Friday, December 25, 2009

The Rot At Duke U -- And Beyond

Much of academia appears to have a disregard of due process and a bias against white males

You might think that a university whose students were victims of the most notorious fraudulent rape claim in recent history, and whose professors -- 88 of them -- signed an ad implicitly presuming guilt, and whose president came close to doing the same would have learned some lessons. The facts are otherwise. They also suggest that Duke University's ugly abuse in 2006 and 2007 of its now-exonerated lacrosse players -- white males accused by a black stripper and hounded by a mob hewing to political correctness -- reflects a disregard of due process and a bias against white males that infect much of academia.

In September, far from taking pains to protect its students from false rape charges, Duke adopted a revised "sexual misconduct" policy that makes a mockery of due process and may well foster more false rape charges by rigging the disciplinary rules against the accused.

Meanwhile, none of the 88 guilt-presuming professors has publicly apologized. (Duke's president, Richard Brodhead, did -- but too little and too late.) Many of the faculty signers -- a majority of whom are white -- have expressed pride in their rush to judgment. None was dismissed, demoted, or publicly rebuked. Two were glorified this month in Duke's in-house organ as pioneers of "diversity," with no reference to their roles in signing the ad. Three others have won prestigious positions at Cornell, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago.

The two stated reasons for the revised sexual-misconduct rules, as reported in the student newspaper, The Chronicle, almost advertise that they were driven by politically correct ideology more than by any surge in sexual assaults. "The first was... fear of litigation, as expressed by Duke General Counsel Pamela Bernard," as Johnson wrote in his blog, Durham-in-Wonderland. "Yet the policy Duke has developed seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. The second factor was a development that those in the reality-based community might consider to be a good thing: Over a three-year period, reported cases of sexual misconduct on college campuses as a whole and at Duke specifically (slightly) declined."

But for many in academia, Johnson explains, "these figures must mean something else -- that a plethora of rapes are going unreported." Indeed, Sheila Broderick, a Duke Women's Center staff member, told The Chronicle without evidence that Duke had a "rape culture." And Ada Gregory, director of the Duke Women's Center, said that "higher IQ" males, such as those at Duke, could be "highly manipulative and coercive."

The revised policy requires involving the Women's Center in the disciplinary process for all known allegations of sexual misconduct and empowers the Office of Student Conduct to investigate even if the accuser does not want to proceed.

Duke's rules define sexual misconduct so broadly and vaguely as to include any sexual activity without explicit "verbal or nonverbal" consent, which must be so "clear" as to dispel "real or perceived power differentials between individuals [that] may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion" (emphasis added).

The disciplinary rules deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her -- but not him -- the right to be treated with "sensitivity"; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.

The revised policy, among other things, shows that Duke is still in the grip of the same biases, indifference to evidence, and de facto presumption of guilt that led so many professors and administrators to smear innocent lacrosse players as rapists (and as racists) for many months in 2006 and 2007. The centerpiece was the full-page ad taken out by the "Group of 88" professors, as critics call them, in The Chronicle on April 6, 2006, about three weeks after the woman claimed rape.

This ad stopped just short of explicitly branding the lacrosse players as rapists. But it treated almost as a given the truth of the stripper's claims of a brutal gang rape by three team members amid a hail of racist slurs. It praised protesters who had put lacrosse players' photos on "wanted" posters. It associated "what happened to this young woman" with "racism and sexism." It suggested that the lacrosse players were getting privileged treatment because they are white -- which was the opposite of the truth.

And in January 2007, after the fraudulence of the stripper's rape claim and of rogue Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's indictments of three players had become increasingly evident, most of the 88 also signed a letter rejecting calls for apologies while denying that their April 2006 ad had meant what it seemed to say.

Among the most prominent signers of both the ad and the letter were Karla Holloway, an English professor, and Paula McClain, a political science professor. They also slimed the lacrosse players in opaquely worded, academic-jargon-filled individual statements full of innuendo.

This disgraceful behavior apparently did not trouble Duke's Academic Council, which in February 2007 made McClain its next chairwoman -- the highest elected position for a faculty member.

And just this month, the university's in-house organ, Duke Today, heaped special attention and praise on Holloway and McClain and featured their photos in a gushing five-part series titled "Diversity & Excellence," focusing on Duke's efforts to hire more black faculty members.

None of the five articles mentioned the roles of Holloway, McClain, and most of the African and African-American studies faculty (the vast majority of whom signed both the ad and the subsequent letter) in smearing innocent Duke students -- not only the lacrosse players but also the many others whom the letter fatuously accused of fostering an "atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus." ...

The fact that these five people of questionable judgment have subsequently won glorification by Duke or advancement to other prestigious positions may reflect the interaction of academia's demand for more "diversity" with the small supply of aspiring black professors who are well credentialed in traditional disciplines. These factors, amplified by politically correct ideology, have advanced many academics who -- unlike most African-Americans -- are obsessed with grievances rooted more in our history of slavery and racial oppression than in contemporary reality.

Try imagining a white male professor who had smeared innocent black students enjoying a similar path of advancement in academia today.


Too many students - too few apprentices in Britain

Both parties' misplaced egalitarianism is to blame for the funding crisis, argues George Walden (George Walden is a former minister for higher education)

Lord Mandelson's announcement of reduced university funding and his warning against over-recruitment are signals that the unworkable system imposed by successive governments is now getting what a student of our language once called its "up and comings". As the nation's cash runs out, there were always going to be cuts, but the way universities have been structured makes them poorly placed to handle them.

The prospect of quicker degrees is especially disquieting. If progress in our schools were as marked as Labour claims, there might be logic in shortening certain courses, since students would be better prepared for them. In reality, billions more have been spent with little to show for it. Achievement at primary level has faltered, and the results of the city academies rarely reflect the cost of their premises. Academics at university complain about the amount of remedial teaching they have to do, in maths especially, before students are ready to tackle their courses.

More focus, Lord Mandelson says, is needed on skills demanded by employers. The old polytechnics used to provide this, though in a civilised society it should never be at the expense of the humanities. That's what the old, more selective university system was good at. Not everyone with a couple of indifferent A-levels in questionable subjects was allowed in, and not everyone emerged with a First or Upper Second.

Many of those going to university are unprepared or unsuited for higher education. They should have been doing training or apprenticeship courses in colleges of further education, the underrated Cinderellas of the system. Aerospace, plumbing, health studies, business studies or beauty and catering would be of greater use to everyone. They would be cheaper and better than a poorly taught course in English literature, featuring warm-hearted reflections on the role of nature in the poetry of Ted Hughes, or the life and work of Sylvia Plath, with a helping hand from the internet.

Students and academics have an equal right to feel aggrieved: just as Labour supported the Tories' daft conversion of polytechnics into universities, the Tories are backing the over-hyped city academies, from which better-qualified students are supposed to come. Meanwhile, both Cameron and the Labour Left shun any suggestion of selection (except, in the case of the Tories, in private schools). But more selectivity in schools would make it easier to decide who was best suited to higher education, and to keep up university standards.

Though the Tories claim to oppose it, it is misplaced egalitarianism that is behind Labour's vast expansion of student numbers, which Lord Mandelson admits is "putting unmanageable pressures on our student support budget". It puts pressures on academics and facilities, too, with the risk of Britain regressing from its relatively successful higher education ethos into a mass, mediocre system, as in France.

On top of that, Lord Mandelson says he wants greater priority in admissions to students from modest backgrounds. Sensitively handled, this can be justified: studies by the Sutton Trust have shown that, when properly taught on campus, bright but poor pupils can outperform private school students. But the risk is of a dogmatic, politicised application of the principle as a stick to beat independent schools, and to massage admission figures in the correct sociological direction, by keeping some of our best-educated pupils out of our best universities.

No one should be penalised by their background. A principle, Lord Mandelson appears to have forgotten, that works both ways.


Britain adopting 2 year degrees

Universities face a move towards two-year degree courses as the Government dramatically reduces higher education spending. The announcement of the cuts, which will see £518m lopped off university funding next year, provoked an outcry from vice-chancellors, students, lecturers and opposition MPs last night. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said: "We will see teachers on the dole, students in larger classes and a higher education sector unable to contribute as much to the economy and society."

Key elements of the plan, outlined by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, include a shift away from the traditional three-year degree to two-year courses. In addition, universities that recruited more students in the autumn than ministers had budgeted for will face fines of £3,700 per extra head.

One estimate indicated that 22,000 additional students were taken on as demand for places reached an all-time high because of the recession. Universities were allowed to recruit 10,000 extra undergraduates because of the increased demand. Even so, about 130,000 students eligible for a clearing place failed to find one in the summer. Lord Mandelson made it plain there would be no repeat next year and reduced the funding for higher education from the £7.8bn grant for 2009-10 to just under £7.3bn for 2010-11.

This, coupled with the fines, lowers the Government's chances of meeting its oft-stated aim of recruiting 50 per cent of young people into higher education courses, though ministers will hope that introducing more two-year courses might be enough to achieve it.

Vice-chancellors will now put more pressure on the government review into top-up fees to increase the current cap of £3,240. They have already indicated that they would like to see it doubled to more than £6,500. The review is due to report next year, after the election. Research funding – which helps the more selective universities like Oxford and Cambridge retain world-class research contracts – is to be maintained.

In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is responsible for allocating university cash, Lord Mandelson said he wanted more programmes "such as foundation and fast-track degrees that can be completed full-time in two years". He added: "Over the next spending review period [to 2014], we will want some shift away from full-time, three-year places towards a wider variety of provision."

Professor Les Ebdon, chairman of the university think-tank million+ and vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University, said the shift towards two-year degrees was "tinkering with the edges". "Two-year degrees work for some students, who do not have to fund themselves with part-time jobs," he said. "They will only be offered by a limited number of universities for a small number of courses." Examples of two-year degree courses already running include one for higher level teaching assistants at Stroud College in Gloucestershire and a fast-track nursing degree at King's College London for those with a degree already.

In his letter, Lord Mandelson went on to warn that any further over-recruitment next autumn could again provoke fines. The £3,700 is equivalent to the average cost of providing one student with teaching and access to facilities for one year.

The Conservatives immediately attacked the Government for fining universities that were trying to meet its own target of getting 50 per cent of young people into higher education. Even with the increase in student numbers allowed by the Government this autumn, the overall participation rate remains at around 43 per cent when, ironically, because of the demand created by the lack of employment prospects, ministers had a realistic chance of nearing the 50 per cent target for the first time this year.

"We now have the bizarre situation that universities are being fined for meeting targets set by this Government," said David Willetts, the Conservatives' universities spokesman.


1 comment:

Robert said...

Could someone imagine the fallout if allegations of sexual misconduct were to be leveled against a star player on Duke's BASKETBALL team? An attention-seeker could make a false accusation against the star basketball player, let the due-process-free process Duke has implemented do the dirty work, get the player suspended from playing, the team loses several additional games, doesn't get as far in the NCAA tournament or misses it entirely, and costs the university BIG money. Or consider the mischief a graduate-school female student who attended one of Duke's rivals as an undergraduate and who still feels loyalty to her alma mater could make with a strategically-timed accusation. One thing we could be sure of in such a scenario - we would find out how serious Duke really is about summary punishment of those accused when it would cost the university big money.