A Response to Critics of Tenure

In the past month, I’ve been in at least four meetings in which tenure has been heavily criticized by those who do not have it or operate outside academe.

As an educational historian, I have written extensively about tenure and academic freedom, especially within the black-college environment. As a professor, I think about my own tenure weekly. I may do this more often than most professors due to the fact that I write a lot of op-ed essays and I’m fairly outspoken. I’m grateful to have tenur…


Larry Summers’s Unsatisfying Proposal

In a Washington Post column today on “Our inequality of opportunity,” former Harvard president Lawrence Summers proposes that top schools do more to recruit low-income students, showing the same commitment to economic diversity that universities have to racial diversity. He then couples this powerful challenge to include disadvantaged students with a jarring defense of admissions preferences for the children of alumni.

“It is unrealistic to expect that schools that depend on charitable contrib…


Do Too Many Young People Go to College?

This is the most complex of the Wall Street Journal’s Special Reports of June 27: the question of whether too many young people are going to college. The debate involves four interlocutors: Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Sandy Baum, senior fellow at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, James O’Neill, co-founder of the Theil Foundation’s 20 Under 20 Fellowship, and Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Sta…


Louis Freeh and University Governance

Can some good come out of the Penn State tragedy? Former FBI director Louis Freeh has authored a remarkable, lengthy and brutally frank report that finds fault with lots of people at Penn State. But a group that has heretofore received only modest criticism gets a lot from Freeh—the Board of Trustees. And, reading news reports of the findings, it appears Freeh’s view of the role of boards is very similar to mine, and highly consistent with an idea I have been promoting with increasing frequency …


Leadership, the University Brand, Abuse, and Our Duty

What does it take to be a leader? I think it takes bravery, strength, discretion, integrity, intelligence, the ability to bring people together around a common cause, and charisma. What does it take to be a leader in American higher education? It takes all of these qualities plus the ability to figure out when the bottom line must be sacrificed for the overall education and good of society and its individual members.

We’ve read many stories as of late about the sexual abuse at Penn State and t…


The Regnerus Affair at UT Austin

Updated 3:30 pm 7/16/12.  Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, is under attack.  In the July 2012 issue of Social Science Research, (Vol. 41, Is. 4) he published a peer-reviewed article, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?  Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” No doubt had the study eventuated in the finding “no significant differences were found,” Regnerus would have received encou…


A Culture of Evasion

The dreadful scandal at Penn State reached another level on July 12, with the 250-page report of former FBI director Louis Freeh to the university’s board of trustees, culminating a seven-month independent investigation. The report makes clear the complicity of senior officials at the university in covering up convicted child molester and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults on children. The officials include head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, university p…


Unfashionable Ideas

After 25 years in bucolic Princeton, the National Association of Scholars has packed up its stuff and moved to New York City. We brought our collection of yesteryear’s college catalogs, our backfiles of Academic Questions (Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1987 features Virginia Hyman on “Principles of Feminist Scholarship”), and our library of several thousand volumes. We left behind office furniture that was probably second-hand three or four owners past. The junk haulers rendered judgment by taking a…


Transparency About Legacy Preferences

Universities jealously guard their right to make decisions about whom to admit as a fundamental element of academic freedom. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter long ago cited “four essential freedoms” of a university: “to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”

These rights are not, however, unlimited. The Civil Rights Act, for example, curtails the ability of both public and private colleges to e…


The College-Graduate Glut: Evidence From Labor Markets

The price system works marvelously to allocate resources in our society, but in higher education, prices often do not reflect the true value society places on resource usage, as they are often distorted by a variety of policies. The price of elite colleges, for example, is actually well below what demand-and-supply conditions would warrant, while the price of college in general has been distorted upward by extravagant federal student financial-assistance programs (although some would argue with …