Thursday, May 25, 2023

Prominent Black Poet Laments ‘Ban’ on Her Inaugural Poem by Florida School

One problem with the poet’s claim — it isn’t true. Poems are a dime a dozen anyway. There are fat books full of them. Only one in a million is widely memorable

A prominent American poet, Amanda Gorman, has riled up liberals across the country by falsely claiming that the poem she read at President Biden’s inauguration in 2021 has been banned by an elementary school in Florida.

In a public letter posted to Twitter, the 25-year-old Ms. Gorman — the youngest poet to ever read at a presidential inauguration — claimed that a book that features one of her poems, “The Hill We Climb,” was banned by an elementary school at Miami Lakes, Florida. “I’m gutted,” Ms. Gorman wrote. “Robbing children of the right to find their voices is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”

Ms. Gorman posted a copy of the complaint that led to her poem being banned, which was filed by an unnamed parent in late March. The handwritten complaint stated in broken English that a book containing the poem was “not educational” and carried “indirect” hate messages.

“Unnecessary bookbans like these are on the rise and we must fight back,” Ms. Gorman said. “And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white authors.”

She ended her screed with a plea for people to donate to PEN America, a free-speech nonprofit based in New York that has been fundraising in recent months to fight what it believes to be an epidemic of book bans across the United States. As of Wednesday morning, Ms. Gorman had raised more than $50,000 for PEN America.

The social media post generated howls of protests from very online liberals and spawned dozens of headlines in American media outlets repeating her claim that the poem had been banned by the school. In an appearance on MSNBC, PEN America’s chief executive, Suzanne Nossel, blamed Governor DeSantis for creating an “enabling environment for book bans” in the state of Florida.

“There’s an election on the horizon and there’s a notion that certain people can get energized and motivated by this and they are going to play to that segment and rile them up and it’s up to us to mobilize the rest — the majority,” she said.

The only problem with the narrative being pushed by Ms. Gorman and other activists, however, is that it isn’t true. After the uproar, the Miami-Dade school district released a statement saying that it felt “compelled to clarify that the book titled, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by Amanda Gorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”

The district explained to the Miami Herald, which first reported the incident, that following the parent’s complaint a panel consisting of teachers, administrators, a guidance counselor, and a library media specialist at the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes decided that Ms. Gorman’s book and a handful of others were more appropriate for middle-school-aged students than elementary ones and were placed on a different shelf in the same library.

On Wednesday morning, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, extended an invitation to Ms. Gorman to visit South Florida. “Your poem inspired our youth to become active participants in their government and to help shape the future,” she said in a post on Twitter. “We want you to come to Miami-Dade to do a reading of your poem.”

Following the uproar, Ms. Gorman also attempted to explain the discrepancy between her original complaint and subsequent reports about the ban. “A school book ban is any action taken against a book that leaves access to a book restricted or diminished,” she said. “This decision of moving my book from its original place, taken after one parent complained, diminishes the access elementary schoolers would have previously had to my poem.”


Texas Set to Give Boot to Leftist DEI Offices at Public College Campuses

Texas may soon become the second state to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs from public colleges.

In early May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation to prevent colleges and universities there from using federal or state funds on DEI programs. Like on many other issues, Florida and DeSantis have demonstrated that just a few men with courage can reveal a majority.

It turns out that by following through with a clear and directed agenda, Republicans in the Sunshine State have made themselves more popular with more people. Other red states are following in the wake of that success.

On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives voted 83-60 to pass legislation that would ban DEI programs and offices in state colleges and universities.

After the Texas Senate originally passed the bill last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement:

The Texas Senate has now passed the strongest pushback on woke policies in higher education nationwide. For far too long, academia has been poisoned by woke policies and faculty seeking to indoctrinate our students.

Professors did not believe we would push back on their advances, but they were wrong. Students should be taught how to think critically, not what to think.

Democrats got some concessions in the House. For instance, the final text of the bill, according to the Texas Tribune, “requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to conduct an annual study into the impact of banning DEI offices, allows universities to make ‘reasonable efforts’ to re-assign employees in DEI offices to new positions with similar pay, and shifts the day the bill goes into effect back by three months to Jan. 1.”

The bill will now go back to the Senate for approval of the House amendments to the legislation.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats are apoplectic.

“Diversity is not a threat. Equitable access to education is not a threat. Inclusion is not a threat,” state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, D-Dallas, said during debate on the bill on Friday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “We turn our cheek away from the real threats that our communities face—the threats of gun violence, threats of poverty, housing insecurity, the threat of illiteracy.”

The idea that these DEI administrative cliques at schools aren’t just another way to promote and enforce ideological conformity is laughable. What they promote is a threat to our free society.

So, thanks to the Texas Legislature, a small but significant bastion of indoctrination will soon be eliminated. It’s a good start, but there’s a long way to go before declaring “victory.”

Even without these programs, left-wing cultural values will continue to be dominant among the college-educated elite. However, every time one of these institutional gatekeepers is defunded, disempowered, and defanged, a streak of light comes through for those still seeking the truth.

This is how you win.

Over a dozen other states are considering similar legislation.

Almost uniquely in the West, our system of federalism—frayed as it is—provides a staging ground for a serious counterrevolution to the great awokening. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s in the states where representative self-government remains closest to how it was originally intended to be in this country.

Sure, some states will sink into idiocy, like California and Illinois. But others are showing that there’s another way.

The Biden administration is doing everything it can to maximize the power of the DEI machine—not that the federal bureaucracy needed much coaxing. But the fact that states are taking charge of their own destiny and nipping the woke cultural revolution in the bud is a good sign.

Our colleges and universities are the woke Left’s equivalent of religious institutions. Too long have public universities been given a blank check to do as they please. We’ve unwittingly created a kind of established secular church. They won’t reform from within, so now higher education must be pressured from without.

The Left obsesses over the notion that every public institution must “look like America.” We the people need to insist that our schools think like America, or at least represent the diversity of thought that exists here. DEI offices currently function to inculcate ideological conformity and promote the pernicious identitarianism that’s destroying free thought, free speech, and civil society.

Why are we surprised that generations of the American elite, taught in our schools to think that the ladder of success requires conformity to left-wing cultural values, carry those values over to their jobs in government and the boardroom?

In most cases, wokeness doesn’t survive when put to a vote. The Left likes to tout “democracy,” but they ultimately fear it. They fear what will happen when people wake up and find that they have the power to do something about the noxious changes happening in our country.

That should be encouraging, even though we can’t lose sight of the fact that the Left still has disproportionately enormous and lasting institutional, elite cultural strength.

The best—and perhaps only—way to counter that power is through careful, incremental policy change and a direct counteroffensive through elected representatives.

Florida is leading the way, Texas is following suit, and a wave of other states will likely join after seeing success.

The counterrevolution is building. We aren’t done yet.


Australia: Qld schools accused of covert gender counselling without involving parents

Queensland parents have come forward to accuse school guidance officers of advising students as young as 12 on how to go about changing their names, pronouns, and gender – without including parents.

School guidance officers are advising students as young as 12 on how to go about changing their names, pronouns, and gender – without including parents.

Two Queensland families say they were cut out of the process for weeks, with one claiming a guidance officer encouraged their child to lie to support a potential case to cut ties with their parents.

The Department of Education said consent is needed for students to receive ongoing guidance officer support, but officers can judge whether a child be considered a “mature minor” – a legal test of a child’s intelligence and understanding – and consent to services themselves.

The allegations come after The Courier-Mail revealed teachers are being forced to deceive parents when a student asks the school to help them change their gender, pronouns or name.

In fresh claims, a mother to two daughters who both changed to male names and pronouns, said her younger child was “groomed” by the guidance officer at her Queensland state school.

The mother said her daughter – referred to as “Claire” – was groomed into believing her home was not safe if her parents did not affirm her new identity.

The mother claims Claire was encouraged by the guidance officer to make a false allegation against her mother’s husband, to support her case if she wanted to be considered a “mature minor” and move out of home in the future. In the end, Claire withdrew the allegations.

“It is telling anxious kids that their mother and father are not safe because they will not affirm (their new identity), they’re being exploited by these school counsellors,” Claire’s mother said.

Meanwhile, a father said his daughter spoke to her state school in late 2020 about changing her name and pronouns. Plans were made for this change to take effect in Term 1, 2021.

But the father was only informed by the school days before it resumed about his daughter’s planned name and pronoun changes and that she would wear a boy’s uniform.

The father believes his daughter spoke to the guidance officer for three months before he was informed. He said his daughter did not want him to know.

“They were going to put it (new gender identity) in place without telling me initially, just a flick of the switch. There was no communication and no support plan,” he said.

“I felt that the school took over that parental role.”

A Department of Education spokeswoman said guidance officers may refer students who require specialised support, for a range of reasons, to external support services.

“Consent for students to receive ongoing support from a guidance officer must be obtained,” the spokeswoman said.

“The Department provides comprehensive information to assist school staff, including guidance officers, in making decisions that ensure gender diverse students receive appropriate support, tailored to their individual needs.

“While consent is often provided by parents, guidance officers use their professional judgment to determine if a student has sufficient maturity and understanding to be considered a mature minor and therefore consent to services.”




Wednesday, May 24, 2023

‘I Would Like to Have My Job Back’: School Counselor Sues After Being Fired for Disagreeing With Transgender Policy

PENDLETON, Ind.—An Indiana school district violated a guidance counselor’s right to free speech by retaliating against and ultimately firing her for saying parents should know about their teenage children’s interest in “transitioning” to the opposite sex, the former counselor argues in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that protects religious liberty and represents veteran high school counselor Kathy McCord, says in the lawsuit that South Madison Community School Corporation in Pendleton, Indiana, had no authority to tell McCord who she may speak to after hours and off school property.

ADF also contends that McCord’s religious rights as a Christian were trampled by the South Madison school district, specifically her closely held value that parents should be involved in important decisions regarding their children.

“I would like to have my job back; I would like to go back to school,” McCord, a guidance counselor for 25 years at Pendleton Heights High School, said Wednesday in an interview with The Daily Signal. “I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s terrible what they’re doing to parents. And I really wasn’t ready to retire, so I’d like to go back to work.”

After The Daily Signal exposed the South Madison school district’s hidden policy of supporting students’ gender transitions without necessarily informing parents, the school board fired McCord on March 9 for confirming the policy’s existence. Some school board members, however, later changed their stated reasons for terminating her multiple times.

The school district’s so-called Gender Support Plan required McCord to instruct teachers to withhold information regarding “gender changes” from some parents based on a student’s say-so. That provision prompted teacher Amanda Keegan to resign in protest.

“When I had to look at that parent, and feel like I was lying to that parent …, I was sick to my stomach. I can’t lie to parents. I can’t do that again,” Keegan told The Daily Signal in an earlier interview.

Speaking Wednesday to The Daily Signal, McCord said that South Madison’s actions forced her to comply with decisions that negatively affected students and their families.

“By not working with parents, [the district’s Gender Support Plan] harmed the students,” the former counselor said.

After an investigation lasting over three months, the South Madison school board voted unanimously to fire McCord, amid boos and jeers from the audience at its March 9 meeting. In support of McCord, T-shirts worn in the bipartisan crowd of parents and teachers read: “Keep Kathy.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” one parent told the board.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on McCord’s behalf in the Indianapolis-based U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

ADF argues that the South Madison school district violated both the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires government entities to prove that every contested policy is “the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest.”

ADF points out in the court filing:

South Madison and its employees told Mrs. McCord that she had no choice but to comply with the Gender Support Plan policy and threatened her with adverse employment action if she chose not to comply, telling her that South Madison would treat noncompliance as insubordination.

South Madison cannot demonstrate that the Gender Support Plan policy is the least restrictive means of furthering any interest it might have; instead, South Madison could have, for example: allowed Mrs. McCord to refrain from using pronouns to which she objects while simultaneously avoiding pronouns that a student has requested not be used; allowed her to use nicknames; or, transferred Mrs. McCord’s students with a Gender Support Plan to one of the other school counselors who doesn’t share her objections.

As a result, South Madison cannot demonstrate that [its] Gender Support Plan policy is ‘the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest.’

In requiring teachers, counselors, and other school system staff to speak in highly specific terms that go against their political and religious beliefs, ADF maintains, South Madison is complicit in compelling speech:

By requiring Mrs. McCord to participate in the Gender Support Plan policy, including by socially transitioning students and hiding some students’ social transition from their parents, South Madison has compelled Mrs. McCord to speak its viewpoint on a matter of public concern.

“Mrs. McCord had no valid official duty to participate in students’ social transition, or hide it from parents,” Vincent Wagner, senior counsel in ADF’s Center for Parental Rights, told The Daily Signal.

“[It’s] so important to highlight [that] we know kids do so much better when parents are involved with their lives,” Wagner added. “Both the social science data and common sense are clear—kids need their parents’ help, especially in difficult situations.”

In a statement to gathered parents after the school board voted to fire McCord, board member Buck Evans accused her of falsifying documents sent to The Daily Signal.

Evans apparently was referring to the school system’s secretive Gender Support Plan, which McCord had confirmed but not provided to The Daily Signal.

The school board shared no evidence of any falsification of documents, and its “fact-finding” sheet provided to local news reporters contained different reasons for firing McCord than those suggested by Evans and board President Mike Hanna.

Email timestamps and additional evidence provided from The Daily Signal revealed that the statements made by Evans are false, although the South Madison school district continues to refuse comment to any news outlet concerning the discrepancies.


The escalating madness of woke dogma on college campuses

Once an arena of dueling beliefs, colleges have been taken over by a woke left agenda that will tolerate no dissent.

Just a few weeks ago, on the campus of San Francisco State University, Riley Gaines, a 12-time All-American swimmer, was nearly mauled by an angry group of protesters who took issue with her message that biological men have no place in women’s sports.

She was chased down a hallway and practically held captive, all because she had the audacity to stand up against the left-wing mob.

The administration of San Francisco State never offered the 23-year-old swimmer an apology. Instead, it sought to cast her as the aggressor.

In a statement released by the University’s president, Lynn Mahoney, she described Riley’s presence on campus as “deeply traumatic” for the trans community and chose to commend — rather than condemn — the SFSU student body for exercising their so-called right to free speech.

America’s college students didn’t learn to be ideological bigots overnight — revulsed by the ideals of freedom of speech and expression.

But they learned over time and they learned by example, from professors such as Shellyne Rodriguez, who until her termination Tuesday evening served as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, a public college that is a part of the City University of New York system.

In footage posted onto Twitter by Students for Life of America, Rodriguez is seen tearing into a group of anti-abortion students who had been tabling in an academic building.

She accuses them of spreading “f–king propaganda” and engaging in violence, only moments before proceeding to push their anti-abortion materials onto the ground and walking away.

There was once a time when college campuses existed to be the battlefield of ideas, where discourse was welcome and differences of opinion were championed.

If even today’s college professors have lost sight of that, how can we be surprised that America’s young people have as well?

Contrary to her claim, it wasn’t the anti-abortion students who chose violence in that video. It was Rodriguez.

Days later, she held a machete to the neck of a New York Post reporter.

Rodriguez didn’t just choose violence.

She chose bigotry; she chose suppression.

She chose intolerance.

Everything her progressive dogma claims to be against.


A Collegiate Renaissance?

Intelligent observers of American higher education know that colleges generally are in great trouble: falling enrollments, declining public and political support, often dubious outcomes, and excessive tuition and other costs. Most depressing, the traditional tolerance of widespread viewpoints and commitment to free expression seem to have declined substantially.

While one finds a few encouraging stories dealing with these issues at existing colleges and universities, the overall picture is bleak. It seems that current institutions are doing too little, if anything, to fix the problem. At many, the outlook is palpably worsening.

In the competitive, free-market, private-business sector, lags in innovation or qualitative improvement are remedied by Schumpeterian “creative destruction” and by new competition. Hence Eastman Kodak has nearly died in photography and Tesla has prospered in automobiles as a consequence of changes in technology and taste.

So, too, can new entrants into the collegiate market potentially help to reverse the declining higher-education industry in America. I recently attended a summit of higher-education thinkers and philanthropists sponsored by the new University of Austin (UATX). UATX will admit its first class in the fall of 2024, but it is already doing a number of academic activities—for example, running short summer seminars for crackerjack students at other schools—as a trial run for a future as a full-fledged university.

It is not an ordinary group of academics who are leading UATX’s inception. The founding president, Pano Kanelos, was the former president of the “great books” college St. John’s (Annapolis and Santa Fe). Prestigious academics like Charles Calomiris (Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions at Columbia University) are taking pay cuts to join, full-time, the management and instructional team at UATX.

Others at the meeting who are assisting in the creation of the institution included the brilliant historian Niall Ferguson (Stanford and Harvard), John Tomasi (until recently at Brown, now running the Heterodox Academy), and the award-winning Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who gave a stirring address to the audience. It is my understanding that former Princeton classicist Joshua Katz will be joining the faculty.

It’s an academic dream team.

While UATX has a long-term goal of being a serious university like Princeton or Chicago, with thousands of students, it will probably open next year with a high-quality freshman class of 100-200. All students will study, together, a common curriculum for the first two years, reviewing in detail the evolution of modern civilization and developing the tools to help advance it in the future. During their last two years, students will branch out into more advanced study in specialized fields.

The school plans to break with convention in a number of ways.

For one thing, there will be no faculty tenure. Nor will there be any constitutionally planned parliamentary bodies at UATX (i.e., faculty and student senates), as is common at most schools. But there will be an adjudicative council (an academic judiciary) to resolve the inevitable occasional brouhaha.

First and foremost, as the school’s mission statement (which has undergone exhaustive review, including by the attendees at the conclave) clearly proclaims, is UATX’s “commitment to the pursuit of truth” and its appreciation of vigorous but civilized debate fostered within “an environment of intellectual pluralism.”

The school has already amassed an impressive group of entrepreneurs and philanthropists committed to creating more than another Texas-centric liberal-arts institution but, rather, a national, indeed international, respected innovator in higher education.

At a reception at the estate of board chair and high-tech entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale, I saw some of the best and brightest names in American capitalist innovation mingling with an equally distinguished group of academics (including professors from schools not mentioned above—for example, the University of Chicago). There were scientists and classicists, artists and economists.

Yet all believe, as I do, that American higher education is broken and that reform within current institutions is problematic. There are too many vested interests that will fiercely fight efforts at improvement .

One huge problem is the lack of intellectual diversity and tolerance of alternative perspectives on campus. Another, older problem is the vast inefficiency in the system (UATX vows to have a lean administrative structure, including no DEI apparatchiks). Some schools overly obsess over ball-throwing contests (i.e., football or basketball). Nationally, grade inflation has contributed to a decline in work effort, diluting the traditional American virtue of excelling at near-impossible tasks. The list of academic sins is long, and starting new institutions initially free of those sins strikes me as a good idea.

Yet it may not be enough, particularly given the huge role played by governments, especially the Washington bureaucracy, in American academic life. Educrats on Maryland Avenue in D.C. (home of the U.S. Department of Education) issue rules that submissive university executives obey and often enthusiastically embrace, such as ones dictating how colleges should handle issues relating to allegations of student sexual misconduct. These rules are often fundamentally out of sync with Anglo-American jurisprudence dating back to the Magna Carta.

It seems to me that, currently, there is an implicit contract between the mainline higher-education establishment (represented by organizations such as the American Council on Education or the Association of American Universities), their rent-seeking schools, and the federal government.

The Feds, now represented by the Biden Administration, will bail out the universities (through, e.g., pandemic-related funds) in return for support in the form of leftish ideas, personnel (to run government bureaucracies), and campaign contributions from faculty and staff. Growing political uncertainties potentially jeopardize that implicit Unholy Alliance, and a Republican takeover of government might lead to an even bleaker future for traditional colleges and universities, improving the prospects for new innovations like the University of Austin.

Another issue may be accreditation. As I have elsewhere argued, accreditors are cartels that restrain entry into the realm of higher-education services. UATX will either have to obtain institutional accreditation or try to innovate by saying, “We don’t care about accreditation,” a gutsy but certainly not risk-free approach. At this point, accreditation is still an undecided question for the new institution’s officials.

American exceptionalism has evolved out of new ideas and innovations that occur by taking risks. UATX is in that tradition, and my impression is that it should be taken very seriously.




Tuesday, May 23, 2023

UT Austin Spends Over $13 Million on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Salaries

The University of Texas at Austin spends more than $13 million on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) salaries for close to 200 jobs, according to documents obtained by The Epoch Times.

That’s enough money to fund 342 in-state students to attend one of Texas’ top publicly funded universities for a year, based on $35,000 in annual tuition.

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DCE) at UT Austin paid 171 employee salaries totaling some $12.2 million, according to documents obtained through an open records request.

Another $1.4 million in salaries were paid to 14 associate deans called Coalition of Diversity Equity and Inclusion officers, according to the documents.

UT Austin’s expenditures on DEI paint a picture of a vast network of workers dedicated to a contentious sociopolitical movement that has taken hold in America’s institutions.

Much of the money spent on salaries support what critics describe as “woke” programs based on social justice activism. Vast amounts of taxpayer money spent on DEI salaries demonstrate what detractors say is a bloated system siphoning money away from academics.

DCE supports multiple learning centers and programs throughout UT Austin. Positions at affiliated programs include the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Youth Engagement Center, Office for Inclusion and Equity, and even an elementary school that helps train future teachers to be well versed in the movement’s ideology.

The diversity division pays another $11.7 million for public charter schools to help children in crisis and UIL salaries, apparently unrelated to DEI.

Scott Yenor, a Boise State University political science professor, is senior director of state coalitions at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.

Yenor told The Epoch Times that DEI had been woven into every facet of universities nationwide, making it difficult to determine how much public money is being spent supporting controversial political ideologies.

“Nearly every college has a dean that’s dedicated to it,” he said.

Yenor pointed to the costs of offering majors at UT Austin dedicated to DEI, such as African and African Diaspora Studies and Race, Indigeneity & Migration.

Another DEI major at UT Austin Texas is Women’s and Gender Studies, which includes classes to analyze the “social narratives of gender, race, and sexuality,” according to the school’s website.

Minors at UT Austin include Critical Disability Studies and Latino Media Arts and Studies, Yenor said.


Cornell wants to ‘express itself’ but ‘diversity, equity, inclusion’ are in the way

When I heard that Martha Pollack, president of Cornell University, would announce that Free Expression will be the theme for the 2023-2024 academic year, I was delighted.

It seemed like Cornell was turning a corner from its poor record on free expression documented by the organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

Indeed, just before her announcement, Pollack had given two wins to free expression.

She rejected a Student Assembly resolution to mandate content warnings for traumatic content in the classroom, and for her bravery, she won the Cojones Award from alumnus Bill Maher.

But when I read what Pollack had to say, I realized that the Free Expression theme was actually a ruse. Pollack had stacked the steering committee with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) scholars.

I wrote individually to each member requesting links to their work on free expression —and heard, even up to today — nothing but crickets.

Then the campus paper the Cornell Daily Sun reported that Pollack will defend DEI as strongly as she defends free expression. This is a tragedy because free expression cannot coexist with DEI.

Cornell, the first American Ivy League university, should be a citadel of freedom — particularly for the freedom of thought and the freedom of speech — both of which contribute to the mental change required for intellectual growth. The goal of DEI activism, however, is the antithesis of free expression. Activists tend to believe they already know what is true and demonstrate little need for discussions that can change hearts and minds. They readily say so themselves.

Ibram X. Kendi, the most prominent leader in the DEI movement, for instance, concedes in his seminal book “How to be an Antiracist” — “An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change . . . [and the] Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy. It is a suicidal strategy.”

Unlike the civil- and gay-rights movements, which required free speech to change legislation, the DEI movement requires the cancellation of free speech to influence power and policy. This is because the DEI bureaucrats are activists-in-disguise, at once unable and unwilling to defend their ideology with reasoned arguments based on truth.

This was demonstrated last month in a debate at MIT on a resolution that academic DEI programs should be abolished. None of the approximately 90 people in DEI positions at MIT chose to defend their ideology by participating in the debate.

The debate still took place; and interestingly, there was agreement between Pat Kambhampati and Heather Mac Donald who argued for the resolution, and Karith Foster and Pamela Denise Long who argued against the resolution. They all agreed that the university DEI bureaucrats have gone off the rails.

Foster summed it up like so: “When DEI is done poorly — and let us be absolutely honest, it has taken a left turn — it creates insurmountable barriers of fear, mistrust, vengeance, and indifference.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, well-meaning administrators across Cornell surrendered their mission to seek truth and replaced it with the mission of critical social justice, whose postmodernist foundations deny objective truth. Indoctrination replaced education.

Cornell used to encourage the search for truth through the discovery of new knowledge but has morphed into something omnipotent, if not sclerotic.

The free thinkers have been replaced by followers who mindlessly speak past each other using platitudes and bromides.

The solutions to every problem are to add more rules and regulatons, and to do what seems expedient at that moment. The bureaucracy does not encourage dissenters and governs by coercion, compulsion, and mandates.

I am speaking out against the institutional cancel culture at Cornell in the hope that I will be as successful as I was last year in un-canceling the bust of Abraham Lincoln, which was removed from a campus library following unspecified “complaints.”

According to postmodernism, the only self-evident truth is that there is no objective truth. Without a foundation of truth, there can be no reasoned argument capable of changing the viewpoints of others.

In the pursuit of critical social justice, there is no time to question the DEI orthodoxy or to waver from the thin party line.

The DEI ideology excludes even the slightest diversity of thought.

It is ironic that the front lines of the DEI movement are found in our universities whose mission has always been the search for and dissemination of truth through open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and civil free expression.

Except for a small minority of believers, both for or against DEI, fear quashes free expression, and leads to self-censorship among the students and faculty.


Why Britain is falling behind in the global universities race

Britain still excels when it comes to higher education. Britain has seven of the world’s top 50 universities. In spite of many claims that Brexit would lead to a reduction in the number of foreign students, the intake has never been higher. In 2021-22, there were 680,000 overseas students in higher education in Britain, an increase of 123,000 in just two years.

That’s good news for the British economy. A report by London Economics estimated that one year’s intake of students would, by the time their courses had finished, bring in £29 billion in revenue from tuition fees and other income. Importantly, the benefits are spread all over the country: the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh each have around 18,000 overseas students.

But higher education is a global race and our place is in danger. This year’s table by the Center for World University Rankings – which measures the employability of graduates as well as the quality of research – shows 55 out of 93 UK universities on the slide. Thirty-two have improved their rankings, while Cambridge and Oxford retain their positions at fourth and fifth respectively. But the reason a larger number of universities are slipping is that China’s universities are on the way up. This matters not least because China is currently the biggest single source of overseas students at UK universities: some 152,000.

While their international reputations remain high, UK universities have not helped themselves over the past few years. Some have harmed their role as bastions of free speech by giving in to small bands of student activists who have demanded speakers be banned; at others, students have demanded that the curriculum be revised to suit their beliefs – reversing the traditional arrangement whereby tutors teach and students learn.

It’s also hard to compete on a global level when the best academics are paid so little. A depressing fact of British university life is that so often any scholar who achieves widespread recognition or success will be poached by an American Ivy League university offering a far greater salary – and often given a job that requires far less administrative work. In a place where the reputation of professors attracts students, it’s important to draw and retain the top talent.

Part of the problem is a failure to raise fees in line with inflation. The maximum has barely increased since it was set at £9,000 in 2010. At the time, student fees were deeply controversial – yet private schools, which educate 14 per cent of British sixth formers, charge much more. Why should families who manage to pay £30,000 a year for schools be subsidised when it comes to university? In an economy in which what you learn is closely linked to what you earn, there’s a strong case for asking families who can afford it to pay to meet the cost of tuition.

To remain competitive on a global level, Britain’s universities should be given the resources to win talent. American universities have a tradition of using fee money from wealthier families to subsidise those who cannot afford it: there’s a case for an element of that being introduced here as well.

The danger is that, if universities do not fight for their independence, they become playthings of the government – forced to link admission to diversity targets rather than merit. It is right to make allowances for students who might not have had their interview techniques polished at a private school, but universities already do that. If private schools account for around 30 per cent of the top A-level grades (as they currently do), it’s natural that they also account for a similar proportion of those getting into top universities.

Open discrimination against candidates on the basis of presumed privilege is deeply wrong – and also starts to undermine the status of the university from being a seat of unashamed excellence into an instrument of social engineering.

A university education is not everything. For many people, going from school straight into employment will be more appropriate; there are already far too many courses of no use to either students or society. Qualifications should never be fetishised to the point of writing off people who, for various reasons, might have missed out on them when young. The Spectator is one of many employers to make a point of not asking new recruits about their education but hiring on an aptitude test alone.

Yet a university education remains, for many, an important part of a successful and fulfilling life. Moreover, much of the research which informs an advanced society originates in its universities.

Britain is fortunate to have some of the best universities in the world, but we cannot take their reputations for granted. They must strive to remain at the top of their game.




Monday, May 22, 2023

The DEI industry really isn’t about diversity, equity OR inclusion

Most Americans are all for diversity, equity and inclusion. But Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs have proved to be about nothing but rank racism.

So Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was pretty on-point last week, in the run-up to announcing his presidential bid, when he defunded DEI programs at public colleges and universities across the Sunshine State, joining Republican legislatures and govs from Ohio to Texas.

Just look at how corrosively toxic DEI efforts prove in practice:

Faculty at the University of California/San Francisco’s medical school recently produced a journal article endorsing racial segregation in education as “part of a broader antiracism and anti-oppression curriculum.”

In its official glossary, the University of Central Florida designates “male, white, heterosexual, financially stable, young-middle adult, able-bodied, Christian” as oppressors.

A student house near Berkeley forbid white people from common spaces to allegedly provide a “safe environment for people who identify as People of Color.”

In Arizona, DEI statements — in which applicants swear fealty to the movement’s principles — are required for between 28% and 81% of job openings at public universities.

The State University of New York has instituted a requirement that all students (no matter their majors) pass a racial-equity course on “power, privilege, oppression and opportunity.”

A survey by the nonprofit Speech First found a shocking 91% of schools push far left ideas on “microaggressions, anti-racism, trigger warnings, bias, racial equity” in their freshman orientation material.

No wonder more than 80% of college kids, per speech-rights outfit FIRE, “report self-censoring their viewpoints at their colleges at least some of the time.”

And the movement eats its own: De Anza Community College fired a high-ranking DEI official for insufficient zeal, with colleagues absurdly calling the black woman a white supremacist.

Our nation is premised on the idea that all people are created equal. And, given the dazzling array of races, creeds and religions it plays home to, a culture that emphasizes what we have in common over what divides us is a pragmatic necessity (as well as a moral good).

That’s precisely what DEI attacks, by creating a hyperconsciousness of race founded in exaggerated grievances. It identifies whites as the enemy of everyone non-white, disparages meritocracy, and blames gaps in achievement exclusively on racist “systemic” forces.

The name DEI, of course, is pure Orwell: These ideas foster only homogeneity of thought, inequity and exclusion — alienating Americans from each other and poisoning our politics.

That DEI is a $9 billion industry only makes the whole movement all the uglier.

Though it does explain the endless howls of outrage about the public-money cutoff: The gravy train is leaving the station.

In short, DEI is a cynical grift that’s minted a new batch of millionaires while hurting the nation and deepening racial divisions.

What DeSantis & Co are doing is the only sensible way forward — on ending the scam and healing the country.


Why Do Taxpayers Keep Funding Schools That Don’t Educate Our Children?

With no incentive to educate and retain students, "hold-harmless" systems are free to waste thousands on administrative bloat.

That helps explain why the Philadelphia school district spends over $26,000 per student, two-thirds more than Pennsylvania’s median spending.

Schools educating fewer students and providing a poor education should receive less money, not more.

The best example of “failing up” today might be “hold harmless” provisions for district public schools.

Under such terms, the funding of failing schools cannot decrease when students leave them for high-performing charter schools. With no incentive to educate and retain students, hold-harmless systems are free to waste thousands on administrative bloat.

Even in cases where some money follows the student to a different school, the public system retains thousands of taxpayer dollars each time a student flees a hold-harmless school. That insulates failing schools from the competitive pressure of school choice.

When schools compete for students and therefore for funding, they must improve the quality of education to attract and retain students. That creates a rising tide that lifts all boats, including those public schools that provide a poor education today.

No parent wants their child trapped in a school where few children can read and write at grade level. Thankfully, a growing number of parents are fortunate enough to live in 32 states that offer either education savings accounts, vouchers, or tax credit scholarships that provide families with a choice of where to educate their children.

But as parents choose to leave schools that aren’t meeting their children’s needs, the hold-harmless provisions enable many of these schools to retain their funding, even though their expenses decline.

With more money per pupil, they could hire better teachers, including specialists, buy technological learning aids, and make other investments to improve educational outcomes. But they do few of those things.

Instead, hold-harmless schools in states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania hire administrators and create bloated bureaucracies. About half the Philadelphia school district employees in the 2022-2023 school year aren’t even teachers.

That helps explain why the Philadelphia school district spends over $26,000 per student, two-thirds more than Pennsylvania’s median spending. By contrast, First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School—where 99.8% of the students are considered economically disadvantaged—spends just $14,000 per student. That’s less than the state’s median spending and little more than half what traditional urban public schools spend.

Catholic schools in the City of Brotherly Love also manage to do more with less. Father Judge High School charges $9,400 in tuition and fees, although the school receives subsidies from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, increasing the amount spent per student.

Despite spending significantly less than their district public school counterparts, alternatives like charter schools and Catholic schools achieve better educational outcomes, including higher test scores.

Meanwhile, in the Philadelphia school district, only 16.2% of students in third through eighth grade scored at least proficient in mathematics. More than 4 in 5 students are behind on the fundamentals.

The problem isn’t unique to Philadelphia. Consider Illinois. The Prairie State leads the nation on district-level administration, spending over $1 billion annually while achieving below-average scores in mathematics and reading.

Nationwide, from 2000 to 2019, the number of students in public schools increased 7.6% while the number of teachers grew 8.7%. Both of those pale in comparison with the growth of administrators, which came in at an astounding 87.6%.

This helps explain why students in many districts continue to have poor educational outcomes even as the amount spent on each student continues to rise. It turns out the money is going to administrators and other waste, not education.

The way to remove the ratchet effect of school funding in hold-harmless provisions is to roll back the policy itself. Schools that are failing parents and children don’t deserve to continue riding the gravy train of taxpayer money.

Further reforms are needed. Similar misallocations of taxpayer dollars occur in places where funding is based not on the most recent enrollment data, but on outdated figures. In Wisconsin, enrollment is measured by a three-year rolling average, which currently overestimates the number of students in traditional public schools by almost 21,000, causing a misallocation of $359 million this year alone.

Free markets work because sellers must compete for buyers’ dollars. Firms that don’t meet customers’ needs bring in less revenue or go out of business. Similarly, schools educating fewer students and providing a poor education should receive less money, not more. When this basic market functionality is short-circuited by misguided education policy, the quality of education lapses.

The recent creation or expansion of education savings account-style options in Arkansas, Iowa and Utah, which give families control over a share of their child’s public education funding, are tremendous victories for families. The wins are especially important in disadvantaged communities since education is the path out of poverty for millions of young Americans.

As other states follow suit, every dollar of funding should follow students to deliver educational opportunities to the next generation.


Australia: ‘Boarding saves so much time’: Why city student Sabine chose to live at school

When Sabine Walton enrolled at a boarding school in Normanhurst three years ago almost all the girls in her shared dorm room were from the state’s north-west.

“Our family home is in the city, so I definitely stood out among the boarders who are mostly from farms and regional towns,” says Sabine, whose family home is in Dulwich Hill, about a 50-minute drive in peak hour from the all-girls private school.

“It was daunting at first. I definitely could have been a day girl, but boarding saves so much time commuting,” she says.

The year 10 student at Loreto Normanhurst in Sydney’s north-west is one of about 5900 boarding students across the state. They include about 1000 students whose families are from metropolitan areas but are enrolled in boarding schools.

Australian Boarding Schools Association chief executive Richard Stokes said city-dwelling parents who opt to send their children to boarding school – either as weekly or full-time boarders – are attracted by the lack of travel time and the extra academic support that schools can provide with supervised study time.

“Especially in year 11 and 12, boarding provides great structure for kids and that study time with tutors or homework helpers,” he said.

Across Australia there are about 20,490 boarding students and, while the number of boarding schools has grown from about 150 a decade ago to about 200 last year, enrolments have remained consistent since 2012. The impact of the pandemic meant international boarding student numbers halved and are yet to recover, said Stokes.

“International students are just not returning as energetically as we would have hoped,” he said, adding that three boarding schools in Victoria and Tasmania were forced to close in the past three years when overseas students disappeared.

There are 47 boarding schools in NSW, most being high-fee private schools that charge up to about $73,000 for boarding and tuition at schools such as Kambala and King’s. At the co-educational Red Bend Catholic College, in the state’s Central West, fees are about $25,000 to board in the senior school.

The NSW state president of the Isolated Children’s Parents’​ Association, Tanya Mitchell, said the cost of boarding school was now “out of the realms” of what most families could afford.

Mitchell said of three public boarding schools in regional NSW, which generally charge about $13,000 for the year, two are co-educational and one is an academically selective all-boys school in the state’s north-west. “Especially for families from the north-west of the state, there are no public all-girls boarding options. And some fees are making it difficult if families want or need a boarding option.

“Families are telling us they really would like that public all-girls boarding school option,” she said.

But in Sydney, schools including Loreto Normanhurst and Knox Grammar, both of which charge upwards of $60,000 for tuition and boarding, principals claim that demand for living on campus is on the rise. At Loreto, where there are about 200 boarders, the school is planning a $130 million redevelopment as part of its 30-year master plan that will include a new four-storey boarding house.

Knox Grammar principal Scott James said most boarders at the all-boys school were from rural NSW or overseas. “Even though boarding is declining in some countries, there is still demand from parents, and from families with current day students wanting to change to boarding,” he said. “It generally reflects the busyness of parents.”

All-boys St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill was a boarding-only school until about 25 years ago, with more than 900 students, principal Michael Blake said. “With numbers declining, the school began to enrol day boys to remain viable. The school now opens to day students with extracurricular activities until 8pm,” he said.

About half of the 1000 students at St Joseph’s are boarders, many from Dubbo, Hunters Hill, Tamworth, Gladesville and Mudgee. “But there are boarders from Hunters Hill too ... there are some whose bed at home is less than 100 metres from their bed in the dorms,” Blake said.

When Sabine started at Loreto in year 7, she was just one of two boarders who were from the city. “We now have girls from the Central Coast area, and even the inner city from Roseville and Paddington.”

“I enjoy having the independence; the only downside is homesickness, but I go home most weekends, which makes it easier,” she said.




Sunday, May 21, 2023

School System’s Decision Against Flying ‘Pride’ Flags Outside Buildings Angers LGBTQ+ Activists

LGBTQ+ protesters gather April 27 in front of the Westwood Regional school board in Bergen County, New Jersey, to complain about a policy allowing only the U.S. and state flags to be flown outside schools. (Photo: screenshot of livestream)
School board meetings in one New Jersey district have turned into a toxic fiasco as LGBTQ+ protesters screamed and cursed at board members over a policy to fly only the American and New Jersey flags in front of schools.

The last two scheduled school board meetings of the Westwood Regional School District in Bergen County, New Jersey, erupted into controversy because the policy excludes the outdoor display of rainbow flags and other banners of the LGBTQ+ movement, along with all other types of flags.

Protesters accused the school board of using the policy to attack the LGBTQ+ community, since it bans flying the “Pride” or “Progress Pride” flags from flagpoles outside schools, as several other government buildings in New Jersey do.

School board members responded that the policy prohibits all flags except the American and New Jersey flags, not just flags associated with the LGBTQ+ movement, which includes transgenderism.

“I don’t want any special-interest flag flown over a government building,” board member Laura Cooper told the crowd April 27.

However, no board policy states that teachers may not fly flags of their choice in their classrooms, or that students may not display the Pride or Progress Pride flags on their backpacks or clothing throughout the day.

Four hours into the school board’s April 27 meeting, former board member Andrea Gerstmayr called out Cooper for “not looking” at her as Gerstmayr criticized the flag policy.

“I would like to say that nobody on the board should ever criticize nor undermine [a student’s] words when she says that she needs the Pride flag to feel safe,” Gerstmayr said, “or any LGBTQ+ child needs to know when it is flown outside of a building, Ms. Cooper—Ms. Cooper …”

Gerstmayr began chastising Cooper for “not giving me the respect” of attention while she spoke, although it appears from a video of the meeting that Cooper was writing something down.

“You need to look at me when I am—” began Gerstmayr, before she was cut off by board President Michael Pontillo, who informed her that she wasn’t allowed to directly address board members and asked that she take her seat.

Gerstmayr refused, waving her arms as she exclaimed, “She should look at me. I can talk.”

Pontillo responded: “You’re not supposed to address board members directly, Andrea, you would know that—you were a board member. It’s actually in the rules, so you can have a seat. Thank you.”

Gerstmayr persisted, shouting: “No, I am standing here and I am going to say what I’m going to say.”

Pontillo then asked a police officer to escort Gerstmayr from the lectern. As many in the crowd yelled or booed, Pontillo said, “We have rules, folks.”

When the crowd began to become unruly, shouting obscenities at the board, Pontillo requested that Gerstmayr finish her statement without distractions.

But Gerstmayr continued to complain, saying that Cooper appeared to be on her phone. Several other board members, looking exasperated, informed Gerstmayr that Cooper clearly was taking notes.

Gerstmayr abandoned her criticism of Cooper’s note-taking, asking the board why U.S. embassies fly the [Pride] flag, if the American flag is a symbol of pride and unity:

Why do U.S. embassies fly the [Pride] flag? To show our citizens around the world that they are a safe haven, for anyone to come and come to the embassy to know that they are safe. And that is what our LGBTQ children need to know, that when they see this flag outside flown on—doesn’t have to be the same mast as the one as the United States flag, but to know that they are safe. They need the symbol.

The May 11 school board meeting descended into more chaos, as the board adopted the flag policy and several speakers used the public comment segment to air grievances.

May 11, 2023, Westwood Regional School District Board Meeting
Sharon McDonough, an administrative assistant for the Westwood Regional School District, wore a Progress Pride flag in her hair as she began her remarks by telling the students present that the district’s classrooms were safe spaces for them.

McDonough then turned around and accused board member Douglas Cusato of telling others to “go f— themselves” when she asked him to wear a mask in 2020.

Many protesters at the May 11 meeting also accused the school board of “dehumanizing an entire community of people,” as one speaker put it, because it appointed a committee to examine the district’s sex education policy and to determine whether teachers may promote LGBTQ+ topics in elementary classrooms.

One student told the school board this was “gross overreach.” She said the board needed to “listen to experts” and review “peer-reviewed studies” in order to determine policy.

“It feels like you are using your own beliefs and agendas to push a prejudicial and discriminatory viewpoint on this district,” the student said.

Another speaker, who identified himself as a teacher, suggested a scenario at a local carnival in which a student asks him whether “someone can have two moms.”

“What would you say?” the teacher asked the board. He then began repeating the word “empathy” into the microphone as a small crowd behind him waved Pride and Progress flags.

However, no proposed or adopted policy in Westwood Regional School District prohibits teachers from mentioning spouses or parents who are in either straight or gay relationships.


DeSantis Signs Bill Curtailing Diversity Programs at Public Colleges

This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law to curtail spending on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at the state’s public colleges.

The law, S.B. 266, prohibits public colleges from using federal or state funds on diversity programs, which DeSantis described as “discriminatory initiatives” that divide students.

“Florida has ranked number one in higher education for seven years in a row, and by signing this legislation we are ensuring that Florida’s institutions encourage diversity of thought, civil discourse, and the pursuit of truth for generations to come,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Florida is taking a stand for empowering students, parents, and educators to focus on creating opportunities for our younger generations. I am happy to have worked with the legislature to get this important legislation signed, sealed, and delivered.”

In remarks at the bill signing, DeSantis said that college staffers feel like they “walk on eggshells” and “don’t have the freedom to speak their minds” on campuses.

“For us, with our tax dollars, we want to focus on the classical mission on what a university is supposed to be. We don’t want to be diverted to a lot of these niche subjects that are heavily politicized. We want to focus on the basics,” DeSantis said.

“Universities should be on the hook for the student loans,” he added, pointing out that many of the “woke” majors offered at colleges and universities do not make students employable after graduation.

“If that were the case, they [the schools] would make sure that their curriculum was really fit to be productive for the students when they graduated,” he explained. “We’re going to have traditional education. We want courses and majors that have high return on investment.”

“Some of these niche subjects, like Critical Race Theory, other types of DEI-infused courses and majors – Florida’s getting out of that game. If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley,” he said.


Grand buildings are no substitute for genuine scholarship at our universities

A symbol of what is wrong with today’s universities is the new building at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, opened last week.

Costing $250m, and taking five years to construct, this gleaming white 12-storey edifice towers over its neighbouring Victorian-era suburb of Fitzroy like a graceless box-shaped Taj Mahal, but in this case named after St Theresa of Kolkata.

The student facilities inside are of plush five-star quality, with generous workspaces and airy lounges set among internal gardens and external terraces, offering spectacular views over the city. So, what is the problem?

The top priority of a university, as a teaching and research institution, should be the quality of its academic staff. Where excellence is valued and privileged over everything else, morale is likely to be high, books and articles influential, teaching inspiring, and departments and faculties can be pretty much left to look after themselves.

Yet it is hard to discern any serious concern with excellence from vice-chancellors, their deputies and deans, over the past 25 years, especially in arts and humanities faculties – apart, that is, from mantras vented in rhetorical mission statements.

This has been the era of the hollowing out of departments, in wave after wave of retrenchment. Tenured lecturers and professors have been replaced by low-paid casual staff, usually part-time lecturers and tutors.

Concurrently, the traditional lecture has been abandoned, with students shifting to online learning, partly by choice but also with encouragement.

Less and less actual attendance at the campus has meant that real tutorials and seminars, in which actual teachers conduct discussions, are starting to look like anachronisms from a long-distant past. In a virtual university, fewer staff are needed.

The waves of retrenchment have been conducted with one aim in view – cost efficiency. The once-upon-a-time collegiate, imbued with a centuries-old humanist ethos, has morphed into an industry like any other, obeying a value-free logic, as if to vindicate the Marxist caricatures of capitalism that humanities disciplines have increasingly purveyed to students over the past 40 years.

I haven’t seen one instance of discrimination along the lines that there are some staff we can’t afford to let go, on the grounds of their research and teaching excellence. To give one example with which I’m familiar, of a smallish Humanities department that had one senior staff member with a well-justified, high international reputation – and who was the intellectual soul of the department, and a gifted teacher. He was encouraged to retire early as if he were no different from some lazy hack, of no greater benefit to the university than a first-year tutor on half his salary.

Administrators seemed to have no conception of mediocrity, including the depressing effect of uninspired and uninterested lecturers on students. I hope I’m wrong here, and there have been odd exceptions to this rankly unprofessional behaviour from top university management.

As a somewhat absurd comparison, I remember being told decades ago when I was a postgraduate student at Cambridge University that if you wanted to find the Nobel prize winners then look in tin shacks along the river, as you wouldn’t meet them dining leisurely at college high tables. Admittedly, the nature of scientific research has changed since those days, but the lesson remains. In any creative area, the rigours of producing the best work are formidable and unrelenting.

The ACU has announced, coinciding with the opening of its Melbourne Taj Mahal, that it needs to cut at least 110 full-time jobs. It is facing a reported $30m deficit.

The deficit is not just due to building largesse. The ACU is also faced with plunging enrolments – 30 per cent in humanities’ students at the Melbourne campus – making one speculate about white ­elephants. Indeed, humanities enrolments are in decline around the Western world, partly due to the pall of boredom spread by over-politicised curriculums – who wants to hear about Jane Austen’s passing, obscure concern about slavery at the expense of her magisterial displaying of characters suffering the vicissitudes of life!

Sociologists call it conspicuous consumption. The executive invests its hopes and its pride in opulent campus palaces, with office suites at the top, reminiscent of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burnt beneath him.

It is allied to the fact that in recent decades, university administrations have relentlessly expanded their tiers of management. The manager has replaced the professor as the key figure in the institution. Lip-service these days, at best, is paid to professorial boards, which once were influential.

Over the past century, university employment has swung from a ratio of 20 per cent administrative and 80 per cent academic, to about 55 per cent non-academic today. The real work of the university – teaching and research – is now being carried out by a diminishing, largely underpaid minority, overseen by a large bureaucracy.

To be fair to the ACU, its current projected staff cuts are non-academic. I have some sympathy for any vice-chancellor today who wants to improve the quality of his or her academic staff. This is difficult to achieve.

It would take Jeff Kennett’s determination, via the appointment of ruthless deans with the will to clear out dead wood and make new appointments according to international merit, overriding the political and disciplinary biases of those many existing staff who traditionally control appointments committees.

It would also mean culling the expansive ranks of deputy and pro-vice chancellors, and those under them, cutting back building budgets and creating new first-rank ­research and teaching centres.

The online university is cruel to students. It destroys student life. A physical campus, with teaching buildings intermixed with cafes, squares, shops, and libraries, provides places for students to gather together with their fellows, catch up, and discuss classes.

The ACU perhaps had this in mind, in providing a luxurious, very comfortable building to attract students into the campus. But the thinking is consumerist, as in drawing people to a picturesque shopping centre.

In universities that are functioning rightly, students are drawn to classes where there is some charisma, where the intellectual content is engaging; attracted by lectures where there is the seriousness that what they are studying really matters, seminars in which there is heated discussion of ideas.

In these universities, the teachers, and at all levels, reign supreme, even when their classes are held in tin shacks up the River Cam.