I've got family in town, so blogging will be light over the next few days. But here are a few pieces that caught my eye:
--An Associated Press piece on the history and legality (or lack thereof) of campus free speech zones
--A Chicago Sun-Times piece announcing that the FBI will be investigating a series of racist incidents on Northwestern's campus. In recent months, a number of racist and sexist slurs have been written on the dorm room doors of black students and one Indian student; swasitikas have appeared on the doors of Jewish students. There's more on the story here, and the Daily Northwestern has been following the incidents, covering campus "anti-hate" initiatives and demonstrations, and demanding strong administrative action for months.
--And an Oregon community college that is considering adopting what looks an awful lot like an unconstitutional speech code.
May 28, 2003
Collegiate yin and yang
We're used to hearing about the absurd lengths to which campus social engineers will go to create all-inclusive, no-hate, no-pain, sensitive campuses. Currently, Wesleyan and Smith are setting new standards for institutionalized tolerance, the one by launching the nation's first "gender-blind" housing (designed to cater to transsexual and transgendered students as well as to students who simply don't want to be ''restricted to traditional limitations of the gender binary"); the other by eliminating the pronoun "she" from its constitution (though Smith is a women's college, it recognizes that transgendered or otherwise alternatively-identified women students may feel excluded by the pronoun). (An irony: while Wesleyan happily opens a dormitory floor to transgendered students to show its tolerance, some students at Smith worry that accomodating transgendered students might open the door to men students; these have been assured that Smith's efforts to celebrate sexual diversity will not result in co-education).
What we are not used to hearing about: the efforts some small, private colleges are making to create an atmosphere of focussed, serious study by stripping away the glib political gamesmanship (of which conservative students are just as guilty as liberal ones), consumerist attitude toward education, and corresponding intellectual shallowness that is endemic on campuses today. New Hampshire's tiny, Catholic Magdalen College is one such institution. With its rigid social rules (including a ban on personal telephones, TV, and radio) and exclusive focus on that oft-deconstructed category, Great Books, Magdalen College isn't for everyone. But in bucking the trends on both Catholic and secular campuses, it stands as a refreshing example of what kinds of educational environments are possible. I'm not a religious person, but the school nonetheless appeals to me as a place where serious study is the point, and where students can be assured that their four years will be spent in the dedicated, undistracted pursuit of knowledge that is ostensibly the point of liberal education. I imagine I'm not alone in that assessment: if more such schools arose, particularly if secular ones arose, they could have real gravitational pull for students and teachers who are fed up with the mainstream alternative.
Stickers and stones
University of North Carolina at Wilmington professor Mike Adams is known as something of a campus gadfly. Adams' outspokenness--particularly his willingness to tell students exactly what he thinks--has gotten him into trouble with campus administrators in the past; those administrators have in turn gotten in trouble with FIRE, the law, and the media as a result.
Recently, Adams published a satirical letter informing his students that he is instituting an affirmative action grading policy. While some were not amused by Adams' announcement, others liked it so much they are following suit. George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams was so impressed by Adams' innovative approach to diversity that he has just announced his plans to implement a race-based grading plan next fall.
Meanwhile, Adams has taken on a new sacred cow: the offended student. In his latest contribution to townhall.com, Adams posts a copy of a letter he recently sent to the UNC-Wilmington Board of Trustees. It opens:
Dear UNC-Wilmington Board of Trustees:
It has recently come to my attention that a feminist student at UNCW has taken offense to a sticker on my office door which reads "So you're a feminist . . . Isn't that cute." I found this out after obtaining a copy of a letter her father wrote to you, the Board of Trustees. I could comment at some length on the obvious hypocrisy of this student's decision to ask her father to defend feminism for her, but I won't. Let me get straight to the point: I did not put that sticker on my office door.
This terrible misunderstanding is all the result of an experiment on diversity and tolerance that I decided to undertake several years ago. It all started when I noticed that a
colleague of mine had a "Mondale/Ferraro '84" sticker on the filing cabinet in her office. I also noticed that another colleague had one posted on the front of his office desk.
Remembering that the university has a provision specifically prohibiting faculty from using "University funds, services, supplies, vehicles, or other property to support or
oppose the candidacy of any person for elective public office . . ." I decided to initiate my experiment.
First, I placed a "Clinton/Gore '96" sticker prominently on my office door to see if anyone would take offense. After two years without any complaints, I decided to replace the sticker with one that said "George W. Bush for President." Within a few weeks I heard reports from two faculty members and one staff member saying that someone was preparing to file a complaint about the Bush sticker.
Since the faculty handbook specifies "appropriate disciplinary action, including discharge from employment" as one possible consequence of violating the aforementioned rule, I decided it was time to let the faculty in on my little experiment. I did this by sending an e-mail to everyone in the building which began as follows: "You have all been involved in an experiment in tolerance which, unfortunately, some of you have failed . . ."
If you want to find out how that heinous sticker made it onto Adams' door--or how the the Vagina Monologues sticker got there, or the picture of Saddam Hussein--read the whole thing.
This isn't the first time an offended woman student has tried to sic her daddy on Adams via university administrators. It probably won't be the last. But the good news is that Adams turns such episodes to account: by publicizing them, and by doing so in a manner that highlights their absurdity, he's creating what pedagogues like to call "teachable moments." Mockery, satire, and irony are all increasingly controversial modes for anyone--especially teachers--to adopt; rhetorical strategies that work by undercutting the dignity of the interlocutor's utterance don't play well in the era of sensitivity training and campus "safe zones." But they are perhaps all the more valuable for their increasing rarity. If people don't get it, or can't handle it, what they arguably need is exposure to more of it.
A recurring question posted by commenters on this site centers on the problem of what, if anything, can be done to rescue American higher education from its rapid descent into politicized vacuity. Some say abolish tenure, some say abolish second- and third-rate colleges, some say abolish racial and gender preferences, some say defend the First Amendment. All are, in my opinion, necessary; none, in my opinion, addresses more than a tiny corner of the larger mess. I don't have answers, but I have long noted with frustration that those who do, or think they do, those who write the books critical of contemporary academe, don't seem to be able to attract the sort of audience the issue ought to attract. There is a growing library of these books--but they are almost uniformly read by people who already agree with their basic premises. They preach to the choir. One reason is that they tend to be written from political perspectives that make their arguments about higher ed suspicious to readers who don't share the authors' views.
The problems facing American higher ed are problems we all face, regardless of how we vote. But that tends to get lost in the posturing and proselytizing. Another reason that books addressing the problems of contemporary academe get ignored, I am convinced, is that they are either hysterically shrill and humorless or ploddingly dull and humorless. Either way, the writing isn't terribly lively; either way, the authors miss the opportunity to use the galvanizing power of humor to reach readers and to bring those readers together in a shared, ultimately non-partisan, sense of purpose. Say what you will about Adams' politics, or about his rhetorical powers. I think he's onto something.
Several weeks ago I posted a notice alerting readers to the fact that Critical Mass was being trolled. I included a link to this site and to this one, so that readers could find out what trolls are, read about how they operate, and learn how to deal with them (short answer: they should be ignored).
At the time, Critical Mass was being trolled by an individual who signed himself "Infect_Polo_Opus." IPO was a pseudonym adopted by a poster who first appeared on Critical Mass under the handle "Couple_of_Points." They had the same IP addresses (pointing to a DSL connection hosted by Bell South), they both ran the same operating system, both used the same web browser, and as some readers pointed out, both used the same rhetorical tactics and played the same games.
Interestingly, before Couple_of_Points refined his trolling game, he also posted from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where I assume he either studies or works. Readers will recall that the occasion for Couple_of_Points' appearance on this site was a post on UNCW professor Mike Adams' satirical send-up of affirmative action.
IPO disappeared for a couple of weeks after I posted the troll alert--though my log files show that he continued to read Critical Mass obsessively during his hiatus (as of last night, IPO has loaded Critical Mass more than 800 times this month). Now Couple_of_Points/IPO has resurfaced, this time as "Ritchie Aprile." Same IP, same MO. As with IPO, there is only one way to respond to Ritchie Aprile's posts: ignore them. This individual is not interested in reasoned debate, but is instead dedicated to derailing discussion by baiting readers. To respond to CoP/IPO/RA is to inflate his ego and reward his bad faith.
I'd prefer that Critical Mass not be a place where people like CoP/IPO/RA can feed their sickness. I ask readers to cooperate in keeping Critical Mass a troll free zone.
May 26, 2003
Citrus College plaintiff speaks
Chris Stevens, the Citrus College student who is currently suing the school for violating his First Amendment rights, has posted a comment to my original note on the lawsuit:
Being the sole plaintiff in Stevens v. Citrus Community College District and Louis Zellers, I can shed some like on these idiots method of operation.
Since my goal was to merely have the laws of free speech upheld on a campus that I attend, I spent days discussing the issue with administrators, all the way to the top and then eventually in the form of a public address to the board of trustees.
I was consistently told that the position of the College was that the Free Speech Areas were constitutional permissiable. I then proceeded to write an eight page memorandum of law on the issue which I highlighted in legnth the current jurisprudence on the issue. I essentially pointed out that not only were their policy in violation of the U.S. Supreme Courts consitant examinanation of the reasonability of time, place, and manner restrictions, but that the shcool was engaing in viewpoint discrimination as it allowed certain individual and school funded clubs full access to the campus for free for alls, literally...they had a club that susponser a rap station that blasted music during one of my midterms and they allow the College Democratics to hold "education rallies" while denying indvidual republicans from holding Governor Davis recall petition signing.
Despite my legnthy letter, which included bluntly "please do not force your students to become distracted from their studies in legal battles that the College can neither afford nor win."
They ignored me, that is until I hired a team of attorneys. To which the college has done the same, my guess is these guys bill at least $400 an hour and they are in no hurry to settle this case, despite the fact that its a loser for them and my attorney has already one several identical cases in the very same court room.
To those individuals who have previously posted questioning my motive and what I plan to do when I graduated, well I respond that it doesn't really matter so long as I still have free speech.
I think there are crossed wires here: it was not Stevens' motives and plans that posters were questioning, but those of the Citrus College students who are--in the president's words--"intimidated" by others' exercise of their free speech rights.
Still, Stevens is right to sense skepticism coming from some of the commenters on this site. Last winter, it was Stevens who alerted FIRE to the partisan pedagogical practices of Citrus College professor Rosalyn Kahn, who was offering extra credit to students who wrote and sent anti-war letters to George Bush, but was denying that same credit to students who wanted to write letters supporting the war. Citrus College administrators ignored the complaints of Kahn's students, and it was not until FIRE stepped in that the administration agreed to remove Kahn from the classroom and to write to President Bush rescinding the letters and apologizing for the fact that they had ever been sent. Some readers thought the whole affair was ridiculously overblown, and were particularly hard on one student's description of how deeply Kahn's teaching practices had "scared" her. They voiced their opinions in the comments to this post. Stevens belatedly discovered the thread this weekend, and has posted his rejoinder:
As the primary person involved in attempting to resolve the Khan situation with Citrus College I find it ironic and hypocrtical of those who raise the camparsion of Gina being scared in contrast to that of our brave soilders. Perhaps, those of you who applied this flawed ideological approach are missing the larger picture, both Gina and myself are as well as our solides are fighting to preseve the great traditions of our Nation.
We are proud conservative Republicans, who were being forced to sign our name to documents which content was so appaling to our personal beliefs that we felt it was neccessary to take a stance.
And those of you who fail to realize the power that instituions of higher education hold over their students are sadly nieve and uninformed. A signgle semester of retalation could literally ruin a students life.
So spare me the philisophical rambilings about how Gina couldn't have been scared, in comparison to our troops...she was threatned with explusion as was I, something that would have permentantly blemished our academic careers.
Do you propose that we would have simply worte the letters contrary to our own beliefs? Not a chance, I support Bush and I will countiune to support him...the people of Iraq are liberated!
Readers are free to respond to Stevens in the comments, and Stevens is, of course, free to reply.
UPDATE: Some readers have expressed doubt about whether the posts cited above are really those of Chris Stevens. They are--I checked.
May 25, 2003
Dennis Dailey update
In the wake of Senator Susan Wagle's energetic and quite probably libelous campaign against University of Kansas social welfare professor Dennis Dailey, Kansas state schools will now be required to create policies regarding the teaching of human sexuality courses. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius cited the sanctity of academic freedom as her rationale for vetoing Wagle's initial amendment to the state budget, a provision that would have denied all state funding to university departments using obscene materials in the classroom. On Friday, though, she did sign into law Wagle's latest budget amendment, saying that it struck "an acceptable balance that will both preserve academic freedom and require university administrators to adopt policies on issues of concern to many Kansans." Wagle, who conducted her campaign not by developing a reasoned argument for why the state legislature should be able to dictate how and what a professor teaches, but by casting Dailey as a sexual pervert, has declared herself to be satisfied with the new law, which gives state universities until January to implement policies on sexual harassment, the use of explicit material, and instruction about pedophilia in sexuality classes. Wagle says such a policy will force KU to address her allegations against Dailey. "If the policy is substandard, there's no question that the Legislature will act again," she declared.
Sibelious, who seems to have a much clearer picture of how schools might conform to the letter of the law without changing much, if anything, about how human sexuality courses are taught, says she thinks the proviso will not have much effect at all. KU admins seem to agree: A statement issued by the University of Kansas indicated that the school would cooperate, but added that "the legislative motivation for this proviso was flawed." Likewise, Dailey's comment on the new requirement is that "It won't affect my teaching."
KU isn't likely to write the sort of policy Wagle wants to see. My guess is that the policy will rely heavily on the language of KU's existing policies on sexual harassment, academic freedom, and faculty responsibility, and that it will be designed to ensure that professors teaching human sexuality courses continue to have the same freedoms, and same responsibilities, that professors teaching other courses do. It can't do otherwise without creating a landslide. If KU admins attempt to define what constitutes obscene material, and if they attempt to forbid such material, they will be creating policies whose impact will reverberate across the curriculum in potentially disastrous and easily forseeable ways: consider what such a policy could mean, for example, for the history course on the French Revolution that assigns readings from the Marquis de Sade, or the anthropology course that covers genital mutilation or fertility rituals, or the literature course that assigns Ulysses or Lolita, or the women's studies course that includes Our Bodies, Ourselves. KU isn't going to want to hand Wagle that kind of power.
My guess is, too, that Wagle won't be satisfied with the sort of toothless proviso KU is likely to feel compelled to write--and that we may witness phase two of her crusade next spring.
May 23, 2003
Finally, the National Association of Scholars has started a blog. The first three entries cover the politics of professional organizations, the belief of some (or many) college writing teachers that it's counterproductive to teach proper grammar, and the KC Johnson debacle at Brooklyn College. Worth a look, and regular return visits if NAS Online Forum develops the way it promises to.
May 22, 2003
Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails
The new issue of Business Week has a long, thorough, thoughtful piece about why and how boys are falling behind in school and--by extension--in life. Well worth a careful read.
UPDATE: For balance, check out this USA Today editorial on how some colleges have instituted affirmative action programs for boys, and about the legal problems their use of sex preferences in admissions may run into if the Supreme Court finds that Michigan's race-based affirmative action program is unconstitutional. Intriguing numbers:
According to USA TODAY research and interviews with both admissions directors and college consultants, private, four-year colleges routinely accept boys over girls who have better applications. The data colleges provide for surveys and guidebooks show male applicants' chances of being accepted are often three to 10 percentage points higher than girls'. At Pomona College in California, for example, 35% of male applicants are accepted, compared with 24% of female applicants, according to U.S. News & World Report data for the class of 2005. At Brown University in Rhode Island, 18% of male applicants get in vs. 15% of females.
Even some public colleges treat boys' applications differently. At Virginia's prestigious College of William & Mary, 42% of male applicants were accepted last year, compared with 32% of female applicants. Karen Cottrell, associate provost for enrollment, says boys' applications don't receive preferential treatment. Girls typically have better high school transcripts, which count most heavily in admissions decisions. But she says male applicants' average SAT scores are higher: 1,347, compared with 1,323 for women.
Most college admissions officers refuse to discuss the special preferences boys' applications receive. An exception is Robert Massa, director of admissions at Pennsylvania's Dickinson College. Massa readily admits tilting the admissions scale toward boys. At Dickinson, the male-female ratio is 45-55. Without preferences for male applicants, the percentage of men would drop as low as 38%, he says.
Another institution that concedes it isn't gender-blind is Hobart and William Smith in Geneva, N.Y. Though it looks like a traditional co-ed college, Hobart-Smith is two colleges: Hobart, which accepts men, and William Smith, which accepts women. Combined, their male-female ratio is nearly 50-50. On average, though, men at Hobart ranked in the top quarter of their high school classes; women at William Smith ranked in the top fifth.
And an interesting rationale: "Diversity in any form ů racial, geographic, economic and, yes, gender ů contributes to the learning environment because it encourages different perspectives and forces confrontation, which enhances learning," said the admissions director of Dickinson College. And so we come full circle: The white male who is the oppressive Other posited by most campus diversity rationales has himself become the beneficiary of admissions officers' meliorative social engineering.
Snappy comeback at UCSD
Condom giveaways are common on campus. So is political expression about the Middle East. What is not common: combining the two. That's just what a group of pro-Israel students did at UC San Diego last month. From the Baltimore Jewish Times:
A condom giveaway on the campus of U.C. San Diego has gotten plenty of people hot and bothered.
As the highlight of an on-campus campaign entitled "Got Israel?" pro-Israel students at UCSD recently handed out condoms and T-shirts emblazoned with an anthropomorphic condom cartoon and the catchphrase, "Israel: It's still safe to come."
In addition to spouting a double entendre lewd enough to make Benny Hill blush, the condoms proved the point that Israel is the only country in the Middle East in which women and homosexuals are entitled to equal rights, according to the giveaway's student organizers.
The condoms came equipped with a card discussing "sexual freedoms and women's rights in different Mideastern countries and Israel. It showed the literacy rates of women, the percentage of women employed, whether homosexuality is legal. On that basis, people could make their own decisions on how free and democratic Israel is," said co-organizer Eddie Cohen.
But not everyone got the joke, or cared to. After photos and an article about the late April giveaway appeared in the San Diego Jewish Heritage newspaper, the campus Hillel began receiving some angry phone calls. Executive Director Rabbi Lisa Goldstein confirmed that she has lost some donors, but she would not say how many.
The students who staged the giveaway were open about why they chose the theme they did: they needed to rely on shock value to get other students to pay attention to them. "People stand on library walk [a major campus thoroughfare] every day handing out different fliers. We needed some way to find ourselves different. It made people think twice about Israel I think on the campus itself, we got overwhelming support," said one organizer. My guess is that the "Israel: It's Still Safe to Come" campaign did not really move people to think twice about Israel. What it did do is move people to accept free condoms and T-shirts (which they would have done if there were no message at all attached to them), while encouraging those people not to take the giveaway's own cause seriously: belittling the very real safety issues facing Israel today (by making punning equations between suicide bombers and STDs, military defense and a layer of latex, entry into the country and orgasm) hardly seems like a wise way to build either awareness or genuine, informed support.
Goldstein is conflicted about the event, which was not sponsored by Hillel or by any school funding. On the one hand, the poor taste of the giveaway cost her donors. On the other hand, she thinks those who were offended by the giveaway are awfully stuffy: "The students are kind of bewildered why the rest of the community is making such a big deal about this," she said. "You would think Californians would be more open-minded and understand things come in a context, but I don't know." I think perhaps the point is that Californians do understand that things come in a context (we'll assume Goldstein's pun was unintended). I'd go so far as to venture that the reason some people were so upset by the campaign is that the students who conceived and organized it showed a deplorable failure to comprehend either the wider context of their actions or the moral obligation not to diminish their cause for the sake of attracting attention to it.
May 21, 2003
More on minority graduation
More on minority graduation:
USC's official commencement ceremonies were held on May 16. The night before, more than 180 seniors participated in the school's 25th annual Chicano and Latino graduation. Parts of the ceremony were in Spanish, parts in English. There were traditional dances performed by dancers in ceremonial dress. There was also a Cultural Staff covered with indigenous symbols; it was carried by a member of the Latino Honor Society in order to recognize her leadership and example. USC also held a black graduation last week.
UC Berkeley's African Studies department held its own graduation ceremony on May 17. The commencement speaker was none other than Cynthia McKinney. Here is her speech in full:
Congratulations proud young graduates!
You have accomplished an important milestone in your lives. Important for who you are and where you are.
You are young, gifted, and black. And you are graduates of The University of California at Berkeley--America's campus--with a legacy of informed action and deliberate dissent.
I want to ask each of you today to consider the current state of America. Under President Bush the US has turned its back on the United Nations and the entire international community and has waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq; more potential conflicts are threatened with nations like Iran, Syria, North Korea, and even China. Here at home, unemployment is rising, our economy is on its knees, and our national debt is threatening to reach unprecedented levels. The word "deflation" is whispered by many economists.
In better days students graduated from college practically debt-free. No longer.
More families than ever before try to relieve the mounting pressure by depleting their savings and becoming more in debt. Yet, the President advocates more tax cuts, not for poor America, but for the rich.
Only this week we learn that in this country one million black children now live in poverty and that one million black men and women are in prison. Every night on the streets of America, over a quarter of a million veterans sleep as our forgotten homeless. That's the thanks of a grateful nation.
Special interests have taken control of our nation's capital and are perverting it from the noble traditions of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Kennedy, and instead are using our precious national resources for personal profit and personal needs.
In 1953 Dwight Eisenhower, warned of failing to address the pressing social needs of the nation in deference to an uncontrolled arms build up. He said:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."
You, here today, graduate from an institution with a long and noble history of fighting to protect the interests of our nation.
In the early 1930s and '40s the issues that sparked Berkeley's activism ranged from labor rights and the Spanish Civil War to the draft. In the halcyon days of the '60s and '70s the issues ranged from the right, itself, to dissent on campus to the Vietnam War.
Whether the issues were near or far, civil rights at home or human rights abroad, we, who lived in other parts of the country where such activism couldn't easily be expressed, could count on you at Berkeley to be there, to speak for us. And sometimes even to think for us.
Above all, your graduation from Berkeley is a signal to everyone around the world, that more than anything else, you can think and are prepared to fight for what is right.
And so, no matter what you do or where you go in life, let no one deny you the right to think for yourself.
And no wonder. In the face of the corporate media package that is presented to us as "news," it is now imperative that you learn to see the invisible, hear the unspoken, and read the unwritten.
Or else, you will not know the truth.
Only this week we've learned from the BBC News that the entire "Saving Private Lynch in Iraq" episode was staged by the US military. On advice from PR spinmeisters, the Pentagon ignored efforts by Iraqi doctors to return Private Lynch in an Iraqi ambulance. Instead, according to the BBC, the Pentagon fired on the ambulance so they could then stage a rescue and stage a firefight at the hospital and remove Private Lynch. This was all done to galvanize the American people to support the war. If this BBC revelation is true, it shows us the extent to which our government will lie to us.
But we should understand that the Bush Administration is not alone in deceiving us.
I'm a parent.
And today, I put myself in the place of all the parents, relatives, and friends who are in the audience today. I am proud of you. I am one of you. But let me quickly acknowledge that the achievements of these young people belong very much to your, too. For it is seldom that we accomplish anything significant in life, alone.
Parents, relatives, and friends, you gave birth to this moment, with your profound nurturing and unconditional love.
Forgive me if I shed a tear of joy myself. This day signals to me that hope is not over and with each one of you, a new day of opportunity dawns for all of us. And that my son--and all black America's sons--still have a chance to make it in our America.
It's a tough world out there. And America is a tough neighborhood too. You've got to be strong.
Our president tells us that we are now engaged in a war that will last for the rest of my life.
He says that for the next generation or more, we Americans must be prepared to fight any foe who is inclined to harm us. And for the Bush Administration, that means conflicts with some 60 nations of the world.
He says that we must be prepared to invoke this Bush Doctrine of preemptive strike and regime change whenever and wherever we need it. And his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells us that our military must be prepared to seize foreign capitals and occupy them.
To accomplish this, according to the Administration, we will need a larger military. That military must have usable nuclear weapons and the billions it will take to deploy a national missile defense must be spent. In addition, some in the Administration insist that our military must control space and cyberspace and that advanced technologies be utilized for military applications.
The Bush Administration has a blueprint for the world that will be of their making. But as an American, it will be done with your blessing--and in your name.
For the first time since the founding of our country, our nation's foreign policy blueprint calls for global military domination--an "American Century."
Rebuilding America's Defenses, prepared by the Project for the New American Century, listed 27 people as having attended meetings or contributed papers in preparation of the report. Significantly, among them are six who have key positions in the George W. Bush Administration:
Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary at the Pentagon; John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; Eliot Cohen, Defense Policy Board; I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff; and Dov Zakheim, chief financial officer for the Pentagon.
Upon a closer examination of the PNAC documents, it is clear that a shift in US behavior of unimagined proportions is taking place right before our very eyes.
John F. Kennedy had a similar choice before him. Either launch a first strike against a much smaller, poorer, neighboring country or negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. As we now know, JFK, advised by his brother Bobby, decided that America was not worthy of what he called a "Pearl Harbor in reverse." Bobby Kennedy felt that a first strike against Cuba was not consistent with American values. He said, "For 175 years, we have not been that kind of country."
In a subsequent speech at American University on June 10, 1963, President John Kennedy revealed his thinking on the place of the United States in the world and its role in preserving world peace. Not arrogant and flush with power from success in overcoming the Missile Crisis, he said, "What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war, not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace--the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living--and the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and build a better life for their children--not merely peace for Americans, but peace for all men and women--not merely peace in our time but peace in all time."
Even George Washington, over a century earlier, recommended that the United States conduct its foreign policy as "our interest, guided by our justice" directs. In his 1796 Farewell Address, offered specific advice to America and its conduct in international affairs. He cautioned against passionate attachments to foreign countries and warned against militarism. Yet the very priorities as outlined by the current advisors to our current President, go against the very cautions and concerns that both George Washington and John F. Kennedy expressed.
You no doubt are looking at the direction in which your lives will now turn. Grad school, starting a business, taking a year off to see the world, or your choice of jobs with companies and organizations big and small: all this lies before you.
But how can you navigate with conscience a terrain that is littered with the remains of those who sacrificed themselves before you, but who now seem like a distant memory?
In other words, how can you know the direction of the elders unless you are fully connected to them?
As you may know, I dedicated my time in Congress trying to understand and eliminate the fundamental causes of the disparities that plague black America. But of course, in order to eliminate them, it is first necessary to understand them.
So I asked fundamental questions about black America, America, Africa, and the world.
I wondered why it is that the African American community lacked strong and forceful leadership that could demand and negotiate on its behalf in the world of American politics. And why was it that people who thought like me had such a hard time and blacks who didn't care as much about our community seemed to rise and be propelled throughout the political system.
The answer to that question took me to the Counterintelligence program of the FBI and its aim to destroy, discredit, or otherwise neutralize black leadership in America. Now, those aren't my words, they are the words of the FBI. From there, It's just a short line to asking why Geronimo Pratt spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, rather than in the US Congress where he could have made a better America for all of us.
So I held a forum in the Congress on COINTELPRO and US political prisoners.
After finding a CIA document that actually mentions assassination and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dated May 11, 1965, some 3 years before his murder, I held a forum in the Congress on The Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I wondered why Africa seemed to be in turmoil, and so I began to investigate US involvement on the Continent. That led me to the murder of Patrice Lumumba as a model for the systematic destabilization of the Continent and the theft of its resources by a small brigand of outlaws who have legal and illegal weapons at their disposal to create so-called rebel groups that materialize from out of nowhere and have instant access to press conferences and international airwaves. So I held a forum in Congress: Covert Action in Africa, Smoking Gun in Washington, DC.
I wondered out loud why Tupac was murdered and why we don't have any clues as to who did it.
But understanding how the Black Panthers were targeted in their heyday, I wondered if the fact that Tupac's mom was a Black Panther and his father figure a black activist contributed to certain death threats against Tupac's life that were being investigated by the FBI. So I decided to have a Hip Hop event in Georgia and one in DC to explore these and other issues of Hip Hop as a political movement--infiltrated and cut short.
I wondered why it was that the statistics could reflect worsening conditions for black America and very few people actually know it. So I began to publicize the State of Black America.
* that the AIDS infection rate for black men is 5 times higher than for white men and 15 times higher for black women than for white women;
* that African Americans now account for 41% of all US AIDS cases;
* that despite the higher incidence of breast cancer for white women, black women actually die at a rate 69% higher that white women;
* that black women are at greater risk of dying from every pregnancy-related cause of death reported than white women;
* that the ratio of black men in prison to those in higher education is 4 to 1. And between 1980 and 1995, the increase in incarceration for black men was 20 times greater than their enrollments in colleges and universities.
Only this week, University of California regents went on record in opposition to fellow regent Ward Connerly's campaign to stop state and local agencies from collecting race data. How can Ward Connerly defend such a position in the face of these numbers?
And sadly, the majority of white Americans questioned in a Harvard University Washington Post survey found that in some cases, whites believed that blacks were actually better off than them.
Even more disappointing, some black people would have you and me be ashamed to talk about the true state of black America. And if we don't talk about it, who will we know about our conditions, and how will anyone who can help us know that we need help or even how to help?
And believe me, there are people who do want to help us.
So, given my desire to view these intractable problems and their solutions, it wasn't difficult for me to see that new legislation emanating from the White House would mean a significant debasement of our hard-earned civil rights and liberties.
And when the Armed Services Committee voted to support legislation that funded the War on Terrorism, but that also allowed US police and US military to work together, I had to vote no and let the American people know that we were drifting backwards toward the mistakes of COINTELPRO.
And finally, as I researched more and more of the facts surrounding September 11th, it was incomprehensible to me that an intelligence failure of such magnitude could result in no one in the Bush Administration either being punished or accepting responsibility for such a tragedy. Then I began to delve into the information, some of which has become known today. I learned from the Sydney Morning Herald, Ha'aretz, and even
that much more was known about the tragic events of September 11, and that's when I asked the question "What did the Bush Administration know and when did it know it about the events of September 11th?"
And because of the voting debacle in Florida that robbed blacks and Latinos of their right to vote and have that vote counted, it was clear that this Administration had embarked on a path that constituted a fundamental shift of epic proportions and was doing it on a foundation of questionable and uncertain legitimacy.
I had no choice but to use publicly available information and hold this Administration accountable.
However, in my last election, Republicans recruited a black Republican to run in the Democratic Primary. 47,000 white Republicans then hijacked the Democratic Primary and voted in it instead of in their own Primary. Democrats and Blacks voted for me; whites and Republicans voted for my opponent.
My opponent now represents you in the United States Congress.
There's so much I haven't mentioned to you today. There's so much to know.
One thing we do know: This isn't the America of my mother and father.
My father was arrested in South Carolina, still in his Army uniform having just arrived from Europe at the end of World War II, for drinking water from the white water fountain. He and his buddies spent time in jail because they dared to test at home the freedom that they had just won for Europe.
Later, while pregnant with me, my mother was nearly beaten by a rural Georgia sheriff who brought a bicycle chain to teach the uppity black woman who would dare to ask to use the public restroom at the local gas station a lesson.
Luckily my father brought a gun to that fight and she used the restroom; the sheriff apologized for the misunderstanding, and my parents went on their way.
This is not that America.
But this is an America where not a single US Senator or Governor comes home to our community.
And where, in spite of Florida, important provisions of the Voting Rights Act expire in 2007.
And I will end with this: On page 60 of The Project for a New Century report, Rebuilding America's Defenses, the author writes:
"[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."
Now, I don't know what they meant by that bit of advice. But I do know that such research has been conducted already, according to news reports, in Israel and in apartheid South Africa. At home, I do know that the US Government has been sued by the son of Paul Robeson for Robeson's targeting by the CIA's MK Ultra Program; and the Tuskegee Study which for 40 years targeted black men who thought they were being treated by their government and who, instead, were being studied by it.
Steeped in the intergenerational dialog that allows us all to be students in wonderment of how much we can accomplish when we love one another, stand up for one another, defy conventional wisdom with one another. A new possibility can be created.
We've seen it happen before. From the Africans who passed through that portal of no return, to the Maroons who escaped slavery high in the Jamaican mountains, to the workers on the South American latifundias. Our story has been written by our resistance.
College students in Greensboro, North Carolina wrote the page on sit-ins at lunch counters across the South; they all contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Young black children facing dogs and fire hoses began the chapter on harassment, threats, intimidation, and death; four little girls blown to bits in church don't even end that chapter; agitation for the right to vote contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Just imagine what America would have been like if Sojourner Truth hadn't journeyed across America and told the truth!
Suppose Fannie Lou Hamer had gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired and just left the movement to someone else?
Who among you will step forward and continue the struggle against injustice?
And if no one here is willing to do it, what kind of America will you inherit?
The new America that is being made right now.
You, the young graduates of Berkeley, must see the struggle of your parents, the commitment of our fallen leaders, the principles of dissent that characterize your wonderful institution; don't allow individual suffering to be a stumbling block for doing what is right.
On December 3, 1963 Mario Savo, while speaking at the Free Speech Movement Sit-In here at UC Berkeley, said:
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
Congratulations young graduates. Go out and make your impact on the world!
The comment board is open.
May 20, 2003
Suing for free speech at Citrus College
Aided by FIRE, a Citrus College student is suing the school for violating his First Amendment rights. Citrus College restricts free speech to certain designated "zones" (unconstitutional) and also told this student that he could only conduct a pro-America rally outside the zone if he was a member of a recognized student group (also unconstitutional). The Citrus College president defends the rules, saying that they exist ''to protect not only the people who want to speak or demonstrate, but also our students who are intimidated by it.''
UPDATE: Citrus College faculty and administrators are defending the school's free speech zone because other schools have them. The people making decisions at this school don't seem to have very powerful reasoning abilities: even little kids know that just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean it's right to do that thing. Nor do the scions of Citrus College seem to read the papers or to be aware of the law: if they did, they would know that it's unconstitutional for a state school to restrict speech to designated zones. They would also know that this is one of FIRE's pet issues. Finally, and fatally, the people at Citrus College don't seem to learn from their mistakes. This is Citrus College's second major clash with FIRE this year. The student who is currently the plaintiff in the lawsuit is the same student who brought Rosalyn Kahn's partisan extra-credit assignments to FIRE's attention. In both instances, he first appealed to the school administration for justice. In both instances, his legitimate complaints were ignored.
Segregated in Colorado
Last month, University of Colorado alum Jessica Peck was barred from attending a campus workshop on racism because she is white. Segregated workshops were held by a student fee-funded group called Stop Hate on Campus. Peck, who is doing graduate work at Johns Hopkins, tried to attend the workshop for research purposes; she recounts her experience in an opinion piece in yesterday's Rocky Mountain News:
The "white" workshop focused on "white supremacy" and the assumption that white Americans, however unintentionally, benefit from a privilege that has come on the backs of racial minorities.
The other workshop, on "internalized racism," was designed to serve as a "safe space" for "people of color" to openly discuss how America's racist ways have affected their everyday lives. Organizers refused to allow white people, including myself, to attend the workshop, saying our presence would have prevented an "open and honest dialogue." Nothing like a little racial profiling to start the day.
The intent was clear - segregation for safety's sake - eerily similar to the argument of the segregationists of the 1950s and '60s who believed we would all be safer if the races were kept apart. It was a flawed argument then, just as it is today.
Peck tells the full story of how she and another individual who "presented as White" were asked to leave the Internalized Racism Workshop here.
Peck was so appalled by what had happened that she contacted the CU regents, the chancellor of the Boulder campus, and the university president. Peck asked the university to issue an official statement condemning the workshops. The president ignored her, and the chancellor responded merely by directing his assistant to send an email "saying that he applauded the students efforts but suggested they employ tactics other than segregation to achieve their objectives." Peck was appalled by this, too.
Peck has had a lot to be appalled about lately: in March, she attended a campus workshop entitled "Unveiling White Privilege," in which she was taught that "all whites are racist even if we don't know we are. We have benefited from a system stacked against individuals of other races. We hold prejudices we may not even know exist. We have thrived in a nation built on the backs of hard-working and repressed 'people of color.'" When it came time for each person to share what came to mind when they heard the word "racism," Peck demonstrated her intractable racial insensitivity by saying "Jesse Jackson." Others had offered more acceptable associations, such as "Attorney General John Ashcroft," and "KKK."
In yesterday's article, Peck explains how naive she was to expect university administrators to speak out against Stop Hate on Campus' discriminatory tactics, noting that CU admins employ the same tactics among themselves. At the Chancellor's Diversity Summit, for example, "white men were segregated from everyone else so they could talk about racism and sexism without offending anyone." Peck goes on to point out that what is happening at CU amounts to a violation of both Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "As a federally funded institution," she reminds us, "CU has a responsibility to ensure that every door on each of its campuses remains open to individuals of all races."
Peck's argument could --and should--be applied to other campuses (even, arguably, private ones, since they, too receive a goodly amount of federal funding). It could--and should--also be applied to those other hallmark activities of our increasingly segregated campuses: for example, minority student orientations (I've written about those here, here, and here), or the minority graduations I wrote about yesterday.
May 19, 2003
The diploma race
It's commencement season and universities across the country are holding special minority graduations in addition to the main, all-inclusive ceremony. This piece in yesterday's Washington Post explains. At the University of Pennsylvania, there is a black graduation (where seniors receive celebratory pieces of kente cloth, witness an African libation ritual, and sign one another's black student yearbooks), and there are also special graduation ceremonies for Asian American and Latino seniors. What's done at Penn is what's done at every self-respecting diversity-celebrating campus across the country. Vanderbilt, Washington University at St. Louis, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, UC Berkeley, and a wide range of other schools all hold black graduations.
At Penn, black graduation is presented as an extension and expression of the university's commitment to diversity:
žOur mission, at its core, is to educate. And we believe that homogeneity stifles learning,Ó said a statement on affirmative action issued by Judith Rodin, president of the University of Pennsylvania, and James S. Riepe, chairman of the universityŪs board of trustees.
Makuu, the black student center at Penn, teaches study skills and publishes a directory of black faculty members and a black resource guide to the university.
žThe students describe Makuu as a safe space,Ó said director Burrell-McRae. žIt is a place where they donŪt have to explain who they are.Ó
And for the past two years, it has hosted black graduation celebrations. The cost of the celebration is negligible: about $2,000, mainly for kente cloths and a sumptuous buffet. Penn is paying for the celebration, as many schools do. For the students, it is one of the high points of their senior year.
About half of Penn's 140 graduating black seniors attended Saturday's ceremony.
The arguments for and against these celebrations fall along predictable lines. Opponents say these celebrations are exercises in a deeply destructive separatism. According to John McWhorter, a black linguistics professor at Berkeley, žThe fact that these ceremonies are so prevalent nicely shows that the common defense of racial preferences ů that it puts whites and blacks on the same campus to learn about and become comfortable with each other ů is senseless. ... On the contrary, campuses are precisely where many black students learn a new separatist conception of being ŽblackŪ that they didnŪt have before.Ó UC Regent and affirmative-action opponent Ward Connerly, echoes McWhorter's sentiments:›žThese celebrations are part of a larger context of cultural centers, black orientations, black studies, black housing. ... They are part of an infrastructure of programs aimed at making students feel welcome. The problem is that this whole entourage of efforts has formed to isolate students in cultural ghettos.Ó
Connerly's assessment meshes with the rationale for minority graduations given by those who champion them. Supporters of these ceremonies claim that they recognize the special achievement of minority students in the (implicitly oppressive) atmosphere of the predominantly white university. As the house dean of Penn's black dorm explains it, "Our students need the support they get from one another. ... Often, they don't receive the same recognition and support as other students in the university."
The fact that minority graduations are instances where minority students actually get more support and recognition than "other students" does not enter into this argument. Neither does the notion that such a ceremony might feel like a cheap and belated compensation to students who have been underserved by their school (if indeed they have). Neither does the notion that "other students" are hardly an undifferentiated mass of privileged white male oppressors. Neither does the notion that it is not in itself an achievement to be black (or white). Neither does the possibility that some black graduating seniors--perhaps a significant number of the 50% of them that were not at Penn's ceremony this year--might regard black graduation as the final, ironic, crowning insult delivered by the pigeon-holing efforts of Penn's resident diversity industry. More than one Penn undergrad has confessed to me how disappointed and disturbed they were to find that their minority status seemed to matter more to the university than their individuality. But this is not to slam Penn. The patterns there are representative of patterns across the country.
The Post article reports that a survey conducted by the The National Survey of Black Student Engagement found that about half of college freshmen say they "often" have serious conversations with someone of another race, and that about half of college seniors make the same report. In other words, campus diversity initiatives don't appear to do what they say they aim to do: they don't increase substantive interracial interaction among students. What they do do: with their racial theme houses, racial student centers, racial societies, racial graduations, and even race-based majors, they make it possible for minority students who want to avoid interracial interaction to do so.
UPDATE: John Rosenberg has more.
May 18, 2003
Criminal lack of standards
Today is graduation day at Maryland's historically black Coppin State College. But not all the degrees that will be awarded today are created equal. At least four of the six criminal justice students slated to receive their Master's degrees did failing work in the program--but they will graduate anyway after a lawsuit filed by fourteen disgruntled students and a timely expose by The Chronicle of Higher Education put the college in a very tight, very public spot. Highlights include students who plagiarized their research papers, students whose papers consisted of what one professor called "gibberish," students who failed their required comprehensive final exam--twice; students who sued when they found out they were failing; and a college president who overrode the criminal justice department's prerogative to determine who passes and who fails because "We have a capital expansion campaign, and we can't afford bad publicity."
May 16, 2003
All Dennis Dailey, all the time
When Dennis Dailey was exonerated by the University of Kansas, Susan Wagle called for an independent investigation of him, and suggested that Attorney General Phill Kline would be the right man for the job. Kline does not agree:
"I'm not aware of any allegations of illegality," Kline said Tuesday.
Kansas law allows materials the state would consider obscene to be used in classrooms, and sexual harassment claims are handled by private litigation, he said.
"I can understand the policy debate," Kline said. "But that's not our role."
The undeterrable Wagle now says that the independent investigation could be conducted by a special committee. "I don't think it necessarily has to be the attorney general," she said.
Meanwhile University of Kansas history professor Jeffrey Moran, author of a history of sex education, has published a piece in the Topeka Capital-Journal that interprets Susan Wagle's campaign against Dailey and his course as part of the longer history of the religious right's bid for political power:
Far from being an isolated incident, Sen. Wagle's assault on Dennis Dailey is part of a larger strategy by the religious right to organize around issues of sexuality. Sex education, abortion, gay rights -- these are the issues that have launched a thousand direct-mail campaigns since the right "discovered" social issues in the late 1960s. In these crusades against sexual liberalism in all of its forms, the truth or falsity of the accusations has always been secondary to their political usefulness. If Dennis Dailey's reputation is smeared along the way, well, that's just collateral damage in the Christian right's war for political influence.
So far, Professor Dailey's current and former students have been his main line of defense. The silence from most of Kansas's leaders in higher education has been deafening. But it is time for KU's Chancellor Robert Hemenway and his colleagues at Kansas State and the other state universities to swallow their fears that the Legislature may retaliate against them. They need to take a stand for academic freedom and the mission of the university.
It is time as well for the business leaders of the state and other friends of higher education to speak out in support of Dailey and his right to teach. Perhaps the weight of respectability will accomplish what mere facts were unable to do.
Finally, in case Sen. Wagle has forgotten some of what she learned as an undergraduate at Wichita State, I offer a brief lexicon of relevant concepts:
Ô Scholarly analysis: Investigating subjects in order to understand them more deeply. Because it is based on facts and not advocacy, often a difficult concept for politicians to grasp.
Ô Academic freedom: Right of faculty to teach and research as they see fit, with the faith that only the free sifting and winnowing of ideas can lead to intellectual truth and social progress. Often seen as protection for faculty and students against ignorance and political prejudice, as during McCarthyism.
Ô McCarthyism: Making false accusations against innocent persons in order to gain notoriety and score political points. Once thought extinct.
Read the whole thing and watch the political polarization that this case was bound to produce take shape before your very eyes.
UC nears dating ban
The Board of Regents of the University of California is considering whether to adopt an amendment to the Faculty Code of Conduct outlawing romantic relationships between faculty and students. The amendment would apply to lecturers, instructors, and graduate teaching assistants as well as to professors, and it would specifically prohibit faculty members from becoming involved in relationships with students for whom they either have professional responsibility or for whom they expect to be responsible in the future. Such an amendment has been on the table at UC for some time now; the recent renewal of interest in a dating ban owes much to last fall's scandal at Berkeley's law school, when the dean resigned after an anonymous former student accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct toward her (you can read extensive coverage and commentary on the Boalt scandal in Critical Mass' December and January archives). The UC Academic Council adopted the amendment in April. Now all that is needed for it to be adopted by the entire UC system is the Regents' approval. The money quote comes from UCSB's Sexual Harassment Prevention Education Coordinator Judy Guillermo-Newton: "The problem I see is that we are trying to change the culture," she said. "The question is, can we do this by law?"
May 15, 2003
All the news that's fit to quash
At Berkeley, students who don't like what the Daily Californian prints steal the paper so others can't read it. But at Loyola, the president himself ensures that The Maroon doesn't print stories to which he objects.
The bare facts: Scott Frederickson, head of Loyola's music department, abruptly leaves his job a mere week after appearing with Loyala president Bernard Knoth at a news conference; Frederickson will not say why he left Loyola, but he did publish a darkly insinuating piece in The Maroon several days before he left; in that piece he wrote, žIn recent weeks, I have experienced unfortunate actions from people whom I respected and thought were friends. This has caused me to contemplate the karmic law of cause and effect,Ó and in another, žI hope my ŽfriendsŪ will keep an eye over their shoulder. The karmic principle of Žwhat goes around comes aroundŪ is on the wayŪ Ó; a team of student reporters from The Maroon investigated Frederickson's departure, concluded that he had been fired, and wrote a piece entitled, "Chair's firing shrouded in secrecy"; Father Knoth found out about the piece the day before it was to run; Knoth first ordered all references to Frederickson's alleged firing to be removed from the piece; minutes later, he changed his mind and quashed the entire story.
Knoth's rationale: žIt was well-written, it was well-edited, but it was in the end conjecture. ... It certainly was misleading ů and from my point of view inflammatory ů and because it was just conjecture and the last issue of the year, I honestly felt it was inappropriate to publish it.Ó Knoth also said that it was not appropriate for The Maroon to delve into personnel issues, and that in his eight years at Loyola he had only quashed one other article.
The response from The Maroon's student editor-in-chief, as told to The Chronicle of Higher Education: "He could have handled it better than he did. I wouldn't have had a problem adapting the story, to be more accurate. It's almost like having the mayor of your city be the publisher of your paper."
And the response from Mike Hiestand, a lawyer at the Student Press Law Center: "The bigger question is not whether [quashing the story] was legal or not legal, but if it was right or wrong. ... The Maroon is supposed to be a newspaper, not an extension of Loyola's public relations office."
The Chronicle also notes that the Loyola student handbook says that "in order to operate effectively, [the student newspaper] is to be a free and independent voice acting in the best interest of the university in pursuit of truth."
So what did The Maroon put in the space where the story was supposed to be? It's worth the hassle of the required registration to find out.
Dennis Dailey's students have put up a website called waglelies.com to show their support for the professor and to expose the hatchet job Kansas state senator Susan Wagle has done to him. It's a good source of information about both Dailey's human sexuality course and Wagle's crusade against Dailey, his course, and other courses like it. It also inadvertantly confirms that as far as Dailey's students are concerned, the primary benefits of Human Sexuality in Everyday Life are not academic, but therapeutic. Here is how the site defends the course against Wagle's claim that it "promotes sexual anarchy," presented in concise, outline form:
A.›Perception that course promotes žsexual anarchy.Ó
1.› Promotes sex in totality rather than casual intercourse.
Emphasizes context of giving, caring relationship.
Accentuates importance of emotional risk-taking.
Dissuades self-validating behaviors.
Conveys intercourse as relatively small but important aspect of overall relationship dynamic.
1.›Stronger self image for students.
2.›Loss of guilt and shame.
Primary cause of most destructive sexual behavior diminished or removed.
Grants confidence and hope for better future.
3.›Closer, Healthier relationships at home and work.
Close relationships do not equate to sexual intercourse.
Greater and more accurate interpersonal communication.
Better knowledge of self and others.
Lays foundation for strong family values.
C.››Long Term Benefits.
1.›Decreased divorce rate.
2.›Stable homes equate to stable children.
3.›Counters intergenerational cycles that lead to break downs in communication and relationship.
Fewer children learning life žon their own.Ó
Self-knowledge, awareness and acceptance reduces behavior that snowballs into violent crime.
Grants tools to solve future, unforeseen conflict within self and others.
More expendable state income through increased personal success and fewer žwards of the state.Ó
This rationale fails to distinguish between learning to become social workers (as many of Dailey's students are) and being the beneficiaries of social work, and as such it points to what I see as the real problem with Dailey's class: that both Dailey and his students seem on some level to understand the teacher-student relationship as an essentially psychiatric one (Dailey encourages this misconception when he invites students to come to him with their personal sexual issues). The above list of justifications for the course does not even begin to suggest that the course has educational value. Instead, it falls right into the trap Wagle laid when she accused Dailey of promoting "sexual anarchy" (and pedophilia), accepting her flawed premise that learning about a behavior causes that behavior even as it attempts to dispute what kind of behavior the learning will cause. In granting Wagle's allegation that the course does on some level teach students how to be sexual beings, the list ironically does more to support arguments against the course than to defend it.
Taxpayers don't want to pay for KU students to get course credit for getting in touch with their sexuality, but they will gladly pay for KU students to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be sensitive, successful social workers and therapists. The list above actively works against this last, most reasonable justification for Dailey's course. From the list, you'd think KU undergrads were all a bunch of sexually conflicted delinquents who need the course in order to prevent them from going on to lives of crime, divorce, repression, and dependency on the state. And that doesn't bode well for either Dailey's credibility or the social workers-to-be who pass through his course: the last thing their future clients need is caseworkers who can't tell the difference between the person who needs guidance and the person who is doing the guiding.
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May 13, 2003
Sexfests and school funds
Some additional spins on the issues Susan Wagle has raised about state schools' accountability to tax payers, particularly when it comes to using sexually explicit material in school-sponsored events:
James Madison University has recently sponsored SexFest 2003, a nominally educational event that included a game in which students donned glasses that blurred their vision (thus simulating drunkenness) and then tried to fit a condom on a fake penis. The event was brought to the attention of a state legislator, who then complained to JMU's president about how the school was spending tax dollars. The president responded by defending SexFest, which he said aimed to teach students about safe sex and to encourage responsibility. In a written statement, he admitted that some people "have received an erroneous impression about the event because of its title, which is actually a misnomer."
Such campus events are common. At UCSB, for instance, a recent "sexual health and diversity fair" entitled "Sex Affair" featured (Critical Mass readers will love this) a Tunnel of Love. A thirty-foot tunnel made from adjoining tents, the Tunnel of Love allowed participants to see and touch various birth control devices and sex toys while learning about safer sex. The tunnel organizers were especially proud of their exhibit on anal sex. As one told the student paper, "Many people think only homosexuals have anal sex. ... But actually, 20 percent of heterosexuals on campus engage in it, and for the most part, condoms are not used. That's why it's important to inform people on how to do it correctly and safely." The first 500 people through the tunnel received a free bag of "goodies"--a condom, lubricant, instructions on how to use both, and lots of informational literature. Outside the tunnel, there were races to see who could put on condoms and make dental dams fastest (I assume that the condom race involved fake penises, but the article was not specific about that point).
As these examples make clear, the aim of the people who organize events like this is to combine shock value with humor to try to entice people into participating (one Tunnel of Love organizer specifically mentions that the tunnel idea grew in part out of a desire to give participants some privacy). There is much to be said for trying to inject a sense of fun into potentially uncomfortable subjects. But at the same time, that strategy slips very readily into a confrontational attitude that works against the ostensible aim of such fairs: if your goal is to create an environment that encourages people to learn about sex by making them feel comfortable and safe, then it is patently counterproductive to insinuate that those who object to the explicit nature of your project, or who don't want to learn about certain kinds of sexual activity, or who question whether such events promote promiscuity, are just a bunch of repressed reactionaries who are clearly no fun in bed. Yet events such as SexFest and Sexual Affair do on some level dare people to make such objections--and do cast those who object as prudes.
One instance of a campus sex fair that took the game of moral chicken to its furthest possible point: Penn State's 2001 "Sex Faire," which featured "orgasm bingo," "pin the clitoris on the vulva," a "tent of consent" (where groups of two or more students could pass through a consent "checkpoint" and then spend two minutes behind a private curtain) and a keynote speaker who was an outspoken advocate of pedophilia. Sex Faire followed fast on the heels of Penn State's notorious "C---fest;" some outraged Pennsylvania lawmakers tried to crack down on the school, but got nowhere. Penn State president Graham Spanier was questioned for four hours by state legislators; he defended the free speech of PSU students and event organizers, and that was pretty much that. The state legislature voted to take a very small punitive bite out of PSU's budget, and the case was closed.
Now Western Washington University at Bellingham's National Outdoor Intercourse Day looks like it is bidding to follow in Penn State's footsteps. The "Day" actually lasted a week, and this year it featured condom hunts, a masturbation information table, and a "Pornfest" in which students viewed pornographic images in order to determine how they feel about them (Pornfest concludes with "Porn and Popcorn," a screening of award-winning porn films, with free popcorn for all). "Our goal is to help students sort out sexuality issues with clear and concise information," a student organizer told the school paper. "We want to get students communicating about sex. This is a perfect opportunity to do that in a safe, fun and open way."
All events were voluntary, but there were still some who objected. One senior, who is a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, told the student paper that she wished the event would emphasize some of the crucial issues surrounding sex--like relationships, and sexual violence, and the fact that abstinence is a valid lifestyle choice. Instead, Outdoor Intercourse Day featured a lecture by Allena Gabosch, director of the Wet Spot, a "sex-positive" community center in Seattle. Gabosch is a self-described sexual activist whose organization runs, among other things, a weekly "Pansexual BDSM Play Party" and a "Whip Enthusiasts Group." Her lecture at UW aimed to dispel the "myths" surrounding "polyamory" (having sexual relationships with more than one person at a time). Campus religious groups attended Outdoor Intercourse events and passed out leaflets in protest; to their credit, event organizers made no attempt to stop them.
The comments appended to the student paper coverage of Outdoor Intercourse Day criticize the university for spending tax dollars on it. According to an event organizer, tax dollars were not spent on the event, but $400 of student fees were. WWU-Bellingham's Sexual Awareness Center, which sponsored the event, is also supported by student fees, and has a $3,100 annual budget. Conceivably, WWU-Bellingham students who object to Outdoor Intercourse Day have a legitimate gripe about how their money is being spent. But at the same time, the total amount of money involved is negligible; odds are that even if the university failed to fund the event next year, enough money could be raised independently to keep the program running.
And odds are that this is true across the board. JMU's SexFest, for example, was organized by a small group of students not affiliated with any school-funded group, and did not itself receive any school funding. The event organizers invited four campus groups who do get school funding to participate: they were the Reality Educators Advocating Campus Health, Campus Assault Response (which runs a campus assault help line), Equal (a women's rights group); and One in Four, (a men's group that aims to raise awareness of assault and rape). Likewise, Penn State's Sex Faire cost a total of $50, which organizers paid for out of pocket. Nonetheless, it's worth watching where the money comes from when events of this sort are staged--the price tag on Penn State's notorious C---fest, for example, was $10,000, and was paid for with student fees.
May 12, 2003
Dennis Dailey cleared
The University of Kansas has completed its investigation of Dennis Dailey, and has found state senator Susan Wagle's allegations against him to be totally unfounded. Read KU's press release here and also check out the full text of the investigative report, complete with supporting documents. I don't imagine this will stop Wagle, who has been much more interested in using Dailey as a political pawn than she has been in finding out the truth. But perhaps a defamation suit will help Wagle find her conscience--or at least her instinct for self-preservation.
UPDATE: As predicted, the report has done nothing to deter Wagle, who has called it a whitewash and has demanded an independent investigation by the Kansas Attorney General. In an email to the Wichita Eagle, Wagle wrote of the report, "I'm not surprised. I fully expected the University of Kansas to white-wash the allegations.... They are protecting one of their own. I think they should request the Attorney General investigate the charges and issue an opinion."
A reader writes to remind me that Kansas legislators speaking on the floor have constitutional protections against slander and libel. Wagle will have to be held accountable some other way--and I hope she is, since she has shamelessly abused her protected position in her effort to destroy Dailey's reputation and career.
Dennis Dailey update
On the last day of his human sexuality class, University of Kansas social welfare professor Dennis Dailey apologized to his students for the negative publicity the course has been receiving since state senator Susan Wagle commenced her campaign against the course, against Dailey, and against all similar state-funded courses. According to AP coverage, Dailey told his students that "It is unfortunate that your opportunities for learning may have in some way been fouled by this experience." Dailey went on to spend the class session discussing how young people can know when they are ready have sex; showing "Marsha and Harry," a video in which hand puppets of male and female genitalia act out their first sexual encounter; and reading aloud Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go.
That night, The O'Reilly Factor devoted another segment to Dailey. This one featured an anonymous silhouette of a woman--"Jennifer"--who claimed to have taken a class on incest from Dailey and who claimed that Dailey used that class to promote pedophilia and incest. In particular, she alleged that Dailey told his students he was sexually aroused by hugging his daughters. Dailey denies the allegations and says he doubts the accuser took the course as she claims to have done. He also notes that if he really had said the things she accused him of saying, she would not be the only student speaking out against him.
First, Dailey's course, while required for some undergraduate majors, does sound like it tends to confuse group therapy with academic pursuits. A telling sentence from the AP report: "He discouraged students from having sex if, among other reasons, 'either party felt objectified' or feared 'feeling guilty when it's over.'" That's counseling, not teaching. Though I have defended Dailey's academic freedom on this blog and will continue to do so, I continue to wonder about the academic value of his course.
Second, Susan Wagle's smear campaign against Dailey is looking worse with every new allegation. She has yet to watch the videos that were the original focus of her claim that Dailey was showing porn to his students, she continues to make unsubstantiated, terribly damaging, and quite possibly libelous allegations about Dailey's character, and she cannot produce credible witnesses to the crimes she alleges Dailey committed in front of thousands of students over the years. The only people she has been able to enlist in her cause are her student-intern (whose stories about Dailey's classroom conduct have not been confirmed by other students in the course and who has a palpable conflict of interest) and this anonymous and highly unbelievable Jennifer figure.
KU will be responding to Wagle's complaint against Dailey this week. I'll post more as it becomes available.
UPDATE: Though the papers initially reported that Dailey's class was required for some majors (they were quoting KU students, if I recall), that turns out not to be correct. Human Sexuality in Everyday Life is an elective course.
Double vision at Cal
Last Wednesday, 2,400 copies of UC Berkeley's Daily Californian, were stolen to protest the paper's alleged racism. On Thursday, it happened again. The Daily Cal's editor in chief isn't mincing words: "There seemed to be a concerted effort to censor the Daily Cal and deprive the campus community of an important forum for news and opinion," he said. Last Friday's Daily Cal ran a number of letters to the editor: they included comments from people who were harshly critical of the paper as well as from people who support its editorial decisionmaking.
May 9, 2003
Dissecting the curriculum at UIUC
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has become the first Big Ten school to draft policy governing when and how professors can require students to perform animal dissection as part of a course. The policy, which was supported by such groups as PETA, was passed Monday after a two-year campaign by Students Improving the Lives of Animals. It states that professors including dissection in general ed courses must offer alternatives (software, videos, 3-D models, and so on) to students who oppose dissection, while students taking upper-level courses that include dissection may appeal to the department if the professor does not provide alternatives. A professor in the molecular and integrative physiology department objected strongly to the proposed policy on grounds of academic freedom; he was refuted by others who cited "students' rights":
He said his main concern with the approval of the original proposal was that it sets a precedent in which students might think they can challenge anything an instructor teaches that they disagree with.
"It's being discussed in the context of animal dissection, but I don't see why other students with other interests, no matter where their issues are, could also file grievances against professors if they don't approve of the course content," Anastasio said.
He likened the animal dissection issue to a student who supports capitalism challenging a professor who taught the ideology of Karl Marx in economics.
However, associate professor of library administration Kathleen Kluegel said his analogy didn't take into account the strong convictions of some students opposed to dissection.
"Perhaps a more suitable analogy (to the animal dissection issue) would be to require students who are taking biology courses to drink alcohol instead of studying or reading about how alcohol affects the brain functions," she said.
Anastasio also said he believes the proposal challenges a professor's academic freedom.
However, Vilas Dhar, president of the student senate caucus, said he didn't believe that was a valid claim.
"This doesn't restrict academic freedom," he said. "It just shows that while professors have freedom to teach whatever they want, the students' rights should also be considered."
Supporters of the resolution expect it to set a precedent for similar resolutions at other schools.
It's worth noting that it is a librarian who is not only telling the scientist how to teach his specialty, but is also using fallacious physiological analogies to do it. It's also worth noting that the political sensibilities of (what I assume is) a vocal minority of students have been allowed to trump the professor's authority to determine what his students must know. And it is worth speculating, too, on the longer-term implications of such a policy--which tells aspiring scientists and doctors that they can avoid those aspects of their chosen field that make them squeamish, and which requires professors to collude in their students' politicized curricular gamesmanship by lowering their standards to accomodate them. What the people at UIUC should be saying: If you can't tolerate the prospect of dissecting a frog, perhaps you should not be taking a course where frog dissection is required (or, perhaps you should graciously accept an "F" for the portion of the coursework that you decided not to complete). More broadly, if you cannot tolerate the prospect of dissecting a frog, perhaps you should not be contemplating a career in medicine or the life sciences (unless you plan to go on to study at UIUC, where policies providing dissection alternatives to medical and veterinary students are already on the books).
The nature and limits of academic freedom have been the subject of much debate on Critical Mass of late, most recently in the context of the case of Dennis Dailey, the University of Kansas social welfare professor whose human sexuality course has come under fire for including sexually explicit material. In that debate, the questions of whether Dailey is or is not a pervert, and of whether his course does or does not have genuine academic value, have made it difficult at times to take seriously the larger questions about academic freedom raised by his case. The dissection issue as it has been handled at UIUC should help clarify the issues, I think. On the one hand, dissection does have genuine educational value. On the other hand, professors at UIUC have effectively been barred from requiring students to dissect by a group that casts dissection as perverted (and cruel, and abusive).
As Dorothy Rabinowitz has eloquently shown in another context, accusations of abuse tend to lower the standard of proof for the accusers. Academic ideologues understand this well, and are discovering that a fine way to force unruly faculties to bend the curriculum to their will is to package their agenda in allegations of abuse (sexual harassment, racial harassment, or even, in this case, cruelty to animals). This is why, I think, Kansas state senator Susan Wagle is pairing her attempt to give the state legislature final say in how sex enters the classroom with a personal attack on Dailey himself. And it's why animal rights activists at UIUC can hijack the biology curriculum by casting themselves as conscientious (even religious) objectors to science's reprehensible assault on the quality of animals' lives.
Susan Wagle and Students Improving the Lives of Animals make strange, but strangely fitting, bedfellows.
May 8, 2003
A campus feminist speaks
Portland State University's student paper is currently running a guest column entitled "Sexual Oppression Disguised as Student Life." Written by a woman student majoring in Native American studies and something called "independent studies in social justice," it opens thus:
PSU's student population is 70 percent women, and women make up approximately 52 percent of the U.S. population. So that means women are in the majority, right? Well, statistically yes, but remember, it's not just quantity that counts, its quality. And overall, the PSU environment seems to lack greatly in quality for women. It isn't an empowering or safe space for women in general.
What am I talking about, you ask? Well, let's start with the surface. As I walk about the PSU campus, I am mortified to find around every hallway some form of sexual harassment being displayed. From last month's inappropriate "Mardi Gras" display in the SMSU, shrouded in beads, (gee, I wonder what the beads represent), to the subscribing porn magazine pamphlets littering corkboards, to fliers created or co-sponsored by student groups that depict objectified, practically naked women. Perfect example: the recent Cinco De Mayo flier. This flier gives dates and times in the shadow of a sexually objectified woman. Could she be any more scantily clad? And come on, if her breasts were any bigger she'd fall over. Pahhhlease.
Read the whole thing, including the comments. It contains multitudes.
Lately, Critical Mass has acquired its very own troll. Readers of this site--particularly commenters--may be interested in learning a little bit about what trolls are and how to handle them. This is a useful piece, as is this.
Death threats and newspaper theft
Yesterday, Berkeley students angered by the Daily Californian's recent handling of race stole the press run and dumped it in the trash. They also tried unsuccessfully to invade the paper's offices. Many of the papers were salvaged and returned to their dispensers, at which point they were stolen and trashed again. The offending article detailed how a UC Berkeley offensive lineman had been arrested for allegedly fracturing a fellow Cal student's skull with a bottle at a frat party Saturday night. There is no mention of race in the piece at all--but the article carried a picture of the lineman, who is black. According to Calstuff, the protesters felt that the Daily Cal had "negatively stereotyped blacks as violent" and that it had also "misrepresented" the student. Protesters were joined by members of the radical student group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), who were incensed by the Daily Cal's publication of a cartoon of "North Korean Diplomacy," which depicted Kim Jong-Il wearing a cheerleading outfit and chanting ""We Got Nukes, Yes We Do, We Got Nukes, How 'Bout You?!" BAMN called the cartoon "racist, anti-Asian caricature ... drawn with slanted, virtually non-existent eyes, jutting teeth, and an upturned, pig-like noseůa mimicry of the bigoted xenophobic anti-Japanese cartoons of World War II." The Daily Cal editor-in-chief, Rong-Gong Lin, responded gently but firmly to charges that the paper is racist in yesterday's (stolen) paper.
Newspaper theft is a fixture on Berkeley's campus, where even the mayor has been known to get in on the action. But the folks at Berkeley are not alone. As a misguided tactic of student resistance, newspaper theft is acquiring quite a bit of cachet across the country. But at some schools, such tactics--as extreme as they are--are inadequate to express the displeasure of offended readers. At Santa Rosa Junior College, for instance, death threats have emerged as a chosen method of expressing distaste for the student paper's editorial decisions.
Six weeks ago, the nineteen-year-old student editor of the Oak Leaf ran an opinion piece entitled "Is anti-Semitism ever the result of Jewish behavior?" The piece was written by a SRJC student known for his controversial opinions on Israel; it took a hardline pro-Palestinian stance and, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "echoed many of the themes in white supremacist literature" (Indymedia reprints it here, but has disabled comments because people were posting threats). The editor says she ran the piece not because she agreed with it, but because she thought it might spark debate and because the editorial she had planned to run was not turned in on time. "The goal was to get a lively discussion going," she told the Press Democrat. "I'm sorry for any pain it caused. That wasn't the point of publishing it. It was for debate purposes. ... I've heard (McGuire's) opinion on campus and thought it represented a vocal minority. ... I had a disclaimer ... and it was on the opinion page. I thought I was covered." She ran the piece by the paper's faculty advisor and got his approval ("It was racially charged and there were a few inflammatory things," he told the paper. "But it wasn't libelous and it didn't incite people to violence. ... The First Amendment isn't there to protect agreeable stories."). Then she printed it. That's when all hell broke loose.
Members of the campus Jewish community took the piece as a personal assault. "It's an echo and a reality. There are people on campus whose relatives have tattoos from the death camps," Dianne Smith, an anthropology professor and president of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, told the Press Democrat. "They had a right to publish it. We know hate speech is free speech. ... But what about an apology, not that we're sorry we printed it, but that we're sorry we hurt you -- we're sorry we dredged up these memories." (The Oak Leaf did not apologize for running the 750-word piece--but it did run some 5,000 words' worth of response from readers, plus a couple of additional pieces by staff writers who outlined the reasons for publishing the piece and explained the constitutional issues involved.) But calls for apology, and even for the resignation of the paper's editor, were among the mildest responses from readers of the offending article.
Some expressed their outrage more bluntly. The Oak Leaf editor began receiving death threats signed by the "Hate Task Force." These threats informed her that she was being watched. Fliers with swastikas on them were left on her car. So the police locked the newspaper's offices, blocked the mail slot, and offered to escort the editor while she is on campus. Meanwhile, a campus chat room set up to discuss the events was also closed down when self-identified white supremacists from around the country began flooding it. Those groups have also sent packets of anti-Semitic material to SRJC faculty and staff.
It's a huge, ugly mess. But the faculty senate knows the real problem lies with the editor for deciding to print the piece in the first place. The senate plans to ask the Communications Studies Department to report on "how it teaches professional ethics to the students and what its academic standards are," and there are discussions, too, about how to increase faculty editorial oversight over the paper. The senate met yesterday to discuss what could be done to ensure that the students running the paper have better training (particularly in journalistic ethics) and that the faculty have more power to control what gets printed in the paper. The assumption seems to be that the editor showed an unethical lack of concern for the sensibilities of Jewish faculty, students, and staff; that a proper training in journalistic ethics would have prevented the student editor from running an inflammatory opinion piece; that the job of the press is to protect peoples' feelings rather than to seek the truth; and that the First Amendment does not apply to the school. As communications studies professor Ed LaFrance told the Press Democrat, "You cannot do prior censorship. ... They put it under the cloak of ethics. But it's politics and those politics have to do with slashing the First Amendment." This will be one to watch.
UPDATE: Santa Rosa Junior College's student paper has been at the center of free speech flaps before. Here's a long and fascinating 1995 piece from Wired for those with a historical bent and a few extra minutes.
UPDATE UPDATE: The SRJC faculty senate has ruled.
May 7, 2003
Dennis Dailey update
While Kansas state senator Susan Wagle seeks to punish University of Kansas social welfare professor Dennis Dailey for his pedagogical style, the University itself is rewarding him for it. The much-decorated Dailey accepted the Del Shankel Teaching Excellence Award on Monday.
KU is investigating Wagle's allegations that Dailey behaves in a lewd, harassing, and altogether inappropriate way in his classroom, and Wagle is continuing her attempts to amend the state budget so as to prevent professors from introducing sexually explicit material into their classrooms. Meanwhile, Dailey's colleagues at the School of Social Welfare have released the following letter:
An Open Letter to the University Community
During the past two months, a very important process has been unfolding as State Sen. Susan Wagle began her public attack on the school's human sexuality class and Dr. Dennis Dailey. Our school's mission has a "special commitment to helping vulnerable groups and individuals ... social workers celebrate differences among people and believe that respecting those differences -- whether race, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age -- enriches the quality of life for all." Further, we see knowledge as empowering our students to reach their full potential.
The current assault by Sen. Wagle has been both personal and, in essence, an attempt to redefine the fundamental principle of academic freedom. If she succeeds, she has established the principle that the Legislature has the power to determine content in every curriculum in the regents system.
Given our school's commitment to marginalized groups, we are a logical first target. However, we will not be the last. Those programs that offer course work that does not fit the personal beliefs of legislators become fair game for these tactics. As faculty we want to take a public stance that clearly asserts our right and society's need for a university environment that supports open dialogue about ideas that shape our future and decry personal intimidation or institutional extortion as a legitimate strategy to silence those positions differing from our own.
We continue to support faculty efforts to provide students with information that fits with our school's mission and empowers students to make informed decisions about their lives.
Sandy Beverly, assistant professor
Ed Canda, professor
Rosemary Chapin, professor
Catherine Crisp, assistant professor
Goody Garfield, associate professor
Scott Harding, assistant professor
Helen Hartnett, assistant professor
Steve Kapp, associate professor
Jim Kreider, teaching associate
Holly Nelson-Becker, assistant professor
Deb Page-Adams, associate professor
Jean Peterson, associate professor
Chris Petr, professor
Judy Postmus, assistant professor
Allan Press, associate professor
Charlie Rapp, professor
Dennis Saleebey, professor
Ed Scanlon, assistant professor
Margaret Severson, associate professor
Rick Spano, associate dean for academic programs and associate professor
Ann Weick, dean and professor
It's interesting, but not surprising, to see both sides of this battle using the language of oppression to validate their positions. Both Wagle and her opponents in this growing debacle see themselves as defenders of helpless, marginalized groups. Wagle sees herself as defending the women Dailey is allegedly harassing and the children whose sexuality he is allegedly parading and covetting. The social welfare faculty sees itself as defending (nay, celebrating) all marginalized groups or individuals everywhere--including, in this instance, professors who find themselves on the wrong end of what, depending on your point of view, could either be described as a moral witch hunt or a legitimate plea for faculty accountability. Both sides are using the rhetoric for disingenuous ends: Wagle really does seem to be trying to use the shock value of unproven allegations against Dailey to hijack academic freedom at Kansas state schools; the social welfare faculty appears, likewise, to be using the rhetorics of diversity and academic freedom to evade the very real and valid questions about accountability Wagle raises. Here's hoping that the folks who are adjudicating this matter in the state legislature and in the KU administration can see past the rhetorical acrobatics to the real issues at hand.
Thanks to Dakota L. for the link.
UPDATE: The Ecumenical Christian Ministry has also issued a letter of support for Dailey.
May 6, 2003
Bypassing the Tunnel of Oppression
Readers of Critical Mass will be familiar with the Tunnel of Oppression, the grassroots campus diversity initiative that aims to shock complacent, bourgeois undergraduates out of their racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic ways. Readers will also recall the disturbingly illiterate defense of the tunnel posted here by a student coordinator at SUNY Cortland. Now another tunnel coordinator, this one from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, writes with an earnest question for Critical Mass readers:
I am intrigued.
I have helped in the organization and facilitation of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire version of the Tunnel of Oppression for three years. I agree that it is probably a very unintelligent and mindless method of educating the general student population. However, life in Eau Claire consists of a mostly white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society. Most of the students that attend the University come from backgrounds that follow this same societal structure/pattern.
The Tunnel is aimed at the students that don't realize that life elsewhere is any different from the Suburbia that they grew up in. Ignorance is dangerous. The goal of any baccalaureate is the irradication of the ignorance that they still harbor, though in most cases the targeted ignorance is solely "book knowledge." Unfortunately the opening of a can of beer occurs far more often than the opening of any book.
The goal of the Tunnel is to inspire the opening of history and diversity oriented books when students realize that they don't know what they don't know. It is intended to be an eye-opener, not a book-closer.
I realize that, in many cases, this is not the end result of the Tunnel. Students walk through and appear uninspired and apathetic to the situations that they've just encountered. I'd like to say we do it all for just "that one" that we help, but, the fact is, we're always looking for new methods to encourage students to find the books that all of you discovered during your days at University.
The point of my post is to help you see things from the side of the programmers and to ask for your help. If you can think of way to create a program that is eye-opening and inspiring, please help all of us by sharing it. Being reactive to a bad program helps no one, being proactive helps everyone.
Post a comment to let him know what you think.
May 5, 2003
Sex, lies, and red tape
Last week, Kansas state senator Susan Wagle appeared on the O'Reilly Factor to protest the University of Kansas human sexuality course that has been taught for twenty years by social welfare professor Dennis Dailey. The week before that, Kansas governor Kathleen Sibelius vetoed Wagle's brainchild, an amendment to the state budget that would cut off funding to all academic departments using sexually explicit material in the classroom. At the same time, Wagle filed a formal complaint against Dailey, alleging that his behavior in the classroom is harassing and inappropriate; the complaint spurred KU admins to open an investigation of the popular, award-winning professor.
But Wagle isn't finished yet. She's got a new, improved budget amendment in mind, one that would require universities to submit to the Kansas Board of Regents their policies on the use of sexually explicit material in the classroom (such "material" as it is defined is very broad indeed: it would include videos, discussion of pedophilia, and sexual harassment). In practice, the amendment would also effectively require schools to write the policies they are required to submit.
Wagle presented the amendment Friday, along with a thirteen page handout of allegations against Dailey--these included the claim that he had told students he found children sexually arousing, and that he saw nothing wrong with incest and pedophilia. The handout prompted heated debate in the Senate. One state senator accused Wagle of conducting a "character assassination" that demeaned the senate and KU; he pointed out that the allegations remain anonymous and that all sides of the issue have yet to be heard. Others were convinced by Wagle's own conviction, and accepted the allegations as truth despite the lack of corroboration: "How in the world can anyone defend some of the worst trash I've ever heard of?" said state Senator Karin Brownlee. Brownlee added that Dailey "promoted pedophilia." Her sentiments were mirrored by state Senator Nancy Harrington, who saw the debate not as one of principle, but of patriarchy: "Those who are outraged here today are men," she stated.
Dailey denies the allegations, saying that they "are untrue, malicious, and extremely hurtful to me and my family, especially my two adult daughters."
The amendment was adopted by the Senate, which is now slated to negotiate its amendments with the House. The Kansas Board of Regents has issued a statement saying that its present policies are adequate for adjudicating questions of course content.
Meanwhile, Wagle is arranging with KU administrators to view the videos that have inspired her campaign against Dailey. One would think that viewing the videos would be a prerequisite for drafting legislation and making formal allegations against Dailey for showing them. But in Wagle's world, it seems that verifying your claims takes a back seat to moral grandstanding.
May 4, 2003
Brooklyn College libels KC Johnson
CUNY administrators have sunk to new lows in their continuing quest to deny tenure to history professor KC Johnson (which would amount to firing him) and to secure their right to sink the careers of future whistleblowing faculty in the manner to which they are, apparently, accustomed.
In March, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein overturned Brooklyn College's extremely suspicious and unjustifiable decision to deny Johnson tenure for "lack of collegiality." Johnson was awarded tenure, and it looked like that would be the end of a long and harrowing tale of academic malfeasance. But the good people at BC weren't about to accept such a ruling. Last March, the BC Faculty Council re-opened Johnson's case, forming an "Integrity Committee" whose mission is to review (again) Johnson's qualifications (which are impeccable, and which were never in question) and to question the procedures by which Goldstein overturned BC's initial recommendation. The good works of this new and noble initiative are beginning to make themselves felt at the college and beyond.
For example, it is now acceptable at CUNY for top administrators to libel those junior faculty they seek to fire. Susan O'Malley, English professor at Kingsborough Community College, president of the CUNY University Faculty Senate, and ex oficio member of the Board of Trustees, published a statement on Johnson's case in the Senate Digest. Here is the text:
As the faculty member on the Board of Trustees, although without a vote, I first heard that the Board was being asked to vote on Professor Robert David Johnson's promotion and early tenure as the February 24, 2003 Board meeting was convening. A sheet of paper announcing an addendum to the University Report was placed at my seat. We were to vote on Professor Johnson's promotion to full professor effective 1/1/03 and his tenure effective 9/1/03. This action had not been presented to the Board Committee on Faculty, Staff, Administration for discussion and vote, nor had it been placed on the Board Calendar so that faculty could address it at the Board Public Hearing. The only discussion at the February Board of Trustees meeting consisted of a statement from Trustee Pesile that she had been trying to bring this matter to the Board's attention since October. However, Trustee Wiesenfeld had made known to the New York Sun his views supporting Professor Johnson.
Chancellor Goldstein recommended to the Board that it overturn the decision by the Brooklyn College faculty and the President of Brooklyn College. He said that after having received a complaint from Professor Johnson's attorney, he had given Professor Johnson's file to three professors who had distinguished records, and who had voted to promote Johnson to full professor after his having taught for three and one half years at Brooklyn College. The three professors who voted to promote Professor Johnson are Pamela Sheingorn, Professor of History at Baruch and Executive Officer of the Doctoral Program in Theater at the Graduate Center; David Reynolds, University Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College; and Louis Masur, chair of the City College History Department.
It is not my place to judge Professor Johnson's scholarship. A historian, he has written several reputable monographs. However, although he has one other monograph in press, he has not published since his tenure clock started at Brooklyn College. He was scheduled to have another year at Brooklyn College before coming up for tenure. While I agree with the AAUP that collegiality, a reason cited in the. Johnson case, should not be the sole criterion for the denial of promotion, as I talk to Brooklyn College faculty I realize that this is an extremely complex case.
What kind of message does this give to faculty coming up for promotion? That it is better for a faculty member who anticipates any difficulty to hire a private lawyer and ask the Chancellor to form his own committee to recommend promotion and tenure? As Chair of the University Faculty Senate and as one who is concerned with governance issues, I believe that the Chancellor's action does a disservice to shared governance at CUNY. On March 25, 2003, th UFS plenary voted to support a Resolution on the Integrity of the Promotion and Tenure Process which was written in response to the Chancellor's grant of early promotion and therefore tenure to Professor Johnson. Chancellor Goldstein's action overrode the decisions of the three committees at Brooklyn College involved with the promotion and tenure process, as well as the decision of the President of Brooklyn College. The UFS resolution "calls upon the Chancellor to affirm a policy of non-interference with established campus and university governance and contractual procedures, includôing appeals and grievances."
Susan G. O'Malley
The statement was distributed to the mailboxes of the entire CUNY faculty. And it is rife with errors of fact and outright lies.
Lie #1: "The only discussion at the February Board of Trustees meeting consisted of a statement from Trustee Pesile that she had been trying to bring this matter to the Board's attention since October."
The truth: Trustees Mastro and Schmidt also spoke, at some length, expressing their strong support for the Chancellor's action. Trustee O'Malley was free to speak about her concerns regarding the meeting, but did not do so. Read the transcript of Mastro and Schmidt's comments here.
Lie #2: The Chancellor "said that after having received a complaint from Professor Johnson's attorney, he had given Professor Johnson's file to three professors who had distinguished records . . ."
The truth: The Chancellor did not act unilaterally in response to legal threats, but in consultation with a variety of CUNY administrators and advisors--as he said in the meeting O'Malley attended.
Lie #3: "as I talk to Brooklyn College faculty I realize that this is an extremely complex case."
The truth: O'Malley never spoke to Johnson, or to anyone who supported his tenure. Her inquiry can hardly be considered to be a balanced one; her "realization" that Johnson's is a "complex" case is not the conclusion of one who has sought out all the facts, but the verbiage of one who is parroting the oversimplified and self-serving position of Johnson's antagonists.
Lie # 4: The statement: " . . . was written in response to the Chancellor's grant of early promotion and therefore tenure to Professor Johnson."
The truth: There is no such thing as "early promotion" at CUNY, a fact of which O'Malley, a top official at the institution, seems disturbingly unaware. Johnson's was a standard tenure and promotion case, not an application for special consideration.
Finally, Lie #5, the biggest one of all: "However, although he has one other monograph in press, he has not published since his tenure clock started at Brooklyn College."
The truth: Johnson has published one book and seven articles or book chapters since his tenure clock started ticking. He also has two monographs in press, along with three volumes of the LBJ transcripts that will be out later this year. For the price of a simple finger click, you can peruse Johnson's publication record on his faculty home page--something O'Malley was apparently too lazy or too incompetent to do herself.
O'Malley's suggestion that the real issue with Johnson is his inadequacy as a scholar--his failure to publish a single book or article since coming to Brooklyn College in 1999--is demonstrably false and patently libelous. She has published her statement in an official CUNY publication, and has thus ensured that her damaging falsehoods will reach each and every faculty member not just at Brooklyn College, but in the entire CUNY system. Her insinuation that Johnson hired a lawyer to help him hijack a review process that would have exposed the inadequacy of his professional credentials would be laughable if it were not attached to such a dishonest and malicious agenda: if my cursory searches through academic databases are correct, Johnson has published more in his few short years at Brooklyn College than O'Malley has in her entire career (she has been at CUNY since 1974). But O'Malley's slender scholarly credentials are beside the point. What is to the point: O'Malley's observation that Johnson has hired a lawyer. My guess is that it won't be long before O'Malley makes the acquaintance of said lawyer.
May 3, 2003
Where the boys aren't
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 698,000 women received bachelorŪs degrees in 2002, while 529,000 men did. Some other chilling numbers: women outnumber men by a four to three ratio on American campuses (that means there are almost two million more women in college than men). Only 43% of all college degrees go to men. Things are worse within minority populations: two black women earn bachelorŪs degrees for every black man; 60 percent of Hispanic college graduates are women.
I'm quoting from a disturbing and compelling piece by Glenn Sacks and Philip Cook entitled "Mysterious Decline--Where are the Men on Campus?". The article is well worth reading, not least for the widely divergent manner in which commentators and policy makers have chosen to interpret the numbers.
Some recognize a problem. Christina Hoff Sommers, for example, says žThis is new. We have thrown the gender switch. ... What does it mean in the long run that we have females who are significantly more literate, significantly more educated than their male counterparts? It is likely to create a lot of social problems. This does not bode well for anyone." Sommers is known for her two incendiary books, Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming our Young Men; she's become something of a boy advocate in recent years, and has thus offended and enraged the feminist establishment she critiques.
Here is what two members of that establishment have to say about the idea that boys may be getting shortchanged in school, and that boys' increasing failure to graduate from college--or even to go to college--represents a very real and disturbing social problem:
Jacqueline Woods, executive director of the American Association of University Women, denies that men's declining enrollments is a crisis or even a gender issue. She notes that those concerned about boys' sagging educational performance are "playing a zero-sum game" and says "I refuse to play." Columnist Ellen Goodman dismisses boy-friendly educational reformers as being motivated by the fact that "educated women have always made some people nervous." She, Woods and writer Barbara Ehrenreich argue that the college gender gap is another example of the disadvantages faced by women! According to Ehrenreich, žmen÷suspect they can make a living just as well without a college education, since they still have such an advantage over women in the non-professional workforce.Ó
Read the whole thing. You may disagree with the analysis of the numbers, but it's hard to argue with the numbers themselves. Whatever your politics, whatever your view of feminism or of academe or of advocacy research, you have to agree that there is no excuse for failing half of America's youth. To excuse it or to explain it away as these women do above is to engage in the worst sort of willful--indeed spiteful--ideological blindness.
Bursting the diploma bubble
Photoncourier has been following the Critical Mass coverage of Frederick Lang, the Brooklyn College English professor who was forcibly removed from the classroom for refusing to inflate his grades, and has some trenchant comments on the link between grade inflation and the devaluation of the diploma. Well worth reading.
May 2, 2003
Double standards at Miami
At the University of Miami, there is one set of standards for students who want to start a club with left-leaning political concerns, and another set of standards for those who want to start a club oriented around more conservative issues. Four conservative women students recently applied to the student government for permission to start a club called Advocates for Conservative Thought. Their request was denied, and the reason given was that since there is already a chapter of the College Republicans on campus, an additional conservative group would be redundant. The University of Miami recognizes numerous liberal-oriented groups, including a Democratic club, a student chapter of Amnesty International, and Students for a Free Tibet.
Though it had been denied official recognition (and the funds that could have come with it), ACT continued to meet anyway. But when it tried to hold a support the troops rally on campus, the group learned that without university recognition, it could not use campus facilities, advertise on campus, or invite speakers to campus. The students' in-house appeals got nowhere, at which point they contacted FIRE. FIRE's letter to the university president--who happens to be none other than former Clinton aide Donna Shalala--has been ignored. According to the Miami Herald-Tribune, FIRE will sue if the school continues to discriminate against the group.
UPDATE: FIRE has just posted the details on its website.
UPDATE 5/3/03: Donna Shalala gets it right: today's Washington Times reports that she has ordered the University of Miami's student government to conduct an immediate review of ACT's application, and has warned that entity that decisions about what groups get recognized must be made on content-neutral grounds. "They were using a rule that said you couldn't start a new organization that's like an existing organization," Shalala said. "But the subject matter [of an organization] should not be subject to review. ... You cannot make a judgment on substance." Shalala went on to add that denying ACT recognition because of its views constitutes a violation of academic freedom. Read her formal statement here.
If you are interested in the law surrounding the funding of student groups--and yes, there are Supreme Court rulings on the subject--take a look at FIRE's Guide to Student Fees, Funding, and Legal Equality on Campus.
Thought reform at UT
Last fall at the University of Tennessee,several members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity attended a Halloween party dressed as the Jackson Five. They darkened their faces as part of their costumes--and promptly became embroiled in what has now become known as the "Black Face Incident." Much ink and many pixels were spent in the media and the blogosphere reporting on UT's response to the incident (UT's own Glenn Reynolds weighed in here; Eugene Volokh commented here [keep scrolling]; and I wrote about the incident here, here, and here).
When the incident was fresh in people's minds, many people demanded that the students and the fraternity they belong to be punished (among them were a group of UT faculty); others warned that the courts have already clearly determined black face costumes to be protected speech, and that UT would be violating these students' First Amendment rights if it punished them in any way (Kappa Sigma, as a private organization, was, conversely, free to suspend the chapter, which it did, and to impose sanctions if it so chose).
Now UT has finalized its disciplinary plans for Kappa Sigma, and it appears to have done so entirely without regard for the law. Eugene Volokh reprints the UT administration's elaborate list of recommended sanctions and explains in eloquent detail how they are unconstitutional several times over. He doesn't leave much to be said, so be sure to read his post. But I will simply note that in sentencing Kappa Sigma not only to diversity training but also to participating in this coming year's freshman reading project (all incoming students will read The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother and discuss it in small seminars as part of their orientation), UT has effectively acknowledged that it regards its freshman reading project as a form of diversity training in its own right.
I wrote a series of blogs last fall about how many colleges and universities are using the concept of the freshman reading project to smuggle diversity training into freshman orientation, and discussed at length the nature of the thought reform involved in using an ostensibly academic exercise to teach new students the "proper" way to think about race, gender, and sexuality. You can read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here.
May 1, 2003
Zoning free speech
It's unconstitutional for public universities to establish what are known as "free speech zones." Such zones effectively turn the rest of the campus into a censorship zone, and as such they violate these schools' obligation to uphold the First Amendment. The courts have ruled repeatedly on this matter, and FIRE has made a particular example of West Virginia University, which rewrote its policy on free expression after it became something of a national poster child for campus illiberalism. Here is the old policy, and here is the new one.
But free speech zones still exist on campuses across the country. As FIRE notes in its brief on West Virginia, such zones are in effect at Appalachian State, Florida State, the University of Houston, and scores of other institutions, including Shippensburg University, which is currently being sued by FIRE for its egregiously overbroad speech codes. While some schools have prudently abandoned free speech zones (these include Penn State and the University of Wisconsin), others continue to enforce them. And, as students and faculty become increasingly aware of their rights, they are beginning to protest the codes.
Tuesday, for example, faculty and students at Western Illinois University staged a silent march to protest the school's use of zones to restrict speech. At WIU, you have to apply for permission to use the free speech zone 48 hours in advance; the zone itself is, according to one student, "smaller than a classroom." At the University of Texas at El Paso, a student who was consistently denied permission to hold forums at the student union sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights. His case attracted the attention of state lawmakers, who are now putting together a bill that would limit universities' abilities to restrict speech. "Unfortunately, Texas universities are not meeting their obligation to provide a free learning environment for students," said Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, who wrote the bill. "This bill ensures that universities provide students with a chance to express their ideas without fear of being arrested or disciplined unfairly."
But there are still schools that either think they are above the law, or, conversely, are too incompetent to know what the law is. Such is the case at California State University at Chico. Chico State not only restricts speech to designated zones, but also censors expression within those zones. Last week, an anti-abortion group was forced to leave the zone when its graphic posters of aborted fetuses offended those who were participating in "Breaking the Silence," an event sponsored by the campus Women's Center. "I should not be harassed like this," said a student who confronted the anti-abortion protestors. She added that the pictures "make people feel like they're horrible creatures." (Click on the link above to see the offending posters, then click on the picture to see an enlargement.) One of the organizers of Breaking the Silence said that she "didn't oppose the anti-abortion group's right to free speech, but she didn't want any negativity around the area they had reserved. 'We were trying to create a safe place for people to come and discuss these issues. ... That picture alone brought nothing but negativity.'" The statement eerily reflects the increasingly prevalent notion that campuses should be above all comfortable, sheltered environments; that students cannot learn, or even, it seems, exist, unless they feel "safe" (i.e., unless their assumptions and beliefs are never challenged); and that the right not to be offended trumps the right to free speech.
The associate director of Student Activities Rick Rees responded to complaints by asking the anti-abortion group to leave campus. His convoluted logic: "It's a way to protect free speech. ... They can't disrupt your rights to freedom of expression." The anti-abortion group, it should be noted, was not "disrupting" anyone's expression: it made no noise, blocked no one's access to the other event, and allowed the other event to go forward undisturbed. The so-called "disruption" was the graphic nature of the images the group displayed--or, more precisely, was the reaction some had to the images. Rees eventually compromised with the group and allowed them to set up their posters elsewhere on campus. They did so, and then left an hour later. Chico State's student paper says that according to Rees, the group never informed the school that they were coming, adding that "If you come to somebody's place of business or education, you should let them know. ... I don't know of any campus that allows you to have events just anywhere." Rees is wrong in his equation of a public university campus with a private corporation, and wrong in his subsequent assumptions about both what other campuses do and what he can legally do himself. His logic--or lack thereof--is a transparently self-serving attempt to describe a decision to censor content as the exercise of content-neutral policy about time and place. The material displayed by the group was upsetting to those who felt oppressed by it, and that is why the group was asked to leave; that the group was asked to leave a free speech zone only makes Rees' pandering illiberalism all the more palpable.
The good news is that at least someone at Chico State gets it. In an editorial published in the school paper, one student writes, "After the shock of seeing the photos wore off, I was more disturbed by the reaction people had toward the photographs than the photos themselves." Read the whole thing.