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.

U of C activists demand a “People’s Library” and a “People’s University” with no administration or Board of Trustees

August 2, 2021 • 10:15 am

The more I read about woke groups and “progressive” liberals, the more I see their demands converging on a type of university communism in which hierarchies are spurned, power rests in the hands of all the people, who decide everything as a group, speech is censored, and people get stuff according to their needs, not their abilities (ergo the calls for dissolving the meritocracy).

At least that’s the idea that struck me when I read a new op-ed in our student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, by the “Library Activist Network at UChicago,” a group of activists who work at the library but refuse to give their names. Even the title of the piece, “A People’s Library and a People’s University”, conjures up that image. The anti-hierarchy and meritocracy trope is particularly strong when the anonymous writers argue that they want the University administration abolished (along with the Board of Trustees), and “replaced with student-staff-community council.”

You can read their beefs and demands at the site below (click on screenshot):


Their complaint is that the library as well as the administration are foci of “structural racism”, and the library and University must take action to remedy this. That includes abolishing the University police force— long a demand of student activists here.

First, what is the evidence that the library is structurally racist? I can’t find any. The long op-ed mentions “racism in library spaces in the past year” But Googling “racism University of Chicago library” leads back only to the op-ed above and an earlier one by the same group that gives no examples. If the Library is rife with structural racism, we should be hearing of incident after incident there; but I’ve seen none in the “progressive” student newspaper. Now surely, as in all areas of society, some people in the library have racist attitudes, but that is not structural racism, which is racial discrimination embedded within the library system.

One complaint is that the library workers are underpaid and subject to authoritarian dictates by those above them in the hierarchy, who are “privileged.” There may be some truth in the poor treatment of workers, but I can’t speak to that. But the activists’ important concern is their objection to the University of Chicago police, who have full police powers on and around campus. For some reason I can’t fathom, the activists want the campus police completely abolished, which only a chowderhead would argue would make the campus safer—much less attract students. Here’s the big complaint about our cops in the op-ed:

The Board of Trustees, outgoing president Robert Zimmer, and Provost Ka Yee Lee refuse to tell us how much they spend on a private police force that shot a student during a mental health crisis, taunted student protesters and endangered their health, and harassed students. While UCPD is exempt from public oversight, its few published statistics show that officers disproportionately stop and question Black people, the majority of whom are not breaking any laws. Despite daily reminders that UCPD does not keep our community safe, University leaders continue to defend UCPD and seek to avoid and delay accountability through yet more committees that go nowhere and accomplish no actual change.

I don’t think Universities regularly reveal the budgets of their constituent units budgets to the world, and so don’t know see that is so odious. As far as I know, nearly all units of the University, including my own department and others, have a budget that is not publicly available.

As for the student shot “during a mental health crisis”, I described it in a 2018 post. Charles Thomas, a fourth-year student with mental health issues, was accosted by campus police after he went through an alley, breaking doors and car windows with an iron bar. He then started screaming and went after the University police who showed up; here’s the Maroon‘s own description:

Bodycam and dashboard footage released by the University shows officers confronting Thomas.  As he walks toward them, an officer can be heard shouting, “Put down the weapon!” while Thomas shouts “What the fuck do you want?” and “Fuck you.” About a minute after the officers arrived on the scene, Thomas begins running rapidly toward the individual wearing the body camera, who commanded Thomas again to drop the weapon, and then fired a single shot into his shoulder.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the cop repeatedly asked Thomas to drop the weapon, which was a three-foot-long iron bar. This is verified by the bodycam video shown on the Sun-Times site (see also the second video on this page.) Thomas was jailed for a while, had another episode in which he was tasered (not by the U of C police), and finally underwent a program that prompted the prosecution to drop the felony charges against him.

Still, this incident is repeatedly cited by campus activists as a reason to abolish the University of Chicago Police force! What was the cop supposed to do? Let himself get bashed in the head with an iron bar? He shot the student in the shoulder to disable him, not to kill him, and I see that as proper police procedure.

The accusation of disproportionality in stopping people of color on campus or in traffic should be taken seriously, and there is disproportionality of confrontations compared to the community composition at large. But as John McWhorter and Glenn Loury have emphasized repeatedly, this depends on whether there is a disproportionality of incidents among groups that require the cops to be called. (Traffic stops are a different matter unless there is differential disobeying of traffic laws, but studies in other areas have shown evidence of racism from traffic stops,—but not from shootings.)

Finally, as for “endangering the health of student protestors”, this refers to students occupying the University Police Station after a demonstration in front of the Provost’s house (which was illegal but allowed to go on for a week) was broken up. The “endangering health” business apparently refers only to the fact that although the students were trespassing and asked to leave, they were neither arrested nor kicked out. Their “health was endangered” because they were not allowed to order pizza, receive food brought by others from outside, or use the cops’ restroom, which is not public; and they were told that if they needed to get food or use the restroom, they were free to leave the station, but would not be let back in. That, too, sounds like a fair deal. After all, the occupying students could have been heaved out of the police station or arrested for trespassing, but were not. And actually, the students were endangering their own health as well as that of the police, for this crowding into the police station occurred at a time when Covid restrictions prohibited such crowds.

But none of this has anything to do with a “people’s library”. It reflects the misguided sentiments of activists who work in the library, and are using present social unrest to leverage a number of changes they want.  Within the library itself, this includes forgiving all library fees and fines, ending police and security presence in the library, raising benefits for staff, including free remission of U of C tuition to workers (even faculty don’t get that), create a committee to investigate the library’s connection to slavery, open the library to everyone from the South Side Community, and “hire librarians and library workers with expertise in reparations to support the proposed critical race studies department.”

And then there are all the “demands” that have even less to do with the library, including supporting the BDS movement and “cutting all University ties to Israel”. To wit:

The Library Activist Network also endorses the demands of the individual organizations of the UChicago Student Activist Network:

  • Release the budget, disclose investments and endowment spending, and give students control in determining where University money is spent (UChicago Student Action)
  • Cut all University ties to Israel and adopt Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) principles on campus (Students for Justice in Palestine)
  • Fully fund student and community-led community centers and an ethnic studies department (#CommunityCentersNow and #EthnicStudiesNow)
  • Defund, disclose the budget of, disarm, and disband the University of Chicago Police Department (#CareNotCops)
  • Allocate money for affordable housing and end University expansion (UChicago Against Displacement)
  • Create a truly accessible University that includes physical, academic, and digital accommodations, with a fully funded and community-led disability community center (Students for Disability Justice)
  • Divest from all systems of war and militarism, domestic and international, including UChicago’s Crime Lab that works in service of the Chicago Police Department (UChicago Dissenters)

As usual, these organizations take stands verging on anti-Semitism. For “cutting all University ties to Israel” goes beyond the BDS principles. And do they realize that abolishing the campus police, who have a number of call boxes scattered across campus, will result in parents refusing to send their students here?

I suspect there are some reasonable demands scattered throughout this histrionic list of reforms, but their force is weakened by their being embedded in a list of things that will never happen and in fact will alienate potential allies like me. It’s as if the social unrest of the last 18 months has somehow given campus activists a license to ask for everything, including things that are impossible or unfeasible. It makes them look petulant and unreasonable. They are “demands,” not “considerations”.

And the activists’ refusal to give their names bothers me as well. I suppose that, if asked, they would say that they fear retributions, but this is the University of Chicago, and retributions against those who speak out—even against the University—are strictly forbidden. That’s part of our free speech policy.

In the history of social activism that I know about, I don’t know of many cases in which protestors insist on hiding their identities. This is a fairly new trend. And it’s unjustifiable in light of the University’s policy of not punishing peaceful protestors. In this case, anonymity is in fact a sign of cowardice—of refusing to stand behind your words as an identifiable person.

University of Chicago student says that the purpose of our school’s free-speech policy is to perpetuate white supremacy

January 26, 2021 • 10:45 am

I’m suffering vaccine side effects today, so posting will be light. But I should be right as rain by tomorrow. I am at work, but not firing on all cylinders. Bear with me.

The University of Chicago is famous for its principles of free expression, which include the Report of the Committee on Free Expression pledging “commitment to free and open inquiry.”  The Chicago Principles, as they’re called, have been adopted by about eighty American universities, and are a point of pride for our school. (They simply mirror the courts’ construal of the First Amendment on our private campus, which needn’t adhere to that Amendment.) The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) ranked our University #1 in the 2020 Free Speech Rankings.

But lots of students aren’t too keen on the Chicago Principles. The one below, who wrote an op-ed in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, would have us abandon those principles. It’s the usual argument: “free speech” enables “hate speech” and racism.  But the problem with the anti-free-speech stand, so prevalent these days, is glaringly obvious in her piece. Click to read it:

Ms. Hui is in fact a rising student leader, even as a first-year student. She interned for Elizabeth Warren, worked for Planned Parenthood, and is part of an organization on campus that connects students to politicians. In other words, she’s likely to be influential after she graduates. She’s clearly on the Left, which makes it even more worrisome that she is so adamantly opposed to free speech, which is traditionally a position of the Left.

And yet Hui’s also fallen victim to the anti-First-Amendment virus, seeing students as malleable automatons subject to being swayed by “hate speech” and bigotry. Her solution: make herself (or someone like her) the arbiter of acceptable speech, ban those who purvey “hate speech”, for students should not be allowed to hear that stuff, and scrap the Chicago Principles—and probably the First Amendment as well.

Were I an undergraduate here, I would resent the implication that I’m so pliable to argument that I can’t be allowed to hear speakers like Steve Bannon (you can, after all, skip their talks). I would resent the notion that Hui, or others like her, should be allowed to determine which speech should be heard. And I would resent the idea that she thinks that the First Amendment enables bigotry, and its implementation in liberal colleges is a deliberate attempt to turn students into white supremacists. (I am not making this up.)

Like most liberal arts schools, the University of Chicago is liberal, with, I’d guess, 90% of the faculty falling on the Left end of the spectrum.  But, observing that both Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz went to Ivy League schools (Stanford and Yale Law for Hawley, Princeton and Harvard Law for Cruz), Hui concludes, for reasons that baffle me, that these two quasi-insurgents were the product of a liberal education deliberately designed to turn young people into Nazis and Klan members. Do I exaggerate? Read this (my emphasis):

It is not that [Hawley and Cruz’s] education failed them—their education did exactly what it was meant to do. It prepared two budding conservative minds to go forth into the corridors of power—to disguise bigotry as love of country, hate speech as meaningful debate. You see, despite constant claims to the contrary, elite institutions are not liberal bastions that engender “woke” minds; rather, they propagate white supremacy by justifying racism as intellectual discourse. The University of Chicago is no stranger to this phenomenon—in fact, with its “Chicago principles,” our school has become a leader in framing hateful rhetoric as par for the course in the pursuit of free speech. These principles bolster and enable the next Ted Cruzes and Josh Hawleys and harm marginalized students, who are told that their rights—their very humanity—are up for debate.

If Chicago is turning out people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, it’s escaped my notice. Yes, we have a beleaguered titer of conservative students (they’ve founded their own newspaper, the Chicago Thinker), but they’re not white supremacists. I haven’t seen any “hateful rhetoric” on campus so long as I’ve been here—that is, unless you construe speech about abortion or the Israeli/Palestine situation as “hate speech.”  If Hui is simply objecting that our school produces conservative students, well, my advice to her is to live with it. Not everybody is going to turn out like Hui, which is why we have politics in the first place.

And here, avers Hui, is the result of the Chicago Principles, which itself mirrors the First Amendment. Note her low opinion of our malleable students and the view that people like Steve Bannon simply shouldn’t be given a platform because they might influence students.

By following the Chicago principles, the University effectively legitimizes and encourages students who may share similar bigoted ideologies. When a Booth professor invited noted white supremacist Steve Bannon to participate in a debate on campus, President Robert Zimmer stood by the invitation, withstanding pressure from student protests outside Booth and a widely circulated letter signed by 122 UChicago faculty members urging him to rescind it. Thankfully, Bannon never stepped foot on campus, though the University certainly made their stance on hate speech clear. Acknowledging that the antisemitic, homophobic, alt-right nonsense Bannon has espoused throughout his life has some academic worth or intellectual merit is categorically absurd. For a young person with hate in their heart to see a man like Bannon espousing his intolerant views behind a podium with the UChicago coat of arms is dangerous and potentially radicalizing. For an immigrant, for a person of color, for a member of the LGBTQ+ community to see that, it is devastating, an assertion that their personhood is not natural, but something to be “debated.” When elite institutions treat people like Bannon as academics—with something to teach, with something valuable to say—it not only validates and potentially propagates such bigoted thoughts, but also signals that the University’s commitment to academic inquiry is more important than the safety of marginalized students an

Yeah, President Zimmer should have banned Bannon, for Bannon purveys “hate speech”. That should keep our students from being molded into little Nazis! (In fact, suppressing conservative speech doesn’t make it go away, it just drives it underground.) Zimmer did exactly what he should have: adhered to the Chicago Principles and refused to ban a speaker who was not violating the First Amendment (n.b., Bannon never came). See my 2018 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, defending Bannon’s right to speak, though I despise the man: “Hate speech is no reason to ban Bannon”.  Truly, Hui seems to have no idea that students can think for themselves—that they can hear a man like Bannon, or a woman like Christina Hoff Sommers—and come to their own judgments. She wants to force them to think her way by banning speakers she doesn’t like.

The problem, of course, is that one person’s “hate speech” is another person’s free speech—speech worthy of debating. Even if you think Bannon is odious, exactly why should we censor him? And who else should we censor? And who should be the censor? It’s clear: someone who has Hui’s values. In the end, her views boil down to the old saw, “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Finally, Hui conflates speech that directly and predictably incites violence (Trump’s speech before the Capitol siege falls into this class)—speech not falling under First Amendment protections—with “hate speech” that doesn’t incite such violence. The conflation arises because Hui, like many on the far Left, sees speech as violence:

My peers at the Thinker may think me hypocritical, then, for wanting to reimagine free speech on campus. It is, after all, these very principles that affirm my ability to openly criticize the administration, or, say, call for the abolition of the University. But my words—radical as they may be, disagreeable as they certainly are to some—do not do any harm. They do not inspire hate or fear. In short, they have no capacity for violence. And now, more than ever, we are seeing how the latent violence wrought in language can speak (or tweet) violence and death into the world.

And so we see that Hui’s definition of “hate speech” is “speech that inspires hate or fear”, in other words, speech that some find odious and offensive. (Note that she sees words as a form of “latent violence.”)

Hui ends her piece with the “yes, free speech is good, but. . . ” trope.  Safety before speech! But I’m not aware of a single student at my University who has been physically hurt or objectively rendered unsafe by somebody else’s speech:

What is so-called “intellectual intolerance” compared to the kind of intolerance that incites hate crimes? It is no longer a matter of students feeling comfortable—now, after an insurrection at the Capitol, after a year marked by racial injustice and police brutality, it is a matter of students being safe.

We’ve seen the consequences of elevating hateful rhetoric—we have seen it now in the highest echelons of power. It begins in our classrooms, where the Trumps and Cruzes and Hawleys are given the tools they need to acquire and keep power, even if it means promoting fascism and white nationalism. The next Ted Cruz could be walking through the quad right now. The future Josh Hawley might be playing devil’s advocate in your Sosc class. We can prevent such radicalization by reexamining the Chicago principles and prioritizing safety over absolute free speech.

When you hear the word “safe,” run for the hills, because censorhip is following close behind.

What I find ineffably sad about Hui’s piece is that I admire her Leftist activism, and because she’s clearly smart and committed to causes I favor. But along the way she’s come to think that the First Amendment, and the foundational principles of her own University, are not only harmful and violent, but designed to create bigots.  If our University instituted an orientation seminar on free speech and the meaning of the Chicago Principles, perhaps Ms. Hui wouldn’t have such a negative take on the foundational tenets of her own University.

I end with a question for Ms. Hui:

“Who would you have decide which people are allowed to speak at the University of Chicago, and which should be banned?”

Gargoyles and ducks

November 1, 2020 • 1:45 pm

I have a few pics and one video today; I decided to post my remaining duck pictures and videos over the coming weeks to help me remember them when they’re gone (they’re already leaving since we cut way back on their food).

First, though, here are the gargoyles over the arch attached to my building; they’ve been gussied up for the pandemic:


And some ducks. First, Honey was here yesterday, and may be here today but today’s a “no feed” day as part of our schedule to gradually wean the ducks from food. I don’t go to the pond on “no feed” days as the ducks know me and will rush me begging for noms. It breaks my heart. But they need to leave, and I need to exercise tough love.

Here, though, is Honey on September 28, when we were feeding ducks cracked corn on Duck Plaza. Honey partook of the comestibles, but you can see that she’s obsessed with driving the other ducks away from the food—to the extent that she would forego her own corn to peck and chase the other ducks. Watch the feathers fly when she pecks the intruders!

Here she’s simply showing the other ducks that she’s dominant, and the “barking” you hear is from her. We can always identify Honey by her barking and aggressive behavior. Although we sometimes call her the “psycho killer duck,” I still love her, and made sure she was well fed. I do hope she returns next spring.

Some photos of the late departed Frisky, who left fat and in good shape. He’s been gone for about a week. I do miss him!

Head on:

Frisky resting on the Sacred Knob:

And a lone drake in the afternoon:

Wokeness escalates at the University of Chicago: the school ignores its own “foundational principle” of not publicly espousing political or ideological views, and student activists occupy campus police headquarters

June 27, 2020 • 1:45 pm

UPDATE: Professor Brian Leiter of the Law School (he’s the director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values) added this comment to my public Facebook notice about this whole post:


I’m deeply saddened at how woke The University of Chicago is becoming. The students, of course, are far woker than the faculty, but I always expected the faculty and administration would hold the line by adhering to two of the great “foundational principles” of our University: the Report on the Committee on Freedom of Expression (the famous “Chicago Principles” mandating pretty unrestricted free speech), and the Kalven Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action. These principles are among several that make The University of Chicago unique among other schools. The free-speech principles have been adopted by 55 universities, and I wrote about the Kalven Report here, explaining how it prohibited the University as a whole from taking political and social stands. (Individuals, of course, are free to say what they want as individuals.)  I’ll reiterate a bit of that report; the emphasis is mine:

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.

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.

The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest. It finds its complement, too, in the obligation of the university to provide a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of public issues.

There is one exception to this: the University can officially weigh in on an issue that endangers its own mission as an educational institution.

These two reports are among the five seen by the University of Chicago as “faculty reports and policies that have guided the University’s approach to free expression and open discourse over the years and to this day.”

Further, the University, when appealing to prospective students and scholars, sells these foundational principles as something that sets our University apart from others: untrammeled free expression (see here).  The principles of free expression are highlighted in this video intended, I think, to lure students and scholars here:


I had hoped that the faculty and administration would hold the line on all the principles, but especially the two principles above. In truth, free speech is still viable here—at least temporarily. But now various statements issue constantly from the administration that align with political movements and ideologies, often involving assertions about race that are clearly ideological and political rather than purely moral. It looks as if the Kalven Report will soon be in tatters—if any administrator even remembers its purpose and dictates.

Although the University remained silent during the McCarthy-era red-baiting, and during the Vietnam war, it is no longer silent about things like structural racism, critical race theory, and so on. Indeed, though I agree with virtually every political statement the University is making on these issues, that is not the point: the point is that, qua the Kalven report, the University should not be making these statements at all as official policy.  For official policy creates a climate that brooks no dissent, and that is precisely what both the free-speech policy and the Kalven report were designed to prevent. Remember its words?

There is no mechanism by which [the University community] can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives.

Well, the freedom of dissent is no longer so full, as the University has made assertions that brook no dissent. Our only alternative is to agree to jump and ask only, “how high?”


In contrast, the wokeness of students here is taken for granted: it’s a one-way ratchet to authoritarianism that will also destroy the “founding principles.”

To wit: the students are demanding the defunding and eventual disbanding of the University of Chicago Police Department, a large organization that patrols not just the campus, but a wide swath of the South Side, from 35th Street to 63rd Street. I’ve interacted with them quite a bit (often without them knowing I’m on the faculty, though they can see I’m white), and have found them polite, professional, and efficient. (This morning I saw one officer return to Botany Pond a stray turtle who had wandered several blocks away, doomed to expire in the heat.)

Criticism of the UC Police began in earnest in 2018, although there had been sporadic complaints of police racism that I don’t know much about. But in April of 2018, the campus police got a report of a man acting erratically off campus, bashing in cars with a rod and doing other damage. Responding to the call, the police were charged by the man, who wielded the metal bar as a weapon. They warned him to drop it, and, as he continued charging them , they shot him in the shoulder.

The offender turned out to be a mentally ill student, Charles Thomas (my reports here and here), who has since been in and out of jail and is now incarcerated for violating parole. But the shooting upset the student body— though, as I said, the cops really didn’t have a choice if they didn’t want their heads bashed in—and they shot him in the shoulder. Note, they didn’t try to kill him—these are not, after all, Minneapolis police. There were calls for mental health care to be improved on campus (it was), and, inevitably, for the defunding and disbanding of our police department. Here’s the report from the Chicago Maroon,  the student newspaper, about the student sit-in in at campus police headquarters on June 12 (I’d missed the event). Click on the screenshot to read:


100 students began sitting in inside the police station, and, acting professionally, the police let them in, but, as business hours ended, refused to let anyone else in, though they could leave. Bathroom facilities were locked, as they are normally after hours, and delivery pizza, also ordered after hours, wasn’t allowed in, either. Forty students stuck it out for the night. They could have been arrested for trespassing, but the police wisely decided to let them be.

What did the protestors want?  This:

Their demands were “defund,” “disarm,” “disclose,” and “disband”: for the University to reduce the UCPD budget by at least 50 percent for the 2020-21 school year; entirely disarm the police force; make the organization’s budget from the past 20 years and all future years public; and dissolve the force altogether by 2022.

Protest signs (photo from the Chicago Maroon by Yiwen Lu):

I’ve read in other places that by eliminating the UC Police (I believe we have about 50 officers), the protestors don’t intend to replace then with the Chicago city police, whom they dislike even more. It is not in fact clear what they want in terms of campus security.

What is clear is that if eliminate the police force, or even disarm it on the gun- and crime-ridden South Side of Chicago, the school will eventually vanish. What parent would send their child to the University of Chicago if there were no campus police?

The University Provost and Chief of Police even met with the protestors in person, but refused to immediately accede to their demands.

It is stuff like this that disheartens me even more than usual, for I am immensely proud of being associated with this university, and I’m saddened by watching it slowly—on the student, faculty, and administrative sides—put its foot on the greased slide of wokeness. That produces a one-way trip to 1984—36 years late.  I’d love to hear what kind of campus security these students want when the cops are gone by 2020. But no worries: I’m 100% sure it won’t happen. The University administration is not as muddled as these students.

Now if only the administration would stop violating the dictates of the Kalven Report by taking official University positions on politics, I’d regain more confidence in my school.

Glenn Loury calls out his university for an official letter on racism that, he says traffics in “sophomoric nostrums.”

June 7, 2020 • 9:00 am

Glenn Loury is a well-known American author and economist, and you might have seen his hard-hitting “The Glenn Show” on Bloggingheads.tv.  Loury was the first tenured black professor of economics at Harvard, but left for Brown University—where he’s now the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics—because he said his appointment at Harvard was a “mistake” (he didn’t feel sufficiently established as scholar).

On June 1, the administration of his school published a “Letter from Brown’s senior leaders“, which not only decried the police killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, but also made sweeping statements about structural racism, the lack of progress in securing civil rights (“we have been here before, and in fact have never left), and, in the end, makes promises about reform:

In the weeks and months to come, we will leverage the expertise of our faculty, staff and students to develop programming, courses and research opportunities designed to advance knowledge and promote essential change in policy and practice in the name of equity and justice.

According to Loury, the letter was sent to “thousands of students, staff, and faculty”.

The letter is signed by every bigwig in the Brown administration, from the President on down through Vice Presidents, deans, executive officers and financial offers. What struck me was that although it was well intentioned, it was an ideological statement by the University itself, which would not be allowed by the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report (1967), which affirms political neutrality of a University, rejecting the idea that a University can hold a position to which all members ascribe, and leaving it up to individuals to make their own personal statements. My own view is that the University should not be issuing statements like this, soothing and empathic, but rather leave these these statements up to faculty who, after all, may dissent from a University position. If Universities start issuing statement on the issues of the day, there will be no end to it (I recommend reading the Kalven report). That, of course, doesn’t mean that the University shouldn’t emphasize its resources for those affected, as our own University’s statement did (see below).

Glenn Loury, however, has no truck with his university’s letter, and has written a scathing response in City Journal, which you can see by clicking on screenshot below:

What struck me on a first reading was how poorly written the Brown letter was, a fact that didn’t escape Loury, who said it “was obviously the product of a committee.” Loury wrote a response (it’s not clear to whom), but shared it with the City Journal website. Here are a few of his pungent remarks about the content of the Brown letter:

I wondered why such a proclamation was necessary. Either it affirmed platitudes to which we can all subscribe, or, more menacingly, it asserted controversial and arguable positions as though they were axiomatic certainties. It trafficked in the social-justice warriors’ pedantic language and sophomoric nostrums. It invoked “race” gratuitously and unreflectively at every turn. It often presumed what remains to be established. It often elided pertinent differences between the many instances cited. It read in part like a loyalty oath. It declares in every paragraph: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident.”

And just what truths are these? The main one: that racial domination and “white supremacy” define our national existence even now, a century and a half after the end of slavery.

I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a “leader” of this university? We, the faculty, are the only “leaders” worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?

And that’s why the University shouldn’t speak with one voice, for there may be faculty who dissent from that voice.

You have to admire Loury’s moxie; after all, he’s calling out his own bosses, though of course he’s tenured and can’t be fired. He goes on (the bolding is mine):

They write sentences such as this: “We have been here before, and in fact have never left.” Really? This is nothing but propaganda. Is it supposed to be self-evident that every death of an “unarmed black man” at the hands of a white person tells the same story? They speak of “deep-rooted systems of oppression; legacies of hate.” No elaboration required here? No specification of where Brown might stand within such a system? No nuance or complexity? Is it obvious that “hate”—as opposed to incompetence, or fear, or cruelty, or poor training, or lack of accountability, or a brutal police culture, or panic, or malfeasance—is what we observed in Minneapolis? We are called upon to “effect change.” Change from what to what, exactly? Evidently, we’re now all charged to promote the policy agenda of the “progressive” wing of American politics. Is this what a university is supposed to be doing?

I must object. This is no reasoned ethical reflection. Rather, it is indoctrination, virtue-signaling, and the transparent currying of favor with our charges. The roster of Brown’s “leaders” who signed this manifesto in lockstep remind me of a Soviet Politburo making some party-line declaration. I can only assume that the point here is to forestall any student protests by declaring the university to be on the Right Side of History.

What I found most alarming, though, is that no voice was given to what one might have thought would be a university’s principal intellectual contribution to the national debate at this critical moment: namely, to affirm the primacy of reason over violence in calibrating our reactions to the supposed “oppression.” Equally troubling were our president’s promises to focus the university’s instructional and research resources on “fighting for social justice” around the world, without any mention of the problematic and ambiguous character of those movements which, over the past two centuries or more, have self-consciously defined themselves in just such terms—from the French and Russian Revolutions through the upheavals of the 1960s.

My bottom line: I’m offended by the letter. It frightens, saddens, and angers me.

Brown’s letter is in fact a social-justice screed, not affirming the values of the University to teach or foster critical discussion, but rather presuming unanimous adherence to an approved ideology. Granted, I happen to agree with most of that ideology—but not completely, for, as Loury implies, the Brown letter echoes the Critical-Racism-Theory tone of the New York Times’s 1619 Project. As the Kalven report said half a century ago, a university “is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.”

Brown, of course, has long been a woke university, so its response is not surprising. What did surprise me is that The University of Chicago also issued a letter from our provost—one similar to Brown’s. It’s not nearly as social-justicey, though it does mention “the intractable scourge of racism” (I prefer to think that racism isn’t intractable), and calls attention to various university resources that might be useful to students in these troubled times.  And of course I agree with nearly all of it. My point is that it pretends that we have a collective position when we don’t, just as Loury dissents from his own University’s “official” letter. I remind you again of what the Kalven report says, and I’ve emphasized the last paragraph:

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.

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.

“Endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness” means converging on a single acceptable political opinion from which dissent is unacceptable. By all means anybody, from the President to the Provost to the faculty, can expound their own personal opinions. But they should not issue them under the imprimatur of the University, which promulgates the incorrect view that all of us agree with everything in the letter.

h/t: cesar


The Kalven Report of 1967, supposedly ensuring the political neutrality of the University of Chicago

June 5, 2020 • 10:30 am

In 1967, President George Beadle of the University of Chicago (a Nobel-winning geneticist and also an avowed atheist) convened a committee whose charge was to “prepare a statement on the University’s role in social and political action.” This was the result of many people calling for the University to take positions on political issues like the Vietnam War, security hearings in the U.S Congress, and so on. The Committee was convened in February and produced its report, remarkably, by November. The report took its name from Harry Kalven Jr., the Committee chair, a famous legal scholar, and a professor of law at the University’s law school.

The document is only a bit more than two pages long, and you can get a pdf by clicking on the screenshot below. You should read it whether or not you think that universities should take official political positions.

The basic conclusion of the Kalven Report was that the University as a whole comprises scholars who are supposed to provide the opinions, but the University itself should not—with two exceptions (see below). This was a landmark document that the University has basically adhered to for over half a century—though I suspect those days are ending.

First, the meat of the document (bolding 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.

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.

The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest. It finds its complement, too, in the obligation of the university to provide a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of public issues.

I agree with that, though I can envision some circumstances that adherence to it would make me a tad uncomfortable (e.g., divesting from harmful causes). But as far as I know, the University has adhered to this pretty scrupulously over the years. And the statements I’ve put in bold show why; it’s hard to argue otherwise. “The University of not a lobby.” The Kalven Report ranks with the Principles of Free Expression of the University of Chicago (chaired by Geoff Stone, another law school professor) as the two pillars of academic freedom and freedom of speech that has made me proud to be associated with this university.

The report does cite two exceptions, which seem reasonable. The first are cases in “which the society, or segments of it, threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry.” In such instances, the University is justifiably obliged to combat the threats to its underlying principles.  The second is more mundane:

There is another context in which questions as to the appropriate role of the university may possibly arise, situations involving university ownership of property, its receipt of funds, its awarding of honors, its membership in other organizations. Here, of necessity, the university, however it acts, must act as an institution in its corporate capacity. In the exceptional instance, these corporate activities of the university may appear so incompatible with paramount social values as to require careful assessment of the consequences.

Economist George Stigler, also on the committee (and also a Nobel Laureate some yearslater), took exception to this last bit and added his own coda:

Special Comment by Mr. Stigler:

I agree with the report as drafted, except for the statements in the fifth paragraph from the end as to the role of the university when it is acting in its corporate capacity. As to this matter, I would prefer the statement in the following form: The university when it acts in its corporate capacity as employer and property owner should, of course, conduct its affairs with honor. The university should not use these corporate activities to foster any moral or political values because such use of its facilities will impair its integrity as the home of intellectual freedom.

I think Stigler’s comment is an improvement.

Now, however, I worry that the Kalven Report is being forgotten, or deliberately ignored, as social pressures are applied to the University to make official statements about politics and ideology. Most of these I’ve agreed with in their content, for they are liberal and I am a liberal. I won’t mention the statements, perhaps because I’ve been treated well here, am proud of my school, and don’t want to single individuals out for criticism. Suffice it to say that the increasing wokeness of the University is seeping into its official statements, and this politicizes the University in a way that the Kalven report feared and prohibited.

Will the University of Chicago become, in terms of wokeness, a high-class version of The Evergreen State College or Middlebury College?  I hope not, but I’m worried. Wokeness seems to be a one-way ratchet, for if you oppose it you risk being tarred with all kinds of names and labels.

Well, I’m older and won’t be around forever, but I hope to Ceiling Cat that (as Harvard did do), the University of Chicago won’t start producing “social justice placemats” to put in its dining halls. We seem to be creeping in that direction.

More fall at the U of C

October 30, 2018 • 12:30 pm

These are pictures taken with my iPhone on my walk home yesterday. (Please, no more cracks about my owning an iPhone!). It’s about the most beautiful time of the year on campus.

This is my building:

Mandel Hall, which houses a food court, a big dining hall, and a theater, as well as various offices for student government and journalism:

Rockefeller Chapel:

The old Chicago Theological Seminary (now housing the Department of Economics) is the big towered building to the right; on the left is the Oriental Institute with its lovely museum:

Gingko biloba: