Professor Karen prefers to stay home this fall

“Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy” (nytimes), is by a 67-year-old professor whose paychecks are guaranteed to keep rolling in. What does Professor Karen (a.k.a. “Laurence Steinberg”) say?

Safety plans border on delusional and could lead to outbreaks of Covid-19 among students, faculty and staff.

Most types of risky behavior — reckless driving, criminal activity, fighting, unsafe sex and binge drinking, to name just a few — peak during the late teens and early 20s.

First, this is the age at which we are most sensitive and responsive to the potential rewards of a risky choice, relative to the potential costs. College-age people are just as good as their elders at perceiving these benefits and dangers, but compared with older people, those who are college-aged give more weight to the potential gains. They are especially drawn to short-term rewards.

This is fascinating to me! The alter cocker calls the students reckless and implies that they are not properly weighing “dangers” when, in fact, healthy 18-22-year-olds don’t face any “danger” from coronaplague! Out of 7,647 people killed in Massachusetts by/with Covid-19 through June 15, exactly 15 were under 30:

Maybe those 15 were running around the soccer field the day before coronavirus struck them down? Not likely. 98.3 percent of Covid-19 deaths in Massachusetts are among those “with underlying conditions” (dashboard example).

The old cower-in-place advocate for Zoom continues to write with the assumption that young people are taking “risks” unreasonably.

Finally, college-age people show more activation of the brain’s reward regions and are more likely to take risks when they are with their peers than when they are alone. There are no such effects of peers among people who are past their mid-20s.

Not all adolescents are risk-takers, of course, and not all adults are risk-averse. But it’s hard to think of an age during which risky behavior is more common and harder to deter than between 18 and 24, and people in this age make up about three-fourths of full-time American undergraduates. … It’s one of those perfect storms — people who are inclined to take risks in a setting that provides ample temptation to do so.

The NYT reader will infer from this that two slender undergraduates meeting for coffee are taking roughly the same level of personal risk that Andy Green took while driving ThrustSSC at 763 mph.

My pessimistic prediction is that the college and university reopening strategies under consideration will work for a few weeks before their effectiveness fizzles out. By then, many students will have become cavalier about wearing masks and sanitizing their hands. They will ignore social distancing guidelines when they want to hug old friends they run into on the way to class. They will venture out of their “families” and begin partying in their hallways with classmates from other clusters, and soon after, with those who live on other floors, in other dorms, or off campus. They will get drunk and hang out and hook up with people they don’t know well. And infections on campus — not only among students, but among the adults who come into contact with them — will begin to increase.

I look forward to a time when we are able to return to campus and in-person teaching. But a thorough discussion of whether, when and how we reopen our colleges and universities must be informed by what developmental science has taught us about how adolescents and young adults think. As someone who is well-versed in this literature, I will ask to teach remotely for the time being.

In other words, “Science (TM) tells me to stay at home and watch the direct deposits stack up in my bank account while occasionally checking in via Zoom.”

In what other universe would a national newspaper run a plea by an old guy who wants to sit at home and do almost nothing, but still get paid at 100 percent?

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What I learned about teaching computer nerdism remotely

My favorite kind of computer nerdism class is the lab class. Software development is a skill and the only way to learn it is by doing. A lecture from a successful programmer will not turn beginners into successful programmers.

In mid-March we got kicked out off campus. We had been teaching successfully (at least from our self-serving point of view!) in a classroom at Harvard Medical School. Three groups of three students each in the same room. By walking around we could fairly quickly see what was on everyone’s screen, help as necessary, and talk either to the entire group of 9 or to one group of 3. Groups of 3 could talk amongst themselves without disturbing the others.

Using Webex and Zoom reduced productivity by at least 70 percent. We could work with only one student’s screen at a time and essentially only one team at a time. Switching from screen to screen is a cumbersome time-consuming heavyweight process.

Now that we’re going to stay home for the next 20-50 years (even if we cure coronavirus, we still have influenza as our mortal enemy, right?), what would the ideal infrastructure be for teaching our brand of computer nerdism?

In addition to a personal monitor or two, the teacher needs an array of 9 monitors, each one at least as large physically as a student’s screen (teachers have older eyes than do students, typically!). This will enable the teacher to see what each student is doing and interrupt with help as necessary. We need four voice chat channels: one for each student group and one for the entire class. Each student needs two physical screens. One for himself/herself/zerself/theirself to use for editing and running SQL and R code and one as a mirror of the teacher’s screen (how else will students know which sites teachers like to visit?).

If we had had this infrastructure, I think we could have been 80 percent as productive as we had been during our physical meetings.

Readers: What else would help for hardware and software infrastructure for teaching?

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Perfect illustration of the “Less is More” principle

“UCLA lecturer’s job in jeopardy after refusing ‘accommodations’ for black students”:

University of California-Los Angeles Lecturer Gordon Klein faces an online petition that asks UCLA to terminate his employment, following an email he allegedly sent to a student regarding “special treatment” for black students in light of the George Floyd protests.

The viral petition, signed by nearly 20,000 people, claims Klein’s “blatant lack of empathy and unwillingness to accommodate his students during a time of protests speaks to his apathetic stance on the matter.”

UCLA Anderson School of Management spokeswoman Rebecca Trounson confirmed to Campus Reform that Klein is “on leave from campus and his classes have been reassigned to other faculty.”

What the accounting expert do?

“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” Klein’s email read, according to the petition. “Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage [sic], such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half? Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well.”

Klein’s email continued, “I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not. My TA is from Minneapolis, so if you don’t know, I can probably ask her. Can you guide me on how you think I should achieve a ‘no-harm ‘outcome since our sole course grade is from a final exam only? One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the “color of their skin.” Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition?”

He/she/ze/they would still have a job if he/she/ze/they had followed the “less is more” principle by responding with the following:

Thanks for your suggestion.

(first four words of the above actual response)

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Achieve college student skin color diversity via image processing?

MIT has already hinted that the plan for Fall 2020 is to pocket full tuition $$ while providing students with an educational experience that fits within the screen of an iPhone 11 Pro Max. A May 15 letter from President L. Rafael Reif (first one in a while that does not feature Jeffrey Epstein!):

All of us dream of getting back to life on campus. But with Covid-19 still very active in Massachusetts, for some time to come it will only be possible to bring back a fraction of the usual campus population. … One baseline fact is that it is more feasible to bring graduate students back safely because, unlike undergraduates, nearly all live in apartments with private kitchens and baths. They can therefore practice safe distancing without enormous effort.

In other words, if you liked Zoom as a 12th grader in your taxpayer-funded high school you will love it while paying $50,000/year to MIT! Perhaps the freshmen will enjoy professors talking with a background of this photo from a recent helicopter flight with Tony Cammarata:

Back in 2018, the Economist published “The rise of universities’ diversity bureaucrats”:

AMERICAN universities are boosting spending on “diversity officials”. At the University of California, Berkeley, for example, the number of diversity bureaucrats has grown to 175 or so, even as state funding to the university has been cut. Diversity officials promote the hiring of ethnic minorities and women, launch campaigns to promote dialogue, and write strategic plans on increasing equity and inclusion on campus. Many issue guidance on avoiding sexist language, unacceptable lyrics and inappropriate clothing and hairstyles. Some are paid lavishly: the University of Michigan’s diversity chief is reported to earn $385,000 a year. What explains their rise?

Despite this boom in spending on PhDs in Comparative Victimhood, the elite colleges have failed to achieve their dreams of having 100 percent of their students fit into at least one victimhood category.

Maybe coronaplague provides a solution! If everyone is online using a video conferencing service set up by the university, the university can simply apply Justin Trudeau(TM)-brand blackface and brownface filters to whatever percentage of the students has been determined to yield an ideal learning environment.

Readers: What do you think? What better way to make a white or Asian student understand his/her/zir/their privilege than to have this person go through an entire school year with a dark skin tone? With a little more advanced technology, perhaps drawing on the Animoji codebase from Apple, students who failed to self-identify as LGBTQIA+ can be electronically forced into the transgender category.

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Coronavirus enables elite universities to pull off the ultimate scam?

“Stanford cancels in-person classes due to coronavirus”:

In-person classes at Stanford University will be canceled beginning March 9th, as a faculty member has tested positive for coronavirus, and two students have self-isolated after “possible exposure.” Neither student has tested positive for the virus yet, according to a statement from the university, but Stanford provost Persis Drell said late Friday that the university will move some classes online “to the extent feasible.”

First the big research universities figured out that they could charge more than $50,000 per year in tuition for in-person classes taught by graduate students with a tenuous hold on the English language. Now they’ve figured out that they can charge $50,000 per year without having to deliver in-person classes at all!

How about our local universities here in Boston? Our class at Harvard Medical School has been moved online. The result is a terrible loss of efficiency. Helping small teams with SQL queries via Webex takes about 3X longer compared to wandering around a room and being able to look at the same physical screen. The core undergrad and graduate classes are Harvard are going to be moved online starting on March 23, after Spring Break is over (and students are being asked not to come back to campus). MIT is following a similar protocol (WCVB).

Meanwhile, despite coronavirus, the big issues of our day are still waiting to be resolved by our brightest minds. A poster cluster in Harvard Yard, afternoon of March 10, 2020:

My favorite poster above is the “when it all goes wrong” in an election context poster. Presumably this is defined by the wrong candidate winning and one learns that in a course titled “Bad things Deplorables do when you forget to take away their right to vote.”

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Advocacy for women is a sign of racism?

Emailed to me by the MIT Powers that Be… “Women in mathematics aim for an equal sign” (MIT School of Science news):

“It is crucial to recruit and attract more women at all levels in the department, but also that more of our women math majors consider going into graduate school in mathematics,” says Michel Goemans, department head and professor of mathematics. “Last year only 13 percent of our graduate applicants were women, and this is clearly not enough. The department is happy to support the activities of the MIT Women in Mathematics, and this group helps create a vibrant, supportive community in which more and more female students might pursue or continue a career in mathematics.”

[Let’s ignore the issue of whether this say-gooder is guilty of promoting gender binarism. Let’s also ignore the issue of why the say-gooder does not use MIT’s massive endowment to become a “do-gooder” and hire the women that he/she/ze/they says he/she/ze/they wants to hire.]

I wonder if the focus on female victimhood is a sign of antipathy toward mathematicians of color. Why not focus on the underrepresentation of black and Hispanic mathematicians, for example? Could the motivation be that the white/Asian mathematicians would rather share an office with a white woman from a wealthy family than share with an African-American from the ghetto?

Advocating for “women” is less likely to expose the advocate to ridicule for not having any friends or relatives who are in the featured victim class. Since even the most hidebound human who identifies as a “man” is likely to have a mother and/or sister, there won’t be the awkward search for a friend of color with whom to attend Black Panther and get a selfie.

The article is also fun for revealing the existence of gender traitors:

Staffilani recalls that when she invited female mathematicians to speak with MIT women, sometimes the offer was declined. Invited academics preferred to be seen as “mathematicians” rather than be singled out as “female mathematicians,” separate from men. It’s a dilemma Staffilani says she understands; gaining extra notice as a woman — or any underrepresented group in a particular field — doesn’t feel like “equality,” she says. … she was surprised when a female physicist asked the room, “Why do we want diversity?”

Speaker of diversity, let’s have a look at the folks MIT has selected to teach subjects featured on the “Women’s Studies” poster board in the Infinite Corridor (if you visit the teachers’ biographical pages, you’ll find them referred to using “her” and “she” as pronouns):

Another initiative of the Women and Gender Studies Department:

Within the same poster board, some tips on organizing your bookshelf:

Nearby, a poster remembering MIT’s most famous donor:

There is room in the Infinite Corridor to provide the biography of one MIT graduate:

(See also “RPI alumni stop donating amid concerns over leadership, campus climate” (2018) and “America’s Highest Paid College President is Dragging Her School Into Crippling Debt” (2014).)

Unrelated… a poster regarding procrastination:

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Economic value of a Victimhood Studies degree

Common sense and economic data have tended to diverge when looking at the value of a college degree. In unionized government jobs, such as teaching, the degree credential has obvious value. But what about learning “business” from professors whose only business experience is depositing checks from an employer? Or learning about victimhood from PhD victims? How do these things make a person more valuable to an employer than a smart high school graduate? And how can this learning make up for 4+ years out of the workforce?

The St. Louis Fed addresses the Great American College Fraud in “Is College Still Worth It? The New Calculus of Falling Returns”:

Among families whose head is White and born in the 1980s, the college wealth premium of a terminal four-year bachelor’s degree is at a historic low; among families whose head is any other race and ethnicity born in that decade, the premium is statistically indistinguishable from zero. Among families whose head is of any race or ethnicity born in the 1980s and holding a postgraduate degree, the wealth premium is also indistinguishable from zero. Our results suggest that college and postgraduate education may be failing some recent graduates as a financial investment.

This is consistent with the test results described in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, which notes that the college students who are good at writing and thinking, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), are mostly those who were already good at this before they matriculated. The college courses that common sense suggested would be unhelpful were, in fact, unhelpful in moving their CLA scores.

Related:

  • Malcolm Gladwell video (hurts my fingers to type that) discussing research that students who go to elite schools are more likely to drop out of demanding majors, such as science, when they compare themselves to the geniuses in the classroom (i.e., don’t bribe your child’s way into an elite school if you want that child to graduate with a STEM degree)
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Campusland: novel of sex and inclusion

Our ground school at MIT starts today (videos from last year linked from course web site). I’m hoping that there are no similarities with a recently finished novel: Campusland.

Epigraph:

Colleges don’t make fools, they only develop them. —GEORGE HORACE LORIMER

How to be a popular university president:

The protesters spotted Milton and instantly became animated. “Hey, Milton! Divest from Israel now! Stop the murder!” cried one. “Divest now! Divest now!” Their homemade signs thrust up and down like pistons. Milton smiled and walked over. “It’s great to see everyone. Really great.” He began shaking hands, much to the bewilderment of the protesters, who didn’t know what to do other than shake back. “Keep up the good work, and welcome back to school!”

Unrealistic: Mom walks out and leaves potential cash-fountain daughter with rich dad in Manhattan (perhaps an extremely poor understanding of New York family law?) After Dalton, Lulu ends up at Devon University, in “Havenport, Connecticut” (Yale?).

Her application was pushed over the finish line with a substantial check. … Her politics, to the extent she gave them much thought, closely adhered to the agendas of the benefits and political fund-raisers to which she aspired. This meant that by default she was a Democrat, like Sheldon (or she would be, as soon as she figured out how to register). She supported all the causes of the moment. Lately, she’d memorized a wholly impassioned-sounding plea for transgender rights that seemed to play well. Not that she’d ever met a transperson, but she was sure if she did, she’d know how to use the correct pronoun. Pretty sure.

The Progressive Student Alliance decides to target an English professor who includes Mark Twain in his syllabus, but not any African-American authors. The class is canceled and the professor goes on administrative leave and the subject of an investigation by Dean Martika Malik-Adams, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. Lulu turns out to be his biggest defender against the diversity protesters, but things go south after a private moment in his office:

Lulu was drinking heavily, licking her wounds. She hadn’t told anyone about the incident in Professor Russell’s office, nor would she. There was nothing to gain from it. Sure, she’d been aggressive, but no one had ever turned her down like that, let alone heaved her unceremoniously onto the floor. Not even the ones with girlfriends. He must have known where she was going—she couldn’t have been more obvious, and she could feel him responding to her. How dare he humiliate her, especially after what she’d done for him!

After drunken sex with a frat boy, she falls and strikes a coffee table with her face.

Yolanda’s [graduate student RA] eyes narrowed. “Did someone do this to you?” “No, no one did anything.” “Something happened.” “Really, Yolanda, I just want to get a couple hours’ sleep and then get out of here…” “I smell alcohol, and your clothes are disheveled. What happened to you? Did you have sex with someone last night after drinking?” Yolanda’s eyes were now two slits. “Is there any other way it happens?” Lulu giggled, despite herself, which only made the pain worse. Why wouldn’t this woman go away? “You don’t understand. By university policy, a woman cannot give consent while under the influence. Sex under the influence is automatically assault.” Yolanda looked almost excited. As an RA, she’d had over thirty hours of mandatory training on sexual assault protocols, and she was sniffing the first opportunity to put her training to use. … Yolanda grew frustrated. “You’re not hearing me. In all likelihood, you’ve been raped, and on top of that someone obviously struck you. I’m a mandatory reporter, and— “A what?” “Mandatory reporter, which means I’m obligated by the Devon Committee on Title IX Enforcement to report this.” “Would you please relax? No one’s been raped.”

The book is in sync with the latest New York Times thinking that all U.S. wealth can be attributed to the profits of slavery (1619 Project):

One of the female students [occupying the president’s office] took up the reins. “This place, this place you call Devon, is white, white, white. It’s violent, in your face, everywhere you go. You, the university president, you’re white. It’s oppression. But know this: we owe you nothing. It’s Devon that owes us everything. We built this. This is ours. This place was built on the backs of our people, and yet we are second-class citizens on this campus!” The girl was so worked up tears were now steaming down her face. Milton nodded, as if in profound agreement, deciding not to point out that slavery was largely nonexistent in eighteenth-century New England when Devon was founded and was completely abolished by the time most of the current campus was constructed. But surely the girl was speaking metaphorically, and her pain was plainly real. “Please, tell me how I can help.”

[The occupation is eventually ended when the university agrees to require that all first-year students take a course titled “Identity and Privilege”.]

Lulu gets some inspiration from Columbia:

About halfway through, past the hard news, an article caught her attention. Called “Campus Nightmares,” it was about the wave of sexual assaults on American campuses. The victims—known as survivors—were bravely coming to the fore, exposing their pain for the common good. There was a lot about Emma Sulkowicz, the famous “Mattress Girl” at Columbia, who had carried a mattress around campus for an entire year to protest an alleged assault by a fellow student. Lulu thought there must be less exhausting ways to get attention, but she couldn’t argue with the results. Sulkowicz had become a campus celebrity and a feminist hero. She even got invited to one of Barack Obama’s States of the Union. Lulu googled Mattress Girl, and there were 2.7 million hits. Another girl had accused a teacher of assault and her whole campus had rallied around her cause. She was hailed with words like brave and pathbreaking and was said to be taking on the “power imbalance” between teacher and student. Something new was happening here. Victims as celebrities. Yolanda Perez had kept on her about that black eye last month, the one that forced Lulu to hide her first week in St. Barts. Perez had even shown up at her door with some woman from a campus feminist group. They pressed Lulu hard for a name, promising to “title nine his ass.” As much fun as it might be to get the hairy man-boy in trouble, Lulu didn’t have time for a bunch of dykes. As a likely English major, she was, however, intrigued that title nine was now being used as a verb. … She needed a plan. Simply being another run-of-the-mill “survivor” would not suffice. That market was getting crowded. Some of the early girls got a lot of play, sure, but only Mattress Girl had transcended her own campus. The mattress angle was clever, but it had been done. Lulu needed a bigger play, something original.

I don’t want to spoil the book too much, so let’s just say that she comes up with a brilliant plan.

The professor, meanwhile, goes through the Title IX process in front of Dean Martika Malik-Adams:

“Excuse me. A question, if I may. Where is the rest of the tribunal? If Ms. Coughlin is counsel, and Ms. Gomez is the stenographer, that just leaves … you.” “That’s correct.” “So where is everyone else?” “I am the tribunal, Professor Russell.” “Just you?” That lawyer warned him it might be the case, but Eph had found it difficult to believe that the university would put his professional future in the hands of a single person. “The majority of Title IX cases are adjudicated by a single person; it’s well within the federal guidelines. It’s a question of efficiency.” “Will there be an investigation? How does this process establish facts?” “I also perform that role, and it has already begun.”

Readers: is this factual or literary license? Can a university have a single person investigating and deciding Title IX cases, expelling students and faculty from campus?

Per usual, authors and editors don’t go a great job with general aviation. A rich alum is going to show up in his Gulfstream G650:

Since this was his first trip to Devon in his new iron, his people had had to call to make sure Havenport Airport’s lone runway had the necessary length. It did, if just barely.

(New Haven has two physical runways (four distinct numbers, one for each landing direction) and nobody would call an FBO or airport manager to find out the runway length, since this kind of information is available in public databases and web sites.)

More: read Campusland.

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Evolution of Scholarly Opinion

“Rape-Prevention Scholar Who ‘Celebrated #MeToo’ Is Accused of Sexual Assault and Harassment” (Chronicle of Higher Education; paywalled, but this link might still work):

[Erin] O’Callaghan has accused Schewe, an associate professor of criminology whose research specialty is sexual-assault prevention, of assaulting her in November 2017.

Schewe has vigorously denied that claim, and Title IX investigators exonerated him after concluding that O’Callaghan’s most serious accusation — that Schewe undressed her and started to perform oral sex on her when she was too drunk to consent — could not be substantiated.

Schewe, who is in his early 50s and has worked in the field for more than a quarter-century, regards the implications of the movement differently now that he stands accused.

“I celebrated #MeToo. I thought, ‘Yes! Victims are finally being believed and men are being called out for their shitty behavior. This is fantastic,’” he said in an interview last week with The Chronicle. But the side effect of that, he said, “is that people are now guilty by accusation.”

(“guilty by association” with the drunk woman’s naked body?)

Working from a base of decades of scholarly inquiry, #BelieveWomen turns out to have some subtle exceptions:

He told Title IX investigators that he has devoted his life “to preventing violence against women” and is inclined ”to believe survivors” — even as he dismissed O’Callaghan’s accusations as “something she largely created in her own mind.”

But in his interview with The Chronicle, Schewe said: “If she would have told me that a professor got her drunk and took advantage of her, I would give her support. I would believe her.”

To Schewe, his ordeal is evidence that it’s gone too far. “Maybe it’s a warning to everybody that nobody is safe in the #MeToo era,” Schewe said. And his takeaway? “That guys should stay away from any woman because they have the potential to destroy their life with a couple of words with no consequence to them.”

Life at the University of Illinois can be cozy, at least for those who are not so drunk as to have forgotten most of it:

The lawsuit states that O’Callaghan, who had consumed one or two drinks at Schewe’s apartment [after five or six drinks at a bar], fell asleep on the couch. At some point the rest of the guests went on a late-night food run, leaving O’Callaghan and Schewe alone.

Schewe, intoxicated and “extremely tired,” said he lay down on his bed. He said that O’Callaghan followed him into the bedroom, took off her jeans, and climbed into bed with him.

“Nothing happened, of course,” Schewe told The Chronicle. “Being a sexual-assault-prevention researcher, I knew that there was no safer place that she could be.”

O’Callaghan says in the lawsuit that while she does not recall how she ended up in Schewe’s bed, she remembers that at some point, he “entered the bedroom, laughed, pulled her pants and underwear down, and performed oral sex on her, all without consent.” That’s when O’Callaghan says she blacked out.

Who paid for all of these drinks, you might ask? The taxpayers of Illinois! They’re on the hook to pay lawyers to defend the university from the referenced lawsuit. They’ll also be paying their share of the salaries of judges and other Federal court officials. They’re paying the accused scholar’s salary and benefits while he is “on administrative leave”. They’ll each work a few extra hours in 2020 if there is a fat settlement for the plaintiffs.

(Practical tip in case someone complains about the contents of your PC’s hard drive:

In his statement to the Title IX investigators and his interview with The Chronicle, Schewe dismissed many of the women’s claims outright. No, he did not offer cocaine to Kirkner and Lorenz, nor did he make the remark Lorenz’s partner attributed to him after her dissertation defense. While it’s possible Lorenz saw a nude woman on his desktop-computer screen, such images are common in work on rape prevention and teaching safe sex.

Another practical aspect of this is that the married guy in his early 50s (a “wife” is mentioned) was able to get a woman half his age to share his bed by expressing a passion for some female-oriented issues.)

The good news is that public radio will now have a little more color.

The lawsuit against Schewe, a clinical psychologist who has shared his expertise on rape prevention with such outlets as NPR and Quartz, is one of the more unusual sexual-misconduct cases confronting higher education. Schewe has served as director of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence, and he recently co-edited the Handbook of Sexual Assault and Sexual Assault Prevention (Springer, 2019).

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Liberal arts colleges running out of woke white men?

The financial struggles of New England liberal arts colleges have been in the news lately. “Marlboro planning to give campus and endowment to Emerson College” describes the end of 73 years of operation in Southern Vermont. “Can small liberal arts colleges survive the next decade?” (Christian Science Monitor)

A friend who has worked at the highest levels of college governance said that these bastions of righteousness in which white males are blamed for most things are having difficulty recruiting white males. Why does that matter? “Once the men stop attending,” he noted, “then women don’t want to enroll.”

Marlboro has a 56-percent female student population (US News), which is right at the national average (“Why Men Are the New College Minority” (Atlantic)). Hampshire College, whose stress is profiled in the CS Monitor, is at 62 percent female (collegefactual.com).

A teacher at Marlboro:

He brings an intersectional lens grounded in social justice praxis to the classroom and is passionate about racial, gender and LGBTQ justice and issues of representation in film. Brad believes that the Western film canon is essentially a survey of what bell hooks calls “the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Any creative work that we do must reckon with this history of oppression, extract from it what serves us, and dismantle and discard what does not.

Hampshire College’s Commitment to Diversity:

At Hampshire diversity encompasses multiple and intersecting identities including but not limited to race, class, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, religious expression, physical and mental abilities, military and veteran status, and political expression.

We aspire to foster an inclusive community of individuals who share a commitment to all forms of anti-oppression, social justice, respectful discourse, and engagement.

It doesn’t sound as though a white male wearing an MAGA hat would be considered welcome (“respectful”) diversity! Thus, these schools are fighting over the handful of young men who are (a) rich enough to pay tuition for a non-vocational degree, (b) sympathetic to the idea that they are perpetrating abuse of women, minorities, etc.

One could argue that a liberal arts college whose male-female ratio is right at the national average of 44-56 should be doing fine. However, consider the female customer. Why should she pay 3-4X the price of a state school if the gender ID ratio is no better (from her point of view) at the expensive liberal arts college?

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