The madness that comes regularly from higher education used to surprise me, but no more; I’ve learned to expect it. Here are a few of the most recent examples:
- As reported by two faculty members in an article in the Wall Street Journal, in a new attempt to monitor its faculty for signs of bias, the Villanova University administration is asking its students to rate professors according to their “perceived agreement with progressive opinion” on bias and identity. The faculty is rated on their “sensitivity to a student’s biological sex, disability, gender identity, national origin, political viewpoint, race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.” The assumed purpose of this exercise is to guarantee that no student is to be offended. The reaction? You guessed it: a faculty petition of pushback against the authors of the article signed by about 100 of their colleagues. They should have been thanked instead. So much for Villanova’s liberal arts rating among truly serious students and educators.
- Daniel Henninger reported on the results of a proposition at George Washington University in which students were asked to vote on whether or not the school’s nickname, the Colonials, “has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression”. 54% of the student body agreed. No word yet as to whether they will next be asked to vote on the school’s mascot, George Washington.
- Supposedly to level the socio-economic field of college admissions and enhance “equity”, the College Board will now assign students who take the SAT an “adversity score”, which will include 15 variables such as poverty indicators, a student’s neighborhood crime rate, neighborhood housing values, etc., all fed into an algorithm with weights assigned to each variable and sent to the colleges without the student seeing or challenging the score. If this is their answer to more transparency, they are going in reverse–there is no room for individual cases or character evaluation in this new metric. Certainly it is preferable to selection by race, but I can’t help but believe that it is all about a desperate pre-emptive strike against the likelihood that race-based affirmative action might soon be struck down by the Supreme Court. There is some word that their competitor ACT might be considering a similar move.
- Heather MacDonald has written about the growing trend on college campuses of “politicized science”: the American Astronomical Society has recommended that Ph.D. programs in astronomy eliminate the requirement that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in physics, since it has a disparate impact on females and under-represented minorities, and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program has dropped all science GREs for applicants in all fields.
As more of this kind of nonsense keeps coming down the road, we have to sharpen our resolve and our arguments against the two villains–the ideology of multiculturalism and its partner social justice, or as Thomas Sowell characterizes it, “cosmic” justice–that are corrupting our elite institutions. We’ve had a firestorm over the college admissions bribery scam over the past few weeks, with outrage from every corner and new legislation being filed by the dozens. So let’s clean up the process, put some people in jail and fire a few administrators. But I submit that the threat posed by these ideologies is much more corrupting and insidious in the long run and is eating at the soul of the academic mission of higher education in this country. It needs to be called out for what it is and challenged at the highest level of leadership. And this starts with the trustees and leading alumni of these schools.