28.11.07

COMPLICITY, COMPOUNDED. Last week, I asserted,
[F]aculty reluctance to meet those introductory classes is faculty complicity in access-assessment-remediation-retention: there's no entry level quality control, no reward for the faculty to do so, and posting whinges on anonymous weblogs appears to be sufficient release.
Wisconsin's Donald Downs, elaborating on Delaware's re-education camps, notes that faculty tend to ignore the totalitarianism of Student Affairs.

In The Diversity Machine (2002), for example, Frederick Lynch provided a detailed portrait of numerous interlocking national programs designed to promote diversity and attitudinal change, almost all of which were run by non-faculty personnel. The University of Michigan, for example, had about 100 such programs (this is not a misprint), but the faculty tended to ignore them because they applied to areas outside of the faculty's main concern. As long as such programs did not jeopardize faculty research, no problem. In The Shadow University, Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors also provide many examples of violations of academic freedom committed by administrative staff in the name of pet causes. Despite these and other works, public concern remains targeted at faculty members, not staff.

A few years ago I served on a speech code committee that ultimately led to the abolition of the university's faculty speech code. The committee consisted of faculty, students, and staff. One of the things that struck me during this year-long service was the posture of the staff members toward academic freedom and free speech. With one outstanding exception, the staff members evidenced little concern about the effects broad speech codes can have on the intellectual honesty and integrity of the classroom. Their experiences and professional agendas simply did not prepare or predispose them to take academic freedom all that seriously. This was not the case for faculty members on the committee, including those who supported some sort of code.

He goes on to note,
It will be interesting to follow the plight of the residence life program at the University of Delaware now that it has the full attention of the faculty. Will the faculty exercise its fiduciary responsibility to defend the principles of free thought that comprise the core of liberal education, or will it eschew the burden of this responsibility out of indifference or fear? Nothing I have said here is meant to get faculty members off the hook for supporting such programs as Delaware's. Nor is it my intention to reflexively criticize university staff. After all, universities would grind to an immediate halt without its valued staff members. The problem is those staff members who promote agendas that threaten the truth-seeking mission of the university.
I fear, however, that as long as the senior professors are relatively free to pursue their research, while the armies of adjuncts on term contracts can be mau-maued into going along with the Diversity Boondoggle's gutting of learning in the name of access, and the beneficiaries of access figure out on their own that college is not for them and never darken a professor's door, the senior professors will have scant incentive to defend either free thought or the core of liberal education.

The astonisher is that as many students get through, successfully, as they do, take five to seven years though it may. In the military, the recruit first faces a career non-commissioned officer. In railroading, the student engineman quickly gets to know the crusty road foreman. In the university, eighteen year olds get psychological "treatment" from twenty year old housefellows and introductory calculus from twenty-five year old graduate assistants who have yet to prove a theorem of their own. Experience, literally, is the greatest teacher, and for many students, the teacher with the steepest grading curve, at least until dormies get put on Double Secret Probation for harboring unsustainable thoughts.

I offer these observations to provoke Professor Downs, who notes,
It might be time to look more closely at the problem of faculty neglect as a distinct problem, and at the factors and forces that contribute to this neglect - above and beyond active faculty perpetration or complicity. I hope to do so in a future essay.
Developing.

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