Tenure And Academic Freedom

Robert Steinbuch and Joshua Silverstein have a call to arms at the Martin Center to protect academic freedom in Arkansas.  We are unconvinced by their arguments.  It is entirely possible that we should be worried about what is going on in the the Natural Sate [really] but we are not convinced.

Bob and Josh start out with:

That threat, however, is of a type [tenure rules] that normally doesn’t receive public attention. The press typically writes about speech codes and political interference with research on controversial subjects, but as serious as those threats are, they are nothing compared to that posed by central administrators.

We are not convinced.  The ability of central administration to influence decisions on faculty and curriculum varies from school to school but it is almost always limited.  Shortly thereafter they say:

The purpose of academic freedom is to protect freedom of speech, thought, and expression in the university setting so that learning and knowledge can flourish. Tenure is the primary mechanism by which academic freedom is ensured. It prohibits the termination of faculty for any reason that could plausibly be used to stifle academic speech and inquiry. These protections recognize the critical role of professors as truth-finders and truth-tellers.

Well, particularly with respect to the bold part, no.  The tenure decision is largely made by faculty with variations from school to school.  Negative tenure decisions have been made by faculty to stifle academic speech and inquiry.  Such decisions are largely made by the faculty.  Once a faculty member has been tenured they can only be removed for cause.  Incompetence is not a cause.  It is a challenge to write rules that help weed out incompetence without jeopardizing academic freedom but one we need to consider.

Another way to think about it is the last sentence in the second quote.  Are professors regarded as truth-finders and truth-tellers?  Largely no.  Later they say:

Unfortunately, in recent decades some university administrators have engaged in an all-out assault on academic freedom by seeking to (1) replace outspoken full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts, and (2) gut the rules governing academic freedom and tenure.

There are more part-timers [but that might be due to for-profit schools] but we are unconvinced that the full-time faculty is outspoken and the part-timers are not.  It could be that the administration can do something about part-timers and this is why we see more examples of them.

They cite some reasonable issues about the proposed rules.  They also suggest some silly stuff like it will hurt recruiting.  We have been involved in recruiting faculty for decades.  We thought of tenure process as a selling point for our school but nobody was ever convinced by our arguments.  Location, fit, and money are a the driving forces in faculty decisions.  Tenured deadwood is a big problem with fit in recruiting because the deadwood won’t change courses to accommodate new faculty and can’t help them with research.

Tenure as currently constituted is not getting us to faculty who are truth-tellers and truth-finders.  As conservatives we need to be reluctant to change established systems.  But in this case the system is highly ineffective in reaching goals.  Many folks have reminded us that “it” can always get worse and measured change makes sense.  Although Bob and Josh approvingly reference an overwrought article in Slate, Wisconsin is not a bad model.

 

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Conservative Faculty

At least some students at Georgetown University want more conservative faculty.  Mark Judge at Acculturated (also published on NRO) reports on an editorial in the official student newspaper, the Hoya:

Instead, they make a straightforward case that the dearth of conservative professors at Georgetown is leaving students unprepared for the genuine diversity—that is, the diversity of thought—that is part of the real world. Georgetown’s homogeneity, they argue, is leading to an atrophying of their skills for debate and reasoned argument. In other words, without conservatives, they have no one to test their ideas against.

They also review the evidence that that there are fewer conservative faculty members.  The Hoya, Mark, and NRO are all correct to say this but they miss the big structural problems that make diversifying faculty so hard.  The structural problems might be organized as graduating, teaching, and publishing.

Most faculty positions require a terminal degree, usually a Ph.D., and that is what we mean by graduating.  To get a terminal degree you write a thesis and that is largely controlled by your senior professor.  Graduating provides a bigger challenge if you are a conservative because few of those senior professors are.

Faculty members need to teach.  The problem is that the curriculum is controlled by folks who are not conservatives.  Thus we have Peace Studies

Sidebar: Here is the search for Peace Studies: http://search.privacysearch.net/q=cGVhY2Ugc3R1ZGllcw==&b=PC_80801124&qpt=na
It is one example of how new leftist programs are crowding out traditional, and often, more conservative programs.  End Sidebar.

and many otherprograms that designed by and staffed by the Left.  We talked to a military historian (we don’t know if he was a conservative but we suspect it) who said he had to leave because there was nothing for him to teach.  One data point is limited evidence but all of the programs suggest the problem more strongly.

Publishing is one of the things faculty need to do to get promoted.  Specifically, they need to publish at a level appropriate for their school.  Major programs require “A hits” while comprehensives like our school are less impressed by prestige but require that you be active in reasonable journals.  It is our judgment that leftist oriented journals have flourished to provide more outlets for them.  We were happy to see them (leftists) succeed because it was good for the department and the college.  There have been a couple of instances where folks have got a joke article published in those journals.  So there is concern about the intellectual quality of such journals but more troubling is the report by Andy Ngo in Quillette about an article, The Case For Colonialism, by associate professor Bruce Gilley in Third World Quarterly (TWQ).  It seems to us that the author was pointing out the obvious when:

[Bruce] argues that nations who embraced and built on their Western colonial legacy, for example, Singapore, have fared better than those who followed anti-colonial nationalist ideologies.

Instead, Bruce created a firestorm.  There were 17,000 signatures from two petitions and 15 resignations from the TWQ editorial board.  Seriously! You must read the whole thing.  Andy leads with the most astonishing part:

An academic journal [TWQ]l that published a controversial article making a case for Western colonialism has withdrawn the piece after its editor received “serious and credible threats” of violence.

Bruce is lucky to be an associate professor as associate usually indicates tenure, but he might remain one for a long time as publications will be hard to come by.

Bruce’s situation is exactly why conservatives are not drawn to academia and exactly why it is difficult for them to survive.  The Hoya is right about the need for diversity but it will take more than student editorials to bring more conservatives into the faculty ranks.

 

It Has Come To This

Fredrick M. Hess and Grant Addison form American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have a nice take on NRO about Betsy Devos, her speech at Harvard, and the reaction of the students.  Fred and Grant are impressed by the speech but not the reaction of the students to it.  There take is expected for folks from AEI.  They notice the strange situation of students at a private college throwing temper tantrums at the thought of K-12 students being allowed to have a similar choice.  Do read the whole thing.  They conclude:

When serious speakers show up to have substantive discussions, universities and their denizens should be expected to respond in kind. Absent that, a whole suite of privileges that have been accorded to the nation’s colleges and universities for the role they’ve historically played in the public square — from public and philanthropic support to the hosting of presidential debates — need to be assessed in a new light.

Harvard will pay less of a price for the behavior of its students because it has an enormous endowment.  Still, the behavior of Harvard and other students are costing schools all over the country.  Unless faculty and administrators find a solution they will continue to lose support.  Donations, state support, and students will go elsewhere because there are other opportunities.

Values, Healthcare, and Health

UPI reports on a research study by Matthew Davis from the University of Michigan.  Matthew finds that:

American seniors are getting healthier overall, but the well-educated, rich and white are seeing the greatest gains, a new study finds.

Matthew is amazed that rich and white folks are seeing the biggest gain despite Medicare for older Americans.  He thinks that the solution must come from government policies:

“Policies have to extend beyond just getting people access to healthcare to get at what’s driving disparities. The lack of improvement in health among all groups could imply that public health initiatives are leaving some people behind,” he added in a university news release.

Sidebar One: In the UPI report there are no Asians.  There are only whites, blacks, and Hispanics.  UPI does not link to Matthew’s study so we don’t know about the study and it might be that Asian are not of interest to UPI.  End Sidebar One.

Sidebar Two: Matthew is an assistant professor.  That means he is early in his academic career.  End Sidebar Two.

Matthew and UPI seem unaware that there is lots of discussion about culture and cultural values. Heather Mac Donald has a nice summary of the article by Amy Wax and Larry Alexander and the responses to it.  Of course, Amy and Larry have been called racists.  Here is part of what Heather said.

Today, the consequences of that cultural revolution are all around us: lagging education levels, the lowest male work-force participation rate since the Great Depression, opioid abuse, and high illegitimacy rates. Wax and Alexander catalogue the self-defeating behaviors that leave too many Americans idle, addicted, or in prison: “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”

Heather isn’t discussing health but some of the behaviors like opioid abuse and anti-social habits will directly have an impact on health while others might connect to health.  Charles Murray has been working in this area for years.  There are two issues: First. there lots of causes of health.  It could be (gasp) that there are genetic differences among races.  It could be that there behavioral causes.  Those behavioral causes might be cultural or they might be something else entirely.

Second, access to health care is not health care and neither of those is health outcomes.  It is possible but not likely that government policies are going to lead to equal health care outcomes for every group of people.

What is amazing to us but not Matthew is that there are lots of potential cultural causes but neither Matthew or UPI even considered them.  There is an astounding amount of discussion about Charles and Amy.  We need to consider adding two and two to get four.  Behavior has an impact on health.  Culture has an impact on behavior.  It seems highly probable that culture has an impact on health.

Due Process And Academics

Daniel Henninger discusses how the Trump administration through Betsy DeVos have stopped the attempt of the previous administration to end due process for people accused of rape at universities.  He asks the crucial question:

One has to ask: How in 2011 did this rule roll out of the Obama Education Department and become the law of the land in academia without so much as a peep of outrage from them or the American press?  [Emphasis added]

We often ask about them, academics, without much success.  Why did we as academics give the rights of free people away?  It is easy to see why we have no political clout when we fail to do what we are trained to do.  We are trained to think and reason about events.  Yet when this outrage happened generally we were elsewhere.  Daniel only slightly overstates the case when he says that there wasn’t a peep of outrage.

Update/Sidebar: Justin Dyer, from the much maleigned University of Missouri, makes a spirited defense of Scott Yenor at Boise State.  It is about the right to approach cultural issues academically rather than rape but it is a rare example of two academics being serious despite the pressure applied to them by administrators and others.  As Justin concludes: “The intellectual winds blowing in Idaho are ominous.”  End Update/Sidebar.

Thus, we, academics, are taken for granted by the left and properly not respected by the right.  We deserve our fate in the state legislatures.

Profile In Courage

Aaron Hedlund has an article on conservative tax reform at NRO.  Two interrelated facts make the article notable.  First, Aaron is an assistant professor.  Typically, assistant professor denotes somebody without tenure.  At most schools, but not ours, tenure and promotion to associate professor are linked.  The second fact is that he is at the University of Missouri- Columbia.  Yes, that University of Missouri campus.

Aaron shows real courage to come out and say:

Finally, Republicans must take the social-justice fight to the Democrats. Liberals love discussions of “tax fairness” because it gives them a platform to divide Americans and to engage in class warfare. Democrats believe that collective society has a moral claim to every American’s income, and they would empower politicians to determine how much money somebody should be allowed to earn.

Do read the whole thing.  It is a good overview of what needs to be done.  The problem is that tax reform, like other political problems, will come down to difficult choices.  Are you willing to only reduce corporate rates and leave individuals alone? There will be choices and we need to recognize what is a debate and what is an actual choice.  We won’t get everything but we should argue like Aaron suggests.

His courage shows that universities are not quite the monolithic bastions of left that many think.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that he has risked his career by coming out.  It is good for universities in general and particularly his university to show everyone the diversity that exists.

The Market Strikes Back

The College Fix reports (h/t: Best Of The Web) that Evergreen State in Washington has a $2.1 budget shortfall.  Evergreen State is notorious for its behavior last year related to its Day of Absence.  If you missed it the Fix article has details.  The financial details are even more interesting:

In an Aug. 28 memo to the campus community titled “Enrollment and Budget Update,” officials report that fall 2017-18 registration is down about 5 percent, from 3,922 students to 3,713. But the problem is nearly all of the students they lost are nonresidents, who traditionally pay a much higher tuition to attend, officials explained in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix. [Emphasis added]

At Evergreen State, like almost any four-year state university, out-of-state students support in-state students.  According to Evergreen State:

Evergreen’s tuition is about $6,700 per year for Washington state residents and about $24,000 per year for nonresidents.

Attracting and retaining out-of-state students is a critical budget item for for many if not most state schools.  The reason is that in-state tuition is somewhere near the marginal cost of education but out-of-state tuition is much higher than the marginal cost.  Is is easy to see why as the $17,300 per student difference times approximately 200 students (see bold above) would be almost $3.5 million.  As the budget shortfall is $2.1 million we would suggest that nearly all bolded in the first quote above might be an overstatement.

It is hard to be sure that Evergreen and the University of Missouri are being punished for their behavior.  It does look likely that that is the case for Evergreen because the out-of-state students are in demand and they can go almost anywhere for similar prices. It looks like the market is offering advice to state schools.  Will they take it?