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Who Will Stand Up for Campus Free Speech?

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

Scheffler, it should be said, is something of a campus gadfly, with disdain for campus diversity programs and other policies. The university said Scheffler’s e-mails were threatening, but those messages, available on the FIRE web site , contain no semblance of a threat. Free speech was the core issue and still is.

Free speech has a very small constituency on the modern campus, particularly if the speaker under attack is conservative. Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard, is certainly no conservative, but he had run afoul of the campus left on many issues, not just the heavily publicized one of women in science (suggesting more campus respect for patriotism and the return of ROTC to Harvard, warning the “coastal elites” that they have drifted too far from the American mainstream). So when feminists managed to cancel Summers as a speaker before the University of California board of regents, there was scarcely a peep of protest. The American Association of University Professors spoke out, and so did the Harvard Crimson. But in a couple of hours of searching the internet, I found only one professor nationally who complained about the treatment of Summers.

A similar silence greeted the cancellation of a speech by Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist at Columbia University. Gilchrist and a colleague were driven off the stage at Columbia last year by angry radicals. Gilchrist was reinvited a month ago, but when the speech was announced, campus Hispanics, who consider him racist for opposing the flood of illegals into the country, pressured the relevant student authorities to ban him. The campus chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union thought about protesting but decided not to. Again, I was able to find only one professor willing to say that silencing Gilchrist was a bad idea. I asked Gilchrist if there were more. He said he knows of no other instructor who spoke out. The campus joke is that Gilchrist should have come out in favor killing gays and nuking Israel. Then he would have been as welcome as Mahoud Amadinejad.

The campus rule of thumb is that if someone on the liberal side is disinvited or punished for speech, the left will howl – and the right will usually howl too. This is what happened when the University of St. Thomas disinvited Archbishop Desmond Tutu for making remarks critical of Israel. After protests from across the political spectrum, he was reinvited. A better example is the hiring and almost immediate firing of liberal Duke law professor Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of a new law school at the University of California, Irvine. A huge number of conservatives protested, including professors and virtually the whole first string of nationally known conservative and libertarian bloggers. Chemerinsky was rehired.

The process doesn’t work in reverse – with liberals protesting the silencing of a conservative. It’s one of the most obvious flaws of the modern PC university.

Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, the voice of liberal academia, says that an important new study shows that liberal dominance among professors is much less than commonly believed. Not really. The study, by sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, found that in 2004, 78 percent of faculty voted for John Kerry (77percent) or Ralph Nader (1 percent), while only 20.4 percent voted for President Bush. Among social science professors, Ralph Nader and “other” received a percentage of the 2004 vote as large as that of President Bush.

Other findings:

* Liberals outnumber conservatives by 11-1 among social scientists and 13-1 among humanities professors.

* 25.5 percent of those who teach sociology identify themselves as Marxist. Self-identified radicals accounted for 19 percent of humanities professors and 24 percent of social scientists.

* Although business school professors are believed to be predominantly conservative, professors of business voted 2-1 for Kerry. These professors were barely more conservative than liberal.

* Only 19.7 percent of respondents identify themselves as any type of conservative, compared to 62.2 percent who say they are any type of liberal.

* At elite, Ph.D-granting schools in general, 60.4 percent of faculty members are Democrats, 30.1 percent are independents and 9.5 percent are Republicans.

* Gross and Simmons believe that liberals are losing ground to moderates among faculty, though conservatives are not gaining at all. Faculty members who are 35 or younger are less likely that their elders to be left-wing, and less likely to be conservative as well.

The survey drew 1,417 repsonses from full-time instructors at 927 colleges. Gross and Simmons created a new category – “moderates” – by lumping together middle-of-the-road professors with “slightly conservative” and “slightly liberal” respondents. In this analysis, 43.5 percent were liberal, 47 percent moderate and 9 percent conservative. Even with the removal of the “slightly” conservatives, who were less numerous than the “slightly” liberals, conservatives were outnumbered by liberals by almost 5-1. Still, Gross and Simmons concluded that because the “moderate” category in the study is larger than the liberal one, the academy is actually more moderate than left-wing.

That opinion was challenged yesterday by Ilya Somin, an assistant professor at the George Mason University School of Law. Writing on the Volokh Conspiracy site,Somin noted that surveys of the general public showed that moderates voted 54-45 percent for Kerry, while nearly all the moderates in the Gross-Simmons analysis seem to have voted for the Democrat. Somin wrote that “this result certainly suggests that self-described academic centrists are on average much further to the left that moderates in the general population.” Endless polling on ideology among professors may have taught many respondents to heave toward a moderate identity as a way of disarming conservative critics and making the campus appear more balanced. The study did not take on one crucial question: what percentage of instructors feel entitled to use the classroom as a political stage, promoting social change and inculcating a particular political viewpoint in their students?

One surprise in the study is that almost half of all those polled oppose affirmative action preferences. This means that a massive opposition to preferences has remained silent and hidden for years, not speaking out or attempting to protect the students punished for bucking preferences (stolen newspapers, canceled speakers, punishment for “bake sales” that mock preferences). Another finding is that more than two-thirds of all instructors (68.8 percent) say “the goal of diversity should include fostering diversity of views among faculty members.” Question of the day: How many professors have actually said this out loud? Fear or indifference may be the reason for reticence. Or maybe a great many professors are caught in a persistent vegetative state, too paralyzing to let them say on campus what they tell pollsters they actually believe.

Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of the history of education at New York University , was appalled by the 31 percent of instructors who couldn’t bring themselves to tell the Gross-Simmons survey that intellectual diversity should be fostered. “What were they thinking?,” Zimmerman asked Saturday at a Harvard symposium on the study.

Lawrence Summers, deposed president of Harvard, got it right at the symposium, noting that not one social science instructor at a PhD-granting institution reported voting for President Bush in 2004. “There is an overwhelming tilt toward the progressive side,” Summers said, “Compared to the underrepresentation of other groups whose underrepresentation is often stressed, the underrepresentation of conservatives appears to be rather more, perhaps.” Yes. this certainly seems so. No perhaps about it.

Indoctrinating Social Workers

1997, the National Association of Social Work (NASW) altered its ethics code, ruling that all social workers must promote social justice “from local to global level.” This call for mandatory advocacy raised the question: what kind of political action did the highly liberal field of social work have in mind? The answer wasn’t long in coming. The Council on Social Work Education, the national accreditor of social work education programs, says candidates must fight “oppression,” and sees American society as pervaded by the “global interconnections of oppression.” Now aspiring social workers must commit themselves, usually in writing, to a culturally left agenda, often including diversity programs, state-sponsored redistribution of income, and a readiness to combat heterosexism, ableism, and classism.This was all too much for the National Association of Scholars. The NAS has just released a six-month study of social work education, examining the ten largest programs at public universities for which information was available. The report, “The Scandal of Social Work,” says these programs “have lost sight of the difference between instruction and indoctrination to a scandalous extent. They have, for the most part, adopted an official ideological line, closing off debate on many questions that serious students of public policy would admit to be open to the play of contending viewpoints.”

Nine of the ten programs, the NAS reports, require students to accept the ideology-saturated NASW code of ethics to get a degree in social work. The University of Central Florida says students “must comply” with the code of ethics if they wish to remain in school. Failure to accept the code constitutes “academic misconduct” in the University of Michigan program and “can result in disciplinary action” at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

“Diversity/multiculturalism” and “oppression” were among the most common themes in coursework. The report notes, “Although it’s certainly true that racism has been oppressive in American history, it seems question-begging to assume that ‘oppression’ is a leading cause of poverty in the modern U.S. And it is far from clear that the only pathway to a non-racist or egalitarian society passes through the gateway or multiculturalism.”

The NAS called on government agencies at the federal, state and local level “to cease requiring that social workers hold degrees from CSWE accredited programs in order to be hired.” By associating themselves with the ideological tests in the CSWE standards and NASW code, “such agencies violate constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and religious conscience.”

At schools of education, the buzzword “dispositions” carries the message of politicized advocacy. Ed schools once required aspiring teachers to display only competence and knowledge. Then the amorphous criterion of “dispositions” appeared, referring vaguely to habits and attitudes that teachers must have. The National Council for Accreditation of Teachers of English (NCATE) said education departments could “include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice”-in effect ruling that public school teachers could be evaluated on their perceptions of what social justice requires.

This opened a door to reject candidates on the basis of thoughts and beliefs. It also allowed ed schools to infer bad character from a political stance that the schools opposed. At Washington State University, where the college of education tried to expel a conservative student, the dean was asked whether Justice Antonin Scalia could pass a dispositions test at her school. “I don’t know how to answer that,” she replied.

Interventions by free speech and religious liberties groups induced a few schools to back down in well-publicized cases of abuse. At Missouri State University’s undergraduate social work program, Emily Brooker received a “C” after complaining that professor Frank Kauffman “routinely engaged in leftist diatribes.” Kauffman instructed Brooker’s class to write the state legislature urging legal approval of adoption by gays. She refused on religious and moral grounds. As a result, Brooker was brought up on very serious charges; to get her degree, she had to promise to abide by the NASW code. After graduation, she sued and won a settlement.

In an attention-getting article, Stanford education school professor William Damon wrote that ed schools “have been given unbounded power over what candidates may think and do, what they may believe and value.” In what seemed to be an exercise in damage control, NCATE president Arthur Wise said he agreed with Damon that it is not acceptable for ed schools to assess social and political beliefs.

Still, the ideology behind disposition theory and social justice requirements is intact and strongly holds sway in the schools. It dovetails with the general attitude on campuses that promoting liberal advocacy in the classroom is legitimate and necessary. So long as government agencies collaborate with the social work programs and ed schools, reform will remain a long way off.

A Political Target

Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional scholar and law professor at Duke for 21 years, has just been hired and then fired as the first dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School, which opens in 2009. Irvine’s chancellor, Michael Drake, explained the firing by saying “he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky’s political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives,” according to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, a blog on legal academia.If the blog report is accurate, the treatment of Chemerinsky is a test case for conservatives who support free speech and argue vehemently against political tests for faculty and administration appointments. Do these principles apply only to conservatives, or do they protect liberals as well?

Chemerinsky is indeed very liberal and very outspoken. He particularly irritated many religious conservatives by lumping Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists as threats to democratic principles. So argue with him, but don’t try to get him fired.

For one thing, the chancellor had plenty of time to think about the impact of hiring Chermerinsky, and to reject him if he chose. But it’s disgraceful to hire the man, fire him immediately and then explain that you are doing so to cave into political pressure. The chancellor, the school and Chemerinsky all suffer from this sort of amateurish behavior. And if the chancellor does not reverse course and accept Chemerinsky, he puts the next choice for dean in an untenable position – he will inevitably be seen as a safe nominee, so harmless that no political pressure group will try to oust him. The reputation of the law school would decline two years before opening.

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky said. I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints. He said he has begun to assemble a board of advisors that would have included conservatives such as Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown, and Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court.

Writing anonymously on the Wall Street Journal site, different Duke law students offered both praise and criticism for Chemerinsky. A pro-Chemerinsky opinion said: “To respond to allegations of anti-conservative bias – these cannot be further from the truth. Equal air time was always given to both sides during class, and with regard to his Con Law final, I wrote a final exam that could only be described as ‘Scalia-esque’ and received a 4.0.”Do the right thing, chancellor, and re-hire Chemerinsky.

Bong Hits for Temple

The Supreme Court’s Morse v. Frederick decision was questionable on several grounds. In upholding a high school’s right to regulate student speech “reasonably regarded as encouraging illegal drug use,” the justices took the student banner “Bong Hits for Jesus” much too seriously. Was it an argument for student access to drugs or a jokey stunt that never should have gotten to the court? Besides the student was displaying the banner off campus, across the street from his school during a school-sponsored welcome for an Olympic procession.

Then there is the issue of general damage to free speech rights. Several free-speech advocates, including David French, then president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and now director of the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, warned that censorship-minded universities would cite the Frederick decision as justification for campus speech codes. That has now happened. Temple University points to Morse v.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund filed the case against Temple , now before the court of appeals for the third circuit. FIRE’s amicus brief has been joined by an array of allies, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Christian Legal Society,, Feminists for Free Expression, Students for Academic Freedom and the Student Press Law Center. It’s an unusually broad coalition for a college free-speech case.

Introduction to Indoctrination 101

Required summer reading for college freshmen is often highly politicized. That goes double for freshmen introductory writing courses and textbooks. Teaching composition to new students ought to be an ideology-free effort, but for many years on many campuses it hasn’t been.

For example, take Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers, compiled by David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky of the University of Pittsburgh and first published in 1987. In its various editions (the eighth appeared this year),Ways has served up a steady diet of post-modernism, critical theory, post-colonial studies, identity politics, post structuralism, Marxism, hard-line feminism and other isms of the academic left. Featured authors have included Edward Said, Paolo Freire, Susan Bordo, Michel Foucault, Adrienne Rich, Stanley Fish and Patricia Williams.

Here and there, a mainstream writer appears: Virginia Woolf , Joyce Carol Oates and James Baldwin (all three gone in the current edition) as well as Walker Percy, who has survived several purges. But the ideological component is overwhelming, and meant to be. Ways of Reading is an immersion course for unsuspecting freshmen into the discourse and values of the academic far left. The basic message is: this is the way things are on this campus, so get used to it.

The essays are long and run from dense to nearly impenetrable. How freshmen, many of whom write poorly and need remedial help, are supposed to cope with this difficult, in-your-face anthology is obscure.

Assessments of the book are hard to find. In 2004, a freshman wrote to Amazon, “The book is basically a leftist handbook meant to tell the ‘proper opinion’ on every issue.” Presumably many professors adopt the book because it reflects their values and legitimates “transformative teaching” (indoctrination). Tom Kerr, writing in 2001 as an assistant professor at Ithaca College, saw the text “as a way not only of reading but also of proselytizing and subverting the mind numbing, consumer/capitalist/fascist/sexist/racist/classist ideologies that surrounded us in the form of American mythologies and mass culture.”

Kerr approvingly called the book “a kind of postmodern tough love,” “a cultural war machine” and “a multicultural boot camp.” (Not much emphasis here on teaching freshmen how to write.) Still , he thought the book’s negatives outweighed the positives. “For many in its highly diverse audience,” he wrote Ways of Reading is apt to yield more dutiful conformity than critical creativity and, as likely as not, leave the audience dumbfounded.” More importantly, imposing a one-sided ideology on a writing class is remarkably contemptuous of the students involved. Call it intellectual waterboarding.

Swerving around riots

In 1967, Newark erupted in gunfire, looting, and arson, killing 23 people and injuring 700. But 40 years later, the New York Times still is not certain that this event should properly be called a “riot.” In a news article marking the anniversary, the Times reminds us that “frightened white residents” of the 1960s opted for the word “riot,” while “black activists” of the period called it a “rebellion.”

In a bracing slap at readers who unthinkingly might refer to several days of riotous behavior as a “riot,” the Times quotes the president of the New Jersey Historical Society, Linda Epps, who says: “there is not one truth, and your view depends on your race, your age and where you lived.” So what would fair-minded neutral people call it today? No need to wonder. The Times tells us: “Those seeking neutrality have come to embrace the word ‘disturbance.'” I can sympathize. Unaware that they may be giving offense, many Americans and Europeans still blithely talk about “World War II,” with its aggressive and wounding reference to armed conflict. On the other hand, many German activists of the period preferred the term “unjustified trampling of the Third Reich’s perfectly legitimate lebensraum and population control policies.” Surely it is time for a non-provocative name for this troublesome six-year disturbance. How about “the multiple disagreements and tragic misunderstandings of 1939-1945?” Or perhaps “World Woe II,” so we can retain the established initials.

In 1990, I first noticed the Newspaper of Record stopping an article in its tracks to propose a gentle term for a riot-like event. Protesters from ACT-UP had just invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral, racing through the building and screaming to disrupt mass.

A Times news article began this way: “To many parishioners, the recent invasion of St. Patrick’s Cathedral by dozens of angry AIDS protesters was an act of desecration. But to Christopher Hennelly … it was a prayer for self-preservation. ‘The strongest prayer I’ve ever made in my life was on the floor of St. Patrick’s,'” he said.

This may have been the first time that any major newspaper described a church invasion and the stomping of a consecrated communion host as a form of prayer.

Swerving around the “r” word is sometimes just plain hard work. In 1991, the Times described an ugly racial upheaval in Cincinnati as “sporadic protests and vandalism.” This did not quite catch the flavor of bricks being heaved through windshields at the heads of motorists, a woman dragged from her car and beaten, and more than a hundred homes and shops set on fire. The Times mentioned that one police officer was “reported grazed” by a bullet. In fact, a sniper shot him in the stomach but the bullet deflected off his belt buckle, saving his life.

The Times doesn’t always suppress “riots,” but it much prefers to report on uprisings, melees, protests, and “clashes,” the paper’s preferred term for the horrendous Crown Heights events of 1991.

Last year a group of Hasids went berserk after police handcuffed a motorist sitting harmlessly in his double-parked car outside his family shop in Brooklyn. The crowd lit bonfires, threw garbage, smashed a car’s windows, and torched a police car.

This raised the journalistic issue of whether white people were allowed to riot in the Times. Not this time. The Times story began: “A routine traffic stop of a 75-year-old Hasidic driver escalated into a protest last night …” Escalated into a protest? Sounds grim. Thank heavens it didn’t explode into a disagreement.

Bowling with Our Own

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.

Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”

Neither age nor disparities of wealth explain this result. “Americans raised in the 1970s,” he writes, “seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s.” And the “hunkering down” occurred no matter whether the communities were relatively egalitarian or showed great differences in personal income. Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness.

Putnam has long been aware that his findings could have a big effect on the immigration debate. Last October, he told the Financial Times that “he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity.” He said it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that,” a quote that should raise eyebrows. Academics aren’t supposed to withhold negative data until they can suggest antidotes to their findings.

Nor has Putnam made details of his study available for examination by peers and the public. So far, he has published only an initial summary of his findings, from a speech he gave after winning an award in Sweden, in the June issue of Scandinavian Political Studies. His office said Putnam is in Britain, working on a religion project at the University of Manchester, and is currently too busy to grant an interview.

Putnam’s study does make two positive points: in the long run, increased immigration and diversity are inevitable and desirable, and successful immigrant societies “dampen the negative effects of diversity” by constructing new identities. Social psychologists have long favored the optimistic hypothesis that contact between different ethnic and racial groups increases tolerance and social solidarity. For instance, white soldiers assigned to units with black soldiers after World War II were more relaxed about desegregation of the army than were soldiers in all-white units. But Putnam acknowledges that most empirical studies do not support the “contact hypothesis.” In general, they find that the more people are brought into contact with those of another race or ethnicity, the more they stick to their own, and the less they trust others. Putnam writes: “Across local areas in the United States, Australia, Sweden Canada and Britain, greater ethnic diversity is associated with lower social trust and, at least in some cases, lower investment in public goods.”

Though Putnam is wary of what right-wing politicians might do with his findings, the data might give pause to those on the left, and in the center as well. If he’s right, heavy immigration will inflict social deterioration for decades to come, harming immigrants as well as the native-born. Putnam is hopeful that eventually America will forge a new solidarity based on a “new, broader sense of we.” The problem is how to do that in an era of multiculturalism and disdain for assimilation.

And the Award Goes to…

As the founder and sole member of the Sheldon Award Society, I am dedicated to identifying the worst college president of each academic year. So far the presidents or chancellors of Berkeley, Georgetown, DePaul, and countless other universities have copped the Sheldon. Somewhat mysteriously, none offered to resign.

The award is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except the Oscar features a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way.

The award is named for Sheldon “Water Buffalo” Hackney, the former president of the University of Pennsylvania and the Babe Ruth of modern Sheldonism.

The president of Tufts University, Lawrence Bacow, looked the other way when a student-faculty committee put a conservative Tufts publication on trial for publishing two parodies. One was a mock Christmas carol making fun of racial preferences in college admissions, the other a satire on Islamic Awareness week.

The publication, the Primary Source, was convicted of harassment for what would pass as free speech on most other campuses. The committee ordered the publication not to run any unsigned articles in the future, a rule not applied to other campus publications. The committee also hinted that funding would be cut if other controversial articles were published.

Mr. Bacow or his staff apparently snookered the Tufts commencement speaker, Mayor Bloomberg. The mayor’s speech mistakenly praised the campus for respecting free speech in the controversy, although a harassment verdict had already been announced.

Another perennial Sheldon candidate, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, had a notable year. In October, rioters prevented speeches by two Minutemen, members of a volunteer group that patrols the Mexican border reporting illegal immigrants.

Mr. Bollinger, a first amendment scholar, might have shown a commitment to free speech by inviting the men back, introducing them himself and providing enough security to prevent more censorship by riot. But he didn’t.

Instead, he let months go by before imposing a mild non-punishment on the unnamed perpetrators. The punishment “seems to have no more meaning than O.J. Simpson’s quest to find the real killers,” according to an article featured on the Web site of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free-speech watchdog group.

The last of our three finalists is president of Duke, Richard Brodhead. Because Michael Nifong made himself such a spectacular villain in the lacrosse case, Mr. Brodhead escaped without much criticism. But here is what Mr. Brodhead did: On hearing the first reports, he abruptly canceled the lacrosse season, suspended the two players named in the case, and fired the lacrosse coach of 16 years, giving him less than a day to get out.

This helped create the impression that the players were guilty. His long letter to the campus on April 20 did the same thing. He didn’t say the boys were guilty, but he talked passionately about the coercion and assault of women, the legacy of racism, and privilege and inequality – all of which fed the anger aimed at the lacrosse team.

Mr. Brodhead did nothing to deter the tsunami whipped up against the players by some students and the Group of 88, an alliance of mostly radical race and gender professors. One of the looniest of the 88, Houston Baker, answered a polite and worried letter from one of the lacrosse moms by calling her “the mother of a farm animal.”

Without any comment from Mr. Brodhead, the protesters issued death threats, carried banners that said “castrate,” featured photos of lacrosse players on “Wanted” fliers, and banged pots outside the boys’ residences in the early morning hours to disturb their sleep. A word from the president about leaving the boys alone and guaranteeing them a fair trial would have been nice.

Like Mr. Brodhead, the Group of 88 did not quite call the players guilty, but praised the campus protestors for “shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman.” No comment about that from Mr. Brodhead and no comment from him on Mr. Nifong for nine months. An engineering professor at Duke said, “There never was a clear sense that the students were innocent until proven guilty.”

Congratulations Richard Brodhead, Sheldon laureate 2007. And you should resign.

Let the Segregation Commence

Commencement weekend is hard to plan at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university now has so many separate identity-group graduations that scheduling them not to conflict with one another is a challenge. The women’s studies graduation and the Chicana/Chicano studies graduation are both set for 10 AM Saturday. The broader Hispanic graduation, “Raza,” is in near-conflict with the black graduation, which starts just an hour later.

Planning was easier before a new crop of ethnic groups pushed for inclusion. Students of Asian heritage were once content with the Asian–Pacific Islanders ceremony. But now there are separate Filipino and Vietnamese commencements, and some talk of a Cambodian one in the future. Years ago, UCLA sponsored an Iranian graduation, but the school’s commencement office couldn’t tell me if the event was still around. The entire Middle East may yet be a fertile source for UCLA commencements.

Not all ethnic and racial graduations are well attended. The 2003 figures at UCLA showed that while 300 of 855 Hispanic students attended, only 170 out of 1,874 Asian-Americans did.
Some students are presumably eligible for four or five graduations. A gay student with a Native American father and a Filipino mother could attend the Asian, Filipino, and American Indian ceremonies, plus the mainstream graduation and the Lavender Graduation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.

Graduates usually wear identity-group markers—a Filipino stole or a Vietnamese sash, for instance, or a rainbow tassel at the Lavender event. Promoters of ethnic and racial graduations often talk about the strong sense of community that they favor. But it is a sense of community based on blood, a dubious and historically dangerous organizing principle.

The organizers also sometimes argue that identity-group graduations make sense for practical reasons. They say that about 3,000 graduating seniors show up for UCLA’s “regular” graduation, making it a massive and impersonal event. At the more intimate identity-group events, foreign-born parents and relatives hear much of the ceremony in their native tongues. The Filipino event is so small—about 100 students— that each grad gets to speak for 30 seconds.
But the core reason for separatist graduations is the obvious one: on campus, assimilation is a hostile force, the domestic version of American imperialism. On many campuses, identity-group training begins with separate freshman orientation programs for nonwhites, who arrive earlier and are encouraged to bond before the first Caucasian freshmen arrive. Some schools have separate orientations for gays as well. Administrations tend to foster separatism by arguing that bias is everywhere, justifying double standards that favor identity groups.

Four years ago Ward Connerly, then a regent of the University of California, tried to pass a resolution to stop funding of ethnic graduations and gay freshman orientations. He changed his mind and asked to withdraw his proposal, but the regents wanted to vote on it and defeated it in committee 6–3.

No major objections to ethnic graduations have emerged since. As in so many areas of American life, the preposterous is now normal.