Here's Berkeley's course description of Ethnic Studies 198: The Prop. 209 Project:
SPRING 2006 DIVERSITY RESEARCH SEMINARS FOR UNDERGRADUATES
Application Deadline: Wednesday January 18 (details on how to apply below)
The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education is pleased to announce a
unique opportunity for Berkeley undergraduates to participate in an action research
seminar designed to enhance the campus's understanding of issues of diversity and
Seminars will be taught by Berkeley faculty in collaboration with staff in campus units
working to promote a climate of inclusion on the Berkeley campus and beyond. Each
two-unit seminar will be limited to 12 students. Either individually or in teams, students
will tackle one or more research questions on a diversity-related topic described below.
The research findings will be presented to Chancellor Birgeneau, senior campus
administrators, and other campus and community stakeholders at the end of the semester
and will help inform campus policy decisions and initiatives regarding diversity and
Two seminars will be offered in Spring 2006:
Ethnic Studies 198: The Prop. 209 Project
CoInstructors: Professor David Montejano, Ethnic Studies; Professor Taeku Lee,
Time: Tuesday 4-6 PM (first class meets on January 24)
Location: Shorb House Conference Room, 2547 Channing Way @ Bowditch
Number of Units: 2
Course Enrollment: 12
Requirements: Students must have completed a minimum of 60 units.
Course Description: In the 1990s, California voters passed a series of "anti-diversity"
referenda - the "anti-immigrant" Prop. 187 in 1994, the "anti-affirmative action" Prop.
209 in 1996, and the "anti-bilingual education" Prop. 227 in 1998. Many have interpreted
these results as a backlash against the rapid demographic changes taking place in the
State. In this research seminar, we will examine this hypothesis-and also speculate about
possible antidotes. Taking Prop. 209 as our chief case study, we will explore the various
facets that made this campaign a successful one, including looking at the weaknesses of
the "pro-affirmative action" campaign. In the first part of the course, you will map out
the likely geography of anti-diversity, pro-diversity and swing districts in the State. In
the second part of the course, you will use this analysis to craft a political strategy for a
successful "pro-diversity" initiative in the State. What kind of voter turnouts would be
necessary, what kind of campaign would have to be mounted, what "framings" of
affirmative action policies are most likely to succeed, what contextual factors have to be
in place, and so forth? This second part of the class will allow for considerable creativity
on your part. Projects will be evaluated on an individual basis. A presentation of each
project will take place at the end of the semester.
The other research seminar centers on charting the success of transfer students.
Here's the policy that forbids University of California schools from offering such blatantly ideological courses as Ethnic Studies 198.
POLICY ON COURSE CONTENT
Approved June 19, 1970
Amended September 22, 2005
Students who enroll on the campuses of the University of California are parties to a moral and contractual relationship in which the University, on its side, is obligated to provide quality education, to recognize student achievement with grades and degrees which have an accepted meaning for transfer to other institutions, for graduate work, and for careers. The Regents are responsible to the people, to the faculty, and to the students to see that the University is faithful to this contract. They have the responsibility to see that the value of the diploma is not diluted, that it maintain its meaning to graduates and to future employers. They are responsible to ensure that public confidence in the University is justified. And they are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination, for purposes other than those for which the course was constituted, or for providing grades without commensurate and appropriate student achievement, constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.
It should be understood that the Board of Regents has always recognized the importance of an "open forum policy" on the campuses, of a free exchange of ideas, and of pursuit of the truth wherever it may lead--popular or unpopular though that may be. There are many hours available during the daily activities of students and faculty for free discourse on matters of concern to them as citizens. It cannot be argued successfully that it is necessary to interrupt progress of an academic course or to modify grading procedures to provide such discussion. It is the Regents' responsibility to the very concept of a University to protect the institution from the misuse of the classroom and to ensure the rights of all to teaching and learning.
Therefore, it is The Regents' policy that no campus, no academic college, no department, and no instructor distort the instructional process in a manner which deviates from the responsibilities inherent in academic freedom. The right of students to have their classes held on the regularly scheduled basis and to be taught by the instructor whose responsibility it is to teach the course in question is to be upheld.
And here's the letter NoIndoctrination.org founder and president Luann Wright wrote to UC chancellor Robert Birgenau:
April 27, 2006
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau,
Perhaps you are unaware, but UC Board of Regents' Policy on Course Content
states that the university must "remain aloof from politics ...."
The course description for "Ethnic Studies 198: The Prop. 209 Project" (being taught this
Spring 2006) states that students will analyze data "to craft a political strategy for a
successful 'pro-diversity' initiative in the State." This course, part of your Chancellor's
Diversity Research Seminars for Undergraduates, was promoted by the Office of the Vice
Provost for Undergraduate Education. According to the announcement, course findings
are to be presented to you [an outspoken critic of Prop 209] as well as other stakeholders.
An application form for those wanting to take the course included the following: "Please
describe any technical skills that would be useful in a political campaign."
California taxpayers and voters are outraged that a UC policy is being violated. Using a
course for the scholarly analysis of politics is one thing. Using a public university course
to craft a political strategy and campaign that advances your (and others') political agenda
is quite another.
We look forward to your response, which we will post on our website.
Cc: UC President Robert Dynes
The UC Board of Regents
Professor David Montejano
Professor Taeku Lee
Vice Provost Maslach
Senator Jack Scott, Education Chair
This letter puts Berkeley and UC administrators in a very interesting position. On the one hand, the course clearly violates stated UC policy. On the other hand, they can't very well undo the course now that it has taken place. The students in the course are slated to present their research findings on May 9. Now the question is, what will UC administrators do with the findings? The description of Berkeley's Diversity Research Seminars promises that "research findings will be presented to Chancellor Birgeneau, senior campus administrators, and other campus and community stakeholders at the end of the semester and will help inform campus policy decisions and initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion." But it would be unethical for the university to use the work done in this class to forward "initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion" -- wouldn't it?
Readers should feel free, of course, to post their own entries here.
April 27, 2006
Apples, oranges, and the goals of higher education
ACTA is urging Northern Kentucky University to prove its stated commitment to free speech--not to mention to make good on its legal obligation to same--by repealing its speech code. Meanwhile, NKU students are arguing that professors who teach courses on race and gender should have to pass an ideological litmus test:
Students at Northern Kentucky University have expressed feelings that the race and gender classes that most students take at one point or another may not be up to par.
Senior sociology major Akosua Favors believes the race and gender courses are inconsistent. She does not think the faculty who teach the classes have enough anti-racist training or credentials.
"We are asking that an effort is made to require qualifications and experience in the area of race and gender along with proof of anti-racist community empowerment/organizing," Favors said. "We are asking that the university is consistent with some form of anti-racist anti-discriminating trainings at least twice a year."
She said in many race and gender courses, students do not engage in class conversation because they feel they must speak for their entire racial group or gender.
At least according to this article, student concerns that NKU's race and gender classes "may not be up to par" are specifically political: The assumptions underwriting Favors' logic are that race and gender courses are not academic courses so much as courses in advocacy, that such courses may only legitimately advocate one position, and that faculty should have to prove their commitment to that position by agreeing to have their consciences molded and credentialed by mandatory sensitivity training. Favors seems unaware--or unconcerned--that she is demanding that NKU professors satisfy a political loyalty oath if they wish to teach about race or gender. But as websites such as this one show, "anti-racist" is not a transparently uncontroversial term, but rather a loaded, highly ideological marker of a specfically radical agenda.
If Favors' position is at all representative of NKU students generally, then NKU has a lot of work to do to educate its students in both the rights and responsibilities of public universities to protect free inquiry and in the principle of academic freedom. NKU could begin that process of educating by rolling back its speech code.
April 25, 2006
Agitating for credit at Berkeley
This spring, UC Berkeley students could enroll in Ethnic Studies 198, a course devoted to combatting Proposition 209 by creating "a political strategy for a successful 'pro-diversity' initiative in the State." But Ethnic Studies 198 may tell us more about the dumbing down of the college curriculum than it does about the politicized classroom.
UPDATE: NoIndoctrination.org has clarified that Ethnic Studies 198 is, despite appearances to the contrary, a professor-led, as opposed to student-run, course in political activism. The course is part of a university-wide initiative called the "Chancellor's Diversity Research Seminars for Undergraduates." As NoIndoctrination.org notes, such a course is in flagrant violation of UC policy on course content, which clearly states that the university must "remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest."
April 23, 2006
Brown English professor endorses heckler's veto
On April 8. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton paid a visit to Brown University, where she delivered a talk on women as leaders. About seven minutes in, Clinton's speech was disrupted by protesters: A man stood and began yelling "Is it leadership to support the war?" while several others began parroting anti-war slogans and displaying a banner that read, "Clinton War Senator." Clinton kept talking, and security escorted the man and several other protesters out.
All in all, the hoopla lasted about five minutes, according to The Brown Daily Herald; campus officials approached the man, explained that he did not have the right to disrupt the talk, and asked him to comply with university policy by being quiet. When he refused, they removed him from the auditorium. Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and university relations, issued a clear and reasonable statement to the Herald: Protests are "a necessary and acceptable means of expression at Brown," he said; "Protests become unacceptable, however, when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas, such as halting a lecture or debate or any public forum or trying to seize control of a forum, such as Senator Clinton's, for one's own purpose." Chapman's wording comes from Brown's Protest and Demonstration Guidelines.
To its credit, the Herald ran an embarrassed editorial deploring the rudeness and disrespect of the protestors, noting that their misguided and ill-conceived behavior only served to diminish their own cause:
The protests that took place during the lecture, while presumably an attempt to advance dialogue on the war in Iraq and Clinton's senate votes relating to the conflict, succeeded only in threatening to deprive both Brown and Providence from politically relevant speakers in the future. Moreover, those attempting to disrupt Clinton's talk cheapened the efforts of the coalition of activists who protested Clinton's policies prior to her appearance. Members of Rhode Island's chapter of Military Families Speak Out and others articulated their opposition to Clinton without attempting to take the stage away from the senator or hinder community members' ability to hear her views firsthand.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to conflate the two separate demonstrations. Jacque Amoureux GS said she fears local television stations may have even committed this error in their coverage of the event. Even if that is not the case, audience members and others inevitably viewed the pre-speech demonstrations differently after four protesters crossed the line and imposed on Clinton's talk.
It was unrealistic for those behind the disruption to believe their efforts would enact any sort of positive change. A seasoned politician, Clinton certainly has seen such outbursts before and knows not to engage when they arise. Had they instead paid attention to the senator's speech, even if it did not directly address their specific concerns, those behind the disruption could have possibly gained a new perspective that would have enriched their arguments against her policies. But they refused to wait for an appropriate time and place to voice their opposition.
As a result, their arguments are no stronger, and their position as anti-war activists is severely diminished. In five minutes, they managed to compromise positions they have likely been fine-tuning for months. We only hope they didn't also manage to deprive the Brown community of future appearances from other public figures - or respectful anti-war protesters of their voices.
To his discredit, Brown English professor William Keach responded with a letter to the editor of the Herald deploring its failure to understand the importance of the heckler's veto to suppressing speech that offends:
The only thing more predictable than The Herald's denunciation of antiwar protesters at Hillary Clinton's speech on April 8 was your editorial's ("A step backward," April 10) silence regarding the actual political substance of what the protesters were doing and saying.
Are there any circumstances in which you would support the disruption of a public appearance by a wealthy, powerful politician who acquiesced to a genocidal war based on lies and imperialist arrogance? Do you have anything at all to say about the content of the heckler's question: "Is it leadership to support the war?" Your claim that the antiwar cause was "severely diminished" simply because a group of activists were willing to interrupt the polite decorum of a campus event and speak truth to power isn't credible to me.
To those who protested last Saturday night, I say "congratulations and solidarity!"
In other words, as far as Keach is concerned, it's fine to shut down a speaker through heckling, just as long as the speaker's politics are wrong and the heckler's are right.
Brown's students--hecklers excepted--seem to understand the difference between legitimate protest and protest that proceeds by trying to silence another's speech. So do Brown's administrators. But Keach, who has been a university professor for more than twenty years, seems to be confused on this point.
Keach's shameful disregard for a basic issue of expressive freedom should give the Brown administration pause. Shouldn't the faculty at universities that claim to respect free expression--as Brown does--know what free expression is, and isn't? And isn't it the responsibility of the university to ensure that professors who display their ignorance as proudly as Keach does--and who presume on that ignorance to encourage students to become self-appointed censors--are made aware of their mistakes? Keach has been at Brown since 1986. Surely it's time he learned the basics of free speech.
Worth noting: FIRE has given Brown a "red-light" rating for being a campus where free speech is not really free after all. See in particular Brown's overbroad sexual harassment policy, which forbids "suggestive jokes of a sexual nature," "obscene gestures or sounds," and "sexual pictures or displays." Looks like Brown students should think twice before staging the Vagina Monologues again--Ensler's play is filled with just the sorts of things that Brown is defining as sexual harassment.
Thanks to Mike McKeown for the tip.
April 21, 2006
At the University of Pennsylvania, activist graduate students are sending a legitimate--but self-defeating--message to prospective students and their parents.
April 20, 2006
Pot calls kettle black
InsideHigherEd.com can be pretty cagey sometimes with its daily links to academic blogs. Today is a classic example. InsideHigherEd.com is linking to Anonymous Professor, who has posted a rant entitled "I Hate My Students." Anonymous Professor complains lustily throughout the post about the arrogance and illiteracy of students, who can neither write a coherent essay nor accept the grades that their incoherent essays earn. That's a familiar rant, and the post is not interesting insofar as it trots out a standard gripe of disgruntled academics everywhere. But Anonymous Professor becomes positively fascinating as an example of the sort of blithely self-absolving finger-pointing that has become--for reasons a sociologist such as Anonymous Professor might find intriguing--associated with a certain type of academic personality.
Anonymous Professor is unrelenting in his contempt for both his students' pomposity and for their weak writing skills. But AP's post is also unrelentingly arrogant and rife with examples of his own shaky command of language. He describes how a number of students "blatently plagairized," and invents a new idiom when he remarks that "low and behold" his students noticed that he had retained a T.A. to do the grading for his course. He berates students for confusing basic homonyms-- "Hey, moron, no one will give a fuck about what content you have when you don't even know the difference between than and then or weather and whether. They will just laugh at you. So shut up and sit down and fuck yourself" -- even as his own poorly edited prose invites exactly the sort of mocking laughter he anticipates for his linguistically-challenged students.
Anonymous Professor enumerates the insultingly entitled complaints his students registered when they realized he did not grade their papers himself--"We have no idea who this person is, and it is unfair that she had complete say in what grade we got"; "You have fundamentally disappointed me"; "I can't believe that you got a stupid grad student to grade these papers. That is so unfair of you. I pay tuition so to have a professor grade my papers. Not some T.A. out of college"; "I don't understand how you could grade more on structure than on content. I mean, this isn't english comp. I think this is ridiculous"; ""I am really interested in becoming a sociologist and I feel ripped off that you gave not a single comment on my thoughts of sociology." But he also supplies ample if inadvertent evidence that he's hardly a role model for either compositional competence or an appropriately respectful attitude. If he doesn't like the way his students behave, and if he deplores their outrageously bad writing, he might do well to consider whether his own smoldering hatred (his own term) for his students, not to mention his sloppy manner of self-presentation, do anything to help matters. Students can smell it when a teacher holds them in contempt. They can also readily spot hypocrisy in their teachers. As infuriating as teaching can sometimes be, teachers only harm themselves when they give in to the sort of self-righteous incensed posturing that Anonymous Professor displays here.
AP had best hope that the publicity his blog is getting does not lead to someone at his school figuring out who he is. If he's quoting students, he's made it easy for anyone who wants to out him to do so. And if someone outs him, he's going to wish he never wrote that post.
My larger point here has less to do with the etiquette of teachers blogging about students than it does with the ethics of academics blogging anonymously, however. AP is using his anonymity as a screen to protect him from precisely the sorts of repercussions that his post about hating students would bring if he blogged under his own name. But this is short-sighted and self-defeating. In other words, AP knows very well that his posting style is unprofessional and self-discrediting, and that's why he won't put his name to his blog. But if AP--and other anonymous academic bloggers like him--respect themselves and their profession, and if they want the respect of others, they won't yield to the temptation to put up posts such as this one. At a moment when academics are under fire for not doing enough teaching and for putting politics and personal convenience ahead of expertise and hard work, personae such as the Anonymous Professor only make the professoriate look worse to the general public than it already does.
April 19, 2006
Blowing hot air at NKU?
Northern Kentucky University keeps issuing strong endorsements of free speech on campus ... but as coverage of the Sally Jacobsen debacle continues, the hypocrisy of NKU's endorsements becomes increasingly clear. NKU not only has a speech code, it appears, but also confines students expression to a "free speech zone" and compels students to get their flyers, demonstrations, and so on pre-approved by university administrators. Both are chilling bureaucratic moves that value institutional control over student expression far more than the expression itself; both are also serious constitutional issues that the school ought to face.
April 18, 2006
Opportunity at NKU
Northern Kentucky University has repudiated the censorious actions of English professor Sally Jacobsen, and has issued a ringing endorsement of free speech along the way. But how much of that endorsement is pure rhetoric? NKU has a speech code that grants people like Jacobsen the right to be offended by the speech of others, and that promises to punish those who are thus offensive. It would seem that now is the time to get that unconstitutional code off the university's books.
April 17, 2006
The feminine face of digital poetics
Can a computer write poetry? The University of Pennsylvania's Jim Carpenter has discovered that, at least according to contemporary standards of evaluation, the answer is yes. Jim is the proprietor and creator of the Electronic Text Composition Project (known to the poetry world as Erica T. Carter), which means, in a nutshell, that over the years he has perfected a computer program that generates poems on cue. You can prompt Jim's computer to write a poem here, and, most remarkably, you can browse Erica T. Carter's growing list of publications here.
ETC--or Erica, as I like to call her--raises a host of fascinating questions about both the aesthetic possibilities of computer programming and the formal degradations of modern verse. Erica can't write sonnets or other strongly metered poetic forms, but she writes free verse with speed, ease, and, if her editors at poetry magazines are to be believed, great sensitivity. As such, she seems to me to be at once a remarkable testament to the artistic potential of code as well as a damning comment on the artistic pretensions of much contemporary verse. If Erica can fool people into publishing her electronically-generated "work," then what does that say--if anything--about the work it mimics?
Visit Erica, get her to write you a poem, and see what you think.
UPDATE: I asked Erica to write me a poem while I was brewing my morning coffee. I seeded her with the nouns "silk" and "ice," the verbs "glide" and "glisten," and the adjectives "shy" and "warm." This is what she produced:
Kennedy is single.
Neither glides to a house nor laughs at the park.
I glide forward his skin.
Which is she?
You are night.
His eye glistens.
Why is wooden stair blood?
Fond memory by car-pool is pushing into the viable league.
Why is the shape right?
Why is she Dorset?
His fond mother says that he forms in some poetry.
Eye turns gray mostly dark naked.
Skin bothers face.
His face of his elephant is hot.
Readers are of course more than welcome to use the comments section to post what Erica writes for them.
April 13, 2006
The etiquette of campus activism
At the University of Pennsylvania, a professor proudly "mobilizes" his students to demonstrate for immigrants' rights. At Penn State, the administration deplores the College Republicans' "offensive" plans to protest illegal immigration. Both cases are instructive examples of what kinds of activism are and are not acceptable on campus these days. They are also instructive examples of how astonishingly clueless both professors and administrators can be when making public statements about campus activism. Despite all the recent debate about whether college and university campuses are steeped in ideological bias, and despite the vociferous assurances on the part of higher ed admins and faculty that ideological bias on campus is a myth propagated by anti-intellectual conservatives, statements such as the ones cited here abound.
April 11, 2006
Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas Hart Benton lists the seven deadly sins of today's undergraduates -- or, to be more precise, he argues that today's undergraduate culture is wholly oriented around committing, without knowing or caring, all of the seven sins at once. Benton saves pride for last, as he believes that it's at the root of all that is wrong with college students' much criticized and much deplored approach to learning. Here is what he has to say about pride on campus:
I once asked a group of 20 students how many thought they were "better than their parents"? All of them raised their hands. I didn't ask, but I assume they all believed they were better than their teachers too. They would rise higher, be more successful, and transcend the limitations of their elders. We read this belief in our students' expressions: "What you know is not worth learning. They're just your opinions anyway. I am young. I have infinite potential. You are old. And you're just a college professor. But I will be rich and famous someday." They have rarely been given a realistic assessment of their abilities and prospects. Out of this pride -- nurtured by the purveyors of unearned self-esteem, personal grievance, dumbed-down courses, and inflated grades (often in the guise of liberality) -- the opportunity to earn an education is squandered by prideful students who can make a potential heaven seem like hell.
Benton's best insight here, I think, is his recognition that the vaunted unearned self-esteem we purvey today is just pride masquerading in therapeutic dress. Undergraduates don't become prideful out of nowhere. Arrogance and self-absorption are carefully cultivated in them from their early years by a culture that increasingly mistakes confidence for ability and that increasingly charges schools with making sure kids feel good about themselves--even when it comes at the expense of learning. Learning, in turn, is increasingly feared as something that could be devastatingly difficult. Better to be proud and ignorant than humble and educated--or so the implicit logic goes.
I recently read C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which collects the lectures Lewis delivered over BBC radio during World War II. Lewis was trying to remind an English public that had lost touch with Christianity how faith could help it cope with a world at war. But much of what he had to say resonates today, so much so that his words frequently transcend the question of belief altogether. It's not necessary, for example, to believe in God, or to believe in Lewis' God, to profit from what Lewis has to say about pride. The "essential vice," he writes, "the utmost evil, is Pride":
Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice:it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?' The point is that each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive--is competitive by its very nature--while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.
....Power is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers.
Lewis goes on to explain how Pride is ultimately enmity, and how it lies at the root of all misery, whether national or personal in nature.
Benton's lens gains strength when refracted through that of Lewis. Lewis was concentrating on far larger questions than those that plague academic culture, and he was concentrating on them at a moment that was markedly different from our own. Even so, his description of how pride operates in pervasively anti-social ways, how it is bound up with a habit of hollow oneupmanship, and how it poisons the prideful person's ability to live meaningfully, goes a long way toward explaining what lies at the roots of the undisciplined and unselfconsciously vacuous culture of the contemporary campus.
But this is not to blame the victim, however proud he or she may be. College students today are flattered shamelessly, pandered to in every imaginable way. They believe they are God's gift because they are told they are (one entering Penn freshman this year commented that during her first week on campus, she was treated "like royalty"). Grade inflation is part of it; so are the absurdly luxurious amenities students have come to expect as campuses recreate themselves in the images of country clubs. What's shameful is that those who are charged with educating undergraduates tend so often to do the opposite, to confirm them in a smug conceit that can't even recognize itself for what it is. And that's what's finally so tragic--an entire generation of young adults is banking the future on a highly cultivated but ultimately false sense of pride, without even having the perspective to know it.
Now it's official: FAIR's case against the Solomon Amendment was never really about free speech at all. More at ACTA Online.