waste and signs are pointing to that happening. Professor Loomis obviously embraces this mindset. But he's taken it all one, self-interested step further. Professor Loomis craves attention, you see. And wouldn't an article detailing his struggle as a brave, academic tweeter against the forces of the NRA and the right-wing blogosphere just look excellent on his Curriculum Vitae?

UPDATE: Brave, Brave sir Robin ran away. Prof. Loomis has deleted his Twitter account...too bad for him it's been captured for posterity. He was also visited by the RI State Police. Angry man.

UPDATE 2: URI has issued a statement (via their Facebook page):

URI President David Dooley responded today by saying, "The University of Rhode Island does not condone acts or threats of violence. These remarks do not reflect the views of the institution and Erik Loomis does not speak on behalf of the University. The University is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and equitable culture that aspires to promote positive change."

November 1, 2012

Things We Read Today (28), Thursday

Justin Katz

Mainstream reporters chat; the unknown cost of economic development; improving higher education by dumbing it down; a lawless society.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

September 13, 2012

The Campus, the Embassy, and Brown University's Continuing Ban on ROTC

Carroll Andrew Morse

One immediate response to the murder of four American diplomats in Libya has been to call in the Marines, literally, to bolster security for US diplomats.

A few days earlier, Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest had noted, on the other side of the globe, that...

After an absence that dates back to the Vietnam War era, and 11 years to the day after 9/11, ROTC is finally returning to Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.
Brown University is absent from the above list, the last Ivy League university not to allow ROTC on campus, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed from last year.

In October of 2011, in the wake of the repeal of the ban on homosexuals openly serving in the military, Brown University President Ruth Simmons endorsed a report authored by a committee of administrators, faculty members and students that recommended against reinstating on-campus ROTC, but supported expanding opportunities for Brown students to participate in ROTC programs at other institutions. The report itself cited "discrimination" against transgender individuals as the primary substantive reason for not having an ROTC program directly on campus. President Simmons' letter of endorsement specifically mentioned 2 other substantive reasons, in addition to the transgender issue, that were "given by some for opposing reconsideration of Brown policy on ROTC": opposition to recent US military undertakings, and "a belief that the hierarchical approach of the military is antithetical to Brown’s open approach to learning, teaching and research".

Which brings us back to Libya, Egypt and now Yemen. The Marines providing security for US embassies in these places and others are making every bit as much of a contribution to sensible American engagement with the world as are diplomats, intelligence operatives, and other Americans on official business stationed abroad. Wherever military members are actively serving, their profession is not second-class relative to the civilian professions around them and should not be treated as such.

Yet while trained military personnel are welcome as first-line defenders to help make civilized diplomacy possible in less-civilized parts of the world (in other words, there is no discernible advocacy for the non-deployment of military guards to US embassies on the grounds that the military is hierarchical and doesn't accept transgendered members), in the minds of some Brunonians, those who seek to serve in the armed forces are apparently not good enough to receive their military training openly on Brown's campus. Ironically, telling a group of people that they are worth having around when there's dangerous work that needs to be done, but that they should otherwise stay out of sight while at your exclusive club is the practice that embodies a truly malign hierarchical attitude. If Brown University is serious about advancing principles of diversity and egalitarianism, this is the acceptance of irrational hierarchy that must be rejected.

January 24, 2012

A Gift That Turns into an Expense

Justin Katz

Ted Nesi notes that Rhode Island has moved up a couple of notches on a nationwide scale when it comes to funding higher education in the state budget. The reason, however, is that our officials are better at dancing to the federal tune:

However, Rhode Island was one of only five states that has federal stimulus money for higher education in its current budget, and the whopping $30.2 million in stabilization funds Rhode Island received was twice as much as second-place New York's $14.4 million and 190 times as much as West Virginia's $158,781.

When federal money is excluded, Rhode Island's spending on higher education rose by a more modest $6.1 million, or just under 4%, to $163.5 million. That's down 17% from the $196.4 million in state money Rhode Island spent on URI, RIC and CCRI as the recession began in 2006-07.

So, the federal government is propping up Rhode Island's higher ed. expenditure with money that it doesn't have, and you can bet we'll hear calls about the moral necessity of replacing them with state funds when they go away. This as the walls of the higher education bubble attenuate to the point of bursting.

Subsidies for public universities and colleges are another illustration of the backwards thinking that government's taxation and bonding powers have enabled. We're like a car buyer who begins with a list of features without regard to the ability to afford them. If higher education merits a larger public investment, then let's figure out what other government expenditures are of less value and reduce them.

Frankly, I think dollars spent is the wrong way to judge a public system's success. With a different standard for judgment, we might focus more on how we achieve more for the dollars we spend than how we can manipulate the government financial system to grab more money.

January 16, 2012

More Deception on In-State Tuition for Illegals

Justin Katz

Back in October, I pointed out that the academic study on the effects of a policy of offering in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants cited in the media and by the Board of Governors for Higher Education was so erroneous as to be fraudulent. Now, a comment on Newsmakers from the board's chairman, Lorne Adrain, has brought another bit of... let's say... creative interpretation to data on the matter. I've cued up the video to the relevant moment:

The interviewers chuckle and greet with incredulity Adrain's assertion that the people of Rhode Island had shown that they "embrace" the notion of in-state tuition for illegals, leading Adrain to draw a distinction between the "loud" people who show up for hearings and residents more generally. As evidence of the latter's views, he refers back to a Brown University poll showing that "the vast majority of Rhode Islanders felt that this was a good thing."

Astute viewers will note that Adrain begins by explaining the necessity of having "sufficient conversation about the question to get a sense of how the people of Rhode Island feel about it" and ends by dismissing a broad portion of the feedback that his board received. His conclusion, apparently, is that the people who take the time to opine in public forums and attend hearings don't count as much as the 508 folks who happened to pick up the phone when Brown randomly called their phone numbers, because he mentions no other source of information about "how the people of Rhode Island feel."

In order to do a PolitFact-style check on Adrain's assertion of a "vast majority," I found the poll release itself, and indeed, it reports that:

Rhode Islanders show strong consensus on issues of immigrant education: 83 percent support programs for teaching immigrant children English, and 68 percent support extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrant children who graduate from Rhode Island high schools.

In modern usage, a 68% majority is close enough to "vast" to count. But the poll also found that 54% of respondents support a law requiring "local police" to "arrest anyone who is present in the country without proper documentation." How do these two findings coincide? Well, the actual question asked on in-state tuition gives a clue:

Illegal immigrant children attending college in our state should be charged a higher tuition rate at state colleges and universities: a) strongly agree/agree, 23%; b) neither agree nor disagree, 9%; c) disagree/strongly disagree, 68%

It is definitely possible that some of the people who answered "disagree/strongly disagree" might have done so because they think that illegal immigrants should not be attending state colleges and universities at all — they should be deported. As a matter of the question's construction, though, we also have to note that it does not specify "higher tuition" than what. It sounds more like such students would be charged an "illegal immigrant" penalty, which gives the sense of taking advantage of a captive class. Had respondents been asked whether illegal immigrants' tuition should be equal to out-of-state tuition, the answer might have been different.

What's particularly disturbing about this journey of the data from a poorly posed question to a factor in a public official's policy decision is the place in which most of the shift was made: by the poll takers themselves. It's not as if Adrain, recalling a survey from last spring, misremembered the specific import of the question. Rather, the Brown University Taubman Center, itself, took a pretty open question and layered in the relevant specifics after the fact. The question says nothing about "in-state" tuition or "children who graduate from Rhode Island high schools." Those are elements that the surveyors thought it important to insinuate into the news coverage of their results.

And yet, it is on the basis of this sort of information that those who lead our state and our nation choose a way forward — or, more accurately, that they attempt to justify their own preferences to a nation with whom they share an increasingly narrow set of values.

November 1, 2011

In-State Tuition Raises Larger Question About Social "Investment"

Justin Katz

In a Providence Journal op-ed (which now apparently inevitably means "not online"), Sandy Riojas and Daniel Harrop argue in favor of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The first part of their argument is that President Ronald Reagan would have supported their side of the debate.

As admirable and iconic as Reagan may have been, a former president's view of a current state policy question is effectively irrelevant. And besides, it's not as if illegal immigration and in-state tuition are recent developments, so one might well reply: Forget "would have"; the applicable question is, "did he?" I've not seen the evidence.

More interesting, however, is the view of government and higher education that Riojas and Harrop promulgate:

There are Rhode Island Republicans who believe the state wastes its investment when it educates undocumented students through high school and then forces them to pay hiogher prices to attend a public college. Is high school graduation the milestone when these students are penalized for unknowingly entering the country illegally?

... [Subsidizing in-state tuition, the] state ultimately loses nothing, while gaining a greater proportion of the population that is college-educated and can participate in improving the future of Rhode Island.

Is high school really so worthless that a graduate cannot "participate in improving" the state? I'd argue that such an attitude, with the concomitant increase in the subsidization that the government provides for higher education, is what's driven the unsustainable inflation of tuition across the board. A high school diploma is, or ought to be, valuable in its own right, and any reasonable assessment of the actual skills needed in the workforce will likely conclude that it is sufficient for a great many jobs. So, yes, a high school diploma may, indeed, be the line after which the local society should consider legal residency status.

A precondition to both the development of the economy and the improvement of the state and nation as civic units is that the rules apply. Individuals and private organizations can bend them, but the state — with its ability to apply force and confiscate property — cannot. Putting aside the fact that subsidizing in-state tuition does, undeniably, cost the state something, the greater cost may lie in the lesson that doing so for illegal immigrants teaches about the validity of the rule of law.

October 5, 2011

Erroneous, One-Sided Public Discourse Misleads on Tuition

Justin Katz

As news consumers across the nation and the globe are aware, on Monday, September 26, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved a policy granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who attended local high schools. As recently as this spring, the General Assembly explicitly declined to join the twelve other states that offer this concession, so it is a matter of some controversy that an unelected board has cemented RI's reputation for diluted democracy by making ours the second to join the list as a matter of policy, not law.*

With this issue, as with many others, our drift toward unabashed aristocracy is abetted by a lack of balance in the public debate, locally. The problem goes much deeper than mere media bias, down to the data on which discussion and decisions are based. In this case, a report from the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University has enjoyed a near monopoly when it comes to research citations — from radio to Web sites, from television to print.

Even just in the A section of this Sunday's Providence Journal, the institute's findings received two high-profile mentions. The first came in a characteristically unfair PolitiFact take-down of Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement. According to journalist Lynn Arditi, the study "showed that 74 undocumented students were attending one of the three public institutions of higher education in Rhode Island in 2009."

The second mention came from Board of Governors member Lorne Adrain, in an op-ed written on behalf of his fellow members. Adrain explains that their decision was based, in part, on the study's suggestion that "our state schools will still experience net new revenues from the policy."

Both assertions are demonstrably false. At a basic level, the study has broadly been assumed to deal with illegal immigrants (or "undocumented," if you prefer), although the term in the title and throughout the document is "non-citizens," which the authors never define. Thus, the report's executive summary cites the U.S. Census's 2009 American Community Survey, finding 69,757 "non-citizens" in Rhode Island, meaning that many residents counted as "not a U.S. citizen," no matter their legal status, as a few clicks at census.gov prove.

Something similar is true of the "74 non-citizen undergraduate students attending" public college. This data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, and what it actually tallies are all "nonresident aliens" enrolled in RI's public undergraduate system. Clicking "i" for information brings up the following definition: "A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely."

The NCES may or may not have slipped illegal immigrants into that total, but it appears mainly intended to indicate students temporarily in the United States pursuing degrees. The new tuition policy will not apply to such "international" students. Moreover, legal-immigrant residents, whom the NCES counts among the general student body, appear already to be eligible for in-state tuition.

But let's pretend that the Latino Policy Institute's report actually addresses the students affected by the Board of Governor's new policy. That is, for the sake of argument, let's say that there are 74 illegal immigrant undergrads currently attending the University of Rhode Island (with 38), Rhode Island College (with 21), and the Community College of Rhode Island (with 15), and that in-state tuition will attract another 12 to URI, 7 to RIC, and 5 to CCRI. Will that increase in enrollment yield "net new revenues," as Mr. Adrain claims?

The Latino Policy Institute gives that impression by factoring in the "FTE instructional cost" for each institution, or the amount that it spends on a narrow range of expenses specifically filed under "instruction." The Institute subtracts that number from the tuition and counts the difference as a profit. Thus, the authors claim that "the enrollment of non-citizens would result in roughly $162,000 in revenue to public institutes of higher education per year."

The glaring error in this argument is that the "net new revenue" is not coming from "net new students." At out-of-state tuition rates, those 74 students are currently paying $1,435,010 in tuition. Give them the in-state rate, and the colleges and university are looking at a total tuition loss of $881,530. The 24 new students whom the lower tuition would supposedly attract would only bring the loss down to $703,586.

It's worth repeating that these headcounts are essentially made up. If illegal immigrants count among those here on a "temporary basis," there would be many fewer of them; if they count among those "who have been admitted as legal immigrants for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident alien status," there could be many more. In any case, the question of whether new illegal immigrant students provide a profit or require a subsidy would have to be the subject of another essay. (I'd argue that they represent a net cost of thousands of dollars each per year.)

At the very least, one can say that an unelected board should not be implementing public policy in lieu of duly passed laws, especially on the basis of erroneous and one-sided research. The Board of Governors should rescind its decision, and the civic society of Rhode Island should find a way to foster better-rounded public discourse.

* I attempted to change the Providence Journal version of this essay (which appears in the paper today) to reflect an AP report that specifically cited 12 other states that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, with Oklahoma having already blazed the trail of doing so via policy. Either my correction came too late, or the Projo's findings differ from those of the AP.


I've corrected Lorne Adrain's gender in the above, and I apologize for the error. The only other "Lorne" I've ever heard of is Lorne Michaels from Saturday Night Live, and for some reason, my initial feeling that it was a woman's name never went away, despite knowing that Michaels is a man. Fortunately, though, my argument does not rely whatsoever on the personal qualities of the people whom I mention, and even if it did, I provided links to all of my sources, so readers can check my results on their own.

With all of the time that I spent culling data, I didn't have time to research Mr. Adrain's biography, which after all, is entirely irrelevant.

September 29, 2011

Calculating the "Cost" of a College Student

Justin Katz

In discussion of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, commenter Russ illustrates why public debate so often gets stuck in conflicting assertions and animus:

...dividing the total operating costs of the University of Rhode Island by the number of full-time equivalent students suggests that the university has to make $20,615 per student.

Wrong, but hey let's pretend the university has no other sources of income and that tuition covers housing, dining services, and any number of other items not relevant to this discussion.

Wonder why that is that you folks (repeatedly) feel the need to misrepresent this?

The cost of educating a college student (which is different than the cost to the student of receiving an education) is a debatable question. Advocates for granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants assert that the amount that students pay should be considered the cost of their attendance, but this ignores the fact that state aid, other activities, and the inflated costs to out-of-state subsidize those students. By contrast, some advocates on the other side treat the out-of-state tuition as the cost, but this errs in the opposite direction. Other people might wish to look at budgetary line items and tease out those directly associated with the day-to-day experience of students, but the institution's activities are all so integrated that there isn't a clear line to draw.

Note that, in the text of mine that Russ quotes, I didn't say that tuition has to be $20,615, but that the University of Rhode Island "has to make" that amount per student. My premise is that the primary mission of a college or university is education, and most of its non-educational activities serve that mission. Some of those activities — such as funding professors' research — represent an overall cost, but are worth the expense because they enrich the knowledge of the professors, expand the opportunities for students, and bring recognition to the departments. Some of the activities — such as collegiate sports — may represent an area of profit, thereby helping to lower tuition rates from where they otherwise would be.

We could argue the point to death about whether (for example) the sports subsidize the research and therefore have no effect on tuition rates. But with education being the core mission and tuition being the main source of revenue, it seems most reasonable to use a per student measurement for questions of finance.

Thus, we can total the expenditures of the University of Rhode Island at $400,430,444 and average the number of credits purchased in the spring and fall semesters of that year to determine that, for 2010, the university had the equivalent of 19,424 full-time students.and say that, overall, the university must make $20,615 per student — regardless of the source of that revenue — to meet its expenses. Again, some of its other activities increase that cost and others decrease it, but if that's the theoretical per-student number, a student paying in-state tuition and fees of $11,366 per year is not carrying his or her own weight.

We can go a step farther and adjust the ratios of students to take into account the amounts that different categories pay (in-state, out-of-state, and regional). Doing that suggests that the University of Rhode Island's actual per-student income is somewhere around $16,862. I should emphasize that these are rough calculations. I lack the time and resources to divide up the student body by, for example, those who live on campus versus those who don't or to separate graduate students from undergraduate students and so forth. In this context, though, it's interesting to observe that the regional tuition rate (not including fees and housing) is currently $17,192, so it may be that the university sees that as "cost" in the sense that, on a small scale, it doesn't affect the per-student rate.

Be that as it may, these numbers are why we periodically hear university officials talking about the need to attract more out-of-state students. As the ratio shifts toward them, the number that the institution actually makes per student moves toward the number that it has to make per student.

According to advocates for the illegal-immigrant giveaway, 74 illegal immigrants currently attend URI, RIC, and CCRI, and they calculate that the reduced price will attract another 24. We're not talking huge numbers, here, by any means, but I don't see how it's plausible to argue that cutting the revenue from 74 students by 60% and adding another 24 at rate that must be subsidized will do anything but increase costs. (Note that, due to time constraints, I'm putting aside the possibility that the percentages differ from one institution to the next.)

A rational debate could proceed in a number of interesting and fruitful directions, from here, but it's more difficult to accuse people of being heartless when one acknowledges that the question is whether a cost is justified, not whether there is a cost.

September 27, 2011

In-State Tuition for Illegals, Whether You Want to Pay for It or Not

Justin Katz

Last night, with the approval of RI's chief executive, Lincoln Chafee, the Board of Governors of Higher Education decided to act in lieu of the General Assembly and implement a policy of offering illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates for the state's public universities. That makes Rhode Island just the fourteenth state to be so generous, and the first to make the decision without involving the people's elected legislators.

The big lie of issue, which Ted Nesi describes here is that there is no cost to this decision — perhaps even an increase in revenue. I spent some time looking at the numbers, last night, and although I don't have time, this morning, to make my findings presentable for this post, I just don't see how that could possibly be so.

I'll show my work (as the math teachers say) in a future post, but in a nutshell, dividing the total operating costs of the University of Rhode Island by the number of full-time equivalent students suggests that the university has to make $20,615 per student. Clearly, total tuition and fees of $11,366 for in-state matriculating undergrads won't cut it. If, as advocates claim, in-state tuition were sufficient to educate a student, then the University ought to be investigated for price-gouging out-of state students, who pay $27,454.

May 23, 2011

Grading by Ideology

Justin Katz

An interesting tidbit from over the weekend is that college professors appear to grade differently based on political affiliation:

We study grading outcomes associated with professors in an elite university in the United States who were identified -- using voter registration records from the county where the university is located -- as either Republicans or Democrats. The evidence suggests that student grades are linked to the political orientation of professors: relative to their Democratic colleagues, Republican professors are associated with a less egalitarian distribution of grades and with lower grades awarded to Black students relative to Whites.

As you can see by the included chart, Republican-given grades track more closely with what one might expect: lower grades correlating with lower SAT scores and higher with higher. And I'd certainly be willing to believe that Democrats (presumed, in the study, to be liberal) are more apt to boost underachievers and resent overachievers, whom they attempt to humble.

Still, one major consideration that does not appear to have been taken into account (at least as apparent in a quick scan of the research document) is the type of courses involved. Humanities departments, to my experience, have a deeply entrenched and rigid screening process that surely keeps Republicans and (especially) conservatives out, so those Republicans whom one can find on faculty lists are likely to be teaching less mushy, more objective subjects .

Another explanation, apart from the urge to redistribute, could involve Republicans' status as a small minority. Whatever is cause and whatever is effect, professors who feel as if they exist behind enemy lines, as it were, might have a different outlook on testing and grading, making them more likely, I'd wager, to prioritize proven achievement in a competitive atmosphere.

April 13, 2011

Bringing Conservative Pessimism to Campus

Justin Katz

Readers of National Review will be interested to know that the Providence College Republicans are bringing the magazine's resident pessimist, John Derbyshire, to campus tonight at 7:30 (112 Slavin Center). It should make for an interesting talk.

April 3, 2011

Ivy ROTC Update

Marc Comtois

After much, sometimes heated, debate, Columbia University has elected to allow ROTC back on campus. Good. Now, Brown University finds itself increasingly out of the Ivy mainstream, though they're currently reviewing the policy:

[Dean of the College Katherine] Bergeron also discussed her attendance at the Ivy Plus conference — a consortium of universities, including members of the Ivy League as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and Stanford — where deans from the universities discussed their respective plans to offer or not offer ROTC programs.

Of those universities, MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and Penn already offer ROTC programs. Harvard announced its intention to reinstate its ROTC program earlier this month, and Bergeron said it looks likely that Columbia, Yale and Stanford will do the same. If this were the case, Brown would be the only Ivy League university not to have a ROTC program on campus.

I suspect Brown will come around, if grudgingly.

March 23, 2011

New Media Icon on Campus

Justin Katz

Undercover exposer of left-wing organizations — NPR most recently — James O'Keefe will be speaking to the Providence College Republicans, tonight at 7:30 in Moore Hall II. I'm not positive that I'll be able to make it, but I'm certainly going to try.

February 25, 2011

Cheap Shots All Around

Justin Katz

Given the video that Marc posted yesterday, showing a pro-union demonstrator issuing what might be termed homophobic threats, I can't help but wonder whether this story is evidence of additional union rallies on the University of Rhode Island campus:

Angered by a succession of incidents involving hateful epithets and vandalism, University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley issued a campus-wide memo Wednesday, saying that such acts will not be tolerated.

In recent weeks, he said, offenders "have shouted homophobic taunts from cars to individuals on sidewalks and written hateful words on white boards; drawn a swastika on the forehead of a poster of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; vandalized a mezuzah which contains a scroll of Hebrew scripture, and written in permanent marker hateful statements targeted toward URI community members of Latin descent."

According to another report, a spectator at a URI basketball game in the Ryan Center shouted a word offensive to homosexuals at the opposing team.

What actually appears to be happening is that the university, which has recently been lamenting cuts in its revenue from the state budget, has been soliciting reports of incidents through its new Chief Diversity Officer, Kathryn Friedman, and a Bias Response Team Web site. The article isn't clear, but it appears that President Dooley has been culling the reports and will post a list for the purpose of appropriate self-flagellation (or -aggrandizement, as the case may be) on campus.

Personally, I don't get the urge to shout epithets of any kind, and particularly those that mix with identity politics. Still, it doesn't strike me as entirely healthy that a generation of URI students is being trained to respond by rushing back to the dorm and making anonymous reports that cumulatively create the impression that the state's largest public institution of higher education is a hostile environment.

December 28, 2010

Let Imbalances Correct Themselves

Justin Katz

One hears in this op-ed by David Mabe the thinking behind centralization's inevitable failure over time:

Even in these times of high unemployment, forecasts of labor shortages are becoming more prevalent. New England has long boasted a highly educated population relative to other parts of the country, but the retirement of Baby Boomers and net loss from population migration suggest that the demand for skilled workers will increasingly outpace the supply. These and other looming demographic shifts threaten to hamper regional recovery efforts. ...

Universities, and especially community colleges, according to Modestino, should focus on degree-completion initiatives, increased financial assistance for students, and greater opportunity for career training and professional collaboration to fill looming workforce gaps; such areas of focus would produce a "win-win-win" for employers, for the regional economy, and for the students themselves.

Where the "win-win-win" inevitably falls apart is a mismatch of incentives. When the mandate comes from the government to "do something," taxpayers end up funding the sorts of education that young students prefer (light and easy to pass) and the courses that educators, on the whole, prefer to offer (subjective and difficult to quantify). The result is another cost layered into the economy with inadequate translation into economically productive jobs.

Let private industry work independently with educational institutions to finance the aid and courses that they specifically need, then let students choose those subsidized paths... or not. "Degree-completion initiatives" will move students toward that piece of paper, but not necessarily toward the skills that they actually need.

December 23, 2010

Does No More DADT mean Yes to Campus ROTC...

Carroll Andrew Morse

...because it seems to in many places, but according to a characterization put forth by Dan Berrett of the online publication Inside Higher Ed, at least one local institution seems to be dragging its heels...

Officials at Brown University did not go as far as others in predicting a return of ROTC. Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs at Brown University, said via e-mail: "The repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell will likely stimulate additional conversation about ROTC on the Brown campus, a conversation that has occurred from time to time among the university's alumni, students, faculty and administrators. The university welcomes conversation on this and other important social and political questions." She added, however, that "the university's decision to phase out Air Force ROTC (1971) and Naval ROTC (1972) centered on academic issues, including whether ROTC units should have departmental status and whether courses offered by those units should carry academic credit. Those issues are matters for faculty discussion. Any academic issues raised by a potential return of ROTC instruction at Brown would require a vote of the faculty."
Hearing an official spokesperson stake out the position that bureaucratic hurdles are a primary consideration in deciding whether formal learning can be expanded into areas that would help bring students with diverse interests together within an academic community does not strike me as the best advancement of the proud traditions of Brown University.

And furthermore, are members of the Brown community really going to accept the proposition that the jokers at Harvard and Yale can figure out how to put together a program for students that Brown University can't?

Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies has a balanced take on what returning ROTC to campus involves in a Washington Post op-ed available here.

December 13, 2010

Where Higher Ed Money Comes from and Goes

Justin Katz

It's been a recurring theme, in the news, that Rhode Island's public institutions of higher learning need more money, and those interested in that outcome pick careful examples. Certainly, we all want to invest in thriving campuses, but too few of us wonder where the money goes. Consider:

After two years in collective bargaining negotiations, the University of Rhode Island's part time faculty staff have unionized and created a tentative contract that is set to be officially ratified next week. ...

The new contracts will institute a gradual pay increase based on a system of three levels that increase by approximately $100 per level, capping at $3,861. This pay increase is also set to be retroactive as of this past July, meaning that part-time faculty members, will be able to receive salary increases of $350 for each course they are teaching this fall. In a letter to its members the PTFU says this salary reimbursement will bring Kingston part-time faculty members on par with wages offered at the Providence campus.

The sources for the article are as yet unable to offer a total cost of the contract; it appears that most of the affected employees teach one course per semester or so. Still, in a time of tight budgets and struggling taxpayers, on what grounds does the university offer raises? I'm sure the great majority of recipients are deserving, but the reality is that they've been willing to take the work at their prior pay, and nothing has changed in the equation that has left excess funds in the budget.

This letter by student Joseph Higgins raises similar questions from a very different angle:

Putting the school's money into building a new building for the GLBT members doesn't seem like the right choice when there are so many other things that should be built instead of this building. It's nothing against GLBT students or their lifestyle; it's just that they already have the Rainbow Diversity House on Fraternity Circle and Adams Hall's first floor south wing for the GLBT center. Yes, this campus has a Women's Center, a Multi-Cultural Center and, most recently, the Hillel Building for the Jewish faith, but to spend money on a completely new building just isn't where our school's money should be going. Tuition rates could be raised even higher than they already are with the new Pharmacy Building in the works, a new Chemistry Building being planned, another dorm building replacing the demolished Terrance Apartments, landscaping being done in-between Ranger Hall and Green Hall and a new fitness center that will take the spot of the Roger Williams Center.

Frankly, it ought to be hard for Rhode Islanders to believe tales of financial stress when we hear such testimony. In what other world than the public sector are folks talking about substantial raises and new buildings for narrow special-interest groups?

December 11, 2010

Indication of a Divide or Superfluity?

Justin Katz

Rich Lowry writes about "a slow-motion social and economic evisceration of a swath of Middle America":

In the 1970s, 73 percent of both the highly and moderately educated were in intact first marriages. That figure plummeted across the board, yet the moderately educated (45 percent in intact first marriages) are now closer to the least-educated (39 percent) than to the highly educated (56 percent).

The number for out-of-wedlock births is starker. From 1982 until today, the percentage of non-marital births among the moderately educated exploded from 13 percent to 44 percent. That figure is close to the least-educated (54 percent) and a vast distance from the highly educated (only 6 percent). Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation compares the dynamic to a carpet unraveling from the bottom, as illegitimacy first took hold among the poor and now works up the income scale.

Much of what Lowry writes is inarguable. That's especially true when it comes to economic mobility: families at the bottom of the scale are more likely to find themselves remaining there generation after generation as the habits of stability — most critically, the concept of insoluble marriage and its intrinsic relation to childbirth — evaporate from the common culture. But a chart that Lowry has posted in the Corner makes me wonder if some of the calamity isn't a shadow consequence of the higher education bubble:

Thanks to the stable marriage around which it is built, my household is pretty close to where the yellow line suggests that we should be, given our college degrees. Here's the thing: I'm a carpenter, part of a new generation entering the trade, many of us with four-year degrees. I was an oddity when I started. In my current company of four, only one lacks a degree. In other words, folks who were previously on the purple and brown lines of the chart aren't necessarily making less money; at least some of them have just transitioned to the yellow line, as college degrees become sufficiently ubiquitous that blue collar employers can begin using them for job screening just as white collar employers have been doing.

Glenn Reynolds yesterday linked to an essay by Richard Vedder that comes to the same place from a different direction:

... approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the BLS considers relatively low skilled—occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less. Only a minority of the increment in our nation's stock of college graduates is filling jobs historically considered as requiring a bachelor's degree or more.

As Reynolds states, the "tuition they’re paying is basically wasted," which brings the analysis around to the reason that tracking with the yellow line hasn't necessarily been a boon for us highly educated laborers. My family is certainly not unique in having been caught so thoroughly in the debt trap that we need college-educated salaries in order to maintain a high-school diploma lifestyle.

College loans are definitely part of the detrimental equation, and so were the the four-plus years spent living away from the parental nest without full-time paying jobs. Throw in the vehicles that we had to buy on credit, upon entering the workforce, because we didn't have those years in our pre-parenthood early twenties of having more income than we had expenses. Then layer in the false expectations that promotion of the economic benefits of college have instilled in soon-to-be-over-educated generations. (Mounting credit card debt is much more tolerable when twenty-five year olds look at the yellow line as a promise.)

I've long thought that history would view the modern debt trap as a more sophisticated indentured servitude, and higher education is a central gear in that machine, with paper and plastic credit as the oil that makes the crank easier to work than it ought to be.

November 27, 2010

Laid Low by Higher Education

Justin Katz

This is becoming a growing wave of like opinion:

"We have too many college seats," [former Keene State College instructor Craig] Brandon, a Surry resident, says in an interview. "We don't need that many college graduates. The reality is that we overeducate people, which would be OK if it were free, but it's not free." Parents lose years of careful savings. Students go into debt. Opportunity costs are immeasurable.

The alleged wage premium -- the extra lifetime money college graduates make compared to those who stop at high school -- is both exaggerated and shrinking. One student graduates high school and goes straight into the work force. Another starts college, but drops out after a few semesters. A third takes the actual average of five years to get a four-year degree and graduates with the average $25,000 student loan debt. Even if the college grad has a better-paying job -- an outcome not at all guaranteed -- years of tuition, living expenses, deferred income and now student loan payments put her in a deep hole. Five or even 20 years after leaving high school, which classmate is furthest ahead?

Brandon describes the vast majority of colleges as "subprime," which he defines as any school that has lowered its standards to the point at which almost anyone can pass. There's a college for every student at any price point, regardless of ability or career goals. At subprime schools, Brandon estimates, only 10 percent of students are really interested in academics. The rest are there for mostly social purposes.

I've been thinking that the push for college has become like a much broader, and more legitimate, version of little league parents' dreams of scholarships and professional sports careers for their children or the obsession that one can observe during the audition episodes of American Idol. What's lost in the cultural messaging is that it is college, of itself, is a guarantor of nothing except, as Fergus Cullen puts it in the quotation above, lost savings, debt, and opportunity costs.

Of course, students can extract an excellent education even from "subprime" schools. As the quality of the institution declines, the self-direction required from the student increases. After all, a truly motivated young adult could learn a degree's worth of knowledge simply with four years off and a library card. And if degrees are designed to be acquired, rather than earned, then they don't really tell potential employers whether its holder took the downhill or uphill route.

November 22, 2010

Hooked on Hooking Up

Justin Katz

Although admitting that "many students will thrive in their four years on campus... with dignity and sense of self intact," Mary Eberstadt offers reason for concern about the social climate on American campuses:

In 2006, a particularly informative (if also exquisitely depressing) contribution to understanding hookups was made by Unprotected, a book first published anonymously. The author was subsequently revealed to be Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who treated more than 2000 students at UCLA and grew alarmed by what she saw. In her book she cites numbers suggesting that psychiatric-consultation hours doubled in a few years and notes that 90 percent of campus counseling centers nationwide reported an upsurge in students with serious psychiatric problems. She also describes some of her own mental-health cases and their common denominators: drinking to oblivion, drugging, one-night sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and all the rest of the hookup-culture trappings. In 2007, Washington Post journalist Laura Sessions Stepp published the widely discussed Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both. Stepp's book was based on interviews with many high-school and college girls. In it, the author argued that hooking up actually had become the "primary" sexual interaction of the young.

One particularly insightful look at the intersection of the bingeing and hookup cultures is Koren Zaickas' book Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2006), in which she details her activities at Syracuse University and elsewhere. As that and several other confessional accounts show, skeptics who say it was ever thus miss the boat. It isn't only that dating has turned, for some, into no-strings hookups. It isn't only that drinking, or even heavy drinking, has turned, for certain others, into drinking to oblivion. It is at the intersection of those two trends that one finds the core curriculum of Toxic U.

I'd argue that one contributing factor to this trend (beyond general cultural deterioration, of course) has been the popularity of movies since the '70s — many of them undeniable comedy classics — that present recklessness as the natural college atmosphere. Another is the advance of '60s radicals into the establishment of higher education, from which perch they've fostered an image of college as the taste of liberty that a socialistic utopia could provide for all. Thirdly, as an outgrowth of number 2, has been the broad institutional acceptance of pornography as a campus staple. Eberstadt writes:

Student entrepreneurship aside, making the campus safe for smut appears to have become something of a cottage industry among those in charge too. Certain academic departments, for example, include courses in which pornography is "studied" as an art form or for its purported social meaning. There is extracurricular stuff too, including movies shown at parties attended by girls as well as boys - another illustration of how times have changed. Sometimes, in the name of the First Amendment, more ambitious projects flower. In 2009, for example, several campuses across the country screened Pirates II, which was billed as the most expensive pornographic film ever made. When the University of Maryland refused to do so because of political pressure from a congressman, student outrage was one visible result.

This is hardly an atmosphere in which American students can be expected to catch up on the remedial lessons that didn't take in public secondary school and to focus as they must on the decades of life that their few years of higher education will affect profoundly.

November 17, 2010

Our Local College Bubble

Justin Katz

Frankly, I don't buy this:

Overall, the United States needs to increase the proportion of the population with a college education by 4.2 percent annually to meet the demands of an increasingly global economy, which will require 60 percent of the work force to have degrees by 2020, according to Jeffrey Stanley, associate vice president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

I've been running into too many carpenters with college degrees to give much face-value credence to the assertion that more workers with college degrees are necessary. It may be true if measured against employers' demands, but to some extent, employers are only demanding degrees because it's an easy way to narrow the candidate pool — in short, because they can.

General reading on the topic suggests that degree shortages are much more specific. The economy needs more people with specific, usually technical expertise, not college degrees in general, and the article above gives reason to think that advocates for local higher education are merely seeking to inflate their bubble. Consider:

Those rejected by private schools put increasing strain on the public colleges, officials said. About 70 percent of students entering the Community College of Rhode Island in fall 2010 have needed some kind of remedial work, according to Ray Di Pasquale, Commissioner of Higher Education and president of CCRI.

Students who require remedial education aren't likely to be pursuing the sorts of degrees that lead to jobs for which a college experience is objectively necessary. What our society really needs is to improve elementary and secondary education (and social/familial circumstances that affect attitudes toward education) so that high school graduates are competent for most entry-level positions and pursue higher degrees because they've already got a sense of what they want to do with their lives.

November 11, 2010

Groomed for Dependency

Justin Katz

After listing a number of the ways in which college students are catered to, Jonah Goldberg gives the lesson (unfortunately, subscription required):

But even as this sensitivity is being cultivated, the student is stuffed to the gills with cant about the corruption of "the system," i.e., the real world just outside the gates of his educational Shangri-La. He is taught that it is brave to be "subversive" and cowardly to be "conformist." Administrators encourage kitschy reenactments of 1960s radicalism by celebrating protest as part of a well-rounded education — so long as the students are protesting approved targets, those being the iniquities of "the system." There is much Orwellian muchness to it all, since these play-acting protests and purportedly rebellious denunciations of the status quo are in fact the height of conformity.

But it is a comfortable conformity, and this student — who in all likelihood will go into a profession at the pinnacle of the commanding heights of our culture — looks at this Potemkin world and thinks it is the way things are supposed to be. He feels freer than he ever has or ever will again, but that freedom is illusory. He is, in fact, a dependent: All his fundamental needs are met and paid for by others. This is what the political theorists call positive liberty — when someone else gives you a whole pile of stuff so you can be "free" to do whatever you want.

Goldberg goes on to concede that many students must work while in college and/or take out loans that place them immediately behind the borrowing/saving curve. I'd argue, though, that the "ideal life" that college represents for "a certain type of elite student" stands as an example even for those who don't manage to live it. The culture tells them, as it tells those on the pre-paved path, that the liberty to learn is still the ideal, and part of the reason they work and incur debt is to reach that ideal lifestyle that is presumed to continue in an easier life of fulfilling, remunerative work.

Life isn't really that way, though, and much damage can and will continue to be done in attempts to bend reality to conform with the experience of the quad.

November 1, 2010

Read Between the Lines of the Bond Boosters

Justin Katz

Well, there's no denying that this is not a desirable occurrence:

Take former doctoral student Marcel Benz, for example. In 2001, he had to throw out a year's experimentation because there was no way to control temperature and humidity in the building.

The impact of Benz's experience reached far beyond his lab, because a private company had been counting on his research to move forward with a new technology for infrared sensors.

Even given the professed gravity of the deficiency, though, I'm not sure that this follows:

URI President David M. Dooley agrees that Benz's story captures the inadequacy of current facilities for education and research in the chemical and forensic sciences.

He and many other supporters of Rhode Island's public college system urge voters to approve Question 2 on Tuesday's ballot.

First, I have to say that I'm not sure why voters should be very concerned that a private company did not receive publicly funded research on which it was counting.

More to the point, though: perhaps I missed the months of protracted labor disputes, when the universities shaved down professorial salaries and benefits in order to support spending on adequate learning facilities. Maybe I'm just not recalling the administrations' appeals to the public for support in dispensing with ivory-tower frivolities like diversity offices. I haven't yet seen an op-ed by a college or university president containing lines like, "In times when our most promising chemistry students cannot conduct the very experiments for which they're being trained, we must be more realistic about what aspects of the 'college experience' we can afford to sustain."

If the targets of these bonds were so important that a struggling private sector should commit to further debt and additional economy-killing taxes to support that debt, then those who stand to benefit from them directly would be leading the way in modifying their own behavior.

October 25, 2010

Negative, Not Affirmative, Action

Justin Katz

Let's be honest: We've all realized that so-called "affirmative action" was never meant to be an objectively applied tool ensuring proportional representation; it's always been a weapon for use against white men. But it's still going to be interesting to watch the intellectual contortions as elite society's war on masculinity tips scales in the other direction. In an article about the increasing over-representation of females on college campuses:

Alerted by media reports that some admissions officers may be accepting less-qualified male students over female applicants, the Civil Rights Commission is investigating whether women are being discriminated against in college admissions.

"Everybody should feel very uncomfortable by the notion that it is more difficult for a woman to get into a college than a man," Heriot said in an interview.

Heretofore, it has never been an accepted argument against affirmative action that the dominating demographic on campus (or wherever) just happened to be more likely to be included. Rather, it was always taken to be evidence of a vague "institutional" ism in their favor. Now that there is institutional feminism in our system of education — not just adapting schools' methods to serve both male and female communities, but changing their structure to coincide more significantly with girls' learning styles than boys' — it's becoming victimization to adjust for discrepancies.

October 18, 2010

More Investment Out of Your Pocket

Justin Katz

Speaking of public sector investments on your dime, Rhode Island's Board of Governors for Higher Education is looking for a 22% increase in the public funds that they receive. Of course, part of the plan might be to hit lawmakers with a large requested increase — requested as if absolutely essential, naturally — so as to make even small increases, let alone decreases, seem like an attack on their institutions. Not being uniquely hostile to public higher education, I don't begrudge the board recourse to common gimmicks of budget negotiation, but this cliché merits comment:

Michael Ryan, chairman of the board's finance committee, said, "Public education is the engine that drives economic development."

Public education is manifestly not the engine that drives economic development. Individual motivation and the well-being of families is. At best, colleges and universities provide the readily accessible expertise necessary to put entrepreneurial impulses to good use and supply an educated (if inexperienced) workforce to move businesses along.

The point of emphasis is critical: If there are no businesses to supply jobs and if public policy derails inventiveness and creates disincentive for economic risk, then the best public colleges in the world will do nothing to move the state's economy out of the mud. Indeed, I'd go so far as to suggest that they could exacerbate recovery, inasmuch as pouring highly educated young adults, with concomitantly high expectations, into a flooded economic engine will only make matters worse.

October 14, 2010

The Problem Is the Entrenchment

Justin Katz

NYU history and education professor Jonathan Zimmerman strives mightily to square the liberal circle with the rigid hierarchical structure of higher education:

Some of these people are great teachers, and others aren't. But all of them are getting ripped off, driving from campus to campus and waiting — always waiting — for the full-time job that never comes.

And that's because the full-time faculty — especially the ones with tenure — have consumed most of the university's resources themselves. At the University of Pennsylvania, 76 percent of the faculty have permanent appointments; at the University of California at Berkeley, long a hotbed of left-wing activism, 77 percent do. So there's little money left over for the untenured faculty or — most of all — for the contingent ones. Power to the people? I think not.

For a culprit, Zimmerman looks not to the system of tenure that makes a university community an insular order of inducted aristocrats — and ties them to their particular institution — but to the ability of big-name and otherwise professionally attractive professors to negotiate higher salaries, especially when jumping ship to other institutions. By Zimmerman's own argument, however, the great majority of faculty members are, indeed, full time.

The problem, I'd suggest, is the tenure system itself. If there weren't a distinct threshold to cross for inclusion in the benefits of the professorial profession, then talented young teachers could negotiate higher salaries, and older teachers would have to carry their weight or acknowledge that they're consuming too much of the university's resources.

October 12, 2010

The College Money Game

Justin Katz

Look, higher education is important to the state of Rhode Island, and it would be even more so if the state were institutionally capable of creating an environment that created jobs that would attract our highly educated temporary visitors to stay in the state. But colleges and universities should start considering how their mixed message comes across to the folks struggling to make ends meet. Consider:

There are 2,400 Rhode Islanders who planned on attending the Community College of Rhode Island this fall but never enrolled because they couldn’t come up with the tuition.

The University of Rhode Island may also be in danger of becoming too expensive for out-of-state students when they compare its cost with similar institutions elsewhere, according to Ray M. DiPasquale, the state commissioner of higher education.

And more:

For the cost of two or three visits a year to Dunkin’ Donuts, about $9 for every Rhode Island taxpayer, the University of Rhode Island could build a critically needed chemistry building, President David M. Dooley said Monday.

And for another $2.52 a year, Rhode Island College could have a new arts facility to replace a 52-year-old building that has outlived its usefulness and has several fire code violations.

The leaders of post-secondary education in the state want our money-strapped government to up its contribution to their cause and are asking taxpayers to take out loans on their behalf on top of it. Yet, there's apparently money to add and accelerate new staffing positions for the cause of diversity.

This is the same game that governments play when they ensure that slush funds and wasteful programs persist while roads crumble. Expecting those expenditures that are clearly worthwhile investments to stand on their own, the people controlling the check book spend the funds already invested in them on items for which few taxpayers would agree to pay were they given the option. (To that, we could add the deal that university and college faculty and staff get.)

Sorry, but Rhode Island needs to allocate every penny possible to reducing taxes, eliminating mandates, and slashing regulations. If the spokespeople for the college crowd want a greater portion of the pie — and state-to-state comparisons suggest that they have a strong case — then they should add their voices to those calling for reform of our corrupt and wasteful system.

October 2, 2010

Re: Learning Well the Ways of the World at URI

Justin Katz

By way of following up my post about the gay-rights sit-in at the University of Rhode Island, I note that the Providence Journal has reported the actions of the student arrested related to anti-gay slurs:

An anti-gay threat written on a dry-erase board on the door of a University of Rhode Island dorm room has resulted in the arrest of a freshman from Massachusetts, URI officials said Thursday. ...

One student reported feeling threatened, [University spokesman Dave] Lavallee said.

The message, Lavallee said, was accompanied by a drawing of a male anatomical part and said: "You are gay, get out of Barlow before you regret it."

This student should certainly face some sort of censure for a dumb action intended to offend, but the Projo placed its report under the header, "Hate Crime." Is this really the level of drama that we want to apply to adolescent indiscretion?

September 30, 2010

Learning Well the Ways of the World at URI

Justin Katz

Back when I was a student at the University of Rhode Island, campus activists misinterpreted (deliberately, I'd say) a cartoon published in the student paper, The Good 5¢ Cigar, with racial undertones and secured funding for additional positions and student groups for minorities. At least the hook, in that case, came from an official publication, if erroneously accused. Now, another minority interest group is pushing for the same rewards based on less specific, and less institutional, offenses:

University of Rhode Island officials have responded to a student sit-in at the library by acknowledging that gay and lesbian students have endured discrimination. ...

Brian Stack, president of the Gay Straight Alliance and a volunteer at the center, said the group has been trying to get the administration's attention since January. "We have had students throwing used condoms into students' rooms, drawing offensive images on people's doors and an epidemic of people yelling 'faggots' as they drive by the GLBT Center," Stack said. ...

The group wants better facilities, a bigger budget for programs and better pay for staff members, a handbook of policies for reporting bias and hate crimes, sensitivity training for resident assistants, and regular meetings with Dooley. ...

He said a Bias Response Team was created for students to report harassment, funding was added for diversity programs, and the GLBT center was added to freshman orientation. And he noted that Ron Suskind's book "A Hope in the Unseen," about overcoming discrimination, was chosen as the book every freshman must read.

The lesson, learned through numerous previous incidents, is that protesting a sympathetic organization based on sometimes unverifiable incidents can be very rewarding. Granted, according to the Cigar, a student has been arrested for "writing anti-gay comments on several residence hall doors," although no details about the targeted locations of the slurs (if any), the actual content thereof, or the perpetrator's explanation are provided.

The oddity is that I keep hearing, during discussions about same-sex marriage, how tolerant younger generations are. Why should expanded programs to combat a growing wave of intolerance be necessary?

My suspicion is that they are not, but that once an organization (or society) makes it clear that it will take a particular interest in protecting certain identity groups, including recourse to indoctrination on their behalf, it will find increasing petitions to be counted among those groups and to expand and deepen the methods of shaping others' views. Moreover, having infantilized protected victim groups with the promise that the world will be made to feel safe, for them, authorities have established a very narrow range of acceptable responses that they can make.

More precisely, they have disallowed boundaries beyond which it is not their institutional responsibility to go. They cannot, that is, suggest that the university will do everything it can to ensure physical safety and equal opportunities, but beyond that, students should take the quasi-sheltered environment as a chance to learn to deal with disagreement and insults without recourse to a central authority.

August 13, 2010

A Guarantee on a Higher Degree

Justin Katz

Anchor Rising commenter mangeek sends along this Huffington Post post on student loans:

A strange milestone was marked this week in the history of student loans. The total balance of all outstanding US student loans (given as $730 billion in DIY U, based on OMB estimates) is now estimated by Mark Kantrowitz of Finaid.org at more like $830 billion -- $605.6 billion in federally guaranteed student loans, which have interest rates fixed and in some cases interest subsidized by the government, and a further $167.8 billion in private student loans, with interest rates that hover around 18-20%. Furthermore, Kantrowitz says, $300 billion in federal student loan debts have been incurred in the last four years.

This means the total balance of student loans has just surpassed the total balance of credit card debt for the first time in history. Each makes up roughly a third of the money Americans owe, mortgages excluded.

The writer, Anya Kamenetz, tags education loans as especially bad, because they aren't subject to bankruptcy extinguishment, and "and in the case of federal loans, that means being pursued until you die." Personally, I'm not so sure the measure of a particular form of debt should be how easily one can avoid paying it off.

Be that as it may, mangeek suggests getting rid of government guarantees for loans (and, presumably, government direct loans) "to all but the most promising students." For my part, the topic raises an idea: What if colleges were to begin differentiating themselves by offering some sort of loan forgiveness or guarantee themselves, based on graduates' ability to find and maintain the jobs to which their degrees are supposed to gain them access?

Higher-education consumers would surely find that proposition very attractive, not the least because it would indicate that the institutions aren't likely to let too much fluff and academic baggage interfere with the mission of imparting knowledge and preparing students for life as adults.

July 31, 2010

Still Teaching While Catholic?

Justin Katz

Commenter Brassband notes, in the comment section of my post on the University of Illinois' firing of a professor of Catholic thought for teaching Catholic thought, has been offered his job back (via American Papist):

The university released a statement today saying that Howell's appointment as an adjunct instructor in the Religion Department — teaching Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism — will be continued for the fall.

A review of whether Howell’s firing by the Religion Department violated his academic freedom is continuing, the university said.

In making the move, the university also announced it will now pay those teaching Catholic-related courses rather than have them paid by a church group.

That last point, though, is perhaps reason for concern:

... The prohibition against Dr. Howell's association with the Newman Center is another violation of his academic freedom and it is likewise a violation of his freedom of religion. How many other adjuncts or part time faculty are prevented from working for an organization associated with their faith as a condition of employment?

The U of I appears to be making an economically untenable offer with the intent of voiding a 90+ year relationship with the Newman Center. I suspect that they are banking on the fact that since Dr. Howell cannot work for the Newman Center, which paid him a full professor's salary, he will not be able to afford to take the position. The U of I is offering him perhaps a little more than a quarter of his Newman Center salary.

From a distance, it sure does look like an anti-religious political maneuver.

July 28, 2010

Teaching While Catholic

Justin Katz

There may be more to the story, but it appears that University of Illinois Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies Kenneth Howell has lost his job for the offense of teaching Catholic thought as if it might be worth considering as something more than a curious human error.

Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI's Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong. ...

One of his lectures in the introductory class on Catholicism focuses on the application of natural law theory to a social issue. In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.

That 1,500-word email clearly stays on the explanatory side of the line from advocacy, getting into trouble mainly at the end, at which point, Howell makes the mistake of suggesting that Catholic teachings are not small-minded gobbledygook, but the rational conclusions of long consideration and must be responded to with the same:

Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.

I know this doesn't answer all the questions in many of your minds. All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

This was too much for a student who had "a friend" in Professor Howell's class, who made it clear in his email to the head of the religion department, Robert McKim, copied to LGBT activists and a journalist, that he finds it offensive to be told that knowledge and learning should precede judgment:

Anyways, my friend informed me that things got especially provocative when discussing homosexuality. He sent me the following e-mail, which I believe you will agree is downright absurd once you read it.

I am in no way a gay rights activist, but allowing this hate speech at a public university is entirely unacceptable. It sickens me to know that hard-working Illinoisans are funding the salary of a man who does nothing but try to indoctrinate students and perpetuate stereotypes. Once again, this is a public university and should thus have no religious affiliation. Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.

In actuality, Howell's position was funded by "the Institute of Catholic Thought, part of St. John's Catholic Newman Center on campus and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria," but even if that were not the case, Howell's firing — if based on this complaint, or even a string of such complaints — is evidence of a profound anti-intellectualism that conservatives believe pervades American higher education. Whether "homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man" is a matter of debate, and if it is the case that Catholic philosophy's centuries of development have arrived at such erroneous conclusions that undergraduate students who aren't even studying them can declare them "downright absurd," then that debate ought to be handily won.

Instead, "inclusivity" has trumped intellect:

In another e-mail, Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote that she believes "the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

A frightening phrase, that: "entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us." Beware your students, believing Christians. You may find yourself privileged to allow passive-voiced administrators to avoid uncomfortable ideas.

July 9, 2010

Spending Priorities Are a Consequence of Policy Priorities

Justin Katz

Complaints that the State of Rhode Island has allocated more money for the Department of Corrections than for higher education miss the point. Put aside the fact that the comparison is arbitrary; the real concern should be the underlying policies that wind up making imprisoning people such a large expense.

That would be a pretty intensive examination, and I'm not really in a position to embark on it. Answers could range from needless or excessive imprisonments (of drug users, for example) to economic and welfare policies that attract people with a higher tendency to run into trouble with the law. Once again, folks are focusing on the symptoms and not the causes of Rhode Island's predicament.

The comparison of the two expenditures does raise an interesting possibility, though:

In the new fiscal year beginning Thursday, the state will contribute just 15.5 percent of the money higher education needs to operate, with the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island, raising the rest, largely through tuition and other fees.

URI President David M. Dooley told the board that URI attracted a record $86 million in outside research in fiscal 2009. The previous year, the latest for which economic impact figures are available, URI’s research arm generated 1,400 jobs and $21.5 million in federal and state tax revenue, Dooley said. ...

Overall, enrollment increased 10.4 percent between 2004 and 2009 — higher than the national average — while the state appropriation for public institutions of higher education plunged 29.1 percent during the same period — the steepest decline in the nation.

Why not begin charging inmates "tuition"? If they lack the resources to help pay for their incarceration, we could give them loans that they can pay back over the next few decades of their lives, as we do for college degrees. Perhaps the services available to them in prison should also be fee-based, with some cost for using the gym or renting movies. If Rhode Island is noteworthy for the arduousness and expense of doing time, here, those who see prison as a possibility in their future might avoid the state or improve their behavior while here.

On the other side of the comparison, I do have to note that I'm not but so sympathetic to the plight of colleges and universities:

"This model is not sustainable," [URI Provost Don DeHayes] said.

"It really means we have to find some other way to support Rhode Island students," he said.

Given the earlier comments of URI President Dooley, I can't help but wonder what sort of economic model suffers from success. How is it that an institution with an above-average increase in paying customers (students) and additional revenue from its research arm can require more subsidization? If the answer is that the cost of educating students exceeds the amount that they pay, then expenses — including remuneration of faculty and staff — enter the conversation.

November 20, 2009

The End of the Entitlement Road

Justin Katz

Is this astonishing video of a protest turned near riot related to a wrongfully imprisoned innocent, wanton murder of grandmothers, or government confiscation of children? Nope. It's over a proposed 32% tuition increase for the University of California system. It's a symptom of the inevitable collapse of a society built on an entitlement mindset.

Don't get me wrong. Such increases create real hardships and truly disrupt people's lives — and their plans for their lives. But intimidating administrators who have only so many dollars to allocate and declaring that it's "our university" only avoids the broader questions about how the situation came to be. What decisions have California and the United States made to create these circumstances?

UCLA Political Science Professor Mark Sawyer's point is true enough:

Sawyer said he is angry over the 9 to 10 percent salary cut he's taken because of mandatory furloughs. But he said he worries more for the status of the university system as a place for affordable education and how it will affect the "future leaders" of the country.

"I'm also worried about the mission of a public institution," Sawyer said. "It's a gateway to the middle class and to building the California economy and the nation's economy, and these institutions are where that all happens."

It might be too much for which to hope, but perhaps this era of hardship will remind Americans that they can't simply declare everything to be a priority. Either we can have loose immigration laws, or we can pay public university professors well. Either we can subsidize healthcare and retirement, or we can subsidize young adults' educations. Either we can regulate industry to the fine detail of our every preference, or we can hold open gateways to individual economic advancement. (Right-wingers will note that the protest sign pictured at the second link advertises for the AFL-CIO.)

In actuality, the long run may prove there to have been only one option, as a failure to build a self-propelling society (rather, a failure to allow it to build itself) undermines our ability to give resources away.

May 28, 2009

Another Sign of a Coarsening Culture?

Justin Katz

As Americans accede to the concerted push to break down our mores and cultural definitions, we shouldn't be surprised if there's an increase in this sort of double-take news items:

Two men and a woman, ages 18, 19 and 20, have been indicted for allegedly raping a fellow University of Rhode Island student on campus on Sept. 14.

There are no details about the incident, although another report pinpoints the alleged victim as a female. Whatever the case, it should shock our sensibilities to see a young woman among the indicted — not out of some false notion of womanly purity (or weakness), but as evidence that something more fundamental may be slipping that male animalism cannot explain.

Even given the negative reversal, I can already hear the indignation of those who fetishize an unconsidered vision of equality: Why shouldn't women be just as violent and just as inclined toward sexual abuse? Gender is a construct, don't you know.

April 24, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

Marc Comtois

An Ivy-leaguer from Brown goes undercover at "christianist" Liberty University and learns that, hey, Christians are people too!

[Kevin Roose] arrived at the Lynchburg campus prepared for "hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls."

Instead, he found that "not only are they not that, but they're rigorously normal."

He met students who use Bible class to score dates, apply to top law schools and fret about their futures, and who enjoy gossip, hip-hop and R-rated movies — albeit in a locked dorm room.

A roommate he depicts as aggressively anti-gay — all names are changed in the book — is an outcast on the hall, not a role model....

Roose said his Liberty experience transformed him in surprising ways.

When he first returned to Brown, he'd be shocked by the sight of a gay couple holding hands — then be shocked at his own reaction. He remains stridently opposed to Falwell's worldview, but he also came to understand Falwell's appeal.

Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly — for his own well-being and on behalf of others. He said he owns several translations of the Bible and has recently been rereading meditations from the letters of John on using love and compassion to solve cultural conflicts.

He's even considering joining a church.

A liberal Ivy-league school and religiously conservative institution like Liberty are about as polar opposite as you can get and Roose is to be commended for his initiative. This is the sort of truly open-minded educational exposure that all college kids should be getting on the campus (at both Brown and Liberty).

April 8, 2009

Columbus Banned at Brown

Marc Comtois

They editorialized, they polled and now they've been seconded by the faculty: Brown University will no longer celebrate Columbus Day. Why? From an earlier editorial at the Brown Daily Herald:

Anyone who has studied history, especially at a mostly liberal institution like Brown, knows that Christopher Columbus did not "discover" the Americas. Not only are many of his accomplishments falsified or overstated - Columbus was not the first Westerner to explore the Americas, and he never set foot in the United States - but the claim that Columbus or other explorers "discovered" America ignores the civilizations built and sustained by Native Americans for hundreds of years.

To celebrate Columbus Day is to celebrate a colonizer's holiday. It is the celebration of European powers claiming land on this and other continents, and a celebration of violence toward and oppression of indigenous people and culture. White people, ranging from European colonizers to the government of the United States, have committed innumerable brutal offenses against Native Americans over the past 500 years. Honoring Columbus with a holiday glosses over a racist, blood-stained facet of our history and glamorizes the past as victorious manifest destiny.

Yes, Europeans are indeed unique in this:
For the Aztecs, warfare had a much different goal than for most of their counterparts. The goal of the battles was not to destroy the enemy and ransack the village but to capture the community and integrate them into the Aztec society, thus providing a much more productive and expanding kingdom. The temples of these cities were burned and the worship of Huitzilopochtli was installed. Warfare was also used to capture victims for ceremonial use. Prisoners of war were sacrificed on huge alters in front of large crowds. The heart of the victim was cut out, symbolically offered to the gods, and the lifeless bodies of the victims were rolled down the long stairs, staining the steps with blood.
In North America, Europeans were one among equals in the Beaver Wars. In what we now call southern New England, the wars between the Narragansetts, Wampanoags, Pequots and Mohegans were going on before the arrival of white Europeans. Of course Europeans didn't cover themselves in glory with the way they treated the indigenous people of the New World. Man has made war upon man for time immemorial. As "anyone who has studied history" should know, the difference is only a matter of degree. This exercise in PC-feelgoodism is based on a blinkered and anachronistic view of history.

February 8, 2009

A Necessary Correction, Some Might Say

Justin Katz

Until I reached the end, I wasn't going to bother commenting on Bob Kerr's column, today. It's all emoting, no solutions. Or rather, in the typical fashion of typical liberals, Kerr's solution is an implied government gimme. But the daughter of the woman who receives most of Kerr's attention makes a complaint — a set of complaints — worth noting:

"I don't have a day off," she says. "I'm in class or working. It's seven days a week."

She says students are more worried all the time and few see a future for themselves in Rhode Island.

"We're not really having the experience of college," she says. "It's like no one's having fun anymore."

To be blunt, too much cultural effort has been invested, over the past few decades, in creating this notion of "the experience of college." Too many movies have romanticized it. Too many parents have told their children that it is the time of their lives (in part because the parents never figured out how to make the remainder of their own lives meaningful, I guess). And too many students have stridden from the campus, degrees in hand, with a backwards concept of the world of which they'd been promised conquest.

All of the saving and borrowing and scholarship funds and government grants invested in higher education ought to be incompatible with the premise that the college experience is primarily about fun. It is primarily about learning, about enhancing one's opportunities for the future.

Let's not pretend, furthermore, that the necessity of seeking opportunities in another state after graduation from a Rhode Island institution is anything new. It is one of the shameful characterizing qualities of the state, and not a problem apt to be fixed with complaints that the state government apparatus isn't helping enough.

December 14, 2008

"A Fussy and Difficult Student"

Justin Katz

There's a familiar face on the front page of the Providence Journal today:

From the beginning, the relationship between William Felkner and the Rhode Island College School of Social Work has sounded like the screech of chalk on a blackboard. ...

Felkner has filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island College that revives arguments from conservatives who have assailed the NASW code of ethics, the profession of social work and the structure of academic programs in schools of social work across the country.

The article reminds readers of a quotation from one social work professor in Felkner's past who succinctly illustrated the attitude that can fester when a group is ideologically cloistered, standing as timely evidence of the need for intellectual diversity and of the opportunity for citizen media, such as blogs, to have an effect by shedding light even in small dark pits:

[Felkner's] complaint about the film prompted an e-mail from his professor, former adjunct faculty member James Ryczek. "Social work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a socio-political ideology about how the world works and how the world should be," Ryczek wrote.

While Ryczek said he wanted to promote an open debate in class, he acknowledged his own liberal leanings.

"I revel in my biases," Ryczek wrote. "So I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those that are espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them."

One problem that arises from this particular mentality is that it creates a system whereby public funds are used toward the education of people subsequently tasked with pressuring the public for further funding by a caste of secular sacerdotalists who dictate the methods and means for which acolytes must advocate. Along those lines, note this paragraph, as well:

The School of Social Work and its advocacy arm, the Poverty Institute, favored an "education first" approach to welfare, arguing that training helps recipients land higher-paying jobs in the long run.

A peculiar and tricky business this balancing of "arms," as one can begin to see (for example) in one California union's stewardship of a charitable appendage:

A nonprofit organization founded by California's largest union local reported spending nothing on its charitable purpose -- to develop housing for low-income workers -- during at least two of the four years it has been operating, federal records show. ...

The primary mission of the charity -- the Long Term Care Housing Corp. -- is to provide affordable homes for the local's members, most of whom earn about $9 an hour caring for the elderly and infirm. But SEIU officials declined to discuss the charity, saying it is a separate legal entity from the union, even though its board is dominated by officials from the local. The charity is located at the local's headquarters.

In some respects, it's surprising that Bill was able to infiltrate our local cell of poverty advocates as deeply as he did.

October 24, 2008

Academic Theatrics as Indication of the Future

Justin Katz

This is shocking:

DeHayes would not provide the exact contents of the messages, which he said were found on a computer in the Memorial Union, the student life building, and at Swan Hall. In an interview yesterday, he would say only that they were a "characterization" of Obama.

DeHayes said a student brought the messages to his attention. As the computers are accessible to the public, he pointed out that the messages weren’t necessarily left by a member of the university community.

On campus yesterday, more than a dozen students interviewed said neither they nor their peers knew about the messages. Some, including junior Hadyn Serby, 20, had seen the provost's e-mail and said that was the first they heard of the incident. Others, among them sophomore Bianca Parker and junior Jalesia Terry, both 20, hadn't seen the provost's message, perhaps, they said, because they sometimes overlook the multiple university-wide e-mails they get or those messages automatically go to their e-mail accounts' junk boxes.

So somebody put a stupid message on a couple of computers (I'm picturing an open Word document with the note typed in), and rather than simply deleting them and instructing folks responsible for the computers to keep an eye out for that sort of thing, the "provost and vice president for academic affairs" proceeds to ensure that the messages' existence receives the greatest possible audience.

As a matter of sensible leadership, that's bad enough, but Donald DeHayes when further to the point of involving the police and giving a stunning example of the totalitarian mindset:

In his e-mail, DeHayes wrote, "While each of us is entitled to our own political views, none of us should be allowed to openly and maliciously insult others on the basis of race or religion without consequences."

DeHayes said he has asked the campus police to investigate the matter, and they are working to determine where the messages came from. While he said in his e-mail that the messages "may rise to the level of a hate crime," he characterized them as "hate speech" in the interview yesterday afternoon.

There should be consequences, but they should be to wallow in obscurity and be insulted when caught in the act. Instead, this ostensible educator corrupts the minds of young adults by trampling with impunity the presumption of free speech — probably because he has a foggy understanding of the principle, himself.

October 9, 2008

Conservatives at RISD?

Marc Comtois

Apparently, conservatives can be found everywhere, even at RISD (via Ian).

Zach Brown, founder and president of RISD Conservatives and a sophomore illustration major, said, “I became politically involved once I came to college because I was constantly being fed liberal propaganda.”

Brown, who considers Ronald Reagan his personal hero, described Rhode Island School of Design as an “isolated environment which attracts mostly liberal students and faculty. RISD is a haven for extremely left-wing ideology.”

School policy mandates student groups must have a faculty sponsor to become an officially-recognized club. Leaders of the new, student group said there are currently no known conservative faculty members at the school, but the students hope to find a professor who values diversity of thought and will consent to be their sponsor.

“Students and professors at RISD are extremely open-minded, until you disagree with them,” Brown explained. “If you do, you are either wrong or a redneck hillbilly.”

Brown compared being conservative on a modern college campus to being a suspected Communist during the Red Scare: “It seems like a similar situation to the Hollywood blacklisting of the late 1940s and 50s.”

February 9, 2008

Four Reasons to Stick to Coursework

Justin Katz

Sadly, it seems unlikely that Brown philosophy professor Felicia Nimue Ackerman's attitude is the majority one on American (at least New England) campuses. Here are four reasons that she didn't "devote a portion of class time" on a particular week "to teach about climate change":

Reason 1: Climate change is not what students signed up to study in my courses. ...

Reason 2: I am unqualified to teach about climate change. ...

Reason 3: My students can have better opportunities to learn about climate change. ...

Reason 4: I do not think climate change is the most important social problem in the world.

No doubt Ms. Ackerman and most Anchor Rising readers would have strong disagreements about any number of things, but her attitude certainly establishes a shared principle on which to build further discussion.

January 19, 2008

William Felkner: Ideological Corruption on Campus

Engaged Citizen

Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), slammed Brown and URI for their blatant attempts to squelch First Amendment rights in Friday's Providence Journal:

Brown University was home to one of the most mysterious cases that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has ever seen — mysterious because the university never explained why it decided to trample on its students' freedom of religion. Brown's Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) was suspended in September 2006 for "non-compliance" with university policy. When the RUF asked what it had failed to comply with, the strange saga began.

After FIRE repeatedly reminded Brown University that it, too, must obey the U.S. Constitution, all charges and restrictions against RUF were removed. To date, no explanation has been given.

Next we turn our eyes to URI, where FIRE found the Student Senate, backed with institutional power, trying to force the College Republicans to write an apology for offering a $100 WHAM scholarship (white heterosexual American male). After a few letters and some embarrassing press, they finally got it: "no state authority can force people to say things they don't believe."

The timing is entirely coincidental, but my first piece on the Manhattan Institute's new Web site, Minding the Campus, tells a similar story to Mr. Shibley's — this time in another of our state sponsored schools, Rhode Island College.

My previous run-ins with the college suggest that RIC isn't at all new to exercising its dictatorial rights. Remember Lisa Church — the teacher taken to task for not punishing a parent for using "colorful" language? Or perhaps the infamous "keep your Rosaries off my ovaries" fiasco?

With those incidents, I decided to support the college for protecting students' right to be offensive (if rather dumb). In "I Pray Sacrilege Is Protected," I draw the line from the RIC "Jesus Cartoon" to 1943's West Virginia v. Barnette, which instructed that "no officer, high or petty, shall prescribe orthodoxy to a profession." In other words, professors (who, some would say, are both high and petty) may not require a politically, religiously, or otherwise restricted right of thought. They can't tell us what to think and say.

An RI Supreme Court Case, Lee v. Weisman, involving prayers stripped from public graduations, takes us back to RIC, which is still confused about which parts of the First Amendment it wants to or can restrict.

Politicians make back-room deals and close out the citizens for money and votes. The representatives of higher education act on behalf of an ideological currency. The first corrupt the political process, the second the minds of American students.

William Felkner is the president of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute.

December 3, 2007

Thanking Hillary, Tongue in Cheek

Justin Katz

The campaign of Hillary Clinton — herself a College Republican — is coming to town today, and the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island will be at the corner of Post Rd. and Airport Rd. in Warwick at 3:30 to express their gratitude for her vote for the war in 2002 and "for pledging to continue the presence of troops to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq if she is elected President."

It's a frightening "if," I know, but support for the war is support for the war.

November 22, 2007

Everybody's Out to Get Them Young

Justin Katz

We're rightly wary when credit card companies target college kids. (I'm still smarting from the puncture that I received in the bull's-eye.) So why is the New York Times treating it as some kind of a rights story that pharmaceutical companies are no longer targeting young women with discounted birth control?

The change is due to a provision in a federal law that ended a practice by which drug manufacturers provided prescription contraception to the health centers at deeply discounted rates. The centers then passed along the savings to students and others. ...

Some college clinics have reported sudden drops in the numbers of contraceptives sold; students have reported switching to less expensive contraceptives or considering alternatives like the so-called morning-after pill; and some clinics, including one at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., have stopped stocking some prescription contraceptives, saying they are too expensive.

Attempting to argue the contrary, one affected student illustrates the error in thinking that easy access to contraceptives doesn't encourage kids to have sex:

"The potential is that women will stop taking it, and whether or not you can pay for it, that doesn't mean that you'll stop having sex," said Katie Ryan, a senior at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, who said that the monthly cost of her Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, a popular birth control pill, recently jumped to nearly $50 from $12.

Ms. Ryan, 22, said she had considered switching to another contraceptive to save money, but was unsure which one to pick. She has ended up paying the higher price, but said she was concerned about her budget.

"I do less because of this — less shopping, less going out to eat," said Ms. Ryan, who has helped organize efforts to educate others on campus about the price jump. "For students, this is very, very expensive."

What Katie inadvertently highlights, here, is that — although sex is just another activity for which one must make sacrifices and balance desires — kids have the impression that sex can't be avoided. A dramatic increase in the price of antacids obviously won't stop people from eating, but it may affect their dietary choices. Why should our society treat sex as if it is less amenable to self-control than eating?

I'd suggest to young Americans that they take a moment to consider who has an interest in encouraging a loose addiction to sex. The entertainment industry, the advertising industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and (yes) the abortion industry all stand to gain financially from a broad impression among the Ms. Ryans of the country that closing their legs is simply too difficult a feat of self mastery.

November 16, 2007

RI College Republicans' Brown Streak

Justin Katz

Not to pick on the Ivy model of Rhode Island's College Republican collection, but this line from Sean Quigley, second vice chairman of the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island, treasurer of the Brown College Republicans, and Brown Daily Herald columnist, is too precious to let pass:

"I don't mean to sound elitist, but we tend to be a bit more intellectual," he said. "That's not to mean others are less intellectual, but the environment we find ourselves in allows for more exchange of abstract ideas than mundane analysis of policy."

Being myself (as the article goes on to state) interested in intellectual discussion, I wanted to see what the elephant yutes at Brown are up to, but their campus Web site is still advertising a Dinesh D'Souza lecture from March 2005. The reality of "high-powered alumni" means little, I'd suggest, if a group isn't gaining the experience of the less intellectual kids whom its not more intellectual than keeping things organized and current and doing all that mundane policy analysis stuff like debates and editorials and developing enumerated statements of principle (which are hardly intellectual at all).

October 30, 2007

A Fallacy of Fallacies

Justin Katz

Putting aside his petty complaints that Dan Yorke and Lori Drew interrupted him on the radio (but noting that I heard him interrupting Ms. Drew moments before chastising her for doing the same), this aspect of John McNally's thoughts on his appearance on Dan Yorke's show relates to a question that I've had since first coming across his blog last night:

When the d.j. Dan Yorke jumped in (Dan also interrupted me in the first part of the segment), he wanted to argue my point by comparing Will's essay to a security system in the school. What if, he supposes, she had complaints about security? Shouldn't she have the right, as a parent, even though she's not a security expert, to bring this to the attention of the school? My reply was that it was a logical fallacy to compare a security system to an essay that's part of a school's curriculum. He said, "It's not a logical fallacy," and I, making the mistake of thinking this was a debate, and interrupting him as both he and the mother had done to me, said, "It IS a logical fallacy." ...

(Just because two issues share SOME things in common -- like schools and teachers -- doesn't make it a valid comparison. This is Freshman Comp 101, not rocket science, but if that makes me an academic jack-ass, so be it. I'd rather be the person who can distinguish those differences than the one who can't. And if my tone here is elitist, so f***ing what?) ...

So, yes, okay, I'll concede: Maybe I am a certain kind of academic jack-ass who thinks his s*** doesn't stink. Those who know me, of course, are howling right now, but pay no mind to them, because you know what, Dan Yorke? I'd much rather be me than you, a jack-ass d.j. who doesn't know what a logical fallacy is, and whose only come-back is yet another logical fallacy: the ad hominem attack.

Frankly, I'm not persuaded that Mr. McNally is entirely clear on what constitutes a logical fallacy, himself. Here, McNally flings the label upon hearing Yorke equate school security with a reading assignment, which would have been a fallacy of composition and division (some aspects of each thing are like, therefore, they are like in total and, therefore, in other particulars). But this is a strawman (fallacy). A comparison's being invalid doesn't make it logically fallacious. It falls to McNally, at this point, to explain why security and reading assignments are not comparable in the aspects that Yorke intended (in this case, the right, even obligation, of parents to speak up when they think the academic professionals to be in error).

Elsewhere, McNally replies thus to a commenter who questioned whether he would have a problem "if the school assigned Bill O'Reilly or some right-wing book to students to read":


In this instance, the rules of argumentative writing are a red herring (another fallacy), via which McNally attempts to divert attention from the questions. Those questions may be irrelevant, but that's an opinion requiring further debate; posing them doesn't represent a failure of logic.

As I suggested in the comments to my previous post, McNally is employing the technique of calling comparisons and analogies that he finds erroneous or inapplicable "logical fallacies" even though it's not the logic that is fallacious in those cases (which labeling is, itself, a fallacy of persuasive definition). He uses the phrase "logical fallacy" as an invisible wall to be thrown up around rhetorical opponents in order to invalidate their arguments on grounds that he presumes them not to understand.

The not-quite-unexpected irony of the post is that the centerpiece of his own argument is itself a logical fallacy:

My main complaint with this woman isn't that she doesn't want her daughter to read Will Clarke's essay, which she found offensive, but rather that she doesn't want the book in the school at all. In other words, she wants to dictate curriculum. So, you see, she's trying to dictate what OTHER KIDS in the class should be reading, not just what her daughter should be reading.

McNally presents a false dilemma: Either Drew must shut her yap, or she is attempting to "dictate curriculum" (sic). The alternative that this reasoning overlooks is that Drew is dictating nothing; indeed, she is inherently powerless to do so. (She hasn't even suggested, as far as I've seen, that she's considering legal action.) Rather, she's attempting to bring the matter into the open in the hopes that pressure will be brought to bear on those who do have the authority to raise the intellectual and moral level of the education offered in Cumberland's public schools.

October 23, 2007

Islam's Politics of Women

Justin Katz

I just wanted to remind everybody that tonight is URI Professor Donna Hughes's lecture on "Women's Rights & Political Islam" as part of the URI College Republicans' Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. It's certain to be worth attending, if you're able.

October 15, 2007

Call Me a Pro-Alcohol Conservative (i guess)

Justin Katz

There would seem to be a lesson here for folks prone to the sort of ultra-decisive decision making that occurred on the University of Rhode Island campus between the time when I was impressed, as a high school student, with URI's reputation as a party school and the time when I found myself there after a few years of wandering:

LONGTIME RESIDENTS say the tension between students and homeowners has gotten worse over the years as people have sold their homes to escape the weekend disturbances, leaving more houses in the hands of seasonal residents and landlords. According to U.S. Census figures, more than 38 percent of the homes in town were rentals in 2000, the fourth-highest figure among Rhode Island communities.

Things got worse in 1995, longtime residents say, when URI banned alcohol on campus, sending more partying Narragansett's way.

One of the most tragic and high-profile incidents involving URI students in Narragansett occurred last year, when three students got into a rowboat and headed out onto Narragansett Bay, where they drowned. Witnesses told the police the students had been drinking, though the police said it was unclear what role alcohol might have played.

The Narragansett/URI Coalition, a body of community leaders, URI administrators and students, started meeting in 2000 to address the alcohol/partying issue, but two of the most tangible responses came in 2005, when URI expanded its disciplinary reach to include off-campus behavior and the Narragansett council adopted the first version of the nuisance ordinance.

I remember those parties down the line. I also remember the regular, well, poor decisions that those forced miles away to find bars would often make. The Kingston campus is not like others that I've seen that have bars available within walking distance.

Sometimes, policies have to accommodate — rather than seek to quash — undesirable behavior in order to avoid that cascade of unforeseen consequences.

October 10, 2007

Grassroots on the Quad

Justin Katz

You'll note the new ad at left for the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island. Click on over to see what they're up to these days. We rightward Rhode Islanders are always worrying that our opportunities are limited to change the way in which things are done here (and thought here), and it increasingly seems to me that collegiate organizations are in a uniquely auspicious spot to help us where we most need it: organization, enthusiasm, and resources.

October 3, 2007

For Scheduling Purposes

Justin Katz

You might be interested in some of the events on the URI College Republicans' schedule for the semester, especially during Islamo-Facism Awareness Week later this month. I'm going to try to make it to both Donna Hughes's lecture on "Women's Rights and Political Islam" (October 23) and Robert Spencer's lecture the following evening (October 24).

Conservative college groups are in a unique position to bring interesting speakers to the state, and we at Anchor Rising have certainly been talking about encouraging them to leverage that position. If you're similarly inclined, it might be worth your while to poke around the state College Republican Web site.

September 27, 2007

Higher Education, Lower Behavior, and Bad Advice

Justin Katz

So you've traveled with your daughter on the journey that has led her to freshman year at the University of Rhode Island, and within a couple of weeks of looking to the student paper, The Good 5¢ Cigar, to understand the community of which she is now a part — perhaps to glean some tips on how to behave, now that she's away from Mom and Dad — she comes across an advice column by "Misty Pink" titled "Sex and the Cigar: Boring sex requires a visit to your local porn shop," offering the following nugget of wisdom to a girl who complains that her "sex life is normally more exciting than it is now," with her boyfriend of one month, and wonders how to respond to his suggestion that they "go visit a sex shop":

Well first of all, your oh-so-wise resident sexpert here commends you on being open to even going to a sex shop with your boyfriend at all. My guess is that he probably senses you are disappointed with your dwindling sex life and doesn't want to come out and say it. Poor guy is probably embarrassed. So, his roundabout way of making things a bit more exciting was to suggest a visit to a sex shop, which is, in fact, a great idea if you want to spice things up a bit in the bedroom.

I'm not saying you have to go all out with whips, chains and strap-ons, but try some flavored whipped cream, some edible panties, or maybe even some sexy lingerie. That's sure to put the heat back in your relationship. For the faint of heart, there's always penis pasta.

"Life," Ms. Pink explains, is "too short for bad sex." It's certainly too short for non-flavored whipped cream.

Now, I know that this anonymous giver of sex advice has achieved the height of daring, with her writing. I also know that I'm a stodgy old thirty-something in the notoriously prudish field of construction. But I'm still not sure why it is that higher education must be accompanied by low behavior. Perhaps some adult supervision would help students to develop more richly formed lives. It might (and only might) result in better advice about a wide range of topics, including sex, that is not objectifying, dehumanizing, and more likely than not to lead students away from actual fully satisfying relationships.

Yeah, yeah, I know. College is all about exploration, self definition. It's still disappointing, though, to come across reminders that it's often less about growth than about playacting maturity.

August 23, 2007

Rhode Island Higher Education Top-20 Rankings

Carroll Andrew Morse

Brandie Jefferson of the Projo's 7-to-7 blog has an item about Bryant University's top-20 ranking by the Princeton Review in the category of "career and job placement services"

Bryant wasn't the only college to be ranked in the top 20 -- or maybe the bottom 20, depending on the category -- in the national survey.

Brown University did well in a number of positive categories…

  • (6) The Toughest to Get Into
  • (5) Best College Radio Station
  • (13) Best College Theater
  • (2) Happiest Students

The University of Rhode Island, however, was top (or bottom 10) in a number of negative categories…

  • (10) Professors Get Low Marks
  • (10) Professors Make Themselves Scarce
  • (10) Their Students (Almost) Never Study
  • (9) Dorms Like Dungeons

And Providence College also ranked in a number of categories that they probably won't be mentioning in their recruiting brochures…

  • (1) Homogeneous Student Population
  • (8) Little Race/Class Interaction
  • (19) Everyone Plays Intramural Sports
  • (4) Lots of Hard Liquor

Not that it's living up to the stereotypical reputation of a b-school or anything, but job placement was the only category that Bryant University placed in…

  • (9) Best Career/Job Placement Services

Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University didn't make any of the top-20 lists.

Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University appear not to have been considered in the rankings.

August 14, 2007

Presidents of Brown, RWU, Salve Regina, and URI Condemn Britain's Academic Boycott of Israel

Carroll Andrew Morse

A large group of American University and College Presidents have signed a letter published in the New York Times, attributed to President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, condemning the decision of Britain’s new University and College Union to academically boycott Israeli Universities…

Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours,Too!

As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

At Columbia, I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate—as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government’s policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.

Included amongst the signatories are President Robert L. Carothers of the University of Rhode Island, President M. Therese Antone of Salve Regina University, and President Roy J. Nirschel of Roger Williams University(*).

President Ruth Simmons of Brown University has issued her own letter condemning the boycott…

The University and College Union’s decision to consider support for a boycott of academic institutions in Israel has rightly aroused concern among the members of the Brown University Community. I have followed this issue closely and with mounting dismay.

Institutions of higher learning go to extraordinary lengths to defend the free flow of information, the unfettered exchange of ideas, and the primacy of well-reasoned argument. Defending these fundamental principles is not merely a matter for debate. With those principles in place, the academy cannot exist.

A boycott of the sort your organization is considering – a measure that attempts to silence or marginalize the scholars of an entire nation – is inimical to those fundamental principles and could do great harm to colleges and universities. Supporting such a boycott of scholars from Israel or any other part of the world is not an option for people who are dedicated to the core principles of the academy. As president of Brown University, I write to inform you that we strongly support Israeli universities and will assist them in efforts to protect scholars from political pressure of the kind the forthcoming debate intends.

A quick search of the websites of Providence College, Bryant University and Rhode Island College didn't turn up any individual letters or statements regarding the boycott.

(*)Title and body corrected to include President Nirschel's signature on the NYT letter, inadvertently omitted from the original post

Presidents of Brown, RWU, Salve Regina, and URI Condemn Britain's Academic Boycott of Israel

Carroll Andrew Morse

A large group of American University and College Presidents have signed a letter published in the New York Times, attributed to President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University, condemning the decision of Britain’s new University and College Union to academically boycott Israeli Universities…

Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours,Too!

As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

At Columbia, I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate—as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government’s policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.

Included amongst the signatories are President Robert L. Carothers of the University of Rhode Island, President M. Therese Antone of Salve Regina University, and President Roy J. Nirschel of Roger Williams University(*).

President Ruth Simmons of Brown University has issued her own letter condemning the boycott…

The University and College Union’s decision to consider support for a boycott of academic institutions in Israel has rightly aroused concern among the members of the Brown University Community. I have followed this issue closely and with mounting dismay.

Institutions of higher learning go to extraordinary lengths to defend the free flow of information, the unfettered exchange of ideas, and the primacy of well-reasoned argument. Defending these fundamental principles is not merely a matter for debate. With those principles in place, the academy cannot exist.

A boycott of the sort your organization is considering – a measure that attempts to silence or marginalize the scholars of an entire nation – is inimical to those fundamental principles and could do great harm to colleges and universities. Supporting such a boycott of scholars from Israel or any other part of the world is not an option for people who are dedicated to the core principles of the academy. As president of Brown University, I write to inform you that we strongly support Israeli universities and will assist them in efforts to protect scholars from political pressure of the kind the forthcoming debate intends.

A quick search of the websites of Providence College, Bryant University and Rhode Island College didn't turn up any individual letters or statements regarding the boycott.

(*)Title and body corrected to include President Nirschel's signature on the NYT letter, inadvertently omitted from the original post

July 24, 2007

Jim Baron on Ryan Bilodeau

Carroll Andrew Morse

Sure, national recognition is nice, but yesterday, College Republican Federation of Rhode Island President Ryan Bilodeau received the kind of recognition that proves he’s a real up-an-comer -- he was covered by Jim Baron in the Woonsocket Call

It's not hard to think that someone with [his] kind of knack for drawing media attention while selling an idea like opposition to affirmative action and other race-based preferences, just might have a future in politics.

Might he run for office on his own someday? "I've thought about it. I am interested in solving problems in whatever role I can. If that means entering the political arena as a candidate, then I will. If I find my time, my resources, my energy are better used behind the scenes, then I'll do that. I think that we all have a role to play in this life, based on the talents we are given."

That is a perfectly good politician's non-answer to a reporter's question. But Bilodeau can't resist taking it a step further, perhaps showing more of his hand than originally intended.

"When the General Assembly is doing their budget at 11:30 p.m.," he says. "and (Democratic Cranston Rep. Charlene Lima's privatization bill gets slipped in at the last minute and all these common sense bills by Reps. (John) Laughlin and (Joseph) Trillo are putting out there are denied because they have an R (for Republican) after their name and because the people voting against them are beholden to the special interests like the unions, that can anger me enough to want to be a voice on the floor, sitting at the table."

Jim Baron on Ryan Bilodeau

Carroll Andrew Morse

Sure, national recognition is nice, but yesterday, College Republican Federation of Rhode Island President Ryan Bilodeau received the kind of recognition that proves he’s a real up-an-comer -- he was covered by Jim Baron in the Woonsocket Call

It's not hard to think that someone with [his] kind of knack for drawing media attention while selling an idea like opposition to affirmative action and other race-based preferences, just might have a future in politics.

Might he run for office on his own someday? "I've thought about it. I am interested in solving problems in whatever role I can. If that means entering the political arena as a candidate, then I will. If I find my time, my resources, my energy are better used behind the scenes, then I'll do that. I think that we all have a role to play in this life, based on the talents we are given."

That is a perfectly good politician's non-answer to a reporter's question. But Bilodeau can't resist taking it a step further, perhaps showing more of his hand than originally intended.

"When the General Assembly is doing their budget at 11:30 p.m.," he says. "and (Democratic Cranston Rep. Charlene Lima's privatization bill gets slipped in at the last minute and all these common sense bills by Reps. (John) Laughlin and (Joseph) Trillo are putting out there are denied because they have an R (for Republican) after their name and because the people voting against them are beholden to the special interests like the unions, that can anger me enough to want to be a voice on the floor, sitting at the table."

July 20, 2007

RI College Republicans Named Top Campus Activists in America

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island’s College Republicans are earning some national recognition for the efforts they've made over the past year or two…

College Republican Federation of Rhode Island Chairman Ryan Bilodeau was unanimously elected as one of eight members in the nation to the National Credentials Committee of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) this past weekend in Arlington, Virginia at the organization’s 57th Annual National Convention.

“I am honored to have garnered the unanimous support for a committee entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the organization’s bi-annual elections,” remarked Chairman Ryan Bilodeau

The election victory comes just days after Chairman Ryan Bilodeau and Vice Chairman Dana Peloso were named to a list of the Top 15 Campus Conservative Activists in the United States by Young America’s Foundation. Young America’s Foundation, with tens of thousands of members on college campuses nationwide, is the leading, dynamic, and fresh face of the Young Conservative Movement and has been introducing young people to the conservative movement for more than 35 years.

The complete Young America’s Foundation list is available here.

July 18, 2007

Toppling Old Men for a Single Word (It's a Bird! It's a Plane!)

Justin Katz

From a press statement put out by "Roger Williams University School of Law student organizers Matt Jerzyk, Majessire Smith and Kim Ahern" on the resolution of the Roger Williams University Papitto melodrama:

We are proud of every law school student and all of the faculty, alumni and donors who raised their voice against racism at our University. When a community comes together with one voice, they have the power to move mountains.

Yeah, move mountains... or devastate old men in the waning days of their distinguished service to the university. Pretty much the same thing. At least everybody got to parade around the classroom in hero costumes.

May 2, 2007

Bilodeau Elected as New State College GOP Head

Marc Comtois

According to a press release issued by the RI GOP, URI College Republican Chair Ryan Bilodeau has been elected as the new head of the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island. Comments to this post hinted that a change was afoot within the RI College Republican ranks. From the outside, it would appear as if the majority of College Republicans are now more inclined to engage in the confrontational campus politics that the previous leadership found so abrasive.

April 29, 2007

Putting the Other Side Out There

Justin Katz

In response to Marc's post on the DJs' being fired from Roger Williams's WQRI, program director Mike Martelli has left the following comment (which I've also read his expressing in an email that reached me through a series of forwards):

As the Program Director of WQRI it is my responsibility to determine what content is inappropriate to be aired on the station. After much discussion with the entire air staff I have come to the conclusion that the infamous phrase, “nappy headed ho” should not be repeated over our airwaves. I have given the air staff a lot of freedom with the content of their shows. However, when Dee Jays have pushed the envelope sometimes I have to bring them back to a reasonable level.

At the air staff meeting we discussed the First Amendment issues regarding the Imus phrase. It was at this meeting, which took place on Wednesday April 18th, we discussed whether or not the air staff felt as if they would be censored if I asked them not to repeat the Imus phrase. Mr. Peloso and Mr. Porter were not in attendance. The consensus from the air staff was that there was no problem to the ban. I had to call a special meeting with Jon Porter and Dana Peloso on Monday the 23rd in which I passed on the order. We were all in agreement that the phrase should not be said.

I don’t think that the phrase needed to be said again, especially since the Imus incident had taken place more than 2 weeks prior and was no longer newsworthy. I also felt that phrase could be offensive to some and with WQRI’s FCC license up for renewal I did not want to risk offending the community. We are a music station and we have spent lots of time trying to build up a reputable image with the community and have successfully done so.

The issue here is that the College Republicans have failed to comply with direct orders and station policy. My decision was based on WQRI issues only; my personal beliefs had to stay out of it. It is unfair that the media is pulling my blog posts and taking them out of context. The only reason I chose to suspend and fire Dana Peloso and Jon Porter is their blatant insubordination. The First Amendment was not an issue here as there was an obvious disregard for WQRI policy and leadership.

The accusations that I acted in collaboration with Vice President John King to censor the College Republicans is completely false and completely ridiculous. I have stood against VP King on many occasions and I can describe our relationship as professional but not one of great chemistry. VP King and I have clashed on issues of Student’s Rights and I have consistently stood as an advocate of these Student Rights. The issue with King and the CR’s has been misunderstood. VP King had only mentioned in passing to our General Manager that the content of the show might not be the best to display during the Accepted Students Day, and I completely agree.

VP King never, I repeat never, gave us an order to take any kind of action against Mr. Peloso or Mr. Porter. In fact he never even suggested that anything should happen to the College Republicans. Just because he mentioned that the content was not appropriate for Accepted Student’s day does not mean he wanted us to give the CR’s the Axe. He is an ambassador for the University and he has the right to comment. The comment had nothing to do with my decision. At no time did VP King or any other Administrator tell me what to do.

Jon Porter and Dana Peloso were suspended because of insubordination and have consequently been fired because they did not have the patience to take part in an investigation by the station's student run executive board. If Jon and Dana let us examine the tape of their show they would also have had time to defend their actions in front of the board. Since they decided to jump the gun and go to the press I am lead to believe that this has little to do with concerns of censorship and has more to do with gaining attention. Jon and Dana mentioned the Imus Phrase more than 30 times in 28 minutes, they did little to actually discuss the first amendment and it was quite clear that Jon and Dana were trying to cause trouble. Their actions were irresponsible and had no journalistic character. This is the reason I have decided to let them go. The University has nothing to do with this decision, it is 100% mine.

Mike Martelli
WQRI Program Director
(401) 254 3282

Personally, I'd be interested to hear the offending tape, myself (and if Porter and Peloso wished, I'd be happy to host a streaming version on Anchor Rising). From what I've read so far, although one can argue the merit of each decision leading up to the firing, my impression remains in sync with the instinct with which I received the initial "breaking news" announcement: I worry that coastal conservatives — by necessity a countercultural lot — can too easily be manipulated by attention-seeking yutes. That a particular incident reinforces our beliefs or advances our cause doesn't mean that we ought uncritically to pounce on it.

It might arouse less suspicion if the students were out in the public offering their own intellectual position and explanation, as Mr. Martelli is, rather than merely pointing to the fact that they'd been canned.

April 26, 2007

RE: Wingfield's Letter

Marc Comtois

I share Justin's concern that some of what has gone on may not be "out of deliberate strategy" and instead may be for the sake of "the sheer self-gratifying joy of subversion and recognition." It is this line between publicity-for-its-own-sake and polemic that is sometimes hard to toe. (Ann Coulter comes to mind). So, perhaps I was a bit too hard on Wingfield, but there is certainly a place for using free speech--including tough language--to shake up the campus conventional wisdom. Keeping in mind that most College Republicans are essentially apprentices in field of polemics, some line-crossing is to be expected.

If nothing else, Wingfield's resignation--which, by the way, is largely symbolic as he's graduating in a couple weeks by which time his replacement will have been elected--has brought to the fore a debate that is going on in the wider world of conservative and Republican politics. It's encapsulated well in this post from National Review's Jonah Goldberg in which one of his emailers observes:

The vast right wing conspiracy at some point seems to have decided that we'll command, if not dominate, the following:

- Think tanks
- Talk radio
- Blogs

This strategy seems to depend on persuading opinion leaders of the merits of our case, preferably using 10,000+ words to do so. The opinion leaders then hold court at family barbecues, dazzling friends and family with facts and logic and slowly converting them to our side.

That's a perfectly legitimate approach, but it has three problems that make it less than sufficient as a marketing strategy: (1) political junkies aren't necessarily opinion leaders; (2) the arguments are usually too complex to be easily distilled into something that could lead to opinion leadership; and, (3) it assumes that people's views are shaped by facts and logic, when things like the aforementioned group identity are at least as important among many people.

In other words, we need counterparts to MoveOn and its ilk that can succinctly and persuasively communicate meaningful information to largely disinterested voters, and do so using the tools and tones appropriate for our target audiences.

Young and motivated College Republicans are the GOPs counterpart to the liberal foot soldiers of MoveOn. Wingfield is correct to caution them about stepping over the line. But we also have to realize that there is a difference between the language used in discussions held at a suburban, backyard barbecue and the jawing that goes on at a kegger.

Re: Outgoing State College Republican Chair: Make Sure What You Say is Politically Correct Before You Say It

Marc Comtois

It's apparent that the sort of bareknuckle, in-your-face ideological battles that his fellow College Republicans are waging is too much for Wingfield.

Some may recall that Wingfield was the head of the Reformed Christian Fellowship at Brown University, which was suspended last year. Wingfield perservered and, with the help of FIRE, they were reinstated. Wingfield's resignation seems to indicate that -when it wasn't his ox being gored--he wants to be "moderate." He stated, "We are conservatives, not liberals. Use wisdom, and be virtuous when you exercise free speech." Wingfield is correct that College Republicans should use wisdom and be virtuous, but that doesn't mean they can't still be tough or humorous. Unfortunately, "being nice" isn't going to get you noticed on college campuses. If College Republicans want to make a mark, they need to select a replacement for Wingfield who won't be so skittish about taking the battle to the ideological opposition. It looks like there may be a couple people at URI or RWU who may fit the bill.

UPDATE: Contrast Wingfield's free speech construct with this from Andrew Klavan's (via Dale Light):

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

Then again, I forgot...Wingfield is a Chafee Republican, not a conservative.

Outgoing State College Republican Chair: Make Sure What You Say is Politically Correct Before You Say It

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ethan Wingfield has resigned as chairman of the State College Republican Federation (h/t the RI Report website). Mr. Wingfield’s resignation letter includes this vague statement on freedom of speech…

As I leave this post, College Republicans around this state have created multiple controversies by exercising our liberty of free speech. We are conservatives, not liberals. Use wisdom, and be virtuous when you exercise free speech.
If Mr. Wingfield has problems with positions expressed by other Rhode Island College Republicans, or with how they've been expressed, he should challenge specifically what he finds to be objectionable -- and do it in a way without recommending that campus Republicans limit themselves to speech that it is, in a literal sense, politically correct.

URI College Republicans, Still Recognized

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Randal Edgar of the Projo...

The University of Rhode Island Student Senate last night backed away from asking the College Republican club to apologize for advertising a “White Heterosexual American Male” scholarship, but the club is being asked to send clarification letters to the 40 people who applied.

The letters are to explain something that many Senate members felt was not clear in the one-time ad that ran in the collage newspaper last fall — that there was no scholarship and that the ad was meant to be a satirical statement on affirmative action.

The outcome followed nearly two hours of debate by the Senate, which occasionally discussed the matter directly with Ryan Bilodeau, the Republican club’s chairman.

Bilodeau, who made a formal address to the Senate and continued to insist that the club was not willing to apologize, said afterward that the Senate decision was a good way to put the matter to rest.

“We have said all along that we were willing to compromise,” he said. “The only thing we will not do is apologize.”

At least one student senator reveals that more debate, more speech, and yes, more satire will be necessary to drive home the point the College Republicans were trying to make...
Some Senate members opposed the bill, saying it let the Republican club off too easy and ignored a violation of Senate bylaws forbidding student organizations from discriminating or impeding equal opportunity based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and other “non-merit” factors.

“I am personally offended by your event, not your ideology,” Senate member Cristin Langworthy told Bilodeau. “You’re not making a progressive statement, you’re discriminating.”

April 25, 2007

Meanwhile, at URI....

Marc Comtois

While the Roger Williams University radio controversy rages on, the URI Senate is deciding whether or not to de-recognize the URI College Republicans. Here's a press release from Ryan Bilodeau, Chairman of the URI College Republicans:

Kingston, RI - April 25, 2007 - Displaying a dramatic disregard for students' constitutional rights, a committee of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate voted to de-recognize the College Republicans student group. For months, the Student Senate has demanded that the group publicly apologize for advertising a satirical $100 "scholarship" for white, heterosexual, American males. In response, the College Republicans refused to apologize.

Tonight the URI College Republicans face a vote in front of the full Student Senate on whether or not they will be de-recognized.

The ACLU, University President Carothers and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have all spoken out in favor of the College Republicans.

University students and members of the media are invited to attend tonight at 6:30 PM in the Student Senate Chambers of the Memorial Union.

Protesters are expected to attend.

What: URI Student Senate De-Recognition Meeting
Who: University of Rhode Island College Republicans
Where: University of Rhode Island Memorial Union Student Senate Chambers
When: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Roger Williams U Gets into the Censorship Game? (UPDATED)

Marc Comtois

First it was the URI College Republicans, now a couple conservative college radio hosts have been "fired" from WQRI, the Roger Williams University student radio station. Their offense? Repeating the Don Imus "nappy headed ho" phrase on the air while discussing the incident itself. Call it second-hand censorship.

Now, I believe that because RWU is a private institution, 1st Amendment issues are not necessarily applicable, as they are in the URI case. However, given the "mission" of free and open discussion that most liberal arts schools claim to promote (though RWU's stated mission is not quite so explicit), there can be little doubt that ideological based censorship lay behind this action. That being said, RWU is proud to claim that it upholds the ideals of it's namesake, explaining:

The University has dedicated itself to the ideals advocated by Roger Williams himself: education, freedom and tolerance. Through his scholarship in language, theology and law, Williams’ life reflected the value of learning and teaching. The University honors his legacy by modeling a community in which diverse people and diverse ideas are valued, intellectual achievement is celebrated and civic responsibility is expected.
Well, apparently not all diversity--like intellectual or political--is equal. The students weren't being intolerant by repeating the phrase that set off a media controversy, but Roger Williams University certainly appears to be.

If they haven't already, the students should contact FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to help them with their case. They've certainly helped the URI Republicans (even if the Student Senate still refuses to budge--more on that here).

FYI, Dan Yorke is promoting an interview with the students this afternoon.

UPDATE: First, I appended (in the extended entry) the press release that the hosts of the conservative talk show “Morning Again”, Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, issued. Second, apparently they were directed to not use the term at all and then used it 30 times in a 25 minute period. So, there are some management issues here, too. However, it also appears as if the station administration hasn't been able to get their story straight. In short, it looks like Peloso and Porter purposefully provoked the situation...but is that cause for firing, when the usual action would be a suspension? Or did they cross a line and deserve what they got? More to come.

UPDATE II: Alex Kuffner of the Projo reports on the story here.

Continue reading "Roger Williams U Gets into the Censorship Game? (UPDATED)"

February 22, 2007

'60's Era Campus Free Speechniks: Fought the Old Boss, became the New Boss

Marc Comtois

What happens when young co-eds "fight the power" and win a loosening of on-campus speech codes? Why, they seek to reimpose them when they become "the power." As Greg Lukianoff and Will Creeley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) explain in a campus free speech expose in today's Providence Phoenix (Via N4N):

College administrators didn’t decide to start cracking down on student speech just because of Facebook’s popularity. Despite the fact that such institutions rely on free and open exchange to serve their societal functions, universities both public and private have been policing student speech for decades. While we do ourselves no favors imagining that there was ever a time in collegiate history that students’ rights were perfectly respected, the campus free-speech movement of the 1960s and ’70s was highly successful. The sad irony is that many from the generation that fought so hard for free speech in the ’60s and ’70s were the pioneers of speech codes and PC restrictions in the ’80s and ’90s and that we still see today.
Yes, it's only "free speech" if they agree with it. Yet, there is a reason behind the speech codes: "In an attempt to prevent these claims, educational institutions have adopted a corporate risk-management posture." By this, they explain:
...speech codes are maintained by schools in no small part due to a deeply held fear of civil liability for harassment lawsuits arising from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination — including sexual harassment — in any education program receiving federal funding. Plaintiffs in meritorious sexual-harassment lawsuits stand to win large damage awards, and the sheer number of those suits has become quite significant. Even when the claim is truly frivolous, the cost of mounting a defense is substantial.

December 8, 2006

A College Republican Christmas

Carroll Andrew Morse

To help usher in the Christmas season, the University of Rhode Island College Republicans are inviting people to a Christmas card party, where they will be preparing messages of Christmas cheer to be sent to members of the American Civil Liberties Union…

In response to the war on Christmas by radical leftist organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), members of the University of Rhode Island College Republicans will be facilitating an event for U.R.I. students to send Christmas Cards to members of the ACLU. Students will have the opportunity to write Christian themed Christmas cards to the ACLU, wishing them a very Merry Christmas, and reminding the leftist organization of the true meaning of Christmas. The event is free, and cookies and hot cocoa will be served.

The ACLU has attacked Christmas on the local level in the last several years, claiming the city of Cranston, R.I., erected holiday religious displays along with secular displays in violation of the so-called "separation of church and state." The students hope that these efforts combined with those of students across the country will help the ACLU respect Christmas as one of the most commonly celebrated holidays of the United States.

Chairman Ryan Bilodeau blasted the ACLU, saying, “The ACLU advocates freedom of speech, but fails to apply that right to everyone. They are so out of the mainstream, that they are stifling people from celebrating the only actual reason for the season. Contrary to the tenets that leftist organizations like the ACLU promote in their lawsuits, we want to students of URI, and namely the ACLU themselves, to know that Christmas is, in fact, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.”

The event will be held on Monday, December 11. Further details available here.

November 28, 2006

Brown University Let's the Evangelicals Back In

Marc Comtois

After telling the Reformed University Fellowship that they wouldn't be allowed on campus just, well, "because," Brown University has had a change of heart. But they still haven't been forthcoming as to why the RUF was banned in the first place.

Yesterday, Ethan Wingfield, president of the Reformed University Fellowship, said he was pleased at the Brown administration's decision. "I think it is fantastic. It is an absolutely positive step. I'm glad we are back in contact and talking and working on a resolution."

The campus religious group, which has about 100 members, is affiliated with Trinity Presbyterian Church, an evangelical congregation in Providence.

Restoration of the fellowship's status as a campus group means that its members can hold meetings on campus, advertise meetings and use campus space for speakers.

While Wingfield said he was pleased with the university's new tack, he said he is also disappointed because he believes the university wasn't specific about why the group was suspended in the first place.

"We still haven't been told why we were suspended," said Wingfield.

Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first they were told that Trinity Presbyterian, the local sponsor, had withdrawn support, which it had not, according to the Rev. David Sherwood, Trinity pastor.

Then they were told that it was because the group's former leader had been late in submitting the paperwork required to be established as a campus organization. The third reason given, according to fellowship leaders, was the most puzzling, they said. The Rev. Allen Callahan, Protestant chaplain, asserted they were "possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty that has rendered all collegial relations with my office impossible."

...The Rev. Ms. Cooper Nelson has laid out four steps that the fellowship must take to be reinstated, including filing forms on time and communicating with "full transparency" to the Rev. Mr. Callahan.

Wingfield said the standards set by the Rev. Ms. Cooper Nelson are not onerous and are pretty much what is expected of other campus organizations which seek university sanction and use of university facilities. "All we want to do is be on campus," said Wingfield, who said the fellowship is looking forward to reinstatement, "as soon as we can get this resolved."

Kudos to the RUF for sticking it out. If they hadn't gone public, I think Brown would have been happy to have swept it under the rug. Of course, given this outcome, I now wonder whether it is the RUF or the University that was "possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty."

November 21, 2006

Brown University: Not a Bastion of Free Speech

Marc Comtois

Yesterday, I read in the ProJo about how Brown University had rather suspiciously banned an on-campus student evangelical group.

Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were told it was because their local sponsor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, had withdrawn its support, which it hadn’t. Then they were told that it was because the group’s former leader had been two months late in September 2005 when he submitted the group’s application to be recognized as a campus organization. But the third reason is one that group leaders say is most baffling: the Rev. Allen Callahan, Protestant chaplain, asserted they were “possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty that has rendered all collegial relations with my office impossible.”

Student leaders said they still don’t know what he meant, and wrote a0 long letter to the chaplain’s office seeking elaboration. There’s been no response.

“We were disappointed that the university administration should treat us so lightly that they wouldn’t even acknowledge our letter,” said the fellowship’s president, Ethan Wingfield, a senior philosophy major. “We felt disrespected.”

The F.I.R.E. organization has taken up the students' cause, but the group has yet to get a concrete explanation as to why it has been barred. Arlene Violette also had one of the students on her show yesterday (I didn't catch his name, but it may have been Wingfield) and he did state that the local chapter of the ACLU was helping the students.

Now I've discovered (via Instapundit and Judith Weiss) that Brown also cancelled a talk by Nonie Darwish last week. Darwish is an Egyptian who has gotten publicity for her willingness to talk (and she's written a book) about the radical Muslim culture in which she grew up. According to Adam Brodsky of the NY Post:

MUSLIMS are often accused of not speaking out sufficiently against terrorism. Nonie Darwish knows one reason why: Their fellow Muslims won't let them.

Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.

But the event was just called off.

Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community. Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.

In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

Is there a pattern here? Brown did an admirable job of justified self-flagellation in their investigation into the role that the University played in slavery (though some dispute portions of it). Perhaps they should start a new investigation into why there is a pattern of silencing those whose views--on the face of it--seem to run counter to the on campus conventional wisdom.

November 14, 2006

Brown University Losing Its Edge?

Carroll Andrew Morse

National Review isn't exactly considered the journal of record for the Ivy League. (William F. Buckley once famously commented that he would "rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the 2000 members of the faculty of Harvard University"). However, last week's dead tree edition of NR contained a line that may catch some folks a few years (or decades) removed from the college experience by surprise...

Columbia has been the cool school in the Ivy League for a while now, taking that title from Brown...
Is it really true, or is NR guilty of propagating a bit of New York hype here?

December 9, 2005

That Old Smugness

Justin Katz

Feeling a bit too much the elder rebel — whose rebellion is increasingly merely to laugh at the enemy's antics — I suggested to a URI College Republican in a comment to my previous post that it is only recently that campus communities have had to face the idea that perhaps anti-conservatism isn't simply an objective indication of compassionate intelligence. I contend that the prejudice is only so visible now because it is being challenged. Well, as if to provide me evidence, URI student Arthur Ferri has published a humorous example of the old mentality in The Good ¢5 Cigar:

The University of Rhode Island's conservatives lament that their social science and humanities professors are liberal. Professors who spent their entire lives analyzing the beloved "marketplace of ideas" under the strictest academic protocols and guess what? Conservatism lost. That is why conservative faculty members in these disciplines are few and far between.

... Maybe conservative students are "captive and vulnerable," but no liberal student I ever met felt "captive and vulnerable" in the classroom, but rather proud and confident that his liberal values (yes, we like that word) stand up successfully to vigorous academic scrutiny. Liberal students find "political propagandizing in the classroom" stimulating and a challenge, especially from conservative professors.

Ah yes! The pride and confidence of students who believe that they are regurgitating an ideology that has emerged victorious in "the 'marketplace of ideas' under the strictest academic protocols." The stimulation and challenged of not taking "two seconds of verbal abuse from conservatives in the classroom without hitting back hard with solid academic evidence" that is provided readily by the many professors — not "few and far between" — with whom the students agree. Oh the confidence of the smug and the stimulation of the sneer built on political dominance in an environment in which "intellectual diversity" means degrees of Leftism (which, as we all know, professors push merely for the unobjectionable reason that it has been proven correct):

Conservatives are never going to have power here and nothing can possibly be done about it. At the university, conservatives will never be allowed to sit at the cool people's table in the cafeteria.

Witness the hamartia of those who cannot ponder the possibility that authoritarian mechanisms are possible, indeed victorious, in the world of higher education. Rest assured, College Republicans (and Arthur, too), that Mr. Ferri's is the voice of a doomed elite. We who've been sputtered at with the "solid academic evidence" of the intellectual comme il faut can hear the hollow echo of stagnation in its strains.

December 8, 2005

After Horowitz, the Hoopla

Justin Katz

I've been following the letters to the editor exchanges in the University of Rhode Island's student paper, The Good ¢5 Cigar, subsequent to David Horowitz's appearance on campus, including an angry offering from the man himself. In today's edition, however, is a letter from John Biszko, a Tulane student displaced back home, as it were, by Katrina, that is particularly poignant:

I feel absolutely compelled to write in to the Cigar because since the time I have become a part of the College Republicans I have come under an unfair and vicious onslaught unlike anything else I have ever encountered. I have studied at Providence College, the University of Connecticut, Tulane University of Louisiana, and the Special Operations University of the U.S. Military, and I have never encountered such blatant and inexcusable attempts at liberal political indoctrination in classrooms before.

Personally, I'm inclined to advise the young man simply to enjoy, grow, and improve from the experience, and I can't decide whether the barbed point with which he closes enhances or diminishes the wisdom of such counsel (emphasis added):

I will also add that my intelligence has been insulted by blatant attempts to present Republicans as uncaring, and that my uniform has suffered onslaught by anti-military sentiment expressed by professors from the podiums of their classrooms during class periods that myself and other students pay dearly for.

Of course, our consideration of the matter isn't merely academic; Mr. Biszko neglected to mention that Rhode Islanders all pay dearly for the public university.

Also in today's edition of the Cigar is a letter from another student conservative, Jesse Gillett, who makes this curious defense of the College Republicans on a discrete, but related, issue:

I apologize, Miss Grant, for pointing this out to you again because it may still come as a shock to you; the essay made no attempt at stating (or whining, as you likely want people to think) that affirmative action discriminates against whites. To say that the College Republicans stand for such a ludicrous idea, without providing logical reasoning, is despicable.

I lack the time to read the backstory, so I can't say whether Gillett's point is accurate with respect to the essay in question, but the claim strikes me as of the type that lend credence to the notion that the speaker is hiding actual beliefs and intentions. It is plainly true that affirmative action discriminates against whites. That may not be the most important argument against the practice, but it's true nonetheless. As for what the College Republicans "stand for," well that I can't say.

May 12, 2005

Being Another "Face of Hate"

Justin Katz

As I've announced on Dust in the Light (I think), I'll be writing a biweekly column, published Thursdays, for TheFactIs.org, an online opinion magazine jointly sponsored by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and the Culture of Life Foundation. My first offering is "Communicating with the 'Faces of Hate'," about conservative Christians' designation, in some circles (e.g., among certain professors at the University of Rhode Island), as an unprotected target class.

January 21, 2005

A Needle Dropped in the Liberal Echo Chamber

Justin Katz

Perhaps my age is getting to be such that it is becoming unseemly to trawl among students' letters to their collegiate newspapers for material. Still, by watching a babe taking its first steps, one may come to a fuller understanding of the precariousness of two-legged movement. Similarly, by considering students' expression of their professors' views, one may further appreciate the attributes beneath the careful construction of their ideology.

Such is the case with Anthony Maselli's recent letter to the University of Rhode Island's The Good 5¢ Cigar, "Safety not guaranteed to all students." After narrowing his context to the "liberal environment" of a university within "the most wealthy and secure, free nation on Earth," Maselli finds reason to suspect the presence of darkness:

I was leaving class in Quinn Hall at the end of last semester, and I noticed a sticker on someone's office window. It stated that the office is a "Safe Zone" for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals. If this sticker were posted in some kind of corporate or public building, I might have appreciated this welcoming sentiment. But, being a self-proclaimed non-discriminatory university campus, I found the message to be unsettling. It forced me to ask myself this question: If this office is a "Safe Zone," what part of this university is an unsafe zone? I wondered if there was a sticker on the inside of the door that reads, "You are now entering the unsafe zone." Certainly there is not, but isn't that what the message suggests?

Forgiving the letter's writer for proclaiming himself to be a non-discriminatory university, consider how he has discerned evil not by its manifestation, but by what he believes to be its opposite. In the most free nation on Earth, in one of the most overwhelmingly liberal environments that nation's culture has to offer, a room professed to be a haven within a haven within a haven is evidence that maybe "some of us should think twice before we walk out our front door in the morning."

One imagines the office's owner, presumably a professor, congratulating him- or herself for this show of faux bravery. The great majority of people in America — let alone on a campus — wish homosexuals no harm. But of course we understand, as the professor surely intends to convey, that the "safety zone" goes much further than mere security and tolerance.

Thus we see how devotees of a certain worldview pursue its ends not with evidence and debate, but with negative proofs and euphemism. Keep an eye out for this dynamic in more-sophisticated explanations of what tolerance demands.