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A Crucifix Controversy at BC

Over the winter break, Boston College placed in its classrooms crucifixes and other Christian symbols, many of them brought back from historically Catholic countries by BC students studying there. To the surprise of no one, this turned out to be controversial at the Jesuit-run institution. Any lurch in the direction of religion by religious colleges is bound to leave some professors aghast. Chemistry professor Amir Hoveyda said: “A classroom is a place where I am supposed, as a teacher, to teach without any bias, to teach the truth. And when you put an icon or an emblem or a flag, it confuses the matter.” There’s a lot to unpack in that statement. Professor Hoveyda apparently thinks he will be unable to teach the truths of chemistry in a classroom containing a Christian symbol. The power of a Jesus image is apparently so strong that the professor believes he will be unable to function in a bias-free manner

And it isn’t just a crucifix. In his view, “an icon, an emblem or a flag” automatically brings bias to the class. (Make that the American flag, which is recurrently controversial in the academy and disdained by many as a symbol of imperialist aggression. It was banned on some campuses after 9/11 out of deference to foreign students who might have been as unsettled by its presence). The casual linking of flag and crucifix as troubling images recalls the writings of sociologist Peter Berger. He saw a connection between the increasing obeisance of believers to the “cultured despisers of religion” and the increasingly “large number of Americans (who ) seem to apologize for the basic character if not the very existence of their own country.” Both forms of back-pedaling, he thought, point to a hollowing out of traditional symbols.

A few professors used the “discomfort” argument, a powerful one on the modern campus: anything that makes me feel uncomfortable is intolerable. This puts the crucifix in the same category as the painting that discombobulated a feminist professor at Penn State years ago. She said she felt harassed by a copy of Goya’s famous “Naked Maja,” though the painting had been hanging there in class for decades before it began harassing her. The “discomfort” argument can also be called “the sensitive person’s veto.” The only way to avoid the veto is to ban any imagery that offends anyone, even Christian images at Christian colleges. To its credit, BC is unwilling to do that.

Who Is the Real “Fascist Bastard”?

The case of Jonathan Lopez, the Los Angeles Community college student who allegedly was called a “fascist bastard” by his speech professor for delivering a Christian speech, has indeed touched a nerve, as his lawyer, David French of the Alliance Defense Fund said.
Once again the mainstream press got a few things askew. The Los Angeles Times, reporting Lopez’s suit over the issue, said the student was delivering a speech against gay marriage. Other news outlets, from UPI to MSNBC, picking the story up from the Times, said so too. But there’s no evidence on the table for that. Lopez cited Romans 10:9 and Matthew 22:37-38, which don’t deal with marriage at all. Maybe Lopez did refer to gay marriage somewhere in his speech. We don’t really know what set the professor off. Legal papers filed by Lopez say the speech was about God and miracles.

The Times reporter also thought the Lopez lawsuit raised a difficult issue “testing the balance between First Amendment rights and school codes on offensive speech.” Some reporters, conditioned by campus orthodoxy, think constitutional rights and unconstitutional speech codes somehow have equal weight. But “balance” is not an issue here and there is no evidence so far that Lopez did anything wrong. According to his court papers, he was asked to give a speech on any subject of his own choosing and did so, but the teacher didn’t like the topic, called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to give him a mark. Lopez says the teacher said, “Ask God for a grade.” What made Lopez a “fascist bastard”? If voting for a referendum opposing gay marriage does it, then California contains more than seven million “fascist bastards.” If belief in Christianity is the test, then the state is probably home to 20 million or so FBs.

As usual when some aspect of the dominant campus belief system is challenged, the first reaction is to condemn and punish, not to tolerate or discuss. Ordinarily, a quick appeal is made to a broad and vague speech code. Since speech codes are unconstitutional at public colleges, speech-control rules are often embedded in sexual harassment regulations or disguised as a code of behavior. The code of Los Angeles Community College bans “verbal, visual or physical conduct” that “has the purpose or effect of having a negative impact upon the individual’s work or academic performance.” What, exactly, is a “negative impact”? No one really knows, but anyone formally accused of having one, even unintentionally, is in danger of being found guilty. But every so often, word gets out about these Star Chamber proceedings, and if the publicity is high enough and the student threatens to sue, the college has to back down. That seems to be the scenario here. Campus restrictions on free speech are still suffocating, but sometime dissenters win.

The President, the Preacher, and the Proposition

Gay activists are giving Rick Warren the full treatment, accusing him of homophobia and hate speech and of comparing gay marriage to incest. None of this is true, as the mainstream press will eventually get around to mentioning, perhaps as early as next week.

Warren supports full rights and privileges for civil unions—health and insurance benefits, visiting rights, etc.—and has done so for some time. He simply does not want to alter a definition of marriage that has been supported in every culture and every religion for some 5,000 years. A large majority of American feel that way. Are they all “homophobes” or do they just have a conception of marriage different from that of gay activists?

Warren points out that no practical benefit for gays is involved in the Proposition 8 ruckus—in California, all the benefits of marriage were extended to gays in 1999 under a domestic partnership law.

Does Warren really think gay unions are like incest? No. Talking to Steve Waldman of BeliefNet.com, Warren offered a list of partnerships that he doesn’t believe qualify for the term “marriage”: a committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, “a brother and sister being together, an older guy marrying a child and a guy having multiple wives.”

It is not a bright idea to denounce as a hater and bigot a person as widely admired around the country as Rick Warren, especially when he shows no indication of hate or bigotry and has contributed millions to the fight against AIDS. It is also not bright to denounce black people as “niggers” for voting 70 percent in favor of Prop. 8, as happened at a few rallies in California, with some of the n-words directed even at black gays sensibly trying to ward off such attacks by wearing anti-Prop 8 t-shirts.

Blacks voted heavily for Prop. 8 because they do not see it as a civil rights issue. If blacks don’t agree with gay activists on this, it’s no surprise that the rest of the country doesn’t see a civil rights issue here either. Alas, gays may be locking themselves into a strategy of denouncing and attacking the people they should be trying to win over. Rick Warren says, “Gays in California already have their rights. What they desire is approval and validation from those who disagree with them and they are willing to force it by law if necessary.”

Prop. 8 and its aftermath are the first time in the four decades since Stonewall that the gay movement has started to look like an organized tantrum—ugly threats, anti-black rhetoric, intimidation and harassment of Mormons (called ‘morons”) at their homes and temples, even a series of fake anthrax mailings. If gays want to veer away from this path, dropping the “Rick Warren is a hater” rhetoric would be a nice start.

Ideology in the Classroom

Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in America Universities, published in September to little fanfare, has caught on amid its intended audience: those who believe indoctrination of students is a figment of the conservative imagination and not really a factor on our campuses. The New York Times, calling indoctrination “an article of faith” among conservative critics of the universities, gave the book a boost in a November 2nd article. The authors of the book, George Mason professors Bruce Smith, A. Lee Fritscher and Jeremy Mayer, acknowledge that the professoriate leans the to left–with Democratic party registration reaching 9 to 1 over Republicans at some universities– but argue that this imbalance has no appreciable effects, since most academics tend to avoid political controversy altogether. On the basis of questionnaires, the authors report that 95 percent of professors claim to be trying to be “honest brokers among all competing views” and 81 percent believe ideology plays no role at all in faculty hiring. Asking professors to state whether they are classroom propagandists or fair-minded teachers does not seem to be a rigorous methodology. Just as earnestly, the authors asked professors if students elsewhere on their campus got unfair grades because of their political views. Only one percent said it happens frequently or often. The authors say self-censorship of political and religious views, out of fear of negative reactions, was just as common among very liberal professors as among very conservative ones. And–in another counter-intuitive leap–”discrimination against non-Christians appears to be more widespread than discrimination against conservatives.” The authors spend a good deal of space deploring Ward Churchill on the left and David Horowitz on the right, while depicting faculties as moderates nestled in the middle, So not to worry. Although the universities have become more moderate since the 1990s, the book says, “The media have much preferred the narrative of the lefties in academe taking over.” But this is hardly the preferred narrative of the mainstream media, which have a long record of denying or ignoring patterns of coercion on campus, often giving the issue their full attention, as the Times did with Closed Minds?, only when some study dismisses the issue.

By sticking closely to bland survey questions, the authors are able to sidestep the evidence of regular campus wrongdoing: the freshman orientation and freshman writing programs setting forth the basic campus narrative that oppression by race, gender and class is the core reality of American life; the 800 or so campus speech codes, most of them unconstitutional and used to rein in campus dissent; the rise of “whiteness” studies that depict white people as hopeless victimizers and racists; the ethnic and women’s studies programs that sometimes require students to agree with the teachers’ views as the price of being admitted into courses; the discovery of “diversity loyalty oaths” that professors at a few colleges are required to sign, promising to work diversity themes into classes, even math and science; and the persistent attempts to defund or ban evangelical campus groups because of their theological opposition to homosexuality. Many professors think that the traditional curriculum is such a force for the status quo that they are entitled to use their classrooms to promote a more “progressive” America. Even Stanley Fish, no ally of the right, argues in Save the World on Your Own Time that teachers abdicate their true purpose when they routinely bring their political views into class in attempts to sway their students. Academe has its true horror stories. The University of Delaware residential life program, which required students to accept the theses that all whites are racists, presented its intrusive indoctrination program as a “treatment” for the faulty notions of students. Schools of education stress the proper “dispositions” of students, which often turn out to be the acceptance of the agenda of the cultural left, including gay marriage, radical environmentalism and redistribution of wealth. At Washington State, an entrenched educrat frankly admitted that Justice Antonin Scalia would probably flunk the school’s “dispositions” test.But the frank imposition of political tests is rarer than the pressure professors and administrators often apply to let students know which opinions are considered illegitimate on campus. Peter Wood, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, writes:

“Although there are plenty of professors who are eager to persuade students of the merits of their own political outlook and are willing to transgress the traditional boundary between instruction and advocacy, the real issue is not so much the pontificating professor as it is the campus as a self-enclosed social world in which some narratives have high status. The student eager to show that he or she “gets it” and isn’t some sort of clueless dolt who adopts the postures that need to be adopted.”  Closed Minds? doesn’t deal with any of this. At one point the authors write: “We are not comfortable with the idea that the major universities should be engines for major social change: they are neither organized for nor suited to such a role.” Good point, but their study fails to come to grips with professors who disagree.

THE POWER OF ONE: Media describes single bigot at a Palin rally as racist mob

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post often writes with a good deal of attitude, and his Tuesday column was no exception. In his report on Sarah Palin’s campaign speech in Clearwater, Florida, laced with mocking Palinisms (“darn right,” “betcha”), he wrote that “the self-identified pit bull has been unleashed, if not unhinged.” The “unhinging,” in Milbank’s assessment, came when Palin charged that Obama still has some explaining to do about his relationship with 1960s Weatherman bomber William Ayers.

Milbank also wrote that Palin blamed Katie Couric for her “less-than-successful” CBS interview. Other newspapers reported a more light-hearted Palin response to the dismal interview. The Tampa Tribune, for example, reported that she said: “I shoulda told them I was just trying to keep Tina Fey in business.”

But Milbank’s report triggered Democratic rage across the Internet with his charge that “Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness.” Some in the Clearwater crowd, he wrote, shouted abuse at reporters. Someone yelled “Kill him,” apparently a reference to Ayers; and one person shouted an epithet at a network sound man (apparently the N-word, though Milbank didn’t say) and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

Two shouting extremists in a crowd of 4,500 are two too many, of course. The question is whether these outliers offer sufficient evidence for a clearly hostile reporter to demonstrate that Palin’s rallies have gotten ugly. Florida reporters did not see the event that way. The St. Petersburg Times ran a benign story on the Palin speech. William March of the Tampa Tribune told me, “They booed Obama and the press, but that just makes it a normal Republican rally.” March admitted that he was standing further from the speaker’s stand than national press reporters, and therefore heard less, but he maintains that the rally was no hate-fest.

An early web version of Milbank’s column was headlined, “In Fla., Palin Goes for the Rough Stuff as Audience Boos Obama.” Rough stuff? There’s no evidence that Palin did anything more than challenge Obama on Ayers. In the short TV clip available at the Huffington Post, the crowd booed in response to Palin’s litany of Obama’s liberal votes in the Senate. This is pretty standard campaign behavior.

Milbank’s lone racist at the rally soon became a group (or a mob) of people shouting racial epithets. A New York Times editorial Tuesday (“The Politics of Attack”) misquoted Milbank’s Post column, claiming that one person shouted “Kill him” and “others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.” Many blogs followed suit: “Crowd at Palin Rally Hurled Racial Epithets at African American on News Crew,” read the headline at Pensito Review. This was too much for Bob Somerby, the left-leaning blogger at the Daily Howler. Calling Milbank “a highly unreliable chronicler,” Somerby taunted the Times for multiplying racists at the rally: “It’s the power of pluralization!…One example becomes much more powerful when we stick an ‘s’ on the end. In this case, one epithet-shouter turns into a group. How many people were shouting those epithets? The editors let you imagine.”

At the Huffington Post, the “Kill him” shout directed at Ayers was interpreted as an assassination threat against Obama. Another Huffington piece asked, “Is Palin Trying to Incite Violence Against Obama?” As the misreporting gathered steam on the Internet, writers became ever angrier. “The event sounds like the precursor to a lynching,” wrote a Daily Kos blogger. Another opined: “There is a time to start feeling fear.” Former New York Times reporter Adam Clymer compared Palin events with George Wallace speeches, though he gracefully conceded that “lots of journalists have worked in situations more menacing than covering Sarah Palin.”

This was a disastrous outing for the Post, the Times, and bloggers determined to view Palin appearances as brownshirt rallies. If the atmosphere is so hate-filled and racist at these events, why does the evidence come down to one shouter at one rally?

Obama and Sex Education

The wars over sexual education in elementary schools may be heating up again, this time over Senator Barack Obama’s explanation that he voted for an Illinois sex education bill to protect small children from inappropriate touching. Maybe that was his reason, Byron York writes on National Review Online, but the 2003 bill was much more than that and was not “written to protect young children from sexual predators,” as campaign spokesman Bill Burton contended.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 99, generally followed the Comprehensive guidelines of the prominent promoter of sex education, the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States. SIECUS has been pushing for sex ed to start in kindergarten rather than in the 6th grade and calls for lessons on sexually transmitted diseases for the age group of 5 to 8-year-olds. The group’s basic philosophy is that each child is sexual from birth, so sexual education should start early. The Illinois bill followed SIECUS in dropping the start of sex ed to the kindergarten level. Though the bill called for sex instruction to be age-appropriate, it mandated instruction on HIV in all grades, including kindergarten. On some subjects, including alcohol and drug use, instruction would have begun in grade five. But on sexually transmitted diseases, no such delay was allowed. The prospect of 5-year-olds grappling with HIV obviously raises more questions than a mild lesson on good touching and bad touching. It also indicates that the John McCain ad criticizing Barack Obama for his support for the Illinois bill was not a “lie” as many commentators believed, but a reasonable, if minor, campaign issue.

A number of commentators opted to protect Senator Obama by citing only messages from the SIECUS guidelines that seem harmless for 5- to 8-year-olds. One on-line “reality check” cites these messages: bodies change as children grow older; everybody can be proud of their body (sic); individual bodies are different sizes, shapes and colors: girls and boys have many similarities and a few differences, boys and girls have different body parts: and It’s OK to say no to adults who are touching you or make you feel uncomfortable.”

None of the commentators, however, seem to have listed the more controversial SIECUS topics assigned for 5 to 8-year-olds, including these:

“Some boys and girls masturbate and others do not. Human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender. There are medicines that people with HIV or AIDS can take to help them stay healthier and live longer. A family consists of two or more people who care for each other in many ways, (Among 9- to l2-year-olds this becomes: Children may have a mother, a mother and a father, two mothers, two fathers or any other combination of adults who love and care for them.”)

There are also uncontroversial lessons that have nothing to do with health or sexuality: “Man and women are capable of doing almost all the same jobs. Some commercials, television shows, movies and magazines make people and things look different or better than they really are. Children sometimes have to do things they do not want to do because their parents or other adults say so.”

The above lesson points, it should be said, are from the SIECUS guidelines, not the Illinois bill backed by Obama. The bill remained vague about what the children would be taught, apart from “the latest medically factual information.” The text of the bill seemed to derive from feminist-inspired anti-harassment regulations, including stress on “male accountability for sexual violence,” and a warning about “visual sexual harassment” (a big issue among radical feminists but not among small children).The bill devoted considerable attention to homosexuality and complaints about males. In comparison, the protection of small children from predators was a minor theme.

If I Ran the Campus

If I ran the campus
I’d start out anew
I’d make a few changes
That’s just what I’d do

Here’s a simple suggestion
(Avoiding all fads)
I’d have some professors
Who teach undergrads

I hear you all snicker
I hear you all scoff
But I’ve got to believe
That many a prof
Would thrill to be meeting
A freshman or soph

TAs are beloved
They’re always the rage
Because they all work
For a minimum wage
(But do students want teachers
Who are just their own age?)

Remedial classes
I’m sure is a must
For teachers who give
Only A or A-plus

They really must practice
At home, if they please,
Traumatically giving
Some Bs and some Cs

There’s another idea
I can bring to fruition
I know how to cut
The cost of tuition

I really don’t care
Whose waters this muddies,
This could irritate
The fuddies and duddies
But I’d cancel all courses
Whose names end in “studies.”

That’s just a start
I’ll do better than that
My curriculum changes
Will cut out the fat

No courses on Buffy
The Vampire Slayer
Or Batman and Robin
Who cares which is gayer?

No bongo or bingo
(Remember I said it)
No study of Yoda
No sex acts for credit

No Star Trek theology
No Matrix psychology
No queer musicology
I give no apology

If I ran the campus
I’d start out anew
I’d make a few changes
That’s just what I’d do

CANADIAN KANGAROOS: Mark Stein is not alone

Canada’s human-rights tribunals are best known for penalizing critics of Muslim fundamentalists, but they spend much more time clamping down on those who express a Christian or Biblical view of homosexuality.
In 2002, the Rev. Stephen Bossoin, a Canadian pastor and youth worker, ran afoul of one of these kangaroo courts. He wrote a testy letter about homosexuals to his local newspaper, the Red Deer (Alberta) Advocate, complaining bitterly that Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and other groups were using taxpayer money to propagandize young children in public schools.

Darren Lund, a professor at the University of Calgary, hauled Boissoin before the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which investigated him for holding homosexuals up to hatred and contempt. After nearly six years of hearings, delays, and argument about the letter, the tribunal convicted him and his group, the Concerned Christian Coalition. As punishment, Boissoin was ordered to pay a hefty fine, apologize in writing and never again make any negative remarks about homosexuality in speeches, on the Internet, or anywhere else. He refuses to comply.

The human-rights tribunals are a censor’s dream. Under Canada’s human-rights act, commissioners can convict if they believe any published material is “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.” Since they are “remedial” institutions and not real courts, they need not follow strict legal procedures or grant traditional rights of the accused. No one goes to prison, but the panels can fine and silence people at will — and run up the lawyer bills for years. Truth is no defense, and commissioners are authorized to confiscate a computer without a warrant. Evidence can be woefully flimsy.

In Boissoin’s case, the tribunal casually linked him to a gay-bashing said to have been perpetrated by a local man two weeks after the minister’s letter was published. The alleged bashing victim did not testify, has not been publicly identified, and apparently filed no police report. But the case got plenty of publicity, and some who testified before the panel said they thought the letter might have led to the bashing. So the chairwoman of the tribunal somehow found “sufficient nexus to conclude circumstantially that the two matters may be connected” (emphasis added).

The kangaroo courts — a national one, plus one in each province — have been under fire for months, mostly because of the Mark Steyn case. In 2006, Maclean’s magazine ran an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone, warning of Islam’s threat to the West. Steyn predicted that Muslims would become a “successor population” in Europe because of their high birth rate. Three of the human-rights commissions pounced. The British Columbia panel completed a five-day hearing but has not yet released a ruling. The Ontario panel dropped the case, saying it lacked jurisdiction over printed material. The federal human-rights commission is still investigating.

Steyn and Maclean’s have churned up a good deal of controversy. Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, ran a June 16 editorial under the headline, “Curb Bigoted Acts Not Free Speech.” It said that calls for reform, including a few in parliament, “reflect growing unease that an unwarranted chill is being cast on free speech.”

Ezra Levant, targeted by the Alberta commission for publishing the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, is a conservative lawyer, blogger, and publisher of the Western Standard. Ordered not to videotape his initial interrogation by the secrecy-minded panel, he taped it anyway and put it on Youtube.com, where it quickly drew 500,000 viewers.

In April, Levant focused on commission investigators who pose as member of hate groups on the Internet, post racist messages, then charge the owners of the site with publishing hate speech. Levant wrote: “Having learned that human rights ‘activists’ use the tactics of planting fake evidence and using fake names to provoke “hate crimes,” I now wonder if the rumored gay-bashing incident in the Boissoin case was itself manufactured. . . .” Levant is fond of referring to kangaroo court members as “the marsupials.”

Christians and conservatives are on the defensive because gays are quick to file charges. After running an ad listing Biblical references to homosexuality, a Saskatoon newspaper and man who placed the ad each had to pay $1,500 to three aggrieved gay complaintants. Another Saskatchewan man, convicted for spreading hatred against gays, had complained about an ad in a gay newspaper seeking boys for activities and specifically mentioning that their age was “not so relevant.” Catholic Insight magazine is also under investigation for commentary protested by gays.

The Boissoin case may be blossoming into the most prominent of the conflicts between Christians and gay activists, partly because Levant has been so successful in harping on the story and spreading it. Having shown little concern about the national anti-free-speech apparatus for years, the Canadian public is beginning to notice.

Girl Crazy

The American Association of University Women has long downplayed the school problems of boys, arguing instead that the education establishment victimizes girls, in what it calls an “unacknowledged tragedy.” So it is unsurprising that the AAUW’s latest report, “Where the Girls Are,” argues against the “myth” that boys are falling behind girls in school. The Washington Post summarized the report’s findings in a page-one headline: NO CRISIS FOR BOYS IN SCHOOL, STUDY SAYS.

The AAUW has been down this road before. Its 1992 report, “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” was a powerful and effective—though mostly false—lobbying effort for “gender equity.” As education scholar Diane Ravitch commented, the report “ginned up a non-existent crisis” in girls’ education. The report contained almost no new research and was essentially a rehash of old and dubious studies assembled to support its thesis. Yet the mainstream press reported the story with enormous excitement and little skepticism. BIAS AGAINST GIRLS IS FOUND RIFE IN SCHOOL, WITH LASTING DAMAGE, trumpeted the front page of the New York Times, though neither the text of the highly politicized report nor the cherry-picked research behind it justified that characterization.

Then as now, relevant statistics showed boys in more academic trouble than girls. Boys are much more likely to repeat a grade and to be given Ritalin for attention deficit disorder. They are twice as likely to wind up in special education. By 1992, the percentage of college students and graduates who were men had been declining for years, a fact that the AAUW ignored and education reporters mostly failed to notice for much of the ensuing decade. In recent years, research and media attention have swung decisively in favor of paying more attention to the predicaments of boys—a development that apparently rankles the AAUW. This time around, the AAUW does mention in passing that women have earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. over the past two decades, and that the average female high school student has a significantly higher grade-point average (3.09) than the average male (2.86).

But the new report also argues that the increasing success of girls has not come at the expense of boys, and that both girls and boys are improving their school performance. The organization that contended fiercely in 1992 that schools were doing great harm to girls now says: “The past few decades have seen remarkable gains for girls and boys in education, and no evidence indicates a crisis for boys in particular.” The report argues that the “crisis of boys” is more properly viewed as a problem among minority children and students from low-income families. Yet as the website Power Line points out, “the study held racial, ethnic, and economic factors constant and still found that boys under-performed in key respects. So whatever is true of minority and low-income students, academic success is also linked to gender, with girls performing significantly better than boys.” Indeed, the report acknowledges as much, noting that more Asian-American and white degree-earners are women than men (the ratios are 54 to 46 percent among Asian-Americans and 56 to 44 among whites). The disparities among Hispanics and blacks are even worse: women account for 59 percent of Hispanic undergraduates and for 64 percent of black ones.

Though “Where the Girls Are” doesn’t add much to the conversation, the report does make one strong point: that concern about the gaps between racial groups is more warranted than concern about gaps between the sexes. African-Americans and Hispanics lag far behind whites and Asian-Americans on every measure of school performance. The AAUW breezed past this point in 1992; it may be raising it now only to deflect attention from the plight of boys. But whatever the AAUW’s motive, the facts speak for themselves.

Hire a Conservative Professor?

Chancellor G. P. Peterson of the University of Colorado, Boulder, plans to raise $9 million to endow a visiting chair in conservative thought and policy, on grounds that intellectual diversity is a good thing. Like all radical ideas, having an unorthodox professor on campus sounds a bit risky, maybe even startling, but after some reflection, there might be a few benefits to go with the shock.

First, students will learn that conservative professors look very much like the 800 conventional liberal ones that the university has been collecting since the 1950’s. This in itself is a plus. Soon many students will realize that the average conservative professor has only one head, and shares a remarkable 98 percent of the conventional liberal professor’s genes. In addition most have opposable thumbs and are perfectly able to shake hands and smile readily at strangers. Still, the idea of hiring a conservative teacher should give us pause, for several reasons.

  • Conservatives are prone to mysterious outbursts of unaccountable mirth. This can occur at any time, for instance immediately after someone suggets attending a convention of the Modern Language Association, or when a professor points out that studying Madonna is just as good as studying Shakespeare.
  • Conservatives often go months without using the word “marginalized,” which clearly puts a damper on faculty conversation.
  • Though they speak fairly well, conservatives are notoriously weak in diversity-speak and postmodern expression, as if these crucial campus tongues were some sort of impenetrable jargon. As Judith Butler once quipped, inducing a burst of appreciative laughter from her audience, “right-wingers lack libidinal multiplicity and melancholic structure, very likely because they are so sadly saddled by the binary frame and univocal signification.” Indeed, who among us can disagree.
  • How do we know that conservatives will rest content with just one professor on each campus? It’s true that Harvard has Harvey Mansfield, Yale has Donald Kagan and Princeton has Robby George. This arrangement has long seemed stable, but the generous allowance of a token member often feeds the appetite for more. Rumor has it that as many as two or three other conservatives have infiltrated Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Is this true, and if so, where does it end? What happens when an open-borders policy inundates the academy and changes our culture? They are not like us. Won’t they cause disagreement and dissent?

No, one conservative professor on campus is way too many. Let’s drop the idea.