Time to Mount the Academic Ramparts, Clean House, and Free the Serfs

Our colleges and universities have become infectious breeding grounds of the left, fattening their tills as the students are yoked to untenable loans to pay for often useless educations they provide. The federal government encourages this bubble, undermines free speech and due process on campus by regulation and encourages young people to enslave themselves in this way. Is there a way out?

This week two related articles on the federal role in higher education caught my attention. In the Wall Street Journal Daniel Henninger discusses the administration’s Orwellian dictates on Title IX  In The Federalist Daniel Oliver discusses the mounting student debt and offers up a suggestion for Republicans to deal with it. 

Both articles underscore how federal funds are being used to incubate generations of left-wing graduates, poorly educated often in areas of study that are unmarketable, irrational, and enemies of free speech and due process.

Henninger starts with the most outward signs of doctrinaire manipulation of free speech -- banning of commencement speakers like Condoleezza Rice, Hirsi Ali, and Charles Murray whose views, while perfectly legitimate, conflict with the majority think speak of Rutgers, Brandeis, and Azusa Pacific. I’ve long been fed up with sitting in the heat on uncomfortable chairs fighting off gnats to listen to ridiculous commencement speakers, but Henninger says its not the university presidents who bear the brunt of the blame for the campus wars against free speech. It’s the administration, he argues:

The trigger event was an agreement signed last May between the federal government and the University of Montana to resolve a Title IX dispute over a sexual-assault case.

Every college administrator in the U.S. knows about this agreement. Indeed, there are three separate, detailed "Montana" documents that were signed jointly -- and this is unusual -- by the civil-rights divisions of the Justice and Education Departments. Remarked DoJ's Joceyln Samuels, "The government is stronger when we speak with one voice."

That's real muscle. But read the agreement. It is Orwellian.

The agreement orders the school to retain an "Equity Consultant" (yes, there is such a thing) to advise it indefinitely on compliance. The school must, with the equity consultant, conduct "annual climate surveys." It will submit the results "to the United States."

The agreement describes compliance in mind-numbing detail, but in fact the actual definitional world it creates is vague. It says: "The term 'sexual harassment' means unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature." But there are also definitions for sexual assault and gender-based harassment. All of this detailed writ is called "guidance." As in missile.

No constitutional lawyer could read this agreement and not see in it the mind of the Queen of Hearts: "Sentence first, verdict afterwards!" Indeed, the U.S. Education Department felt obliged to assert that the agreement is "entirely consistent with the First Amendment."

First Amendment? It's more like a fatwa. The Obama administration has issued a federal hunting license to deputize fanatics at any university in America. They will define who gets accused, and on what basis.

The White House enabled these forces again last week, releasing an Education Department list of 55 colleges that are "under investigation" for possible Title IX violations. Not formally cited but "under investigation." The list includes such notorious Animal Houses as Catholic University, Swarthmore, Knox College, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard Law School. In truth, every school in America is effectively on the list.

I am unaware of any university with the guts to take this on through litigation, and, therefore assume they are willing handmaidens to this putsch against male students, due process and free speech.

You can respond as I have by refusing to contribute any more to general alumni drives and sending that money instead to F.I.R.E., which works to defend campus free speech and due process. But Oliver, who contends, with substantial evidence, that “student loans and all the other federal aid-to-education programs, are the irrigation for the fever swamps of the left," suggests an even more dramatic response. His solution is for Republicans to commit in their 2016 platform to cancel all student loans owed to the federal government, pay off all student loans to private institutions and then eliminate “all federal aid, grants, support, etc. to postsecondary educational institutions.” This must be as he insists “a package deal”. Admittedly, the idea sounds radical and expensive but he argues rather persuasively otherwise.

Of course, the Millennials should be delighted to have this burden lifted from their shoulders and willing to reward the party which promises to do so, but is it affordable? He says it is. Will it deprive us of valuable research? He finds the notion risible.

He calculates federal aid to higher education at about “$99 billion” and $10 billion (of the $40 billion) research budget which “can be eliminated “without serious consequences”. Among the recipients of this largesse are Harvard University with an endowment now of $30 billion which clearly does not need our money and Brandeis which shamefully cancelled Hirsi Ali’s speech and doesn’t deserve it.

So: if total student debt is a trillion dollars, and annual federal support to higher education that can be eliminated is $109 billion, cancelling both would allow the Treasury to break even in only nine years -- and that assumes that if the trillion-dollar debt were not canceled, all of it would eventually be repaid, which it obviously wouldn’t be. The default rate is about 10%.

If federal grants are eliminated, some institutions will collapse, of course, but most of them will be institutions that really aren’t providing any value to their students.

And some of the research, which has exploded in recent decades, is probably worthless. Do we really need one book a week on Shakespeare? Do we need to spend $2.19 billion a year for environmental sciences research, and another billion or two or three for research on political science, psychology, economics, sociology, business management, library science, humanities, law, and social work? The list goes on. Research that is essential will be supported by the market -- corporations and rich individuals -- as it has been for years.

Students for whom college makes sense will still be able to get loans -- from friends, banks, perhaps companies, and the colleges themselves -- as long as they can persuade the lenders (e.g., by having decent SAT scores) that they can truly profit from college.

It’s an intriguing argument. Read what he has to say and let us know. There is clearly a higher educational bubble in which unqualified students have been encouraged by the federal government to take out loans to pay for an education that will benefit neither them nor the nation, filling the pockets of colleges. Students are little more than indentured serfs, slaves to Uncle Sam and others for worthless college debt.

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