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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rachel Golem Mischief Alert

Satirist Rachel Golem just sent along a link to this “alert”: Urgent Warning to Peace Activists!!!!!!!!

She’s previously given her special treatment to Democracy Now talk radio host Amy Goodman, the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, and the late, sainted Rachel Corrie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Black Team Wins: Race, Corruption, and the Academic Debate Community

By Nicholas Stix

Terry Malloy, to his brother Charley:

....Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson."

You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville!

You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money....

You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.


- Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, to Rod Steiger, as his brother Charley, in the taxicab scene from On the Waterfront (1954).

In a prize fight, if you knock down your opponent, retreat to a neutral corner, and the referee counts to “ten,” without him rising to his feet, the fight is over by a knockout, and the ref raises your hand in victory. Not so, in the seamy world of academic debate, where a competitor may be declared the victor while lying unconscious on the canvas, so to speak, while his dominant rival is declared out on his feet. It’s not what you know, it’s who you are.

Consider the Cross Examination Debate Association’s (CEDA) annual tournament, held in March in Wichita, Kansas. The final round pitted Dayvon Love and Deven Cooper, of Towson State (MD) University, against Chris Stone and Nate Johnson of the University of Kansas.

In Deven Cooper’s eight-minute opening performance of his script, he jumps from pillar to post—“white supremacy” (seven times), “epistemology,” “global dysfunction,” “whites live in a racial fantasy land,” “Who believe that the shit that they write in books,” “credibility from our personal experience,” “epistemologically bankrupt, “selected by (unclear) to be raped,” “African women aboard those ships who felt compelled to murder their own babies,” “global systems,” “our social locations,” “black men,” “our revolutionary aesthetic,” “the black aesthetic,” “destruction of white ideas,” “feel excluded,” “white male judges favor only the white male,” “Bush administration,” “Justice Department,” “white supremacy the root of all evil,” “ecological predicament…"

Note that Cooper is denouncing not only American society, but the leftwing debate community, as well.

Cooper combines what scholar Lawrence M. Doss (PDF) once referred to, in a discussion of Leonard Jeffries, as the “paranoid style” in black rhetoric, with what I call the black school of rhetorical bombast and with multicultural rhetoric, which consists of slogans denouncing “racism, sexism, and homophobia” and class privilege.

According to Doss, the black paranoid style invokes white conspiracies. The black school of rhetorical bombast uses big words and pompous phrases to suggest erudition and to distract the audience from one’s lack of an argument (see also here). The purpose of multicultural rhetoric is simple intimidation.

While being careful to speak only of destroying “white ideas,” rather than white people, Cooper also evokes the genocidal black supremacy of Frances Cress Welsing, according to whom blacks are in a war of defensive racial annihilation against whites and the “global system of white supremacy.”

Following Towson’s Deven Cooper’s first speech, Cooper acknowledges during Kansas’ Nate Johnson’s cross-examination that a “revolutionary black aesthetic” is “an anti-white aesthetic.”

Cooper and Love openly identify with the black nationalist black arts movement, which sought to destroy white culture, and through it, white society, and whose most famous writer, biracial playwright August Wilson, referred to the white man as “the Devil.”

KU’s Chris Stone and Nate Johnson offer as an alternative to Towson’s Cooper and Love, a call for openness and an ethic of love.

During Johnson’s rebuttal to Love, beginning at 43:05 of the video, he exposes and decisively refutes the cheaters’ sophistries. He points out that Towson reduces the entire world to “white supremacy” and the black “challenge” to it; argues that there is “no connection between a revolutionary black aesthetic and what they seek to realize”; that they are provincial (“everything has to fit within your social location”); that Towson set up a double-bind: Whites who seek to bring blacks into the debate community are “racists,” while those who oppose reaching out to blacks are “bigots” (“We’re totally screwed, either way”); and ultimately, that Cooper and Love’s conception of black identity is parasitic (my word) and presupposes the truth of white supremacy: “Black identity only exists in opposition to white supremacy,” “Implicitly, blacks become inferior,” and it “reifies the type of construction of white supremacy that you are so ardently criticizing.”

The boxing term is, “knockout punch.”

Johnson does everything but point out that if white supremacy is the source of all the world’s problems, and is inseparable from the existence of whites, the only solution to it is to kill all whites.

In lieu of counterarguments, Cooper and Love assert that Johnson and Stone have “no methodology” and are arguing for “colorblindness.” (Although pc academics deny the reality of race, they identify “colorblindness” with neo-conservatism, and thus with racism.)

So, Johnson and Stone won, right? Wrong. The all-white panel of judges gave Towson the victory, 7-4, with some of them giving explanations of their votes (at the end of the video) that were no more and no less than racial loyalty oaths to blacks.

While not as theatrical as the video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright celebrating the 911 terrorist attacks on America, what the Youtube video of the final round between Towson and KU shows about the moral collapse of the American university is every bit as disturbing.

For the rest of the story, see my VDARE.com articles, “Towson U. ‘Great Debaters’ Mau Mau Liberal Judges,” and Towson II: “‘Debate Community’” Organizes to Silence Critic—Me!”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Crime of the Century

Read Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman on how the Warren Court stole the U.S. Constitution from the American people, in “Brown vs. Board vs. the U.S. Constitution,” at VDARE.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Science Sexist?

By Nicholas Stix

May 2, 2005
Enter Stage Right

What do feminists want? On April 14, a panel discussion was held at Manhattan’s Cooper Union, an elite engineering, architecture, and art school with a tradition going back to Abe Lincoln of showcasing political speeches, entitled “Sexism and Science: Are Women Scientists Being Held Back?” The panel’s title did not promise an honest debate, and it did not disappoint.

The event was inspired by MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who had stormed out of an informal talk Harvard President Lawrence Summers gave at a conference on January 14, in which Summers had cited, among possible reasons why women are a minority among tenured professors of science, math, and engineering, the fact that women’s intellectual abilities, while on average identical to men’s (100 IQ), are less variable than men’s. Women’s abilities cleave much closer to the middle of the bell curve, while men have more cases of extremely low and extremely high IQ. As Steve Sailer has observed, jobs like engineer, physicist, and mathematician require an IQ three to four standard deviations (45-60 points) above the average (100 points). The ratio of males to females at that IQ level is from over 7:1 to over 30:1.

In January, Hopkins told journalists that had she stayed, “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” Very scientific. Ever since, under ever more intense attack by feminists and their journalistic shills, Summers has backtracked, apologized profusely, and paid extortion to already privileged academic feminists, which is another way of saying that he has resolved to discriminate against qualified men.

At the Cooper Union, several of the speakers, beginning with moderator Cornelia Dean, spoke contemptuously of Summers, but he was merely a proxy for white, heterosexual, maledom. And he is deserving of contempt. As Dean observed, it is no longer clear what Summers actually believes.

The Cooper Union panel was a little late being seated. Two sources later told me that Nancy Hopkins had threatened to walk out if panelist Richard Haier, a University of California Irvine psychology professor, was not ousted. Hopkins sought to rig the panel. (This is SOP among academic leftists, who deal with opponents variously by: 1. Harassing them and having them fired; 2. Refusing to debate them; 3. Defaming them and/or lying about what they have said or written; 4. Setting up a panel that is a travesty, because it is weighted so that it is dominated by leftists; and 5. “Refuting” them via fraudulent “research.”)

Hopkins’ complaint notwithstanding, Haier avoided the evening’s topic, and pandered shamelessly to the predominantly female crowd, implying that Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush are of limited intelligence, but that Hillary Clinton is a genius.

Diane Halpern, a psychology professor from Claremont-McKenna College, also avoided the issue. Haier and Halpern essentially said, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

Joshua Aronson, an NYU professor of applied psychology, was more acceptable to Hopkins. He claimed that women outscore men on the highest level math exams, when men are kept out of the room. Thus, women scientists will apparently do fine, as long as men students, professors, and staffers are barred from interacting with them.

Aronson is a supporter of the pseudo-scientific notion of “stereotype threat,” which assumes that certain groups are “vulnerable” and must be protected from white men.

At one point, Aronson betrayed that he took male sexism for granted, even though he had no proof of it, when he said that we can’t ask women to “go through all this” to study math, if we aren’t willing to protect them. Go through all what? Needless to say, the crowd liked Aronson.

In the main event, headliner Nancy Hopkins claimed that the number of female tenured science and engineering professors at MIT only started to rise after she complained about it ten years ago. According to her own graphic, however, the number started to rise twenty years ago. (If that should not be the case, complain to Hopkins, not me. She’s the one who presented the lousy graph work.) Hopkins celebrated MIT’s “reform,” whereby each science department has its own female-chaired “gender equity committee.”

Anyone who prizes scientific progress has to shudder at the thought of Soviet-style politburos awarding tenured professorships based on politics and sex, rather than competence. Lysenkoism II, here we come!

Hopkins never mentioned the circumstances behind MIT’s “reform”: As Wendy McElroy reported in 2001 (a tip of the hat to Steve Sailer), a committee “was established to investigate complaints of sex discrimination that were leveled by Hopkins herself. Yet she became the Chair, heading an investigation into her own complaints. As a result of her findings, Hopkins received -- among other benefits -- a 20 percent raise in salary, an endowed chair and increased research funds…. The only evidence of sex discrimination produced was the fact that there are more men than women in the faculty of the School for Science.”

Actually, as Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska/Fairbanks professor of psychology showed, after making the charges, Hopkins saw her research space tripled, received millions of dollars in additional research money, and as a result, was able to hire dozens more research assistants, and was inducted into the National Academy of the Sciences. Her research into zebrafish could not have progressed without the windfall she received, as a result of her making sexual discrimination charges, and the shameless conflict of interest she engaged in, in leading the committee that investigated her own charges.

In a puff profile by Christen Brownlee in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Brownlee wrote of Hopkins’ “revolutionary work on gender equity issues in science, including many awards and more than 400 requests to speak on the topic.”

Belying Brownlee’s puffery, at the Cooper Union, Hopkins provided no research, no analysis and no facts, just the unquestioned assumption that if fewer than 50% of tenured science and engineering professorships are given to women, an institution is guilty of discrimination. On the other hand, she apparently has no problem with female-dominated academic departments.

Note that all Hopkins does these days is give talks on “gender equity” in the sciences, particularly at MIT, yet her talks are so lacking in scholarly research that if during my teaching days, one of my undergraduate students had handed in a paper that bad, I’d have given her a “D.” And Hopkins gets fat lecture fees for her baseless rants!

But according to NAS’ Christen Brownlee, Hopkins has done “revolutionary work on gender equity issues.” Apparently, for Brownlee, political agitation counts as scholarship. So much for Christen Brownlee, and so much for the National Academy of Sciences.
But perhaps Hopkins’ committee did do the revolutionary work that Christen Brownlee and so many other people ascribe to it, conflicts-of-interest be damned, and Hopkins only got lazy with her claims and research since then.

But the 1999 report was fact-free. It was only an inquiry in the sense that the 1930s Soviet show trials were. As Judith Kleinfeld reported,


1. The senior women at MIT were judge and jury of their own complaints. The chair of the MIT committee evaluating the charge of gender discrimination was Nancy Hopkins herself, the chief complainant. Two-thirds of the committee members were other senior women in the School of Science, interested parties who would personally profit from a finding of gender discrimination, and in fact did profit, gaining increased salaries, increased research budgets, more laboratory space and other perks.

2. The MIT report presents no objective evidence whatsoever to support claims of gender discrimination in laboratory space, salary, research funds, and other resources.

3. MIT is keeping the facts secret, claiming that “confidentiality” is required on such matters as sex differences in square feet of laboratory space. Science depends on the disclosure of data on which claims are based.

4. The “universal problem” of gender discrimination trumpeted in the MIT Study boils down to the subjective perceptions of senior women (not the junior women) in only three of the six departments at MIT’s School of Science. Even these perceptions—evidence of nothing but personal feelings—were not counted and measured according to accepted scientific standards in the social sciences

5. The claims by the senior women in the School of Science that, as “pioneers” in science, they are “exceptional” and “above the average MIT faculty” are unproved . An independent study by Professor James Guyot of Baruch College reveals that about the same percentage of senior MIT women (32%) and senior MIT men (34%) have been elected to membership in prestigious scientific academies. But in the MIT Biology Department, where the discrimination uproar started, the difference in scientific stature in favor of the senior men is quite large.

And as the cherry on top, Kleinfeld reported that an anonymous informant from MIT told her that even by the Hopkins committee’s own pathetic, politically compromised standards, it could not find any evidence of sexual discrimination against women.

In a thorough examination of the MIT case and of Hopkins in particular, journalist Cathy Young showed that Hopkins’ own personal story of the “sexual discrimination” she suffered at MIT had three different versions, none of which held water. Nancy Hopkins later decided that the truth didn’t matter anyway, because her story was part of a larger truth.

Cathy Young suggested that MIT caved in so quickly, because President Charles Vest was afraid of costly litigation.

Later, a report by IWF showed that the tenured females in MIT’s biology department (Hopkins’ department) were, far from being victims of sexual discrimination, in fact inferior to their men colleagues.

Steve Sailer, who has owned the Summers/Hopkins story from the outset (I’m just offering some footnotes), has approached the story of fraudulent but remunerative claims of sex discrimination and the powerful feminist cronies who have arisen in the sciences and engineering, as a corruption story, the way one might expose graft at City Hall.

Sailer has the right idea. He has given several examples of feminists in the sciences and engineering who have gotten ridiculously high-paying university jobs for themselves coupled with high-paying show-no jobs for their female lovers, in one case at a school where secretaries’ wages were frozen. (In at least one case, a woman nominated her lover for an award, which was duly issued to the latter.)

Specifically, if Nancy Hopkins lied about discrimination at MIT, and got control of the committee with the clear intent of shaking down the institution, which she indeed succeeded at doing, according to the law, she would be guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion.

Having taught college for six-and-half years, I realize that academia is a law-free zone, where tenured criminals and administrators wreak havoc with impunity, defrauding parents and taxpayers alike. And so, I have no illusions that any Massachusetts prosecutor will seek a criminal referral. But the law is the law. And if I were a prosecutor down Cambridge way …

To return to the Cooper Union, only the last speaker challenged the feminist dogmas of the evening. Linda Gottfredson, a professor of psychology at the University of Delaware, argued that feminists’ assumption that “sex differences” are 100% explainable by reference to “socialization & bias” is not supported by the facts. She pointed out that as of 2001, women were dominating fields such as sociology (71% of all Ph.D.s), anthropology (68% of all Ph.D.s), and education (65% of all doctorates), and counseling (71% of all Ph.D.s), clinical (70% of all Ph.D.s), and experimental psychology (62% of all Ph.D.s). Gottfredson observed that more women can go into the sciences, only if they stop going into the fields they now dominate.

Gottfredson spoke of a “people-things gradient.” Women tend to prefer fields dealing with “people” (whether it be medicine, anthropology, or psychology), whereas men prefer fields dealing with “things,” e.g., physics and engineering.

As Judith Kleinfeld has written, even teenage girls with the highest level of mathematical ability tend to choose fields such as the law and medicine, rather than math, physics, or engineering, even to the point of resisting parental and social pressure to go into the hard sciences.

“When universities like MIT bemoan the lack of women faculty in the School of Science and attribute this situation to gender discrimination, they are ignoring women’s own preferences and choices.”

During the Q&A period at the Cooper Union, I asked Hopkins if the charges against her of conflict of interest were true. Instead of answering, she launched into ad hominem attacks against her critics, disparaging Judith Kleinfeld and the Independent Women’s Forum as “right-wingers,” as if that were a refutation of their charges.

Hopkins wouldn’t stop dissembling, so I had to cut in and say, “So, the answer is ‘yes.’” She never did give me a straight answer.

Moderator Cornelia Dean, a former New York Times science editor, jumped in and saved Hopkins, perversely twisting my words to insinuate that in mentioning Hopkins’ conflict of interest, I was denying ANY woman the right to chair a committee investigating charges of sexual discrimination, and ordering me to take a seat.

(Unlike Nancy Hopkins, Judith Kleinfeld actually provides research, facts, and analysis for her claims. Indeed, it is bad enough that a fraud and political hack like Nancy Hopkins should get away with politically disparaging a Judith Kleinfeld, but it is particularly despicable, given that in 1992, as Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate detailed in The Shadow University, Kleinfeld endured a leftwing political witch hunt at the University of Alaska, which sought to cost her her job.)

Finally, Gottfredson asked, “Why do we need equal proportions of men and women in every profession?” Hopkins responded, “Now, I don’t care how many there are” at the top level of mathematics, contradicting what Hopkins had already said, and indeed, what she has been saying for years. Gottfredson followed by asking her, “When would you be happy?” but Hopkins continued with her evasions.

Note that Linda Gottfredson is not only one of the most brilliant social scientists working in America today, but one of the most heroic figures of the postwar American university, who in 1990 was targeted by a leftwing witch hunt at the University of Delaware. The campaign targeted as well Gottfredson’s junior associate, Jan Blits, but Gottfredson was the main target, because it was she that got the research money for herself and Blits.

Gottfredson and Blits fought back, sued in federal court, and though it took two-and-a-half years, they prevailed. Their story is also told, along with many others, in The Shadow University. Had Gottfredson and Blits been lefties, they would by now be national celebrities, the way Nancy Hopkins is.

On April 14, I learned a thing or two at the Cooper Union about sexism, but it wasn’t the lesson Nancy Hopkins or Cornelia Dean had intended.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do High IQ People Succeed, No Matter How Poor They Start Out?

By Nicholas Stix

Does intelligence always win out? The blogger Half-Sigma doesn’t think so. He writes,

IQ is more highly correlated with life outcomes for people with below average to average IQs. Most career tracks have an IQ floor, and if your IQ isn't high enough to meet the floor level, you can't perform that job adequately. Few career tracks have IQ floors much higher than 115, so if your IQ is higher than that, your parental wealth and connections become very important.

Thus, the higher your IQ, the more important the wealth of your parents becomes (the very
opposite of what most people think). People with exceptionally high IQs but inadequate parents often have poor life outcomes because of the mismatch.


(A tip ‘o the hat to Steve Sailer.)

He’s right, of course, for an assortment of reasons.

Very high IQ people tend to be more idiosyncratic than the average Joe, but as the saying goes, “If you’re rich, you’re eccentric, but if you’re poor, you’re just crazy.”

The three laws of Stixian economics are: 1. Money makes money; 2. Money helps money; and 3. Money marries money. Some genius is bound to respond, “But rich people can be very talented!” That’s true, but irrelevant to the question at hand.

Wealthy people do not like helping poor people, no matter how talented the poor schmucks are. In fact, they love hurting them. Much has been written, by Nietzsche on a bad day, self-styled “genius” Max Scheler, “glibertarians,” and others about the alleged “resentment” that the poor feel towards the rich. I’ve never seen that resentment, but I’ve seen plenty of the resentment that the rich feel towards those with less than them.

They’ll rationalize their abuse, saying that the poor but talented schmoe doesn’t know his place, and has to be “taught a lesson,” or they’ll say he lacks “character” (as opposed to them?), which as they use it is merely a euphemism for “money,” but the ultimate reason they’ll hurt him is the same reason most people hurt other people: because they can.

And most poor people resent smart people who are themselves poor, as being guilty of thinking they are better than their dull peers (perish the thought!).

Schools that are full of poor NAM (non-Asian minority) kids tend to be extremely violent, racist, and anti-intellectual, and have incompetent, racist, anti-intellectual teachers, not exactly a recipe for success for a brilliant kid who’s as poor as a church mouse.

Most teachers are on the dull side. People tend to think of the “teacher’s pet” as being really smart, but a lot of teachers hate really smart kids because they remind them of their own shortcomings, and instead reward sycophants and bullies, who are often one and the same. Thus, if a kid is really smart, he’d better have well-to-do parents whom sadistic teachers and administrators will not dare anger.

Likewise, liberal arts professors prefer to support students who are upper-middle-class or richer, talent be damned. (And 40 years of affirmative action practices and the imposition of multicultural dogma have caused the intelligence level among liberal arts professors to collapse.)

There are relatively few jobs for very high IQ people. The more scarce and prestigious a job is (e.g., tenured university professorships, full-time journalist), the more connections come into play in its distribution. And affirmative action has made such jobs increasingly scarce since 1964, as the proportion of affirmative action group members, who get such jobs based on the qualifications of being utterly unqualified for them and black or Hispanic (and in some cases, female and/or homosexual) has risen dramatically.

Outsourcing and offshoring have further reduced the number of jobs available to really smart people.

Most supervisors don’t like having very high IQ people around, unless the high IQers are forced on them by their bosses (see teachers).

Most people resent really smart people, and if the really smart people don’t have a pot to pee in, there is nothing to keep the ordinary folks from acting out on their resentment.

Once upon a time there was a metropolis that had lots of high IQ people who were as poor as church mice. The municipality built a shining city on a hill just for those impoverished overachievers—the greatest college in the nation. When the poor overachievers graduated, they were hired to run the municipality’s public offices, or accepted at the most renowned private universities for graduate studies. But other groups who completely lacked the talent of the overachievers then threatened to burn down the metropolis, unless it surrendered the city on a hill to them. The municipality capitulated, handed over its city on a hill to the mob, and the impoverished overachievers became pariahs in the metropolis their forbears had made hum.

Unfortunately, this is not a fable.

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Los Mets Fired the Wrong Man

By Nicholas Stix

VDARE blog
June 25, 2008

Eight days later, New York Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya’s dead-of-night firing of manager Willie Randolph reverberates.

As an assistant Mets GM during the late 1990s, the Dominican-born Minaya proved himself an astute judge of talent, and the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) hired him away in 2002 as their GM.

When the Mets signed Minaya as their GM following the 2004 season, his first free agent signing was of an aging but still talented Pedro Martinez ($53M/four years). In spite of Martinez’ racist past, I welcomed the signing, which gave the Mets the credibility they needed to sign that year’s top free agent, outfielder Carlos Beltran ($119M/seven years).

Though the Mets had only two Latin regulars, a Hispandering, 2005 New York magazine article spoke of “Los Mets.” But beginning in 2006, Minaya would create a Latin-dominated team.

Randolph, who is black, had no managerial experience, and the Mets had just endured two years of failure with Art Howe, an experienced, white manager. I wanted them to go after a heavyweight, like Lou Piniella or Dusty Baker.

But Randolph did a great job. In 2005, the Mets had their first winning season, 83-79, since 2001. In 2006, they won the Eastern Division, with a league-best record of 97-65, and came within one inning of going to the World Series. But in 2007, the club had the worst September collapse in baseball history. Minaya announced, with apparent distaste, that Randolph would be back. Before firing Randolph, Minaya tortured him, making his job status day-to-day.

The troubles went back some. In July 2006, reliever Pedro Feliciano publicly called Randolph’s management of the bullpen “stupid.” Nothing happened to Feliciano, who is still with the Mets.

One year earlier, when Japanese Washington Nationals pitcher Tomo Ohka had publicly disrespected black manager Frank Robinson, he was fined, and traded days later. A general manager may not tolerate any player disrespecting his manager. Similarly, the clubhouse is the manager’s domain, but Minaya would often visit, giving the players mixed signals about whom they had to answer to.

Most Shea Stadium fans were white, and some of the Latin stars—2006 acquisition Carlos Delgado, in particular—would refuse to honor fans’ cheers for curtain calls after home runs. When Minaya acquired Delgado, owner Fred Wilpon had to order him to stand for “God Bless America.”

For whom was Wilpon building the team?

Randolph’s interim replacement, his bench coach Jerry “Fertilizer” Manuel, is black.

Experiment of Open Admissions Comes Back to Haunt CUNY

By Nicholas Stix

Insight on the News
August 16, 1999

To survivors of New York’s World War II generation, it was not surprising news: Their legendary, beloved City College and its sister campuses were getting another bad report card. In June the mayor’s Advisory Task Force on CUNY gave failing grades to 30 years of CUNY’s experimentation with open admissions and remedial education. The 12-volume report, The City University of New York: An Institution Adrift, could have national repercussions.

Some who know City College’s (CCNY) history inevitably ask: How could something that was so right go so wrong? From 1915 to 1965, the tuition-free colleges of what is now the City University of New York, or CUNY, represented an experiment in pure meritocracy.

CUNY’s City College campus, or CCNY, founded in 1847, had tougher standards than Harvard and graduated eight future Nobel laureates. Its alumni include former Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter, civil-rights leader A. Philip Randolph, polio conqueror Jonas Salk, former New York City mayor Ed Koch and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Colin Powell. “The Jewish students loved the place, loved it utterly, hopelessly, blindly” wrote the late socialist literary scholar and CUNY professor Irving Howe of his alma mater.

But that was then. In 1970, CUNY instituted a policy of open admissions, guaranteeing every New York City high-school graduate acceptance to a CUNY campus. The policy of “open admissions” was a politically charged response to the spring 1969 building takeovers and riot threats by Puerto-Rican and black City College students.

Today, 70 percent of the 18-campus system’s 200,000 students, as opposed to 56 percent of college students nationally, require remediation. At the community colleges, two of which have two-year graduation rates of 0.2 percent, the remediation rate is 87 percent.

The task force was chaired by former Yale University president Benno C. Schmidt Jr., head of the Edison Project that runs for-profit public schools, and included CUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Herman Badillo (a 1951 graduate of City College), who was Republican New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s top educational adviser. Its report indicts “CUNY’s failure to ensure that remediation is effective,” emphasizing that “the whole remediation enterprise seems slapdash” CUNY administrators and faculty long have damned CUNY’s placement tests, which show that most CUNY freshmen cannot do college-level work, as “culturally biased.” But the report counters, “There is no evidence of the tests being biased against African-American or Hispanic students.”

The report also supported limiting remediation—previously offered at all campuses—to the system’s seven community colleges, a move that had been endorsed last year by the Board of Trustees.

Reactions by the political and educational establishment were predictable. Confronting Schmidt at a June 21 meeting of the City Council Committee on Higher Education, black Councilman Bill Perkins complained of “the racist stereotypes and innuendoes that are implied in this report.” At the same meeting, black Councilwoman Helen Marshall told Schmidt, “In reading this report, I get a feeling of ethnic cleansing, all right?”

In the left-leaning Chronicle of Higher Education, staff writers Patrick Healey and Sara Hebel spoke of a “politically charged transformation from an institution that opens its doors to almost all applicants, into a Republican-led university that prizes enrolling and graduating students with solid academic records.”

The liberal New York Times has been strangely mute on the CUNY-report debate. Not so its jubilant tabloid competitors, both of whom long have criticized CUNY’s “standard of no standards.” The Republican-friendly New York Post titled an editorial “Hope Returns to CUNY” while the centrist Democratic Daily News went with, “CUNY Plan Rates Passing Grade .... Only at CUNY would such a plan [for phasing out remediation in senior colleges] be considered radical. Or elitist. Or racist.”

The CUNY report cannot be understood apart from the changing face of New York and national politics. CUNY chieftains’ history of reaching out to black and Hispanic students—regardless of grades and test scores—has demoralized better-prepared students, resulting in white flight and in what I call “ABC”—Anywhere but CUNY—college shopping among gifted black and Hispanic students.

Because the open-admissions/remedial model was introduced in New York in 1970, the CUNY report will loom large over other failing, urban public universities, most notoriously Chicago State University and the University of the District of Columbia. Thus, the curriculum of chaos that originated in New York may be swept away by a New York-based reform movement.

Nicholas Stix, a graduate of the City University of New York and an adjunct instructor there, writes on the politics of education from New York.

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Postscript, 2008: I never attended City College. Having grown up in Nassau County, just outside of New York City, I was ineligible to attend City, and since it had by then already been destroyed, I would not have wanted to attend it. In any event, as a high school dropout, I would never have been accepted to CCNY during its glory days, and could not have handled the volume of work it then demanded of its students.

And yet, I carry a torch for City, grieving as if I or my father had attended it. Although since returning in 1985 from my West German exile, I have read books and articles—and written a few articles myself—and seen a moving documentary about City College and the New York Jewish intellectuals of the Interwar period, I knew about that world long before I ever studied it.

Bright New York and Long Island Jewish boys of my generation seemed to learn about it at their mother’s breast, and in the very air they breathed. That’s why I wanted so much to attend the CUNY Graduate Center. Little did I know that the Philosophy Ph.D. program was then dominated by a clique of Columbia University Jews who were born upper middle class, who, their public statements to the contrary, held public higher education in contempt, and who hated poor Jews like yours truly with a purple passion. They didn’t know the history of City College, and if you’d told them about it, they’d have said you were lying.

That doesn’t mean that all the Jews I met at CUNY were anti-Semites, but the other profs steered clear of them and their machinations. I also met a kindly, patrician WASP professor who’d graduated from Columbia—to my knowledge, every full-time Philosophy Ph.D. faculty member had—who was a marvelous teacher, and who has been supportive of me ever since. And unlike the bad guys I encountered at CUNY, this particular man not only knew City College’s history, he was a City College professor going back to its Golden Age.

When I finally read William Barrett’s The Truants while attending CUNY, and later read James Traub’s City on a Hill and Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers, and saw the documentary, Arguing the World, I was alternately moved to laughter and grief. To speak of the greatness of the old City College requires no embellishment, just brutal honesty.