Last Month, Today

June News Coverage

Peter Wood

It may be summer, but there’s much ado in higher education. Three members of the NAS staff join me on this episode to talk about what’s going on: Policy Director Rachelle Peterson, Public Affairs Director Glenn Ricketts, and Communications Coordinator Chance Layton.

We talk about Oberlin College, which an Ohio jury has just ordered to pay $44 million after Gibson’s Bakery brought a libel suit. (A few days after we recorded this episode, a judge reduced the judgment to $25 million.)

We also discuss the decisions by the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health to step up enforcement of transparency requirements for foreign gifts to colleges and universities--a direct response to concerns we at the NAS has been raising.

We look at what the Democratic candidates for president are saying about higher education--and what Republican Senators are failing to do about campus free speech.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

Show Notes:

00:00: Peter introduces three members of the NAS staff: Rachelle, Chance, and Glenn.

01:24: Oberlin College has been at the forefront of academic news after a jury ordered it to pay $44 million in a libel case brought by Gibson’s Bakery. This story began with students who were arrested for shoplifting, but Oberlin tried to turn it into a race issue.

08:07: Oberlin lost in both legal court and the court of public opinion, but it has refused to change, instead doubling down on its commitment to activism.

17:50: Not everyone at Oberlin rushed to judgment. Some professors protested the college’s behavior, and one police officer proved a crucial witness who defended the actions of the bakery employees.

19:08: Oberlin accused Gibson’s Bakery of racial profiling--a grave accusation if true. But Oberlin’s story does not hold up to scrutiny.

24:43: Meredith Raimondo, Oberlin’s vice president and dean of students, is quite popular among Oberlin students, and used her position to encourage protests against Gibson’s.

26:00: The Oberlin verdict was an event waiting to happen, judging from the college’s long history of grievance mongering.

29:23: The Department of Education has begun enforcing transparency laws on foreign gifts to colleges and universities, revealing funding with strings attached from authoritarian regimes.

34:03: The National Institutes of Health is also cracking down on researchers who failed to follow transparency rules. Several researchers have been fired--and universities have been forced to repay the NIH for the improper use of federal funds.

36:04: The Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Program is another potential threat. It gives honors and funding to foreign researchers to buy access to top U.S. research.

37:27: The NAS deserves credit for raising awareness about Confucius Institutes and the lack of foreign gift transparency. Congress is now stepping up and putting pressure on the Department of Education.

39:17: Citizens should be concerned about foreign powers meddling in our academic affairs.

41:30: Transparency laws need some updates. Colleges should disclose the identity of foreign donors and any strings attached to the gifts.

42:41: Despite the focus on China, Qatar is the number one source of foreign donations to U.S. universities.

44:31: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both spending money on Middle East study centers.

47:21: Bernie Sanders’ college debt cancellation and free college plan would cost $2.2 trillion.

52:42: Many of the Democratic candidates for president are pushing for everyone to go to college--as evidenced by Elizabeth Warren’s belief that college should be an extension of K-12. Her plan would cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for 42 million Americans.

54:03: Amy Klobuchar and others are against free college, which they believe is a financial break for the rich.

55:33: Joe Biden says free community college is the answer, which he has called for since the Obama administration.

57:36: The cost of college is on everyone’s mind, but federal support typically makes college more expensive.

59:49: The campus free speech controversy has seen little action in Congress. This is highlighted by the recent Senate Resolution 233, introduced by Marsha Blackburn, which merely echoes existing law.

1:03:33: To keep up with and influence the biggest issues in higher education, join the National Association of Scholars.


Peter Wood, “How Oberlin Played the Race Card and Lost,” National Association of Scholars

Jeffrey Mervis, “NIH Probe of Foreign Ties Has Led to Undisclosed Firings—and Refunds from Institutions,” Science

Richard Vedder, “Why Bernie Sanders' Higher Ed Plan Is a Terrible Idea,” Forbes

Rachelle Peterson, “GOP Senators Are Blowing It on Free Speech,” National Association of Scholars

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