Monday, June 25, 2018

Follow the Money: Why Do Universities Oppose the Higher Education Bill?

When 39 university associations send an open letter to Congress expressing “grave reservations” about proposed legislation, you can be sure that money is involved. No matter how they describe their concern about students, our colleges and universities have spent money at a pace well above inflation for decades, and they have raised tuition and fees in tandem. The federal student loan program has been their “enabler,” so they want to keep the money flowing.

New buildings, new stadiums, fitness centers, luxury apartments, a “lazy river” at Louisiana State University, climbing walls at Notre Dame and Rutgers, and a $120 million refurbishing of a student center at North Carolina State—these are increasingly typical at schools that older alumni remember as spare, even spartan.

The universities’ letter, sent in February, was sponsored by the American Council on Education. It attempted to derail the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act). Lobbying continues as the House of Representatives comes closer to bringing the bill to a vote.

The Council’s letter claimed that the bill would “reduce federal aid to students by nearly $15 billion” and would leave “all students worse off.” It cited the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as the source. This claim is misleading, however. CBO, which estimates the costs of proposed legislation, said the bill would reduce direct spending on student loans by $14.6 billion from now to 2027, but it would also “authorize the appropriation of $112 billon over the 2018-2022 period and $210.4 billion over the 2018-2027 period.” The largest part of those authorized increases (which means increases at the discretion of Congress) would come from changes in Pell grants. Pell grants arenotloans and are designed to increase access for low-income students—something that universities usually mouth great support for.

What seems to stress out the universities is that the automatic spigot of money they have been getting from student loans may flow less freely. And there’s a good reason: Students are borrowing money to attend school, and yet 40 percent fail to graduate, even after six years. Student debt is now around $1.4 trillion.

Students who drop out face loan payments that they can’t handle—and are often surprised because no one had explained to them how much they would have to pay. While many successful students can handle their loans, those who quit suffer twice: They owe money; but without appropriate education, many can’t get a good job to pay their debt. These students would have been better off if they had taken practical non-college postsecondary schooling.

Making students aware of the costs of a four-year degree and of alternative educational opportunities is one goal of the legislation. “Businesses and industries are desperate for skilled employees,” said U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who sponsored the bill, in a recent interview. Foxx wants public policy to use the term “postsecondary education,” not “higher education,” because a bachelor’s degree is not the only route to success. “We want to see more Americans get the education they need to enter the workforce,” Foxx added.

The bill aims at helping people, not universities. That means overturning many of the assumptions that have operated for years. One is that college is the only way to success. Another is that loans are the best way to college.

PROSPER would remove many of the hoary accretions that have developed since the Higher Education Act was first authorized in 1965. For example, the bill allows Pell grants to be used for short-term education programs, far better for many students than trying to get a bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree.

The bill adds a Pell bonus for swift completion of courses, simplifies the loan application process, and reduces the dizzying array of loan programs. It protects religious freedom on campus. It increases universities’ transparency about the success of their programs. It requires due process for those accused of sexual assault. It does away with the discriminatory Public Service Loan Program, which gives special repayment treatment to those who go into the government or “public service” organizations. The bill endorses the use of competency-based educational progress as an alternative to the traditional credit-hour model.

There are many other changes because the bill represents a complete rethinking of the federal role in higher education. One provision tightens up the requirement for higher education institutions to return to the federal government a portion of students’ loans if the students fail to complete courses. “We are asking for a sense of responsibility on the part of both the student and the institution,” Foxx said. “Under this bill, institutions have to pay back some of the debt if students drop out.”

And most universities don’t like that.


Hate Speech and Intolerance at University of Delaware

Paul Driessen

University of Delaware students, faculty, administrators and trustees must truthfully answer a simple, but important question: Would this conduct have been ignored or excused if the targets had been Muslim?

A recent article by the editor-in-chief of the school’s student newspaper proclaimed “Green Dragon slayer for hire, in a geography department near you: To members of the Cornwall Alliance, environmentalists are satanic ‘Green Dragons,’ sent from the bowels of hell to threaten world order and harm the needy.” 

Caleb Owens’ article links tenured UDel geography and climatology professor David Legates and his Christian faith to “far-right American evangelicals,” fossil fuel funding and an “anti-environmentalist group,” the Cornwall Alliance. Legates is a “listed speaker and trusted affiliate” of the Alliance, it says.

The article relies heavily on Iliff School of Theology sociology professor Antony Alumkal, whose book Owens asserts “charts the long and complicated relationship between science and the American Christian evangelical movement, examining the intra-religious tensions that have accompanied various strands of science denial, including the intelligent design and anti-environmental movements.”

Expanding on this, Owens falsely claims “far-right American evangelicals have been responsible for some of the most radical opposition to scientific positions regarding topics such as climate change and evolution, working in close tandem with secular free-market idealogues.” [sic]

“To find religious justification for their activity,” he says, “Christian anti-environmentalists” and groups like Cornwall “claim a specific literal interpretation of Genesis, finding free market justification in passages that describe God giving humans unrestricted reign over [the] earth. According to the interpretation, God granted humans dominion over the planet and the license to exert power over earth’s resources. From here, environmentalist attempts to regulate fossil fuel use, for instance, stand contrary to man’s God-given destiny.”

Underscoring his bias and intolerance, a cartoon accompanying the article depicts a cute, frightened green dragon carrying a “recycle” placard being attacked by members of a Christian mob dressed in nineteenth century garb straight out of a Frankenstein movie, and brandishing a cross, torch and pitchfork.

In his imagined coup de grace, Owens claims that “groups like” Cornwall have received “indirect” funding from fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon Mobil – and “government officials and climate activist groups have questioned Legates’ funding and motivations, possibly traceable to fossil fuel industries.”

Owens didn’t even give his target organization its proper name, and clearly didn’t review its actual policy and religious positions. I’ve co-authored articles with Professor Legates and know him, the organization, Cornwall founder and national spokesman Calvin Beisner, and many of its staff and advisors very well.

First off, it’s the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Those final four words underscore what this fine organization is, what it stands for – and how disingenuous Owens’ article is.

In no way does Cornwall or anyone affiliated with it promote or condone “unrestricted reign” over our Earth or a license to exploit its resources without legal or regulatory constraints. They hold that people are integral and rightful inheritors and stewards of our planet, with a God-given right to utilize its energy and other resources to nourish and sustain humanity – responsibly, for this and future generations.

“Godly dominion,” Beisner explains, “means enhancing the fruitfulness, beauty and safety of the Earth, to the glory of God and benefit of our neighbors and humanity. Because humans are imperfect, and some take impermissible advantage of opportunities, government rules against fraud, theft, violence, pollution, and harm to other people’s health and property are necessary and proper restrictions on our dominion.”

Nor is Cornwall anti-environment or anti-environmental groups, though it is decidedly against extremist forms of environmentalism. Cornwall’s DVD lecture series “Resisting the Green Dragon” makes that distinction and, as Beisner notes, clearly and persuasively explains that “much radical environmentalism is indeed an alternative to the Christian religion, is thus acceptably termed ‘pagan’ in its nature-focused views. It also often does indeed strive to establish a powerful, dominant one-world government.”

The “Green Dragon” DVD series prompted the title for the Owens article, and some of its misguided criticisms. In his own Dragon lecture, Legates says segments of the scientific community improperly engage in “post-normal science,” altering or distorting facts to advance political goals. Owens suggests that this is not happening and claims Legates is in denial about human-caused climate change.

However, even Dr. Mike Hulme, a former member of the IPCC and University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (and an evangelical Christian), said post-normal science focuses on “the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy makers” – rather than on what should be an honest, transparent, evidence-based scientific method. Hulme called the IPCC “a classic example.”

Moreover, like numerous other scientists, Legates has explicitly affirmed that climate change is frequent and recurring, and people play a role, especially at local levels but even on global scales. What he denies is that carbon dioxide emissions are the primary driver and that it is or is likely to become catastrophic.

All this puts Cornwall at odds with political activist groups that use sustainability and climate change to justify their positions against fossil fuels and economic development. All people, Cornwall says, should have responsible access to resources needed to maintain or improve their health and wellbeing.

It is especially immoral to tell Earth’s most destitute, diseased, malnourished, energy-deprived countries and families that they can improve their ghastly situations only at the margins. Or only to the extent that they can do so only with renewable energy – and without fossil fuels, genetically engineered crops like Golden Rice, insecticides to combat disease-carrying insects, and other technologies that wealthier nations have used to give billions of people living standards that few could even dream of a century ago.

Caring, ethical students, universities, environmental groups and people of faith do not politicize or pervert “sustainable development” concepts in ways that ignore the needs of current generations. They do not say people living today must refrain from using natural resources, based on completely unpredictable raw material requirements of completely unpredictable, constantly evolving future technologies. They do not seek to protect people from exaggerated future dangers that exist mostly in bald assertions, questionable science and computer models – while perpetuating dangers that are very real, even lethal, right now. 

They do not condemn fossil fuel, nuclear and even hydroelectric energy, while promoting energy that is land-intensive, destructive to wildlife and habitats, expensive, weather dependent, unpredictable, sporadic, and completely inadequate to power modern industrialized economies, lift people out of poverty – or even manufacture more wind, solar and biofuel installations.

These principles put David Legates and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation firmly on the side of humanity, evidence-based science, and mainstream environmental and Christian thinking.

Finally, as to funding, Legates and Beisner have told me neither they nor Cornwall ever received “one dime” from any fossil fuel company. Owens’ slick, crafty suggestions that they did could have meant he has a job waiting for him at MSNBC – except that the claims are libelous, especially in the context of the headline claim that Legates is “for hire” by Cornwall or an oil company. (Meanwhile, six progressive-climate alarmist religious groups received over $3 million in nine years from liberal foundations, some of which have clear financial stakes in renewable energy policies. Why is there no problem with that?)

The University of Delaware cannot let this biased, deceitful hate speech go unchallenged – especially in an official campus newspaper, housed in a UDel building, and funded by Delaware taxpayers.

Imagine the outrage it would have generated if the professor’s conservative, environmental and climate views were rooted in the Koran and his Muslim faith. Or its cartoon had featured a woman in a hijab and a bearded man waving a banner emblazoned with a star inside a crescent moon.

And it’s not just the double standards. This is yet another attempt to intimidate and silence unwelcome voices on campuses. It has to end – and be replaced by open, robust, respectful, tolerant free speech for all.


King's College racism row: Some students support professor

Zoe Strimpel says: "Among other things, the don was enraged and felt racially insulted that the porters had insisted on calling her “Madam”, as they do all women, rather than “Doctor”, as she’d demanded.

To certain friends and I, however, it seemed highly likely that the porters’ surliness was less racism and more a natural response to an obnoxious, arrogant and imperious member of the intellectual elite telling them what to do."

Cambridge University students have rallied behind an academic who said racism at one college is "widespread".

Priyamvada Gopal claimed porters at King's College frequently "hassled" non-white staff and students at the gates, amounting to "racial profiling".

Since posting about the issue, current and former students have said they had similar experiences.

A university spokeswoman said it "abhors racism" but its investigation found no wrongdoing by staff.

The lecturer hit the headlines earlier this week when she said porters at King's had repeatedly refused to use her academic title of "Dr" and had spoken to her in a harsh and sarcastic tone.

She described the incident as a "small issue" but said it was "symptomatic of a wider problem" at the university.

"They will let white people walk through unimpeded but demand ID cards from people who are not white," she said.

"We had two students who came crying late to class because they were hassled at the gates of King's and I've never had a white student who's had this problem."

"Do I have 100% proof that it is racism? No. But one can only look at the fact people of colour are carded frequently or asked more questions frequently."

The academic, who specialises in post-colonial literature, announced in a Twitter post that she would be be refusing to supervise any students at the college in protest.

Among the many messages of support for her on Twitter, one former King's student said: "The porters liked to throw their weight around when they suspected someone shouldn't be allowed through the gates, but inevitably that suspicion didn't fall equally."

Another said: "If King's College is to be a 'dynamic & diverse community' it must take Dr Gopal's concerns seriously."

Several posts were from people from ethnic minorities who said they had experienced similar treatment: "I was constantly stopped by Cambridge porters to show my ID, to explain where I was going."

The role of university porters includes controlling entry to buildings and often maintenance and other administrative tasks.

A spokeswoman for the University of Cambridge said: "King's prides itself on being an inclusive and tolerant place, where students and staff of all backgrounds can feel secure, so we will always act swiftly and proportionately to remedy any wrongdoing.

"The college abhors racism or discrimination of any kind and would seek to stamp it out wherever it might be found.

"However, having conducted a thorough investigation of the events of Monday, we have found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff.

"Approximately 700,000 people pass through King's every year, and we receive fewer than three complaints annually.

"We have reviewed all complaints over the past three years and confirm that, where we have found our staff to be at fault, we have taken action."


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