July 17, 2012, 10:39 am
In the past month, I’ve been in at least four meetings in which tenure has been heavily criticized by those who do not have it or operate outside academe.
As an educational historian, I have written extensively about tenure and academic freedom, especially within the black-college environment. As a professor, I think about my own tenure weekly. I may do this more often than most professors due to the fact that I write a lot of op-ed essays and I’m fairly outspoken. I’m grateful to have tenure as it protects my ability to speak out on issues that are important to me.
I find that those outside of academe do not understand the value of tenure. They often think it is unfair for faculty to have a “job for life” after tenure, often referring to the “one” professor they had who earned tenure and then never wrote another thing. They’ll say, “name another job in which one has total …
July 16, 2012, 8:58 pm
In a Washington Post column today on “Our inequality of opportunity,” former Harvard president Lawrence Summers proposes that top schools do more to recruit low-income students, showing the same commitment to economic diversity that universities have to racial diversity. He then couples this powerful challenge to include disadvantaged students with a jarring defense of admissions preferences for the children of alumni.
“It is unrealistic to expect that schools that depend on charitable contributions will not be attentive to offspring of their supporters,” he writes. “Perhaps, though, the custom could be established that for each ‘legacy slot,’ room would be made for one ‘opportunity slot.’”
This formula—to provide a preference for poor applicants equivalent to a preference for legacy applicants—was also advanced by former Princeton president William Bowen in…
July 16, 2012, 8:19 pm
This is the most complex of the Wall Street Journal’s Special Reports of June 27: the question of whether too many young people are going to college. The debate involves four interlocutors: Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Sandy Baum, senior fellow at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, James O’Neill, co-founder of the Theil Foundation’s 20 Under 20 Fellowship, and Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance. The question is deceptively simple: A college education was once regarded as a first-class ticket to a better life.
But the rising costs of higher education, the burden of student loans and a less-certain job market have left many wondering: Are too many young people going to college? Thus the range of positions is vast and quite divisive.
July 16, 2012, 7:58 pm
Can some good come out of the Penn State tragedy? Former FBI director Louis Freeh has authored a remarkable, lengthy and brutally frank report that finds fault with lots of people at Penn State. But a group that has heretofore received only modest criticism gets a lot from Freeh—the Board of Trustees. And, reading news reports of the findings, it appears Freeh’s view of the role of boards is very similar to mine, and highly consistent with an idea I have been promoting with increasing frequency for several years.
Freeh said “the Board allowed itself to be marginalized by not demanding thorough and forthright reports on the affairs of the University.” Freeh’s indictment of the Penn State board would apply, I submit, to probably a majority of the governing boards of American universities. While boards can become too activist and disruptive (some would say this is the case at the…
July 13, 2012, 5:24 pm
The dreadful scandal at Penn State reached another level on July 12, with the 250-page report of former FBI director Louis Freeh to the university’s board of trustees, culminating a seven-month independent investigation. The report makes clear the complicity of senior officials at the university in covering up convicted child molester and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults on children. The officials include head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, university vice president Gary Schultz, and university police chief Thomas Harmon, all of whom knew enough of the facts to act but who chose instead to turn a blind eye to Sandusky’s concurrent career as a child molester.
The officials chose to pursue a cover up, according to Freeh, because of their fear of bad publicity.
July 13, 2012, 11:44 am
After 25 years in bucolic Princeton, the National Association of Scholars has packed up its stuff and moved to New York City. We brought our collection of yesteryear’s college catalogs, our backfiles of Academic Questions (Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1987 features Virginia Hyman on “Principles of Feminist Scholarship”), and our library of several thousand volumes. We left behind office furniture that was probably second-hand three or four owners past. The junk haulers rendered judgment by taking a crowbar to my old desk and carried it out in splinters. I did manage to hold on to my prized Shine-O-Mat , manufactured by the Uneeda Corporation in 1948. It is a 150 pound gun-metal gray contraption for shining shoes, segregated into “Black Only” and “Brown Only,” and still produces a mean shine on your wing-tips.
Why New York? It’s a homecoming of sorts. NAS was founded here …
July 11, 2012, 5:51 pm
Universities jealously guard their right to make decisions about whom to admit as a fundamental element of academic freedom. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter long ago cited “four essential freedoms” of a university: “to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”
These rights are not, however, unlimited. The Civil Rights Act, for example, curtails the ability of both public and private colleges to engage in racial discrimination; and the statute, along with the 14th Amendment, have been applied to limit the ability of universities to engage in affirmative action on behalf of under-represented minorities. Quotas were outlawed in the 1978 Bakke case, and a system awarding bonus points based on race was outlawed in the 2003 Gratz case.
In the area of legacy preference, too, legislative…
July 11, 2012, 2:20 pm
The price system works marvelously to allocate resources in our society, but in higher education, prices often do not reflect the true value society places on resource usage, as they are often distorted by a variety of policies. The price of elite colleges, for example, is actually well below what demand-and-supply conditions would warrant, while the price of college in general has been distorted upward by extravagant federal student financial-assistance programs (although some would argue with that contention).
But labor markets are largely free of these distortions, and very recent evidence from them on the whole supports the hypothesis that the huge gains from obtaining a bachelor’s degree may be diminishing for a simple reason: Supply has been rising faster than demand for college graduates.
The large differential between the earnings of high-school and college graduates is…