Sunday, February 05, 2017

Americans Should Not Have to Subsidize Campus Lawlessness

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley joined together to fight for their right to free speech.

Last night, a group of over 1,500 protestors showed up on that same campus to shut down a speaker with whom they disagreed, and about 150 of them started a riot.

Clearly, the culture of tolerance on college campuses has changed quite a bit since 1964.

Last night, Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos stopped by the UC Berkeley campus on his college tour to talk about the importance of free speech, yet was met with shocking hostility that led to violence.

He is well known for criticizing the “social justice left” in a very provocative manner that elicits a strong response from the campuses he visits. He is no stranger to disruptive protests outside his events.

However, the new violent nature of these protests prompts a discussion over whether or not the school should be a recipient of federal funds.

Videos have surfaced of a crowd of protestors beating a man unconscious and lighting a massive fire, which led to the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagement by the university.

Yet as of last night, campus police remained minimally involved in containing the riots, with the police chief saying she was not aware of any arrests made.

This soft response seems odd in light of UC Berkeley’s statement this morning, which affirmed the importance of free speech:

Campus officials [said] that they regret that the threats and unlawful actions of a few have interfered with the exercise of First Amendment rights on a campus that is proud of its history and legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement.

If UC Berkeley is so dedicated to protecting Yiannopoulos’ free speech, why the weak response?

The riots were violent enough to elicit a response from President Donald Trump, who tweeted out, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Indeed, American taxpayers should be well aware of where their money is going.

UC Berkeley is a public institution that receives federal dollars, yet it appears to allow violence, censorship, and holds contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law.

UC Berkeley is a public institution that receives federal dollars.

Yet on Jan. 26, the university’s chancellor issued a statement saying that Yiannopoulos had “been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech” and added that “Mr. Yiannopoulos’s opinions and behavior can elicit strong reactions and his attacks can be extremely hurtful and disturbing.”

Hardly impartial statements.

This is not the first time lawmakers have called for federal funds to be withheld from Berkeley, California.

In 2008, Heritage Foundation President and former Sen. Jim DeMint called for federal funding to be revoked from the city after the Berkeley City Council voted to remove a Marine Corps recruiting center from the city.

As DeMint said, “The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money.”

No city and no university campus should turn a blind eye to the rule of law in order to promote their political agendas. Indeed, the acceptance of federal funds should require an adherence to the basic rights guaranteed Americans in the Constitution—and that includes the First Amendment.

The threats to freedom of speech on college campuses are disturbing and warrant a response.

On Tuesday, Stanley Kurtz along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute presented model state legislation at The Heritage Foundation to combat censorship and restriction of free speech on college campuses, which is intended to silence any dissenting views on political and social issues.

If adopted, this state-level legislation would require universities to open their doors to all invited speakers and reaffirm their commitment to free speech.

This is an important first step in restoring respect for constitutional rights in our university systems, something that is essential to preserving the free flow and vigorous debate of ideas that is fundamental to thriving academic institutions.

On the federal level, lawmakers should consider policies that limit federal subsidies to institutions that are hostile to free speech and who allow violence, threats, and intimidation of speakers and students to occur without consequence.

Taxpayers, who are already on the hook for $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt should not continue to provide funding for universities that do not offer First Amendment protections to their students and guests.

Hopefully, such legislative responses will restore our universities to being places of thoughtful debate, where opposing views are met with respect and civil debate, rather than riots.


Rethink School Accountability

In many Eastern religions, practitioners use mantras to calm and center themselves while meditating. If the school choice movement needs a mantra right now, it just might be: Regulating a market is not the same as regulating a monopoly.

I say this because of the huge outcry around the putative beliefs of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, on how to bring accountability to charter schools and schools that participate in voucher programs.

Differing conceptions of accountability have become equated with being "for" or "against" the idea, in toto. But which is more strict? Requiring that schools be evaluated on an A-to-F scale and automatically kicked out of a charter program if they fail? Or establishing a mayorally-appointed commission to decide what schools should and shouldn't stay open? I actually don't know.

I do know that as an increasing numbers of our schools move to a more market-like arrangement, we need to rethink what we mean by accountability and regulation. I say "market-like" just to reinforce that even the most generous voucher programs or the charter programs with the lightest regulatory touch are not in any true sense a "market." There are regulations around who can participate and who cannot; there are rules that fix prices; and government picks up the tab.

But given this quasi-market arrangement (a term popularized by Blair-ites across the pond), we must change our expectations of schools that receive public dollars. Because we're looking to manage functions differently, we need different tools in our toolbox. Here are just a few examples:

Academic accountability. In a school system with little to no parental choice, creating standardized, state-level accountability and teacher evaluation systems makes intuitive sense. We require families to send their children to school, so we should do something to ensure that the school is of sufficient quality.

But when we have parents actively choosing, accountability needs to take a different form. We shouldn't cram the square pegs of unique private and charter schools into the round holes of current accountability systems. Schools have vastly different curricula and methods (compare Great Hearts' classical learning approach to Academie Lafayette's French immersion to Carpe Diem's technology-blended classrooms) that no single set of indicators will be able to capture.

We should require transparency and program-wide evaluations made available to legislators and taxpayers. If, and only if, there is strong evidence for some kind of market failure should we intervene and override the wishes of parents and forcibly shut down schools. Market failures happen, but many advocates seem to have a hair trigger in identifying them.

Financial accountability. Arizona's Education Savings Account law requires "random, quarterly and annual audits of empowerment scholarship accounts." This seems appropriate and in line with how financial institutions audit their operations.

Interestingly, it seems more likely to spot malfeasance than our current system. Here in the Kansas City area alone, in the last year, we found out that the Belton School District had been getting shorted up to $500,000 per year since 1991 by improperly calculated property taxes, and, if it weren't for a brave whistleblower, we still might not know that the former superintendent of the St. Joseph public schools had improperly inflated his salary and bilked Missouri taxpayers for over $600,000. Quasi-market or not, random, quarterly, and annual audits are looking a lot more robust now, aren't they?

Data on public schools paints a complicated picture, and our policy discussions should reflect that.

Location and start-ups. Ex ante, we don't know which schools are going to be good and which schools are going to be bad. Even the rigorous vetting processes we see from many charter school authorizers still authorize and establish schools that don't end up working out. This shouldn't shock us. Research shows that as many as 3 in 4 firms backed by venture capital firms (which have their own rigorous vetting processes and are investing their own money) never return investors' capital. Predicting the future is hard. As a result, continuing to centralize power over who can and cannot start schools, or where schools can or cannot locate, seems like a fool's errand. If there is a case for accountability, it is much stronger for the back end, rather than the front.

The past several weeks have been nasty. That is unfortunate and avoidable. A bit of charity and reflection before dismissing someone with a slightly different conception of how schools should be funded or regulated would go a long way toward promoting civil discourse. If we in the education world can't model it, who do we think will?


Amherst Walks Out Over Trump, Ignores Fellow Student Punished Without Trial

The students at Amherst College need to recalibrate their injustice meters. An Amherst student finds himself unable to exonerate himself from a rape charge because it might traumatize his accuser, and they go silent. Yet students jumped at the idea of a walk-out protesting President Donald Trump's immigration executive order:

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members participated in a walkout and march on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to protest President Donald Trump’s recent executive order restricting U.S. entry and to demonstrate solidarity with members of the college community who were affected by the order. A smaller group of students also staged a sit-in in President Biddy Martin’s office.

The order, signed by the president on Jan. 27, temporarily restricts entry for nationals and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and indefinitely halts the movement of Syrian refugees to the U.S. The Trump administration has claimed that the act will reduce the threat of terrorism in the U.S., though most experts and other public officials who have commented on the ban disagreed.....

The size of the crowd grew as protesters marched at noon from Valentine Dining Hall to Converse Hall, where student speakers waited to give speeches. Led by organizer Ana Ascencio ’18, they shouted chants such as “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” and “No ban, no wall, protection for all.”

Organizer Aubrey Grube ’18E denounced Martin’s statement regarding the executive order, which was emailed to students, faculty and staff on Jan. 29, calling it “abstract.”

Martin’s statement advised people from the affected countries not to travel outside of the U.S. “[We] are committed to doing everything we can within the limits of the law to protect those who will be affected by this order,” the statement read.

Where Black Lives Don't Matter — Campus 'Rape Culture' Tribunals
So, let's get this straight. A male student can be completely screwed over by the system at Amherst, and it doesn't matter to anyone at the school. After all, he's just a ... man. After all, rape victims deserve to be believed, even if there's evidence they lied.

Yet an executive order that the president can legally make that curtails immigrants temporarily -- even if one disagrees with it -- warrants an effort that could shut down operations.

Heaven forbid these students step up for one of their own being robbed of due process.


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