Another blow at the meritocracy: California to eliminate all standardized tests for college admissions

January 14, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Part of the Woke Program is dispelling meritocracy, as demonstrations of “merit” are often seen as byproducts of “privilege”, while lower assessments of merit, especially when instantiated by minority groups, are seen as instantiations of bigotry. It’s well known, for example, that the standard ACT and SAT tests show dramatically different average scores among racial groups. Below is a table of 2018 scores from the National Center for Education Statistics, with data drawn from the U.S. Department of Education. The standard deviations in the U.S. overall are about 200; this figure would be lower for separate groups because that estimate comes from combined data of groups having different means.

As is well known, there are big differences between groups—on the order of half to a full standard deviation, with Asians at the top followed by whites, mixed-race students, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and then Native Americans and blacks nearly tied on the lowest rung.

The ordering is seen as reflecting racism, and that may well be true if you take “racism” as meaning “the historical oppression of minority groups which had created at present an impoverished cultural environment with bad schools.” And that would be my own explanation for the differences. A culture of pushing for achievement and high grades would then account for Asians getting the highest scores on average.

Some people, however, attribute racism more directly, arguing that the questions themselves are racially biased, favoring white and Asian “knowledge” over the knowledge held by other groups.  I don’t think such an explanation holds much water, especially for math; and the SAT company has made efforts to examine the possibility of bias and eliminate those questions that smack of it.

Because of the racial disparities, people have argued successfully to eliminate SATs and ACTs (another standardized test) as requirements for college admission. I can’t see a good reason for that. SATs, in particular, are just as correlated with success in college as are high-school grade point averages, but the latter are specific to schools. Why would you not want to put all students on the same scale, evaluated by the same test, when you’re judging students? The best thing to do, as I’ve argued, is use a multivariate index, combining grades and standardized-test scores.

The reason schools are eliminating tests, of course, is largely because racial disparities in scores don’t look good on their face (I’d argue that they highlight a problem of inequality), and, if used as one criterion for college admission, would reduce the chances of minorities like blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans getting into selective colleges, exacerbating inequities (inequality of representation). But there’s a solution: colleges wanting more racial balance can use various legal affirmative-action strategies, strategies that, in general, I approve of. Also, there’s a benefit for minorities taking standardized tests: it enables colleges to pick out those students who are likely to do well (remember the correlation between SAT scores and college success) but didn’t have high grade-point averages, perhaps because they were bored or not turned on by the curriculum.

But you can only push affirmative action so far before unequal admissions treatment starts getting people upset. That’s why a group of Asian students sued Harvard (and lost, at least for the time being), claiming that Harvard deliberately downgraded their assessments to avoid having too many Asians on campus. If you have standardized-test numbers to attach to different groups, the disparities are glaring and not only can incite resentment, but can lead to lawsuits arguing that schools are using a “quota system,” a strategy ruled out in the Bakke case.

Recently, the University of California decided to eliminate tests like SATs as requirements for in-state applicants, making them optional for the next two years. Then, in 2023, students will not be allowed to even submit those scores. This happened despite the recommendation of both its own Chancellor and a panel convened by the University system itself, both of which recommended that SAT-like tests be retained as mandatory for applicants. The only reason that the University could possibly have for overriding its own panel’s recommendation is that test scores highlight racial disparities and could exacerbate at the U of C if considered in a largely meritocratic admissions system.

For reasons I can’t fathom, the University of California, after ditching the SATs and ACTs, recommended that the system devise its own standardized test, to be implemented in 2025. But according to this article from the Los Angeles Times (click on screenshot, and inquire for a copy if paywalled), they’ve decided they can’t do that in a timely fashion, and so the U of C is likely to ditch all standardized tests—for good.  This has already happened in over 1,000 other colleges and universities (roughly a quarter of higher-education institutions in the U.S.), a wholesale dismantling of the meritocracy. (n.b.: I don’t think that test-scores or grades should be the sole criterion for college admissions, as there are other criteria of achievement that aren’t measured by these statistics.)

See if you can open this, and ask if you can’t:

Because the proposed UC-specific test isn’t practicable, they’ve explored another alternative:

The UC Board of Regents unanimously voted last year to eliminate the SAT and ACT — as more than 1,000 other colleges and universities have done — amid decades of research showing test performance is heavily influenced by race, income and parent education levels.

But the regents accepted a faculty recommendation to explore whether a new UC test without those biases could be developed, saying it would have to be ready in time for fall 2025 applicants.

The UC panels, in their reports released Monday, said it was not feasible for UC to develop its own test because it would take too long and recommended that the university instead explore using a modified version of the state’s high school assessment — but only as an optional “data point” in comprehensive applicant reviews.

The new replacement:

The group of UC faculty, admissions directors, testing experts and other educational and community representatives focused on whether Smarter Balanced, the California assessment given annually to 11th graders, could be retooled for UC use. Any use of a modified state test, however, should be optional and limited so as not to create the inequities and high-stakes pressures associated with the SAT and ACT, according to the recommendation to UC President Michael V. Drake from a second panel.

This is just replacing one standardized test with another, and one that can’t be used to compare in-state applicants with out-of-state applicants who don’t take “Smarter Balanced.” Note the concern with “inequities and high-stakes pressures”.  Well, you’re still going to get those, because Smarter Balanced testing produces the same disparities as does the SAT:

But members from both groups also expressed concerns about racial and ethnic disparities in state test results. For instance, about 70% of students classified as Asian meet or exceed the 11th-grade standard for math compared with 45% of whites and 20% of Black and Latino students, the work group said.

So you’ve still got those substantial inequities in exactly the same direction. Proponents of the California-specific test, however, argue that it has a few advantages over SATs. For one thing, it’s free, while I believe it costs a lot to take the standardized SAT and ACT tests. Also, proponents argue that a California-specific test will somehow “better align [the University of California] with the K-12 system, leading to better educational preparation for university work.”

But do you really want California-wide uniformity of educational desiderata, especially when assessed with a test not available to those outside California? It all sounds too cumbersome to me. 

And, in the end, the committees assessing this issue decided that, for the time being, the University system should not use Smarter Balanced as an admission criterion, instead using the test scores “for related purposes, such as validating GPA [JAC: that is a criterion by the way], providing context about the school’s educational environment or helping determine placement in freshman courses and summer preparation programs.”

In the end, I think that a mandatory standardized test for all applicants, including those from outside the state, is useful, and I can’t see any good arguments against it save the cost, which can be obviated. As I wrote last year, concurring with Scott Aaronson that standardized tests have real value in singling out smart kids who didn’t get good grades (Aaronson was one of those):

If you want greater racial equity, though, it seems to me best not to eliminate test scores, but to calculate a multivariate index of “academic achievement,” and then use other criteria, like “diversity points” to increase racial balance. This is, in effect, what is being done now by schools like Harvard. The reason, as I’ve said before, is as a form of reparations for those held back by their sociopolitical history in America.

You can have greater equity and some meritocratic criteria at the same time. What you cannot have is greater equity and purely meritocratic admissions, assuming that you base the merit on grades, test scores, and criteria like achievements not measured by grades and scores. (I don’t recommend using Harvard’s “personality index”!) Eventually, when equality of opportunity is achieved for all groups—and that is the real goal, but one that will take decades to achieve—there will be no good arguments against using standardized tests as criteria for college admission.

h/t: Luana

Jodi Shaw, the gadfly of Smith College: Put on paid leave, nevertheless, she persists

January 8, 2021 • 12:45 pm

I’ve put up two posts (part 1 and part 2 ) about Jodi Shaw, an employee of Smith College who worked as a student support coordinator specializing in “Residence Life”. Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like Critical Race Theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Read the two links at the beginning for the full story.

Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”

Shaw, amazingly, continues to post videos, and she’s now up to six (her YouTube channel is here). From the outset it was clear that, at a place like Smith, Shaw would be completely demonized for bucking the established order, even though Smith College couldn’t fire her. Now she gets a profile in the conservative Spectator, which reprises her story—a story that many of you know—but also adds a bit more information. Click on the screenshot:

After her treatment by Smith, Shaw filed a 100-page complaint about her mistreatment in the anti-racism seminar, but, according to the article above, Smith College never responded.  Here’s the new information, which includes the report that she’s been put on paid leave, which is what they do to police who kill somebody. I’ve listened to several of her videos, and I’ll put one of the latest ones below. They’re calm and reasonable, and I’m stymied about why she was taken off her job.

You can get the old stuff by reading either my past posts or the first part of the article above. The following includes her liberal bona fides, her sad plans for a fallback career, and the fact that she’s been put on leave:

She filed a 100-page complaint with the college, alleging multiple individual acts of ‘race-based hostility and discrimination’, as well as examples of ‘a climate of fear, hostility, exclusion and intimidation for  its employees’. The complaint went nowhere.

Shaw is soft-spoken, thoughtful and modest. She’s the opposite of the emotional screamers who post videos of themselves having meltdowns about Trump, or the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She also has serious hipster-woke credentials, having gone to Smith herself in the early Nineties, and lived in Portland and in Brooklyn, both hotbeds of self-loathing white people trying to atone for their race. She laughs at the irony of a person like herself becoming a poster child for speaking out about racism against white people. As a young woman, she was an actual card-carrying member of the Socialist Worker’s Party. At Smith, she called out people who used the word lame. ‘That kind of language policing, I participated in it,’ she told me.

She’s all grown up now, though, and, like most people, has matured beyond the censorious fervor so common among the young. And she has put her job and her credibility on the line, as she was just put on paid leave while the college investigates her actions. Unlike others from academia who have spoken out against critical race theory, Shaw did not have a secure, tenured, prestige job and/or a large platform. Her Plan B, should she lose her position at Smith, is to work for a maintenance company clearing snow and raking leaves. She’s a single mother. When I asked her why she put her neck on the chopping block over this, she replied: ‘because it’s just wrong.’

The staff are on the frontline of this ideological race war. But it’s wrong for everyone involved. The students, who pay exorbitant fees to study at Smith, are being dealt with — at least by the staff who manage the student living quarters, food halls and security — according to their race.

Why is it the very best colleges, places like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Smith, and Bryn Mawr, that are especially subject to self-flagellation and accusations of system racism? I don’t believe it’s because those places are more racist that other colleges; in fact, I don’t believe they were “systemally racist” (i.e., had in place a structure that perpetuated bigotry against racial minorities) at all.

Her latest video about her own situation has this description:

A population of individuals cut off from their respective moral centers is a population capable of committing great atrocities. In this video I explore some of the psychic damage resulting from my involvement in Smith’s efforts to combat “systemic racism.” Specifically, how a belief in the notion of “white fragility,” combined with the fear of being branded a racist, necessitates betrayal of ones moral compass.

I think Shaw is pretty much alone: I suspect she has almost no allies at Smith. These videos are her way of expressing her feelings to people who will listen. In effect, she’s using the camera as a therapist.

I do not believe she is a racist, but she’s been treated like one because she refused to flagellate herself with the whip of Critical Race Theory. In fact, she seems to have been the victim of racism herself.   But she’s also right about the way anti-racism of a particular stripe is forced down the throats of students, faculty, and staff at many American universities.

Bryn Mawr: “The world’s most expensive anti-racism YouTube training program”

January 6, 2021 • 12:30 pm

We now have a female version of George Bridges (the spineless President of Evergreen State): she is Kim Cassidy, President of the ritzy Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. At that school, tuition, room and board will run you a cool $74,000 a year. (I just found out that Bridges has resigned and will be gone by June.)

As I reported in early December, there was a strike among students at nearby Haverford College after an October police shooting in Philadelphia of a black man, Walter Wallace, Jr., that led to demonstrations and riots in the city (see my reports on Haverford here and here). The student strike was inevitably accompanied by a laundry list of demands, to which Haverford caved (granted, some demands were reasonable, but most weren’t given that the institution was not racist).

There’s no evidence that Bryn Mawr was racist, either. Until the killing of George Floyd, the Philadelphia shooting, and then the strike at nearby Haverford, there were no accusations of “systemic racism” at Bryn Mawr or demands for institutional change. In solidarity with Haverford, most Bryn Mawr students also went on strike on October 28, not attending classes and shaming or bullying those students who wanted to go to class and those professors who still held them.

The story of this strike and its sequelae is recounted by the mother of a Bryn Mawr student, who understandably used the pseudonym “Minnie Doe” when she wrote the piece for Quillette below (click on screenshot). It is the usual story, but related eloquently, of entitled students using racial unrest to leverage power, turning a non-racist school into a Critical-Theory-oriented antiracist school in which dissent is brutally suppressed. Doe says her child will be leaving Bryn Mawr now that it’s become toxic. The title of my own piece above comes from Minnie’s angry characterization of the school (see below).

Just a brief summary.  At first, President Cassidy showed some spine, announcing that classes would resume quickly and that students were expected to attend them. She also decried the “shaming” and “acts of intimidation” against faculty and staff by the student strikers. But she later apologized for those words when she and her administration completely capitulated to the student demonstrators.

The students produced a 23-page list of demands (it took over an hour to read them to the President), and then had a Zoom meeting with administrators in which the students’ faces didn’t appear but the administrators’ did.  As you can see from the video below, President Cassidy, faced with a bunch of angry students, simply crumpled and said she’d meet all their demands. She added that she would resign, along with the Provost and another dean, if they didn’t meet the demands to the students’ satisfaction.

Do listen to this:

 

Below are the University’s response to the student demands (click on screenshot to see full document), listing each demand, how Bryn Mawr would meet it, when it would be met, and how much it would cost. Some of the demands aren’t totally wacko, like removing the picture of a former President who was indeed a racist and anti-Semite, but most of the others are an incursion of critical theory into a University, stifling the spirit of inquiry of once-admired institution.

I’ll highlight some of the demands as well as the timeline and budget allocated by Bryn Mawr to meet them.

First, the customary requirement for courses in diversity and equity:

 

 

These “reparations” may be illegal, as they bestow preferential resources on black and indigenous students:

 

Labor acknowledgments. But how does the college determine whose labor is “unseen”, and isn’t there labor of non-black people that’s also unseen?

The striking students who abandoned their paid jobs at the college nevertheless demanded to get paid. The school agreed:

There were the usual calls to abolish the police, which the university is studying. Further, those students who do community work on racism as part of their studies will now get paid for it, though presumably “outreach” students who don’t work on racial justice don’t get paid:

There’s other stuff that I won’t list, but the final one is a demand for “grade protection”: that is, students didn’t want to get lower grades if they didn’t do their classwork during the strike. And yes, the administration caved on this one, too. Minnie Doe said this about the demand below:

Far from facing consequences for ruining the fall, 2020 semester, strikers have been lavishly praised by the school’s president and continually assured that their grades won’t be impacted. Some professors have even agreed to accept what they call “strike work”—conversations with friends and family about racism, diary entries, time spent watching anti-racism documentaries, and so forth—in lieu of actual course work, even in math and science programs. Additionally, the college has instituted a credit/no-credit policy that will allow all students to choose up to four courses this year that won’t factor into their GPA.

 

The strike lasted 16 days. In its aftermath, and amidst the wreckage that is now Bryn Mawr College, “Minnie Doe” wrote this assessment:

As for the majority of students who came to Bryn Mawr to actually receive an education that goes beyond anti-racist bromides, they’re out of luck. The same goes for parents who ante up $54,000 a year for tuition (and another $20,000 for room and board). Kim Cassidy now presides over what is essentially the world’s most expensive anti-racism YouTube training program. Putting aside the disgrace associated with her cowardice, not to mention the outright abdication of her educational mandate, this also happens to be a massive rip-off for families, many of whom are spending their life savings so that a child can attend this once-esteemed institution.

What these students have learned—at a Quaker-founded institution no less—is that might makes right, that discussion and debate are for racists, and that the middle-aged elites who run society’s most prestigious institutions will sell them out for their own public-relations convenience, all the while publicly thanking the social-justice shakedown artists who engineered their own humiliation, thus incentivizing more tantrums in the future.

“We’re all gonna be here for only four, maybe five years, so nobody really gives a damn about Bryn Mawr in the long run,” said one anonymous strike leader at a November 9th sit-in event. It’s an appalling sentiment. But unlike President Kim Cassidy’s groveling communiqués, it at least has the benefit of being honest.

Here’s a sign, which I’ve shown before, pasted on the entrance to Bryn Mawr’s Park Science Building in November. Cultural revolution, anyone?

Disinvitations and disinvitation attempts, 2019-2020: 70% of the censorship comes from the Left

December 30, 2020 • 9:45 am

I decided to go back through the last two years of the Disinvitation Database from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to see how free speech and its suppression was faring on campus.  Their records of deplatformingsdisinvitations, and censorship attempts began in 1998, and now number 465.

FIRE’s “disinvitations” fall into three categories:

The term “disinvitation incident” is used to describe the controversies on campus that arise throughout the year whenever segments of the campus community demand that an invited speaker not be allowed to speak (as opposed to merely expressing disagreement with, or even protesting, an invited speaker’s views or positions). We make a distinction between an attempt to censor a speaker and the actual end result of a speaker not speaking. “Disinvitation incidents” is the broadest category, including “unsuccessful disinvitation attempts” and “successful disinvitations.”

Not only are unsuccessful disinvitation attempts increasing, but so too are successful disinvitations, which fall into three categories:

  1. Formal disinvitation from the speaking engagement, such as the revocation of Robin Steinberg’s invitation to address Harvard Law School students.

  2. Withdrawal by the speaker in the face of disinvitation demands, as demonstrated by Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University.

  3. Heckler’s vetoes,” in which students or faculty persistently disrupt or entirely prevent the speakers’ ability to speak, illustrated by the case of Ray Kelly at Brown University. These incidents are labeled as “substantial event disruption.”

For each incident, FIRE gives the year, the school, name of the speaker, the kind of campus event, what the controversy was about, whether it was true “disinvitation” rather than an attempt to censor the speaker (i.e., a petition to disinvite), whether the impetus for the censorship came from the Right of the Left of the speaker (or information wasn’t available [“N/A”), and a link to the details. As I’ve reported before, when the data began in 1998, there was a fairly even distribution of censorship attempts from the Right versus the Left. That has now changed: the bulk of disinvitations come from pressure by the Left. But, as I show below, if you look at all the data, the last two years seem to mirror the overall 22-year fact that the Left exerts the bulk of campus censorship.

For the records from 2019 and 2020, go here, here, and here.

Here are the overall data beginning in 1998 (465 incidents):

Disinvitations from the Left:  283
Disinvitations from the Right: 129
Disinvitations whose origin was politically unidentifiable: 53
Percentage of politically identifiable disinvitations from the Left: 68.7%

The 2019-2020 data follow recent trends:

Disinvitations from the Left:  35
Disinvitations from the Right: 15
Disinvitations whose origin was politically unidentifiable: 10
Percentage of politically identifiable disinvitations from the Left: 70%

I guess, then, that, contrary to my impression, the degree of censorship coming from the Left hasn’t changed much.

As in most recent years, the Left is the end of the spectrum trying to censor speakers, but of course most students and faculty on American campuses are on the Left.

Here are a few instances of people you might know of, mostly involving disinvitations. (Go to the original entry and click on “view” to get the details.)

A few notes on reasons for disinvitations and censorship:

Stanley Fish: “Faculty committee cancelled speech by author Stanley Fish in the wake of student protests demanding that the university English department focus more on racial issues.”

Bob Kerry: “Former Nebraska Democrat Senator and governor Bob Kerry withdrew from commencement speech at University of Nebraska-Lincoln after the Nebraska Republican Party called for his disinvitation over his support of abortion rights.”

Jane Fonda: “Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose calls on Kent State University to disinvite actress Jane Fonda from giving commencement address over her criticism of the military.”

Ivanka Trump: “University president Jay Golden canceled commencement speech by Ivanka Trump in response to calls criticizing her selection as speaker in the wake of President Trump’s comments on protests over the homicide of George Floyd.”

Elizabeth Loftus: Given the nature of the reasons, I suspect that “From the Left” is probably more accurate than N/A: “Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus disinvited from New York University lecture series by NYU administration after serving as an expert witness for the defense during the Harvey Weinstein trial.”

Lori Lightfoot: This surprised me as she is our liberal black mayor of Chicago, and yet the Left at Northwestern tried to censor her. Reason:  “Petition to disinvite Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot over alleged misconduct of Chicago’s police officers.”

Note that many of these schools are public universities, and thus are legally required to abide by the First Amendment. That means that they cannot cancel speakers or disrupt their talks. The fact that this happens means that the speakers either aren’t trying to sue the schools or can’t be arsed to do so. (Of course some speakers withdrew before speaking.)

Beyond that, the data are embarrassing to all of us who consider ourselves on the Left. We are supposed to be the side in favor of free speech. But if you’ve learned anything from this site, censorship flows largely from The Woke, who constitute a moiety of the Left.

Haverford publicly caves in to its entitled students

December 21, 2020 • 1:30 pm

On December 5 I described the meltdown happening at ritzy Haverford College (tuition: $57,000 per year, total expenses $76,000 per year) following a police shooting of a black man in nearby Philadelphia. The students went on strike and issued a long series of demands to the College, as outlined in my article and in an informative piece in Quillette by Jonathan Kay.

What was remarkable about the Haverford protests was how readily the administration caved in to the student demands, which comprised the usual laundry list of no punishments for strikers, more money for diversity initiatives, defunding the police, changing the curriculum, the institution of pass-fail grades, the creation of ethnically segregated spaces, and getting rid of the President (he’s now resigned). It seems that the students suddenly discovered the university’s “systemic racism”, which wasn’t a problem before the shooting (see Kay’s article about the harmony that used to reign at Haverford), and used this discovery to try getting everything they wanted.

The response of Haverford administratores, who cringingly abased themselves online, was in strong contrast to the response of nearby Swarthmore College (equally ritzy), whose black President, Valerie Smith, basically told the students to bugger off and stop making anonymous demands instead of engaging in civil discourse.

And, by and large, the Haverford students won. An article at the Haverford Clerk, the College’s independent student newspaper (click on screenshot below) recounts the administration’s surrender and links to a list of the students’ demands and the administration’s item-by-item responses, with the vast majority of those responses being “yes, we will.”

I’ll give only one excerpt from the newspaper piece, which saddens me since it’s about the Biology Department. Heretofore science departments have been resistant to or not interested in changing themselves to fit student demands for a social-justice curriculum, but that’s changing (it’s also changing at the University of Chicago). The excerpt:

Without any overarching guidance from the administration, faculty members took a number of different approaches to respond to the two-week interruption in classes caused by the strike and finish the semester.

One notable response came from the Biology department. Before the strike had even ended, the department had discontinued classes for the remainder of the semester in order to focus on redesigning the curriculum with equity and inclusion in mind. All classes, including thesis sections, were canceled outright. The department adjusted thesis requirements and deadlines to reflect this change.

Yet students in most biology classes still completed the entirety of their coursework for credit—just without traditional in-class hours. Instead, students learned from classes recorded in-person last year. Students requiring in-class hours for visas, alongside all students interested in participating, were able to participate in a credit-bearing seminar entitled “Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum”.

No in person biology classes at all! You can get credit for last year’s classes, but they’re old ones, and online. Instead, the biology department retreated to develop a curriculum centered on “equity and inclusion”. And, for students who needed in-person classes to meet visa requirements, they could take—no, not evolution or genetics or physiology or molecular biology—but “a credit-bearing seminar entitled ‘Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum’”.  What a waste of a chance to learn biology! The purpose of a biology department, which I shouldn’t need to recount here, is to teach students biology, not inculcate them with the tenets of Critical Race Theory. And you just know what that new curriculum will be like!

Oh, one more excerpt, which involves those professors who decided to keep having classes and giving assignments during the strike:

On the other hand, some professors never canceled class during the course of the strike and pushed ahead as they originally planned. If and how students were allowed to make up work varied from class to class.

“There was no guidance and no support,” said one student, who found themself [JAC: is that an error or a new pronoun? I suspect the latter, but shouldn’t it be “themselves”?] weeks behind their classmates who didn’t participate in the strike after their professor chose not to cancel class and move deadlines for assignments. “I felt that not only had I missed materials presented in lectures, but in independently making up materials, I was unable to analyze it at the same level,” they explained. “The quality of education that I received drastically fell because of the professor’s unwillingness to support the strike.”

That last sentence would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. If the professor supported the strike by canceling classes and exams, the plural student would also have a lower quality of education, for there would be nothing to learn! As it is, there were classes, the student decided not to attend, and the student is beefing because of their own decision. At least there was a chance to learn something!

Anyway, it’s useful to read the list of student demands and the administration’s responses. Here’s the first one—one of the few the administration refused (click to enlarge):

Below are the demands I find especially scary, for they involves ideological policing of the faculty by the students, who get paid to monitor the faculty’s ideological purity:

The demands (note the claim that “this body will not be punitive”):

The administration’s response (white background for white-background demand above, grey response for grey-background demand. “FAPC” is the “Faculty Affairs and Planning Committee”.

Good Lord! If I were looking for a job as a biology professor now, I sure as heck wouldn’t consider Haverford—knowing that the students would constantly be watching me to ensure that I wasn’t an ideologically “problematic professor.”  Nor would I want to have to center my class around “inclusivity”: I’d just teach evolutionary biology the way I’ve always taught it, giving the best view of current knowledge I could.  If that’s not inclusive enough, I’m not sure what would be. But maybe that already makes me “problematic”. I teach everyone the same, and I treat all my students the same. To me, that’s the best I can do to adhere to inclusivity and equality.

But do parents really want to fork out nearly a third of a million dollars to buy this kind of “education” for their students?

 

h/t: Luana

FIRE’s annual spotlight on college speech codes

December 9, 2020 • 9:15 am

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a particularly useful new report that gives the annual “free speech” ratings of American colleges and universities (478 of them). There are three ratings; going from worst to best they are red light, yellow light, and green light. You can access the full report here or click on the screenshot below. The ratings are explained below.

As someone who lives on a campus regarded as the bellwether of free speech among American colleges, I found the college ratings particularly useful (spoiler: Chicago again gets an overall green light), but because many college students brought up at these places will take their places among the American elite, it’s useful to know what regimes they experience. Especially useful were the sections explaining what free speech really is (FIRE uses the First Amendment as a guideline), and the various ways colleges try to either ignore it or get around it. If you want to know why hate speech does not violate the First Amendment, or what legally constitutes sexual harassment, you’ll be edified by the discussion. I’ve put FIRE’s summary video at the bottom.

Click on the screenshot for the full report:

Both public (106) and private (372) schools were thoroughly evaluated in several areas for how “free” they allowed speech to be; each school was given one of three colors (a fourth was given rarely) in each of several areas (handbooks, “free speech zones”, etc.), and then assigned an overall color for freedom of speech. Here are the categories from worst to best; the “blue light” category below was given to only eight schools, most of them either religious (Yeshiva University, Brigham Young University) or military (West Point, Annapolis):

Red Light

A “red light” institution has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. A “clear” restriction is one that unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression. In other words, the threat to free speech at a red light institution is obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.

When a university restricts access to its speech-related policies by requiring a login and password, it denies prospective students and their parents the ability to weigh this crucial information. At FIRE, we consider this action by a university to be deceptive and serious enough that it alone warrants a “red light” rating.

Yellow Light

A “yellow light” institution is one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression. For example, a ban on “posters containing references to alcohol or drugs” violates the right to free speech because it unambiguously restricts speech on the basis of content and viewpoint, but its scope is very limited.

Alternatively, a policy banning “verbal abuse” could be applied to prohibit a substantial amount of protected speech, but is not a clear violation because “abuse” might refer to unprotected speech, such as threats of violence or harassment as defined in the common law. In other words, the extent of the threat to free speech depends on how such a policy is applied.

Green Light

If a college or university’s policies do not seriously imperil speech, that college or university receives a “green light.” A green light does not indicate that a school actively supports free expression. It simply means that FIRE is not currently aware of any serious threats to students’ free speech rights in the policies on that campus.

Warning – Does Not Promise Free Speech

FIRE believes that free speech is not only a moral imperative, but also an essential element of a college education. However, private universities are just that—private associations—and as such, they possess their own right to free association, which allows them to prioritize other values above the right to free speech if they wish to do so. Therefore, when a private university clearly and consistently states that it holds a certain set of values above a commitment to freedom of speech, FIRE warns prospective students and faculty members of this fact.

If you want to look up a particular college that has been rated, just go here. You can search by school name, state, or ranking, and the entries it breaks down all the sub-areas for each school.  The report linked above lists only the overall ratings of every college.

I won’t summarize the results in detail, but will give just a few highlights (for me). First, the overall ratings (all colleges) are improving: red-light schools have dropped strongly in the last nine years, mostly replaced with yellow-light rankings. But the greenies are going up slowly but surely, and the rise is statistically significant.

Here’s the breakdown among all colleges. Since nearly all schools profess to promote free speech (but most don’t foster it in practice), the 12% of green-light colleges means that we have a long way to go. But, as shown above, the arc is bending in the right direction.

Since The University of Chicago is widely seen as the model for free speech at a university (we get a “green” in every category), many schools have adopted the “Chicago Principles” of free expression, which you can read here. Two years ago it was 55 schools who aped us; now it’s 78. That’s good news, except that some of those colleges get RED ratings on other grounds: schools like Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University. Go by the light colors, not what the college professes.

Here’s FIRE’s statement about the Chicago Model:

Seventy-six university administrations or faculty bodies have now adopted policy statements in support of free speech modeled after the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago (the “Chicago Statement”), released in January 2015. (Since this year’s report was written, two more institutions have adopted a version of the Chicago Statement, bringing the total to 78.)

Two more points. Some of the restrictive “red-light” colleges were eminent ones, which surprised me. Here’s a list of the surprising red schools:

  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Middlebury College
  • The Evergreen State College (“Where speech goes to die” is my motto for TESC)
  • Northwestern University
  • Portland State University (notorious persecutor of “Grievance Studies” critics)
  • Princeton University
  • University of Texas at Austin

Finally, there’s a long and very absorbing section about the different ways colleges abrogate free speech with their use of “speech codes”, restrictions on “incitement”, “threats and intimidation”, “bullying”, “harassment” (often misconstrued by colleges), “hate speech”, the creation of “free speech zones” that shunt speech off to the hinterlands of schools, the institution of “bias response teams” to intimidate those who practice genuine free speech, and demands for “respect and civility”.

And there’s a list of ways that colleges also try to obviate the new Title IX regulations created by DeVos’s regime. As I’ve said, the institution of the new regulations, which allow a lot more fairness in adjudicating claims of sexual misconduct, is one of the few good things to come out of the Trump administration. FIRE also thinks the new regulations are an improvement, but also notes that some schools have created a “dual-track approach”, which nominally adheres to the new standards but also also incorporates a parallel and broader definition of “sexual harassment” than specified by Title IX, and so can still punish students who engage in speech that conforms to the First Amendment’s definition of “free.”

All in all, while colleges appear to be getting more woke, at least the formal restrictions on speech seem to be improving. But, as FIRE notes, they rate schools only on policy, not on what they actually do, which they can’t keep track of. I’m thus a bit wary. And I’m worried that Chicago will lose its “green light” rating in view of some recently allowed chilling of speech, violations of the Kalven report that have been allowed to stand. Since our school touts its rating as a selling point to students and their parents, losing our green light rating would be a serious matter.

Here’s a short video from FIRE summarizing the report.

Nick Cohen and Stephen Fry on Cambridge Uni’s weaselly free-speech policy

November 30, 2020 • 11:15 am

Two of my favorite Brits, Nick Cohen and Stephen Fry, have both published pieces—in The Spectator and Sunday Times respectively decrying Cambridge University’s speech code and describing new attempts to reform it. You can access Cohen’s piece by clicking on the screenshot below, while Fry’s is largely behind a paywall. (Judicious inquiry might yield you a copy of Fry’s article.)

The Spectator:

 

Sunday Times:

What happened is that in March, Cambridge issued what Cohen calls a “woozy and authoritarian” update on their freedom-of-speech policy, which you can read here.

There are several problems with that statement. The most pressing, and one that has been subject to pushback from Cohen, Fry, and a group of Cambridge academics who are proposing a revision of the update, is that the demand should be not for respect for opposing views, but “tolerance” for them. Emphasis in the Cambridge statement below is mine:

The University of Cambridge, as a world-leading education and research institution, is fully committed to the principle, and to the promotion, of freedom of speech and expression. The University’s core values are ‘freedom of thought and expression’ and ‘freedom from discrimination’. The University fosters an environment in which all of its staff and students can participate fully in University life, and feel able to question and test received wisdom, and to express new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions within the law, without fear of disrespect or discrimination. In exercising their right to freedom of expression, the University expects its staff, students and visitors to be respectful of the differing opinions of others, in line with the University’s core value of freedom of expression. The University also expects its staff, students and visitors to be respectful of the diverse identities of others, in line with the University’s core value of freedom from discrimination. While debate and discussion may be robust and challenging, all speakers have a right to be heard when exercising their right to free speech within the law.

Both Cohen and Fry glom onto this statement, as “tolerance” is what we need, not “respect” for opinions that may be odious. Does one “respect” the opinion that female genital mutilation is okay, or that Muslims should be banned from immigrating? Or that vaccinations are dangerous and there’s no global warming? No, one tolerates the views and their proponents insofar as one argues with them, civilly but also passionately. But such views deserve no respect.

Cohen:

At its heart [the skirmish between the statement and its critics] is a distinction with a difference worth fighting over: the line between ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’. Tolerance is an old liberal virtue that is tougher than it looks. After the devastation brought by the wars of religion, the early Enlightenment decided, in the words of John Locke, that ‘the civil magistrate has no jurisdiction over souls’.

To tolerate one’s opponents meant that you did not ban them or punish them for their religious or political beliefs. But that was all. You remained free to offend and challenge them. You most certainly had no obligation to ‘respect’ ideas you regarded as ignorant or dangerous or both.

The demand for respect is the demand to bite your tongue and not to argue against what you believe to be wrong. To respect people, groups, ideologies or institutions is to bow down before them, accept them on their own terms, and refrain from criticism. No wonder gangsters demand it.

As Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge, says, in a free university, no one has the ‘right to demand that we be respectful towards all beliefs and practices: on the contrary, we have a right, in some cases practically a duty, to satirise and to mock them’.

I’m glad Cohen mentioned mockery, a powerful weapon against nonsense, and which is clearly not respectful but sometimes better than simple counterargument. (Indeed, mockery could be seen as a “counterargument” that emphasizes the silliness of your opponents’ arguments.)

Fry:

A demand for respect is like a demand for a laugh, or demands for love, loyalty and allegiance. They cannot be given if not felt.

There are many opinions, positions and points of view which I find I do not and cannot respect. That is surely true for all us.

Even if someone were to pull out a gun, point it at my head and demand respect for their opinion, I could not with any honesty offer it. Fear and dread would certainly elicit a trembling acquiescence — but real respect? That cannot be supplied to order. It comes from somewhere else.

To be forced to feel other than we do is manifestly an impossibility. Therefore what is really being asked is a pretence, a display of lip-service, which in a university whose reputation is founded on empirical and rational inquiry, open argument and free thought, is surely inimical.

Doubtless we can all hope for respectful attitudes in matters of debate and interpersonal exchange — much as we hope for friendly manners in all circumstances — but to burn respect into statutes and protocols is absurd, or worse. Such an impulse tips over the line into thought control.

A free mind is obliged to respect only the truth. There is so much passion and distress fomenting the debate on campus freedom and academic discussion that decisions are made and policies implemented on the basis of fear rather than reason or sense.

There are other issues as well, and a big group of academics has forced Cambridge to take a faculty vote on three proposed amendments of the free-speech statement (see proposed revisions #1, #2, and #3). All these proposed changes are sensible and salubrious. Voting will end on December 7.

There’s one more statement that stuck out to me: the reasons why speakers can be deplatformed:

The University will not unreasonably either refuse to allow events to be held on its premises or impose special conditions upon the running of those events. The lawful expression of controversial or unpopular views will not in itself constitute reasonable grounds for withholding permission for a meeting or event. Grounds for refusal, or the imposition of special conditions, would include, but are not limited to, a reasonable belief that the meeting or event is likely to:

include the expression of views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are the views of proscribed groups or organisations;

incite others to commit violent or otherwise unlawful acts;

include the expression of views that are unlawful because they are discriminatory or harassing;

pose a genuine risk to the welfare, health, or safety of members, students, or employees of the University, to visitors, or to the general public; or

give rise to a breach of the peace or pose an unacceptable security risk.

The last three points in particular look to me like an especially slippery slope, which the critics, when proposing their revision, single out as “restrictive, vague, and now illegal”. Even the proscription against “drawing people into terrorism” is problematic. Does praise for Hamas count like that?

At the end of his piece, Cohen calls out both the American Right and Left and warns of another slippery slope: that of “respect”:

We are in our own religious wars now. The US right is so convinced Democrats are infidels it cannot admit the truth that it lost an election. The version of the left formed by the social justice movement believes in shaming and banning with the fervour of a pre-Enlightenment Calvinist. You can see why tolerance is out of fashion at Cambridge. The danger lies in the promotion of the slippery concept of respect by a university, which once insisted on precision. When I asked Arif Ahmed why he was mobilising academics against respect, he quoted the argument of the Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn: ‘The word seems to span a spectrum, from simply not interfering, passing by on the other side, through admiration, right up to reverence and deference.’

Its multiple meanings suited ideologues wanting to impose conformity. ‘People might start out by insisting on respect in the minimal sense, and in a generally liberal world they may not find it too difficult to obtain it. But then what we might call respect creep sets in, where the request for minimal toleration turns into a demand for more substantial respect, such as fellow-feeling, or esteem, and finally deference and reverence.’ At the extreme it reaches the terminus of, ‘unless you let me take over your mind and your life, you are not showing proper respect for my religious or ideological convictions.’

 

h/t: John, Dom

Educational organizations urge Biden to get more woke about education, but many of their recommendations aren’t great

November 21, 2020 • 12:30 pm

This article at Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot below) describes the contents of a four-page letter sent to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by 40 educational associations asking for the Prez and Vice-Prez to undo many of the changes to U.S. colleges and universities enacted by the Trump administration. In general, the request is a mixed bag, for about half the requested changes make colleges and universities not only more woke, but appear to create more unfairness.

Click on the screenshot to read.

Here’s a list of the areas singled out by the signatories as detailed by IHE, “demands” that are substantiated in the letter. I’ve put the IHE characterizations in indents, while my own comments are flush left.

1.)  Title IX and sexual assault hearings:

Associations representing the nation’s colleges and universities are urging the incoming Biden administration to quickly undo much of what the Trump administration did on higher education policy, starting with changing a rule that, they worry, will make it harder for victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward.

In particular, the administration should undo the new requirement under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that requires cross-examinations in a live hearing in cases involving sexual assault on campuses. That “could have a chilling effect on the willingness of survivors to come forward and raises serious concerns about retraumatization,” wrote Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, in a letter signed by 44 other higher education groups, among them the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

In general, this is not good. The changes in how sexual assault hearings are handled by campuses, made by the DeVos regulations, were an improvement under the earlier Obama-era regulations.  Under Obama, the Title IX regulations created a mess, as I reported here and here. Among the Obama-era procedures in college hearings on sexual assault were the inability of the accused to cross-examine the accuser, the inability to have a lawyer with you during your hearing, the requirement that the investigation be completed within 60 days (DeVos’s regulations said that the investigation and hearing should be “prompt”), the fact that the investigator, finder of fact, and judge and jury could be the same person, and that the standard of evidence needed for conviction was the weakest possible. Of the three standards possible, given below, the Obama mandate required the “preponderance of evidence” criterion for conviction (these are my characterizations):

  • Conviction requires guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which of course means that the bar is very high for conviction.
  • Conviction requires “clear and convincing evidence”, that is, it must be “highly probable or reasonably certain” that harassment or assault occurred. This is conventionally interpreted to mean a likelihood of 75% or higher that the assault took place.
  • Conviction requires a “preponderance of the evidence” for assault or harassment. This means that it is more likely than not (likelihood > 50%) that the offense occurred.

Readers here didn’t agree with the use of the Obama standard, as a poll showed. In fact, readers thought that accusations of sexual assault should be dealt with by the police and courts rather than by colleges themselves, but if they were taken up by schools, the “preponderance of evidence” standard was the least favored.

Although the Trump administration didn’t do many good things, the DeVos changes were, in my view, fairer to both accused and accuser. They also cut down on the number of largely successful lawsuits brought against colleges by men who felt they were being unjustly accused or tried. “Preponderance of evidence” comes down to a judgment call, and I don’t think that’s fair when someone’s future is hanging in the balance.

If these changes have a “chilling effect on the willingness of survivors to come forward and raise serious concerns about retraumatization,” well, that’s unfortunate but such is also the case with going to the police.  “Retraumatization,” which I take as the cross-examination provision, is necessary for fairness towards accusers, which of course is essential in convicting the justly accused as well, helping ensure that they don’t offend again.

2.) Restoration of DACA.

The groups also applauded President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and urged the incoming administration to drop Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s position barring DACA and other students who do not qualify for federal student aid from receiving emergency grants under the CARES Act.

I am in favor of these suggested changes; DACA was a good thing.

3.) Investigating a college’s own self-accusatory claims.

Among a long list of other actions they are hoping Biden will take, the groups would like the administration to halt additional requirements for institutions on reporting foreign gifts and to “review and, when appropriate, terminate a number of investigations initiated and being conducted by political appointees in ED that are broadly understood to be politically motivated.” An example, the groups said, is the Education Department’s investigation of Princeton University after its president, in discussing its efforts to deal with inequity, acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in the institution’s history.

Because of my ignorance, I have no opinion on the changes about reporting gifts. As for the investigations of colleges whose officials say that their institution is rife with systemic racism, well, why shouldn’t those claims be investigated?  If there is systemic bias (that is, bias against minorities or women that’s built into an institution), then of course those claims, which constitute violations of the law, should be followed up. If the authorities are just bloviating when they beat their chests in this way, then they shouldn’t be doing it: they need to either put up or shut up. True, the Trump administration’s action is probably punitive, but it also prevents administrators from making unwarranted claims about racism and discrimination in their institution.

4.) Use of race in admissions decisions. 

The groups also urged the incoming administration to restore the Obama administration’s guidance that institutions can consider race in making admissions decisions and to drop the Justice Department’s lawsuit alleging Yale University’s policies discriminate against white and Asian American applicants.

This is a real thicket, for while I’m in favor of affirmative action in admissions, there are legal rules about how it should be done, rules laid out by the Supreme Court in the messy Bakke case but often ignored. In the Harvard case, Harvard prevailed in two courts over accusations that it was discriminating against Asian-American and Asian applicants. But I’m not yet convinced that this was a just decision, since there was strong evidence that the Asians’ “personality scores” had been adjusted downward to make them less desirable in a “holistic” admissions progress. (In fact, I think the lower court admitted this.)  Nevertheless, if you want an ethnically balanced student body—and I think some balance is necessary as a form of reparations to those previously barred from college—you’re going to have to accept that meritocratic considerations have to bow somewhat before ethnicity. In other words, you must have affirmative action.

5.) Enforcement of free-speech regulations in colleges and barring certain kinds of diversity training.

The groups also want the Biden administration to drop DeVos’s rules requiring free inquiry at colleges and barring diversity training.

The government’s free-inquiry provision, which you can read here, is also summarized in an earlier IHE article (first link above):

The Department of Education on Wednesday finalized its new rule requiring among other things that public universities uphold the First Amendment, including freedom of speech and academic freedom. Private colleges and universities are required to follow their own policies on freedom of expression.

Initially proposed in January, the final version of the Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities rule also prohibits institutions from denying faith-based student groups “any of the rights, benefits, or privileges that other student groups enjoy.”

In addition, the rule codifies how educational institutions can show they are exempt from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972’s sex discrimination rules because they are religious institutions. Religious groups were already exempt, but regulations have until now not defined what it means to be controlled by a religious organization.

This sounds fine to me. But the letter from the 40 organizations says this (my emphasis):

Repeal the Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities and the portion of regulations related to that order included in ED’s September 23, 2020 final rule, “Direct Grant Programs, StateAdministered Formula Grant Programs . . . .” Colleges and universities are committed to free inquiry and academic freedom. It is improper for federal officials, including those at ED, to insert their own political judgments about what speech should or should not be permitted on campus. In fact, federal law specifically prohibits ED from interfering in academic matters.

Who are they kidding when saying, “Colleges and universities are committed to free inquiry and academic freedom.” That’s bogus, for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) exists precisely to monitor, report, and rectify violations of free speech in colleges. Very few colleges are like the University of Chicago in its foundational commitment to academic freedom and free speech.  In fact, I’d go further and say that any university, private or public, that gets federal allotments or grant money should be required to abide by the First Amendment on campus. (Many of FIRE’s lower-rated colleges for free speech, like the University of Texas and Louisiana State University, are public colleges.)

As for diversity training, that’s a bit of a muddle, too. It’s often assumed that the government bans forms of diversity training using Critical Race Theory. That raises red flags for me, as whether the training is acceptable depends entirely on how it’s conducted, not on what theory underlies it.  According to IHE, the present rule is like this:

As for whether the order prohibits unconscious or implicit bias training, the new guidance said this training is “prohibited to the extent it teaches or implies that an individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex and/or national origin, is racist, sexist, oppressive or biased, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Training is allowed if it is “designed to inform workers, or foster discussion, about pre-conceptions, opinions, or stereotypes that people — regardless of their race or sex — may have regarding people who are different, which could influence a worker’s conduct or speech and be perceived by others as offensive.”

That sounds inoffensive to me, for the training that’s prohibited is training that is racist: attributing invidious characteristics to entire groups of people (often whites), while the permitted training sounds like just what is needed. The rule certainly doesn’t seem to ban diversity training, as some people think—just a form of bigoted diversity training. Yes, the Trump rule is likely motivated politically by Republicans’ dislike of Black Lives Matter, but what’s important is not the motivation but the effect. I don’t like people being told that they carry implicit or unconscious bias when there’s no evidence that such a thing even exists. And accusing all members of a group of being biased is absolutely counterproductive in facilitating discourse and equality.

6.) Forgiveness of loans. According to IHE:

They further want Biden to restore Obama administration rules making it easier for students defrauded by colleges to cancel their loans and holding for-profit colleges accountable.

I’m not sure exactly what this means, but in general I think students should pay back their college loans when they’ve agreed to do so, but there should also be a system of assessment and forgiveness if this isn’t possible.

Thus, the educational organizations are asking in some ways for colleges to be allowed to get more woke. What I’m most worried about here is the rollback of the DeVos Title IX restrictions, which I consider makes the system fairer—I shouldn’t have to add that I am not condoning sexual harassment or sexual assuault on campus)—and about whether colleges should have some kind of free-speech code required if they take federal money (and state money, as all public colleges do).

I am on the fence about the specific cases of affirmative action noted above, but in general am not opposed to affirmative action used for remediation of past discrimination, though I’m not a big fan of affirmative action employed because a certain amount of diversity is seen as an inherent good.

Will the Biden/Harris administration bow to all or some of these regulations? If they start rolling back Title IX, I’ll be worried. But only time will tell. In the meantime, the removal of Trump is a far greater good than the installation of an administration that may be somewhat woker than the last one!

Weigh in below.

Jodi Shaw, the Smith College employee shamed for whiteness, is interviewed at Quillette and issues a new video about discrimination

November 10, 2020 • 12:15 pm

I’ve put up two posts (part 1 and part 2 ) about Jodi Shaw, an employee of Smith College who works as a student support coordinator specializing in “Residence Life”. Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like critical race theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”

When I commented that I highly doubt that there is “systemic racism” at Smith, one reader did some Googling and managed to find one incident in which a black Smith student, Oumou Kanote, complained about being racially profiled for eating lunch in the cafeteria and resting on a couch. Our reader even cited Kanoute’s own account, given at at the ACLU, as evidence that “students of color at Smith can and have been made to feel unwelcome.”

Sadly, that claim is not true, and does not constitute any evidence for racism at Smith.

I did some digging and found out that Kanote’s report of racial profiling did not stand up, even with Smith College’s own internal investigation and their production of a 100-page report. The person who called the cops didn’t even give her race, and the whole episode should have been written off as a misunderstanding—largely by Kanoute. You can click on the two articles below from the Boston Globe and Inside Higher Ed to see why this wasn’t a case of racism.

Nevertheless, as Shaw argues in the 45-minute Quillette podcast below, Kanoute won’t give up claiming that she was the victim of racial bias—even after Smith said, no, that didn’t happen—nor does Smith or its president want to let go of that incident either, still trying to pretend that there’s some invisible systemic racism floating around.

It’s almost as if Smith wants there to be systemic racism at the College, so they can flaunt their virtue by opposing it. I haven’t been able to find any other incidents besides Kanoute’s discredited claims, except for some swastikas painted on Smith buildings two years ago. That incident, however, didn’t receive near the attention that Kanoute’s claims did, was largely dismissed by Smith’s President, and, of course, Smith students aren’t told that their college has “systemic anti-Semitism”—nor do they receive anti-anti-Semitism training. After all, swastikas aren’t nearly as much of a threat as a bogus claim of racism.

In her podcast below, Shaw says that Smith’s failure to correct the record about Kanoute’s claims, even after an extensive investigation found them baseless, is “one of the biggest moral failings I’ve ever been privy to in my life.”

I’m putting up this series from time to time because it’s so rare that someone like Shaw not only reveals the kind of draconian brainwashing students are subject to, but pushes back against it. She is, of course, toast: she’ll be demonized at Smith and her life made miserable, all because she doesn’t want to be denigrated for being white. I pity her but also admire her bravery.

Up to 31 minutes into this podcast, you’ll hear about the Kanoute case and Smith’s failure to address its own investigation, and then, after that Shaw repeats her story about “professional development training,” which you might have heard before.

Click on the screenshot to hear her:

In the video below, which I haven’t posted, Shaw addresses and responds to President McCartney’s open letter about her first video. It’s a calm and reasonable response to the letter, but doesn’t beat around the bush, either.  The sad part is this: Shaw is under the impression that her video will inspire some kind of “dialogue” with President McCartney or the Smith administration about “equity and inclusion”—not just for students, but for staff, and for everyone, including dissenters like Shaw who are exercising freedom of speech. If Shaw really believes that she’s going to initiate a dialogue, she’s deluded: what Smith wants is for her to shut up and find another job—if she can. Smith is not going to rethink its policies no matter how many videos Shaw makes (here’s another new one about other incidents that, says Shaw, shows discrimination against her).

If Shaw is right—and she says that other people agree with her, but are afraid to speak up (a reasonable assertion)—Smith is going bonkers about race and yet there is no racism in evidence there.

I’ll continue to listen to her videos and report on any worth mentioning. The alternative hypothesis is that Shaw is aggrieved but unhinged, but so far I haven’t seen much evidence for that. My only issue is that her videos are twice as long as they need to be. I can excuse that, though.

 

Part 2 of a Smith College employee’s complaint about racial harassment

November 5, 2020 • 12:15 pm

Here we have the second part of Jodie Shaw’s indictment of Smith College, where she works as a student support coordinator specializing in “Residence Life”. (Her first video is here, and my analysis of it here.) In this episode in a continuing series, Shaw relates how, in her latest job, she was forced to attend a mandatory three-day “professional development retreat,” the first day of which was devoted to employees discussing their “identities”.  That meant “social identities,” which at Smith meant race.

Shaw said she was uncomfortable talking about her identity and race, and was told at first that she didn’t have to. Then, at the meeting, one of the two “professional facilitiators” asked her to “tell us about your race in the context of your childhood, your adolescence, and your college years.” Shaw didn’t want to talk about her childhood or these issues with her colleagues present, for she didn’t consider them relevant to her job. So she took a pass during the discussion.

Shortly thereafter, the facilitator told everyone said that any white person who expressed discomfort or resistance about talking about their race wasn’t really experiencing discomfort, shouldn’t be comforted, and that they were really displaying “white fragility” as a “power play.”  It was made clear, however, that if you weren’t white, your discomfort would be taken as genuine.

You can listen to the rest of the short video for yourself. Shaw felt psychologically attacked and shamed in front of her colleagues, as well she should have. She filed a complaint with Smith on the basis of racial discrimination and hostility, as she was shamed and treated differently because of her race.

You may think she’s kvetching about a minor matter, but she says that her complaint extended well beyond what she says here—it was over 100 pages long. I’ll continue to put up her videos so we can see how the obsession with race is playing out in the life of an ordinary Smith employee, who’s now become extraordinary because of her courage in speaking up. It may turn out that she’s exaggerating or overreacting, but all we can do is watch to see what she says—an opportunity we’re not usually given in matters of this sort.

As I said in my last post, Shaw’s first video went up on October 27, and the College responded two days later in a public letter from President Kathleen McCartney.

And as I added at the time, the letter basically says, ““Well, we can’t fire Shaw (but we would if we could), but we’ll ignore her (she’s an outlier, after all), and reassure those students of color who feel harmed by this video that they have our wholehearted support.”

It used to be that religion poisoned everything. Now it appears that race is acting the same way. But let us see as Shaw posts more videos.