Thursday, March 31, 2016
Universities like Emory trivialize education by rewarding politically correct student dictators.
If I were to offer one piece of advice to university presidents, it would be to watch the scene from The Social Network in which Harvard President
Larry Summers tells the Winklevoss twins to grow up and stop complaining about the actions of other students. “This action,” says Summers, “the two of you being here, is wrong.”
That’s precisely the response that university presidents should give to students who come, claiming fear and trembling, to see university presidents because they’re unhappy with the speech of other students. Instead, all too often, these students are indulged in a way that the Winklevoss twins were not, with consequences for the university, for higher education — and, actually for the complaining students themselves — that are likely to prove disastrous.
The latest example of this phenomenon can be found at
Emory University in Atlanta.
At Emory, students of the “social justice” variety were upset when someone chalked ”Trump 2016” on sidewalks. The students announced that they felt “fear” and “pain” as a result. The students challenged the administration; one student demanded that it “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate.” According to TheEmory Wheel, another student complained: “I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe (here). But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school.”
Emory President James Wagner at first showed a bit of resistance, but quickly caved, promising to identify and discipline the authors of the offending pro-Trump writings.TheEmory Wheel reported, "The University will review footage 'up by the hospital [from] security cameras' to identify those who made the chalkings, Wagner told the protesters. He also added that if they’re students, they will go through the conduct violation process, while if they are from outside of the University, trespassing charges will be pressed."
As New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal wrote, this response was “extremely creepy, and a sign that something has gone seriously wrong.”
Writing in The Atlantic,Conor Friedersdorf noted that this sort of embarrassing student “activism” is actually fueling Trump’s rise. And as Reason’s Robby Soavecommented: “No wonder so many non-liberal students are cheering for Trump — not because they like him, but because he represents glorious resistance to the noxious political correctness and censorship that has come to define the modern college experience.”
But Friedersdorf makes another point, one that college presidents should keep in mind: The Emory protesters managed to fill a conference room and meet with Emory President James Wagner, but they don’t actually represent the feelings of Emory students overall. He observes: “On Yik Yak, a social media app popular among college students in large part because it permits anonymous speech, the Emory student reaction to the chalk controversy wasn’t mixed, as often happens when one views that platform during a campus controversy. It was clearly, overwhelmingly antagonistic to the student activists.”
Freed from a fear that student “activists” — and their allies in the university’s Student Life and
Diversity offices — might punish them, students expressed their true feelings, and they demonstrate that the “activists” are a small, unrepresentative slice that is being indulged at the expense of the university as a whole. (This is probably why so many campus administrations and activists don’t like Yik Yak: It allows students to express themselves without fear of repercussions.)
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
And indulging those activists is dangerous to universities because it makes them ridiculous. As Friedersdorf also notes, Emory and its “fearful” students were widely mocked, even in the liberal press. And they deserved to be mocked, because their behavior was childish and silly.
Higher education already faces falling enrollments, reduced public support and a general decline in public esteem. In Connecticut, the state legislature is even looking attaxing the enormous endowment of
Yale University. Universities used to be revered, but now, as Walter Russell Mead writes, “From the point of view of much of the public, highly-endowed colleges are becoming an underperforming asset: The feeling is growing that elite fat cat universities are an expensive luxury, and that the money spent propping up their endowments would be better spent buying school lunches for needy kids, or topping off up the pensions of retired civil servants.”
When students at Emory University — annual cost of attendance, $63,058 per year — act so foolishly , and worse, are indulged by those who are supposed to supply adult guidance, it gives the appearance that higher education is largely a waste of societal resources. That’s not a good place to be, right now.
University presidents, take note.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
It's wrong to write off the Donald asa cartoonish narcissist. There's more to him than that.
Many commentators are convinced they know the real Donald Trump. He is, they think, so obviously shallow, insecure and garish that single descriptive words or phrases are all that is needed.
He is, take your pick: “the Last of the Great Vaudevillians,” the “king of bad taste in a country that loves bad taste,” a “comic-opera demagogue.” Or, more seriously, a “con artist,” “a fascist,” “the latest in a long line of demagogues,” or a “bullying thug.”
Most of these characterizations are little more than name-calling masquerading as analysis.
Consider Trump’s “narcissism.” There is the brash and indisputably ostentatious display of his wealth. That’s coupled with a self-proclaimed vocabulary of his accomplishments that seems limited to superlatives. This has given rise to a cottage industry of pundits who think they have plumbed Trump’s supposedly shallow emotional depths with a single, misapplied clinical term.
The hallmark of someone with a “narcissistic personality disorder” is “an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.” This seems like a definition tailor made to fit Trump, and many, without further reflection, have used it that way.
Don’t Trump’s repetitive superlatives — “huge,” “great,” “biggest,” “wonderful” — all reflect his inflated self-importance? Doesn’t his branding of everything from steaks to towers reflect his need for admiration? Don’t his repeated and often personal attacks on his rivals and opponents show a lack of empathy?
No. No. And yes, although it’s more complicated than that.
Business conducted at his level of play requires ambition, risk-taking, resilience, and the capacity to fight back — just like national politics. Trump’s broadsides are a signal that if attacked, he will not go quietly into the night. And his outlandish policy prescriptions like the mass deportation of illegal aliens and a possible trade war with China are best seen as reflecting the direction of his thinking — opening bids as it were, not deeply held and entrenched policy positions.
Empathy for the left out, ignored little guy? Trump has built his campaign on it. Ordinary Americans are looking for a fighter, someone who considers “cares about people like me” to mean that a candidate will fight for them. His reflects a much keener diagnosis of the public he hopes to lead than Jeb Bush’s idea of campaigning as a “joyful tortoise.”
Critics have conflated the by-products of Trump’s branding strategy with his character. He engineered a successful repositioning of his highly leveraged building empire to one increasingly built on his brand name. Big, bold, brash and successful are its sales themes.
Is there an element of hype in the pitch? Of course there is, and it carries over to his “Make America Great Again” theme. Yet note that the object of his ambitions is not himself, the mark of a true narcissist, but his country. And note too the word “again” that speaks to restoration and reform."
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
Trump has said repeatedly that “the country is in trouble,” and he is not alone in thinking so. Seventy-one percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the county. Trust in government has declined from 73% in 1958 to 19% today. Trust in public institutions, including the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court and the federal government, is also at historical lows.
Mr. Trump offers himself as someone who wants to and can fix what’s ailing us. He may well be entirely experientially unprepared and temperamentally unsuited to accomplish his purpose should he gain office, but I credit his motive with sincerity. It compares favorably in purpose to our current president who publicly aspired to “greatness” for himself and transformation for the country.
Mr. Trump has said, “I didn't need to do this. I have a wonderful life. I have a great, great company... I wanted to do it, because somebody has to do it.” This may well be true, but his motive is not devoid of self-interest.
That self-interest is summed up in the title of Aretha’s Franklin’s iconic song R-E-S-P-E-C-T. From his childhood roots in the out-borough of Queens, into the wilds of Manhattan that his father warned him were not hospitable to “our kind of people,” to his relentless pursuit of the Plaza Hotel because it added tradition and class to his holdings, to his efforts to be a major political player (an effort that the president mocked and others like Romney never took too seriously), Trump, like the rest of us, has been seeking recognition for his accomplishments.
He has been called “a clown candidate.” And, as he noted before the New Hampshire primary, “A lot of people have laughed at me over the years. Now, they’re not laughing so much.”
The issues Trump raises are serious. He seems serious about addressing them. His capacity for leadership is real, if flawed. The most important question about a President Trump, however, is whether, should he gain office, he could learn how to successfully govern.
Stanley Renshon, a political science professor at the City University of New York, is a certified psychoanalyst and the author of 15 books, most recently Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Deep in the Red, California Pension Fund Pulls Political StuntsThe American military commander Joe Stilwell used to say about Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that he should spend more time “generaling” and less time “issimoing.” As with the endeavors of the Chinese Nationalist Party, state governance would proceed more smoothly if leaders focused on getting the basic job done (like funding their basic obligations) before taking on gratuitous special projects.
The Manhattan Institute’s Steven Malanga has described the history of California’s major public pension fund as “a three-decade-long transformation from a prudently managed steward of workers’ pensions into a highly politicized advocate for special interests.” The latest evidence: The fund—which faces unfunded liabilities north of $100 billion, and rising—recently announced that it would require companies it invests in to signal their concern for climate change by changing their board composition, even if it cuts into their bottom line. Governing magazine reports:
In an effort to highlight the potential impacts of global warming, the nation’s largest public pension fund is asking corporations to include climate change experts on their governing boards.On Monday, the investment committee for California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) voted to start requiring the corporations it invests in to include people on their boards who have expertise in climate change risk management strategies.
It’s important to remember that CalPERS is investing with taxpayer money, and that it is taxpayers that will be on the hook if and when the size of the shortfall (created by a combination of incompetent investment and union capture of the state political system) becomes to large for the fund to bear. CalPERS’ latest political stunt, like themany that have come before it, foists more risk onto taxpayers—without their consent—for little reason other than to signal its own institutional virtue.The state legislature should protect Californians from the inept multibillion dollar financial corporation it created by imposing a back-to-the-basics investment policy. Before adding these kinds of bells and whistles to its portfolio, CalPERS should be required to either meet its investment targets for a number of years, or adjust its investment targets and contribution schedules, so that its finances are sound.