Monday, September 26, 2011

Obama Administration to Self Government: "Screw You."

In June of 2011, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the town of New Berlin Wisconsin, accusing them of housing discrimination. What egregious act of discrimination were they accused of committing? Did the local government in any way prevent any non-white individuals or families from purchasing or renting property within the town? No. Were any individual acts of discrimination conducted by private individuals or firms? No. The sole accusation is that due to public pressure, allegedly motivated by racism, the local government dropped plans to construct affordable housing. Town officials denied that race was a factor in the rejection of the project, instead presenting a list of 10 objections, centering on infrastructure, parking and fiscal concerns. Facing the prospect of a long and costly battle with the federal government, the town relented and agreed to move forward with the project.

While arguments can be made on the merits of promoting affordable housing; zoning and urban planning issues clearly should be decided by local communities. Some of the residents may be motivated by racism, but choosing to not pursue policies that will increase diversity or affordable housing is not tantamount to housing discrimination or racism. And while I personally would never choose to live in an ethnically homogeneous town or neighborhood, it is the right of others to do so, as long as they are not actively barring the entry of other individuals. So, by every measure, Attorney General Eric Holder and the federal government are greatly overstepping their constitutional boundaries.

It is particularly ironic that in 2009 Mr. Holder complained that America is a "nation of cowards," when it comes to discussing issues of race, because in no way was he seeking an open dialogue. Had a resident of New Berlin presented him with the concern that the growth of public housing is tied in with an increase in crime, it is doubtful that Mr. Holder would have engaged her in a free and honest discussion. And it is even less likely that Mr. Holder reviewed the research of Professor Phyllis Betts, that addresses this very question, to determine if the resident's concerns may be valid. Nay, in the era of political correctness, ideology always trumps fact and the power of the central government always trumps the rights of states and communities to practice self government.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Less Academics, More Narcissism?

Fantastic article by Heather MacDonald shows that even as the University of California stands to slash $650 million from their budget and substantially raise the cost of tuition, their vast diversity bureaucracy is growing in size and cost. Even in the face of systemwide budget shortfalls, the University of California at Berkeley's Vice Chancellor For Equity and Inclusion earns $194,000 per year and employs a staff of 17. The University of California at San Diego determined that it could not afford their Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering and various literature courses, while at the same time "mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation" meant to cultivate a "student’s understanding of her or his (ethnic, gender, sexual, etc.) identity." This is shocking for several reasons. First, to remain competitive in the global economy, the United States desperately needs more skilled computer engineers. Second, as Heather MacDonald correctly points out, historically, the purpose of a liberal arts education was not a narcissistic, narrowing study of one's own racial and gender group, but the quest to expand one's knowledge of the larger world via the study of the great writers, philosophers and artists.

July 18, 2011

Less Academics, More Narcissism
By Heather Mac Donald
Reprinted from City Journal.
California’s budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. “Our campuses and the UCOffice of the President already have cut to the bone,” the university system’s vice president for budget and capital resources warnedearlier this month, in advance of this week’s meeting of the university’s regents. Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.
Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augmentUC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.
It’s not surprising that the new vice chancellor’s mission is rather opaque, given its superfluity. According to outgoing UCSDchancellor Marye Anne Fox, the new VC for EDI “will be responsible for building on existing diversity plans to develop and implement a campus-wide strategy on equity, diversity and inclusion.” UCSD has been churning out such diversity strategies for years. The “campus-wide strategy on equity, diversity and inclusion” that the new hire will supposedly produce differs from its predecessors only in being self-referential: it will define the very scope of the VC’s duties and the number of underlings he will command. “The strategic plan,” says Fox, “will inform the final organizational structure for the office of the VC EDI, will propose metrics to gauge progress, and will identify potential additional areas of responsibility.”
What a boon for a taxpayer-funded bureaucrat, to be able to define his own portfolio and determine how many staff lines he will control! UC Berkeley’s own vice chancellor for equity and inclusion shows how voracious a diversity apparatchik’s appetite for power can be. Gibor Basri has 17 people working for him in his immediate office, including a “chief of staff,” two “project/policy analysts,” and a “director of special projects.” The funding propping up Basri’s vast office could support many an English or history professor. According to state databasesBasri’s base pay in 2009 was $194,000, which does not include a variety of possible add-ons, including summer salary and administrative stipends. By comparison, the official salary for assistant professors at UC starts at around $53,000. Add to Basri’s salary those of his minions, and you’re looking at more than $1 million a year.
UC San Diego is adding diversity fat even as it snuffs out substantive academic programs. In March, the Academic Senate decidedthat the school would no longer offer a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering; it also eliminated a master’s program in comparative literature and courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature. At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.” Training computer scientists to compete with the growing technical prowess of China and India, apparently, can wait. More pressing is guaranteeing that students graduate from UCSD having fully explored their “identity.” Why study Cervantes, Voltaire, or Goethe when you can contemplate yourself? “Diversity,” it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.
UC San Diego just lost a trio of prestigious cancer researchers to Rice University. Rice had offered them 40 percent pay raises over their total compensation packages, which at UCSD ranged from $187,000 to $330,000 a year. They take with them many times that amount in government grants. Scrapping the new Vice Chancellorship for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion could have saved at least one, if not two, of those biologists’ positions, depending on how greedily the new VC for EDI defines his realm. UCSD is not disclosing how much the VC for EDI will pull in or how large his staff will be: “We expect that [budget/staffing] will be part of the negotiation with the successful candidate at the end of our search process,” says Senior Director of Marketing and Communications Judy Piercey. Since the new UCSD vice chancellor will be responsible for equity, inclusion, and diversity—unlike the Berkeley vice chancellor, who is responsible only for equity and inclusion—the salary at UCSD will presumably reflect that infinitely greater mandate.
UCSD is by no means the only campus bullish on the diversity business, despite budgetary shortfalls hitting the UC system everywhere else. In 2010, Berkeley announced the UC Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, funded in part by a $16 million gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. The “new” initiative duplicates existing “equity” projects, not least the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, established by Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau in 2006. This latest initiative boasts five new faculty chairs in “diversity-related research”—one of which will be “focused on equity rights affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” according to the press release, and “will be one of the first endowed chairs on this subject in the UnitedStates.” (Sorry, Berkeley, Yale got there first.)
The main purpose of the UC Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion seems to be to buy for the academic identity racket the respectability that no amount of campus mau-mauing has yet been able to achieve. “Area studies such as ethnic studies, queer studies and gender studies tend to be marginalized and viewed as less essential to the university than such fields as engineering, law or biology,” glumly noted the press release. (The use of the term “area studies” to refer to the solipsist’s curriculum is a novel appropriation of a phrase originally referring to geopolitical specialization.) According to a campus administrator on the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative’s executive committee, the new initiative will change the character of Berkeley’s area studies by “asserting [sic] them squarely into the main life and importance of the campus.”
Conferring academic legitimacy on narcissism studies is apparently a superhuman task deserving of superhuman remuneration. The salary and expense account of the likely new director of the UC Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, John Powell—who is currently the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University’s law school—will likely dwarf anything seen so far among diversocrats, according to inside sources.
UCLA’s diversity infrastructure has likewise been spared the budgetary ax. In the pre-recession 2005–06 academic year, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for faculty diversity reported up the bureaucratic ladder to a vice chancellor for academic personnel, herself reporting to an executive vice chancellor and provost, who in turn reported to the university chancellor. Today, that associate vice chancellor for faculty diversity has been transformed into a vice provost position, while the vice chancellor for academic personnel above her has been eliminated. The new vice provost for faculty diversity will not be lonely; she can pal around with UCLA’s associate director for diversity research and analysis, its associate vice provost for student diversity, its associate dean for academic diversity, its director of diversity outreach, and its director of staff affirmative action.
The one observable activity performed by these lavishly funded diversity bureaucrats is to pressure academic departments to hire more women and minorities. (Even that activity is superfluous, given the abundant pressure for race and gender quotas already exerted by campus groups, every accrediting agency, and external political bodies.) Should a department fail to satisfy—as it inevitably will in every field with low minority participation—only one explanation is possible: a departmental or campus “climate” hostile to diversity, which then requires more intercessions from the diversity bureaucracy. The fact that every other college and university in the country is scouring the horizon for the identical elusive cache of qualified female and minority hires is not allowed into the discourse. Even less acceptable is any recognition of the academic achievement gap between black and Hispanic students, on the one hand, and white and Asian students, on the other, which affects the pool of qualified faculty candidates in fields with remotely traditional scholarly prerequisites. Student admissions offices are under the same pressure, which in California results in the constant generation of new schemes for “holistic” admissions procedures designed to evade the ban on racial and gender preferences that California voters enacted in 1996.
UC San Diego’s lunge toward an even more costly diversity apparatus was inspired in part by one of those periodic outbreaks of tasteless adolescent humor that every diversity bureaucrat lives for (and whose significance is trivial compared with the overwhelmingly supportive environment that today’s universities provide all of their students). But it was hardly out of character on a campus presided over by a chancellor fond of “social justice” rhetoric. And UC’s other campuses are equally committed to bureaucratic diversity aggrandizement, even without a pretext for accelerating those efforts.
This week, in light of a possible cut of $650 million in state financing, the University of California’s regents will likely raise tuition rates to $12,192. Though tuition at UC will remain a bargain compared with what you would pay at private colleges, the regents won’t be meeting their responsibility to California’s taxpayers if they pass over in silence the useless diversity infrastructure that sucks money away from the university’s real function: teaching students about the world outside their own limited selves. California’s budget crisis could have had a silver lining if it had resulted in the dismantling of that infrastructure—but the power of the diversity complex makes such an outcome unthinkable.
Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Ideological Litmus Test In University Hiring?

Daphne Patai, a Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst wrote an interesting article that explores some of the hiring guidelines, set forth by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. The questions that they list seek to determine an applicant's commitment to "social justice," "equity" and other issues. I am in complete agreements with Professorr Patai that questions that seek to gauge an applicant's ideological orientation, rather than their professional expertise are entirely inappropriate, especially in a public institution. Sadly the university has drifted away from its vital role as a center for free and open intellectual inquiry and exploration.

Enclosed are the actual questions used. Parentheses are used to indicate that one or more of the following words are missing: Minorities, Blacks, Hispanics, Native-American; Women; economically disadvantaged persons; disabled persons; veterans or disabled veterans; homosexuals, gays, lesbians; protected groups; affirmative action groups, etc.

How have you demonstrated your commitment to (____) issues in your current position?
Which of your achievements in the area of equity for (____) gives you the most satisfaction?
How would you demonstrate your concern for equity for (____) if you were hired?
In your opinion, what are the three major problems for (____) on your campus?
How are general issues in higher education related to (____) issues? What is the link?
Describe activities--include articles, interviews, and speeches--in which you have taken part that demonstrate a public commitment to equity.
In your current position, have you ever seen a (____ ) treated unfairly? How would/did you handle it?
In your current position, what is your relationship to the affirmative action officer? Have you ever sought his or her help in recruiting?
How many of the top people at your current or previous institution are (____ )? What did you do to encourage hiring more (____ )?
Which committee at your current institution would you consider the most powerful? How many (____) are on it? How many (____ ) have you appointed to it?
How did/would you deal with faculty members or employees who say disparaging things about (____)?
What scholarship about (____) have you read lately?
Have any students ever complained to you about sexual harassment or discrimination in any work with professors or staff? If so, how did you respond?
* Adapted from It's All in What You Ask, Association of American Colleges Project on the Status and Education of Women. Bernice R. Sandler, Project Director.

How Affirmative Action Punishes Asian-Americans and Other Groups

Very interesting article that meticulously analyzes the consequences of affirmative and how it in practice amounts to discrimination against Asian-Americans and other groups. This is demonstrated by the breakdown of average SAT scores in sample universities: African-Americans scored 1100, Hispanic-Americans scored 1230, European-Americans 1410 and Asian-Americans 1550. In other words, in the context of limited seats in a university, preferential admission policies clearly limited opportunities for Asian-Americans and European-Americans. The authors then went on to show that the quest to have a student body that "represents America's diversity" was very selective; little concern is expressed that ivy league schools are grossly unrepresentative of working class whites, southerners, observant Christians etc. Statistics indicate that being of  an economically modest or poor background did offer benefits from African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, it did not assist their European-American counterparts. And the author points out that in fact many of the black beneficiaries of affirmative are middle class African and Caribbean immigrants and their children, not poor and historically oppressed African-Americans. For this reason, look at affirmative as yet another progressive "feel good" measure that does little to benefit truly marginalized students. And within academia, the quest for diversity does not include attempts to expand the intellectual diversity of its student body by encouraging the admission of conservatives and other modern heretics.

July 12, 2010

How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others
By Russell K. Nieli
When college presidents and academic administrators pay their usual obeisance to "diversity" you know they are talking first and foremost about race. More specifically, they are talking about blacks. A diverse college campus is understood as one that has a student body that -- at a minimum -- is 5 to 7 percent black (i.e., equivalent to roughly half the proportion of blacks in the general population). A college or university that is only one, two, or three percent black would not be considered "diverse" by college administrators regardless of how demographically diverse its student body might be in other ways. The blacks in question need not be African Americans -- indeed at many of the most competitive colleges today, including many Ivy League schools, an estimated 40-50 percent of those categorized as black are Afro-Caribbean or African immigrants, or the children of such immigrants.
As a secondary meaning "diversity" can also encompass Hispanics, who together with blacks are often subsumed by college administrators and admissions officers under the single race category "underrepresented minorities." Most colleges and universities seeking "diversity" seek a similar proportion of Hispanics in their student body as blacks (since blacks and Hispanics are about equal in number in the general population), though meeting the black diversity goal usually has a much higher priority than meeting the Hispanic one.
Asians, unlike blacks and Hispanics, receive no boost in admissions. Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as the quota-like mentality that leads college administrators to conclude they may have "too many" Asians. Despite the much lower number of Asians in the general high-school population, high-achieving Asian students -- those, for instance, with SAT scores in the high 700s -- are much more numerous than comparably high-achieving blacks and Hispanics, often by a factor of ten or more. Thinking as they do in racial balancing and racial quota terms, college admissions officers at the most competitive institutions almost always set the bar for admitting Asians far above that for Hispanics and even farther above that for admitting blacks.
"Diversity" came to be so closely associated with race in the wake of the Supreme Court's Bakke decision in 1978. In his decisive opinion, Justice Lewis Powell rejected arguments for racial preferences based on generalized "societal discrimination," social justice, or the contemporary needs of American society as insufficiently weighty to overrule the color-blind imperative of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. That imperative, however, could be overruled, Powell said, by a university's legitimate concern for the educational benefits of a demographically diverse student body.
Virtually all competitive colleges after Bakke continued with their racial preference policies ("affirmative action"), though after Powell's decision they had to cloak their true meaning and purpose behind a misleading or dishonest rhetoric of "diversity." Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a critic of racial preferences, accurately explains the situation: "The raison d'etre for race-specific affirmative action programs," Dershowitz writes, "has simply never been diversity for the sake of education. The checkered history of 'diversity' demonstrates that it was designed largely as a cover to achieve other legally, morally, and politically controversial goals. In recent years, it has been invoked -- especially in the professional schools -- as a clever post facto justification for increasing the number of minority group students in the student body."
While almost all college administrators and college admissions officers at the most elite institutions think in racial balancing and racial quota-like terms when they assemble their student body, they almost always deny this publically in a blizzard of rhetoric about a more far-flung "diversity." Indeed, there is probably no other area where college administrators are more likely to lie or conceal the truth of what they are doing than in the area of admissions and race.
Most elite universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to the numbers of born-again Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and small-town areas, people who have served in the U.S. military, those who have grown up on farms or ranches, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, lower-middle-class Catholics, working class "white ethnics," social and political conservatives, wheelchair users, married students, married students with children, or older students first starting out in college after raising children or spending several years in the workforce. Students in these categories are often very rare at the more competitive colleges, especially the Ivy League. While these kinds of people would surely add to the diverse viewpoints and life-experiences represented on college campuses, in practice "diversity" on campus is largely a code word for the presence of a substantial proportion of those in the "underrepresented" racial minority groups.
The Diversity Colleges Want
espenshade.jpgA new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford is a real eye-opener in revealing just what sorts of students highly competitive colleges want -- or don't want -- on their campuses and how they structure their admissions policies to get the kind of "diversity" they seek. The Espenshade/Radford study draws from a new data set, the National Study of College Experience (NSCE), which was gathered from eight highly competitive public and private colleges and universities (entering freshmen SAT scores: 1360). Data was collected on over 245,000 applicants from three separate application years, and over 9,000 enrolled students filled out extensive questionnaires. Because of confidentiality agreements Espenshade and Radford could not name the institutions but they assure us that their statistical profile shows they fit nicely within the top 50 colleges and universities listed in the U.S. News & World Report ratings.
Consistent with other studies, though in much greater detail, Espenshade and Radford show the substantial admissions boost, particularly at the private colleges in their study, which Hispanic students get over whites, and the enormous advantage over whites given to blacks. They also show how Asians must do substantially better than whites in order to reap the same probabilities of acceptance to these same highly competitive private colleges. On an "other things equal basis," where adjustments are made for a variety of background factors, being Hispanic conferred an admissions boost over being white (for those who applied in 1997) equivalent to 130 SAT points (out of 1600), while being black rather than white conferred a 310 SAT point advantage. Asians, however, suffered an admissions penalty compared to whites equivalent to 140 SAT points.
The box students checked off on the racial question on their application was thus shown to have an extraordinary effect on a student's chances of gaining admission to the highly competitive private schools in the NSCE database. To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550. Here the Espenshade/Radford results are consistent with other studies, including those of William Bowen and Derek Bok in their book The Shape of the River, though they go beyond this influential study in showing both the substantial Hispanic admissions advantage and the huge admissions penalty suffered by Asian applicants. Although all highly competitive colleges and universities will deny that they have racial quotas -- either minimum quotas or ceiling quotas -- the huge boosts they give to the lower-achieving black and Hispanic applicants, and the admissions penalties they extract from their higher-achieving Asian applicants, clearly suggest otherwise.
Espenshade and Radford also take up very thoroughly the question of "class based preferences" and what they find clearly shows a general disregard for improving the admission chances of poor and otherwise disadvantaged whites. Other studies, including a 2005 analysis of nineteen highly selective public and private universities by William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil, and Eugene Tobin, in their 2003 book, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, found very little if any advantage in the admissions process accorded to whites from economically or educationally disadvantaged families compared to whites from wealthier or better educated homes. Espenshade and Radford cite this study and summarize it as follows: "These researchers find that, for non-minority [i.e., white] applicants with the same SAT scores, there is no perceptible difference in admission chances between applicants from families in the bottom income quartile, applicants who would be the first in their families to attend college, and all other (non-minority) applicants from families at higher levels of socioeconomic status. When controls are added for other student and institutional characteristics, these authors find that “on an other-things-equal basis, [white] applicants from low-SES backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, get essentially no break in the admissions process; they fare neither better nor worse than other [white] applicants."
Distressing as many might consider this to be -- since the same institutions that give no special consideration to poor white applicants boast about their commitment to "diversity" and give enormous admissions breaks to blacks, even to those from relatively affluent homes -- Espenshade and Radford in their survey found the actual situation to be much more troubling. At the private institutions in their study whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers. When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability). Having money in the family greatly improved a white applicant's admissions chances, lack of money greatly reduced it. The opposite class trend was seen among non-whites, where the poorer the applicant the greater the probability of acceptance when all other factors are taken into account. Class-based affirmative action does exist within the three non-white ethno-racial groupings, but among the whites the groups advanced are those with money.
When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.

Poor Non-White Students: "Counting Twice"
The enormous disadvantage incurred by lower-class whites in comparison to non-whites and wealthier whites is partially explained by Espenshade and Radford as a result of the fact that, except for the very wealthiest institutions like Harvard and Princeton, private colleges and universities are reluctant to admit students who cannot afford their high tuitions. And since they have a limited amount of money to give out for scholarship aid, they reserve this money to lure those who can be counted in their enrollment statistics as diversity-enhancing "racial minorities." Poor whites are apparently given little weight as enhancers of campus diversity, while poor non-whites count twice in the diversity tally, once as racial minorities and a second time as socio-economically deprived. Private institutions, Espenshade and Radford suggest, "intentionally save their scarce financial aid dollars for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students." Quoting a study by NYU researcher Mitchell Stevens, they write: "ultimate evaluative preference for members of disadvantaged groups was reserved for applicants who could be counted in the college's multicultural statistics. This caused some admissions officers no small amount of ethical dismay."
There are problems, however, with this explanation. While it explains why scarce financial aid dollars might be reserved for minority "twofers," it cannot explain why well-qualified lower-class whites are not at least offered admission without financial aid. The mere offer of admission is costless, and at least a few among the poor whites accepted would probably be able to come up with outside scholarship aid. But even if they couldn't, knowing they did well enough in their high school studies to get accepted to a competitive private college would surely sit well with most of them even if they couldn't afford the high tuition. Espenshade and Radford do not address this conundrum but the answer is easy to discern. The ugly truth is that most colleges, especially the more competitive private ones, are fiercely concerned with their ratings by rating organizations like U.S. News & World Report. And an important part of those ratings consist of a numerical acceptance rate (the ratio of applicants received to those accepted) and a yield score (the ratio of those accepted to those who enroll). The lower the acceptance rate and the higher the yield score the more favorably colleges are looked upon. In extending admissions to well-qualified but financially strapped whites who are unlikely to enroll, a college would be driving both its acceptance rate and its yield score in the wrong direction. Academic bureaucrats rarely act against either their own or their organization's best interests (as they perceive them), and while their treatment of lower-class whites may for some be a source of "no small amount of ethical dismay," that's just how it goes. Some of the private colleges Espenshade and Radford describe would do well to come clean with their act and admit the truth: "Poor Whites Need Not Apply!"
Besides the bias against lower-class whites, the private colleges in the Espenshade/Radford study seem to display what might be called an urban/Blue State bias against rural and Red State occupations and values. This is most clearly shown in a little remarked statistic in the study's treatment of the admissions advantage of participation in various high school extra-curricular activities. In the competitive private schools surveyed participation in many types of extra-curricular activities -- including community service activities, performing arts activities, and "cultural diversity" activities -- conferred a substantial improvement in an applicant's chances of admission. The admissions advantage was usually greatest for those who held leadership positions or who received awards or honors associated with their activities. No surprise here -- every student applying to competitive colleges knows about the importance of extracurriculars.
But what Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call "career-oriented activities" was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."
Espenshade and Radford don't have much of an explanation for this find, which seems to place the private colleges even more at variance with their stated commitment to broadly based campus diversity. In his Bakke ruling Lewis Powell was impressed by the argument Harvard College offered defending the educational value of a demographically diverse student body: "A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer. Similarly, a black student can usually bring something that a white person cannot offer." The Espenshade/Radford study suggests that those farm boys from Idaho would do well to stay out of their local 4-H clubs or FFA organizations -- or if they do join, they had better not list their membership on their college application forms. This is especially true if they were officers in any of these organizations. Future farmers of America don't seem to count in the diversity-enhancement game played out at some of our more competitive private colleges, and are not only not recruited, but seem to be actually shunned. It is hard to explain this development other than as a case of ideological and cultural bias.
This same kind of bias seems to lurk behind the negative association found between acceptance odds and holding leadership positions in high school ROTC. This is most troubling because a divorce between the campus culture of its universities and its military is poisonous for any society, and doesn't do the military or the civilian society any good. The lack of comfort with many military commanders that our current president is said to have seems to be due not only to his own lack of military experience but to the fact of having spent so many of his formative years on university campuses like Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, where people with military experience are largely absent and the campus culture is often hostile to military values and military personnel.
In an attempt to find out what kind of diversity exists -- or doesn't exist -- on the Princeton University campus, I once asked students in a ten-member discussion group to raise their hands if they knew one or more Princeton undergraduates who had served a year or more on active military duty (in the late 1940s or early 1950s, of course, undergraduates at Princeton would have encountered legions of such people coming back from WWII and the Korean War). I made it plain that I wasn't asking if the students had a close friend or roommate who was a veteran, just a single person with military experience that they had at sometime encountered during their Princeton undergraduate careers. Only one student -- a female -- raised her hand: this student once met someone who had served in the Israeli military. On a second occasion I asked this question to a larger group and again only one hand went up -- this student once met a Princeton undergraduate who had served in the Turkish military.
Many universities, including Princeton, are interested in enrolling foreign students, along with students from disparate regions of the U.S. But the more competitive private universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to people who have served in the American military or people who intend to make a career out of military service. Even if they don't shun such people, or hold their military service or aspirations against them, they clearly don't seek them out or court them the way they do "underrepresented" racial minorities. And while many universities host college-level ROTC programs (often for financial reasons), the military/civilian relationship on campus is usually far from amicable.
Military veterans and aspiring military officers, like poor whites and future American farmers, are clearly not what most competitive private colleges have in mind when they speak of the need for "diversity". If nothing else the new Espenshade/Radford study helps to document what knowledgeable observers have long known: "diversity" at competitive colleges today involves a politically engineered stew of different groups. drawn from the ingredients selected by reigning campus ideology. Since that ideology is mainly dictated by the Left, it is no surprise that the diversity achieved is what the larger American landscape looks like when it is viewed through a leftist lens. I suggest a different approach: elite colleges should get out of the diversity business altogether and focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn. These students should make up the bulk of their entering classes. Call it the Cal Tech Model since the California Institute of Technology seems to be the only elite institution that comes close to realizing such an ideal. Or call it the U.S. Olympic Team Model, or the Major League All-Stars Model, since it is based on the same strict merit-selection principle governing our Olympic sports teams and our major league baseball all-star teams. Let the diversity chips fall where they may and focus on recruiting the most intelligent, most creative, and most energetiic of the rising generation of young people. In my naive way this is what I always thought elite universities were supposed to be about.
Russell K. Nieli received his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Princeton University and currently works for Princeton's James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has been a lecturer in Princeton's Politics Department and for ten years was an academic adviser to Princeton freshmen.

Why The New Title?

My readers are probably wondering why I have changed the title of our blog from the Chicago Freedom Forum to the Chicago Freedom And Reason Forum. Reflecting on prior posts, I came to realize that a reoccurring theme is the flawed reason, divorced from experience and empirical truth behind most unsound policies. And I have come to see that unconstrained freedom, not tempered by reason and moderation leads to libertinism and disorder which engenders social, economic and political authoritarianism. Only with reason and truth can freedom be maximized, can liberty be sustained.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Super Sloppy Award: Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda

I came across a review of Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Associate Proffesor of Chicano Studies, report that seeks to project the economic impact of legalizing vs deportating Los Angeles's and California's population of undocumented immigrants. Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform is noteworthy because it a series of dramatic claims on the economic benefits of legalization and the costs of deportation. The most stunning claim is that deportation would cost the State of California $301.6 Billion and legalization would offer  at least $ 32.3 billion in benefits. Here is a summary of the figures:

In general, any research that presents a policy as being overwhelmingly positive or negative, evokes my natural sense of skepticism. So, I decided to read the full text of his research and found that it was methodologically sloppy and more conceptual holes that a Swiss Cheese Factory! Here are but a few of the problems that I came across:

1. While he is correct that reducing the population of any given locality  would shrink it's GDP, he does not ask the more important question of how it would effect Los Angeles's and California's  per capita income.

2. He does not ask what connection (if any) does California's (largely) immigration fueled population increase have with its high cost of living and taxation and general quality of life.

3. Nowhere in the research is the cost of government services (medical, education, infrastructure, etc.) weighed against the economic benefits that undocumented immigrants offer. And while Dr. Hinojosa-Ojeda is correct to assume that legalization would increase gross tax revenues, he does not consider that  legalization would make millions of individuals eligible for additional government services, which would impose added costs on the public. Whether this will offer net benefits or impose net costs on the public I am uncertain.

4. The built in assumption in his paper that legalized workers would enjoy dramatic increases in income are based on figures generated from the amnesty of 1986, which is highly problematic because our current economic climate is vastly different. Needless to say, relative to the late 1980's, unemployment is greater, wages are in decline (especially for low skilled workers) industries (like construction) that heavily employ immigrants are in dire straights and the supply of low skilled immigrant labor is far greater. And of course the number of individuals enjoying a 2011 amnesty would be considerably larger. After weighing the said factors,  the optimistic wage increases that Dr. Hinojosa-Ojeda's projects are extremely doubtful.

5. Another even more problematic assumption is:

"the wages of native-born workers also increase under the comprehensive immigration reform scenario because the “wage floor” rises for all workers—particularly in industries where large numbers of easily exploited, low-wage, unauthorized immigrants currently work. Wages for native-born U.S. workers increase by roughly $162 per year for the less skilled and $74 per year for the higher-skilled."

I do not know of any antecedents in which an increase in the supply of labor in a particular sector of the economy resulted in an increase in a general increase in wages. In addition this does not factor in the increase in the costs of goods and services that would occur IF wages were to increase for (formerly) undocumented workers. 

6. A more serious study would present the question of how employers that currently utilize undocumented workers would respond if they were legalized. The economic benefits and competitive advantage of undocumented labor arises from the lower labor and regulatory costs that they offer employers. Legalization would drive the cost of their labor to the levels of their documented counterparts, which would result in an increase in unemployment and / or the infusion of new undocumented workers to take the place of those who "existed the shadows of the black market."

7. When discussing the benefits of the 1986 Amnesty, he fails to consider its costs. Namely, the fact that the amnesty was followed by a huge increase in undocumented immigration. 

8. When the professor presents the high cost of apprehending undocumented immigrants, he neglects to consider that there may be more cost effective and humane means of enforcement than border control, such as E-Verify.

9.  He claims that the "declining birth rates in Mexico will likely accomplish what tens of billions of dollars in border enforcement clearly have not: a reduction in the  supply of migrants from Mexico who are available for  jobs in the United State."  This is problematic because it does not consider that given the continued wage disparities between Mexico (not to mention Central and South America) and the United States, the desire to legally and / or illegally immigrant to the United States will remain.

10. Dr. Hinojosa-Ojeda's most farcical claim is that "enforcement only policies perpetuate unauthorized migration," implying that the only way to combat undocumented immigration is by increasing the level of legal immigration. Given the crushing poverty that exists in much of Latin America (not to mention Africa, Asia and the Middle East) the demand to immigrate to the United States by any means will always outstrip the number of available visas. And the underlying philosophical notion that by legalizing an act we make it desirable is an act of juvenile sophistry.

11. While he is correct that the removal of undocumented labor from Los Angeles and California would lead to very costly economic dislocations, he does not consider that just because a locality is heavily dependent on an economic activity does not mean that it offers a net benefit. For example, if the the drug trade were eliminated, countless Mexican banks and legitimate businesses would go under due to the loss of billions and billions of laundered narco-dollars, yet no one in their right mind believes that narco-trafficking offers a net benefit to the people of Mexico.

12. In considering the costs of the deportation scenario, he does not consider any possible benefits, like perhaps some of the many unemployed legal immigrants and native born workers would fill some of the vacant jobs.

13. The professor does not ask the obvious question of how American workers with the same mean skill level as their undocumented counterparts fare in the economy? Do they offer net costs or benefits to the municipalities in which they arise? This is essential given the fact that this will help us predict the impact that adding millions of individuals to the ranks of legal residents (with full access to government benefits) will have on financial state of California.

14. On a much broader and deeper level, he does not consider fundamental questions like:

Has our systematic failure to enforce existing immigration laws eroded the rule of law in the United States?

How are the second and third generation descendants of undocumented faring socially and economically?

What connection (if any) does California's demographic shifts have in its deplorable economic and fiscal state?

Relative to other cities and states that have experienced less pronounced demographic shifts, how does Los Angles and California fare?

I do not want to disparage Dr. Hinojosa-Ojeda, but  his failure to consider the fairly obvious questions that I laid out would seem to indicate that his research is driven more by an activist impulse rather than by the search for truth. Chicano Studies is a valid area of academic exploration, but like other ethnic studies departments, it is heavily influenced by advocacy and activism. Of course, it is almost always noble to advocate on behalf of a cause or a group, but in many cases it is incompatible with intellectual honesty and  the unbiased quest for knowledge. Hence, it makes a poor foundation for the creation of good public policy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Brief Reflections on Food Stamps

Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal documented the record increase in the use of Food Stamps. Since 2007, use has increased by 59% until nearly 1 in 7 Americans is a recipient and the costs have more than doubled. I will start by saying that this is not a black-and-white issue. On one hand, I am thankful that the safety has expanded to protect Americans during a severe economic downturn. On the other hand, this development poses troubling economic and cultural  implications and should invite serious questions, each of which merits at least a separate article:

Distribution of Expenditures: There are many frugal and responsible families whose income is insufficient to  purchase basic food items; they clearly merit food assistance. However, there are also many cases in which the problem is not total income, but distribution of expenditures. In other words, their systemic  purchase of non-essential items have left them unable to purchase food and other essential goods and services. For example, previous section-8 tenant of mine had a flat screen TV, cable, Nintendo, a leather couch and other such items. In such cases, government assistance indirectly amounts to a subsidy of luxury items. A more frugal and conscientious government would declare that those purchasing luxury items would be ineligible for federal assistance. In practice, this may be difficult to administer, but it would be nice if some government administrators at least acknowledged the necessity of greater vigilance. 

Subsidy of Injudicious Food Selection: During a particularly slow month of business, I judiciously reduced my food expenditures, which actually led to an improvement in the quality of my diet. To start off with, I cut back on red meat, condiments and processed foods (like sugary breakfast cereals) and shifted to affordable fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish. This leads me to believe that a certain percentage of recipients could afford food on their own and improve their health if they reformed their food purchase patterns. Here is a brief sample of healthy, affordable dishes that could last a family of 4 for nearly a week for only $58.57. In these examples, I am using and Aldi's to generate the price of items:

-16 oz. bag of dry lentils for $1.59.

-1 lbs of cauliflower for $0.98.

-salad: lettuce $1.69, 2 onions  $1.98, 3 tomatoes $1.48 and if we factor in home made dressing $6.00.

-two 8 packs of Aldi's  tilapia for $9.98.

-8 cans of sardines for $12.00.

-a dozen eggs for $2.29.

-cooking oil for $1.79.

-salt for $1.50.

-42 oz. of oatmeal for $3.99 for 42 oz. and 1 gallon of milk for $2.99, total of $6.98.

-5 lbs of grapefruit for $5.99.

-10 bananas for $3.90.

-and to show I am not heartless we can throw in a pack of cookies for $4.99

This comes to $57.99, add in the 1% sales tax for food in Cook County and the grand total is $58.57.

Long Term Expansion of Entitlement Addiction: Nearly 50% of children and 91% of children in single parent households are expected to receive food stamps sometime before their 20th birthday. I am confident that over time this will lead to an ever larger number of Americans who will receive their livelihood through government assistance. In no way am I calling for the elimination of safety nets. Rather, I urge our "leaders" and the electorate to be cautious about swelling the ranks of those who dependent on the state. Expanding the number of net tax consumers, while increasing the number of net tax producers is a recipe for further expanding our already ballooning national debt. And eroding the next generation's sense of self sufficiency and industry does not bode well for the cultural and spiritual health of the nation.

Disregarding National Sovereignty

The governments of Mexico and 9 other nations are suing the State of Georgia in a federal court over its immigration law HB 87. Shame on President Obama and any other politician who has chosen to remain silent in this violation of our sovereignty.  The issue is not the wisdom of the law itself, which I have yet to determine, but the right of the American People to resolve these questions without foreign interference. Even American organizations that are partaking in the lawsuit, such as the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, should unequivocally state that although they oppose this law, it is a question that should be resolved via the electoral and court system. And having read the Mexican Constitution, I would encourage our government to enact the principles of Article 33, which states that "Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country." In other words, while non-citizens are entitled to civil rights and due process, it is not their place to protest or seek to change the laws of the land. But, perhaps this is the inevitable result of the American Government's continuous interference in the internal affairs of other nations, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and much of Latin America. Disregard the sovereignty of others for long enough and you shall soon disregard your own. The writer Steve Sailer best described the ideology that has dominated the American Government for decades as "Invade the World, Invite The World."

Message To My Readers

I am pleased that there has been a sharp increase in readership of our blog as demonstrated by the stats function on this site. I would be very pleased if those who enjoy or are angered by our posts signs up as a follower. And you are always welcome to post commentary and questions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Or, literally "pardon me, I am a big jackass...I cannot control the idiotic things I say and do."

During my time in office I have:

Threatened to demolish a Turkish - Armenian Friendship Statue.

Note from author - I am still very fond of the majority of Turkish people and Turkish culture.

Who Are The Real Extremists?

Pictured Above: Noted "Extremist" Rand Paul

When Rand Paul proposed $500 billion in budget cuts he was decried by many as "radical" or "extreme." But, given the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projects a $1.5 trillion federal budget deficit in 2011, the real radicals are the "moderates" who support the unsustainable fiscal status quo. On one side we have Republicans who refuse to raise revenue, on other side we have Democrats who resist serious budget cuts and entitlement reforms, together they form an ugly tag team who will body slam future generations with massive debt.

Conservatives and the Environment

Indeed there are some (so called) conservatives like Michelle Bachmann who appear to be completely indifferent to environmental issues. I do not believe that they are representative of the majority. I and most other conservatives are concerned about the environment, but simply believe that we cannot look at it as an issue of absolutes, but as one in which we must careful consider costs and benefits and competing goods, in order to forge wise policies. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlights this reality. On one hand, who can deny the benefits of imposing more stringent environmental restrictions on Illinois's coal power plants? Who doesn't want cleaner air? Who doesn't want a reduction in green house gases? On the other hand, the  regulations may lead to an increase in the cost of electricity by 40% - 60%, which will pose a heavy burden on Illinois's poorer residents. And we can be certain that higher energy costs will dissuade manufacturing plants to remain in, yet alone relocate to Illinois. In determining the best course of action, we must carefully weigh these costs and benefits, rather than unconditionally commit ourselves to any principle, be it "the free market" or "the environment."

Consumers' electric bills likely to spike as coal plants close

As stricter environmental regulations approach, some power generators are choosing to shutter their coal-fired plants.

June 11, 2011

By Julie Wernau, Tribune reporter

Consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years.

The reason: Pending environmental regulations will make coal-fired generating plants, which produce about half the nation's electricity, more expensive to operate. Many are expected to be shuttered.

The increases are expected to begin to appear in 2014, and policymakers already are scrambling to find cheap and reliable alternative power sources. If they are unsuccessful, consumers can expect further increases as more expensive forms of generation take on a greater share of the electricity load.

"Each generator will have to decide for itself whether the investment required to meet environmental requirements can be justified based on its projection of market prices and the cost of its capital. In any case, those costs will be passed through to consumers," said Mark Pruitt, director of the Illinois Power Agency, which procures electricity for Illinois.

American Electric Power, one of the country's largest coal-burning electricity generators, said Thursday it will retire nearly a quarter of its coal-fueled generating capacity and that it will spend up to $8 billion to retrofit remaining units to meet regulations that start taking effect in 2014. Those moves will have an impact.

"The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling,'' AEP Chairman and CEO Michael G. Morris said.

Exactly how much bills will go up is unclear.

What analysts know is that a portion of ComEd bills that pays electricity generators to reserve a portion of their power three years into the future will increase more than fourfold. That would translate into increases of $107 to $178 a year for an average residential customer in ComEd's territory, starting in 2014, according to calculations by Chris Thomas, policy director for consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board.

In 2014 those so-called capacity costs are expected to add approximately $2.7 million over the previous year to electricity bills in Chicago Public Schools, $3.3 million for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and $5.4 million to the city of Chicago, according to an analysis by Tenaska, a Nebraska-based power development company that wants to develop a coal-fed power plant in central Illinois that would meet stringent regulations because it would capture and sequester emissions.

Coal-fired plants historically have been one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity, but operating costs are expected to increase significantly because of upgrades needed on older plants to meet new environmental regulations. The Illinois Power Agency estimates that by 2017 the energy portion of bills could jump 65 percent from today's rates.

Coal plants that account for roughly a fifth of Illinois' electricity generation could exit the market as a result of the new emissions rules, the Illinois Power Agency told state legislators in a memo last month.

More than 8,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity has been retired in the U.S. since 2005, according to data from industrial software company Ventyx. Generators have announced they plan to retire another 21,000 megawatts in the near future, and some industry consultant studies estimate 60,000 megawatts of power, enough for 60 million homes, will be taken offline by 2017.

One example of the trend is Dominion Resources' recent announcement that by 2014 it will close State Line Power Station, an outmoded coal-fired plant sandwiched between Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyway at the Illinois-Indiana border.

The news comes as consumer advocacy groups are fighting a parade of utility rate hikes, along with legislation that could add an extra 2.5 percent to ComEd bills each year for at least the next three years. ComEd customers paid 30 percent more for their electricity in 2009 than 10 years earlier. ComEd, a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., serves 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population.

While coal plant operators have years to plan for new regulations, the first glimpse into future pricing came May 13. That's when the PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission system that oversees the electric grid for 54 million customers in 13 states, including the ComEd region of Illinois, held its annual auction for future power needs. The auction locks in supplies of electricity three years in advance to prevent massive power outages.

PJM chooses the lowest-cost blend of power that can meet demand expected during peak hours — the hottest days of the year when air conditioners are blasting.

Ethnic Diversity & Public Investment

Pictured Above: Harvard Economist Alberto Alesina

I find it fascinating that so many liberals are so focused on celebrating and promoting diversity, yet so few show an interest on exploring its concrete social and economic impact. I am not troubled by their conclusion, because indeed it could be argued that the United States' increasing diversity offers us net benefits. My concern is that anyone who only presents the benefits of a phenomena, without making an effort to identify possible cons and costs, is either guilty of negligence or intellectual dishonesty. Before we continue, I must emphasize that we are not seeking to assess the relative worth or social and economic impact of any particular group; rather, the essential question is how (if at all) does (relative) homogeneity and diversity impact the economic and social welfare of a nation?

In his work, Ethnic Diversity And Economic Performance, Harvard Economist Alberto Alesina  analyzed data from rural and urban settings in both "developed" and "underdeveloped" nations and sought to determine real and measurable economic pros and cons of diversity. He starts by proposing that while diversity does not appear to effect economic outcome in the private sector, it does lower the willingness or ability of communities and nations to invest in the public good. In the book "Fighting Poverty in The US and Europe: A World of Difference", Alesina and his co-author Edward Glaesser expands upon this research and conclude that: 

"the redistribution gap between the United States and Europe could best be explained by America’s greater ethnic heterogeneity and more conservative political institutions. Countries with more ethnic diversity generally spend less on social programs."Or, more specifically, in more homogeneous communities and nations, tax payers are generally more willing to contribute a higher portion of their wealththe most homogeneous. And predictably, as the aforementioned European nations have become more diverse, the willingness of the electorate to support the welfare state has declined, as demonstrated by the surge in conservative parties in recent years.

When I presented these findings to a progressive associate of mine, his response was "that's atrocious, they should support social welfare, regardless of how diverse their nations have become...a Swede should should consent to high taxation regardless if the beneficiaries are Swedes or Somalis!" I wholeheartedly agree, however as any economic will tell you, good government policy cannot be based on how people should behave, but how they do behave. Progressives should take heed, because it would appear that over the long run, the two social goods they support, diversity and a generous welfare state, may not be fully compatible.