All posts by Naomi Schaefer Riley


Black Studies, Part 2: A Response to Critics

I was never a big fan of the feminist mantra that the “personal is political.” But the  corollary–that any political remark must be taken personally–seems in many ways even worse. My last blog post has earned me even more opprobrium than usual among the Brainstorm commenters, and it seems that they have decided to take as a personal attack something that is clearly not. The comments regarding my post seem to boil down to the following:

I am picking on people because they are black (and I am a ra…


The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.

NB: To see Chronicle editors’ final response to the below post, please read “A Note to Readers.”

You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that …


More Depressing News About College Debt

Of all the news about the ballooning college debt in this country–now said to top a trillion dollars–none has depressed me more than this piece in last week’s Wall Street Journal. It’s perhaps not surprising but all of that debt is influencing other life decisions young adults are making. Sure, we joke about how 20-somethings move back to Mom and Dad’s basement to save money. But these are people who are putting off marriage and having kids  in order to pay off loans. Here’s the start of the pie…


What Harvard Students Don’t Know About Sex

I see the New York Times has a report out on the first Sex Week at Harvard. Apparently a decade behind Yale on this one, Harvard students decided it was time to explore their friskier sides. (At least they wanted to do so more formally. When I was a student, my house just had an annual party at which pieces of chocolate shaped like genitals were handed out. You weren’t required to sit through any panels or lectures, as I recall.)

Of course, events like Sex Week are always couched in the language…


Any Progress Since Port Huron?

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of the Port Huron Statement on student activism, NYU will be hosting a conference this week about the history and continued relevance of the document. The student-activist movement on campus has certainly turned college life upside down in the past 50 years. It has been responsible in no small part for the elimination of the core curriculum, the addition of politics to every traditional discipline and the introduction of numerous disciplines driven…


Life at Dartmouth or an Episode of ‘Fear Factor’?

I can’t say whether Andrew Lohse’s account of Dartmouth’s fraternity culture is entirely true, but I would be surprised if most of it weren’t. Lohse, an imperfect whistleblower, offered his story to Janet Reitman, a writer for Rolling Stone. It reads more like an episode of Fear Factor than a description of life at an Ivy League school. There’s so much vomiting during his fraternity career that he loses all the enamel on his teeth.

I could say that these kids have too much time on their hands, t…


The End of Black Caddies and the Media’s Racial Headcounting

The New York Times article today on the disappearance of “black caddies” from the professional golf tour is one of those pieces that has to make one wonder whether the media’s race consciousness has gotten just a little out of hand. It’s not an uninteresting piece. Essentially, the author, Karen Crouse, notes that once upon a time, blacks pretty much dominated the caddy profession, particularly in the South. She quotes one of the founders of the famed Augusta National Golf course: “As long as …


How We Give to Universities

Americans like higher education and American philanthropists like to give to higher education. According to The Chronicle, 19 of the top 50 donors last year gave to colleges, more than to any other cause. “Of those, 10 provided support to institutions that were not their alma maters. Altogether, the 19 donors gave colleges more than $1.5-billion.”

Perhaps the fact that half of these philanthropists did not simply write big checks to their alma maters (though they’re probably doing that as well)…


If This Is Art, Your Middle-School Daughter Is Picasso

According to a piece in the Harvard Crimson: “Eric R. Brewster ’14 and Avery A. Leonard ’14 fought off drooping eyelids and the urge to sleep last week as they held a phone conversation that lasted for 46 hours, 12 minutes, 52 seconds, and 228 milliseconds—potentially setting a new world record.”

Those wacky Harvard kids! Trying to break world records in their spare time. But wait! This stunt is so much more than that. It’s an “art installation,” according to the organizers. It was actually “the…


No Progress in Our National Conversation on Race

cross posted from Philanthropy Daily:

We’re still in the thick of primary season now, but maybe it’s time to start worrying about the general election — not who is going to win, but how the contest will be run and how it will be covered and how much the subject of race is going to be a factor. It would be easy to dismiss Lee Siegel’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times as a bunch of pundit claptrap, which I will do in a moment, but I am concerned it is a bad sign of things to come.

Siegel’s am…


Stupid S*&t Liberals Write About Conservatives

This week’s award goes to Corey Robin. I really hope that I’m not the only one who finds Robin’s Review cover essay completely offensive. Maybe there are even a few wives, secretaries, and factory workers (of every political stripe) who will find this a little condescending:

Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of uneq…


Social Conservatives and the Media Elite

If you want to get an idea of how social conservatives are going to be treated by the media in this election cycle, look no further than Saturday night’s ABC debate. George Stephanopoulos’s endless exchange with Mitt Romney about whether he favored a ban on contraception and whether he would consider it constitutional if a state voted to ban it may have seemed like a puzzling digression. In fact, Mitt Romney probably reflected in his flustered answer the puzzlement of the whole audience at this …


Oral-Historian Privilege, Part 2

Well, it looks like the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has decided to issue a stay of the lower court’s order for Boston College to turn over its interviews with former Irish Republican Army members to U.S. prosecutors and the British government. (See my post on this subject yesterday here.) BC was willing to turn over the records, claiming that this was a better outcome than taking the risk that the government would force them to turn over everything from the project, rather than j…


Oral-Historian Privilege?

So it looks like Boston College will have to give to federal prosecutors the tapes of interviews that researchers and journalists there conducted with at least one member of the Irish Republican Army. As part of this “oral history project,” BC promised interviewees that their stories would be kept under wraps until after their deaths.

But on behalf of British authorities, federal prosecutors here “demanded anything in the college archive related to the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast mothe…


(Secular Jewish) Man Seeks God

There’s a new book out by a former National Public Radio correspondent named Eric Weiner, which seems to be yet another in a long line of works by secular Jews who suddenly discover that there are people who take their faith seriously. Whether the result is books like Hanna Rosin’s about Patrick Henry College or Lauren Sandler’s about the evangelical youth movements, there seems to be no end to the appetite of secular elites for finding what they see as bizarre religious enclaves.

Weiner’s book,…


A Great Leap Backward

Crossposted from Philanthropy Daily:

It looks like this nation is taking a giant step backwards in the field of racial preferences. On Friday, the Obama administration issued a letter to college and university presidents, urging them, in the words of The New York Times, to “get creative” in their promotion of racial diversity. The new guidelines offer college administrators ways to essentially skirt the Supreme Court rulings on racial preferences. The Times offers a useful side-by-side compariso…


CUNY’s Fall

It looks like CUNY may be falling back down the academic ladder. After a miraculous turnaround that accompanied the end of open admissions in 1999, CUNY had set a bar for a public university with high academic standards that could serve a broad urban population. Then on Thursday, a committee tasked with creating a new core curriculum for the school released its final recommendations. From all accounts, it seems to be a grand plan for dumbing things down.

The Board of Trustees had apparently comp…


Changing the Campus Recruitment Atmosphere

So what should students of elite schools do when they graduate? An article in today’s New York Times describes how Occupy Wall Street forces on campus are trying to push seniors to consider careers besides investment banking and consulting. At Yale, for instance, a group of students

turned a Morgan Stanley information session into a protest site. While their fellow students, clad in suits and clutching folders with résumés, filed into The Study at Yale, a local hotel, to learn more about the i…


Football Players Treated Differently? No Way!

I was a little skeptical when I read Michael Bérubé’s op-ed in The New York Times the other day about Joe Paterno. He wrote that “Penn State faculty members were permitted to feel less conflicted about the school’s football program than our counterparts elsewhere; we took pride in the fact that the school had never run afoul of the N.C.A.A. and that its football coach benched star players for missing class. Now we are in shock.”

In shock? Really? Except when it comes to making sure players do…


Coddling High School Students

There’s an entertaining account of a recent speech by Judge Richard Posner on the Education Week Web site. Apparently, he thinks high school students are too “spolied and coddled” and they have “excessive self-esteem” and their parents are “aggressive.” And that’s why they keep suing and threatening to sue their high schools every time they disagree with a grade or a rule. He thinks that students should quit being offended by every display of the Ten Commandments or any mention of religion and t…