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The Ultras and Their Ultimatums

As we know, the term “diversity” is the buzzword of the century. Few public policy debates in the realms of business or education in this country are conducted without it. The use of racial/ethnic admissions preferences at public universities, for example, is often defended by grossly exaggerating the types of diversity they promote.

The ironies here are multiple. One is that the advocates of preferences, whether writing in the public prints or running amok on the quads, regularly demonize those who disagree in such a way as to threaten intellectual diversity in higher education. Another is that in making their case, they ignore (willfully, it seems, although that is not always clear) the legal and moral imperatives to colorblindness that are embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once considered a monumental achievement by most Americans.

During the past year, both ironies have been on full display with the crescendo of racially charged conflicts on college and university campuses. From California to Maine, student activists have been demanding diversity training, along with large and rapid increases in faculty and student diversity—and, for good measure, “free tuition for Black and indigenous students,” to quote a statement from the web site of a new national student clearinghouse, the Black Liberation Collective. The collective also demands that “at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty” be “reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the country.”

That pressure from students and faculty caused someone as distinguished as Christine Lagarde—whom not even Noam Chomsky regards as a war criminal—to withdraw as speaker, a mere week before the Smith College commencement two years ago, proved to be an ominous harbinger of our brave new world of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and imperious demands issued by student groups. The fresh crop of diversity activists is asserting hegemonic authority over university governance, and lashing out against opinions that diverge from the party line regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.

This essay discusses controversies that unfolded at four premier institutions—Oberlin, Amherst, Wesleyan, and Emory—and reactions on the part of the schools’ administrations. Having examined the platforms promulgated on 86 campuses across the country (the Black Liberation Collective site covers all 86, but is less accurate than www.thedemands.org), I believe this group captures general tendencies and trends.

Oberlin College

As is typical of last year’s protests, the proclamation issued by the Black Student Union at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio is dominated by demands. Perhaps unusual, however, is how extreme they are—and the proclamation takes care to remind the school that they are “unmalleable,” that ignoring them will not be “tolerated,” and that noncompliance will “result in a full and forceful response from the community you fail to support.”

The authors of the Oberlin statement convey a cavalier attitude toward academic freedom, and seem oblivious to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other statutes that prohibit racial discrimination in hiring. Their proclamation demands that students more or less get to redesign the institution’s grading system; that there be workshops, limited to black students, conducted by “Black financial aid officers”; that a black woman be brought in to head the Jazz Vocal Department; and that

a mandatory professional development program be developed for faculty across departments in the College & Conservatory that will help facilitate their understanding of the ways in which racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and other forms of violent oppression inform and shape instructional methods for the disciplinary content of their courses.

The “content of this information” also must be “integrated in their coursework.”

It is ludicrous to maintain that “racial capitalism” and “settler colonialism” have shaped “instructional methods” used by every Oberlin professor and that almost every class needs to discuss them. An even more radical curricular demand is that, unless departmental requirements in “Western/Classical centered courses” are eliminated, all students be required to take “an equivalent course in the African Diaspora.”

The demand that “more Black faculty” be hired and retained by “all departments” gets quite specific, including everything from Geology to Creative Writing to “the ENTIRE Conservatory” (block capitals in original).

Regarding the makeup of the student body, the Oberlin activists want a four percent increase per year in black enrollment “from EACH of the Americas, the Caribbean and continent of Africa starting in 2016 to accumulate to a 40% increase by 2022.” The emphasis on Africa and the Caribbean surfaces elsewhere in the document, showing what a highly specific imperative diversity can become nowadays.

But that raises a problem. While foreign students would obviously offer serious contributions to cultural diversity, defenses of affirmative action in the United States typically emphasize that the ancestors of its African American beneficiaries were victimized by slavery and Jim Crow. Widespread pleas about the educational benefits (to the larger population along with the relevant minorities) of having a “critical mass” enrolled might also need modification if African and Caribbean students are lumped together with African Americans.

The document identifies three professors who must be “granted tenure immediately,” specifies six others who must be placed on the tenure track, and calls for the “immediate firing” of eight individuals, including an accounts payable supervisor; the “Associate Dean of Studies” for her “mishandling of students mental & emotional needs” (sic); the student health and counseling director; and a professor of music theory, “due to the racist undertones of his course as well as the ways in which he treats Black jazz students who take his course, which is rooted in white supremacy.”

Whether these activists realize it or not, what they are demanding would annihilate existing procedures of university governance, invite lawsuits, and bring sanctions from the American Association of University Professors. (Check the AAUP’s mission statement: it jealously guards “the norms of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance” along with “the economic security of faculty” and other academic professionals.)

Amid the roiling controversy, Oberlin’s president, Marvin Krislov, deserves special commendation. He stands out from administrators at the other affected campuses because he has responded so vigorously, protesting both the “personal attacks” on faculty and staff who are “dedicated and valued members of this community” and ultimatums that “contravene principles of shared governance.”

Amherst College

The demands of the “Amherst Uprising” were less radical and, mercifully, more concise than those aired at Oberlin. The activists on the Massachusetts campus concentrated on removing their school’s “Lord Jeff” mascot and soliciting apologies (from selected administrators) for white supremacy, xenophobia, mental-health stigma, and a dozen related “isms.” And although the protesters issued a short deadline for compliance with their demands, it was retracted after exchanges with the college’s president and other administrators.

On the other hand, there was something distinctly ominous about one of their demands: It was directed against expression that had issued from their fellow students in connection with Amherst’s Black Lives Matter Awareness Week. I quote it in full:

President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.” Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

“All Lives Matter” posters had been put up by what appeared to be a small contingent of students who oppose abortion. They, along with the students who signaled their opposition to the escalating University of Missouri protests, hold opinions that have been deemed intolerable. The perpetrators ought to be forced to undergo “extensive” racial/cultural reeducation, and additional punishment looms if a “formal complaint is filed.” Another demand was that the school’s honor code be rewritten to reflect a “zero tolerance policy” for racial insensitivity and “hate speech.” Were it adopted, we may infer, future posters that challenge the agendas of the Amherst Uprising, Black Lives Matter, or comparable movements would likewise be candidates for administrative sanction.

To be sure, there was dispute over what exactly transpired at Amherst as these clashing students made known their views. As anti-abortion “All Lives Matter” posters were displayed to compete with “Black Lives Matter” posters, some of the latter had apparently been defaced—or replaced by the other posters. It is up to the college’s administration, of course, to treat the parties to such controversies fairly. Alas, in her letter to the campus community, Amherst President Biddy Martin seems to have cast her lot against diversity in posters. The people invoking free speech to criticize the Amherst Uprising, she said, were “making hasty judgments.” But how is free speech not threatened by the call for the squelching of reasonable posters that address important controversies?

The head of the Amherst College Republicans reported that his group’s event advertisements had routinely been torn down, and that at least one of its events had been obstructed. The general tone on campus did not portend much sympathy for his group, though. The Amherst Student printed letters celebrating the Amherst Uprising and/or Black Lives Matter Awareness Week from at least 11 academic departments. A letter from the Department of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies called for more “dialogue” between those who disagree on these issues—but then denounced the All Lives Matter students as “poster vandals” and “internet trolls.” Certain views are favored on campus as a general matter (and to see how admissions preferences can feed into that privileging of views, see Ken Masugi’s Law and Liberty essay on UCLA here).

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan is notable as an example of the kind of retribution against a newspaper that used to result in landmark court cases like that of John Peter Zenger.

The paper that students at the Connecticut school put out twice a week, the Wesleyan Argus, published an op-ed late last year criticizing Black Lives Matter. The piece, written by undergraduate Bryan Stascavage, asked impertinent questions: “Is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive?”, and are the tensions it is stoking “setting the conditions of the more extreme or mentally disturbed individuals to commit atrocities?”

Stascavage cited the group’s more inflammatory chants, writing that “if vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement”—but that “I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists,” for “there is a reason why so many have shown up to protests across the country: there is clearly something wrong. . . . The system is clearly failing many.”

Spirited replies to this student would have been appropriate, as well as a challenge to any facts he got wrong. What ensued, however, was a wave of intimidation, and the kind of hysteria for which Mizzou has become famous. As reported by Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post, “within 24 hours of publication, students were stealing and reportedly destroying newspapers around campus. In a school cafe, a student screamed at Stascavage through tears, declaring that he had ‘stripped all agency away from her, made her feel like not a human anymore.’”

As time passed, the intolerant reactions to this single newspaper op-ed took a more organized form. A week after it appeared, over 150 students, alumni, and staff signed a protest petition; in addition to their demands, they implemented a “boycott” of the Argus that included “disposing of copies of the Argus on campus.” The petition apparently led to the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s passing a resolution to cut the newspaper’s printing budget by roughly half (but the fate of the resolution after passage was unclear).

Under public pressure this intense, the young journalists running the Argus were not able to muster a Zenger-like response. They not only printed an apologetic editorial—Rampell calls it “groveling”—but placed it on the front page. Among the many things for which the Argus staff apologized was that Stascavage’s piece was published “without a counter-argument in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement alongside it. . . . Representing more diverse views, backgrounds, and stories in The Argus is a goal we set for ourselves last semester.”

More heartening was the statement on the situation from Michael Roth, Wesleyan’s president, Joyce Jacobsen, its provost, and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias. While granting that “structural racism in general and police brutality in particular” afflicted American society, they informed Wesleyan students that there is no “right not to be offended”; they also condemned harassment of the school newspaper and attempts at censorship by the campus Left.

Emory University

The agenda put forth by students at Atlanta’s Emory University is unusually long-winded and garbled, at least in its preamble. Overall, however, the platform clearly falls at the temperate end of the protest spectrum. The Emory students refrain from demonizing individual professors or students, and call for actions that even Republicans might welcome, such as establishment of “an institutionalized academic support hub for Black students to have access to and to receive tutoring, specialized study skills, and career mentoring.” And the ban they propose seems reasonable to me: getting rid of Yik Yak, an obnoxious new social media app that tells a mobile phone user what gossipy or incendiary comments are being emitted by anonymous users in the surrounding area.

The Emory activists, though, unknowingly trespass on academic freedom with their demand concerning student evaluations of faculty. Their redesign of the evaluation form would include

at least two open-ended questions such as: “Has this professor made any microaggressions towards you on account of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, and/or other identity?” and “Do you think that this professor fits into the vision of Emory University being a community of care for individuals of all racial, gender, ability, and class identities?” These questions on the faculty evaluations would help to ensure that there are repercussions or sanctions for racist actions performed by professors.

They conclude: “We demand that these questions be added to the faculty evaluations by the end of this semester, Fall 2015.”

How many sessions in a typical sociology, women’s studies, or ethnic studies course proceed without the professor conveying a barb that would make a typical Republican, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Confucian, or Hindu feel “microaggressed” in connection with his/her “identity”? The authors probably didn’t think through the possible ramifications of getting what they want. They would doubtless be shocked if, after the adoption of the new evaluations, complaints alleging leftwing political bias outnumbered complaints about microaggression.

The reference to “ability” in the second question should also raise a red flag. Speaking as a teacher, I can say that we strive to care for students of all ability levels, but we’re also obliged to indicate errors (and other performance lapses) that reflect a student’s shortfalls in ability. Apparently the Emory students intended to protect students with disabilities. But maybe they didn’t only mean that. One could want from them—along with more than a few weeks’ time in which to accomplish their wish list—a little more self-scrutiny as to clear expression of “demands.”

Professors might be disappointed by many things that are now taking place in higher education. But unfortunately, it is no surprise when our students, taking the time and trouble to organize themselves to address the political and social matters of the day, write sloppily; assume that massive institutional changes can occur in weeks or months; and fail to grasp how hard colleges and universities have been striving since the 1960s to hire and retain faculty of color.

What has truly been a surprise, at least to me, is the eagerness of today’s student activists to stamp out dissent. Of course, their faculty allies are implicated here, as are college administrators who appear fearful of speaking truth to power (Princeton’s president having provided one memorable example of flaccidity). Some have shown backbone in the face of unreason, as I have pointed out above. That is grounds for, if not celebration, then a certain amount of relief.

Outrage at the killings of Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and others, is more than justified. Police misconduct must not stand. As far as our university students are concerned, there are well-documented instances of racist abuse, and I personally have reasons to grant that on many campuses, minorities are often subjected to awkward or inconsiderate remarks. Yet the absurdity echoing from so many of the activists’ claims and demands makes a mockery of their cause. Strangest of all is that they seem not to realize that most faculty and administrators sympathize with their concerns, and that the conservative or otherwise dissenting students who have the courage to challenge them enrich the actual diversity of their college experience.

The President whom most of them admire (as do I and most of my university colleagues) was asked not long ago about the proliferating campus conflicts. After noting that “being a good citizen, being an activist, involves hearing the other side,” Barack Obama exhorted us “to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work.” The most valuable demands, I’m tempted to infer, are usually the ones we make on ourselves.

Reader Discussion

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on March 04, 2016 at 10:28:44 am

I could not have written this before Professor Minowitz’s post, but I have been striving all my life to solve a diversity problem, and think collaborative discussions at public libraries in Baton Rouge have pointed to a solution: Establishing a culture of a civic people who cherish real-no-harm private pursuits, hopes and dreams and use the monopoly on force for safety and security. “Civic” refers to people living now in their location and establishing physics-based morality instead of opinion-based morality. Since the discovery of what has emerged and yet emerges from physics and how humankind can benefit from the discoveries constantly advances, civic morality advances and never loses its need for well-grounded, reasoned opinion. For this reason, well-grounded opinion is not easily changed: but it needs slow, deliberate reform to appreciation of physics. Physics does not conform to opinion.

Some opinions from the past cannot stand. For example, while the god hypothesis has not been disproven by physics, only real-no-harm god theories can conform to discovered civic morality, and not one personal god can be imposed on a person, persons being both individuals and groups such as cultures, a nation, or the world.

Here’s John Locke’s support for safety and security, from “Two Treatises of Government,” 1790:

Sect. 94. But whatever flatterers may talk to amuse people's understandings, it hinders not men from feeling; and when they perceive, that any man, in what station soever, is out of the bounds of the civil society which they are of, and that they have no appeal on earth against any harm, they may receive from him, they are apt to think themselves in the state of nature, in respect of him whom they find to be so; and to take care, as soon as they can, to have that safety and security in civil society, for which it was first instituted, and for which only they entered into it.

Sect. 149. THOUGH in a constituted common-wealth, standing upon its own basis, and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them: for all power given with trust for the attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.

Sect. 222. The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property; and the end why they chuse and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

In that third paragraph, it seems “property” could be enslaved and thus is first the person. Also Locke specifies “lives, liberties, and estates.” Thus, the state cannot arbitrarily take any of a person’s life, freedom, or assets.

When the writers of the preamble to the draft constitution for the USA, on September 17, 1787, wrote “We the People of the United States,” the rest of the sentence defined a civic people. Humankind may prove the implied totality, but in the meantime, a civic people must use the monopoly on force to provide safety and security for adults, children, and children to be born: We the People of the United States is divided according to whether a person abides the preamble or not.

A civic people can be established with physics-based ethics, but not with opinion-based ethics or its progeny, religious opinion. Locke’s idea of “a civil people,” wherby law coerces opinion has not proven feasible. The civic people of the present are grateful for the good the people of the past accomplished, intend to avoid past behavior now known bad, take full advantage of the discovery of what emerges from physics, and collaborate for safety and security so that personal hopes and dreams may be pursued.

A Civic People of the United States, Baton Rouge, is a small group (person), but it will grow.

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Phil Beaver
on March 04, 2016 at 11:40:49 am

Can't you just go away?

Or at least try, even in some infinitesimal manner, to relate your posts to the essay provided by the author.
It strikes me as "un-civic" to utterly disregard the essayists thoughts AND THE CONSIDERABLE EFFORT he no doubt made in composing the piece.

It is quite simply RUDE!!!
Now off to Coventry with you and your group - oops, I forgot, I am being redundant!

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gabe
on March 04, 2016 at 12:55:33 pm

While I applaud Mr. Minowitz's effort, my sense is that his essay is merely an exercise in stating the obvious. A more concise approach might be to simply defend the principles that:

1. The freedom to formulate and express one's own thoughts, to inquire into the nature of human life and human experience free from ideological coercion, and to determine one's own educational priorities is more important than "diversity."

2. Anyone who perceives harm as a result of "microagressions" is too immature to contribute the the intellectual life of others or derive the benefits of a truly liberal education themselves, and would be better served tending to their fragile psychological health outside of a higher education setting.

3. Today's "activists" are not the modern versions of Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King or Thurgood Marshall. They lack the courage, insight and basic decency to effect meaningful and lasting change in anyone's life, regardless of color.

4. The right to express views that might offend others is more important than the feelings of those who might be offended. Way more important.

5. The whole idea behind "cultural appropriation" is just plain stupid. Cultures are not insular and pretending that they are is narcissistic make-believe.

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z9z99
on March 04, 2016 at 13:49:58 pm

gabe, you demonstrate time after time that you have not the propriety to join a civic people; it is, after all, a voluntary people, as stated in the preamble to the constitution for the USA. The other part of We the People of the United States--the dissidents, for example, to real-no-harm free speech, always may reform.

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Phil Beaver
on March 04, 2016 at 13:51:43 pm

Thus, the problems stemming from "mass" education come to the fore!

Funny and serendipitous as i have just finished a wonderful essay by Oakeshott on "The masses in Representative government:

My own bastardized nugget of his essay:

The masses seek to avoid choices (contrary to today's popular acclaim for CHOICE); but rather seek to avoid decisions and the burdens of individually making such decisions. Seeking reassurance and comfort, they are loathe to accept ANY thing, thought, precept, concept, real or imagined, that may threaten the rather somnolent slumber of security which they require and tenaciously cling to.

In my usually more sarcastic terms, I attribute this epistemology to the undue and corrosive influence of SOCCER MOMS, prone as their are to dispense with loaded trays of orange slices and participation trophies to all the little kiddies - whether they have won or lost.

A solution, you say!!!

Well, let's have the Federales fund an "orange Slice Fund" for all college students; of course; you will recognize that this is necessary as the provision of *safe spaces* does not appear to be a suitable substitute for the sweet tangy-ness of a an overripe orange.

They already get *participation trophies* - they are now called Bachelors Degrees and ought to be held in the same regard as the trophies awarded to these children who when on the "Fields of Eaton" (oops, I mean Youth Soccer) learned all the "manly" (and womanly) virtues. They did, didn't they?

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gabe
on March 04, 2016 at 14:20:02 pm

Here's a quick thought. Let's allow employers to make contributions to pay off the student loans of their employees and have such payments be tax deductible to the employer, and further, the benefit received by the employee would not be counted as income for tax purposes. This would encourage people to gravitate to those academic disciplines that are actually related to becoming useful and getting a job. Want to major in crypto-neurotic dance studies? Go ahead, but you assume the risk that there will not be an employer who is impressed by your academic achievements and is willing to help pay for them. If you do find such an employer, good for you. You want an education as a personal growth experience unrelated to career or employment considerations? that's nice. Pay for it yourself. To the extent that this may be seen as discriminatory against less practical courses of study, too bad. There is nothing that says that tax policy cannot be based on pragmatism.

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z9z99
on March 04, 2016 at 18:09:28 pm

(Are you trying to write in English? I can't make out what you wrote.)

I have the propriety to join a civic people, and that ain't you guy. You're rude and uncivil, and IMO in need of some serious couch time.

Stop your damn proselytizing! That's NOT what the good people behind this forum created and operate it for. You are abusing the privilege and if you keep it up the privilege could be taken away, not just from you, but from everyone.

Take it somewhere else, please.

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Scott Amorian
on March 04, 2016 at 18:33:08 pm

Phil:

I will take the time to "splain myself.

It is not that I am uncivil as a general rule; nor is it that I (or others) wish for you not to speak.
Rather, it is in the nature of a series of comments that may be charitably deemed "off-target" that we take issue with you.

Yet, it is more than this alone.

A concern of mine is that "first time viewers of this site may be somewhat confused as to the nature of this site (and its many commenters) when they happen upon long sermons, intended, no doubt, to be uplifting, that bear only the most infinitesimal relationship to the usually high level of argument provided herein. They may confuse this site with some other sites which have as their main offering, what i would refer to as, "off-beat commentary" and the looses of thread-like consistency. consequently, many may, operating under this misimpression, decide to avoid this site. That is a pity. And it does seem to me that over the past year or so the number of (new) commenters has declined. (This may or may not be related).

So as kindly as possible, allow me to say, participate by sticking to the topic offered by the essayist; if not stay home and preach to local choir! I, for one, enjoy a healthy joust; witness my exchanges with our blogging friend nobody.really whom I both respect and thoroughly enjoy. What is disturbing is off-kilter, off-topic comments repeated ad infinitum.

Consider this, if you will.

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gabe
on March 04, 2016 at 18:34:48 pm

oops; should be: "loosest"

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gabe
on March 04, 2016 at 18:37:29 pm

You call it proselytizing, but I don't agree with your opinion at all. Observing the errors of the past, I suggest collaboration for a better civic future in the USA.
It is obvious that if this forum can't find reasonable arguments against the ideas I am offering it should bow out of existence. In one of my earliest posts, I said something to the effect that if a professor cannot relate his work to promoting PLwCWB, he or she should consider reform.
As a chemical engineer, the reactors I designed would either blow up or not. When you travel near my reactors you are safe; in some cases, before me you were not safe. We can't say the same about products of all law professors. Take for example, DOMA: about as unconstitutional as it gets with its Judeo-Christian tradition.

Despite your personal fear, I have not lost belief in this forum. Your repetitive attacks on me do not impress me.

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Phil Beaver
on March 04, 2016 at 18:42:44 pm

Respect? That's not good enough. I read for appreciation and express it when it is justified. I prefer your silence until you reform.

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Phil Beaver
on March 05, 2016 at 09:32:39 am

Interesting thought.

My first thought, however, is that this plan would be regressive. Parents who are sufficiently wealthy and plan to help pay off their kids student loans would then "hire" their own underemployed kids to provide "art history" services or whatever, then pay the kids the amount that they otherwise would have contributed to pay off the student loans. The net effect would be to take the money that parents were going to contribute anyway and turn it into tax-deductible contribution.

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nobody.really
on March 05, 2016 at 12:23:23 pm

Not to mention Starbucks deciding that since they have "artwork" in their shops, the little barista with the Masters in Fine Arts - Mesopotamian Antiquities should receive company paid student loan payments.

Then again, why not the local plumber?
And no wise-CRACKS on this one!!!!

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gabe
on March 05, 2016 at 14:51:37 pm

My first thought, however, is that this plan would be regressive.

That may be true, although not necessarily so. First off, those majoring in fine arts who are unable to find either a job or a benefactor would be no worse off than they are now. If they are talented enough, or able to contribute sufficiently to a business to have an income, regardless of their major, they would benefit, as would whoever hires them. Secondly, the patrons of zoos and art museums and cultural institutions tend to be wealthy now, and receive tax benefits as a result; a person in a 35 marginal tax bracket benefits more from a given charitable contribution than does someone in a 20% tax bracket. Progressive taxation results in regressive tax benefits for charitable contributions. This would not change. It would simply create a situation where student loan relief would be packaged in such a way as to encourage those who become productive, net tax payers (those who improve, through education, their ability to contribute meaningfully to the economy and to generate tax revenue by doing things that an employer is willing to pay for.) Thirdly, I am not saying that liberal arts degrees are useless or of lower priority. A tax program such as this will encourage the creation if institutions that value, say medieval limerick scholars, and are willing to hire them. This would do much more for those fields than simply letting aimless students accumulate debt studying the same subjects , then go to grad school to get made fun of on The Simpsons.

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z9z99
on March 14, 2016 at 10:40:42 am

[…] Peter Minowitz, writing over at Library of Law & Liberty, explores today’s campus activism. […]

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Some Links - Cafe Hayek
on March 14, 2016 at 13:48:06 pm

Thanks for the mention of my article. I should update it: Tim Groseclose has left UCLA for George Mason U.

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Ken Masugi
on March 14, 2016 at 13:49:00 pm

Thanks, too, for your emails.

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Ken Masugi
on March 26, 2019 at 06:02:11 am

[…] years ago, on this website, I criticized several campus protests inspired by Black Lives Matter, and I am appalled that any […]

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A Dispatch from the Academic Wilds

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.