Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back to Campus, Where Due Process Is a Myth

Colleges are supposed to be places of learning. However, many argue they've become liberal indoctrination centers, dedicated to churning out legions of progressive zombies who can parrot the Democratic Party's platform verbatim -- yet can't actually do anything useful to support themselves, or society.

Liberals, unsurprisingly, deny this.

However, there appears to be a movement afoot on college campuses that should alarm liberals, conservatives, and libertarians alike.

By now, most readers of this site are bound to be familiar with the persecution of men suspected of sexual assault on campuses throughout the nation. And yes, using "persecution" rather than "prosecution" is intentional. Prosecution implies they will be put through the unalienable rights-based American legal system. That isn't true anymore.

As your kids head off to school, they should be aware that sexual assault isn't the only situation where college officials now figure silly things like due process should be completely ignored:

The University of California-San Diego routinely hides the identity of witnesses that could help students accused of wrongdoing exonerate themselves, departing from its own rules on who is “relevant” to an investigation.

This policy, which has been applied against accused students for at least the past five years, was not publicly known until 11 months ago. A state appeals court fleshed out its existence in a due-process lawsuit against the school by a student who was found responsible for cheating and expelled.

That court struck down UCSD’s ruling against Jonathan Dorfman, saying it had no legal reason to withhold the identity of “Student X” -- whose test answers Dorfman allegedly copied -- from him.

The claim that Dorfman copied answers from "Student X" would assume the two sit near one another. However, without knowing the identity of the student, Dorfman can't establish whether he was sitting near "Student X" on the day of the exam or not.

So how did they "prove" his guilt?

The case against Dorfman boils down to his professor’s suspicion -- triggered by the wrong “exam version letter” -- that his answers on a chemistry midterm were too similar to those of Student X.

As summarized in the appellate ruling Sept. 16, the professor asked a colleague at a different school what the likelihood was of both tests coincidentally having “eight wrong matching answers,” and was told “a billion to one.”

Basically, a professor found it unlikely that two students could have eight wrong answers in common, so he accused Dorfman of cheating.

Then, in complete disregard for due process, UCSD hid the identity of someone who could possibly prove Dorfman innocent.

Why? Really -- why would a university do this?

U.S. universities have gotten away with behaving as if they aren't on U.S. soil for a long time. It's well past time that the public put their feet to the fire, and forced these power-hungry administrators to remember they aren't self-governing states.


NLRB just nuked your private university safe spaces

Liberal parents who are dropping off a child at a private university beware; the liberal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just nuked your kid’s safe space.

The NLRB earlier this week overruled previous precedent and decided that many types of students who perform duties such as teaching assistance as part of their degree programs are employees for the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act.

This means that all the crazy decisions from the NLRB regarding things like employer manuals, prohibiting restrictions on workplace conduct, etc. now apply to these students.

This also means that these students can now form unions and the employer (university) will be legally prohibited from negotiating with them individually but must instead bargain with the union.

Since the NLRB has greatly limited the ability of employers to prohibit bad conduct from employees here are a few of the things that the dissent points out will be next to impossible for private universities to prohibit:

Privacy in Investigations. “If your son or daughter is sexually harassed by a student assistant and an investigation by the university ensues, the university will violate federal law (the NLRA) if it routinely asks other student-assistant witnesses to keep confidential what is discussed during the university’s investigation.”

Civility. “The university will be found to have violated the NLRA if it requires student assistants to maintain ‘harmonious interactions and relationships’ with other students.”

Profanity, Abuse, and Just Plain Loudness. “The university cannot adopt a policy against ‘loud, abusive or foul language’ or ‘false, vicious, profane or malicious statements’ by student assistants.”

Bad Conduct. “The university must permit student assistants to have angry confrontations with university officials in grievance discussions, and the student assistant cannot be lawfully disciplined or removed from his or her position even if he or she repeatedly screams, ‘I can say anything I want,’ ‘I can swear if I want,’ and ‘I can do anything I want, and you can’t stop me’.”

Social Media Gone Wild. “If a student assistant objects to actions by a professor-supervisor named ‘Bob,’ the university must permit the student to post a message on Facebook stating: ‘Bob is such a nasty mother ******, don’t know how to talk to people. **** his mother and his entire ******* family’.”

Abusing Faculty. “The university may not take action against a student assistant who screams at a professor-supervisor and calls him a ‘******* crook,’ a ‘******* mother *******’ and an ‘*******’ when the student assistant is complaining about the treatment of student assistants.”

The quotes above are from actual, real life cases where the NLRB has said that employers cannot prohibit the conduct described.

So, if your kid gets attacked they will have no privacy, they can expect no civility, and they can expect to be in the middle of profanity, falsity, and malicious conduct.

Goodbye safe space. Maybe you should get your kids’ earplugs and self-defense skills instead.


The Dumbing Down of College Curriculums

Let’s concede at the outset that many students find their college years enlightening and enriching. But something is rotten in the state of academia, and it is increasingly hard not to notice.

There once was a time when employers could be reasonably certain that college graduates had a basic sense of the world and, as a minimum, could write a coherent business letter. That is simply no longer the case, as some academic leaders appear ready to admit.

Harvard’s former president, Derek Bok, mildly broke ranks with the academic cheerleaders when he noted that, for all their many benefits, colleges and universities “accomplish far less for their students than they should.” Too many graduates, he admitted, leave school with the coveted and expensive credential “without being able to write well enough to satisfy employers … [or] reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, nontechnical problems.”

Bok noted that few undergraduates can understand or speak a foreign language; most never take courses in quantitative reasoning or acquire “the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy.” Despite the massive spending on the infrastructure of higher education, he conceded, it was not at all clear that students actually learned any more than they did 50 years ago.

Indeed, a recent survey of the nation’s top-ranked public universities by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that only nine of them required an economics course for graduation; just five required a survey course in American history; and only 10 required that students take a literature course. Despite the lip service given to “multiculturalism” on campus, the study found that: “Fewer than half required even intermediate study of a foreign language.”

By 1990, the cost of four years at an elite private college had passed the median price of a house in the United States. But a survey sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1989 found that a majority of college seniors would flunk even a basic test on Western cultural and historical literacy: 25 percent could not distinguish between the thoughts of Karl Marx and the United States Constitution (or between the words of Winston Churchill and those of Joseph Stalin), 58 percent did not know Shakespeare wrote “The Tempest,” and 42 percent could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century.

Most seniors were unable to identify the Magna Carta, Reconstruction, or the Missouri Compromise; they were “clearly unfamiliar” with Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

The question is no longer whether students have learned specific bodies of knowledge; it is whether they are learning anything at all.

These concerns now seem almost—quaint. The fact that college students had huge gaps in their knowledge was old news by the early 1990s. But today the question is no longer whether students have learned specific bodies of knowledge; it is whether they are learning anything at all.

In their widely cited book “Academically Adrift,” Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa concluded that 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during their first two years of college. More than a third (36 percent) “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning over four years of college.”

Traditionally, the authors wrote, “teaching students to think critically and communicate effectively” have been claimed as the “principal goals” of higher education. But “commitment to these skills appears more a matter of principle than practice,” Arum and Roksa found.

“An astounding proportion of students are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains in general skills,” they wrote. “While they may be acquiring subject-specific knowledge, or greater self-awareness on their journeys through college, many students are not improving their skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.”

But those are precisely the skills that employers increasingly expect from college graduates. A 2013 survey of employers on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of employers say that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a candidate’s undergraduate major.

More than three-quarters of the prospective employers of new college graduates said they wanted colleges to put more emphasis on such basic skills as “critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge.”

Trashing the Curriculum

So how could we spend so much for so little? The most obvious answer is that colleges and universities frankly don’t care whether students learn much of anything.

Once again, Harvard’s Bok is willing to admit that administrators have few incentives to worry about something as irrelevant as student achievement because student learning can’t be monetized and doesn’t do anything to advance academic careers. “After all,” he writes, “success in increasing student learning is seldom rewarded, and its benefits are usually hard to demonstrate, far more so than success in lifting the SAT scores of the entering class or in raising the money to build new laboratories or libraries.”

There are, of course, other factors at work. The dumbing down of elementary and secondary education has made its way to the collegiate level; too many unprepared students are admitted despite their inability to do college-level work. Nearly four out of 10 college faculty now agree with the statement “Most of the students I teach lack the basic skills for college-level work.” This inevitably contributes to the flight from teaching (few professors want to teach remedial courses) and the overall lowering of standards.

This general indifference to what, if anything, students learn is embodied in the modern curriculum that enables students to study just about anything, without necessarily learning much at all.


No comments: