Posts Tagged ‘colleges and universities’

Federal credit-reporting law may cover profs’ student recommendations

Now this is just bizarre: the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act is so loosely written that it may threaten professors with liability related to their writing of some student recommendations. In particular, the FCRA may apply if the recommendation ventures beyond direct experience, such as the student’s performance in class, to other pertinent information such as jobs the student may have held. In that case the professor or college might be legally obliged to furnish certain notices to students, which few or none currently do.

As a practical matter, because “the FCRA was designed to protect consumers from misconduct of credit bureaus and users of their information, it contains various protections that don’t fit well in the world of law school recommendations. For example, under 15 USC § 1681e, law schools would have to ask recipients of the recommendations (judges?) to certify certain things about their use of the information. Employers who based a decision at least in part on a recommendation would have to provide certain notices to the student, 15 USC § 1681m, after which students could obtain certain information from the school under 15 USC § 1681g. And so on.” [Jeff Sovern, Consumer Law and Policy]

Higher education roundup

  • Harvard lawprof Ronald Sullivan Jr. driven from post as faculty dean of a residential house at the university after student protests of his representation of Harvey Weinstein [Jeannie Suk Gersen, New Yorker; Dianna Bell, WBUR; and for a different perspective Tyler Cowen] Stuart Taylor, Jr. has some questions about Harvard’s investigation, on charges of sexual misconduct, of noted economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. [Real Clear Investigations] 30 protesters rush the stage, ending Harvard President Lawrence Bacow’s speech: “The heckler’s veto has no place” [Robby Soave, Reason]
  • Rules mandating gender quotas in hiring committees at French universities may have backfired, as “committees affected by the quota were significantly less likely to hire women” [Chris Woolston, Nature]
  • Maryland lawmaker proposes collective bargaining for student athletes [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • “…and suggested that Plaintiff obtain an expensive genetic test to see if she could qualify as Native American or American Indian to garner better chances of being accepted to” the professional school [John S. Rosenberg, Minding the Campus] Families of wealth and standing have special reason to dislike standardized testing. But they’re quite good at dressing up their resentments as progressive [Daniel Friedman, Quillette]
  • “Does Yale Law School’s Antidiscrimination Policy on Subsidies for Student Employment Discriminate on the Basis of Religion? [Ilya Somin, who concludes that it doesn’t]
  • This year, as every year, checking the line-up of commencement speakers provides a handy way to size up the Forces of Unanimity on the American campus [Keith Whittington]

Free speech roundup

  • Turkish economist “Snatched at Night, Questioned for ‘Insulting’ Erdogan” [Asli Kandemir and Taylan Bilgic, Bloomberg News] “Croatian journalists stage protest against abusive lawsuits” [IFEX]
  • SCOTUS has made clear that First Amendment generally bans government from “retaliat[ing] against a contractor… for the exercise of rights of political association.” That should doom Los Angeles ordinance requiring contractors to disclose ties to National Rifle Association (NRA) [Eugene Volokh]
  • “How Regulation Cripples Online Political Speech” [Cato Daily Podcast with attorney Allen Dickerson with the Institute for Free Speech; related on unconstitutional Maryland law] License to chill: New Jersey bill would require disclosure of donors involved in “providing political information on any candidate or public question, legislation, or regulation” [Emily Kelchen, Federalist Society]
  • Alabama publicity rights law trips up documentary series with focus on deceased man [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • “Libel Case Can’t Be Litigated with the Alleged Libel Sealed, Says Federal Court” [Volokh]
  • “Why Is the Fight for Free Speech Led by the Psychologists?” [Scholar’s Stage] From last year, another review of Keith Whittington’s book on academia, Speak Freely [James Stoner; earlier here, here]

Campus speech roundup

  • At UCLA as elsewhere, pledges and obligatory statements about diversity threaten academic freedom [Robert Shibley, Minding the Campus, Paul Caron/TaxProf, Christian Schneider, New York Post, earlier]
  • 2019, 1673, whatever: By calling ourselves “inclusive,” Cambridge explains, we mean “there is no place here for” those who fail to accept key tenets of faith and morals [Robby Soave] He “had just chosen to move from Australia, the country where he earned his degrees and spent most of his career, to China. Why? Because, as a researcher, he has more freedom in China.” [Peggy Sastre, Quillette] Heresy hunts in American academia aren’t exactly new, consider what happened fifty years ago to once-lauded “culture of poverty” anthropologist Oscar Lewis [Bryan Caplan]
  • Remarkable glossary of terms “intended to structure and referee conversations on campus” circulates at Amherst College, whose Office of Diversity and Inclusion has a staff of 20, more than one for every hundred of the institution’s 1800 students [Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal via Christina Sommers] University of Michigan has at least 82 full-time diversity officers at payroll cost of $10.6 million, a sum would cover full in-state tuition for 708 students [Mark Perry on Twitter] At the University of Texas, diversity-related staffers cost $9.5 million annually [Derek Draplin, College Fix]
  • Some conservatives do their bit to undermine academic freedom when they try to get professors fired for bad speech unrelated to teaching and scholarship [David French, Robby Soave]
  • Law schools debate whether to be even more ideological, although the product of the academy is supposed to be knowledge rather than activism [John McGinnis responding to Samuel Moyn] Outcry after Emory Law School suspends professor who had uttered racial slur in context of critically describing others as using the slur [Paul Caron/TaxProf, more]
  • Rhode Island student drummed out of state college for not advancing “value of social and economic justice” can take his case to a jury, rules state’s high court; Cato Institute had filed amicus brief on his behalf [Ilya Shapiro and Patrick Moran]

Schools and childhood roundup

  • Stop active-shooter drills in schools: “Preparing our children for profoundly unlikely events would be one thing if that preparation had no downside. But in this case, our efforts may exact a high price.” [Erika Christakis, The Atlantic] “Lockdowns and active-shooter drills have led to officers firing blank rounds to simulate live fire, mock executions of teachers, and students tearfully writing out wills while hunkered down. …Last year, The Post reported an estimate that the odds of a child being fatally shot while at school any given day since 1999 was 1 in 614,000,000.” [Jonathan Blanks, Washington Post/Cato]
  • After ordeal with Child Protective Services based on drug test fluke, Western New York mom “is certain of one thing, she’ll never eat a poppy seed again.” [WROC]
  • Answer: no. “Should access to a public education be a constitutional right for all children?” [Jessica Campisi, Education Dive; Mark Walsh, Education Week, covering AEI debate on holding of 1973 Supreme Court case of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez against such a federal right]
  • Pay attention to the politics of schools of education, because they help determine what you’ll see in the classroom down the road [Jay Schalin, Martin Center] More: University of Washington’s Secondary Teacher Education Program “is a 12-month immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism.” [Quillette]
  • “The Regressive Effects of Childcare Regulations” [Cato video with Ryan Bourne]
  • “Court revives Obama-era rule that incentivizes racial quotas in special ed” [Liam Bissainthe]

No, the college admissions scandal doesn’t serve to justify racial preferences

My new piece for Real Clear Policy examines and rejects the argument that the college admissions scandal retrospectively validates the use of racial preferences in college admissions.

If racial preference in college admissions is unjust, it doesn’t magically become just because people identify some other injustice that has different beneficiaries.

Many of those arguing that the admissions scandal somehow vindicates racial preferences seem unaware that Singer repeatedly falsified students’ ethnicities to get them into affirmative action categories….

If you’re an applicant who doesn’t fit in *either* the celebrities-and-cheaters pool or the racial-preference pool, things definitely aren’t somehow canceling out. You’re competing with other families like yours for an artificially small number of remaining admission seats….

Public universities should not discriminate by race, especially not on the excuse that someone managed to game the system on other grounds. Two injustices do not add up to one justice.

Higher education roundup

  • Oops! “Tulane sophomore unknowingly named as plaintiff in lawsuit over college bribery scandal” [John Simerman, New Orleans Advocate] “Admissions scandal class action is ‘fascinating’ but likely doomed – experts” [Alison Frankel, Reuters] Plus advice from Ken at Popehat;
  • Some problems with the idea of a sweeping presidential order to decree free speech on campus — and a promising if more modest step the White House could take instead [Donald Downs, Cato] Two more views on how universities can “fend off outside intervention and, more importantly, be true to their own mission… [by] nurturing a better free speech culture” [Keith Whittington, parts one and two; John McGinnis]
  • “‘If racial preference [in college admissions] is unjust, then it doesn’t magically become just because people notice some other injustice that has different beneficiaries,’ Olson said. ‘Two things can be unjust at the same time, and two injustices do not add up to one justice.'” [John Blake, CNN, quoting me on the argument that the admissions scandal somehow proves preference advocates’ case]
  • Harvard lawprof and residential dean Ronald Sullivan under fire for defending unpopular figures facing MeToo charges
    [Randall Kennedy, Chronicle of Higher Education; Conor Friedersdorf (quoting HLS prof Janet Halley: “Finally, the ‘climate survey’ technique is a dangerous precedent as a matter of employment rights and as a threat to academic freedom. It’s a thinly veiled version of the heckler’s veto.”)]
  • The Snuggle is real: very long list of demands by Sarah Lawrence students occupying campus building includes consistent access to detergent and fabric softener [Sarah Lawrence Phoenix; Pamela Paresky, Psychology Today] Rather more seriously, the students demand the college reconsider the tenure status of a professor who published a mildly conservative op-ed in the NYT [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed]
  • Even if occasionally subverted by dishonest actors, standardized tests remain the gold standard among transparent, objective ways to improve the accuracy of college success prediction [Jenna A. Robinson, Martin Center]

College admissions scandal: “most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time.”

For 20 years I’ve been writing about how the gaming of disability diagnoses in schools helps affluent families. And I was hardly alone: in 2004 Craig Lerner wrote a paper entitled: “‘Accommodations’ for the Learning Disabled: A Level Playing Field or Affirmative Action for Elites?” There hasn’t been much interest in fixing things.

Now test accommodations have surfaced as one key theme in the big and colorful new college-admissions scandal. “Particularly glaring in the 204-page indictment is that the majority of the children, whose parents were charged Tuesday, had seamlessly secured disability accommodations on their standardized tests. This enabled them to have additional time on the exams and to take them alone with the proctor at a private testing facility that was located, in some cases, thousands of miles from the test-takers’ residences.” [Michelle Robertson, SFGate/New Haven Register] More: Akira Olivia Kumamoto, Sacramento Bee; FBI affidavit on new scandal; Doree Lewak, New York Post last year on accommodations.

Environment roundup

  • “Everything would be all renewable all the time if we could just pass the right laws.” The wishful underpinnings of the Green New Deal [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Regulation Magazine editor Peter Van Doren]
  • “The U.S. rail system is optimized for freight, vs. European and Japanese systems that are optimized for passengers (it is hard to do both well with the same network). The U.S. situation is actually better, much better, for energy conservation.” [Coyote]
  • Federalist Society discussions of climate litigation based on public nuisance theories: National Lawyers Convention panel with David Bookbinder, Eric Grant, James Huffman, Mark W. Smith, moderated by Hon. John K. Bush; “Originally Speaking” written debate with John Baker, Richard Faulk, Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, David Bookbinder; Boston Lawyers Chapter panel on municipal litigation with Steven Ferrey, Phil Goldberg, Donald Kochan, James R. May, Kenneth Reich] Climate nuisance suits have met with an unfriendly reception in American courts and there is no good rationale for filing copycat claims in Canada [Stewart Muir, Resource Works]
  • “Public Universities Exploit Eminent Domain Powers with Little Oversight” [Chris West, Martin Center]
  • Many pro-market reforms would reduce the risks to life and property from natural disasters, climate-related and otherwise [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “On patrol with the enforcer of DC’s plastic-straw ban” [Fenit Nirappil/AP via Peter Bonilla (“Welcome to the worst ride along ever”)]

Higher education roundup

  • The less you know: new push to “de-bias” faculty recruiting by removing CVs and interviews from the process [John Morgan, Times Higher Ed/Inside Higher Ed on developments in Britain]
  • “You Can’t Make This Up: A Speech Code that Investigates Students for Discussing the Freedom of Speech” [University of South Carolina: Ilya Shapiro and Patrick Moran on Cato certiorari brief in Abbott v. Pastides]
  • “Sokal Squared” hoax runs into IRB (human subjects review) issues at Portland State, and it’s more complicated than you might think [Jesse Singal, New York]
  • “A Liberal Case for DeVos’s Reforms” [Lara Bazelon, New York Times] After initial resistance, ACLU moving to acknowledge merit of some objections to Obama-era Title IX procedure [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic] Attorneys general from 18 states plus D.C. sign letter arguing against presumption of innocence for students accused under Title IX [same]
  • “Anti-Koch group tries to get hummus banned from university in BDS effort” [Zachary Petrizzo, The College Fix]
  • Monopoly bargaining privileges for faculty: vindication and hope after Janus [Charles Baird, Martin Center]