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  • Corruption in Academia

    Posted by Shannon Love on March 4th, 2005 (All posts by )

    I have come to the conclusion that contemporary academia, at least within the humanities, has become just plain corrupt.

    Corruption might seem to be too strong a word, but what else does one call it when we have a group of individuals who have taken money and assumed positions under false pretenses? After all, when a person assumes the position of judge he implicitly states that he will try to decide impartially between competing cases based on the standards of law. If we find out that the individual in fact always intended to rule for one case over the other we would call that judge corrupt.

    Likewise, we created universities to be places of teaching, research and intellectual inquiry. Implicit in the assumption of the role of a tenured professor is the obligation to struggle to be open minded and objective. We pay professors to honestly investigate problems and try to provide answers. If we find out that professors already believe they have all the answers, and that they view their positions as mere soapboxes for their own political beliefs, well, then that is corruption.

    This is clearly what has happened to modern universities in the humanities. Mike Rosen (via Instapundit), writing on Ward Churchill, quotes Richard Rorty, a professor of philosophy in the comparative literature department at Stanford and editor of the Leftist magazine Dissent, as saying:

    “The power base of the Left in America is now in the universities, since the trade unions have largely been killed off. The universities have done a lot of good work by setting up, for example, African-American studies programs, Women’s Studies programs, and Gay and Lesbian Studies programs. They have created power bases for these movements.”

    Anyone who has spent the least amount of time conversing with or observing academia knows that Rorty’s assessment is completely accurate. Leftist ideologues have hijacked our institutions of higher learning and most leftists regard this as a positive development. The rest of us must ask: Do we fund our institutions of higher learning so that they can be the power base of the radical political Left, or is this clearly a corrupt abuse on the part of the Left?

    I think it is an abuse of power and office that must be corrected by any means necessary. Once the institutions have become internally corrupted they cannot heal themselves. Outside intervention is required.

    Just as a biased judge isn’t functionally a judge, a politicized professor isn’t functionally a professor. Just as we remove judges who are proven to be systemically biased, we should remove professors proven hopelessly politicized. A college professor who can not conduct analysis save within the boundaries of an intense political ideology is useless to the larger society in the best case, and a positive danger in the worst. We task them to analyze ideologies, not to advance one ideology over the other.

    The concept of academic freedom only applies to those honestly using that freedom in the fulfillment of the office granted them. Those who cynically misuse that freedom should have it revoked. I think it is very clear that many, many members of academia have abandoned their responsibilities and have whored themselves out to politics. In doing so, they have lost all claim to the protection of academic freedom. They should be called to account. If that comes in the form of political intervention in public institutions then so be it. As unpleasant a prospect as it is, such political intervention has proven to be the only means of insuring public integrity in the long run. We must root out this corruption before it destroys the humanities.

    It is time for an audit of academia.

     

    30 Responses to “Corruption in Academia”

    1. David Foster Says:

      Part of the reason this has been happening is the soft and squishy nature of so much that is now being taught in universities. It’s doubtful that one could get away with politicizing a course in Strength of Materials or even with totally politicizing Thought of Aristotle or Medieval History..there is an actual *subject matter* and it would be obvious that it wasn’t being taught. But when the discipline itself is basically made up, then anything goes…

    2. Ginny Says:

      Yes – How is a course in, say, the feminist department, not political? But this also derives from a lack of respect for the subject. I have tried to google to confirm my memories, which may be off, but I think I took a first generation romantics course in 1966 when my teacher managed Ted Sorensen’s unsuccessful run for governor. He was not happy the day after the election, but neither then or any other time did he give us a “walk”; politics were never mentioned. (Someone else told me about the campaign – so I may have it confused.)Imagine that happening now.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      David Foster,

      I think you are correct. Much of what passes for knowledge in the Humanities is actually just mere opinion. This means that an individual scholar advances by conforming to the judgment of their superiors (as students) and then their peers (as professors). This creates a furious pressure towards group think.

      I think it is clear that the unaccountability of academia has led to its corruption. They need some kind of external checks and balances.

    4. john Says:

      Corrupt or an anachronism? We no doubt need the best of the traditions of humanistic thought to have their place in all our disciplines, including the sciences; but do we still need a lot of research (as opposed to undergraduate schooling) professors in the humanities churning out nonsense books that no one reads just because the system says they have to pretend to be intellectual innovators (a conceit which is rewarded with all the nonsense “progressive” politics/scholarship)?

      We will, to my mind, always need more histories, but do we need all these supposed specialists in one or another branch of popular/marginal cultural studies to replace the old specialists in the high cultural traditions that have largely come to an end in the arts (though I hope, of course, that high cultural values can survive in our humanistic discourse beyond the arts)? Isn’t it time to return more of the culture to the amateurs/journalists/blogos/scientists, with only a handful of professors kept on in the humanities to be rewarded for their ability as generalists who synthesize human self-understanding, or anthropoligical knowledge, by drawing on the greatest works, not works whose only claim to fame is their victimary status?

    5. Richard Heddleson Says:

      It is not just the Humanities. Clearly the Social sciences have slid left. And to what extent is it involved in the junk science behind Global Warming?

      Gaining control of public institutions may not be so easy. For Penn State less than 10% of the total budget and 25% of the General Funds Budget comes from appropriated funds. Thes egos in charge of these institutions have been running open loop so long that an imposition of controls and accountability without a massive conflict is unthinkable.

    6. Ginny Says:

      Okay – I guess this is hitting too close to home. But my criticisms do not mean that I don’t think every day I have something important to give my students: a) a critical eye on their writing and close examination of other’s writing so that they can learn to communicate – what is more important in a democracy? b) close critical reading of texts that discuss the great old verities (okay, we’e getting rid of that great text in our freshman comp class, but I can xerox, bring in the classics) and lead them to examine their assumptions (which often are blank slate, noble savage, capitalism bad, etc.). c) When I teach American lit I’m giving them their heritage – ah, these are the words and the arguments that defined what being an American was then and, in many ways, still is. But, I feel lucky. I’m paid fine – but if I were paid less, I’d be happy, too. I’m not entitled to make as much as someone who works an 80-hour week and takes big risks every day. But I do feel lucky to do what I do. (And I think I can speak for my husband, who feels lucky to stand in front of his students and talk about Jane Austen and Matthew Arnold, George Eliot and Tennyson.)

      We do have something to offer–it is our rich and wonderful tradition, it is the skills of writing and reading well. It is just bigger and older and less narrow than specialized classes in, say, Ben Hur. (One of my daughters took a 15-week, honors course in Ben HUr – yes, they watched 3 movies and 2 cartoons, etc. etc.) What we have to offer includes writing and the great books. My daughters learn language and bring their literature to us. That, too, is a wonderful gift.

      It is not just subject matter, however, that is the problem – it is tone. And it isn’t just political – though that is a lot of it. Bitterness, irony, a sense of entitlement. These lead to much that is wrong in academic circles.

      I suspect you do think students need to learn to read closely and write well. That is what we can give them. We just seldom do. And, yes, the peer pressure is intense because it isn’t like anyone is discovering the key to the universe–our insights aren’t always replicable.

    7. David Foster Says:

      Part of the problem here is corporations which do their entry-level hiring based on university “brand” without bothering to see exactly what is behind the brand, in terms of specific coursework. Maybe there needs to be a Buyer’s Guide to Universities and Degree Programs which would give managers some idea what they’re getting when they hire someone with Degree X from University Y.

      Mike Hammer, who I think is one of the better management consultants, has developed some very provocative thoughts on education for business, and particularly the role of the liberal arts…I’ve summarized them here:

      Link

    8. LotharBot Says:

      ” when the discipline itself is basically made up, then anything goes… “.

      Nothing more needs said…

    9. James R. Rummel Says:

      He was not happy the day after the election, but neither then or any other time did he give us a “walk”; politics were never mentioned.

      Last year I took a course in ancient Greek warfare. The professor would saya few sentences about Thermopylae, then complain about the Bush administration. He’d say a few sentences about the 300, then he’d complain about our invasion of Iraq. He’d say a few sentences about the size of the Persian force opposing the Greeks, then he’d declare that free elections were impossible in Iraq.

      Got old fast.

      Then I took a basic astronomy course. The professor spent two weeks of a 9 week course discussing greenhouse gas buildup and global warming, with the clear message that disaster was about to befall us all due to evil industry and Western society. He justified it by spending one day talking about conditions on Venus, without mentioning that Venus has a siginificant greenhouse effect because it has 12 times the atmospheric density of the Earth.

      That got old fast.

      People rightly focus on the softer sciences (sociology, anthropology) as being corrupted by Leftist ideology. The point I’m trying to make is that it seems to have creeped into just about every discipline represented at our universities. I mean, if a professor thinks he’s justified in spewing political Leftspeak in a science class, then I have to agree with Shannon on this one. There’s got to be better ways to spend our money.

      James

    10. Ginny Says:

      James, I would say the juxtaposition of our two posts is an interesting key to why we weren’t liberated but rather trapped by “sixties think” (which was really post 68 or so think). When I returned on my master’s (70-71), a student in my Milton class insisted on reading the death toll from the New York Times at the beginning of class each day. And the teacher of 17th century poetry said he didn’t want to come to our class because he would influence our readings of Donne and Herbert. Between 66 and 70 something important was threatened – indeed, in many classes, lost.

    11. TM Lutas Says:

      A national university corruption index is certainly in order. What’s being talked about here is a very specialized form of theft and fraud. When you claim to be a university, you have to be faithful to the university tradition. Spewing about Kyoto in an astronomy class does not qualify.

      Would you want to give money as an alumnus to a corrupt university? Would you want to give a research grant to a corrupt university? Would you want to continue to work for a corrupt university, even if you were identified as one of the good guys in the institution? Labeling is quite important and reclaiming our intellectual life will not be fully accomplished until Universities are, once again, true to their mission, to be open to all viewpoints but to impose nothing but rigor and fidelity to truth.

    12. Engineer Bob Says:

      So. I have mixed feelings. Yes, I agree that academic freedom has been systematically perverted in universities in the humanities.

      But, academic freedom is easy to loose. If disagreeing politically with some other political power base (like us good guys in the anti-idiotarian movement) is grounds for dismissal, then how can honest inquiry ever work? There is no freedom to never be offended. Just about all modern knowledge came from surprises, and offended the power base at the time. (Most surprises, of course, are just bogus. But a few are crucial.)

      But, still. Freedom to talk must go with freedom to refuse to listen. Freedom to work on a topic must go with freedom to refuse to fund that work.

      How much does it cost to keep a tenured academic in chips and beer? That is, the primary cost of a scholar today is living expenses and broadband internet access. Perks beyond that don’t have to be to be given to the tenured as far as I can see. Pay extra for concrete deliverables, like lectures actually given, authored textbooks actually purchased, research grants actually obtained (with results openly (freely) published on internet). Secretaries / Administrative Assistants are not needed. An office on campus is not needed. Reserved parking is not needed. Grad students aren’t needed, although profs should be paid for grad student mentoring.

      What is the Net Present Value of the financial commitment given to Ward Churchill? He may be letting them off cheap at $10M. Tie in the currently obvious reduction in the university’s brand value, and it may be a real deal.

    13. Engineer Bob Says:

      A national corruption index is interesting.

      I have a daughter going to college next year, probably in the humanities.

      I’m concerned about the PC and postmodern aspect. These destroy effective thinking, in my view.

      I’m concerned about the Women’s Lib aspect. This looks different from the other side of the predator / prey relationship.

      My older daughter took perhaps half a dozen years to recover from the college world into a social role that she is happy with.

    14. Michael Blowhard Says:

      What a great idea. You know all those “best colleges” special issues and special reports and books? How about a “worst colleges” report that blows the whistle on PC, thought-control, excessive politicizing, bullshit departments and subjects, etc? Places where kids brains are certain to be chewed up, and whose brainwashings are certain to take years to shake?

      Any volunteers to run such a project?

    15. Digito Society Says:

      Time for an Audit of Academia?

      Shanon Love wonders if it is time for an audit of academia. Why? Because academia — espeically the liberal arts — are corrupt:
      we created universities to be places of teaching, research and intellectual inquiry. Implicit in the assumption of the ro…

    16. Horst Graben Says:

      National Review has been touting a book on selecting a university to reduce the potential brainwashing.

      LINK

      My kids are nearly done with university and have been hardened against the leftist, regressive anti-freedom vomit that passes for higher learning. Some of these indoctrination “ism” classes are now required, so there is no getting out of it in some cases. According to my kids, most just throw back the vomit and get a easy A. This allows more time for study of real subjects. Both are in science and engineering, there is no way we would have supported them in a humanities major.

      While the situation is disgusting, the loons are fighting a losing battle while their targets mostly ignore them… except those that are in school to become public employee union members.

    17. Carol Herman Says:

      Panic not. Professor Sykes, more than a decade ago, pulled the rags off our eyes. And, most college kids know the truth. Just a right of passage to sex and beer.

      In one story Sykes told, about Harvard, in 1905, when only rich boys of 18 were sent there (since they’d never have to do an honest days work in their lives, anyway) … had a system where attendance wasn’t taken in class.

      So one very rich dad walked into the president’s office and SCREAMED! How come his son was earning “A” grades, when he was really in Havana, drinking beer and having sex with prostitutes!

      College 101. “Get a life.” And, they start this process by mixing it up in coed dorms. Sometimes, they teach stuff, too.

      And, sometimes, a shy kid like Bill Gates just leaves and starts a business. You’ve heard of him?

    18. Kevin Fleming Says:

      In reading Hayek’s Challenge : An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek by Bruce Caldwell I came across this historical comparison.

      In the first decade of the 20th century, Max Weber was a critic of German higher education, publishing a dozen articles on academic politics. He ridiculed the supposed “freedom to teach” in universities. From page 86:

      “He pointed out that, in order to get a position in a German university, one had to kowtow to the proper authorities and to pass litmus tests on one’s ecclesiastic and political background. Once in a teaching position, however, one could say whatever one wanted.”

    19. Kevin Fleming Says:

      In reading Hayek’s Challenge : An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek by Bruce Caldwell I came across this historical comparison.

      In the first decade of the 20th century, Max Weber was a critic of German higher education, publishing a dozen articles on academic politics. He ridiculed the supposed “freedom to teach” in universities. From page 86:

      “He pointed out that, in order to get a position in a German university, one had to kowtow to the proper authorities and to pass litmus tests on one’s ecclesiastic and political background. Once in a teaching position, however, one could say whatever one wanted.”

    20. Miguel Says:

      Here in Mexico, youngsters DON NOT LIVE IN THE UNIVERSITIES. They go to a near-by U. and live with their family, at least a huge percentage of them, the rest live in boarding houses and the like. I have the impression that taking the kids so young outside of the family’s ambiance and exposing them to the absolute and indisputable control of teachers, elder students, and the whole U. atmosphere, has a lot to do with making it a lot easier to indoctrinate them. Over here, most kids keep a permanent contact with their families all through the U. years, so they are less influenced by the PC Sturm Steiffel.

    21. Miguel Says:

      Schutz Steiffel that is, got the wrong freaks first.

    22. Allan Says:

      This reminds me of something Robert Conquest said in one of his books about it being worse to be miseducated than uneducated.

      I graduated from a major state university many years ago before PC became what it is today, and felt that I was cheated out of an education. I can only imagine how bad it is today. In my own case, I was fortunate enough to be able to work across the street from a major public library, and so was able to make up for some of what I missed by doing my own self directed “pretty good but not great” books program.

      A lot of the kind of audit and index info mentioned here is on the internet. although not quite in the form of an audit or index. For example, Noindocttrination.org, Erin O’Connor’s (Critical Mass) archives, the National Association of Scholars forum. There’s also a book on the internet called University Secrets that has some useful info.

      One problem with the kind of index people are talking about here is that it would tend to oversimplify what is really a multi-dimensional situation because so many agendas are involved within the university. So talking about corruption in this context strikes me as using a vague term when what’s involved is really more specific and more complex. Some of the corruption might just be incompetence.

      My kids are too young for college, but I’m concerned about what’s going to happen if they want a humanities degree.

    23. Ken Says:

      “My kids are too young for college, but I’m concerned about what’s going to happen if they want a humanities degree. ”

      My kids will pay for college, whatever their degree. That should encourage them to pursue one where they have a decent chance of showing a profit, whether or not they’re still listening to me at that point.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if at that point (some 10 years away, unless they study ahead) college degrees generally don’t show a profit like they did for previous generations. In which case, they’ll be smart not to go, and hopefully in command of enough math and econ to figure it out.

      “I have the impression that taking the kids so young outside of the family’s ambiance and exposing them to the absolute and indisputable control of teachers, elder students, and the whole U. atmosphere, has a lot to do with making it a lot easier to indoctrinate them.”

      They’re not that young. They just seem that way because of our unfortunate custom of sheltering them and overprotecting them throughout their childhood.

      The best thing I can think of to do is let them pay their own way, so that the profit motive leads them away from the most egregious crap, then trust their essential laziness to keep them from voting until they actually learn something. (Of course, this allows old people to keep ripping them off, but they’ll actually vote in favor of that if they vote before they’ve done that learning.)

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      I can’t help but notice that as the politicization of the Humanities has increased the market value of a degree in the Humanities has rapidly decreased.

      The Humanities used to focus on teaching people not what to think but rather how to think. They focused on teaching people the methodologies of reason and discoursed. Post-60’s the Humanities became viewed by the professorship as indoctrination camps. Every field was packaged up in Leftist ideology and then crammed down their students throats. Indeed, they show an absolute terror of having contradictory ideas presented at all.

      As a consequence, people in the Humanities can no longer think as they once could. Once a degree in the Humanities meant you had survived intellectual boot camp and could take on all comers. Once you could take a person with a Humnities degree and drop them into almost any circumstance and they could master it because they had learned to the mental skills that could be applied to any circumstance. Now it means you can regurgitate the intellectual equivalent of “you want fries with that?”

      It is no wonder that our nation’s coffee shops and bookstores are staffed by bitter people with post-graduate degrees. They believe themselves to be so educated because they can regurgitate by rote what all “the smart people know” but they can’t themselves actively solve problems. The difference between what they believe to be their proper station in life and their actual ability to produce must be emotionally wrenching.

      If this continues, the Humanities will simply implode because nobody will value the degree save the rich and idle.

    25. Ginny Says:

      Shannon,
      I think there is a movement within the academy – small, but real. Relatively conservative, religious, or merely interested in the Great Books tradition grad students are quietly seeking others with similar visions. I’d say these are still majors that can discipline the mind in that way – to try to find the pattern in the carpet, to understand human nature through understanding literature. But the road ahead is going to be difficult; those in authority don’t see purpose to what they do and it makes them as bitter as the Starbucks English grad student.

      But we still do love what we do: parents Engl. phds, daughter, husband & boyfriend: ABDs in German, linguistics, and Czech; daughters majoring in French, linguistics, American Studies, Czech & religion. Yes, there have been a lot of bull shit classes–more than when their parents went through–but they have learned to love these subjects. All the politics in the world can’t take away the pleasure of great literature or the insights from learning a language different than your own or going over historical documents from another place & another time – seeing how we’ve changed and how we’ve remained the same through history.

      I wouldn’t argue that you are wrong but the subject matter is bigger than the jerks who try to minimize its power today. I really don’t think they are going to win out in the long run.

      By the way, in 1967 I graduated and got ten cents over minimum wage an hour for my library job for a B.A. in Engl. We didn’t think, then, that it made us “hireable” – it was just that we didn’t care. Our education had given us something – mastery of our discipline, analytic thinking, close reading – we’d have our whole lives. Sure some of us went into law – but mostly we saw that liberal arts education as an end in itself rather than a means. And few of us were sorry about that choice.

    26. David Foster Says:

      “It is no wonder that our nation’s coffee shops and bookstores are staffed by bitter people with post-graduate degrees”…indeed, what we have seen is the creation of an “intellectual lumpenproletariat”..people who are basically unemployable for important jobs because of their lack of skills and/or their attitudes toward work, but who at they same time have been led to believe that they are members of some kind of elite. I suspect it is largely from these people that the left-wing rage in our society springs. Coincidentally, I was thinking of doing a post on this topic earlier today..

    27. Mole News Says:

      Corruption in Academia

      Little bit information here…

    28. Prof. M. Millman Says:

      LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, is a scandal waiting to explode. You are invited to visit http://www.Laguardiacorruption.com to see the effect of administrative corruption on education and, in particular, how political cronyism and anti-Semitism destroyed the Mathematics Department. With more than 75,000 visits to date, the website aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers, elected officials and news media in the NYC vicinity.

    29. Tyouth Says:

      Two factors may be at the root of the failure of higher education.

      It may be that the overwhelming sentiment in this country that “a college education leads to greater economic success” combined with the desire of the the universites to put “asses in the seats” (And, like all bureaucracies, the goal tends to shift from getting the job done efficiently to increasing the size of the bureacracy).

      This has led to huge institutions of higher learning with deflated learning rates.

    30. Prof M. Millman Says:

      LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, is a scandal waiting to explode. You are invited to visit http://www.Laguardiacorruption.com to see the effect of administrative corruption on education and, in particular, how political cronyism and anti-Semitism destroyed the Mathematics Department. With more than 78,000 visits to date, the website aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers, elected officials and news media in the NYC vicinity.