Friday, May 15, 2020

Demanding a Refund: Duke is Latest University to Be Sued Amid Pandemic Lockdown

Following in the footsteps of students in several class action lawsuits against top colleges, students of the elite Duke University in North Carolina are demanding a refund for their expensive education destroyed by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

Law firm Hagens Berman, which has taken the reins on several legal actions against expensive colleges not returning money to jilted students, said that the plaintiff in the most recent filing against Duke is simply not getting what he paid for.

Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman noted that Duke's shift to entirely virtual academics is a far cry from what was sold to enrolling students and families writing enormous checks for education.

“Duke prides itself on its ‘exceptional academics,’ and ‘community of support,’ and there’s a reason hopeful students choose Duke over higher education via remote learning."

“While many schools nationwide offer and highlight remote learning capabilities as a primary component of their efforts to deliver educational value (see, e.g., Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, University of Phoenix-Arizona), Defendant is not such a school,” the suit states. “Furthermore, touting its campus, Duke notes that its ‘campus of 8,600+ acres gives students space to roam—both physically and intellectually. But it isn’t just the setting that makes Duke unlike any other university. It’s the feeling—the kinetic energy of connections forged, creativity sparked, and ideas born.’”

“Students at Duke suffered an abrupt and unprecedented upheaval after their 2020 spring break, evicted from the dorms and switching entirely to remote learning,” Berman added. “No more library access, hands-on lab experiences, gym access or in-person access to professors, all of which our client and many other Duke students paid for and expected to receive.”

Duke University is a private research institute that costs upwards of $74,000 annually for undergraduate students. Just like fellow high-end research college the University of Southern California, also being sued by students, access to laboratories and interactive classrooms is crucial in completing collegiate assignments in pursuit of high-level, research-based education.

Duke, USC, and several other high-end universities are being pursued by current students for total refunds of the 2020 spring semester tuition. As the COVID-19 lockdowns have shut down these campuses, students are left to wonder why they aren't being offered a refund outright by schools so clearly not able to give them an education.

Exorbitant tuition and housing costs aside, most elite, private colleges also benefit from a multi-million or even multi-billion dollar endowment. Several of those schools, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, returned money awarded to them as part of an education stimulus via the CARES Act. Duke, which has an $8.6 billion endowment, did not accept the $6.7 million in stimulus from the April emergency funding act.

"In reviewing what the funds would be used for and also what the requirements were from the government in terms of reporting and ambiguity, we determined that there were some fairly significant legal and regulatory issues that were unclear to us and could have had a significant impact," said Duke vice president for public affairs and government relations Michael Schoenfeld.

The university did set up a $4 million fund in emergency aid for students in sudden financial straits, but offered no amount of money as a refund to students banned from campus and locked out of their paid-for dormitories. In addition to Duke and USC, Hagens Berman is also representing clients looking for refunded tuition from Boston University, Vanderbilt, Brown, and George Washington University.


The Academic and Social Benefits of Homeschooling

Homeschooling works. The roughly 2 million children who currently learn at home join a millennia-old practice supported by many government officials, scholars, college officials, and employers.

While mainstream America has embraced homeschooling as a viable and positive educational option—and as 55 million K-12 students and their parents have been thrust into “crisis-teaching at home”—the angst of some academics over homeschooling has abruptly emerged.

Professors Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard University and James Dwyer of William and Mary School of Law organized a summer meeting to “focus on problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight.” In a highly controversial article in Harvard Magazine, Erin O’Donnell advanced Bartholet’s arguments in favor of a homeschooling ban.

Yet, what does the evidence tell us about homeschool educational and social outcomes? Is there any sound corpus of evidence that homeschooled children are actually educationally deprived or maltreated? And what worldview drives anti-homeschoolers such as Bartholet and Dwyer?

Most reviews of homeschooling research reveal generally positive learning outcomes for children.

Joseph Murphy and Brian Ray provide quite optimistic reviews, while other appraisals present positive, albeit more tentative, conclusions. A one-of-its-kind review of only peer-reviewed research by Ray revealed that 11 of the 14 peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement found that homeschool students significantly outperformed conventionally schooled children. Both of the publicly available state-provided data sets showed higher-than-average test scores for homeschooled children.

A similar pattern emerges for the social, emotional, and psychological development of the homeschooled.

The clear majority of peer-reviewed studies show that homeschoolers often have better parent-child relationships and friendships than conventionally schooled children. Homeschoolers are happy, satisfied, and civically engaged.

A growing body of research indicates that graduates of home-based education excel. Eleven of the 16 peer-reviewed studies on success into adulthood (including college) showed that homeschoolers had better results for political tolerance, college GPA, and college retention than students in conventional schools. After reviewing the relevant literature, Gloeckner and Jones concluded that the “comparative results of the studies reported in this review, combined with the data collected from college admission officers provide evidence that homeschooling is an effective alternative path to college for the children of many families.”

Homeschoolers are not being educationally deprived, maltreated, or abused. On the contrary, the research literature suggests that rates of abuse (e.g., physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect) are lower among homeschoolers than institutionally schooled children.

Although there are certainly cases when homeschoolers are abused (and such cases should be prosecuted), banning homeschooling is not the answer, nor will it improve education or make children safer.

As a society we do not, for example, close public schools when a child is abused there. When scholars like Bartholet, Fineman and Worthington, and Dwyer and Peters advocate for a total or presumptive ban on homeschooling, they do so without solid support from the empirical literature. When Bartholet and others advocate for forcing children to enter the public school system, they are ignoring evidence that only approximately 40 percent of conventionally schooled students are at, or above, proficiency in reading and mathematics.

Certainly, many public educators are engaged in terrific efforts to provide high-quality education, but it is also clear that the public school system has significant limitations.

Why, then, do some academics want more government control and restrictions on homeschooling? We think it is not hard to perceive: They do not approve of the values and beliefs of the parents who choose to homeschool.

One of us partially addressed the answer in a scholarly journal some years ago. Ray identified four classes of negativity toward parent-led home-based education. Some scholars make theoretical arguments that government schools are the gold standard of education that advances the common good, while private schooling is bad for society. A second group argues that homeschooling is an attempt to “cocoon” one’s children from ideas and people that the parents disdain. Another category holds that homeschooling harms children philosophically, psychologically, religiously, physically, and educationally. And the fourth group goes against homeschooling by theorizing why the state should have more domination over children and their parents.

Certain academics’ agitation over homeschooling appears to be based on their perspective that the state—and not parents—should control the education of all children.
In the end, however, all of those categories of opposition are founded on different values, beliefs, and presuppositions than those at the core of parent-led homeschooling. Dwyer and Peters, for example, presuppose that “[t]he state must have the ultimate authority to determine what children’s interests are” and that the state is the entity that shall decide over what aspects of a child’s life his parents have authority.

In a similar vein, Bartholet argues that the state, not the parent, shall have the ultimate authority to decide what and how children shall be taught. Parents, in her world, must prove to the state that they deserve permission to educate their children outside of the government’s control. Fineman’s philosophical zeal is so clear that anything other than state-funded and state-controlled education must be banned by the government.

These kinds of ideas simply stem from their philosophical and religious worldviews. It is “natural” for them to conclude that the civil government must control children’s teaching, training, and indoctrination. It is natural because their worldviews cannot comprehend or tolerate a worldview such as classical liberalism or Christianity that holds the state should not control boys’ and girls’ educational formation, unless parents are abusive.

While the relevant research has limitations, scholarly research shows that homeschooling has positive outcomes for children. There is certainly no body of clear evidence that homeschooling undermines children’s academic and social development and should be restricted. Certain academics’ agitation over homeschooling appears to be based on their perspective that the state—and not parents—should control the education of all children.

Compared to conventional students, homeschool graduates are more likely to

have higher college GPAs,

be politically tolerant,

be agreeable and conscientious,

have a more positive college experience, and

be self-employed.

In summary, opponents of homeschooling lack empirical data for their arguments, and judges and governmental officials consistently hold that parents have the right to educate their children at home.

Those arguing for state domination lost their major battles in legislatures, courts, and the public mind in the 1980s and 1990s. Homeschooling advocates have strong support in protecting their freedom to educate outside state-run systems.

College personnel, employers, and independent business advocates should be glad about homeschooling. It is a form of free enterprise. It costs taxpayers less than public schooling and its graduates are well-equipped to be the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, parents, householders, creators, and everyday citizens. In summary, we agree with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s analysis of this issue: “The risk to children is not from homeschooling. The risk is from radical leftist scholars seeking to impose their values on our children.”


The Dire Economic Plight of College Students

Ineligible for most federal relief and with no jobs to graduate into, young people are on the brink of crisis.

As the government attempts to ease the economic pain caused by the coronavirus with stimulus packages and one-time checks, its response leaves one demographic to fend for themselves: Americans aged 18 to 25. College students and new graduates are too old for their families to receive the CARES Act “child bonus” of $500, and likely haven’t filed taxes to qualify them for the $1,200 stimulus check. This places them in a legislative loophole and leaves them uniquely vulnerable to economic hardship.

“There is virtually no support if a person graduating from high school or college is jobless,” says Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat, economics professor at Barnard College, in an interview with the Prospect. “We’re telling kids, go to college. Don’t get married early, don’t have kids early, go to college and get a career started before you start doing any of that stuff. Then these kids are doing everything we told them … and then we say, oh since you didn’t do any of those things, those are all of the things that all of our assistance is based on.”

Graduates who didn’t work full-time are also unlikely to qualify for any unemployment insurance, because they wouldn’t have met the earning minimums yet, despite paying taxes into the unemployment insurance fund, Ananat explains. Many workers who make federal-level minimum wage may also find themselves in that position as well. Unlike other Western countries where you can claim unemployment because you’re unemployed, Americans can only claim that benefit when they have lost their jobs. While the CARES Act added the category of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to catch workers who fall through the normal eligibility cracks, many states have not updated their unemployment systems to allow jobless workers to access it.

The only program these “new entrants” into the workforce may qualify for is SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps.

“I think a lot of college students really need the money right now,” says Demauris Dixon, a senior at Western Illinois University. “I feel like [Congress] needs to know what college students are really feeling and should let college students have a voice. We should have a bigger outlet for students to speak on. I think anything that’s taking up someone’s time like schoolwork is a job, in my opinion, so it wouldn’t hurt to give college students money for [this situation] that’s going on out of our control.”

The absence of attention on college students may spring from the fact that Congress has the wrong idea of who college students are. “I don’t think it’s entirely political … But it is very hard for people to not think of a college student as a privileged person,” Ananat says. “In the popular imagination, if you say college student, they think of a frat boy.”

By contrast, a 2019 survey of college students found that almost 50 percent of college students are food insecure, and about 10 percent reported having to temporarily live with a relative or a friend, an indication of housing insecurity. Ananat explains that people are working to change the privileged image of college students, but as post-secondary-school degrees have become more important and the institutions more diverse, the stereotype hasn’t kept up with reality.

For many in the United States, the higher overall earning potential from university degrees makes up over time for the cost and debt needed to graduate. However, with the economy locked down to stop the spread of the virus, anyone who didn’t have a job lined up already will struggle to transition into the labor market. Even some graduates with secured full-time offers or internships have reported that their offers are being revoked or start dates delayed, according to surveys from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Although this affects all students hoping to gain work experience this summer, seniors approaching graduation are especially vulnerable. Dixon, who will graduate after the summer session at Western Illinois, planned to work during the summer months, as he does every year. In addition to his part-time gig as a rapper and performer in Chicago, he was hoping to find a post in his areas of study, either broadcast journalism or performance art. Instead he’s finding that music venues will be closed until 2021, and media outlets are shutting their doors because of financial difficulties.

“Of course right now, all the students are back home. They’re in school and they’re at home, which is novel,” Ananat says. “Where they are now is almost certainly where they’re going to stay after the Zoom meeting where they graduate. They’re going to stay in the same room they were before and during that Zoom meeting. There’s none of that transition right now from student to graduate.”

The uncertainty is being felt in campus recruiting offices across the country. Recruiters are switching to virtual recruiting tools, but only 39 percent of offices believe they will stay in line with their schedules, while another 38 percent are unsure how this will affect their operations, according to a NACE survey from the beginning of May. The survey also says that almost 50 percent of college career centers have implemented spending freezes.

Amid uncertainty, some universities are trying to fill the gap with emergency grants. “My university is trying to help out, but I think it should be a federal thing and I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be,” Dixon says. “Students need [support] just as much as anybody.”

Not all institutions are able to assist students, and some may be worried about their own longevity as well. Community colleges are particularly vulnerable to budget cuts or closures when state governments need to balance budgets, as some states hit with the coronavirus are already doing.

“We are in very unknown territory because we haven’t had anything like this in 100 years. Economists are trying to learn as much as they can from the 1918 flu, which is a big stretch,” Ananat says. “There’s some optimism that if somehow they invented a treatment tomorrow that made this into the common cold, this might be a pretty quick recovery. The problem is we just don’t know how long this will take to recover from, and where we’ll have setbacks.”


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Don’t seize Harvard’s endowment. Cut off federal funding

Conservatives often have the right diagnosis of the problem but the wrong solution. One such case is the proposal for the federal government to tax, or seize, the endowments of Ivy League universities. While the authors accurately assess the problems of the modern ivory tower, their self-defeating recommendation would ignore the real source of the problem, violate fundamental rights, and ultimately legitimize the Left’s thuggish suppression of conservative organizations.

Getting the problem right

Confiscating universities’ endowments has been the topic of two recent articles: “It’s Time To Tax The University Endowments” by Zak Slayback in The American Conservative, and “Seize the Endowments” by Will Chamberlain in the recently relaunched Human Events. While their critiques differ somewhat, their recommendation is identical.

Both begin by reviewing the well-known shortcomings of modern academia. Administrators are quick to raise tuition, hostile toward conservatives, indiscreet with high-value technological secrets, facilitate foreign propaganda in exchange for funding and indoctrinate students in useless or harmful ideologies such as intersectionality and critical theory. This often makes earning a college degree a poor return on investment. And in the age of coronavirus, universities’ ample endowments did not discourage them from laying off workers and even demanding federal stimulus money.

It’s impossible to quibble with their assessment, which I share. (The first media attention I ever got as a writer came in response to an article critiquing the Ivy League, and I’ve written two books and countless articles about political extremism funded by tax-exempt foundations.) The strongest retort is that some university workers may fare better on unemployment.

Chamberlain adds a critique about student loans:

College debt is uniquely odious; it’s the only debt that’s non-dischargeable, and it’s offered to children. Today, 44.2 million Americans carry almost $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

Technically, you can discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy, if it presents an undue hardship. The government also caps student loan payments based on your income and forgives student loans after you make 10 to 25 years of regular payments, regardless of your outstanding balance.

But the point remains: High college tuition prevents some students from attending and shackles others with crushing debt. The problem is so acute that we devoted the Spring 2019 issue of Religion & Liberty to the topic. But as much as I share their sentiments, I cannot endorse their conclusion.

Three wrongs on the Right

There are at least three problems with their proposal to confiscate university endowments. First, Chamberlain encourages the federal government to “seize” nonprofits’ private property in part for “attacking our voters.” Beto O’Rourke made the same argument when he proposed revoking the tax-exempt status of churches and synagogues that oppose same-sex marriage. It’s a short intellectual journey from crafting policies transparently designed to punish one nonprofit to punishing entire classes of socially disfavored nonprofits. Ask the Tea Party organizations that applied for 501(c)4 status under the last administration. Second, the government created by these policies would be anathema to our Founding Fathers. These arguments will receive greater development in a separate article.

However, the third problem with their argument is that they do nothing to rein in the greatest force behind skyrocketing tuition costs and student loan debts: federal spending.

Seizing college endowments while maintaining federal funding is like trying to save a drowning man while shoving a fire hose down his throat.

Eliminate the source of the problem: federal funding

Chamberlain alludes to the problem of federal funding in his article only to drop the subject. “The Federal Government has already spent trillions of dollars to make a college education more affordable,” he writes. “All that has happened is that price-gouging universities have spent like drunken sailors on administrators and facilities.” The government spent $172.4 billion on higher education in 2017 at the federal, state, and local level—not including federally subsidized student loans. Chamberlain notes the results:

Inflated tuition costs, of course, is largely to blame ... In the past 20 years, the average tuition and fees at private National Universities have jumped 154%. In-state tuition and fees at public National Universities have grown the most, increasing 221%.

That makes debt-laden college graduates (and non-graduates) “the victims of fraud, a fraud jointly perpetrated by their alma mater and the federal government.” Curiously, Chamberlain does not draw the most obvious conclusion from this data: The government should stop perpetrating its role in modern academic fraud.

Conservatives documented the connection between increased federal funding and higher tuition more than 30 years ago. They even have a name for it: The Bennett hypothesis. In a New York Times op-ed on February 18, 1987, then-Secretary of Education William Bennett wrote:

[I]ncreases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase. ... Federal student aid policies do not cause college price inflation, but there is little doubt that they help make it possible.

Since 1978—the year the federal government began offering subsidized loans to all students—the cost of college tuition has risen by 1,375%, or 238% since 1980 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Every dollar in federal financial aid raises tuition by between 60 cents and a dollar, researchers have found. For instance, Nicholas Turner found for every dollar on federal aid, colleges reduced their private scholarships by 83 cents. And the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that federally subsidized loans’ effect on tuition is “most pronounced for more expensive degrees” and “those offered by private institutions,” like Harvard. In other words, the proposal to seize the endowments does nothing to remove federal incentives for the behavior they deplore.

Seizing college endowments while maintaining federal funding is like trying to save a drowning man while shoving a fire hose down his throat.

Chamberlain also ignores another dirty little secret: The federal government is the primary holder of student loans. Under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Barack Obama virtually nationalized the student loan market. Thanks to that Obamacare-related legislation, the federal government holds $1.2 trillion of the $1.5 trillion in total student loan debt. Student loans now make up almost 60% of all federal assets.

The federal government enabled universities to drive up tuition costs. Then it set itself up to collect an ever-increasing share of student loan debts. Government intervention into education created a trillion-plus-dollar debt crisis of which it and academia are the joint beneficiaries.


From Dr. Fauci, a reality check for colleges and students as they look toward fall

The nation’s top infectious disease expert on Tuesday offered a blunt reality check to college presidents who have been bullish about reopening their campuses to a flood of students this fall.

During a Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Congress that there are unlikely to be vaccines or treatments widely available by this fall to help assure students worried about returning to campus life. Asked, for instance, by a Tennessee senator what he would tell the chancellor of the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Fauci offered a stark answer.

“I would be very realistic with the chancellor and tell her that in this case, that the idea of having treatments available, or a vaccine, to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something of a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said.


Australia: Queensland university in the pocket of China

Liberal senator James Paterson has taken aim at universities' reliance on international students, using a speech in Parliament to reveal confidential details about the University of Queensland vice-chancellor's pay incentives to deepen ties with China.

In a late-night speech on Tuesday, Senator Paterson said a whistleblower from the university had given him a copy of last year's senior staff remuneration report, which showed vice-chancellor Peter Hoj had received a $200,000 bonus based partly on his success in growing the university's relationship with China.

According to Senator Paterson's read-out of the document, one of the key performance indicators Professor Hoj was judged against was a "sound and strategic positioning in China" because of its growth as a research provider and it being a "very important source of international students" for at least another five years.

The remuneration report noted Professor Hoj had visited China six times over 2018 and 2019 and the demand for UQ courses from Chinese students had "continued to grow strongly and we will likely end up with 63 per cent of commencing international students coming from China in Semester 1, 2020".

Professor Hoj was awarded his "significant" bonus in 2019 even though, Senator Paterson said, he had not been as successful against another key performance indicator seeking "greater diversity" in the international student body to make the university more financially resilient.

"Despite his failure to achieve this KPI, the vice-chancellor was awarded a bonus of $200,000, a significant sum in anyone's language. Perhaps this is because the remuneration committee regarded the achievement of the China KPI as more significant," Senator Paterson said.

"But far from an achievement warranting a bonus paid from student fees and taxpayers dollars, the prospect of 63 per cent of the university's foreign students coming from only one country should have been an alarm bell for the chancellor Peter Varghese, and the governing body of the university, the UQ senate."

Senator Paterson said international students were welcome on campuses and brought a range of positives but universities had not properly managed the risks in the market.

"Even before the coronavirus, there were good reasons to be concerned about this dependence, particularly on students from China," he said.

"There was always a risk of a downturn in this market, whether due to natural economic events or as a result of deliberate policy measures introduced by a foreign government we have limited influence over."

He said over-reliance on China also presented non-financial risks because the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party does not uphold free speech and open academic inquiry. "These non-financial risks are readily apparent at UQ," he said.

Senator Paterson pointed to the matter of Univesity of Queensland student activist Drew Pavlou, who is facing disciplinary action related to his protest activities, which have targeted the university's China ties.

Senator Paterson criticised UQ for its approach to hosting a Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute culture and language centre. He said the original agreement had been "hopelessly inadequate" as it handed too much power to the Beijing-based headquarters.

The university has also offered four courses established with Chinese government funding – an arrangement which has since been ceased.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What Scientific Decline?

As a neurobiologist working at a local university for more than 30 years, I read Edward Archer’s provocative critique of scientific research with interest. We agree about a number of problems in the scientific enterprise, arising both from flaws inherent in people and from the sometimes-damaging pressures from funders and administrators whose goals aren’t focused on scientific discovery. Nevertheless, I believe Archer is mistaken in his main claim: U.S. science is not in intellectual decline, and evidence for moral decline is weak.

Most basic research in the biomedical sciences is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by professors who have received NIH grant awards for investigator-initiated research projects. Typically, a principal investigator (PI) experiences severe pressures, driven by the quest for discovery, as well as the need to get research funding (and often the desire for academic promotion).

Those pressures can be damaging to the PI and their staff and family, and may lead a few unbalanced scientists to engage in misconduct and commit fraud. The researcher’s university can drive much of that pressure. Over the past 50 years, research universities have become more and more reliant on the incidental government subsidies provided by the NIH to cover the “indirect costs” Archer mentions, as well as the “direct costs” that help to pay the salaries of academic scientists and their staff.

Not surprisingly, department chairs, deans, and others in the administration are eager for faculty to get more NIH money, and some researchers may spend more time chasing funding than doing research. However, Archer overstates the problem. Excessive “grantsmanship” is a real problem, but while it affects research faculty, it has little impact on students or their education.

Indirect costs may seem a cushy and perhaps illicit subsidy from the NIH, but biomedical research really does require buildings, libraries, technical services, personnel management, and many other services with real costs. Archer notes that 10 percent of universities receive 90 percent of NIH funding, citing this imbalance as evidence of corruption or misconduct. But he neglects to mention that most of the best research is performed in a small subset of institutions. Research funding is not a welfare program, and its allocation should be based not on need or on equality, but on merit.

Archer notes that from “1970 to 2010, as taxpayer funding for public health research increased 700 percent, the number of retractions of biomedical research articles increased more than 900 percent, with most due to misconduct.” Fraudulent research is of widespread concern within the biomedical community, but those statistics are misleading.

Archer neglects to correct for the three-fold increase in the total number of articles published in that interval, nor for the increased number of papers originating from non-Western countries (for which plagiarism is more common as Serena Stretton et al. of Australia’s ProScribe Medical Communications found), nor does he mention that scrutiny for misconduct has markedly intensified during that period, as Princeton University’s Charles Gross noted. Archer’s neglect of those confounding factors calls his conclusion into question. Since the number of retractions has increased just as critical scrutiny for misconduct and journals’ willingness to admit it has increased, it’s impossible to know whether the rate of scientific fraud in the U.S. is actually increasing, decreasing, or unchanging over time.

Likewise, he notes that “ubiquitous sexual harassment is also emblematic of the moral decline in academic science. The number of academics found responsible for sexual harassment has skyrocketed,“ but he disregards that conduct either ignored or considered acceptable in the past is no longer so. I suspect that sexual harassment in the U.S. has dropped precipitously over the past 30 years; Archer’s failure to mention that the bar for defining sexual harassment has lowered while its investigation has become more proactive suggests either disingenuous argument or fuzzy reasoning.

Archer points to incompetence as another serious problem in scientific research. Indeed, it’s a problem, but hardly a new one. Why should we think that researchers were more competent in the 20th century (or the 18th century, or the 15th century)?

Archer notes possible causes of the decline in academic research, but his essay assumes that such a decline exists:

For most of the past century, the United States was the pre-eminent nation in science and technology. The evidence for that is beyond dispute: Since 1901, American researchers have won more Nobel prizes in medicine, chemistry, and physics than any other nation…it is not surprising that across the political landscape Americans consider the funding of scientific research to be both a source of pride and a worthy investment. Nevertheless, in his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that the pursuit of government grants would have a corrupting influence on the scientific community.

He implies that Eisenhower’s warning was prophetic, suggesting that there was a decline after 1961. To test that claim, I counted the number of U.S. Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics, and medicine in 20-year blocks (the date of Eisenhower’s warning is shown by the black arrow). I conclude that Archer’s hypothesis is incorrect.

Of course, many “American” prizewinners were born in other countries (reflecting one of America’s enduring strengths), but the trend is obvious. Contrary to Archer’s claim, the data suggest instead that government support of science (which grew dramatically beginning in the 1950s after Sputnik) has enhanced the production of world-class science in the US, not degraded it. My opinion is widely shared in the international scientific community. For example, a 2016 study reports that “the pre-eminent role [of the US] is particularly marked in the life sciences and most health-related…fields.”

In summary, Dr. Archer’s essay is flawed. As a fellow researcher who has witnessed questionable funding decisions and has suffered occasional professional misfortunes arising from others’ errors or misjudgments, I can appreciate his outrage, but I believe that his essay is dangerously misleading in suggesting that increased governmental support for science has caused net damage to scientific research in the U.S.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s comment about democracy, the NIH extramural funding system is the worst system of supporting science, except for all the others.
The NIH system of awarding funds based on the advice of scientific peers who are asked to evaluate grant proposals is flawed. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s comment about democracy, the NIH extramural funding system is the worst system of supporting science, except for all the others.

There is room for improvement in the way science is supported, but this improvement requires a clear understanding of its current flaws and thoughtful consideration of possible remedies. The U.S. remains the world’s center for scientific research, and the notion that cutting governmental support will improve its performance seems misguided at best. America’s research community certainly owes a debt of gratitude to American taxpayers, but I believe that, over the long run, the current system of scientific funding has proved brilliantly successful and continues to repay the investment made by our country’s citizens.

Richard Weinberg is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology & Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he conducts basic research in synaptic neuroscience. He received a PhD from the University of Washington in 1982.

Editor’s note: Below is a response from Edward Archer.

I read Dr. Weinberg’s critique and defense of the status quo with interest but was dismayed by his evasion of my argument and the use of unsupported opinion rather than fact. In my essay, I argued that academic research is intellectually and morally corrupt due to a lack of accountability, and offered 40+ links to primary research (including my own) and reputable sources for support. The strongest evidence is the “replication crisis” (i.e., the irreproducibility of research results), and cited my work in nutrition that showed how incompetence and fraud drive irreproducibility and meaningless studies. Yet on this ‘crisis’ of accountability, Weinberg was silent. However, he did offer his (unsupported) opinion on the moral decline stating: “Sexual harassment in the U.S. has dropped precipitously over the past 30 years.” Given that the number of women in STEM has increased exponentially over this period, Weinberg’s belief defies both common sense and the evidence.

In closing, Dr. Weinberg’s evasions and ‘evidence-free’ opinions are emblematic of the ubiquity of intellectual decline in academic discourse.


DeVos finalizes due process protections for those accused of sexual assault on college campuses

The changes, which critics argue may discourage victims from coming forward, include provisions under the federal law Title IX that allow those accused of harassment or assault to question evidence and cross-examine their accusers.

The department under DeVos has said it is trying to strike a balance that is fair to all parties.

"Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault," DeVos said in a statement Wednesday. "This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process."

The new rules, which are set to go into effect in August, narrow the definition of sexual misconduct on campuses. They define sexual harassment as a "school employee conditioning education benefits on participation in unwelcome sexual conduct," "unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity" or "sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking."

The Obama administration's guidelines for schools -- issued in a 2011 memo referred to as a "dear colleague" letter -- had a broader definition of sexual harassment. Under the new regulation, schools will have to investigate the allegations in any formal complaint but dismiss any allegations of conduct that doesn't meet the definition of sexual harassment.

The final rule's definition of sexual harassment also differs from federal law's definition of what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature."

The regulation will expand to apply to the school's programs or activities on and off campus, including fraternity or sorority houses, but excludes allegations that occur during study abroad programs.

Schools will still have an option to use the "preponderance of evidence" standard -- the lowest standard of proof when judging sexual violence cases under Title IX, which protects people from sexual discrimination in education or other programs receiving federal aid -- or use a higher standard, "clear and convincing evidence."

Colleges and universities also will be required to hold live hearings with cross-examinations of both parties. Cross-examinations won't be done by the students personally, but by an "adviser." Either party can request the hearing be held virtually in separate rooms.

Kenneth Marcus, the assistant secretary of the department's Office for Civil Rights, said that the new regulation is a "game-changer" and "establishes that schools and colleges must take sexual harassment seriously."

"It marks the end of the false dichotomy of either protecting survivors, while ignoring due process, or protecting the accused, while disregarding sexual misconduct," he said in a statement. "There is no reason why educators cannot protect all of their students -- and under this regulation there will be no excuses for failing to do so."

Victim advocacy groups, however, argue that the new regulations diminish survivors and discourage them from reporting sexual assault and harassment.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, said that "if this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault."

Dan Schorr, a former New York sex crimes prosecutor who now leads the consulting firm Ankura's sexual misconduct and Title IX Investigations practice, told CNN that many schools are "extremely unprepared" to implement the live hearings called for under the new guidance.

Congressional Democrats, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, have slammed DeVos for issuing regulations that are "completely unrelated to combating coronavirus."

"Our education system is facing an unprecedented crisis. But instead of focusing on helping students, educators, and schools cope with (Covid-19), Secretary DeVos is eroding protections for students' safety," Democrats on the House Committee on Education and Labor said on Twitter.

And the National Women's Law Center said Wednesday that it intends to sue the Education Department. Asked about anticipated legal challenges, a senior department official told reporters that the department "is focused on the new rule being understood publicly and by institutions."

DeVos said the department received "more than 124,000 public comments" when the rules were first proposed and that the final regulations come after "years of wide-ranging research, careful deliberation, and critical input," including from survivor advocates, people falsely accused and school administrators.

DeVos and other agency officials on a call with reporters were also asked how the Department of Education expects these regulations to be implemented given how schools are already struggling to allocate funding and manpower during the coronavirus pandemic.

DeVos argued that the "reality is that civil rights really can't wait, and students' cases continue to be decided.
"We've been working on this for more than two years, so it's not a surprise to institutions that it was coming," she said.


Australian universities angry at 'final twist of the knife' excluding them from Coronavirus handouts

Universities are incensed by the third set of changes in a month designed to exclude them from the $130bn jobkeeper wage subsidy program, labelling them the “final twist of the knife” that will ensure none qualify.

New rules for the program, released late on Friday, specify universities must count six months of revenue when calculating their projected downturn, a tweak that puts $1,500 fortnightly payments per worker out of their reach.

On Monday, the University of Sydney, one of the last institutions still in contention for the funding, announced it is no longer eligible.

The move follows a decision in April to exclude universities from the more generous threshold for charities to access the program, meaning they must show a full 50% drop in revenue or 30% for those with revenue of less than $1bn a year to qualify.

On 24 April the government clarified that universities must count their commonwealth grants scheme funding towards their revenue, despite a change allowing other charities to leave out government grants.

Under the new rules, while other organisations such as businesses and charities can calculate their losses over one month or one quarter in order to qualify, universities must show the required decline from 1 January to 30 June.

The Innovative Research Universities executive director, Conor King, said after successive changes to jobkeeper it now appears “no university can claim it”.

“Universities have turned with every twist of the knife, only to be left to heal ourselves each time,” he said. “This seems to be the final twist of the knife.”

“The lack of support will impact how well universities will function in 2021 and beyond.”

The University of Sydney vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, told staff on Monday he believed it qualified and had applied on the basis of “the significant loss of revenue from student suspensions and withdrawals in March for semester 1”.

“The government has changed this rule for universities and extended the period in which to demonstrate revenue loss … this means we will no longer be eligible to receive jobkeeper funding,” he said.

Spence reassured staff that anyone who was paid a salary top-up in April in anticipation of receiving jobkeeper funding in May will be allowed to keep the payment.

A spokeswoman for La Trobe said the university believed it was eligible for jobkeeper based on a decline in projected GST turnover of more than 30% when comparing March 2020 with March 2019. But the university was then disqualified by the inclusion of commonwealth grant scheme funding.

“By applying for jobkeeper, we acted in good faith by following the published ATO guidelines,” she said. “We are very disappointed that the application criteria have changed again.”

In April the education minister, Dan Tehan, announced a support package including a guarantee on $18bn of projected university funding and $100m of regulator fee relief, shared with the rest of the tertiary sector.

Universities welcomed the package as a first step but warned it wouldn’t be enough to prevent an estimated 21,000 job cuts in the next six months in Australia’s third largest export sector.

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said the government “seems determined to do nothing while universities suffer big job losses and campus closures”.

“That will hurt families and communities right across Australia, including in regional areas.”

A spokesperson for the education department said the rules were changed because the monthly measurement of revenue applied through the “normal test” was “potentially subject to larger variations due to timing issues than underlying economic drivers would suggest”.

“Accordingly, the six month test is designed to smooth out any timing variations.”


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Common core has led to ‘historic’ drop in achievement scores, study finds

It was a good idea until it became Leftist Core

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has led to a “historic” drop in student achievement scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” a new study reports.

In the decade before the adoption of CCSS throughout most of the United States in 2013, mathematics and reading NAEP scores for both fourth and eighth grade were gradually increasing at a fairly steady rate, states The Common Core Debacle: Results from 2019 NAEP and Other Sources, published by the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. This rate of growth had been occurring at roughly the same pace as it had been since before states began launching their own individual curriculum standards in the 1990s, writes author Theodor Rebarber, CEO of the nonprofit education organization Accountability Works.

Many involved in the education industry said they were dissatisfied with this pace of improvement, and they sought to remedy it by pushing states to drop their curriculum standards and adopt a single, national standard, which became Common Core. Promoted heavily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Obama administration, CCSS was touted as being necessary to improve U.S. academic competitiveness with other nations on international testing, raise NAEP results, lower the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, and reduce the same gap between low- and high-income children.

Now, a decade after their adoption by most states and six years after their implementation, the Pioneer Institute report makes clear Common Core has had the opposite effect from what was promised. NAEP scores from 2013 to 2019, after the implementation of CCSS, have decreased by a “statistically significant” amount, the study found. Scores for both fourth and eighth grade in reading and math are down, with eighth grade scores decreasing at a rate nearly equal to their rate of growth before the implementation of Common Core.

Achievement Gap Widening

More frighteningly, the study observes, scores are falling sharpest for low-income, black, and Hispanic students.

“U.S. students at the top, the 90th percentile, have continued to make gradual improvements that generally maintain the pre-Common Core trend line, ultimately neither helped nor harmed,” Rebarber writes. “But the farther behind students were before Common Core, especially those at the 25th and 10th percentiles, the more significant the achievement decreases have been. These declines appear to have wiped out the gains that lower-performing students made in the decade prior to Common Core.”

The report also includes summary analyses for seven states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, chosen “mainly based on their size and geographic distribution.” All seven states performed worse on the NAEP after CCSS than they did in the decade prior to its adoption. In Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, students’ scores declined in math and reading in both fourth and eighth grade.

No Excuses

The report dismisses excuses proffered by opponents that claim these declines are not the fruit of CCSS and are instead attributable to other problems, such as inadequate public school funding or the impact of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. Rebarber notes per-pupil public school spending in the United States increased by 10.5 percent in constant dollars between the 2012-13 school year, before CCSS were adopted, and the 2018-19 school year, and is the second-highest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

In addition, if the Great Recession were indeed a cause, Rebarber notes it would have shown up in score declines in 2008-09 and 2010-11, yet there was no decline. Scores also did not decline during the large recessions in 1980 and 1982, Rebarber notes.

‘A Monumental Error’

Rebarber recommends states fully repeal Common Core, but he says he realizes this will be a tall order, no matter how far scores decline, because the standards embody the “common curricular assumptions and conventional wisdom of the educational establishment.”

“It is human nature for those who supported a failed strategy to find it difficult to admit a monumental error,” Rebarber writes. “But our most vulnerable students are paying the steepest price for this particular error. After six years of digging this hole, the most fervent Common Core advocates seem to believe that we should continue to dig deeper. Instead, we must ensure that reason prevails and a different approach is considered.”


Purdue’s Smart Approach to COVID-19: Planning for Fall

My modest band of followers is tired of my saying it, but, with apologies to West Virginia’s Gordon Gee, Arizona State’s Michael Crow, and Southern New Hampshire’s Paul LeBlanc, probably the best major university president in America right now is Purdue’s Mitch Daniels. He implemented a tuition freeze seven years ago that is spectacularly successful, forcing some serious rethinking of inefficient, expensive management practices. He teamed with Gallup to learn more about how students and recent grads feel about college. Purdue bought the respected Kaplan on-line educational operation, starting Purdue Global. It helped pioneer the use of Income Share Agreements, a promising way of financing college. The innovations are many and Purdue has done well, with rising enrollments and reputation as tuition fees have fallen both adjusted for inflation and relative to the competition.

Mitch has started his second year as a septuagenarian, an age when most people are retired, although relative to some major American political figures (e.g, Trump, Biden, Sanders, McConnell, Pelosi) Daniels is, if not a child, still a tad youthful. He has come up with a sensible approach to today’s existential issue: how do you deal with a pandemic like COVID-19?

In a letter to the Purdue community, Daniels states, “Purdue University...intends to accept students on campus in typical numbers this fall, sober about...certain problems that the COVID-19 virus represents, but determined not to surrender helplessly to those difficulties but to tackle and manage them aggressively and creatively.”

Daniels notes that younger Americans are less likely to get this coronavirus and, far more important, most of those who do get it suffer only modest discomfort—similar to what one gets catching flu bugs that confront us annually. The dangers to most college students from COVID-19 are extremely small. Hence, why seriously compromise their education at this critical stage in their lives? To be sure, as Daniels acknowledges, there are some older members of the university community, including many teachers, who are more at risk, and having them teach remotely makes more sense on health grounds. The proposed Purdue approach seems similar to what Sweden is doing now.

I think Daniels is on the right track. He is very careful to say that his plans are preliminary, and will be likely modified as new information becomes available. He is also saying, I think, “Americans are innovative and adaptable. While medically, we very appropriately want to minimize lives lost to this pandemic, we also don’t want it to force us to abandon our job—educating students in the best possible manner, while continuing to expand the frontiers of knowledge to provide better, longer lives for our progeny.”

I have recently talked to a number of undergraduate students, most at Ohio University, but some from other institutions (e.g., Princeton) sent home to learn on-line. Most of them are pinning to get back to school and resume a more or less normal academic life, with some socialization. Humans are highly social animals, and 18 to 22-year-old ones are even more so, and human interaction is an important part oftheir learning—transitioning from kids living under parental direction to relatively independent adults. They develop lifelong enduring friendships, often including a spouse. Interfering with that socialization process may be desirable for health reasons, but we should use a cost-benefit approach, and I agree with Daniels that the costs to most students from leading a fairly traditional campus life with direct human interaction is low, but the benefits are great. We should use innovative ways to reopen campuses to serve both the traditional educational as well as the less academic but still important social functions that colleges provide.

I am old and have some of the health conditions (albeit moderately) particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Still, I hope to teach “live” this fall (for the 56th year at Ohio University), keeping my class small (12-15), having students sit six feet apart in a fairly large classroom, and, if necessary, doing some supplemental instruction via Zoom. While on-line instruction can be economical and often useful, students from the time of Socrates have benefited mightily from direct interaction with their teacher and fellow students. Mitch Daniels, never a professor himself, understands that.


Australia: Students return to school in NSW and Queensland today - but there'll be no assemblies or combined lunch breaks and classes will look VERY different

Students in New South Wales and Queensland will return to school on Monday as the states inches towards relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.

Students in NSW will return for one day of face-to-face learning per week from Monday, with attendance to increase over the course of the term.

The state government is working towards a target of a full-scale return by term three.

The Berejiklian government on Sunday announced the easing of a broad range of restrictions as the state continues to flatten the curve.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews - who will on Monday announce changes to lockdown rules as a May 11 state of emergency expires - has yet to reveal when students in the state will return to school.

But the return to classroom teaching comes as education authorities in Queensland prepare to enforce a range of measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

While primary school students will be free to use play equipment, gatherings of pupils may be limited by staggered lunch breaks and play time.

The principal of Mango Hill primary school Tracy Egan told ABC News staff may even need to personally take children to their parents' cars to stop transmission.

'We'll be really using our stop, drop and go lane and we expect our parents will strongly support that,' Ms Egan said.

Hand sanitiser use will also be a priority in the classroom, as well as a ban at first on any events involving large congregations of students like assemblies.

Some schools are even planning to implement virus-proof protocols in their tuck shops and cafeteria - including an online-only order system.

The return to classrooms has come with a warning in NSW, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian promising any surge in numbers of confirmed cases could see a return to tighter measures. 'If there is evidence or if there is data that shows ... a huge spike, then we'll have to go backwards,' Berejiklian said.

'But similarly, if the data shows us that we're doing better than expected, we can move forward and be faster.'

The government has urged parents to be vigilant about their children's health and to keep them away from school if they exhibit any symptoms of coronavirus.

Social distancing guidelines will be maintained in classrooms and extra health measures will be in place, including additional cleaning and health equipment in sick bays.

Lunch breaks will also be staggered.

Ms Berejiklian said it is not compulsory to send children to school and parents would not be penalised for keeping them at home.

'It's never been compulsory to force parents to do one thing or another, we've been very clear about that in New South Wales,' she said.

'But our strong recommendation is face-to-face teaching needs to start. 'We want to get to full-time face-to-face teaching as soon as we can - and the best health advice is schools are safe environments.'

Children meanwhile enrolled in kindergarten, prep, and years one, 11 and 12 will be the first cohorts to return to school in Queensland.

The state government will assess the statewide response to the partial reopening of classrooms this Friday, before the go-ahead is given for those in other year levels.

It is proposed students between years two and 10 will return to school from May 25.

The staged approach is part of the Queensland government's wider plan to reopen the state following the flattening of the coronavirus curve.

The NSW government on Sunday announced the winding back of restrictions from Friday, including allowing people to leave their homes for recreation.

The new relaxing of restrictions will allow up to five people to visit a home, including children.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will also be allowed, such as a physical training session or sitting down in a park.

Restaurants and cafes will also be allowed to have up to 10 patrons at a time, while ensuring they maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres between people and four square metres space per person.

A total of 10 guests will be allowed at weddings, and up to 20 people at indoor funerals and up to 30 at outdoor funerals.

Religious gatherings and places of worship can also welcome up to 10 worshippers.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Arizona: Muslim Students Threaten to Kill Prof for Suggesting Islam Is Violent

This will teach those Islamophobes that Islam is a religion of peace: a professor is facing death threats for suggesting otherwise. Nicholas Damask, Ph.D., has taught political science at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona for 24 years. But now he is facing a barrage of threats, and his family, including his 9-year-old grandson and 85-year-old parents, is in hiding, while College officials are demanding that he apologize – all for the crime of speaking the truth about the motivating ideology behind the threat of Islamic jihad worldwide.

Damask, who has an MA in International Relations from American University in Washington, D.C., and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati, says he is “to my knowledge, the only tenured political science faculty currently teaching in Arizona to write a doctoral dissertation on terrorism.” He has taught Scottsdale Community College’s World Politics for each of the 24 years he has worked at the school.

Professor Damask’s troubles began during the current Spring semester, when a student took exception to three quiz questions. The questions were:

Who do terrorists strive to emulate? A. Mohammed

Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law? A. The Medina verses [i.e., the portion of the Qur’an traditionally understood as having been revealed later in Muhammad’s prophetic career]

Terrorism is _______ in Islam. A. justified within the context of jihad.

Damask explained: “All quiz questions on each of my quizzes, including the ones in question here, are carefully sourced to the reading material. On this quiz, questions were sourced to the Qur’an, the hadiths, and the sira (biography) of Mohammed, and other reputable source material.” And indeed, the three questions reflect basic facts that are readily established by reference to Islamic texts and teachings and numerous statements of terrorists themselves.

Despite this, the student emailed Damask to complain that he was “offended” by these questions, as they were “in distaste of Islam.” Damask recounted: “Until this point, notably, the student had expressed no reservations about the course material and indeed he said he enjoyed the course.”

Damask sent two lengthy emails to the student responding to his complaints, but to no avail. A social media campaign began against Damask on the College’s Instagram account. Damask notes: “An unrelated school post about a school contest was hijacked, with supporters of the student posting angry, threatening, inflammatory and derogatory messages about the quiz, the school, and myself.”

At this point, College officials should have defended Professor Damask and the principle of free inquiry, but that would require a sane academic environment. Scottsdale Community College officials, Damask said, “stepped in to assert on a new Instagram post that the student was correct and that I was wrong – with no due process and actually no complaint even being filed – and that he would receive full credit for all the quiz questions related to Islam and terrorism.”

On May 1, Damask had a conference call with Kathleen Iudicello, Scottsdale Community College’s Dean of Instruction, and Eric Sells, the College’s Public Relations Marketing Manager. Damask recalls: “I was not offered to write any part of the school’s response, and there was no discussion of academic freedom or whether the College was even supportive of me to teach about Islamic terrorism. The very first point I made with them on the call (and virtually the only input I had) is that I insisted that the College’s release was to have no mention of any actions to be required to be taken by me personally, I was very clear about that.”

Predictably, Iudicello and Sells ignored that. They issued an apology to the student and to the “Islamic community,” and stated on the College’s Instagram page that Damask would be “required” to apologize to the student for the quiz questions, as the questions were “inappropriate” and “inaccurate,” and would be permanently removed from Damask’s exams.

Damask also had three phone calls with Iudicello, who gave him a bracing introduction into today’s academic funhouse world, where if someone is offended by the truth, it’s the truth that has to be deep-sixed. “During one call with Iudicello,” Damask recounts, “she stated that my quiz questions were ‘Islamophobic,’ that before continuing to have any further class content on Islamic terrorism I would likely need to meet with an Islamic religious leader to go over the content, and that I would likely need to take a class (perhaps at Arizona State) taught by a Muslim before teaching about Islamic terrorism.”

“The irony here,” says Damask, “is that literally during this phone call, I and my wife were tossing socks and jammies and our nine-year-old grandson’s toys into a suitcase to get the hell out of the house because of the death threats made by Islamic commenters on the College’s Instagram page.”

College officials took no public notice of the fact, but the posts on its Instagram page discussing the incident had begun to fill up with threats against Damask, including these statements: “if he is still around I suggest the students take action to make sure he isn’t”; “drop the professor’s address I just wanna talk”; “what’s the instructor’s name and address, I just want to say ‘hi’”; “I wish everything bad on these kuffar” [unbelievers]; “I hope he suffers.”

According to Damask, “there are literally hundreds of posts like this. There have been death threats, at least one call for a school shooting, and at least one call to burn down the school. Again, all of these threats are still on the College’s Instagram page.” When he asked school police to shut down the social media posts in light of these threats, they told him the posts were being monitored. Yet the threats were not taken down.

On Sunday night, the school sent Damask the apology that he was to make to the offended student. It is full of the expected embarrassing groveling: “I know,” Damask is supposed to inform the student, “a simple apology may not be enough to address the harm that I caused but I want to try to make amends.” He promises the student: “I will be reviewing all of my material to ensure there’s no additional insensitivities.” (Apparently politically correct academics cannot be bothered to internalize basic rules of grammar.)

“It goes without saying,” says Damask, “that I will not apologize for anything, that it is perfectly appropriate to discuss Islam, Muhammad, the Quran, the hadiths and any other matter related to Islamic terrorism. Incidentally: there has been no official complaint, no due process for me, just a mad scramble by the school to appease Islam.”

Damask’s introduction to the new Leftist academic world in which identity trumps truth has been bitter. “The College,” he says, “has displayed an appalling lack of respect toward my rights; it has essentially engaged in defamation by terming my course material inaccurate, insensitive and that I have violated the College’s values; has denied my civil rights through waiving any and all due process procedures; violated my First Amendment rights by demanding I make an apology to the student; and violated my First Amendment and civil rights by demanding I alter my course material. Further and perhaps worse, I believe the school has effectively encouraged and permitted these threats to be made against me when the school could have immediately put a stop to them, which is tantamount to allowing mob threats against me.”

It’s a terrible story, but there is one silver lining: at least we all know now that Islam is a religion of peace.


The Morning Briefing: Betsy DeVos Brings Back Due Process and Libs Lose It

Much has been made the past few years about the turnover and turmoil in the Trump administration. People come and people go, often at a rather blinding pace. Personally, I’m fine when bureaucrats don’t linger in their jobs. The revolving door in this administration sometimes seems more like a feature than a bug.

There has been one shining constant throughout, however. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been a perpetual thorn in the sides of liberals since she was first confirmed in 2017 and it’s always glorious to watch.

DeVos is everything the awful liberal public education pimps hate, which is what makes her so likable. She’s rich. She’s a lifelong Republican. She has long been a champion for school choice, which makes their heads explode.

The Democrats fought to keep her from being confirmed, and Vice President Pence had to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Since taking office, DeVos has endured nonstop criticism, protests, and horrible press.

See? What’s not to like?

DeVos’s most important work has been addressing the insanity that has been visited upon young men on college campuses in the past couple of decades, the most notable and infamous incident being the Duke lacrosse case.

She has been working diligently to bring rules and order to a previously arbitrary system that gave almost no rights to the accused.

The New York Times:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday issued final regulations on sexual misconduct in education, delivering colleges and schools firm new rules on how they must deal with one of the biggest issues that have roiled their campuses for decades.

The rules fulfill one of the Trump administration’s major policy goals for Title IX, the 48-year-old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding, bolstering due-process protections for accused students while relieving schools of some legal liabilities. But Ms. DeVos extended the reach of the law in other ways, establishing dating violence as a sexual misconduct category that must be addressed and mandating supportive measures for alleged victims of assault.

Title IX had become a flash point in recent years after sexual assault cases rocked high-profile universities like Stanford and Duke, and serial sex abuse by staff at the University of Southern California, Michigan State and Ohio State demonstrated how schools had failed to properly investigate complaints.

DeVos is bringing clarity to the vague Obama-era “guidance” that created a situation in which college administrations felt compelled to “to side with accusers without extending sufficient rights to the accused.”

When Ms. DeVos announced in 2017 that she was rescinding the Obama-era guidance, she said she would give schools, from kindergarten to college, regulations with the force of law that balanced those rights. Her final rules, which she called a “historic” break from the “kangaroo courts” of the past, take effect Aug. 14.

Liberals are aghast that DeVos has brought fairness to a previously nightmarish situation. Rather than objectively assess the new rules, they’re miffed that their least favorite Cabinet member dared touch something that The Lightbringer instituted.

Crazy Joe the Wonder Veep has vowed to undo DeVos’s changes if America hits the toilet and elects him president:

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden promised to repeal the recent change in Title IX rules that reestablished due process for those accused of sexual assault on campus, saying that women deserve “to have their voices heard, their claims taken seriously and investigated, and their rights upheld.”

That’s an insane mischaracterization from an even more insane man. It’s also doubly laughable given the fact that he and everyone who supports him are actively trying to shut up a woman who’s accused him of sexual misconduct.

What DeVos has done should be universally praised. The lunatics on the Left who are opposed to her would rather every young male in America have no rights whatsoever.

They need to be kept away from, well, everything.


Australia: Teachers to adapt lessons to focus on most important aspects

Students will learn a stripped-back version of the NSW curriculum for the rest of term two, with educators given permission to factor learning disruptions from the last six weeks into their teaching plans and focus on the most essential content.

A staged return to school begins on Monday for NSW public schools, but Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said it would be a while before regular calendar events such as assemblies, excursions and school sport resumed.

Principals will spend this week closely monitoring attendance rates, school drop-offs and staff room distancing while teachers will also reconsider their original lesson plans for the second half of term two.

"There are a lot of requirements, particularly in the K-10 curriculum. Guidance has been given from the NSW Education Standards Authority that not all aspects of the curriculum are equally important at this point," Mr Scott told the Sun-Herald.

"Teachers will focus on the most important concepts. Deep engagement around the more important aspects of the curriculum will be the priority. That allows teachers a level of flexibility to identify where students are up to and recalibrate what's been taught in light of the disruption to learning in recent months."

Parents are still permitted to keep children at home during the phased return to school period, so long as students remain engaged with learning. Mr Scott said it was hard to predict how many would choose to stay home, but he expected the "vast majority of families will follow the guidelines" and send kids to school on their designated day.

School attendance dropped as low as 6 per cent at the end of term one, but hovered between 15 and 17 per cent last week.

Schools across New South Wales will reopen this week as part of a staggered and slow return to the classroom.

"We want to look carefully at the experience of schools in coming days. We want to see how schools are adapting to social distancing requirements for adults. We want to look at the flow of students in and out of school, and how we work with parents around that," Mr Scott said.

The department's next goal is getting all students back into classrooms full-time. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged she wants full-time attendance by the end of May, however Mr Scott did not commit to a date. "We’re waiting to learn from [this week] and think that is a wise course of events," he said.

At that stage students would resume normal teaching and no longer undertake the one mode of remote learning. The department's policy around keeping children at home would also be reconsidered.

But Mr Scott said it will still be a while before schools are fully operating. "For a period of time there will be no assemblies, excursions, work experience, sport or cultural events," he said.

"There will be some big events on the school calendar that won’t happen this year. The 2020 school year will have some significant differences and we’re just going to have to manage that carefully."

Without NAPLAN tests this year, the department will work with schools on assessments to identify gaps in student wellbeing and learning. "Good teachers will do regular low-stress assessment anyway, to check where students are at. This will become a priority when schools become operational again," Mr Scott said.

The Department of Education found about 10 per cent of its roughly 806,000 students has experienced a technology gap at home, meaning they did not have either a device or fast broadband access to complete remote learning activities.

"It was striking to us the number of students in metropolitan Sydney who did not have Wi-Fi or any technology in the home beyond a phone," Mr Scott said. "In metropolitan schools, you could have 100 or more students. And that disadvantage was not a factor of remoteness; it was right in the midst of the suburbs."

He said the department would become more cognisant of the technology divide in homes after the pandemic. This could involve purchasing technology for schools that is also appropriate for loaning out, and focusing on laptops instead of desktop computers.