College Indoctrination: Like Water To A Fish

Over at Campus Reform, the conservative site dedicated to spotlighting left-wing bias on college campuses, reporter Grace Gottschling has been issuing some provocative, if not exactly surprising, reports on the partisan tilt of some schools’ administration and staff. There have been three so far. Most recently, she determined that 98.4 % of University of Missouri administrators and 97.6% of faculty donated to Democratic Party candidates or causes. Previously, her research covered the University of Oregon, where 100% of administrators, and 99.95%  of faculty have donated to Democrats—she found that a grand total $35.17, .0005% of the political contributions of 201 faculty members, went to Republicans—and the University of Texas, where the numbers were 96.1% of administrators, and 93.5% of faculty supporting Democrats.

Gottschling doesn’t say it–her reports just lay out the facts—so I will. It is impossible, literally impossible, for students to receive a balanced, objective and responsible education in institutions with such unbalanced and ideologically uniform campus cultures as these. Culture’s power over human beings has been accurately described as resembling water’s relationship to a fish: it influences everything in the lives of the people in it, often with their never being aware that they are dependent on it and controlled by its limitations. You can choose your own analogies, but active indoctrination into political beliefs and partisan values is hardly necessary when uniform attitudes are all around students, displayed in subtle and not-so subtle ways, every day, all day, in class and out. Continue reading

Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part I: Fisher v. University of Texas

Abigail Fisher: Not dark enough to get "an equal shot"

Abigail Fisher: Not dark enough to get “an equal shot”

The under-populated U.S. Supreme Court recently made four decisions on issues with ethical principles involved. This is the first of four posts reviewing the ethics implications of the decisions.

I. Affirmative Action: Fisher v. University of Texas

The University of Texas’ admissions program guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. It is dubbed the  Top 10 Percent program, though the percentage cutoff is flexible. A second part of the admissions program admits other students from Texas and elsewhere using standards that take into account academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such grounds. The case before the Court challenged that part of the program, and presented an opportunity for the Supremes to finally declare affirmative action unconstitutional, as previous opinions hinted they might do some day.

This was not the day, however. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities significant but not total autonomy in designing their admissions programs, writing:

“A university is in large part defined by those intangible ‘qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.’ Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

This defines either an ethical dilemma, which the Court’s majority is punting, or an ethical conflict…which the Court majority is punting. Is diversity an ethical objective, or a practical one, that is, a powerful non-ethical consideration? It is hard to argue that diversity in a student body isn’t desirable—to enhance the educational experiences of students, to avoid having a permanent, under-credentialed underclass, to “look like America.” However, fairness and common sense argue that admitting one candidate over another who is better qualified simply because of ethnicity or race is per se wrong. I don’t blame the Court at all for not making a clean call.

As usual, President Obama described the result in simplistic terms. “I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society,” he told reporters at the White House. “We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.”

Thank you, President Obvious. The crux of the case, however, was what should be done when using race as a standard for admission to attain that diversity denies an “equal shot” to someone who has the misfortune to be white, like Abigail Fisher, or Asian-American. Continue reading

Race-Baiting Scalia (For Doing His Job)

Ignore them, Nino.

Ignore them, Nino.

As is often the case with topics here, I heard about the uproar over Justice Antonin Scalia’s controversial question during oral argument on the latest challenge to affirmative action accidentally, when a Facebook friend re-posted a furious message from his friend calling Scalia a moron and a racist. Even reading a second hand account of what somebody read that Scalia said (the transcript hadn’t been released, but never mind: that was enough for my friend’s African-American friend to call a Supreme Court Justice a racist and for my friend, who is a liberal-minded professor, to endorse it), I could tell that the attack was unfair and worse, outright race-baiting.

What Scalia was alleged to have asked a lawyer was whether affirmative action actually hurt blacks by putting them in “more advanced” institutions, that they “don’t belong” in elite schools. I knew, no matter what Justice Scalia really said, that he was talking about some blacks, not all blacks. That’s obvious: if an African American student can be admitted to an elite school without the “thumb on the scale” of affirmative action, obviously he or she is qualified and belongs there. But more importantly, I knew from personal experience that being admitted to a top school when the student’s credentials wouldn’t normally warrant it could be disastrous.

I worked in the administration of Georgetown Law Center in the late seventies and early eighties, as the school was trying to increase its percentage of black students. I was involved in the process sometimes, and was stunned by its unfortunate revelations: for example, some of the black students we accepted from elite colleges lacked basic reading, writing and critical thinking skills. I remember one Yale grad in particular who could not write a comprehensible sentence.

Georgetown Law set up a special class for these minority students (and a couple of  white “legacy” admits who were sons of wealthy alums, one of which I had specifically told his father could not possibly graduate, based on his college grades and test scores.) Then the school was sued by one of the affirmative action students, who claimed that making him take the remedial class was demeaning and racist. Of course he would have been better off in a less demanding law school. Affirmative action did none of these students any favors. In my opinion then and now, their welfare, confidence and self-esteem was  sacrificed so Georgetown could look progressive, and to the dubious objective of diversity for diversity’s sake.

It wasn’t just my Facebook friend’s friend that was bashing Scalia as a racist. It was much of the news media. “Justice Scalia Suggests Blacks Belong at ‘Slower’ Colleges” reported Mother Jones. “Scalia: Maybe black students belong at ‘less-advanced’ schools” reported The Hill. MSNBC’s slur was Justice Antonin Scalia floats ‘lesser schools’ for black students.  A New York Times editorial—the paper has, it appears, lost its mind– said that Scalia raised an “offensive premise which has not gotten such a full airing at the Supreme Court since the 1950s.” The New York’s Daily News  headlined“SUPREME DOPE” over a photo of Nino. Continue reading

Ethics, Porn, and the Creepy Professor

The Ronald Ayers saga raises the intriguing, Weiner-esque ethical issue of whether a college professor being creepy is sufficient reason to fire him.

The former economics professor was fired by the University of Texas for viewing pornography on an office computer, which the University’s policies forbade. The chain of facts has the ring of Kafka: 1) a student claims he hears “sexual noises” emanating from Ayers’ office, which 2) is considered sufficient provocation (the professor denied the accusation that he was not “master of his domain” at work) for the school to search his computer, which 3) uncovers evidence that he looked at some pornographic sites, and 4) also that he searched for the term “teen,” which 5) the university deems sufficient to indicate that he was searching for child pornography, so 6) they fired him, after three decades and tenure on the faculty.

University records say Ayers at first denied the allegations that he viewed pornography, but when confronted with a printout of his computer records, admitted that it may have happened “at the end of a long work day.” Ayers later told administrators seeing the porn was for “academic research.”

Uh-huh… Continue reading