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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Jim Lindgren thinks he is a great choice.

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Now, affirmative action based on political ideology!

The University of Colorado is considering a $9 million program to bring high-profile political conservatives to teach on the left-leaning campus.

CU officials want to create an endowment for a Visiting Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy.

The program would bring a rotating cast of scholars, historians, politicians and media personalities to a town often ridiculed by the political right as “the People’s Republic of Boulder.”

The first scholar could be on campus next year for a one- or two-year stint, CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said. University officials said they hope the fund would yield the $200,000-plus per year necessary to provide a stipend and a staff person.

“A good campus is always trying to find ways to add diversity of thought and scholarship,” Hilliard said.

I can’t think of anything more ridiculous or unhelpful, but then, affirmative action is almost always unhelpful. I only hope this does not give Arjun Singh any new ideas.

Hat tip to the Volokh Conspiracy, where I saw this story. Also Ilya Somin discusses here why affirmative action based on ideology is a bad idea. An excerpt:

However, whether or not the discrimination is the cause of the problem, affirmative action for conservative academics (or libertarian ones) is a poor solution. Among other things, it would require universities to define who counts as a “conservative” for affirmative action purpose, a task that they aren’t likely to do well. Affirmative action for conservatives would also give job candidates an incentive to engage in deception about their views in the hopes of gaining professional advancement. Moreover, conservative professors hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would find it difficult to get their ideas taken seriously by colleagues and students. They might therefore be unable to make a meaningful contribution to academic debate – the very reason why we want to promote ideological diversity in hiring to begin with.

Indeed.

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This case is so absurd that it is difficult to take it seriously. Priya Venkatesan, who taught writing this year at Dartmouth College, is threatening to sue former students under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for criticizing her in course feedbacks. This report has the details along with snippets of Ms Venkatesan’s own writing, which should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind why she got so poor evaluations.

Oh, and Title VII, for those who are unaware, is the primary federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment. For the life of me I don’t see how that can be used to sue the students, who are neither Ms Venkatesan’s employers nor her colleagues. Besides, as any lawyer would point out, they have an obvious first amendment right to censure their professor in evaluations. Maybe Ms Venkatesan has a postmodernist explanation for all this…

Here’s a link to the Dartmouth blog coverage on the matter. Also, my thoughts on Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws.

(Link via Instapundit)

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Buoyed by its Supreme Court success on the reservation issue, the Indian government now wants to introduce quotas in private educational institutions as well.

I quote from the report in the Telegraph (emphasis mine) :

The Centre plans to table a bill to introduce quotas and control fees in private higher education institutes in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Aided and unaided private higher education institutes, including management schools, will be covered. But private unaided minority-run institutions will be exempt from the proposed law.

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Dean Christopher Edley of Berkeley responds to the John Yoo controversy:

While serving in the Department of Justice, Professor John Yoo wrote memoranda that officials used as the legal basis for policies concerning detention and interrogation techniques in our efforts to combat terrorism. Both the subject and his reasoning are controversial, leading the New York Times (editorial, April 4), the National Lawyers’ Guild, and hundreds of individuals from around the world to criticize or at least question Professor Yoo’s continuing employment at UC Berkeley School of Law. As dean, but speaking only for myself, I offer the following explanation, although with no expectation that it will be completely satisfying to anyone.

Professor Yoo began teaching at Berkeley Law in 1993, received tenure in 1999, and then took a leave of absence to work in the Bush Administration. He returned in 2004, and remains a very successful teacher and prolific (though often controversial) scholar. Because this is a public university, he enjoys not only security of employment and academic freedom, but also First Amendment and Due Process rights.

It seems we do need regular reminders: These protections, while not absolute, are nearly so because they are essential to the excellence of American universities and the progress of ideas. Indeed, in Berkeley’s classrooms and courtyards our community argues about the legal and moral issues with the intensity and discipline these crucial issues deserve. Those who prefer to avoid these arguments—be they left or right or lazy—will not find Berkeley or any other truly great law school a wholly congenial place to study. For that we make no apology.

Does what Professor Yoo wrote while not at the University somehow place him beyond the pale of academic freedom today? Had this been merely some professor vigorously expounding controversial and even extreme views, we would be in a familiar drama with the usual stakes. Had that professor been on leave marching with Nazis in Skokie or advising communists during the McCarthy era, reasonable people would probably find that an easier case still. Here, additional things are obviously in play. Gravely so.

My sense is that the vast majority of legal academics with a view of the matter disagree with substantial portions of Professor Yoo’s analyses, including a great many of his colleagues at Berkeley. If, however, this strong consensus were enough to fire or sanction someone, then academic freedom would be meaningless.

Assuming one believes as I do that Professor Yoo offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service, that judgment alone would not warrant dismissal or even a potentially chilling inquiry. As a legal matter, the test here is the relevant excerpt from the “General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees,” adopted for the 10-campus University of California by both the system-wide Academic Senate and the Board of Regents:

Types of unacceptable conduct: … Commission of a criminal act which has led to conviction in a court of law and which clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as a member of the faculty. [Academic Personnel Manual sec. 015]

This very restrictive standard is binding on me as dean, but I will put aside that shield and state my independent and personal view of the matter. I believe the crucial questions in view of our university mission are these: Was there clear professional misconduct—that is, some breach of the professional ethics applicable to a government attorney—material to Professor Yoo’s academic position? Did the writing of the memoranda, and his related conduct, violate a criminal or comparable statute?

Absent very substantial evidence on these questions, no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member. That standard has not been met.

In an ideal world, what the dean said would be no more noteworthy than a routine enunciation of the basic principles of tolerance and freedom. Unfortunately, these principles are seldom remembered when dealing with opinions that differ from ours. McCathyism is no less abhorrent when applied against the ‘other side’; and for remembering this, the dean deserves praise. Bravo!

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Think twice before writing a violent story. Steven Barber, a student at the University of Virginia at Wise, was searched, involuntarily committed for three days, and finally expelled from the university, for … hold your breath … writing a story in which a character contemplates murder and suicide.

I don’t know which is more disturbing – the fact that the administration acted so viciously (and possibly unlawfully), or the fact that some people justify the administration’s action by pointing out parallels to the Virginia Tech massacre. Just a thought – if everyone who expresses disturbing thoughts or ideas is placed under a period of mandatory observation, our lives might be more secure, but would it be a life worth living? 

(Link via The Volokh Conspiracy)

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Here is a link to an article by Christina Sommers in which she talks about gender politics, affirmative action in higher education and recent, extremely worrying developments. Read the whole article, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(Link via The Volokh conspiracy)

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