How the Next President Can Fix Higher Education

Jan 15, 2016 |  Peter Wood

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How the Next President Can Fix Higher Education

Jan 15, 2016 | 

Peter Wood

In 2014 Senator Marco Rubio lent his support to CASA, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act—the effort by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to strip the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault.  The bill died that year but McCaskill and Gillibrand brought it back in 2015, and Senator Rubio renewed his support.

It is a terrible piece of legislation, and one that no reasonably informed observer of higher education who cares about the rule of law and individual rights on campus could support. Yet one of the mainstream GOP presidential candidates co-sponsored it, presumably because he calculates that it is “good politics” to be able to say he opposes “rape culture.”

This one instance of many testifies to how little attention our leading candidates pay to higher education. Americans, however, have been shocked to see students at Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and other elite institutions protestingagainst free speech—and college presidents bowing down before little ripped-jeans, tuition-subsidized junior-league totalitarians.   Now would be a good time for some presidential candidates to come up with a real program for reform.

So far, the only candidates to propose anything noteworthy are Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.  Sanders has floated a $47 billion proposal to eliminate undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. Clinton has countered with a “New College Compact” that would spend $350 billion over ten years to eliminate student loans.

Making college an entitlement may appeal to some voters, but it would do nothing to end the open hostility to free inquiry that marks our campuses now. Here are some suggestions for how to take back the campus from those who are intent on making it a 24-7 taxpayer-subsidized indoctrination camp:

  1. Respect freedom of thought and expression. Colleges and universities should demonstrate commitment to these freedoms. They should, for example, establish independent standing committees on free expression. College leaders need to stand up against movements that try to turn academic freedom inside out by justifying mob action and intimidation as “free expression.” If they prefer instead to shelter students in “safe spaces,” they forfeit any claim to public respect—and public support.
  2. Treat men and women equitably. Amend Title IX of the Higher Education Act, which was originally enacted to ensure that women in college had equal opportunities. It has been twisted over time by bad court decisions and radical feminist regulators to justify denying men due process, cutting men’s sports, and reducing men to a minority group on most campuses.

Curtail the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education which has, without Congressional approval, churned out regulations on the unwarranted premise that sexual assault is a form of “discrimination” covered by Title IX.  Sexual assault is a crime, best handled by the police and the courts, as Bernie Sanders has just said. Endorse the Safe Campus Act, which allows a college to conduct its own inquiry into a reported sexual assault only if the alleged victim consents to an investigation by law enforcement.

  1. End higher education’s destructive focus on race. Presidential candidates should join the majority of Americans who oppose racial preferences in hiring and college admissions. This may be a long fight. A good first step would be to expose the sheer extent of these preferences by passing legislation that requires colleges and universities to disclose them in detail by publishing admitted students’ standardized test scores and GPAs, broken down by race.
  2. Fix the student loan debacle. First, end the perverse incentives by which the government actively encourages students to take on unnecessary debt. Prompt students to think carefully about their college choices by favoring loans that go towards programs that meet national needs and that possess academic rigor. Cap each student’s total borrowing for tuition and other college expenses. Make colleges partly liable for student loan defaults.  Create federal incentives for three-year programs and the $10,000 B.A. pioneered by Texas.
  3. End federal cronyism in higher education. Bust the accrediting cartel, which impedes competition by hindering the creation of new colleges and online education. End the cozy relationship between the government and the College Board, a private monopoly that has compromised academic standards via its politically correct changes in the SATs and the Advanced Placement history courses.
  4. Restore the integrity of the sciences. Require the National Science Foundation and other federal funding bodies to spend research dollars on research, not public advocacy. End sycophantic science—the bribing of scientists to produce “findings” meant primarily to advance political causes. Pass the Secret Science Reform Act which would require universities to disclose the data and the manipulations behind publicly-funded research.  (The data behind Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” graph, first published in April 1998, is still) Science that can’t be replicated isn’t science.
  5. Enhance the curriculum. Colleges should be free to decide what courses they offer and how these add up to a college degree, but our political leaders can reasonably exhort college leaders to set meaningful requirements and to offer students a coherent curriculum that includes core subjects such as Western civilization and American history.

These steps would serve everyone, rich and poor, of every ethnicity, and would just as importantly serve America. We’ve allowed many of our colleges and universities to decline into little more than servants of progressive politics. But higher education should never be political indoctrination, welfare for special interests, or back scratching for politicians. It is time for a principled candidate to say “Enough!” and to take concrete steps to restore higher education to the nation’s colleges and universities.

This article originally appeared in Minding the Campus on January 13, 2016.

Photo: Wikipedia


| January 15, 2016 - 3:06 PM

You are dreaming.  The miscreants in charge of our higher-education establishment will only put necessary reforms into place as a result of coercion, and then only when the threat of exposure and accountability scares them more than the zealotry of their cause.

As evidence of this, Californians passed Proposition 209 several years ago, which prohibited preferences in admissions and hiring due to race.  Virtually every major university in the state has been working to circumvent this law ever since, and nothing scares them more than exposure of their nefarious activity.

Here’s what needs to happen:
1. With very few exceptions, complete termination of all public scholarships for non-STEM/Business students.  This includes most of our law schools, whose employees and product work tirelessly to undermine every fundamental principle on which this country is founded.

You want to to send your kid to a gender-studies program?  Fine.  Write your own damn check.

2. Blanket prohibition of any questions that identify race or religion, except (after admission) for medical reasons.  Prohibition of retaining race/religious/sexual preference data in any database.  That includes all companies, not just universities.

Your suggestion to require universities to publish their admissions data is quite admirable—but you make the naive presumption that they won’t lie.  That is delusional.

This prohibition must be accompanied by frequent audits, and imprisonment of those college administrators who violate the law.  And if it is necessary to shut down a few schools in order to prove the point, that’s fine.

3. Elimination of the OCR, whose miscreants ushered in the current kangaroo-court regulations that terrorize young men in our schools.  Require all accusations of sexual assault to be reported to law enforcement, and establish and implement harsh penalties for those making false accusations (along with those found guilty).

4. Your argument for restoration of scientific integrity for NSF recipients is sound, but I would argue that the “science” around climate change is so poisoned, that all current research must be immediately terminated and defunded.

If there is a compelling reason to fund climate-change research, it should be available only to those who release raw data, and every person who heretofore has been involved in climate “science” should be ineligible for grants.  These people are simply not trustworthy, and the frequency of manipulated data, accompanied by ad hominem attacks on those who propose a dissenting view from the orthodoxy just buttresses the argument that these people have no business performing research on what THEY say is a critical scientific issue.

5. Criminal penalties against college administrators for violation of the the First Amendment rights of their students.  The entire staff of FIRE should be added to the Justice Department.

6. Criminal penalties against both students and administrators for all incidents in which speaking engagements are shut down by force.  The hecklers veto is NOT freedom of speech.

To their credit, the University of California at Irvine successfully took steps to solve the problem of Arab radicalism (that was manifested by harassment of pro-Israel speakers) by kicking the scumbags out of the university and referring them to ICE for deportation.

7. Termination of all funding and scholarships for any university that affiliates itself with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel groups, such as the AAUW.  A university is supposed to be a place of learning and the pursuit of truth; the very existence of these organizations is the precise opposite of these principles.

I hope in my lifetime to see meaningful reform within our nation’s universities.  Regrettably, I am very pessimistic, and regardless of who is elected president, I don’t really see any hope for the future on this issue.