Friday, December 01, 2006

Who Sins More: College Students or Administrators?

By Richard Vedder

I have a confession to make. On average, I like college students more than university administrators. True, college students are often immature, overly hedonistic, and abysmally ignorant of many of the fundamental events, persons, and concepts of Western civilization. But they are mostly sincere, usually honest, and generally mean well. That is as true today as when I began teaching back in the days of Socrates (actually, a couple dozen centuries thereafter). By contrast, many college administrators these days simply are untruthful, pompous, self-righteous and arrogant. I find the sins of students less egregious on average than those of individuals running institutions.

Two things in today's INSIDE HIGHER ED reminded me of that. At the University of Chicago, students are protesting attempts by the administration to move to a Common Application form. The university argues that this will increase the number of applicants. Students say that UC is just trying to deny more students admission, thereby raising the ranking of the school in US News & World Report. The kids like the current slightly eccentric, extremely rigorous academic orientation of the school, and think the new UC administration may be trying to dilute it, disappointing many denied applicants in the process. I suspect the kids are right.

And then there is Justin Park, the student at Johns Hopkins, who, on a private web site, urged people to go a fraternity party centering around the theme Halloween in the 'Hood. Someone took offense at this party and the publicizing of it, arguing it is racially insensitive. I don't think that it was necessarily insensitive, but even if it were, should universities react to the exercise of student First Amendment rights by suspending the kids from school, making them read a dozen prescribed books, etc.? Doing so puts a chilling effect on free expression and, ironically generates resentment, maybe even hatred, towards racial minorities. This type of high handed attempt to enforce speech codes is absolutely repulsive, and I hope John Hopkins pays a price for its authoritarian efforts to suppress free expression. Students are angry, I guess at Hopkins. Good for them. They are right and the university's $837,016 president, William Brody and his henchmen (or hench people, to be more politically correct) are dead wrong. Freedom fighters like Alan Kors and Harvey Silvergate are no doubt coming to the defense of freedom of expression at Hopkins, as well they should.

Why do we provide tax exemptions to institutions that are supposedly marketplaces of ideas and expression, when the institution itself forbids types of expression generally acceptable in American society? Shouldn't at the minimum any speech or expression which is legal in society at large be tolerated without penalty at any institution that accepts handouts from the taxpayers?

10 comments:

superhiker said...

"Shouldn't at the minimum any speech or expression which is legal in society at large be tolerated without penalty at any institution that accepts handouts from the taxpayers?"

This is really idiotic. By "handouts" I suppose Vedder means the tax exemption he mentions here. By this logic, a synagogue that doesn't allow neo-Nazis, a Catholic church that doesn't allow abortion advocates, a black church that doesn't allow white separatists a forum, shouldn't be allowed its tax exempt status.

Such thinking is not only idiotic, it is downright chilling.

TC said...

Hiker - I almost always try to see the good in people - something redeeming. But you seem to be miserable and depressed. Your posts lately are a real turn-off. You equivocate and run way off-topic. If you disagree with the Doc so much; why do you keep coming back rather than starting your own blog? I suppose it's a way to channel anger. But it's beginning to get irritating. Please stay within the scope and purpose of this blog. If you must continuely ridicule and refuse to compete in the arena of ideas, then you have nothing substantive to offer.

I hope you are not under a lot of stress or have had something bad happen to you or someone close to you.

I look forward to your thoughtful ideas and constructive criticism with what you disagree with. You have said you teach at a community college. If so, I know you can do better - and so do you.

superhiker said...

tc -- my post here is directly related to the article, as are all of my posts, and imho, right on target. Read what I wrote above. If you can't see that, it's your problem, not mine.

The reason I keep coming here and posting occasionally -- maybe I should find a better use for my time -- is because I'm getting fed up with the vicious attacks on higher education that are coming out of the conservative community.

Especially when they come from ex-academics who have had good careers, then suddenly discovered how rotten higher education is when they are safely pensioned off and away from the fray.

TC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TC said...

Mr. Hiker, Your comments on this blog are the most insanely idiotic comments I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent responses were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this blog is now dumber for having read them. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Additionally, there are no ex-academics in CCAP that I am aware of. If you are referring to Doc Vedder - he still teaches. I think you see him as a threat to the budget (courtesy of tax payers and private and public corporations) that pay for your cushy job and salary. I think "big blue" has you pegged. I am glad you are not teaching my kids.

TC said...

Correction: I think "butter cup" has you pegged.

superhiker said...

tc -- I think as much of you as of her. Anyone who poses in his underwear for the web is not someone to take seriously.

Lady Justice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lady Justice said...

Students say that UC is just trying to deny more students admission, thereby raising the ranking of the school in US News & World Report. The kids like the current slightly eccentric, extremely rigorous academic orientation of the school, and think the new UC administration may be trying to dilute it, disappointing many denied applicants in the process. I suspect the kids are right.

The University of Chicago currently ranks at something like #9 in the oft criticized US News & World Report rankings. How much higher can you get than top ten where distinctions between 3 and 7 barely matter except to the most utterly ridiculous nitpickers.

And as someone who has gone to University of Chicago's U-high for a year (plus two years of Jr. High), if the college experience is 8,000 times more "eccentric" and "rigorous" than the lower grades, U of C becoming even more selective will only mean more rigor and eccentricity.

That school is for scholars. Not jocks, not I-just-need-me-a-college-degree types. And certainly not anyone "normal" (which is a statistical illusion anyways). It is a haven for scholarly nerds who learn for the sake of learning, and improving the applicant pool will only make it more so.

So, why all the complaining? As far as I have read, Chicago still has the quirky essay questions (designed to weed out the "normal" people from the nerds) even though they are moving to the Common Application.

Methinks someone doth protest too much about U of C.

Becky said...

I would like to go to a school that is academically rigorous. When educators and the governments that fund them get serious, there will not be things like remedial math and english in college, as well as a number of fluff courses that it seem to be nothing more than job creators for colleges, especially when they are made mandatory. The ability to function at high school level will have been completed in high school.

Less people will be in college, or learn the skills necessary to attend. Making life easier, means a lower bar to jump.