Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Campus Watch Website Feature: Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch readers are no doubt familiar with the numerous smears, false allegations, and hysterical accusations leveled against us by our opponents. Frequent charges of "McCarthyism," "censorship," "silencing professors," and "threats to academic freedom" are hurled at Campus Watch by those unaccustomed to the rigors of simple criticism. The hermetically sealed world of academia lends itself to this paranoid mindset and its ideologically sympathetic defenders have adopted a similar approach.

This attitude is even more prevalent in the field of Middle East studies, which was thrust into the spotlight after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and, more often than not, found wanting. Middle East studies academics are none too pleased at the justifiable criticism that has resulted. But instead of addressing the politicization, shoddy scholarship, and apologetics at the heart of the matter, those on the receiving end of Campus Watch's critiques tend to go on the attack, as do their allies. And truth is the first casualty.

Up until now, Campus Watch has responded to mischaracterizations via our blog, where, in the past seven months alone, we have posted a series of rebuttals and corrections. For those who missed the original posts, the links – in no particular order – follow:

Campus Watch Critiques, UC Santa Cruz Paper Cries "Censorship!"
Correcting the Record: Inaccuracies in Bangkok Post's Portrayal of Campus Watch
David Castle of Pluto Press Discredits Himself While Mischaracterizing Campus Watch
Howard Zinn Gets Campus Watch Wrong in Plugging Pluto Press and Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Zionism"
Priyamvada Gopal of Cambridge University Gets Campus Watch Wrong, Laments Cancellation of UCU Boycott Debate
National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn Misrepresents Campus Watch, Others
Pipe Dream at Binghamton, Badger Herald at Wisconsin Misrepresent Campus Watch
Correcting the Record: Jesse Walker at Reason Misinterprets Campus Watch Archives on Nadia Abu El-Haj
In Truth: Richard Silverstein's Fictions about Campus Watch, Paula Stern, and Nadia Abu El-Haj

Due to this proliferation of misrepresentations and falsehoods, Campus Watch has now set up a website feature to address them on a regular basis: Setting The Record Straight. The section can be accessed by passing one's mouse over the "About Campus Watch" category in the left-hand tab and clicking on "Setting The Record Straight." There are a number of items posted thus far, the links for which appear below:

MSU Stands Against Daniel Pipes
Fighting for a Better University
More Nuggets From A Nut House
The New McCarthyism
From "Pointless" to Intolerance: Islamofascism Week
Lobby Group Pressure Hinders Academic Freedom
The Culture War Descends on Columbia
The Campaigns to Silence Critics of Israel

Stay tuned for upcoming additions, as, inevitably, there will be plenty of opportunities to set the record straight.


Why Harvard costs so much

Harvard University got some nice press this week by announcing it will reduce tuition for middle-class families. It already allows students whose parents earn less than $60,000 a year to attend Harvard free. Now it promises that families making up to $180,000 will pay no more than 10% of their annual income to finance the $45,600 that a year in Cambridge now costs.

Drew Gilpin Faust, the school's new president, said the policy is designed to help families facing "increasing pressures as middle-class lives have become more stressed." Before applauding Harvard's altruism too loudly, however, readers should know that the school also had its back against a wall. In September, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley held hearings on whether colleges should be forced to spend a higher percentage of their endowments each year.

While private foundations have been required for decades to shell out 5% of their total assets annually, universities decide for themselves and average close to 4%. The difference may seem small, but the money at stake is very large. Harvard's endowment is $35 billion, and growing, with implications that Fay Vincent illuminates nearby. Mr. Grassley wants to know why rich schools don't spend more of their money to reduce ballooning tuition.

When the hearings began, Kevin Casey, the senior director of federal and state relations at Harvard, told the Crimson student newspaper that "it may not be the best thing for Congress to dictate the formulas by which financial aid and endowment spend-out should be connected." Mr. Casey is right. But given the hundreds of millions of dollars that the university receives from the government each year, Senators inevitably start to think that Harvard's business is their business.

Ironically, these government handouts are creating the tuition problem. Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time, the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect. Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference; colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the government will step in.

As a result, "colleges have little incentive to cut costs," says economist Richard Vedder, the author of "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much." Mr. Vedder explains that there are now twice as many university administrators per student as there were in the 1970s. Faculty members are paid more to teach fewer hours, and colleges have turned their campuses into "country clubs." Princeton's new $136 million dorm, according to BusinessWeek, has "triple-glazed mahogany casement windows made of leaded glass" and "the dining hall boasts a 35-foot ceiling gabled in oak and a 'state of the art servery,' " whatever a servery is.

Our financial-aid system also hurts middle-class applicants. Parents who have saved money for their child's tuition quickly find that, by the strange calculus of financial aid, they are charged more for college tuition than if they had blown their savings on a bigger house. Mr. Vedder wonders why universities should get to ask the income of their students before telling them how much they'll be charged. That sounds like price discrimination: If a car dealer tried to make you fill out the form students have to fill out for financial aid, he notes, "you'd run to a consumer protection agency."

So is college still worth it? Though academic standards have certainly fallen, college graduates still, on average, make about twice as much over the course of their lifetimes as people with only a high school diploma. So if the government got out of the higher education business, a lot of families might decide to make the sacrifice anyway, even without the tuition aid. But they might also decide that they can live without the mahogany windows.



When Connor Wilson was turned away from after-school care because his name wasn't on the list, he took matters into his own hands and decided to walk home - all 15km. That threw his mum, his school and police into a panic. Police found the six-year-old walking along Geelong's busiest road, the Princes Highway, more than 6km into his journey to his Whittington home.

Mum Ruth Wilson was furious with Corio South Primary and has pulled Connor out of the school. Ms Wilson said Connor could have been abducted or hit by a car.

On Wednesday morning last week, she organised for him to attend care that afternoon. But when he arrived for the after-school session, the carer told him his name was not on the list and he left. The school contacted police when they realised Connor was missing after 5pm. Ms Wilson said it was the second time in two months Connor had left school after being turned away from care. "I am extremely angry that this has happened again," she said. "Anything could have happened to him."

Ms Wilson said Connor's name was put on the care list for the following morning, Thursday, by mistake. Principal Neil Lynch said the school had apologised for the mistake. All students were routinely told to go to the school office if their parents didn't turn up to collect them, Mr Lynch said. Ms Wilson said Connor was familiar with the route home from the daily drive to and from school. "He is a smart little boy but he certainly won't be doing that again," she said. Ms Wilson said that Connor now knows that if there is a next time he is to go straight to the office.


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