Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

How Anti-Semitism Became a Staple of 'Woke' Activism on Campus

Dion J. Pierre

The intertwined history of campus activism and anti-semitism. 

Episode #5: Argument by Epithet with Mark Bauerlein

NAS

Peter W. Wood sits down with Mark Bauerlein to discuss his recent article in Academic Questions and argument by epithet. 

Shedding Humanity, Shredding the Humanities

Anthony Esolen

An incident with a student provides the occasion for Anthony Esolen’s exposition of how identity politics has made humanities education nearly impossible and the “very notion of a common good nearly inconceivable.”

Angri-culture and Disagreement

Peter Wood

Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on the state of intellectual freedom in the United States. 

Accusation Studies

Peter Wood

Trial by accusation has become standard, where did it find its start?

Can Federal Funding Leverage Free Speech?

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood writes about the possibility of removing federal funding from universities that do not protect intellectual freedom.  

Trumporially Deranged

Peter Wood

Do our commonalities outweigh our differences? NAS President Peter Wood discusses anger in America today and his hopes for higher education.

The Environmentalists Versus Trump

Rachelle Peterson

Rachelle Peterson discusses Trump's possible environmental policies and what where the college environmentalist movement goes next.

Free Speech v. Free Speech

Rachelle Peterson

Many of the opponents of free speech believe they are its champions.

The Death of Campus Free Speech -- and How to Revive It

It’s getting harder to tell the difference between real news about colleges and the Onion’s parodies. 

The Office for Civil Rights Overreaches on Transgender Mandate

NAS

Peter Wood signs an open letter calling on American civic leaders to uphold the rule of law and to protect the privacy and safety of the American public.

Mizzou Wipes Out Respect and Excellence

Peter Wood

Enrollments at the University of Missouri are plummeting.

Safe Spaces or Free Speech? Intellectual Freedom and the Modern Campus

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood discusses the tension between safe spaces and free speech, clarifying the importance of intellectual freedom. 

Wood Speaks on Chicago's Morning Answer Radio Show

NAS

Peter Wood spoke about campus protesters on Chicago's Morning Answer radio show.

Hate Crime Hoaxes

Chance Layton

In an article featured in Hate Crimes: A Reference Handbook, NAS Executive Director Ashley Thorne writes about the danger of hate crime hoaxes.

College Students Want to Ban “Uncomfortable” Ideas

Chance Layton

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, a study shows students prefer closed minds over intellectual virtues.

The Self-Defeating Claim that Women and Minorities are Weak and Fragile

George W. Dent

The desire for "safe spaces" is an affirmation of weakness that is false and pernicious.

Conforming Higher Education

Rachelle Peterson

Joanna Williams asks what “academic freedom” protects, if there is no truth for academics to seek? 

Rachelle Peterson on WSJ Live

NAS

The fossil fuel divestment fad indulges fantasy rather than grappling with economic realities. 

Peter Wood Discusses "The Meaning of Sex" on the Radio

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood talks with the Armstrong & Getty Show about his recent Weekly Standard cover story. 

After the Interregnum

Patrick J. Deneen

In "God's and Guns," a special section of the Winter 2014 Academic Questions, Patrick J. Deneen finds that both sides in the latest stage of the Culture Wars "represent a betrayal of the proper mission of higher education."

Letter to Lamar Alexander

Peter Wood

Peter Wood writes to Senator Lamar Alexander about the Office for Civil Rights's efforts to lower standards of due process in cases of alleged sexual assault on campus.

Should You Avoid Ivy League Schools?

Peter Wood

Peter Wood responds to William Deresiewicz's provocative New Republic piece, "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League."

How Often? How Bad?: New Evidence on Self-Reported Sexual Assault on Campus

Peter Wood

Surprising new statistics, from a surprising source, on sexual assault.

Prager U: What Every Graduate Should Know

Jason Fertig

Dennis Prager offers five key ideas that every college graduate should understand.

Food Justice Programs Popping Up Like Mushrooms

Marilee Turscak

Over the past two decades, food-related courses and food justice programs have become a hot trend in academia.

Why Do Most College Students Think the Same Thoughts?

Peter Wood

On many topics—racial preferences, sustainability, gay marriage, world citizenship, patriarchy, harassment, sexual freedom—there is room on campus for only one opinion.

Godzilla vs. Godot

Peter Wood

Godzilla and Godot have more in common than a first syllable. They are the two opposing faces of despair: a god that is pure wrath and a god that never shows up.

Dartmouth’s Freedom Budget: Peaceful Protest, or Intolerant Tolerance?

Marilee Turscak

Dartmouth president Philip Hanlon hopes to tame the tempers of Freedom Budget activists, but it remains to be seen whether he can truly transform the college.

Bowdoin's Double Bogey

Peter Wood

"Bowdoin has a bad conscience. It knows that it has made some wrong turns but it doesn't like hearing that from a stranger."

A "Party School" is put under the microscope

George Leef

George Leef writes about the recent book, Party School, written by West Virginia University sociology professor Karen Weiss. The book documents the way party culture has dominated most of WVU.

The Unexamined Life of Academic Kindness

Marilee Turscak

A new Tumblr blog called Academic Kindness seeks to highlight instances of generosity, goodwill, and compassion in academia.

Let Them Speak! Why It’s Important to Let Speakers Speak

Joshua Bridges

At many universities, students have shot down speakers who announce differing opinions. By doing so, they undermine their own intellectual development.

Quizzed!

Peter Wood

Peter Wood playfully considers the nature of quizzes and offers NAS's final quiz of the season: comics and college. 

A College President Defends Free Speech

Peter Wood

Amherst College president Biddy Martin turned down a request to dissociate the College from the writings of campus speaker Hadley Arkes. 

The New School’s New Wail: A Visit to Campus Sustainability Day

Peter Wood

At a sustainability festival at The New School, students complacently accepted pseudo-scientific claims and the nationwide campaign to divest holdings from oil companies. 

Watch Out: Feds Act to Make College Campuses Safer

Glenn Ricketts

Do we need a new federal agency to make college campuses safer?

An Embarrassing Portrait of a State Flagship University

George Leef

Paying for the Party confirms many of your worst fears about big state universities.

Panic at Oberlin

George W. Dent

Classes are canceled at Oberlin College because of racist graffiti and Ku Klux Klan sightings.

Emory University's Outcry Against Its President

George W. Dent

Emory University President John Wagner has been vilified by faculty and students for praising the three-fifths compromise in the original Constitution.

Teaching Collegians to Be World Citizens

Peter Wood

Being a citizen of the world seems to have magnetic appeal to college students, and American colleges and universities are tapping into this longing.

The Schools of "Becoming Right"

Robert VerBruggen

VerBruggen reveals the identities of the "Eastern Elite" and "Western Flagship" referred to in the new book Becoming Right.

Getting It Right On Campus

Glenn Ricketts

A new sociological survey explores the world of undergraduate conservatives in the contemporary academy.

The Youth Vote

Jason Fertig

We know why faculty lean left.  But why do students?

Duke Cheston Reviews Sex and God at Yale

George Leef

Reviewer Duke Cheston finds the new book Sex and God at Yale effective in exposing the degradation of Yale.

Binge-Drinking Students Do Worse in School, But They Are Happier!

Ashley Thorne

College students who binge-drink are more likely to be happy, but also to perform poorly in academic work.

Presidential Politics, Campus Activism, Race Relations: Student Press Views

Glenn Ricketts

Student jouranlists assess the accelerating presidential race and other issues.

Oxford and Columbia: Depth and Breadth

Thomas Dineen

Thomas Dineen compares his education at Oxford with that at Columbia and finds that the universities represent two systems with separate sets of values and attitudes. 

The White Male Shortage on Campus

Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg explains the male shortage on college campuses: they've become decidedly guy-unfriendly.

How Not to Manage Classroom Management

Glenn Ricketts

Student rudeness and uncouth classroom conduct are the stuff of legend these days, and it's frequently been covered at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and elsewhere.

How Campus Ethnic Groups Drive Political Conformity: An Interview with Brittney Morrett

Ashley Thorne

A recent college graduate reflects on a Latino fraternity's decision to officially denounce laws restricting illegal immigration.

Quote of the Day

Ashley Thorne

From a letter to the editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin.

What "Higher Education" Has Come to

George Leef

The current issue of The Chronicle has an illuminating piece by Elayne Clift, an adjunct professor who has taught at several colleges in New England. She writes about the sense of entitlement she finds among her students, leading to complaints about her for demanding too much and outright rudeness from some. "A sense of entitlement now pervades the academy, excellence be damned," she writes. Thinking back on my own experience, she's right. Depressingly right. If you have the paper version, just below Prof. Clift's piece is a letter from Robert Neuman, formerly associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University. He writes about the sorry decline of educational standards in K-12, commenting, "Instead of trying to increase their knowledge and refine their learning skills year to year, they simply 'glide' from one year to the next without effort." Right again. That's the logical result of having turned education over to government bureaucracy. Without any rewards for excellence, most teachers take the path of least resistance and students gladly go along.

The Coarsening

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on the combination of low taste and high privilege that are increasingly characteristic of American faculty members.

Lily Bart vs. Lady Gaga

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs higher education’s contribution to a culture that celebrates ostentatious vulgarity over the pursuit of civilized qualities.

Many College Students Learn Little

George Leef

So says this USA Today article, reporting on the findings of a recent book entitled Academically Adrift. No surprise here. 

Duke's President Versus the University's Reputation

George Leef

President Richard Brodhead pleaded with students not to give Duke the reputation as a sex-crazed campus. Perhaps it would do more if the university stopped bringing in a parade of salacious shows and speakers.

Good Read

Mary Grabar

I'd like to share with you my post at American Culture on Christopher Hill's novel. I'm sorry to say I didn't know about  this novel until I visited the Alexander Hamilton Institute last summer.  Fortunately, I was driving, so I could load up my trunk with books from the bookstore.  Hill's novel was one of the gems.

PC Zombie

David Clemens

Former student “Lamar” transferred to a University of California campus this semester and was surprised to find himself ordered to attend two mandatory “workshops,” one on alcohol abuse and the other on sexual assault.  “Lamar,” an adult in his 30s, Iraq War veteran, and parent, bridled at the paternalism/maternalism.  “State law,” explained the school, referring him to AB 1088 (a compilation of cooked data, murky definitions, and propaganda which does not mandate "workshops").

What next?” asked “Lamar.”  “An anti-tobacco workshop, a recycling workshop, an obesity workshop, a vegetarianism workshop?  Already PETA made the college dining halls start a `Meatless Monday.’”

It may come to that.  One neighboring community college just took an institutional position condemning the immigration law in another state.  Apparently, embedding the progressive agenda in textbooks and curriculum is not enough in our postmodern world.  Walter Truett Anderson says, “In education, postmodernism rejects the notion that the purpose of education is primarily to train a child’s cognitive capacity for reason . . . .  [Instead, postmodern education] is to take an essentially indeterminate being and give it a social identity.”  Mandatory workshops, it seems, are intended to bring that “indeterminate being” into conformance with “the campus culture” and “principles of community.”  The sign on this clubhouse reads “No Unprogressives Allowed.” Just yesterday, “Jennifer” came to me desperate to get out of her Women’s History class.  “I admit, I thought it would be an easy A,” she said, “but I also wanted to learn about the Enlightenment, and all I heard was how the Enlightenment  oppressed women.  Help!” Sorry, “Lamar” and “Jennifer;” you might have thought it died with the millennium but the baleful Political Correctness Zombie still stalks the halls of academe.

"Campus Culture" AQ Issue in Print

Ashley Thorne

The summer issue of Academic Questions takes the pulse of campus culture and considers how the attitudes formed in college affect broader American culture.

Diversity: The Expanded Version

Glenn Ricketts

You may have thought - or wished - that American colleges and universities had finally exhausted the outer reaches of "diversity" on their campuses. Really, there's simply GOT to be a finite limit to this thing, and we really will run out of special categories, special programs, special courses, special campus codes and relentless micromanagement by administrators, hiring committees and dormitory resident heads seeing that students and faculty members are sufficiently serious about "diversity." Well, if that's what you thought, brace yourself: according to this piece in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, a new, significantly expanded version of "diversity" is about to arrive on campus, with lots of new student classifications and obligations to accomodate them. And here's a surprise: this also means vastly greater possibilities for antidiscrimination litigation as well. Take students with various physical or learning disabilities, for example: they're accustomed to all kinds of accomodations, whether in the use of guide dogs or the constant availability of special education teachers during their K-12 years that aren't currently provided in most college programs. If all of they're accustomed to receiving these services at the secondary level, then why can't colleges and universities do likewise? There may be nothing wrong providing such accomodations, of course, but it's not immediately obvious how they're related to the idea of "diversity." This is in addition, of course, to the endlessly proliferating categories of ethnic racial and sexual categories which will have to be recognized and accomodated. If you've been troubled by the imperial march of "diversity" up to now, this is not going to make for very edifying reading. Simillar to The Blob, it expands endlessly. The comments thread, though, suggests that a number of readers have finally reached their limits and are willing to say so. Hopefully, they'll speak up at faculty meetings as well.

A Modest Proposal for Campus Safety

David Clemens

Since the NAS report on summer reading, “Beach Books,” U.C. Berkeley has announced its own summer reading recommendations.   The theme is “Education Matters” and, not surprisingly, multicultural “social justice” predominates.  Happily, Benjamin Franklin and The Education of Henry Adams are included.  There is also No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech by Lucinda Roy.  As Chair of the English Department, Roy tutored Seung-Hui Cho in poetry after he was ejected from a course for terrifying classmates.  Post-tutoring, Cho proceeded to murder 32 other human beings before killing himself.  Roy argues that VaTech did not adequately address Cho’s disabilities and alleges multiple institutional failures.  I would argue that VaTech also failed to help students and teachers protect themselves. My friend the Philosophy professor enjoys alarming his students by telling them “Professor Clemens says that a gun society is a polite society.”  Well, yes.  Gun shows are the most decorous events imaginable because you never know who’s packing.  As Webster’s NRA Dictionary says, “democracy” is two wolves fighting over a lamb; “liberty” is an armed lamb. Call me perverse but I do enjoy that mine is the only car in the faculty lot with the decals “Wild Alaska,” “NRA  Supports Our Troops,” and “Armed With Pride.”  It's particularly amusing when I park next to the Volvo whose bumper sticker reads “The Goddess Is Alive and Magic Is Afoot.” Magic and the Goddess notwithstanding, I wish that more responsible teachers were armed.  I have an in-law who teaches at Virginia Tech; he heard the gunfire.  A local student brought an automatic weapon to acting class; one teacher’s office is regularly trespassed at night (hopefully only by amorous custodians). At one Cow Palace gun show, I bought MACE and a billy club for my division’s office staff.  Diminutive Rosa is alone in the evening; more than once she has had to face deranged, medicated, or otherwise menacing students.  Rosa is a tough cookie, straight outta Compton (wore a bullet-proof vest to high school), but even she gets rattled.  Better if she had training, a concealed carry permit, and a Beretta.  All campus personnel should at least handle guns so that they are not afraid of them.  To the gentle and nonviolent, this no doubt sounds like macho posturing but I grew up shooting, BB gun to 30.06 and .303, Enfield to M-1 carbine, Ruger .22 to S&W .357 magnum. I always carry a Kershaw Blur, but I’d like to be better equipped to protect my students and colleagues.  Our campus emergency plan tells us to freeze if there is an “active shooter.”  Better it if it read, “keep moving, don’t be a target, shoot back.”  Freeze?  Our victim culture is ideal for the psychopaths who desire helpless victims.

A Word on Academic Attire

Brian T. Johnson

This weekend, I graduated from the University of Missouri with a BA in political science. Walking across the stage to receive my diploma gave me a great feeling, particularly after being away from school for a few years. My experience this past year at a major state university instructed me not only in the nature of scholarship, but in those other things that have so little to do with, but so often accompany, the serious work of the academy. The commencement exercise featured the usual fanfare, a notable part of which has become the donning of specialized, non-academic apparel in addition to the traditional academic attire of such events. Students not only wear gown, cap and tassel, but many if not most black students also displayed brightly-colored, boldly-designed sashes, ribbons and mortar board decorations representing racially-defined organizations.  The idea seems to be to celebrate the black experience of one's college years. Call me curmudgeonly, but I think this inappropriately draws attention away from those wearing distinctive apparel recognizing actual academic achievement. This strikes me as a presumptuous prerogative.  The function of commencement is to confer an academic degree and mark a new start for graduates. The alternative attire not only ignores that purpose and diverts attention from its highest exemplars, but elevates racial identity to similar standing with the active, educational endeavors of the wearer. Academic officials would do well to curtail this "celebration of diversity," restoring dignity not only of ceremonial purpose,  but to all its participants.

Symposium: Student Life

Adam Pascarella

This symposium by eight student writers provides an inside view of campus life today and appeared in the "Student Culture" issue of Academic Questions (vol. 23, no. 2).

Early Vacations and Entitled Students

Glenn Ricketts

Has self-esteem education gone way too far?

Heart of Darkness

David Clemens

Teaching Introduction to Literature, I see a curious new phenomenon:  more and more students complain, bitterly, about how dark the readings are.  I’m not sure what this new critical term means; I employ a canonical set of works including Hawthorne, Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Sophocles, and newer works by Phillip Larkin, Tobias Wolff, and J.G. Ballard.  If such authors do anything, they force us to face existential questions.  Once, students went to college to experience just this sort of perennial questioning.  Today, questioning is a nonstarter having been replaced by what Phillip Rieff called “the triumph of the therapeutic” and, as he predicted, by students preoccupied only with themselves and with attaining a “durable sense of well-being.”  This ends any interest in reading about what Victor Davis Hanson calls “the tragic limitations of human existence and how to meet them and endure them with dignity.” When Larkin observes that

At death you break up:  the bits that were you Start speeding away from each other for ever With no one to see

it does not sit well with the Facebook and Twitter crowd, many of whom are now convinced that advancements in regenerative medicine will indefinitely postpone their senescence.  With death no longer inevitable, they find that a literature based on the tragedy of mortality is both archaic and irrelevant.  In insulated, technological isolation, with electronic “friends” and avatars, Comedy Central and Family Guy, they are more concerned with distraction and are irritated that plot and character create inevitabilities and moral consequences.  That’s just so...dark.

Second Life Duty? Seriously?

Ashley Thorne

Second Life, a virtual "world" resembling a video game, enables people to interact with one another via avatars - digitized, animated versions of themselves. The creepy, sexual, Second Life universe is inhabited by businesses, churches, embassies, pornographic movie theaters, and colleges. This week the Chronicle of Higher Education announced that Pennsylvania State University will now require its academic advisers to set up Second Life accounts and be available to meet with students in the virtual world. Here is PSU's webpage on the university's Second Life presence. According to a Penn State official, "We're using Second Life as a way for online students who never visit campus to feel more connected to the university and their experience, and have a way of interacting with their fellow students and other staff members as well." These online students can talk via a tight-clothed avatar to someone like Shawna Culp - known on Second Life as Shawna Charisma - on the two-dimensional Penn State "island" that cost the university several hundred dollars to purchase. I look at this and say, whatever happened to phone conversations? I suppose it's naturally in the trajectory mapped out by the online education rocket. But don't we begin to sound silly when human interaction is reduced to this?

Gothic Arch and Ghost Town

Peter Wood

Princeton's gracious campus expresses confidence in the life of the mind; UMass Amherst's Chancellor cries uncle; a New Jersey ghost town points its bony finger.

Adopt a Mascot

Peter Wood

There are many orphaned college mascots who need a good home. Will you give them the love they need?

For Shame!

Peter Wood

On the transformation of the idea of "shame" - and how the right kind of shame is seen as honorable. Especially on the college campus.

Exchange Counter

Peter Wood

Meet Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition uninterested in free exchange on campus.

40 Awkward Questions for College Tours

Peter Wood

You choose: either play the role of an

Sustainability Education's New Morality

Ashley Thorne

What will happen when the sustainability revolutionaries take over the college curriculum?

A College Board Does Its Job

Steve Balch

DuPage adopts a policy statement based on the Academic Bill of Rights.

Slouching Toward the Therapeutic University: Part 3

Tom Wood

A university is about self-discovery, but in a sense quite different from person-centered therapy. It involves stretching the self and the mind with the thoughts of the great minds of the past and present.

Thursday Threnodies

Peter Wood

Hangry, Scalia at Amherst, medical school match day, Lucy, and critical play

Facebook and the Future of the University

Tom Wood

Will social networking sites like Facebook remove the extracurricular responsibility of the university?

The Extracurricular Sector of the University: Unappreciated and Soon To Be Unneeded

Tom Wood

With the rise of online education, will student affairs and residence life programs become obsolete?

Is College Driving Students to Drink?

Tom Wood

Why is binge drinking such a problem on college campuses? What factors lead certain students to consume more than others?

Gone, Daddy, Gone

Adrianna Groth

College Students get little encouragement to esteem the traditional family from the redefined-family curriculum and "hooking-up" dorm culture.

6. Who Educates the Whole Person These Days? Anyone? (Res Life and the Decline of Campus Community, Part 2)

Tom Wood

Our recent posting, "Residence Life and the Decline of Campus Community, Part 1," aimed to place Res Life programs within the wider context of the contemporary American college and university, and in particular to highlight the central role Res Life programs have been given in the creation of "campus community."

5. Res Life and the Decline of Campus Community (Part I)

Tom Wood

Previous postings in this series have examined the ideological and pedagogical pathologies of Res Life programs at U Delaware and U Mass-Amherst. More programs at other institutions will be uncovered and discussed in future postings. Before we proceed any further with that, however, it is a good idea to step back briefly and place these programs in perspective. These rogue programs need to be seen within the larger context of Residential Life programs at residential colleges generally.