The University of California system issues an official critique of the Dobbs decision, chilling speech of those who disagree

July 7, 2022 • 9:15 am

I happen to be one of those who favored the Roe v. Wade decision; in fact, I’d go farther than the judges in that one by extending the term limits for abortion. Ergo, I think that Dobbs was a bad decision and that some way must be found around it. All American women who want an abortion should be able to get one without having to travel to other states.

This is my personal view, though I know many others disagree. Universities, in particular, which are supposed to serve as venues for debate, should not take official positions on such issues, as that chills or squelches the speech of faculty, staff, and students who disagree with those positions but fear reprisals if they disagree publicly.

This is why we have the Kalven Report at the University of Chicago, and, given my many posts on it, you should be familiar with it by now. Let me just quote a bit of that short report, which is one of our two pillars of free speech at the University of Chicago (the other is The Chicago Principles of Free Expression). I do recommend reading the short Kalven Report in its entirety, but here’s the most-quoted bit (emphasis is mine):

The mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge. Its domain of inquiry and scrutiny includes all aspects and all values of society. A university faithful to its mission will provide enduring challenges to social values, policies, practices, and institutions. By design and by effect, it is the institution which creates discontent with the existing social arrangements and proposes new ones. In brief, a good university, like Socrates, will be upsetting.

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.

The University of Chicago does not issue official statements about ideology, politics, or morality unless some aspect of society “threaten[s] the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry. In such a crisis, it becomes the obligation of the university as an institution to oppose such measures and actively to defend its interests and its values.” But these “aspects” are only ones bearing on the “discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge” within the institution.

The Dobbs decision is not such an aspect.  Sure, you can stretch nearly every issue into one that “threatens the mission of the university”, but we have a high bar for that, and the University does not—or is not supposed to—issue statements about issues like war, apartheid, abortion, guns, Palestine vs. Israel, and so on. (There have been violations here, and some of us are working on those).

The University of California, on the other hand, takes the opposite position, going full tilt by issuing statements about nearly every sociopolitical issue. These can come from either the UC administration or departments of various campuses. All of them should be taken down.

On June 24, the President of the University of California system, Michael Drake, took it upon himself to criticize the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. His statement, as you see, is labeled as being a “UC statement” (University of California), not his personal opinion. It is thus the opinion of a huge and powerful educational institution, and a public institution.

Drake oversees the entire UC system; as his webpage notes:

Dr. Michael V. Drake is the 21st president of the University of California. He oversees UC’s world-renowned university system of 10 campuses, five medical centers, three nationally affiliated labs, more than 280,000 students and 230,000 faculty and staff.

Is he speaking for all of them in his statement? Click on the screenshot below:

The statement is short, and I reproduce it in its entirety:

University of California President Michael V. Drake, M.D., today (June 24) issued the following statement on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:

For nearly 50 years, people in the United States have had the right to make private, informed choices about their health care and their futures. I am gravely concerned that today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision removes that right and will endanger lives across the country. This decision overturns decades of legal precedent and could pave the way for other fundamental rights to be removed.

The Court’s decision is antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values. We strongly support allowing individuals to access evidence-based health care services and to make decisions about their own care in consultation with their medical team. Despite this decision by the Court, we will continue to provide the full range of health care options possible in California, including reproductive health services, and to steadfastly advocate for the needs of our patients, students, staff, and the communities we serve. We will also continue to offer comprehensive education and training to the next generation of health care providers, and to conduct life-saving research to the fullest extent possible.

This is a sobering moment for many of us at the University of California and throughout the nation. Today, we stand with California leaders and health care advocates who are taking critical steps to protect Californians’ human rights and their access to affordable and convenient health care choices.

As you see, he says that Dobbs decision is “antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values”. But where in its mission and values does it mention that its values include “access to evidence-based health care services”? That is a policy, not the mission of the University of California. And that shows that any social event, law, or policy can be stretched to warrant damnation by the University of California.

But what about those half a million students, faculty, and staff? Do they agree with what President Drake said? I doubt it. Dobbs is now the law of the land, but California permits abortions, and may, this fall, add a clause to the state’s constitution protecting the right to abortion. Good for them! In fact, Drake didn’t have to say anything, for his University and his state (and UC hospitals)  already allow abortion. What he’s doing here is giving official condemnation to the Dobbs verdict without having to do anything about it (he can’t; it’s the law for the time being). The statement represents another case of performative wokeness that shows Drake’s virtue—but at the cost of repressing the speech of those who are “pro-life”. (I hate to write that term, preferring “anti-abortion”).

And Drake could do this for nearly everything, though of course so long as the Left is ascendant at his University, his statements will always be pro-Left. Another state’s University system could issue a completely different statement: one approving Dobbs and damning Roe v. Wade.

But the point is that none of this has anything to do with the mission of a university. Drake and others could write as individuals, but they should never write as if they represent everybody involved with the University of California. (Of course were I Drake, I’d keep pretty much to myself, like a judge, because he has professional cachet even when writing as an individual. But that is his choice.)

Eugene Volokh, writing at his site “The Volokh Conspiracy” at Reason, agrees with me. Click the screenshot to see his take:

Volokh adheres to our Kalven Report and even quotes it, but you can read that for yourself.  Here’s his take on Drake, and I heartily agree:

I don’t think that a public university’s “mission and values” should be to promote a reading of the Constitution as securing abortion rights, or as not securing abortion rights, as opposed to promoting research on this and related questions. And while of course a public university that runs hospitals should generally perform legal medical procedures, and train doctors with regard to legal medical procedures, I don’t think that justifies the university taking a stand on whether such legality is determined by state legislatures or by Supreme Court Justices.

That’s especially so when, as the UCLA Chancellor’s follow-up letter points out, “The decision is not expected to affect women’s reproductive rights in California,” so UC doesn’t even have much of a direct interest in the outcome of Dobbs as it affects its own operations. (There may be more room for statements by a public university president as to political decisions that do directly affect the operations of the university, such as changes in funding, statutes related to student admissions, and the like.)

It turns out that the University of California has its own version of a Kalven Principle, issued in 1970. Volokh quotes it:

More broadly, I tend to agree with the 1970 statement by the Office of the UC President:

There are both educational and legal reasons why the University must remain politically neutral. Educationally, the pursuit of truth and knowledge is only possible in an atmosphere of freedom, and if the University were to surrender its neutrality, it would jeopardize its freedom. Legally, Article IX, section 9, of the State Constitution provides in part that “The University shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and in the administration of its affairs…”

And yet here we see Drake violating the very principles of his own university system!

Volokh then points to the Kalven Report, including the famous excerpt I put above, and then reproduces an email written by Professor Leslie Johns of UCLA’s political science department to the UCLA chancellor—an email that includes this:

Abortion is not a simple matter of access to health care. It is a complex moral and political question that involves balancing fundamental rights to life and physical autonomy. By denying this reality, you are asserting a political position. Yet your employment as a public employee explicitly prohibits you from using your office for political purposes. It is both inappropriate and illegal for you (and for me) to use our official capacity to make claims that specific abortion policies or constitutional interpretations are “antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values.”

In effect, she’s underlining the Kalven Principle that a university should not issue statements that will chill discussion, nor should it issue definitive proclamations on debatable issues. I’m not sure if Drake is, as Johns asserts, doing something illegal by issuing the “UC Statement.” But Kudos to Professor Johns for taking the Chancellor on a trip to the woodshed!

Like freedom of speech itself on campus, the Kalven Principle is always under assault by those who want to control political discourse at universities. It’s a never-ending fight, even at the University of Chicago which, like the University of California, professes political and ideological neutrality—but doesn’t hesitate to violate it when it professors or administrators want to flaunt their virtue.

Cambridge University tries once again to enforce “respect” in its free-speech regulations

June 17, 2022 • 10:45 am

In September of last year I reported about the apparent resolution of a controversy about free speech at Cambridge University that had been going on for two years (see earlier posts here and here). The controversy was about the balance between free speech, which Cambridge purports to support, and “respect” for others which they wanted to mandate. Here’s one version of a resolution the university wanted to pass (my bolding):

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.

Many people including me opposed this bill because of the implied chilling of speech that might offend others (lack of “respect”). In the end, the University voted it down by a huge margin. A victory for free speech?

Not so fast! According to this article from Inside Higher Ed (click to read for free), Cambridge is back with a similar if not identical proposal

I haven’t found a copy of the new proposal, but the free-speech regulations already in place are here. An excerpt:

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 intolerance or discrimination. In exercising their right to freedom of expression, the University expects its staff, students and visitors to be tolerant of the differing opinions of others, in line with the University’s core value of freedom of expression.

Note the requested “tolerant,” which is okay by me so long as it means “don’t yell over other people or punch them if you disagree with them.” Note too that the University is FULLY COMMITTED to free speech and expression. The kerfuffle over the past two years was not about tolerance but about adding stuff about “respect”. That gives the regulations a completely different meaning, and was the pivot word that killed the revised resolution. Here are the two most relevant meanings of “respect” from the Oxford English Dictionary (their emphasis):

Deferential regard or esteem felt or shown towards a person, thing, or quality.

The condition or state of being esteemed, honoured, or highly thought of. Frequently with in, esp. in to hold in (high, etc.) respect.

There’s no way I can esteem, honor, or think highly of those who promulgate nonsense.

Clearly, though, Cambridge just can’t give up the idea that free speech and “respect” are compatible. But there’s no reason I should respect Donald Trump or the Proud Boys, even if I do defend their right to promulgate stupidity. Here’s what Inside Higher Ed reported yesterday

The University of Cambridge’s incoming leader could become immediately embroiled in a free speech row, with a number of academics opposing a new “mutual respect” policy.

A consultation has been held on a second draft of the document that aims to “prevent inappropriate behavior in the workplace” alongside a new grievance policy that outlines how complaints will be dealt with.

While both documents stress that they should be read in conjunction with the university’s free speech statement, critics said they represent management trying to restrict speech beyond its legal responsibilities.

And, for crying out loud, they’re back two years later trying to change “tolerate” to “respect” again!

The policy’s aim is to create “a safe, welcoming and inclusive community which nurtures a culture of mutual respect and courtesy,” and it states, “There is no place for any form of bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual misconduct, or victimization in our community.”

That’s fine, but that’s not the same thing as showing “disrespect”.

But Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge, said “respect” was the wrong choice of word, particularly as this terminology was removed from the free speech statement in favor of “tolerate” after a vote in the university’s governing body, Regent House.

“It is unreasonable to expect atheists to respect the views of religious believers, or to expect climate change activists to respect the work of earth scientists who are trying to make mining or oil drilling more efficient, or to expect campaigners for social justice to respect law professors who advise banks how to avoid regulation. What is reasonable is to expect members of the university to treat each other with tolerance and courtesy,” Anderson said.

He added that the draft policy “reads as if it has been adapted from a corporate HR manual” and does not consider the complexity of the university’s structures, which includes emeritus staff and visiting professors as well as those who work directly for the colleges.

I can’t help but put in a quote here from Mencken:

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

But it gets worse: there appears to be some “compulsory training” that goes along with this proposal (my emphasis):

Visitors, suppliers and others will be expected to behave in a manner that is consistent with the code of behavior outlined in the policy, but Anderson said it was unclear how this would be enforced in reality.

Ahmed added that he had “grave concerns” about the compulsory training element that would be introduced for all staff on areas such as diversity, which he claimed had “proven to be useless.”

There’s new leadership at Cambridge, and they apparently haven’t learned from the big failure two years ago (my emphasis):

A previous version of the same document was withdrawn in May 2021, and shortly afterward, Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope announced his early departure from his position. He will be replaced on an interim basis starting in October by Anthony Freeling, outgoing president of Hughes Hall, Cambridge, just as the final versions of the new policies are likely to come to Regent House for a vote.

Free speech concerns are likely to be a key feature of Freeling’s brief six-month tenure, with the government looking to pass its Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.

A Cambridge spokesman said the policy was clear that it could not be used to undermine the university’s statement on freedom of speech, and this point had been emphasized to those concerned.

Why can’t the Cambridge administration just give up on this? Opposition to the previous “respect” replacement was said to be between four to one and seven to one. Nobody wants this change, and nevertheless the admin persists. They need to learn that enforcing “respect” in discourse cannot be harmonized with Cambridge’s free speech policy, for if you give someone offense with your words, they can and will claim that you’re not respecting them.

But saying that “you don’t respect me” is no more of an argument than “I’m offended”, and doesn’t belong in any regulations about free speech.

Garth Cooper explains why he resigned from New Zealand’s Royal Society

March 24, 2022 • 8:30 am

I’ve explained several times that two members of the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ), philosopher Robert Nola and biochemist Garth Cooper (distinguished members of their trade), resigned from the RSNZ after a recent investigation cleared them of being miscreants after criticizing the government’s initiative to teach Mātauranga Māori (MM), or Māori “ways of knowing”, as coequal to science in science classes. They were accused, among other things, of causing “harm” to people by expressing this view.

Cooper and Nola, along with five other University of Auckland professors (one now deceased) had given this opinion in a short letter to The Listener, a popular Kiwi website. While the University of Auckland also attacked all seven signers—a blatant violation of their right of academic freedom—the University has now quietly shelved its criticisms, but their promise to have a public University debate about the merit of teaching MM as science seems to have disappeared as well.

At any rate, Nola issued a statement explaining why he resigned despite being exculpated, and I posted that here. (It was largely a free-speech issue, but there were several reasons.)

Now Garth Cooper has issued his own statement about why he resigned. I’ve put the bulk of it below the fold, but give a brief excerpt here. (Note that Cooper is part Māori and has spent much of his career educating and helping the Māori.)


The events that in the end led me to resign followed on from my signing of the letter “In defence of science” (NZ Listener, 31 July 2021) along with six of my colleagues. Our combined expertise includes biology, biochemistry, psychology, education, philosophy of science, and medicine, and all of us are expert science educators and communicators.

I signed the letter to make clear, in a public forum, my opposition and deep concern about processes now underway in New Zealand that are evidently undermining literacy, numeracy, and science literacy, particularly amongst Māori children.

I have Maori heritage. For most children, a good education is often their best hope of improving their trajectory in life and I was raised in that belief. I did not experience anti-Māori bias. Real bias stems from the view that Māori can’t do things or participate fully in society because they’re Māori. Unfortunately, the partial substitution of mātauranga Maori for international-format science education, perhaps unintendedly, is implying that limitation.

. . . An NCEA (NZ’s public examination system) working group referred to science as a “Western European invention”. We strongly objected to that particular characterization since science is universal. One recent extreme of some astonishing views being introduced, for example, claims that “to insist Māori children learn to read is an act of colonisation” [see here].

. . .The inherent bias against students in suggesting that rather than a sound grounding in mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics, there is to be parity with non-scientific systems such as mātauranga Māori, will be massively counterproductive for all students, but especially biased against Māori.

Māori are good students when they are afforded the proper opportunity to learn, and I have specific knowledge and experience of this based on my past formal roles in Māori education. Their right to unbiased access to optimal education, if they wish, should be protected vigorously.

This whole mess has made everyone look bad save the “Satanic Seven” who signed the initial Listener letter. Those seven have been vindicated. But The University of Auckland has embarrassed itself by apparently worshiping MM and by criticizing a perfectly reasonable letter (read it; it’s short). The RSNZ simply looks foolish and inept for investigating the signers of the letter and especially for its initial statement (now quietly removed) given below:

And the government of New Zealand, once a bellwether of true liberalism and progressivism, now looks weak and woke, giving precedence to the valorization of its indigenous population over scientific truth.

Where this will end is in the watering down of science education in New Zealand and the departure of its best students to study elsewhere. (It has not escaped my notice that there are parallels with what’s going on with the politicization of science in the U.S.). MM is surely something that Kiwis should be educated about, but it should never be taught as if it were equivalent to modern science. Educational and governmental officials in New Zealand, besotted with worship of all things indigenous, can’t seem to make that distinction.

Click “continue reading” to see Cooper’s full statement.

Continue reading “Garth Cooper explains why he resigned from New Zealand’s Royal Society”

A New Zealand university surrenders to indigenous “ways of knowing”

February 18, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I’ve talked a lot on this site about Mātauranga Māori (“MM”), the mixture of indigenous legend, practical knowledge, superstition, theology, and morality that is suddenly about to be injected into New Zealand science classes (both secondary school and college), with the intent of teaching it as a “way of knowing’ coequal with science. Because it’s ideologically incorrect to say anything against the founding population, I get a lot of letters from disaffected Kiwis who abhor the anti-progressive trend of making modern science coequal with a lot of ancient superstition. (I repeat once again that MM should certainly be taught in school sociology, history, and anthropology classes, but only the small bit of practical knowledge that MM comprises deserves a place in science.)

Anyway, I got hold of the future plans of one university, the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, which confirms the vow that two of its administrators recently took:: to make the whole university into an institution to teach MM and promulgate Maori “ways of knowing”. It is the wokest University of any school I know, for it has vowed that its mission is to adhere completely to the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi: a document guaranteeing rights to the Māori, But that’s not Waikato’s only goal: it’s not just equality or even equity this university wants, but to convert itself into a kind of academic iwi, a Māori group or tribe.  Whatever its plans call for—and I have three planning documents—they’re not calling for building a real university. in the way we know it The university is to be decolonized and turned into an iwi, valorizing and teaching all things Māori.

First, here’s main strategy document for the next two years, which you can get as a pdf by clicking on the image:

This document isn’t as hard-nosed as the other two I’ll mention, but MM is a big part of it. A few goals (all bolding that isn’t italicized is mine):

Strategic priorities

1.) Embed mātauranga Māori into teaching, learning and the curriculum.

Number one!

From “Taskforce Objectives”:

Strategic priorities

2. Ensure that academic appointment, advancement and promotion processes require staff to reflect on their engagement with mātauranga Māori, as well as recognising the wider knowledge and contribution that Māori and Pacific staff provide to scholarship at the University. . .

5). Provide support and opportunities for staff to engage with matauranga Māori within their areas of academic expertise, and to ensure that matauranga Māori is embedded as part of the curriculum.

This ideological/political/religious basis for promotion, appointment, and advancement is explicitly forbidden in places like The University of Chicago. All that matters, according to our Shils report, is research, teaching (including supervising grad students), service, and contributing to the intellectual community. Any considerations of gender, race, ideology, ethnicity, and religion are forbidden.

And the last paragraph:

The success of initiatives to recruit new and retain existing Māori and Pacific academic staff will determine our ability to provide appropriate leadership for the integration of Mātauranga Māori and traditional Pacific knowledge into the curriculum and our research programmes.

There’s a lot of embedding planned, but I must that 32% of students at this school are of Māori descent, the highest proportion of that ethnic group in any New Zealand university. But make no mistake: all NZ are going this route. The question is whether the curriculum must cater to the “way of knowing” of the ethnic group that is so prevalent, and to be infused into the science curriculum. Two-thirds of the students, after all, are not Māori.

Here’s the second document, the “research plan”. Click to read it:

Here’s their main research objective (emphasis is mine except for the bits in italics)


Scholarly excellence rooted in deep disciplinary expertise is the foundation upon which our research reputation rests. World-class scholarship means the excellence of our research is internationally-recognised and benchmarked. This does not mean the University’s research endeavours are only for the rest of the world, but must reflect our setting, our region, and our country, blending the perspectives of tangata whenua and tangata te Tiriti, as well as Pacific approaches and methodologies. Our unique opportunity, as we engage with the work-programme of the 2021 Taskforce, is to embed mātauranga throughout our researcher’s capabilities, treasure the input of Pacific knowledge systems, and celebrate the synergy with other approaches to science and knowledge generation. Recognising this opportunity, and working with it, will enable our research excellence to shine through.

. . . What will the University do to achieve this objective?

• Establish a process to identify and develop researcher capacity and capability in mātauranga Māori, and in Pacific research methodologies.

• Recognise a broader definition of excellence in our suite of annual research awards.

• Further develop specialist mātauranga competency among the professional staff supporting research, to deliver excellence in mātauranga.

. . . Pou Whaitake – Relevance operates at differing geographical scales: local, regional, national and international, and it encompasses our place in the world. Relevance means that mātauranga Māori, and Pacific knowledge systems cannot be separate from other approaches and methodologies, because we will benefit most when all are woven together to create synergy and space for all.

The above paragraph sounds good, but what does it really mean. How is one suppose to weave together the search for dark matter, or the nature of sexual selection, with MM? These are concepts developed outside that paradigm.

 . .We are committed to implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce Report (2021) and to become an institution that rejects casual and systemic racism, honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and values mātauranga Māori. University-based research has evolved over centuries in the traditions of Natural Philosophy, as such we cannot simply “bolt on” Māori and Pacific knowledge systems and hope to gain value, whereas if we deliberately make space for mātauranga and Pacific approaches we can add depth and meaning to our research endeavours. As such, mātauranga Māori will be woven throughout the four pou of excellence, impact, relevance and resilience; and is an integral part of all five objectives in this Plan.

Once again the Treaty (“Te Tiriti”) and MM are virtually worshipped, and will be made ubiquitous. They’re not just “bolted on” to education, either, they are woven throughout every aspect of education.

This university aspires to world-class excellence, but seems to think that embedding MM throughout the school will “enable [their] research excellence to shine through.” It won’t because world-class research is beyond MM itself, though of course perfectly capable of being done by Māori. What is happening is that the University is cosseting its Māori students in an ethnic cocoon at the expense of their education. They’ll know a lot of MM, which they probably know already, but won’t be exposed to “non-Pacific knowledge systems” and therefore won’t acquire a parochial education.  Now I’m not sure what balance needs to be struck between MM and “Western” or “Crown” knowledge, but you don’t see these research plans calling for the students to be exposed to the classics, to modern science, or much of the humanities. If you read this poorly written document, you’ll see it’s all about “achieving research excellence,” but it’s really obsessed with measuring research excellence. There’s a lot of talk of aspirations, but no concrete plan to realize those aspirations beyond infusing everything with MM.

Finally, here’s the Academic Plan (click on screenshot):

He Timatanga / Introduction

In recognising the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi and emābracing our motto Ko Te Tangata / For the People, diversity, equity and inclusion figure prominently in this Academic Plan. Teaching for diversity means acknowledging and working with all students’ lived experiences. Equitable teaching and learning is available to all, is fair and just. Inclusive teaching and learning happen in environments where everyone feels a sense of belonging, that are equally accessible for all, and are welcoming for all.’ In addition, the Plan acknowledges the important role that Māori, and also Pacific learners, teachers or educators, families and communities play in enhancing the mana of the University of Waikato. Pacific peoples have a rich history and tradition of knowledge and learning which the University is keen to harness in order to ensure our Pacific students flourish and excel.

Once again homage is paid to the principles of the 1840 Treaty, which says nothing about what is to be taught in schools. It’s being interpreted to mean “Māori principles will dominate and guide education at this university.”

And the PRIMARY academic objective:


I won’t translate this for you except to say that Aotearoa is the Māori word for “New Zealand”:

The University of Waikato, in committing to implementing recommendations in the Report of the Taskforce to become an institution that genuinely honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is not systematically or casually racist and that values mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and Māori ways of knowing), has an opportunity to lead the way in this. Truly transforming our teaching, learning and curriculum in this manner will benefit tangata whenua as well as all students and staff, making the University of Waikato a welcoming, inclusive, forward-thinking, place to study and work. Tangata whenua as kaitiaki and as key educators are helping bring about greater cultural and environmental awareness. Some of our papers and programmes at Waikato already fully embed within them notions of kaitiaki and mātauranga. We all, however, need to commit to inspiring and supporting students to be guardians of our precious resources which will also help us advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. One of the principal outcomes recommended by the Report of the Taskforce is: “All staff and students enjoy enhanced academic experiences and results from the embedding of mātauranga Māori through existing teaching and research approaches”. Over the past few years, there has emerged within Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and other research organisations a wider appreciation and integration of the important role mātauranga Māori plays in regards to understanding the world around us. This ought, where possible, to extend to teaching, learning – what we teach and how we teach it. This includes assessment because as the Report of the Taskforce (p. 29) notes, it is important to: “Establish alternative forms of assessment in addition to, alongside, or in place of written forms of assessment where suitable and effective (e.g. oral, creative practice)”.

And this is how they will do it:

What will the University do to achieve this objective?

• Develop and begin to implement professional development for all staff on Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Begin work on establishing exactly what a mātauranga Māori approach to teaching, learning and curriculum might look like in different disciplines. In some subjects this work is well established, in others it is underway, in still others it is yet to begin. In reality, it is likely that mātauranga Māori will be more challenging to implement in some subjects than in others but conversations need to begin and steps taken towards this enhanced academic experience

Develop and begin to implement professional development for colleagues on the principles and practices of mātauranga Māori in relation to teaching and learning

Review ‘Cultural Perspectives’ papers to ensure the criteria and learning outcomes remain relevant and are achievable and to consider the relationship between existing Cultural Perspectives papers and future papers that will adopt or engage with a mātauranga Māori approach

Note that some subjects may be harder to “make over” with MM than others (try quantum mechanics or evolutionary biology, for instance) but made over they will be.

To enter into New Zealand secondary or tertiary education is to go down a rabbit hole where all values are upturned to adhere to the Treaty and to MM. If universities do this, so thinks their administrations as well as the Ardern government, they will take its place among the great educational institutions of the world. But everybody know that’s not true. In fact, secondary education in New Zealand has been in the dumper for years, and this new direction will just make it worse.  Perhaps the government doesn’t realize that this will eventually redound upon New Zealand’s international rankings. Those who focus obsessively on Māorizing universities may not suffer, but eventually the Vice Chancellors of the schools will be held accountable.

NZ Science Dean wants schools to teach Māori “spirituality” and “non-secularism” in science

February 15, 2022 • 10:45 am

Shoot me now!  New Zealand’s system of science education continues to go down the toilet (along with Donald Trump’s papers, I guess) as everyone from government officials to secondary school teachers to university professors pushes to make Mātauranga Māori (“MM”) or Māori “ways of knowing” coequal with science, to be taught as science in science classes. All of them intend for this mixture of legend, superstition, theology, morality, philosophy and, yes, some “practical knowledge” to be given equal billing with science, and presumably not to be denigrated as “inferior” to real science. (That, after all, would be racism.) It’s one thing to teach the indigenous ways of knowing as sociology or anthropology (and but of course “ways of knowing” differ all over the world); it’s another entirely to say that they’re coincident with modern science.

The equation of “ways of knowing” like MM with modern science is, of course, part of the Woke Program to “decolonize science”. The problem, of course, is we have a big conflict—one between a “way of knowing that really works“, which is science, and on the other side a reverence for the oppressed and their culture, embodied in MM.  The result is, of course, that the oppressed win, and all over the Anglophonic world science is being watered down, downgraded, pushed aside, or tarred with adjectives like “white supremacist” and “colonialist.”

And so here we have a professor and a college administrator, Dr. Julie Rowland of Auckland University, pushing to get spiritualism and MM taught either alongside science or as science. She’s not really clear about that, but I sense a camel’s nose approaching the science tent.

Rowland is not only a structural geologist, but the deputy dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Auckland, considered (for the time being) New Zealand’s best university.

And so, in an article in Newsroom, we see the Deputy Dean of Science telling us that science is not enough; we need more spirutuality—presumably Māori spirituality—taught in schools and Universities. Click to see another batch of bricks crumble in the foundation of New Zealand’s science

Note that Rowland not only refers to New Zealand by its Māori name, “Aotearoa”, but hastens to mention the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi (called “Te Teriti” in Māori), as the basis for the injection of spirituality into school. That ancient treaty, which says nothing about science, and wasn’t even signed by many Māori chiefs, is held up not only as the founding document of New Zealand, but is used as an excuse for Woke behavior like the stuff under consideration.

Rowland begins by giving to science with one hand and taking with the other:

Science is a rational pursuit of knowledge, but it does not exist in splendid isolation. If this is painted as the ‘ideal’ science, then it is incomplete. People do science, and people and their culture/s are inseparable.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand our nation’s origins lie with the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty is a formal agreement with the third article guaranteeing Māori equal rights and privileges. That means access to education within a system that seeks to fulfil the potential of every individual.

I suspect the heart of the issue is the notion that education should be secular and devoid of any form of spirituality. Proponents of this view would say a karakia (sometimes interpreted as a prayer) to open or close an event, or before guests eat afternoon tea, has no place in education. But in the context of Māori practices and values, and bringing Treaty articles to life, this makes perfect sense. And is absolutely integral.

No it’s not; not in modern education. Keep prayers and MM out of science!

Further, those equal rights and privileges do not include the right to have your legends and mythology taught as science. It’s as if the Constitution gave every Native American the right to have their “way of knowing” taught in schools, and as science. The thing is, we can amend the Constitution, but the Treaty is both nebulous and subject to conflicting interpretations. There is no final authority to rule on what it says, though certainly the Māori should and do have legal and moral equality with everyone else. But that doesn’t include equal rights to have your myths taught in science class—any more than the equality of Americans guarantees that every religious version of “creation” be taught alongside evolution. As Daniel Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Rowland continues by adding that NZ’s Education Act of 1877 established compulsory secular education for “colonial” kids, and extended it in 1894 to all residents of New Zealand. Back then the country had a separation of church and state, though there were religious schools.

But Rowland thinks that 1894 was a big mistake:

Over the past three decades, Māori values, which are inextricably linked to spirituality, have been taken more seriously by the education sector resulting in a shift in the meaning of a secular education. For example, by 1999, all primary and some specialist (physical education) secondary teachers were required to factor spiritual well-being into their teaching programmes. If you’d been trained to think that spirituality has no part in education, as I did then, this was challenging.

But consider the alternative. If Māori values are parked outside state education, who is education for, and on what terms? Clearly, this scenario disregards every aspect of  Te Tiriti o Waitangi and wider indigenous rights.

This is arrant nonsense. Why should there be a guarantee that everyone’s “values” be taught to them in school?  If this were America, and a Christian said that her antiabortion and creationist values should be taught in public schools, she’d immediately be slapped down by the First Amendment. For every group—nay, every person—has different values. Even the constitution and meaning of MM differs among Māori scholars!  If a Māori child needs her values buttressed, there is an entire and tightly knit community, the iwii, to accomplish that.

The purpose of education, at least as I see it, is to impart generally accepted knowledge to students, and to teach them how to think and how to defend and analyze their views. This is precisely the opposite of MM, which is a kind of theology that cannot be questioned or falsified. Under my construal, education is indeed for everyone, but for those groups who have spiritual/religious/moral values that differ from those of other groups, they have to get those things reinforced on their own time.

Finally, we see below that a dean at Auckland University’s faculty of science starts plowing the ground to make way for the teaching of MM as science. This is a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that’s flattening both science and the educational system of Aotearoa:

In my view, efforts to acknowledge and understand mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) enrich the capacity of students and staff to connect across different world views, which is critical if we are to address the inequities in Aotearoa, let alone global crises like climate change. Acknowledgement and understanding of beliefs leads to richer engagement and the building of a relationship of equals.

Universities are the last in the education line to grapple with the duality that comes with meeting Treaty obligations. There is widespread support for this among academics who see the relevance in multiple ways. Our universities are not at a crossroads choosing the path of the universality of science or a race-based ideology. We are on a dual carriageway and the momentum is building.

You see what she’s doing here? The last two sentences give away the goal. I’ll repeat them:

Our universities are not at a crossroads choosing the path of the universality of science or a race-based ideology. We are on a dual carriageway and the momentum is building.

She argues that there’s no need to give precedence to science over whatever she construes as a “race-based ideology”, which to me suggests she’s referring sarcastically to how some characterize MM. The last sentence, at least, implies that both MM and science are speeding along that “dual carriageway” into the science class. And yes, the momentum is building as the Valorization of the Oppressed has dictates that MM is coequal to science. According to the good Dean, you can have your science and your mythology too. Did you know that, according to MM, the Polynesians discovered Antarctica in 700 AD (the real finders were the Russians in 1820), centuries before the MM came to New Zealand? This is all oral legend, and it is wrong. And it’s just as wrong as the “theology” of MM, with its panoply of gods and legends that can’t be supported by evidence.

It’s unbelievable that a science dean at New Zealand’s best university can put out this kind of palaver.  The nation’s scientists, who by and large seem adamantly opposed to this stuff, have no say in the matter, and if they object, they could be fired. It’s politics, Jake!

People of Aotearoa: rise up against this nonsense! Do you want your science education to become the laughingstock of the world? For that is what will happen if the benighted keep barrelling along that dual carriageway of science and nescience.

A brave Kiwi

January 31, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Sociologist of education Elizabeth Rata was one of what I call “The Satanic Seven”: a group of  seven professors from the University of Auckland who took a public stand in a magazine against teaching Maori “ways of knowing” as co-equal with science.  The “Listener letter”, published last July, is so well known (and also infamous) that it now has its own Wikipedia page. The infamy comes from an assertion that would be uncontroversial in most places: the claim that government proposals to ensure equal co-teaching of modern science with the indigenous “way of knowing” (Mātauranga Māori, or MM) were unwarranted and a recipe for disaster.

And they are. While MM has nuggets of truth gleaned from experience (but not experiment), it’s also a whole lot of other stuff as well: legend, fable, local theology, morality, and so on. And a lot of it is scientifically bogus, like the claim that Polynesians discovered Antarctica around 700 A.D. (The first real sighting of the continent was by a Russian ship in 1820.) Who could assent to teaching such nonsense as “true”? It’s even worse because New Zealand’s rankings in STEM education among comparable countries have plummeted in the last several decades. Teaching MM in science class will only make those rankings lower.

When I consider how hard the government and educational authorities at all levels are pushing this “equality-in-the-classroom” proposal, academia in New Zealand begins to look like a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff (yes, I know they don’t really do that). Knowing that the government’s proposal will hurt the country’s educational standing, they press on nevertheless, for satisfying the Māori—and a misguided interpretation of the 1840 treaty between settlers and the Māori—is more important than furthering the truth. New Zealand is wrecking its own educational system with out-of-control wokeness.

But like Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Rata has nevertheless persisted. Below is the link to a piece she just published in a popular NZ venue, Newsroom. It’s a short article which says much of what I’ve summarized above. But she’s braver than I, for even full professors and retired professors risk professional damage from speaking their minds. (Two signers of the letter who were also members of the Royal Society of New Zealand are still undergoing “investigation” for criticizing MM as a form of science.) You can read the piece for yourself, (click on the screenshot) but I’ll give just a few excerpts that I’ve indented.

From Rata:

A useful contribution is to consider the role of the 2020 Education and Training Act in the shift from science to ideology. The basic contradiction between universal science and the parochialism of the treaty ideology is found in that legislation.

“Treaty ideology” refers to the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi (often seen as the Māori version “Te Teriti”), which was signed by the British and some (but not all) Māori chiefs, and those chiefs only from the North Island. It’s thus unclear how widely the treaty applies now, and even its interpretation is not straightforward given that the Māori words have some different meanings from the English ones. Nevertheless, here are its three provisions as given in Wikipedia:

  • Article one of the Māori text grants governance rights to the Crown while the English text cedes “all rights and powers of sovereignty” to the Crown.
  • Article two of the Māori text establishes that Māori will retain full chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures while the English text establishes the continued ownership of the Māori over their lands and establishes the exclusive right of pre-emption of the Crown.
  • Article three gives Māori people full rights and protections as British subjects.

The problem is that the treaty has been stretched so far that it’s now interpreted to mean “the Māori get half of everything”, and in this case “everything” includes “half of the time in science class to promulgate the Māori way of knowing”. Nobody with any sense would agree with the latter construal, but wokeness overrides rationality as PM Jacinda Ardern leads her lemmings over the cliff.

But I digress, for it angers me that a pack of legends, superstitions, theology, and so on, larded with a few bits of knowledge gleaned from experience, should be given half the time in a modern science class. By all means (as the Satanic Seven emphasized) teach MM in anthropology or history class, but do not drag it into STEM. That’s not good for NZ or for the Māori, whose science education will be grossly deficient. It serves only to make the treaty worshipers flaunt their virtue. What a price to pay for that! And it’s not like the U.S. Constitution that can be amended for clarity or revision. Te Teriti is here to stay.

Dr. Rata:

The main Treaty principles clause requires the university’s council “to acknowledge the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”. ‘Acknowledge’ can be weak or strong. Since the term first appeared in the 1990 Education Act it has morphed into the strongest interpretation as obligation and commitment. It is now very difficult for academics to question the ideological intensity which has swept through the university as ‘obligation’ is embedded. Prayers in the secular university go unchallenged. Treaty requirements in teaching courses are fulfilled. Funding applications without mātauranga Māori adherence are declined. Language is self-monitored for ideological lapses.

The legislation also holds a clue to the seemingly widespread support from academics for the Treaty ideology. Section 281 encourages the greatest possible student participation by under-represented groups. The assumption is made that adherence to treaty principles will provide this encouragement. That is unlikely. The educational underachievement of a section of the Māori population happens well before students reach tertiary education.

Fixing the lower STEM achievement of Māori students cannot be done by teaching MM in class. It must be done the same way that lower academic achievement of black and Hispanic students in the U.S. must be done: encouragement, cultural transformation, mentoring, and so on. (Really, I don’t know the solution, but I know it doesn’t involve teaching fable as truth.)

Teaching falsehoods in science will not create more equity. As Rata notes (my emphasis below):

University students from all racial and cultural groups tend to come from knowledge-rich schools which provide a solid foundation for university study. These are often the children of the professional class who have benefited from such knowledge in their own lives and insist that schools provide it for their children.

It is access to the abstract quality of academic knowledge and language, its very remoteness from everyday experience, and its formality – science in other words – that is necessary for success. Tragically this knowledge is miscast as ‘euro-centric’. The aim of the decolonisation and re-indigenisation of New Zealand education is to replace this knowledge with the cultural knowledge of experience.

But science is not euro-centric or western. It is universal. This is recognised in the International Science Council’s definition of science as “rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers this is a special form of knowledge”. It includes the arts, humanities and social sciences as human endeavours which may, along with the physical and natural sciences, use such a formalised approach. The very children who need this knowledge the most, now receive less.

The science-ideology discussion matters for many reasons – the university’s future, the country’s reputation for science and education, and the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. But at its heart it is about democracy. Science can only thrive when democracy thrives.

Elizabeth will get into more trouble about this: her professorship will not insulate her from unwarranted criticism—or even punishment by the University of Auckland. But, admirably, she persists. As she says, MM doesn’t even come close to conforming to the International Science Council’s definition of “science.”

As far as I know term “Māoriphobe” has not yet been coined, but I’ll Coyne it here because it’s only a matter of time before people like Rata are tarred with it. (A more melliferous alternative is “Tiritiphobe”.)

And time is running out for NZ. Until its rational citizens wake up and try to understand what science is, and how important it is to both education and societal progress (NZ has been very good with vaccination, for instance, and MM didn’t give us vaccines), the rodents will keep jumping off the cliff.

And then there will be no rodents left, for every serious or accomplished scientist will have fled the country.

A victory (?) for academic freedom

November 5, 2021 • 12:30 pm

Remember Bright Sheng, a distinguished professor and composer at the University of Michigan? I reported on him earlier, also linking to the takes of John McWhorter and Cathy Young about the incident Sheng was involved in. At that time, Sheng was in the process of being demonized at Michigan (he probably still is). Here’s what I wrote a few weeks ago, quoting the student newspaper:

A blackface incident has occurred at the University of Michigan, involving, Bright Sheng, Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition and a well known composer and pianist. But he happened to show the wrong film. As the student paper, the Michigan Daily, reports:

On Sept. 10, Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Olivia Cook attended her first composition seminar with Sheng. This semester, the course focused on analyzing Shakespeare’s works, and the class began with a screening of the 1965 version of “Othello.” Cook told The Daily she quickly realized something seemed strange, and upon further inspection, noticed the onscreen actor Laurence Olivier was in blackface.

“I was stunned,” Cook said. “In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (people of color) in America, I was shocked that (Sheng) would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space.”

The predictable outcry occurred, with claims that the film made the students feel unsafe. This resulted in Sheng’s removal as a teacher of undergraduates. He apologized to the faculty and students, but his apology was considered insufficient. Sheng says that he didn’t realize the cultural offense conveyed by blackface.  As the Dean of Sheng’s division revealed in an email, “the incident had been reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.”  Sheng will be lucky if he’s not fired for showing that movie.

As McWhorter points out, the best explication and analysis of this incident is by Cathy Young at Arc Digital, who concludes that Sheng’s screening of the movie induced “moral panic” and a “witchhunt,” with Sheng being the witch.

Well, the good news is that the University of Michigan is not going to punish him further, though he was removed from teaching that class and the school had begun an investigation (believe me, that itself is punishment!). The not-so-good news is that the University’s statement on Sheng, below, supposedly an affirmation of the school’s support for free speech, is a Weasel Manifesto, trying to satisfy everyone at the same time, both the Offender and the Offendees, as well as us free-speech diehards. Click on the screenshot to read:

The University first affirms that Sheng is in the clear, and that Michigan is in favor of free speech, though adding that “the depiction of a white actor in blackface is deeply offensive” without being presented “in proper context. . . and with care and sensivitity.”  Of course, there’s no way Shen could have presented it at all without getting in trouble, but let’s give Sheng a break. Here’s his exculpation:

The University of Michigan strongly supports free speech and academic freedom. We also work hard to establish an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students.

Bright Sheng, the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition, is a highly valued member of the faculty of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the university community.  He continues to teach composition lessons this semester in SMTD and is scheduled to teach a regular course load during the upcoming winter term.  No sanctions have been imposed on him.

Then it turns weaselly.  First of all, they call for ENGAGEMENT and conversations:

SMTD will host a series of facilitated conversations to help community members better understand the different perspectives involved in this particular instance and Professor Sheng has said he would welcome an opportunity to meet with students in the seminar.

“I appreciate the engagement of Dean Gier and Professor Sheng in this difficult issue and also our students and faculty who have expressed their views to us. The dean and faculty of SMTD are intently focused on ensuring that their courses actively engage students with discussions of race and racism.  We can all learn as we work together to be a more inclusive community,” said Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan M. Collins.

Does anyone doubt that these conversations will have only one approved viewpoint—that they won’t be free exchanges of views but propaganda with a preordained “consensus”? This will not be an exercise in free speech, and the dog whistle (sorry, GOP) is “we work together to be a more inclusive community.” For what Michigan hasn’t realized is this: Inclusivity and freedom of speech are not always compatible. 

For example, if you question affirmative action, or “affinity housing,” you will offend minorities while exercising freedom of speech on genuinely debatable issues.

Still Michigan keeps up the pretense:

Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Robert M. Sellers noted that “being a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community is not anathema to academic freedom.”

“It does mean that we must intentionally work together as a community to understand what academic freedom looks like when we include voices that have traditionally not been at the table. It will not be easy work, but it is essential work. Who better than the University of Michigan to lead this conversation?” said Sellers, the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology.

Well, how about any of the several free-speech organizations like FIRE, or someone like ex-ACLU president Nadine Strossen? Yes, diversity and inclusivity are not inevitably anathema to academic freedom, but they often are. You can discern that from all the imbroglios on college campuses in the last few years. Case in point: Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying getting piled on by Evergreen State students (and their own faculty) because they refused to leave campus on the “day of absence”. Both of those professors are antiracists, but are also committed to free speech. The result: they exercised their free speech, which brought them both physical and verbal threats. Both eventually left the college.

It’s time for people to stop insisting that you can have your inclusivity and your free speech too. The First Amendment is there for reasons, one being that very little political speech is completely inoffensive. Divergent viewpoints are prima facie examples of “non-inclusivity”.

And look who’s going to be in charge of the “conversation” at Michigan that will supposedly reconcile DEI and free speech:

In further support of the need for continued discourse, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and our National Center for Institutional Diversity will work with other university partners to convene a broader universitywide discussion around the challenges and opportunities associated with adhering to principles such as academic freedom while becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. The issues raised are not exclusive to higher education; they are fundamental to American democracy.

This is like putting a fox in charge of a conversation between chickens. There is only one possible outcome.

h/t: Larry

McWhorter back in form, speaks truth to wokeness in the NY Times

August 25, 2021 • 9:15 am

I was afraid that when John McWhorter ditched his Substack site to write twice weekly for the New York Times, he would tone down some of his strong critiques of woke anti-racism. Apparently he hasn’t, as you can tell from his latest op-ed. (Try clicking below; it’s supposed to be for NYT subscribers but you might get free access, or see it via judicious inquiry).

This piece was even the top of the editorial column yesterday afternoon:

You probably know the story. On the University of Wisconsin campus there used to be a big glacial boulder (I’ve seen it) that was called “niggerhead rock”—exactly one time, by a local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, in 1925.  Here’s that single reference, and archivists have been unable to find another printed usage of that racist name:

Since then, the 42-ton hunk of stone has been known as “Chamberlin Rock” after Thomas Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president. It’s sort of a local landmark, and this is what it looked like in situ.

Photo: Wisconsin State Journal archives

Despite the n-word being used once, and 96 years ago, it apparently has rankled some black students, as the Wisconsin State Journal Reports:

The Wisconsin Black Student Union called for the rock’s removal over the summer. President Nalah McWhorter said the rock is a symbol of the daily injustices that students of color face on a predominantly white campus.

“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” she said on Wednesday. “We won’t have that constant reminder, that symbol that we don’t belong here.”

McWhorter also faulted the Wisconsin State Journal for printing the vulgarity in a 1925 news article.

University historians identified the news story as the only known instance of the offensive term being used. It’s unclear whether or for how long people on campus referred to the boulder as “Niggerhead Rock.” The term itself appears to have fallen out of common usage by the 1950s.

Kacie Butcher, the university’s public history project director, told the Campus Planning Committee that there may be other records beyond the State Journal story, but locating them is difficult because archived records are not well organized. What is well-documented during that time period, however, is the Klu Klux Klan’s active presence in Madison. Campus satire publications and comedy skits also mocked and dehumanized people of color.

Butcher told the committee that the rock’s removal presents an opportunity to prioritize students of color and engage in complex conversations.

Do you get a whiff of dissimulation here?

So the University administration ordered the rock, apparently now seen as a “racist monument” to be removed so the students could “begin healing.” As Spectrum News 1 reports, this was done on orders of the Chancellor herself. The rock now reposes in a distant locale:

After a process of recommendations, Chancellor Rebecca Blank approved removing it from its home on Observatory Hill. Her approval was necessary because it’s within 15 feet of a Native American burial site.

“Removing the rock as a monument in a prominent location prevents further harm to our community, while preserving the rocks [sic] educational research value for our current and future school students,” Brown said.

Friday morning, a crew started the process using harnesses around the boulder to lift it with a large crane. They began just before 7 a.m., and finished up after 11 that morning.

The rock will be moved to UW-Madison property on Lake Kegonsa, where university geologists and researchers can still have access to it.

Here’s the offending boulder being removed, probably at substantial cost (photo from the University of Wisconsin News):

The removal was a painstaking process that lasted just over four hours. Here, workers from JP Cullen and Dawes Rigging & Crane Rental maneuver the rock into position above the flatbed truck that would haul it to  university-owned land southeast of Madison near Lake Kegonsa. PHOTO: BRYCE RICHTER

To anyone with sense, removing the rock because it offends students based on a name used just once, is insane. The normal reaction to those students, and to the chancellor who ordered the rock’s removal to placate the offended, would be “Get a grip, people!”.  And, in fact, that’s exactly McWhorter’s message in his NY Times piece. He even calls it a “niggerhead” rock, printing out the word that, said the Times not long ago, couldn’t be used because intent doesn’t matter, only the effect of the word on people.

McWhorter’s piece is excellent, full of sarcasm, thoughtful analyis and good writing. And most of all, it says the thing that we all want to say when we see such reprehensible and ineffective acts of performative wokeness (but can’t say it unless we’re black):

The students essentially demanded that an irrational, prescientific kind of fear — that a person can be meaningfully injured by the dead — be accepted as insight. They imply that the rock’s denotation of racism is akin to a Confederate statue’s denotation of the same, neglecting the glaringly obvious matter of degree here — as in, imagine pulling down a statue upon finding that the person memorialized had uttered a single racist thing once in his or her life.

. . . If the presence of that rock actually makes some people desperately uncomfortable, they need counseling. And as such, we can be quite sure that these students were acting. Few can miss that there is a performative aspect in the claim that college campuses, perhaps the most diligently antiracism spaces on the planet, are seething with bigotry. The Wisconsin rock episode was a textbook demonstration of the difference between sincere activism and playacting, out of a desire to join the civil rights struggle in a time when the problems are so much more abstract than they once were.

How many of us, even though most of us believe it, would stay that the offending were acting, weren’t really offended, and were engaged in a grab for power? Or that they need counseling if they were that offended?  But of course a big share of blame falls on the cowardly administrators who caved into the students’ ridiculous demand (all bolding is McWhorter’s).

The true fault here lies with the school’s administration, whose deer tails popped up as they bolted into the forest, out of a fear of going against the commandments of what we today call antiracism, which apparently includes treating Black people as simpletons and thinking of it as reckoning.

True wokeness would have been to awaken to the tricky but urgent civic responsibility of, when necessary, calling out Black people on nonsense. Yes, even Black people can be wrong. As the Black professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law puts it in his upcoming “Say It Loud!”: “Blacks, too, have flaws, sometimes glaringly so. These weaknesses may be the consequence of racist mistreatment. But they are weaknesses nonetheless.” To pretend this is never the case where racism is concerned is not to reckon but to dehumanize.

But wait! There’s more!

Let us remember: The point here is treating a rock as psychologically damaging because of something someone dug up written about it at a time when people lived without antibiotics, television or McDonald’s. And yes, people often called big rocks and other things that ugly name in those days. But by that logic, we should be lifting away thousands of rocks nationwide. Note the perfect absurdity of an idea that America is “coming to terms” with racism by having cranes laboring all over the country moving boulders to different spots.

. . .My message here is not that the students should have just hit the books and kept their chinny chins up. Black America has problems that cannot be solved via personal initiative alone, and young people eager to help change the world are to be lauded for addressing them. If the Black students who had that rock pulled away do tutoring with Black kids in Madison’s more challenged public schools or get behind police reform efforts in the same city, then they deserve all due support. (I’d even consider giving them school credit for it.)

But the rock episode was settling for performance art and calling it antiracism. Kabuki as civil rights — it’s fake, it’s self-involved, and it helps no one. Yes, racism persists in our society in many ways, and administrators serving up craven condescension as antiracism are fine examples of it.

Them’s strong words, especially from the New York Times. In fact, I haven’t seen anything even close to it in several years. Remember, the NYT fired science reporter Don McNeil for simply saying the n-word in a didactic manner on a New York Times foreign excursion with students. He didn’t even print it, but here McWhorter prints “niggerhead”, and the word stays as a whole. How did he get away with it? Well, for one thing, McWhorter is black.

But the important thing is not just that he got away with it, but he got away with slapping down The Pretend Offended and calling them what they are: students who act out an outrage that’s not really felt. And the University of Wisconsin Administration also gets a trip to the woodshed. How refreshing to see a piece like this published in the New York Times! Is this a harbinger of change? Will the paper let McWhorter say exactly what he wants from now on, or is he doomed to be let go? (I can’t imagine he’d follow any orders to “tone it down.”) Stay tuned.

University of Oklahoma illegally compels students and staff to give “approved” answers during mandatory diversity training

April 11, 2021 • 11:15 am

Many university faculty and staff have taken mandatory training in human resources during their tenure.  For example, not long ago I took a required module in sexual harassment training, even as an emeritus professor (well, I do interact with other faculty, students, and staff). These modules proceed by giving a didactic overview about how to proceed in various situations, followed by a number of questions to determine if you understood the procedures. I didn’t think anything of it, nor did I think the training was out of line, as sexual harassment is illegal and creates a bad environment on campus for the harassed and everyone else.

But training in diversity issues is different, as you’ll see below. So far, the University of Chicago hasn’t instituted required diversity training, and I wouldn’t be happy if they did—not if it was like what the University of Oklahoma’s (UO’s) mandatory training involves. For, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), OU’s training does not let you pass the required modules unless you give certain approved answers. These answers don’t seem to involve obeying the law, but rather force you to agree with the University’s views on diversity. Click on the screenshot below to see a summary of the issue from the FIRE site:

It came to FIRE’s attention that in these modules, UO was forcing the trainees to agree with certain viewpoints—a form of “compelled speech” which, according to the Supreme Court, is illegal in public universities (these must obey the First Amendment). That’s because it may “compel students, faculty, and staff to agree with concepts that may violate their freedom of conscience”.   FIRE notes the Supreme Court precedent that prohibits compelled speech:

Famously, in ruling that schoolchildren cannot be compelled to salute the American flag, the Supreme Court held in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) that it’s unconstitutional for the government to require a person “to declare a belief [and . . . ] to utter what is not in his mind.” The Court, correctly, held that compelled speech “would strangle the free mind at its sources.”

How did FIRE know that compelled speech was likely taking place in UO’s training? A letter from FIRE to UO last November (pdf of letter here), reports the experiences of Elizabeth Owen, a (brave!) graduate student and staff member who had access to the diversity training materials. Owen was required to take three commercial diversity-training modules, which presented several hypothetical situations and then asked trainees to provide their “best choice”. Here are two examples of how Owen’s “best choice” was not the University’s. This one is from the FIRE article:

In one of these hypothetical situations, Owen was required to communicate with a fictional colleague named Michael. It showed a video of Michael saying he was “tired of all this transgender stuff” and gave Owen options to select in response. When Owen selected the response that she felt was most similar to her feelings (“I agree. Political correctness can be so tiring”), she was told that her opinion was not the “best choice.”

Had the video simply proceeded, there would arguably be no abridgment of Owen’s rights: She had chosen the answer she thought was best, the university disagreed, and the training would continue. That is similar to how an in-person training would likely work. (Assuming, of course, that the university did not find some other way to take adverse action against those giving “wrong” answers.)

Instead, however, the video automatically rewound, forcing Owen to select the answer choice that OU preferred — “You seem upset. What’s the matter?” — in order to continue. Owen was required to select the preferred answer in order to complete the mandatory training. In doing so, the university, an agency of the state, compelled Owen (and who knows how many others) to express a viewpoint with which she did not agree.

The modules are required, remember, so you have to agree with the University’s views to pass them.

And this example is from the letter that FIRE sent to OU.

Another example was a question about accommodations for an employee with fibromyalgia. The question states:

Anya has fibromyalgia and feels drained and in immense pain by the end of a workday. She sneaks in a few breaks when she can, but her work responsibilities can keep her from getting the rest she needs, and sometimes her efficiency suffers. What should Anya do?

Although Owen originally selected the response that most closely reflects what she would do were she Anya (“Nothing. She takes multiple breaks when she can to help with her disability, which is already more than her peers”), the training program required her to repeat the process, giving her an explanation about why OU did not select this as the proper answer. When Owen selected a second response that she believes would also be appropriate (“Talk to her supervisor about switching to part-time, or a less demanding position”), she was again required to repeat the process. Finally, when Owen selected the response that OU has marked as the correct choice (“Talk to her supervisor about what reasonable accommodations can be made for her”), she was permitted to move on.

On these and other questions, Owen disagreed with the mandatory OU-selected answer but was forced to affirm OU’s preferred response rather than the response that reflects her own conscience. Failing to do so would render her unable to complete the mandatory training and thereby subject her to adverse action by the university.

FIRE concluded its November letter this way, drawing an analogy between being forced to salute the flag—at the time a West Virginia law, which violated the conscience of Jehovah’s Witnesses—and to adhere to the University’s views about what is “appropriate” behavior. (Legal behavior is a separate issue.):

OU’s diversity trainings—however well-intended—require students, faculty, and staff to express the “correct” response and profess their agreement with the ideas that the university disseminates. While, as in Barnette, there would be no constitutional issue or burden on the freedom of conscience if the university’s administration simply shared its own views on the correct response to hypothetical situations, the requirement that students and faculty affirm the “correct” view is similar to the requirement in Barnette that students salute the flag.

If forcing schoolchildren to salute the flag with the goal of building national unity amidst the destruction of World War II did not make the cut for an exception, then neither does diversity training, however well-meaning, permit such an exception now. FIRE again calls on OU — and any other public college or university that uses similar training materials — to immediately remove any requirement that faculty or students agree with the university’s viewpoints and to commit to protecting its students’ and faculty’s rights.

Before FIRE can go further, like instituting a lawsuit against OU (which would probably succeed), it needs access to the modules themselves. After asking for them under the Freedom of Information Act, OU said, well, yes, FIRE could see them, but they’d have to travel to the University itself to see them in person!:

The university’s March 23 response — more than four months after our request — said that FIRE would be permitted to view the training materials, but only in person on OU’s campus in Norman, Oklahoma. In other words, in order to view public records, the University of Oklahoma would require a FIRE staff member to fly across the country (FIRE is based in Philadelphia) during a global pandemic. That’s not exactly a transparency-friendly approach to public records, and it all but ensures that public records remain private.

This is ridiculous, for these models could be made available to FIRE online. That is, in fact, how we take them: we register and then are given a code to access the test. OU is trying to prevent FIRE from coming down on the University for violating the First Amendment.

And it is this which made many of us worried earlier when our Provost suggested that the University of Chicago might also institute mandatory diversity training. The objection is that such training, as at OU, is not to determine if you understand your legal obligations, but if your own opinions conform to a preferred point of view—probably the tenets of Critical Race Theory. That would never fly at this school—at least I don’t think it would. At any rate, the University of Chicago seems to have dropped that suggestion.

But the University of Oklahoma, a public university, is digging in its heels. It really should do what FIRE suggested: stop using forms of training that require the trainees to agree with the University’s own views.

Ivy League librarians call for an end to all policing

December 4, 2020 • 1:00 pm

My impression of librarians is that they are sensible and anti-woke, at least in terms of their stand on free speech and free expression. After all, they are the guardians and disseminators of all knowledge, the opponents of censoring books, and I have respected them immensely. They’ve also been a huge help to me in my academic work as well as in writing my popular books.  I guess I thought this admiring view would hold for their other opinions as well. But I was sorely disabused this week when I read two screeds by high-class librarians.

The first one, below, is from a group of 13 “Ivy League+” librarians—including one from the University of Chicago—who have signed a document calling for major changes in universities and libraries. The most important of these is a call for the complete elimination of the police. Not just campus police, but all police.  This document, in fact, doesn’t materially differ from the unhinged manifestos and lists of “demands” regularly issued by students at American colleges. I am disappointed.

The Ivy+ manifesto begins with the requisite invocation of George Floyd as well as the required (but unevidenced) claim that their institutions are not only structurally racist, but complicit in sustaining that racism (emphases in the following are mine):

In early June, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, library organizations and directors issued statements condemning racism and racial violence. A statement from the Association of Research Libraries [JAC: see below] implored that “[i]t is incumbent upon leaders of libraries and archives to examine our institutions’ role in sustaining systems of inequity that have left Black communities and other people of color in the margins of every aspect of our profession.”

. . . We recognize that librarianship, an overwhelmingly white profession, has systematically marginalized BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and librarians with disabilities. The conceptualization of our demands would not be possible without the labor and leadership of these very librarians, theorists, activists, and communities. We also recognize the privilege and power held by Ivy+ and other major research libraries, and thus, it is imperative that we use our privilege to speak out against library practices that cause harm. We build from and stand in solidarity with abolitionist movements happening in all library spaces. We believe in order to fully embody the ethics of librarianship it is necessary to align with the practices and aims of abolition. We hope many more voices will join us in signing onto these demands and in this bold and beautiful work of dreaming, demanding, and being in a better world. Reckoning with our own histories of and complicity in white supremacy and anti-Black racism is in the best interest not only of our institutions and patrons but our profession at large. Libraries are not neutral, nor should they be silent — but we’ve heard, seen, and spoken enough — solidarity is not found in statements, but in actions, and the time to act is now.

Have libraries really been this bigoted and nefarious?

And they’re also said to also sustain the police. The group says that they—the librarians themselves—have internalized their bigotry:

. . . we believe libraries have not gone far enough in this examination by refusing to fully consider our relationships with policing, surveillance, and the prison–industrial complex. These library statements do not explicitly name policing itself as the problem — an expression and exacerbation of racial capitalism and violence — despite it being a very real and dire existential threat to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), as well as those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Therefore, we find these statements morally and politically insufficient responses. Without naming the specific problem of policing, these statements not only let libraries off the hook for the many ways in which we have internalized the practices of the carceral state in our profession, but also leave the door open for “both sides’’ arguments or appeals to “law and order,” and encourage dangerous and ineffective reforms.

I won’t waste my time attacking this, for, according to Hitchen’s Razor, claims unsustained by evidence don’t need to be refuted by evidence. Perhaps these statements  just constitute the necessary self-flagellation and moral preening needed before they call for the elimination of both campus and regular police . They never, of course, say what will replace the police.

The solution to police violence is not reform but an abolition of policing in all its forms. Therefore, we call on the leadership of our institutions and all of our colleagues to embrace an abolitionist vision of a hopeful, life-affirming future and to immediately begin the work of divesting from police and prisons with the ultimate goal of the complete abolition of law enforcement and surveillance from library spaces, campuses, communities — in short, everywhere.

No more cops! They’re not just talking about campus police, for they want the abolition of law enforcement and surveillance from EVERYWHERE. Who will enforce the law, then? Apparently, nobody.  The attempt of students to disband the campus police at the U of C have already failed, but the librarians’ feeble attempt to adduce “evidence” for the ineffectiveness of campus policing is risible.

Many people will acknowledge the harm done by police and law enforcement but question the safety implications of defunding and divesting from policing on campus. But reporting from police forces shows that law enforcement and surveillance do not keep campuses safe. As Black organizers across the country have been declaring in the streets, “We keep us safe.” Therefore, we demand that library leadership remove any reliance on law enforcement as a means of addressing conflicts that arise in all library spaces by 2022.

I invite you to look at the link they give above. It goes to a Twitter thread from an associate professor at our University’s Harris School of Public Policy, a thread that uses our campus police database to show that black people get stopped disproportionately often by the campus cops, both in person and in traffic, compared to their frequency in the Hyde Park as well as in the University of Chicago student population.

That’s it: those data say nothing about the inability of campus police to keep the campus safe. And the disproportionality doesn’t point to any one cause; there could be more incidents involving black people, it could be genuine bigotry and racism, or it could reflect the fact that we’re surrounded by black communities and the campus police patrol a much larger area of the South Side than just Hyde Park. (Hyde Park extends south for 8 blocks, from 51st street to 59th Street, while the campus cops patrol 27 blocks—from 37th to 64th Street: more than 3 times the area of Hyde Park proper, with almost all of the additional area comprising black residents.)

Is this the best that librarians can do to support their claim? Librarians? They have all the research in the world at their fingertips, and this is what they do?

There are many other demands, of course, including eliminating video surveillance in libraries, divesting from companies that use prison labor, and so on, but I’ll let you read the document itself. (I myself happen to agree that prisons should not be privatized.)

And there’s a similar list of demands representing a much more extensive group of librarians—the Association of Research Libraries:

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries at comprehensive, research institutions in Canada and the United States. ARL member libraries make up a large portion of the academic and research library marketplace, spending more than $1.4 billion every year on information resources and actively engaging in the development of new models of scholarly communications.

You can read their statement below. It’s mercifully shorter than the Ivy+ document, but still makes the unevidenced claim that libraries “sustain systems of inequity”. Some of the “demands” are reasonable, like ensuring that there be an equitable proportion of employees of color, but others, like “highlighting the work of theorists, educators, and other scholars who have been studying about these phenomena for decades,” represent an ideological position that is unseemly for librarians. They want to emphasize Critical Theory. (That alone has taken this group down a notch.)

But that’s just my view. It’s Friday, and I’d rather be walking along Lake Michigan (which I will) than calling out these endlessly circulating manifestos of self-flagellation and insupportable demands. So you can read this one for yourself:

It’s not, of course, that I’m in favor of racism. Rather, I’m against extreme and histrionic statements that included unfounded claims, and against proposals that restrict speech and action but do nothing to help solve the problem of racial inequality in America. And I can tell you one thing: eliminating all police, both campus and public ones, is not going to do what the proponents think it will do.