Campus Scenes

Campus Scenes

Sustainability Craze Is Undermining Higher Education

By 4.16.15

A new report by the National Association of Scholars shows how popular the sustainability movement has become college and university campuses in the United States and around the world, since the movement was formally organized on college campuses in 2006. The NAS’s study argues, the movement poses a serious threat to liberal education and to political and economic liberty.

“Sustainability” has become a buzzword in the United States and internationally over the past decade. The concept of sustainability first began being discussed in the early 1980s and in 1987, the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Campus Scenes

Churchill’s Enduring Legacy

By 4.9.15

Jacqueline Kennedy offered a touching and durable vision of the White House ceremony on April 9, 1963, when President Kennedy bestowed honorary U.S. citizenship on Sir Winston Churchill.

Aged 88, Churchill was represented by his son, Randolph, who was a bundle of nerves. In the Oval Office beforehand, the first lady recalled,

Randolph was ashen, his voice a whisper. “All that this ceremony means to [Randolph and President Kennedy],” I thought, “is the gift they wish it to be for Randolph’s father.”

Randolph stepped forward to respond: “Mr. President.” His voice was strong. He spoke on, with almost the voice of Winston Churchill, speaking for his father.

Sir Winston’s message, so ably delivered by his son at that honorary citizenship ceremony 52 years ago, calls to us again across the years, amidst fresh challenges to the survival of liberty:

Campus Scenes

Who Trashes Liberal Arts?

By 4.1.15

An op-ed piece titled “Conservatives, Please Stop Trashing the Liberal Arts” appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal. But it is not conservatives who trashed the liberal arts.

Liberal professors have trashed the liberal arts, by converting so many liberal arts courses into indoctrination centers for left-wing causes and fads, instead of courses where students learn how to weigh conflicting views of the world for themselves. Now a professor of English, one of the most fad-ridden of the liberal arts today, blames conservative critics for the low esteem in which liberal arts are held.

Surely a professor of English cannot be unaware of how English departments, especially, have become hotbeds of self-indulgent, trendy fads such as trashing classic writings — using Shakespeare’s works as just another ideological playground for romping through with the current mantra of “race, class and gender.”

Campus Scenes

In Praise of the Admissions Dean

By 3.20.15

We are entering that anxious time of year once again for high school seniors who are college applicants: the announcement of admissions decisions. Will it be the fat envelope (packed with details on admission to their #1 choice, “Welcome to the class of 2018…”), or the skinny one with the one page rejection letter (“Thank you for your interest in us and best wishes for every success in your future studies”)?

This also marks the culmination of the work of college/university deans of admissions and their staffs over the past year reviewing the amazing credentials of stellar applicants from around the country and the world.

Their job is an enormously difficult one.

In addition to all the razor thin distinctions among superb candidates in the applicant pool, they confront complex legal issues as a result of the Supreme Court’s sharply divided decisions on “affirmative admissions policies.” The lack of definitive guidance from the Court on this issue leaves many admissions deans walking a legal high wire without a net.

Campus Scenes

Damaging Admissions

By 2.18.15

Opponents of charter schools have claimed that these schools are “cherry-picking” the students they admit, and that this explains why many charter schools get better educational results with less money than public schools do.

Many controversies about how students should be admitted to educational institutions, especially those supported by the taxpayers, betray a fundamental confusion about what these institutions are there for. This applies to both schools and colleges.

Admitting students strictly on the basis of their academic qualifications, which might seem to be common sense, is rejected by many college admissions committees.

A dean of admissions at Harvard, years ago, said, “the question we ask is: how well has this person used the opportunities available to him or her?” In other words, the issue is seen as which of the competing applicants are more deserving. Since some people have had far better educational opportunities than others, that is supposed to be taken into account in deciding whom to admit.

Campus Scenes

Divest UC of USA or Vice Versa?

By 2.16.15

The University of California Student Association has approved a resolution to direct UC regents to divest financially of the governments of Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and the United States. “UC students did not give consent to invest in governments engaged in violence against others,” proclaimed the Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment at the University of California, targeting the above countries for human rights violations. The motion — which passed with nine yes votes, one no vote, and five abstentions — faulted the U.S. government for conducting drone strikes abroad, as well as the nation’s high incarceration rate and deportation policies.

My suggestion to these students would be that if they truly want to cleanse themselves from dirty American tax dollars, then they should not go to a state university or accept any grubby federal student aid. But it seems the whole point of being a UC student activist is to abandon all thought of regulating one’s own behavior in furtherance of telling everyone else how they should live.

Campus Scenes

Let’s Give Our Empty Pocket College Kids a Fighting Chance

By 2.13.15

What kind of a country have we become where a college graduate with empty pockets starts their working life burdened with a debt that will take them decades to pay off? If there was ever a reason to defrock politicians, it is for their inherent inability to remove the needless barrier of debt that impedes the best and the brightest, the most ambitious and creative among the lesser financially endowed.

I am viscerally offended by the fact that today’s students are stuck paying huge debts incurred getting a college degree and I keep wondering if my experience six decades ago is relevant to what college graduates have to look forward to in today’s world.

My College Days: A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Although I graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, which is one of the elite high schools in New York, my marks were not exactly stellar. I was rejected by most colleges until thankfully being admitted to New York University’s uptown campus when it was on University Avenue in the Bronx.

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Prohibition on Campus: In Loco Parentis Run Amok?

By 2.12.15

With colleges under growing pressure from the federal government under Title IX to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related student misbehavior, Dartmouth College recently announced that it would ban hard liquor on campus.

The sexual assaults, fraternity hazing, and hospitalizations that have rocked campuses around the nation have often involved extreme intoxication, like the case of the former Vanderbilt football players convicted of raping an unconscious woman, or that of a Stanford swimmer recently accused of rape. 

Dartmouth isn’t the first school to ban hard alcohol — Bates and Bowdoin have similar rules — but it is the first Ivy League school to do so. Despite Dartmouth’s prominence as a member of the Ivy League, experts caution not to expect many institutions, if any, to follow its lead.

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Free McCollege for All!

By 1.23.15

President Obama offered in this week’s State of the Union address that too few young Americans attend community college. If only more twentysomethings parlayed their GEDs into course work at Walla Walla Community College, judged the nation’s best by one account, then we might once again boast the most well-educated people on the planet.

One need not possess a B.A. from Columbia and a J.D. from Harvard Law to harbor skepticism.

Taking a utilitarian approach to higher education, President Obama cites jobs requiring degrees and the daunting price tag for them as rationalizations for his scheme. “That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college,” the president announced, “to zero.”

You get what you pay for.

Campus Scenes

In Defense of Liberal Arts

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Poor liberal arts. People don’t esteem the term—or its cousin, “liberal education”—very much these days, it seems. Evaluating the success or failure of an education now requires measurable outcomes, such as test scores or post-college employment. Learning is, more and more, about return on investment. K-12 education is increasingly focused on testing. In everyday conversation, the evaluation of a college major generally assumes the form of a question: “What can you do with that?”

This is a reasonable question, albeit one that liberal education finds itself mostly unable to answer. Conjuring the image of a thousand English majors working behind the counters of a thousand coffee shops, critics of liberal education demand to know what could possibly justify this outcome. Though the most popular major in America is, in fact, business, followed by the social sciences, nursing, education, and psychology—none of which are liberal arts subjects—it’s the useless liberal arts student, underemployed and deep in debt, that comes in for scrutiny.