Stories We're Watching

Peter Wood

Climate conspiracy, teeth-bared teachers’ ed, California tuition turmoil, a punchy professor—it’s been a busy fortnight in higher ed. Here are some of the stories we’re watching. We will have more to say about some of these. 

Climate Conspiracy 

Today we posted our response to the burgeoning scandal involving the release of hacked emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The evidence of longstanding scientific misconduct by advocates of global warming theory seems likely to change the terms of public debate on this issue. While there may well be good evidence backing some of the claims of global warmists, this scandal will alter the burden of proof. From now on, proponents of global warming theory should receive no benefit of the doubt. Wanton extrapolations, reliance on models in which data can be endlessly readjusted to fit the thesis, and attempts to stigmatize critics as scientifically illiterate will have to stop. 

Teeth-Bared Teachers’ Ed

We’ve also posted a comment on the University of Minnesota Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group which wants to make race, class, and gender politics the “overarching framework” for teacher education. The task group wants to make would-be teachers into exemplars of alienation from American cultural norms. 

California Tuition Turmoil  

Protests at the University of California were ignited by the Board of Regents’ decision to hike tuition by 32% in response to state budget cuts. Students accustomed to steeply discounted tuitions based on taxpayer subsidies are aghast at the idea of having to pay something a little closer to the actual cost of the educational services that they consume. One of the ironies here is that the Board of Regents have no one to blame but themselves for the profound ignorance of economics displayed by the students. The demands include preserving diversity centers, making campus safe for illegal immigrants, stripping UC police of their weapons, eliminating student fees, and abolishing all student debts. Jubilee! 

A Punchy Professor 

Lionel McIntyre, an associate professor of community development at Columbia University was at Toast, a bar on the Upper West Side, on Friday, November 6. What exactly happened next will have to be decided by the courts, but Professor McIntyre stands charged with assault and harassment for punching Camille Davis in the right eye. Ms. Davis is a theater production manager in Columbia’s School of the Arts. We have it on the authority of the New York Times that a verbal dispute “escalated.” 

The New York Post added some details that the Times apparently thought not fit to print: 

The professor, who is black, had been engaged in a fiery discussion about "white privilege" with Davis, who is white, and another male regular, who is also white, Friday night at 10:30 when fists started flying, patrons said. 

McIntyre, who directs Columbia’s urban assistance project, earned a master’s degree in urban planning from Columbia in 1988. 

An aberrant male professor slugging a female colleague isn’t really the kind of academic issue of which the NAS typically takes note. We make an exception because the assault seems to say something about the special status that the concept of “white privilege” now holds at elite universities. Questioning white privilege got Ms. Davis a black eye. What kind of man punches a woman? What kind of professor punches a colleague? What kind of university fails to suspend someone like that? 

Center for Social Justice 

An NAS member who teaches at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) brought to our attention a new “Center for Social Justice” at the university. The Center, which will host its inaugural event in December, has a mailing address in the Department of Social Work, under the College of Education and Human Services. Its mission is to advocate “social justice and empowerment through advocacy, education, research, and collaboration,” and to instill “a systems perspective.” It is “dedicated to individual and society well-being in a global community.” 

We have come across a similar program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. We examined—in its own words—the program’s leadership, scholarship, theories, and practices. UMass Amherst’s masters and doctoral degrees in social justice education, we found, consisted of training in agitprop rather than real education. It used the term “social justice” to justify an academic curriculum focused entirely on “manifestations of oppression.”  

Centers for social justice appear to be cropping up at many universities. Georgetown University, UC Berkeley, Saint Louis University, Fordham University, Case Western Reserve University, Seton Hall University, and the University of Wyoming are among them. Has anyone done a systematic examination of what these centers do? They sound a bit like ACORN in cap and gown. Are they, in fact, mostly in the mold of UMass’s progressive propaganda factory? It’s a real question, since the term “social justice” means different things to different people. 

Speaking of UMass 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst gets more than its fair share of NAS attention. Partly that’s because we have active Argus volunteers on campus who keep sending us irresistible leads. But we’re not alone in feasting at this banquet. NAS board member Candace de Russy today has a telling article on the American Thinker titled “Academic Cheerleaders for Terrorists.” Candace’s article is prompted by the unsuccessful attempt of faculty members in UMass’s Colloquium on Social Change to invite Raymond Luc Levasseur to speak. As it happened, Levasseur was unable to keep the appointment because his parole officer in Maine would not permit him to travel. 

Levasseur served twenty years in the federal pen for his role in the United Freedom Front’s terror campaign in the 70s and 80s to protest U.S. dealings with the South African government under apartheid and alleged U.S. support for Central American right-wing death squads. Levasseur and his compatriots took the high moral ground by robbing banks, murdering a state trooper, and planting bombs around Boston. The widow of the slain trooper expressed her outrage and accused the faculty sponsors for the talk of “creating a recruiting center” for terrorists. 

Congratulations King’s College! 

The King’s College in the Empire State Building last week received the excellent news that the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges had granted it full accreditation. The two of us are connected to King’s. Ashley Thorne is a 2007 graduate of the college, and Peter Wood was provost of King’s from 2005-2007 and initiated the Middle States application. We’re proud of this little college that has bucked the academic fashions and succeeded against the odds. Way to go, King’s!

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