Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kangaroo Campus Courts




By Professor Doom

     Another day, another sex crime on campus, or so it seems. There have been quite a few rape scandals on campus where the alleged perpetrator was (reasonably) innocent, and yet was expelled and penalized horribly, based on a single alleged incident; the later invalidation of the allegations do little to offset the damage done to the reputation of the “perpetrator”. On the other hand, there have other cases where a sexual predator was on campus for years, acting, apparently, with the support of administration, or at least acting with an administration willing to keep looking the other way until the Sun burns out.

     Once again, I find myself puzzled that there isn’t more wondering why that is the case. I know, the American legal/justice system is no great shakes, but I can still, in ignorance, accept at least the possibility that there’s some room for justice there. 

     On the other hand, I know quite well the kangaroo court system that academia uses, and it explains much.

     The Game of Thrones case I discussed earlier is a good example of what is going on. In that case, the professor supposedly made an “implied threat” via a child wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt. A committee of administrators formed, found the threat reasonable (not kidding), and gave considerable smackdown to the poor professor.

     “But that wasn’t a real crime!” one might say…but that’s how administration handles it all, from goofy minor allegations to extremely violent rape. Due to weird quirks in the law, campuses have considerable leeway on how to handle campus crime. Yes, they could turn things over to the police…or they could try to handle things themselves.

      When a crime is committed, administrators create their best imitation of what they think is a fair system is. It’s roughly comparable to watching 8 year olds discuss the finer points of Nietzsche.


Admin: “Discussing the case and events surrounding it is grounds for termination…”
--Freedom of speech on campus? Sure, just don’t talk about things admin doesn’t want talked about…


     When there’s a crime reported on campus, and that crime is not yet public, then admin first puts the lockdown on information. Next, a committee is formed…of administrators, or at least of people that will do administrative bidding no matter how foul. Often, the membership of this committee is secret, and always, discussion of the committee’s deliberations is secret.

     If the alleged perpetrator is an administrative darling (i.e., another administrator), then the committee will simply rule in favor of the administrator, and it doesn’t matter how many witnesses and victims come forward—Penn State is the prime example of how this works, but it’s not by only means the only long running sex scandal on campuses.


 Me: “Why exactly is [another faculty] gone?”
Admin: “He was engaging in non-collegial behavior.”
Me: “What did he do, exactly?”
Admin: “We can’t say, but the committee ruled unanimously.”
Me: “Who was on the committee?”
Admin: “We can’t say, but the evidence was compelling.”
Me: “Weird. He seemed polite and respectful to me. What was the evidence?”
Admin: “We can’t say. Please, can we stop talking about this?”
Me: “I’m not sure we even started to talk about it.”
--I didn’t say that last line, but the number of secret committees making decisions on secret evidence is strange, considering admin’s insistence that they use due process. Since the poor guy didn’t know the evidence against him, he had no means of defense. It’s weird how faculty just disappear sometimes. I too disappeared after asking too many questions, so I sure know how it happens.


     Now, on the other hand, if it’s a student, and admin thinks it politically expedient to hang that student…then the student shall hang.


--it doesn’t have to be sexually related, but you better believe Admin will side with a governor over a student.


     These hangings are particularly obnoxious when it’s a sex crime, especially when a male is accused of raping a female. Yes, the Duke Lacrosse case comes to mind, but much like Penn State, it’s only the one that everyone’s heard of. There are many others.    




      The bottom line is young males, if accused of sexual conduct, face a kangaroo campus court system.  I’ve been on both ends of these quasi-judicial proceedings, and I assure you they are obnoxious and vile and an insult to all academia. The Duke Lacrosse “boys” aren’t the only ones who’ve had their lives permanently damaged by these things. Administration’s utter lack of integrity simply makes it impossible to run a remotely fair system.



--On the face of it, administration’s conflict of interest here is a bit strong to let them be judge, jury, and executioner, right? If you really want to be disgusted, just click that link. Not one admin thought that maybe there was a conflict of interest here? Wow. Once again, can’t make this stuff up.


     There’s some claim that the kangaroo court system is part of a war against males on campus. As eyewitness testimony, I have to admit I’ve never seen a female treated improperly by these kangaroo courts…but I’ll just call that an anecdote for now, since I’ve only been really familiar with a dozen or so such proceedings (keep in mind, most of these things are buried in secrecy, so I have no clue just how much of it goes on).

     It does bother me that secret evidence is used, and that the accused often is given no chance to defend against the allegations…I wish it were more rare than what my eyes tell me. I’m not expert in legal matters, but my heart tells me that secret evidence, secret testimony, and secret committees in these proceedings just have to be wrong.

      Luckily, the son of an attorney was victimized by this process, so allow me to present some quotes from someone who knows the legal system, as to just how bizarre administration’s view of a fair process is:

”…Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?...”

“…the separately listed allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible. The letter lacked even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.”

“The hearing itself was a two-hour ordeal of unabated grilling by the school's committee, during which, my son later reported, he was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel or even to have an attorney outside the door of the room. “
 
“The many pages of written documentation that my son had put together—which were directly on point about his relationship with his accuser during the time period of his alleged wrongful conduct—were dismissed as somehow not relevant. What was relevant, however, according to the committee, was the unsworn testimony of "witnesses" deemed to have observable knowledge about the long-ago relationship between my son and his accuser.”
 
“While my son was instructed by the committee not to "discuss this matter" with any potential witnesses, these witnesses against him were not identified to him, nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser.”


    Having seen administration destroy evidence supplied by the defendant (and then cite lack of documentation as a reason not to believe the defendant’s side), the above description of how poorly the process can work (sic) rings true to me. 

    Is it part of a war on males? I don’t know. I do know that females now make up a clear majority of students on campus, and there sure doesn’t seem to be an outcry about how “unfair” that is.
 
     I can’t help but wonder if, years from now, when it’s well known that “higher education” is a horrible mistake for most people, there’ll be crying about how unfair it was that females were cheated more than males by this incredibly corrupt system.
 
     Back to the point, why should an incredibly corrupt system be allowed to set up its own quasi-judicial system for crime?


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fix Accreditation to Fix Higher Education

I know, it's a rerun, but it still needs to be said, as the issues with accreditation come up in a few future posts:
 

 
After months of detailing the thorough corruption of higher education, it’s time to give some easy ideas on how it can all be fixed. Last time I addressed the main reason why there are so many suckers willing to indebt themselves perpetually for a higher education: the myths. The suckers can be much reduced simply by telling the truth about higher education: it’s not a path to riches. Those who become successful after getting an education are generally hard workers, and it is the capacity for hard work, not the slip of paper, that is the real determinant of success.

Still, there is much that is bogus in higher education today, and this must be addressed. The next fix isn’t so easy as “tell the truth,”, but it is still achievable:

 

Make Accreditation Meaningful

 

    “[My school] is accredited, and I have my two year degree. Every place I want to go to has a four year degree program. They’ll accept my degree, no problem. After I transfer my two year degree, it will take me at least three more years to get the four year degree, and that’s if I take 16 hours a semester. How does it all transfer, but not add up to only two more years to finish?”

--Common complaint from my students that graduate, and move on to a university. I explain that administrators don’t understand why 4  - 2 should equal 2, especially since it’s more profitable if 4 – 2 = 3 or 4. It’s queer how it can be viewed as acting with integrity to tell students their 2-year degrees are fully transferrable when administration knows students will only get about half credit if they’re lucky.

 

     So much of the accreditation process has so little do with education that it’s puzzling that anyone could believe being accredited legitimizes the institution. Part of this misdirection, no doubt, is that the same college administrators that have failed higher education are generally the same people who influence what comprises accreditation today. Having the watchers also be the watched is a recipe for corruption, and this alone makes it no surprise that accreditation as it stands now is meaningless at best and a complete fraud at worst.

     The entire concept of accreditation began well over a century ago with educators at various institutions getting together to help each other understand how best to run an educational institution and to standardize, at least a little, what it meant to be such an institution. Accreditation was never intended to have the responsibility for the disposition of hundreds of billions of dollars of loan money; it was a huge mistake of the Federal government to indirectly assign such a massive responsibility to accrediting agencies. While administrators have their influence, many of the requirements for accrediting agencies come from the Department of Education. This is perfectly understandable, as only accredited institutions are eligible to get student loans and other money from the government: it is government money (well, after it has been “forcibly donated” by citizens), the government is entitled to set the terms under which they’ll hand it away. Thus, accrediting agencies should at the minimum do what they’re already doing as a matter of necessity.

     This doesn’t change the fact that accreditation never looks to see if there is much going on that really relates to education. Almost always, accrediting agencies allow the institution to self-report, making accreditation practically, if not completely, alone among all other forms of regulation. This made sense in the distant past when education wasn’t about big money and wasn’t controlled by administrators with no real interest in education, but now that accrediting is responsible for so much more than it was originally intended, it needs to be valid for the purpose of education. There are a few easy ways to make accreditation relevant to education, but I’ll start with the easiest.

     The most blatantly obvious is, of course, to have evaluators, people working as faculty/teachers at accredited institutions, actually take courses at the institution wishing accreditation. I’m quite comfortable taking any undergraduate course in the math curriculum, and I would be stunned if any graduate degree holder in another field would have difficulty in courses that he is qualified to teach (a faculty member who can’t do so probably has a bogus degree, and identifying these people would further help return legitimacy to higher education). The evaluators need not show up every day (students can generally miss weeks), need not submit original work (courses with writing can be time-consuming, and plagiarized papers should probably be used a few times anyway), could even try to cheat, need not even do enough work to pass the course (the better to see if grades are being given honestly), and not all courses need to be evaluated or attended for the entirety of the semester. The point is to at least have the slightest idea what goes on in actual courses at the institution.

 

Registrar, at a policy change meeting: “Due to a glitch, a number of students in various courses were enrolled in courses accidentally. They didn’t know they were in the course, so never showed up for class or did assignments, and didn’t know what was going on until they received their report card. We need to change the policy to allow students to drop late, for this reason.”

Me: “Of these students that did absolutely nothing, about how many failed?”

Registrar: “2/3rds failed. The rest got A’s, but complained because it cut into their loan disbursements.”

Me: “To be clear, 1/3 of the students that literally did absolutely nothing still got an A for their coursework?”

Registrar: “Yes.”

--No, administration didn’t decide to look into pretty clear evidence that around 1/3 of the coursework on campus was utterly and completely bogus. Of course.

 

Right now, this doesn’t happen, an instructor can literally give no reading assignments, no writing assignments, no tests, manufacture bogus attendance records, assign all A’s at the end of the semester…and receive kudos from administration for doing such good work. I really wish I weren’t joking, but there’s a reason why the average college grade is A- (the last chart in that link says it all). At the bare minimum, an institution with integrity would look at a class with all A’s, think “well, this material is so easy everyone masters it, so there’s no reason to charge thousands of dollars to teach it.”  That’s not how it works, but it needs to work that way again.

 

Administration e-mail: “For night instructors, please use your class time wisely, these courses are supposed to meet for 3 contact hours a week.”

--I often taught night classes, meeting once a week from 6 to 8:45. When my class takes a five minute break around 7:30, typically the parking lot has as many cars as I have students, plus my own vehicle…even when many classrooms have a class registered to it for those hours. Since it doesn’t matter if anyone’s learning anything, and giving assignments is counter-productive to job security, I rather see the point of just letting students go early. I had integrity, thought I should adhere to my contract and legitimately try to help my students, and was punished for it repeatedly.

 

     Having faculty evaluators is important, and puts the burden on the accrediting agency to do its job, as it should be. The regulators at the accrediting agency need to see with their own eyes what is actually going on. There is so much bogus crap on accredited campuses, courses that absolutely are a waste of time and money for students, courses with minimal reading, minimal writing, laughable testing, and dubious lecturing, passing very happy students but accomplishing no real improvement in skills or gains in knowledge, and this is not even addressing “elective” courses that might well be of some value if minimal content. All of these shenanigans are covered up by institutions being allowed to self-report how great they are at what they do, not just in math classes or gender studies classes, but in all subjects.

     Accreditation is broken on many levels, and having educators, not administrators, determine if education is even being attempted is merely the start of it. Of course, this needs to be done carefully, but I’ll address that in more detail next time.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Porn Star Explains College. Almost.




By Professor Doom

     Certainly, there are students in college that are not very bright. They’re actually a minority, dwarfed by the number of loan scammers on campus. I’d like to think the majority of students are reasonably bright; it sure seems like it when I talk to the students that still come to class once the loan checks get mailed out.


     That said, most students are young, and even the bright ones don’t really understand what’s being done to them. Duke University student Miriam Weeks, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea of the student debt trap, and has made headlines for avoiding debt by making money in pornographic movies. I don’t necessarily approve of being a porn star, but still, she’s a smart girl to avoid those student loans.


     Actually, she’s an extra smart girl, because she applies what she’s learning in college. She sort of gets how pornography and college are the same:




     “Inelastic” is one of them $10 words, and I’m proud of her for using it; I bet she learned it in an economics class. Inelastic goods don’t respond to price—the amount sold is the same regardless of price. Insulin, for example, is inelastic (that’s the mnemonic I use when I cover this topic). The people that need insulin will pay no matter how expensive (in economic theory, anyway), and lowering the price isn’t going to increase sales (again, in theory).


        It’s a good start for a student, but she’s off a little bit here. Porn isn’t inelastic at all. Expensive pornography (live shows, for example, or prostitution) isn’t “purchased” nearly as much as free pornography (cf. “the internet”). There absolutely is more demand for porn at the lower prices. 


     Demand for porn, and college, is universal and strong, as she correctly notes. Pornography, however, has fallen in price remarkably, to the point that the porn industry is having real problems nowadays. With that falling in price has, I strongly suspect, come increased use. I doubt there’s any adult in the United States that hasn’t viewed at least a little pornography (“it’s free, after all”). When I was a child, however, not everyone watched “dirty movies”, much less did so regularly (or, perhaps I’m being na├»ve).


     Now, education is also widely available, and it’s widely in demand. Thing is, anyone always could just go to the library and read books to get an education.  There has always been a small segment of the population willing to do that.


    On the other hand, “paid for” education is another matter; it used to be not everyone wanted to go to college, although nowadays it seems to be everyone, even as higher education’s price just goes higher and higher.


     The article I took the quote from points out the massive amounts of money going to administration, and even notes “Congress lowered the standard undergraduate loan rate last year,…”, but fails to connect those dots.


     I will. Again. The reason tuition rises higher and higher is because the government just keeps shoveling more money at it. Reducing the loan rate is equivalent to just. Shoveling. More. Money. It’s the money, not the education, that’s being demanded here.


     Now, the budding porn star/student is at Duke University, one of the few institutions in the United States that is, mostly, legitimate. And it shows, right? She’s using things she learned there (many students taking the same courses I teach, but with different instructors, are never exposed to the concept of “inelastic”), and that will give her a big advantage when she enters the real world…and she’ll have a bigger advantage because, when she enters the real world, she won’t have a ton of student debt.


      On the other hand, many institutions are full-on bogus, or at least so much bogus that getting an education there is pretty dicey, and students that eventually limp away from those places will not have such an advantage. Instead, they’ll be four to six years older, and get a disadvantage of being saddled with a student debt to “pay” for all that “education” they received at the institution.


      So, at the risk of repeating myself: If you want an education just to get a job, and don’t think the occupation of “porn star” is for you, can I suggest University of the People, again? Just as accredited as everyone else but at 5% or less of the cost. At least look into it before enrolling in any other online school.

    



 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Common Core to Eliminate “White Privilege”?




By Professor Doom


     I’ve looked quite a bit at Common Core, and frankly I’ve been puzzled at the curriculum, which seems to ignore common sense, science, and basic respect for humanity.


     A reason for this aberration has been advanced by someone in a position to influence Common Core: as penance for his white privilege. Here’s a part of the very disturbing key quote:


“The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society, I’ve been given a lot of privilege that I didn’t earn…”



      I thought Common Core was about educating children, but this one man says otherwise. It’s not a one man show, and the shamelessness at which this guy says this gives me every reason to believe he said as much when he was talking to other Common Core bureaucrats. I bet these bureaucrats nodded their heads vigorously, and agreed with this point of view.


      This isn’t about education. It’s about a social agenda.


     I’m serious, watch the video and see with your own eyes. Also see with your own eyes as the crowd responds with disgust. It’s proper disgust, mind you, little different than when someone first starts smoking, and gags. Only with exposure does the body become accustomed to smoking, and only with exposure to this sort of ideology does the mind actually buy into “white privilege” without revulsion.


     I’ve certainly been lectured by “my betters” about how unfair things have been at times. I know, things have certainly been unfair in the past, there’s plenty of unfairness now, and I’ve been pretty blessed, no doubt about it.


     “Communism is very fair. It makes us all equally poor.”—attributed to a North Korean General
--there’s a certain ideology that, goshdarn it, just never seems to work out the way the believers think it will, no matter how utopian the social agenda.



     But is it really all about my being white, and male? Should we damn a generation of children, making them all illiterate and innumerate, just to eliminate the “white privilege” that is supposedly responsible for some children learning to read?



Around 40 years ago:
Dentist’s office: “We’re open Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm.”
My Mom: “Those are school hours, how am I supposed to take my son to see you?”
Dentist’s office: “Oh, parents just take their kids out of school.”
My Mom: “I’m not doing that. He can get through life without teeth, but he’ll never make it without an education.”
--My teeth are fine, by the way, Mom just got a different dentist for me. No, I didn’t earn having parents like this, but I am grateful, shouldn’t that count?

 
     I’m blessed, but that blessing didn’t come from being male, or being white. I had parents that cared about education, and didn’t allow anything to get in the way of that.


     Admin: “Your old boss, Mrs. XYZ, is leaving. Please welcome Mrs. XXX, your new boss.”


     I’m not really sure being male has been much of an advantage to me. I’m in a field, advanced mathematics, that, at my level, let’s face it, is very predominantly male. I don’t have the stats handy and it always depends on how you look at it…but any way you look at it, my students are nearly all male, my co-workers are nearly all male. On the other hand, for the majority of my career, my boss, the one who can fire me at whim, has been female. Even when my boss moves on, she is replaced by…another female, as though the position is reserved for that gender alone once a female has that position.


     It’s so weird to hear statistics about how “males occupy more than 50% of CEO positions and that shows gender bias” but I never, never, hear anything in the other direction. Ever.


--congratulations to her, it’s a major achievement. Hmm, why doesn’t the article mention there were three other winners this year, or even mention their names? Eh, life’s not fair, it’s not like Fields Medal recipients have ever been mentioned in mainstream media in prior years.


     I’m not complaining, however, at least about the gender of my bosses (I’ll happily complain about competence and integrity, or lack thereof), because, hey, life isn’t fair. Most alcoholics are male, too, after all, as are most people with serious genetic ailments, and most mass murderers. Life isn’t fair, like I said. That male privilege thing is overrated, in my opinion, even in “ideal” circumstances. In less than ideal?


     Admin: “The last open position had 250 qualified applicants. 5 were female. We offered the position to every female, they all turned it down, as they received better offers elsewhere. One of them had 11 different offers. We need to consider offering a hiring bonus to female candidates, because our position is still unfilled.”


     Because females are so rare in my field, admin trips over itself to hire them. Males simply need not apply if there are any females interested. Luckily, males still get hired, since there are so few females available. And, yes, many schools, so that there are more future applicants, have special programs to attract females into the field, with bonus offers. Males get nothing for being male.


      Admin: “We’re also opening up a new tenure track position with higher pay. There’s a specific minority candidate, already employed, that we’re hoping to lure away from [another university].”
     Faculty: “Has he indicated that he wants to come here?”
     Admin: “No, but he’s been here before. We want him back. We want minority representation here.”
--the thought that candidate was lured away by higher pay in the first place leads to a hysterical scenario: could he manage a pay raise by changing institutions every year? Can’t the two institutions work out a way to use the minority’s face and skin color on two sets of faculty rosters?

 
   Minorities, at least certain minorities (let’s just say “not Asian”), are also very under-represented in my field. A white male has basically no chance in a system that shows a disturbing favoritism towards, well, anything but a white male. Ok, “no chance” is an exaggeration, it’s more like “reduced chance” but I’ve certainly seen with my own eyes that, whatever “white privilege” that exists, certainly doesn’t exist in my field, and hasn’t for quite some time.


Admin, around 1986: “If a rejected candidate is female or minority, please fill out this special form explaining why the candidate is unsuitable for the position…”
--I can’t complain, I was warned very early on in my career that “my kind” was not particularly welcome in academia.

     And now, this noxious point of view that actually increases all the unfairness already in the world, is actually going to have an influence in Common Core? There are already mountains of evidence showing males are at a disadvantage in schools. It is completely irrational to make this bad situation worse.


     I’ve shown in the past how Common Core seems designed to create a generation of children that will approach basic mathematical thought, the very beginnings of rational thinking, with fear and confusion.

     This man believes that minority kids aren’t as smart as white kids so the standards have to be lowered in order for them to be able to read,” she said.
---some people get it, at least. There’s quintessential hypocrisy to this ideology that any clear thinker can see.


      Being incapable of thinking rationally seems core to the ideology that infests a certain segment of the population.


      So, yes, disgust and revulsion are absolutely the proper responses to Common Core, at least for parents that care about their children, and want them to succeed despite the unfairness of life, without adding to that unfairness.


     Common Core, as a means to advance an already failed social agenda, must be abandoned.


(and, feel free to search my blog for other Common Core commentary)