Thursday, August 02, 2018

U.Va. Alumni Back Disputed Hiring of Trump White House Aide

Eleven prominent members of the University of Virginia’s alumni network released a letter Monday afternoon expressing support for President Donald Trump’s former legislative director, Marc Short, whose hiring as a scholar at a presidential center affiliated with the university is under partisan fire.

Short’s defenders include former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Class of ’91), conservative political commentator Kate Obenshain (’91), National Review Editor Rich Lowry (’90), and Thomas A. Saunders III, chairman of The Heritage Foundation’s board of trustees (’67).

“We join the editors of the [Richmond] Times-Dispatch to applaud your willingness thus far to stand behind Marc Short and for ‘placing education over emotion,’” the U.Va. graduates say in their letter to William J. Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center, who offered the one-year senior fellowship to Short.

In their letter, released at 3 p.m., Cuccinelli and the other U.Va. alumni express the importance of free speech on the Charlottesville campus, based on university founder Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the “illimitable freedom of the human mind.”

“This is the path of leadership and reason that the university is supposed to represent, and it offers hope not only for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, but the maintenance of a culture where dissent not only is tolerated but celebrated,” they write. 

Short, 48, left the Trump administration July 20 after serving since the president’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.

The Miller Center describes itself as “a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy, and political history” and “strives to apply the lessons of history to the nation’s most pressing contemporary governance challenges.”

The letter supporting Short, 48, who has a master’s degree from U.Va.,  follows high-profile protests launched against the former White House aide in recent days.

Monday morning, U.Va. historians William I. Hitchcock and Melvyn P. Leffler submitted resignation letters to Antholis, citing their discontent over Short’s hiring. The two remain tenured faculty in the university’s history department, as reported by Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper.

Hitchcock and Leffler said Short did not distance himself enough from Trump’s controversial response to the violence and one death that occurred last Aug. 12 after white nationalists rallying in Charlottesville were confronted by counterprotesters. At one point, the president blamed “both sides” for the bloodshed.

A petition against Short, which has garnered about 2,500 signatures, argues that he was hired “without broad consultation with the many stakeholders affected by that decision.”

U.Va. and the Miller Center have stood behind Short’s hiring, however.

In an “explanation” posted on the Miller Center’s website, Antholis wrote that because of the Trump connection he consulted on the hiring more than he normally would, including “other senior faculty members, senior fellows, members of the center’s Governing Council, and policy professionals from both political parties.” Antholis, who worked in the Clinton White House, added:

Those who know Marc gave him high marks for his intelligence and effectiveness, not to mention his integrity and collegiality. The decision to make this appointment was ultimately mine.

Marc joins a list of other practitioners, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, who form a critical bridge for our scholars to the policy-making community, and vice versa. …

Nearly all of my colleagues—including most of those who disagree with this appointment—share my belief that service in the Trump administration should not be a bar to service at the University of Virginia or the Miller Center.

Of the violence last summer, Antholis noted: “Our Governing Council issued a sharp denunciation of the perpetrators of those events—one that Marc [Short] has read and embraced.”

“The loss of any Miller Center faculty or staff member saddens me,” Antholis told Cavalier Daily in response to the two professors’ resignations. “As much as I respect the depth of feelings on this issue, the Miller Center’s core focus on the presidency, our commitment to nonpartisanship, and our demonstrated ability to promote civil discourse must remain our principal responsibility, especially in trying times.”


Starving the Socialist/Marxist Campus Beast

"The gravest internal threat to this country is not illegal aliens; it is leftist professors."

“Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.” —Thomas Sowell

For decades, Americans have been alarmed by the nation’s increasing levels of self-loathing, driven by the idea that Western civilization in general, and American exceptionalism in particular, are so corrupt they need “fundamental transformation.” DePaul philosophy professor Jason D. Hill puts the blame for this orchestrated contempt exactly where it belongs. “The gravest internal threat to this country is not illegal aliens; it is leftist professors who are waging a war against America and teaching our young people to hate this country,” he asserts.

Hill explains that college campuses are places where Western civilization “is equated with racism, cultural superiority and pervasive oppression,” courtesy of a “humanities and social science professoriat” whose primary agenda is to “have politicized knowledge supersede truth, objectivity, facts and genuine learning.”

How? By deriding reason itself as what Hill calls “a Eurocentric creation used to rationalize the existence of colonialism, slavery and genocide of native people.”

Hence the notion of “white privilege.” The concept remains as trendy as ever among the legions of apologists who somehow fail to see their own racism, despite their assertions that the color of one’s skin automatically confers or denies advantages. “White privilege means that you were born with an inherent advantage over every other race of people,” insists columnist Dahleen Glanton. “The whiteness of your skin alone allows you to leave the starting gate quicker and to run the race with fewer obstacles.” Glanton further claims that “blacks and Latinos have never gotten an equal shake. When affirmative action sought to level the playing field, white people got mad and put an end to it.”

First, affirmative action remains alive and well, especially on college campuses, courtesy of the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. The Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the “educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” Second, it isn’t white students who are challenging this odious status quo. A group of Asians — members of a minority group that is almost always omitted from any conversation about “oppression” because their success eviscerates every justification for it — is suing Harvard University for discrimination in its admission policies. When Harvard’s “holistic” admissions practices get a full airing in court — practices the university currently insists must remain confidential — it will be fascinating to learn which group of minority applicants have been allowed to “run the race with fewer obstacles.”

In the meantime, the identity politics, victimology and multiculturalism at the heart of the campus grievance culture remain in play, and as Hill notes, they have “reached such astronomical heights in U.S. universities that trigger warnings are issued for students who feel oppressed and traumatized because they have to read the writings of living or dead white men.”

Such infantilization doesn’t stop there. Students who feel emotionally traumatized by such “horrors” as dissenting viewpoints, or the election of Donald Trump (an “oh, the humanity!” moment for the Snowflake Set if ever there was one), have been assuaged with Play-Doh, coloring books, Legos, hot chocolate, and puppy videos, all while ensconced in “safe spaces.”

Those safe spaces, sold as places where identity politics-addled students could “discuss problems they shared in a forum where they were sheltered from epithets and other attacks,” as columnist Frank Furedi put it, have become segregated spaces, highlighted by the University of California’s acquiescence to black students’ demands for segregated dorm rooms. Segregated dorm rooms they laughingly tried to rationalize by calling them “themed living communities.”

“When everyone retreats to their separate corners,” Furedi writes, “that subverts the foundation on which a tolerant and liberal university is constituted.”

On today’s college campuses that subversion is a feature, not a bug. It is reinforced by an explosion of campus bureaucrats who now “outnumber faculty 2:1 at public universities and 2.5:1 at private colleges, double the ratio in the 1970s,” and whose primary reason for being is to enforce campus “diversity” standards, The Economist reveals.

Thus, unsurprisingly, tuition costs have soared over 1,100% in the past four decades and precipitated an average of more than $30,000 of student debt for 68% of 2015 bachelor’s degree recipients.

This noxious stew, one that engenders demands for “free” college educations, along with numerous other aspects of the socialist/Marxist agenda on campus, is the “educational trope that mediates all forms of learning in today’s universities,” Hill explains. “Rejecting canonical texts and their alleged white supremacist authors is related to advancing socialism,” he adds. “Both appeal to a politics of victimology that purportedly only an emergent brand of post-colonial Marxism could solves.”

Post-colonial Marxism it all its jackboot emanations remains in full swing at places like the University of Michigan, whose speech code prohibits saying anything “bothersome” or “hurtful.” The code is enforced by “bias response teams” tasked with investigating its violations — on or off campus. At Pierce College in Los Angeles, First Amendment rights are confined to a 616 sq. ft. “free speech area” requiring campus administrative authorization to enter it. And Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Evergreen State University are places where conservatives (and insufficiently “pure” leftists) have been shouted down or driven off campus, sometimes in fear for their lives.

In the meantime, reality bites. According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers student graduates aren’t nearly as proficient in the competencies deemed necessary to enter the workforces as they think they are. In fact, the gap between students’ self-perception and that of potential employers is considerable.

Nonetheless, Hill worries about the bigger picture. “If elitist scholars infect the minds of our students with anti-Americanism, who will defend America when those who truly threaten us from the outside descend with intent of destroying our republic?” he asks.

It’s the wrong question. Who is going defend America against the legions of semi-educated students whose increasing infatuation with socialism is bad enough, but far less problematic than a University of Chicago GenForward Survey of Americans, ages 18 to 34, revealing that “62 percent believe we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems.”

Strong government? How remarkably ill-informed. Our Constitution is the most compelling argument in world history for limited government. That colleges have become indoctrination centers promoting the benefits of strong government — in all its Constitution- and Liberty-shredding parameters — is nothing less than organized subversion.

Hill wants to put stop to it. “Withdraw your support and leave them to fund themselves,” he urges university donors. “Let them pit their wares on the free market, where they will be left homeless. The world you desired no longer exists in our universities. It lies elsewhere, in a philosophic system waiting to be discovered or created.”

President Donald Trump is indirectly abetting the effort. Via executive order, he has established the National Council for the American Worker, an initiative aimed at steering both students and older workers toward high-demand jobs. As the New York Post notes, “the Council hopes to shift the popular mindset that every child must go to college.”

It is a shift millions of Americans would heartily embrace.


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to roll back the "gainful employment" rule promulgated by the Obama administration

Another damaging Obama regulation is heading for the ash heap, which is great news for students.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that the Department of Education is planning to fully rescind the “gainful employment” regulations promulgated by the Obama administration.

Those regulations largely target proprietary or “for-profit” institutions of higher education. They require vocational programs, along with some programs at community colleges, to achieve certain debt-to-income ratios for their graduates. That is, students who participate in those programs must have a certain level of income in comparison with their student debt: Loan repayments can constitute no more than 8 percent of their earnings, and no more than 20 percent of their discretionary income.

Schools are considered to be in the “warning zone” and risk losing access to student loans and grants if their graduates have debt-to-earnings ratios between 8 and 12 percent or between 20 and 30 percent of their discretionary income. Institutions whose students have debt in excess of 12 percent of their earnings or in excess of 30 percent of their discretionary income are considered to have failed the gainful employment rule.

This is a classic government-knows-best policy that would have significantly limited choices for students. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is right to roll back the policy.

The Obama gainful employment rule was clearly designed to affect certain types of schools. The rule was not applied evenly across all institutions—traditional four-year colleges were insulated from it. Yet, if the regulation were extended to traditional colleges offering gainful employment-eligible programs, they would also largely fail the measure. This suggests the rule’s application to for-profit schools was more about politics than prudent policy.

This rule would have placed unrealistic expectations on many graduates. Considering that the average college graduate holds $29,000 in student loan debt, students would have to earn more than $32,000 upon graduation to fulfill the 8 percent debt-to-earnings ratio. What’s more, the average debt-to-earnings ratio among all graduates of U.S. institutions broadly is 13 percent, and for more than a third of those students, the ratio is 12 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Specifically, 26 percent of graduates from public universities, 39 percent of graduates from private universities, and 35 percent of graduates from for-profit institutions had debt-to-earnings ratios higher than 12 percent in 2009. For-profit schools actually fared better on this measure than private universities, and only 9 percentage points worse than public four-year institutions.

Simply put, the arbitrary 8 to 12 percent standard would be disastrous if applied evenly to schools across the board, as many programs and four-year public institutions would fail the gainful employment rules. Yet the Obama administration chose to target proprietary institutions and some programs at community colleges while shielding other schools. Marc Jerome of the James G. Martin Center explains:

The School of Visual Arts is a well-respected, highly competitive fine arts and design college in New York that happens to be for-profit. It has a high graduation rate (66 percent), a low student loan default rate (7 percent), and a low number of defaulters (59). These are exemplary outcomes, but because its graduates pursue creative and fine art careers that do not pay very much the first few years after graduation, many of its programs won’t pass the regulation. … [V]irtually all programs at fine arts colleges in the country would fail the rule. However, only for-profit programs like those at the School of Visual Arts would be penalized and ultimately shut down as a result. The non-profit schools get a free pass.

In addition to unfairly targeting proprietary schools, the rule limits options for students. As Harry C. Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, explained in a congressional hearing:

The black-owned businesses that I represent rely on graduates of proprietary colleges targeted by the recent gainful employment rule. These proprietary colleges serve minority, low-income, and high-risk students at much greater numbers than traditional four-year institutions and have more success doing it. As issued by the Department of Education, the gainful employment rule will limit college access to scores of minority students.

Rolling back the gainful employment rule is smart policy that will ensure students have access to a wide variety of higher education options to help them achieve their life and career goals. One caveat, however. The New York Times reports:

The Education Department wrote in the draft rule that it planned to update the scorecard with information about specific programs for all colleges and universities that are eligible for federal financial aid, ‘thus improving transparency and providing information to students to inform their enrollment decisions through a market-based accountability system.’

Adding new reporting requirements to the federal college scorecard isn’t ideal, but it is preferable to a politicized gainful employment rule that targets the proprietary sector, threatens students attending these schools with the loss of student loans and grants, and ultimately, limits choices for students.

Many students seek out vocational training as a means of establishing a meaningful, long-term career in a critical field. The government should not penalize them for that choice.


No comments: