Mar 122018

More vignettes from the front lines of diversity and open discussion from Heather MacDonald. And the messaging isn’t promising for our future.

That discussion offers a backdrop for When two tribes go to war, an article that paints an even more stark picture of intolerance on campus. (That article in turn links to what seems to me to be a classic example of how campuses have failed to help students learn about communication and growth. There is no substitute for just seeing and hearing for yourself.)

 Posted by at 9:15 am on March 12, 2018
Nov 062017

Keeping up with the many projects on campus at the moment is still taxing, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to keep an eye out for others’ content worthy of our study. And some exceptionally thoughtful writing about campus speech is found over at Vox in a pair of articles.

Robert Post offers There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus while Erwin Chemerinsky asserts Hate speech is protected free speech, even on college campuses – obviously messages in opposition to one another, and very timely for what’s happening on many campuses.

An aggressive piece over at Spectator looks past discussion about the basis for speech on campus to the (flawed) practices: Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee, by commentator Mark Pulliam.

 Posted by at 3:23 pm on November 6, 2017
Sep 182017

A roll up of some recent articles we hope you have already found to your morning browsing sessions …

The Assault on Free Speech (sorry about the pay wall at WSJ) points out the irony that public pressure caused China to walk back its censure of many academic materials which might have proven embarrassing to the state, yet at the same time US academics are championing censorship by purging campuses of opportunity for open and scholarly speech on hard topics. (On my campus there are generally no hard feelings in speech because leadership is careful who they invite to speak in the first place.)

The Atlantic weighs in with debate about the role of universities in fostering a commitment to the open exchange of ideas, and a NY Times article similarly advocates for some genuine diversity of views on behalf of our students.

Sometimes the problems on a campus are not just ones of leadership cherry picking who gets to speak but also of indulging in bad science in order to reach conclusions they sought based on prejudice. (“We’ll see it when we know it” science is not science.)

An article with subtitle the roots of the current campus madness talks of the costs of quashing discussion and our failure to teach scholarly debate. It closes with a quote that by itself makes following the link worth your while: “If you teach students to be warriors against all power asymmetries, don’t be surprised when they turn on their professors and administrators. This is what happens when you separate facts from values, empiricism from morality, science from the humanities.” Indeed.

 Posted by at 5:34 pm on September 18, 2017
Jan 142017

As always seems to happen, then end of fall semester was a time of hard deadlines then the holidays were a time of fatigue and recovery. With that behind us, now is the time to comment on a few of the many articles we followed along the way even if there wasn’t time or energy to link to them previously.

The theme of today’s catch-up is a common one here: calling out how campus opportunities and academic freedom are threatened across the nation. While I’ve seen several great articles and commentaries on this over the last month, I flag a few representative examples below.

The Week carries a commentary about students who want to delegitimize the very institutions from which they seek credentials. This does seem odd, don’t you think? Paying money to buy the attention of experts in order to denigrate them for being wrong? Perhaps these students are not actually paying with their own money. If they were then it seems more likely that they’d care whether the resulting credentials might enjoy some legitimacy.

Not just students assail campus scholarship. Other scholars (or at least those charged with leading them) are doing their best to dismantle scholarship too. In a Washington Post opinion piece, José Cabranes, a federal appellate judge and former trustee of Colgate, Yale and Columbia universities, laments how the system is gradually narrowing the scope of speech on campus, to the detriment of our scholarly work products. To find the best results, scholars need freedom to vet all ideas; we learn even in shooting some idea down since the effort to articulate one’s rationale helps us better organize the body of knowledge. Stifling speech because it is unpopular or inconvenient – as happens even here at College Park – thus delegitimizes our results, since objective viewers won’t ever have seen them tested against competing assertions. They won’t have been shown how the results are better. As we’re fond of quoting, if everyone is thinking alike, then nobody is thinking.

We can’t note the limits of speech (as above) without linking to National Review’s roll up of 2016’s most ridiculously PC moments. (Look closely to see how many of those might well have been College Park antics.)

Finally, and with regret, we mark the final columns penned by Prof. Thomas Sowell, as the 86 year old thinker steps back from his regular on-line commentary. We have often quoted Dr. Sowell, and hold in high regard his scholarship, so we will miss him. His farewell column is titled Random Thoughts, Looking Back. But one of his best regular columns appeared just a week before, The Diversity Fraud; he may as well have been staring straight at College Park. We commend to you the tribute to Dr. Sowell published by the Foundations of Economic Education site, since it is grand. Professor Sowell: thank you.

 Posted by at 11:26 am on January 14, 2017
Aug 252016

Kudos to the University of Chicago for asserting a strong position on intellectually diverse and open speech on its campus, which is to say, they offer no “trigger warnings” or “safe space”. (This is also reported in the student newspaper there.)

College Park manages to avoid unseemly confrontations by only inviting right-thinking (which is to say, left-thinking) visitors who mouth the group-think here in the first place.

 Posted by at 8:02 am on August 25, 2016
May 092016

… and not that other stuff. That’s effectively what Facebook provided, according to “news curators” who had worked there and were interviewed for a Gizmodo article. The effect was to put a thumb on the scales of public opinion, biasing it toward promotion of liberal views and suppressing material that might have reflected conservative opinion, or so was the article’s point.

And that point would be quite plausible when you have an unchecked system that relies upon promotion of articles by people who are drawn from a pool that itself is dominated by certain views. Selection bias nuances the choice of curators, and the curators thus bias the messaging by what they choose to promote. How do they recognize a likely article? They’ll see it when they know it.

 Posted by at 10:08 am on May 9, 2016
Feb 242016

What starts as a review of an important new book on academic freedom quickly moves to a first person account of the effects of speaking freely at the Naval Academy, written by a professor of nearly three decades there.

We’ve known that open discourse has generally been lost to most campuses, but it sure is sad to see this turmoil at what should be one of the last bastions of liberty. Future officers and leaders should be free to vet ideas on their merits, not on their conformity.

 Posted by at 12:57 pm on February 24, 2016
Dec 072015

It was going to happen eventually. The lure to mug for the crowds, and show how trendy and correct we are at the same time, would have to be too much for President Loh to resist. And so it was:

University of Maryland president recommends changing name of Byrd Stadium, citing legacy of racism, says the headlines.

But let’s think back for a moment, not to the era of Curley Bird but to 1991, when the campus refused an Hispanic man the opportunity to compete for a minority scholarship. The campus was sued, fought it and lost, with the federal court declaring our practices unconstitutional. Ultimately the University of Maryland appeal to the Supreme Court was denied cert in 1995.

The case was Podberesky v. Kirwan – yes, our Brit Kirwan – which means that in October of this year we named our mathematics department’s building after the named defendant in a fight to unconstitutionally deny Hispanics a minority scholarship opportunity.

The University of Maryland was on the wrong side of history in that case, just as it was in 1935 when it was sued for not admitting a black man to its law school. Its the side of history where Curley Bird sits too.

Let’s be clear: Brit Kirwan is a spectacular scholar and has given a lifetime of service to this campus and state. Yes, he has championed race-based practices in admissions and other campus policies, some of which persist today. But contemporaries viewed them as appropriate to the era, even though reasonable people who might have been looking further into the future disagreed. He is very deserving of having a math building named after him, and a lot more for that matter. Maybe Curley Bird deserves some slack too? And after all – the stadium is a monument to everything people have won since his era. Victors in that civil rights battle walk on that field every day. Renaming it takes that away.

As for President Loh: lots of luck explaining how naming facilities for people who discriminated against black people is bad, whereas naming facilities for people who discriminated against Hispanics is okay.

 Posted by at 8:54 pm on December 7, 2015