Hamilton College…is embroiled in a controversy. An invited speaker—Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder—has compared American policy in Iraq to that of Nazi Germany. He also referred to Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazis' plan to exterminate the Jews, when he called the trade center victims "little Eichmanns."Read on….
Archive for January, 2005
Posted on January 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
The recent flap over Larry Summers' comments on women in science has renewed the debate about free speech on campus. Are faculty and administrators (and students, for that matter) protected by the First Amendment when making controversial statements? Generally, yes. But are they nonetheless crucified in the court of public opinion? Just ask Harvard's president.
I say "renewed" because this issue seems to resurface every now and then. Remember the culture wars of the 1990s? The "water buffalo" incident at Penn during that time? How about the 1960s or the Vietnam protests of the '70s? Or the McCarthy era?
College campuses are supposed to celebrate the free exchange of ideas, no matter how inflammatory some may be. But when comments offend certain groups, people are quick to suggest the speaker has overstepped some predetermined boundaries. And leave it to extremists—on either the right or left, depending on the circumstances—to fan the flames.
Free speech? Is it ever?
Posted on January 26th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Visit any top-tier college in America and you'll see plenty of Asian students walking around campus. Some people think there should be more.
Nationally, Asian students, as a group, score best on the SAT and many have excellent grades to boot. If a prestigious university like, say, Stanford admitted students based solely on these measures, Asians would probably constitute the majority. Of course, colleges always take other factors into consideration. But the point is simple: Many high-achieving Asian students don't gain admission to top colleges because institutions fear the loss of diversity—that is, too many Asians. Do colleges operate under a quota? No, because quotas have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Limits are imposed more subtly.
At the same time, Black and Hispanic students benefit from affirmative action, enabling many students with lower grades and test scores to gain admission to top schools. (Asians typically aren't considered a protected class that affirmative action should benefit.) Again, no quotas dictate strict numbers or percentages, but "favoritism" nevertheless occurs. Yet you'd find that many Asians are indeed disadvantaged; they come from poor, working-class families who struggle just as mightily as many Black and Hispanic families. Some of these kids grow up overcoming the burden of learning English as a second language. So why shouldn't they receive the extra "bump" that affirmative action provides?
Because affirmative action is race-based, not class-based. A similar argument can be made for Black and Hispanic students from affluent families. Do they deserve preferential treatment in the admissions process if they've been privileged all along?
What do you think?
Larry Summers, president of Harvard, issued a statement to clarify his incendiary remarks on women in math and science.
First, the denial:
Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science.Then, the repentance:
I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women. As a university president, I consider nothing more important than helping to create an environment, at Harvard and beyond, in which every one of us can pursue our intellectual passions and realize our aspirations to the fullest possible extent.Finally, the promise:
As members of a university, we should do all we can to recognize and reduce barriers to the advancement of women in science.How many ways can we say "blown out of proportion"? The media don't want to let this one go, and some women's groups have pounced unmercifully. Good thing he didn't talk about race.
Posted on January 18th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Harvard President Lawrence Summers told an academic audience last week that "innate differences" may account for the lack of women in math and sciences. Summers said his comments were based on scholarly research that requires more investigation.
Promising to be provocative, Summers evidently pushed some sensitive buttons. One leading female scholar from MIT walked out during his talk and appeared this morning on the "Today Show" to express her disapproval. Summers declined to be interviewed but released a statement saying he did not mean to imply that men and women have different innate abilities in this respect.
Summers has built a reputation for controversial statements and bold stances. Will his presidency continue to survive such public censure? Is this kind of publicity good or bad for Harvard?
In any case, it's funny how the higher education community implores university presidents to take a stand on issues and then criticizes them when they speak their minds.
Posted on January 14th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
According to a Slate article, which examines a study from the University of Pennsylvania, major U.S. companies aren't nearly as full of Ivy as they were 25 years ago. The study peeked at the degrees of the top 10 officers at Fortune 100 corporations and found the following:
Between 1980 and 2001, the percentage of top executives whose undergraduate degrees came from Ivy League schools fell by nearly a third from 14 percent to 10 percent. Others who paid through the nose for their sheepskins also lost ground. The percentage of top execs who attended private non-Ivy schools (Williams College, Notre Dame, Stanford, etc.) fell from 54 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the proportion of those who attended public universities soared from 32 percent to 48 percent. A similar dynamic was seen in graduate degrees as well: far fewer on a percentage basis from Ivy League schools and far more on a percentage basis from public universities.The Slate author offers a few good guesses about this phenomenon. First, he says, it's a numbers game—state universities pump out more graduates than do Ivies, so the law of averages might favor the publics. Second, the Ivies attract rich kids who don't need to pursue corporate careers or simply chase money. And third, which kind of contradicts point two, the author contends that top Ivy grads might eschew the Fortune 100 in favor of well-paying consulting jobs or positions with investment banking or venture capital firms.
Consider my Bias, but I'd still opt for the Ivy sheepskin, regardless of future career choices, especially if my financial aid package were attractive. Why? How about a new law of averages: While the top students at flagships are as bright as the best Ivy students, there's a wider range of talent at the publics. The median Ivy student, I'll posit, is far more accomplished than the median state student. In other words, brighter peers, more competition, better preparation.
Oh, and that prestige thing.
There's a new player in the world of higher education journalism: Inside Higher Ed, an online news magazine and career resource for faculty, students and college administrators. Started by a few former top officials at the chronicle of higher education, Inside Higher Ed currently operates as a beta site, but promises to expand its content and, no doubt, its readership.
Be sure to check out my contribution—a piece called "Back to Campus."
Posted on January 7th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
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Follow these links to request more information:
Posted on January 6th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the earthquakes and resulting tsunamis that raged across Southeast Asia damaged two Indonesian universities. In Aceh, Syiah Kuala University has suspended classes due to structural concerns. Many students and faculty died in the catastrophe. And in Banda Aceh, the Institute Agama Islam Negeri was decimated.
In total, approximately 150,000 people perished in this natural Disaster. That's the current estimate; it could and probably will rise. The videos and pictures are incredible, and the individual stories of survival and loss are impossible to forget.
Those wishing to make financial contributions can do so here.
Each year 32 Americans join others from around the world at Oxford University to pursue graduate degrees courtesy of the Rhodes Trust, established by Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist diamond miner. Naturally, it's extremely competitive, and colleges like to brag about students who win the Rhodes. In recent years, some institutions have established offices or advisors to help students navigate the application and interview process. To some extent, it's worked; many colleges—including publics and less-prestigious privates—are now producing winners. Of course, the Ivies still dominate, led by Harvard, which last year alone produced six, bringing the university's all-time total to 300.
Keep in mind, though, that the people responsible for choosing Rhodes Scholars are former scholars, so might they favor students from their own schools? Might that make it more difficult for other schools to break in? Perhaps that's why certain colleges more aggressively push students in that direction.
Still, what does the accomplishment of one student say about the university in general? Does the academic reputation of the place rise? Does the halo effect extend that far?
Some evidently think so.