Thursday, July 26, 2007

Three Cheers for Hank Brown

By Bryan O’Keefe

Rich posted a blog a couple of days ago about Ward Churchill, which generated quite a discussion in the comments section of this blog (that’s a good thing – please post away!) While much of that post and the subsequent comments debated tenure, there is a strong case to be made that the real underlying issue with Ward Churchill is accountability.

Hank Brown, the president of the University of Colorado, makes this point in a compelling op-ed in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Mr. Brown says that taxpayer’s fork over $200 million dollars a year for his university. In return, the university has at least some obligation to make sure that the faculty members are meeting scholarship standards, even those who are tenured and/or controversial, like Mr. Churchill.

Accountability is a word that few people in higher education like to hear – and Mr. Brown recognizes this unpleasant reality. He writes that,

“Mr. Churchill's difficulties in facing up to his academic responsibilities are in many ways emblematic of higher education's trouble with accountability. Too often, colleges and universities tend to insulate themselves in ivy-covered buildings and have not been as diligent as necessary to ensure that the academic enterprise is conducted rigorously and honestly. This elitist attitude is simply outdated, and our university has made tenure reforms -- precipitated by the Churchill case -- that will ensure academic integrity.”

I won’t spoil the rest of the piece and if you don’t have a WSJ subscription, this op-ed alone is worth the cost of the newspaper today. It’s important that we look at Ward Churchill outside of his controversial comments (which, on their own, might not be a reason to fire him) and examine how academic frauds are able to survive on college campuses. The lack of accountability in higher ed is a major part of that problem.


Saxon said...

Surely the accountability issue in the Churchill affair goes beyond whether or not a university has a duty to ensure they are not hiring frauds? Part of the problem here is the nature of the nonprofit structure and the lack of owners to whom the management might be accountable. The agency problems in any nonprofit, particularly one in which there are many donors, give the managers a great deal more control than their counterparts in publicly held companies.
Further, for what, exactly, is a university accountable? It cannot be learning because the nature of the "contract" between the student and the institution is uncontrolled. For universities to be responsible for learning, they would need to offer a guaranteed diploma to any student who adhered to an exact set of instructions regarding studying and course selection. Naturally, such a relationship would have to be predicated on very strict admission standards, something that is not likely to happen in the current fevered climate.
It follows then, that universities can only be responsible for teaching (and research). Not only is teaching a process that can be evaluated like any other process, it is also one in which the donors have a keen interest, it being commonly accepted that most of the students who now attend are not scholarly people who learn easily but quite ordinary intelligences who need properly structured approaches and meaningful content.
Moreover, measures of teaching process when combined with other indices would allow donors to make meaningful comparisons between similar institutions and give them the information they need to make good decisions, something that is lacking with the current accreditation and ranking systems.

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USpace said...

Great one! Churchill is total garbage.

Ward Churchill wasn't fired for his insane moonbat 9/11 comment. This only put the spotlight on him and people had to investigate, and some extreme things were found which warranted his sacking. Ward Churchill is a fraud, and his upcoming lawsuit against his former employer should serve to educate even more of the public about his insanity and rampant lies and fakery.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
waste citizen's taxes

hire hateful phony teachers
feed them BIG bucks and pensions

absurd thought -
God of the Universe hates
nine-eleven victims

much worse than Bush
and Hitler combined

TC said...

Not since the '30's has there ever been anything worse than Hitler.

As I said in a previous comment:

"We have 'Little Eichmanns', Hitler, Nazi, and other hyperbole thrown around in complete ignorance. People who compare most anyone (especially our President and his cabinet) to Hitler and the Nazis are trivializing a dictatorial regime that killed an estimated 72 MILLION people."

So many people are completely ignorant of the history and the evil face of Nazism. They have dumbed down the scurge of Nazis, Hitler, et. al., so much that Hitler can now be used as a measure of comparison for self-serving opportunists who would have us believe that our country is on the road to becoming one Nationalist Social Party.

I believe that the mis-use of Hitler's name and calling people Nazis is born out of complete ignorance of historical facts. And unfortunately, the men and women and all the families affected by the Nazis are dying off. So the message of just how savage Hitler and his regime were, is falling silent.

So "uspace", could you please provide me with the name of ANY person since Hitler who even comes close to Hitler that is consistent with historical facts and magnitude of evil deeds?

Although bin Laden and Zawahiri are trying to mimick Hitler - they haven't even scratched the surface yet.

When I read articles using Hitler as the measure of a modern day person, or I hear people described as Nazis (by mostly left wing activists and zealots) I stop reading the article - or stop listening to a television show because today's oppotunistic use of the aforementioned immediately ascribes the author, or speaker, to complete irrelevance as far as I am concerned.

By the way, would you name your son "Adolph"?