Friday Frogs Legs

Ashley Thorne

DiversityInc Ratings

This month, DiversityInc revealed its 2008 Top 50 Companies for Diversity. At the top was Johnson & Johnson. Bank of America ranked 14th, Pepsi Bottling Group was 18th, and the Walt Disney Co. came in 29th. DiversityInc was proud to announce a 14% increase in applications it received, “reflecting dramatically increased attention to diversity management among progressive companies.”

But when DiversityInc came out with its Top Colleges and Universities (page 70-74), the first lines of the report read, “We’re disappointed. Colleges and universities are nowhere near the level of private industry in implementing or measuring diversity management.”

Whereas 401 companies applied for ranking, only 15 colleges and universities completed the survey. For both categories, DiversityInc measured diversity in four areas (paraphrased):

  1. Human Capital – racial/ethnic/gender demographics of students, faculty, and staff, retention, graduation rate, the role of the SAT/ACT in admissions [this relates to diversity how?], programs for LGBT and disabled students, benefits for same-sex partners of faculty and staff members.
  2. President/Chief Academic Officer Commitment – president/CAO support for diversity initiatives on campus, also the racial/ethnic/gender breakdown of the board of trustees.
  3. Communications – diversity training, diversity surveys, online diversity branding and communications, majors and departments on “topics of concern to traditionally underrepresented groups’ communications on diversity.”
  4. Supplier Diversity – percentage of contracts with minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises, vendors owned by LGBT and disabled people, whether the university mentors or trains their diverse vendors or helps them with financial assistance. 

Out of the 15 applicants, 5 were chosen for standing “head and shoulders above the rest.” (an egregious case of heightism; Little People of America take note.) These were Cornell University, Duke University, Kean University, Rutgers University, and the University of California Santa Barbara.

The DiversityInc website is worth a visit. There it defines diversity management (emphasis mine):

We define diversity management as the proactive management of race/culture, gender, orientation, disability and age to ensure equal outcome in relationships with employees, customers, investors and suppliers. We feel that the first two factors (race and gender) are the most important because they impact the treatment of the other three factors and are the most dominant loci of discrimination.

We believe that all people are created equally, and therefore, talent is distributed equally as well. We feel that an organization's management of diversity can be defined and judged in absolute metrics, most easily with human-capital statistics.

The website also provides handy articles such as, “Where Did All the Same-Sex Couples Go?”, “10 Things NEVER to Say to a Black Coworker,” and “9 Things NEVER to say to White Colleagues.”

Five Things Never to Ask an NAS Member

  1. Why don’t you care about inequality?
  2. Why don’t you support social justice?
  3. What do you have against academic freedom?
  4. The NAS hates women doesn’t it?
  5. You seem like a reasonable person. Why do you belong to that right-wing group?


Residence Life Video

 ACTA has produced an excellent new video on the University of Delaware residence life program. To our knowledge, this is the first video documenting the Delaware “treatment.” ACTA president Anne Neal appears at the beginning and end of the film, and appearing in interviews throughout are UD honors professor Jan Blits (president of the Delaware Association of Scholars), UD honors professor Linda Gottfredson (DAS secretary), FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff and Adam Kissel, and three UD students: Bill Rivers, Kelsey Lanan, and Alyssa Koser.

In accordance with YouTube length restrictions, the video is in two parts:

Video Part 1

Video Part 2


Check it out!


Affirmative Action in California

 When Proposition 209 passed in 1996, it made the use of racial preferences in admissions and hiring illegal in the state of California. This week the Proposition has been called into question. According to the National Law Journal, “On March 17 a state appeals court approved the Berkeley school district's voluntary integration plan, concluding that its unique plan to consider the racial makeup of a neighborhood, rather than individual students, does not violate the terms of Prop. 209.” This decision “is the first time a state appellate court has approved a school district integration plan since voters approved Prop. 209 nearly 13 years ago.” The case is expected to be appealed in the California Supreme Court, drawing national attention to states’ policies on racial preferences.

The court’s decision did more than circumvent Proposition 209. By allowing the Berkeley school district to apply racial preferences to whole neighborhoods, it did exactly what Prop. 209 proscribes. The logic here is something like this: a law prohibiting the sale of bottles of liquor doesn’t apply to cases of liquor or whole truckloads. The National Law Journal quotes Alan Foutz, who represents the plaintiff in this case, saying, “We anticipate appealing to the California Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals took an overly narrow view of using race as a factor in school integration.” 

NAS of course takes an active interest in the survival of Proposition 209 and in the passing of similar legislation in other states. We believe that racial preferences are a direct form of racial discrimination, and we join with Ward Connerly and others who fight for colorblind college admissions and hiring, and in school districts. We will be watching the proceedings in California and report on further developments.


Students “Feel Empty” and Look to Great Books

We have, however, some good news from California. Inspired by students’ enthusiasm for the Great Books club on campus, NAS member David Clemens, a professor of English at Monterey Peninsula College, created a way for students to become “Great Books Scholars.” Clemens designed an online Great Books Program that the College will launch next fall. Inside Higher Ed has a piece on the new program. Here’s a good takeaway excerpt:

Clemens and Haffa [an English professor who will teach one of the online courses] both reject the common criticisms of the Great Books curriculum – such as that it focuses only on “dead white men," making it inherently racist and sexist. The online environment, they say, helps to liberate them from these sorts of complaints. Also, they argue, the online option just may make these literary works more appealing to students.

“Students, I find, are sick of multiculturalism; they are sick of Theory,” said Professor Clemens in an email to me. “They are fed pop culture 24-7 and feel empty because they know there is something of which they have been deprived.  They love the metaphor of The Great Conversation and they are tired of being left outside the dialogue.”

NAS extends our congratulations to Professor Clemens and others who have worked to create this program. As John Milton wrote, “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”


Peter Wood in Inside Higher Ed

Today in Inside Higher Ed, NAS president Peter Wood was quoted in an article, “The Knowledge-Politics Problem.” The article examines a new study by sociologist Neil Gross, who interviewed 57 professors in biology, economics, engineering, sociology, and literature on how they handle politics in the classroom and whether they believe objectivity is possible. Scott Jaschik, author of the Inside Higher Ed piece, asked President Wood to weigh in:

Peter W. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, which has in the past expressed concerns about politics in the classroom, said he has not had time to study the Gross paper in detail, but offered some analysis of it. Wood praised Gross as a "rigorous" researcher who has made important contributions to the study of the professoriate, but found fault with parts of the new study.

First, Wood said that Gross was unfairly implying that the criticism of academe is coming from conservatives. Wood said many of those worried about these issues are "classic liberals" in the sense of Kant and Mill.

Second, Wood said that the study is limited in that it looks at professors' views of themselves. The analysis by Gross "strikes me as very realistic about what professors say," Wood said. But what actually takes place in the classroom is "beyond the reach of this study."

Wood said he believed some professors do, as they describe their approaches in the Gross study, manage to talk about their political views in ways that do not close off other ideas or intimidate students who disagree. But Wood said that he believes many other professors "are fooling themselves" into thinking that they do. 

To read Neil Gross’s 44-page findings, click here (PDF).


Is the Internet Stupefying Students?

 President Wood was also quoted in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, where Kenneth J. Cooper takes notes from Dr. Wood’s article “Electracy” (Electronic Literacy):

Higher education is destined to incorporate more and more online technology, and the students reaching college in the years ahead are destined to be less and less literate in the traditional sense. A great many of them will be expert at social networking and completely adept at clicking their way through the entire universe of linked this and that. But these skills will only entrench them more deeply in the proud ignorance and educational indifference that we see in many students today. They will have few natural defenses against the rising tide of irrationalism and the emotional appeals of we-have-all-the-answers ideologies.  

This, of course, applies to students who were incubated on iTunes, cradled with Kindle, bottle-fed on blogs, tutored with Twitter, and enfranchised with Facebook. Some of these students, as Professor Clemens observes, are hungry for the Great Conversation. That Conversation starts in many places, including, we hope, here.


Letter to Obama: Lose “Achievement” and “Rigor”

Speaking of stupefaction: Joanne Jacobs blogs,

In a letter in the New York Times, a former teacher, principal and superintendent from Portland, Oregon urges President Obama to improve schools by ignoring “achievement” and “rigor.”

The last paragraph of the letter says:

Finally, I’d tell him to lose the words “achievement” and “rigor,” which have no connection to the inquisitiveness, determination, creative thinking and perseverance students need for genuine lifelong learning.

Joanne Yatvin


This is a remarkable avowal of an attitude that is most often insinuated by the anti-intellectual guide-on-the-side Deweyistas who call themselves “teachers” but shudder at the idea of actually teaching. So remarkable that it deserves a name. Let’s call it yatvination.

Yatvination (n.) A determined effort to rid education of intellectual content, esp. an approach that attempts to replace achievement and rigor with vague promises of fostering creativity and lifelong learning. The school, in a fit of yatvination, decided to replace final exams with a trip to the zoo.

Yatvinate (v.-transitive) To seek to rid education of intellectual standards and content. Fed up with the rigmarole of No Child Left Behind, the teachers union decided to yatvinate the curriculum.  

Yatvination is a distinct development but it has college cousins such as the effort to depict reason as the enemy of education.


Best Surfing Colleges

Not only can you read the Great Books in college in coastal California—you can also surf! My husband is a South Jersey surfer and going to college in the city meant cutting back, but if you’re college-bound and the waves are calling your name, here are the 10 best colleges for surfing. Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes:

The rankings not only feature information about surfing quality, but lists of professors and alumni who surf, and a special "demerits" category that may run counter to academic thinking. UCSD, for example, is criticized this way: "Due to the workload, missing that 'good day of surf' easily can turn into weeks, months ... even semesters. Remember: when in doubt, paddle out. There's always summer school."

And—if you get in a class with a surfing professor—on a day when the waves are chest-high and clean, you might even persuade him to take class to the beach. At his first college, my husband did.

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