December 18, 2004

Classroom Bias at Yale: The Yale Free Press Survey

When I was at Yale from 1976 to 1980, I don't remember the kind of unseemly classroom bias reported by the The Yale Free Press, of which these quotes are sample:

"My teacher came into class the day after the election proclaiming, ‘That’s it. This is the death of America.’ The rest of the class was eager to agree, and twenty minutes of Bush-bashing ensued. At one point, one student asked our teacher whether she should be so vocal, lest any students be conservatives. She then asked us whether any of us were Republicans. Naturally, no one volunteered that information, whereupon our teacher turned to the inquisitive student and said, ‘See? No one in here would be stupid enough to vote for Bush.’ "

"Last year, my Spanish teacher only presented readings against Bush’s trade policy in Latin America. My Economics professor this year mocked Bush. My Spanish teacher also actively silenced people who disagreed with her. I could list many more occasions, but I have to run to class."

"In my German class, the teacher was expressing her political views and said, ‘They [people who vote for Bush] are sheep! They’re blind sheep!’ When someone protested her comment, she said in front of the class, ‘How could you vote for him?! He’s so scary!’ The following assignments were translating German articles that bashed G.W. I’ve had other experiences in my chem class as well."

I could well believe that political correctness has gotten much worse over the past 25 years. One part of it may be the increased use of non-tenure-track faculty. I can imagine this kind of behavior much more from my foreign language teachers-- often part-timers hired and fired casually-- than from professors.

Classroom bias must be looked at carefully. These examples seem to be ones in which it is unrelated to what is being taught. What is less of a problem, even if the bias is as extreme, is when the bias is integral to what is taught. We want to have faculty teaching subjects on which they are experts, and they will have opinions on the right and wrong way to think about those subjects, and even about policy conclusions. Thus, I don't mind the Marxist teaching sociology as much as the Marxist who lets his politics come into his engineering class.

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October 24, 2004

Discrimination Against White Male Professors in Arizona

It's hardly a secret that in America racial and sexual discrimination is practiced on a massive scale, more overtly (in the North if not the South) than ever in history. But a federal court ruled in July 2004 that Northern Arizona University discriminated against white male professors....

Northern Arizona University violated the civil rights of 40 white male faculty members by giving raises to female and minority professors and not to them, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled last week.

The male faculty members had sued the university and the Arizona Board of Regents in 1995, claiming violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race or sex. They contended that they had been treated unfairly because members of minority groups at the university had received one-time pay increases that averaged $3,000, and women had received increases averaging $2,400, while the white men had received no raises.

In January 2003, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had found that a 1993 pay-equity plan developed by the universitys former president, Eugene Hughes, had not unnecessarily hampered the rights of professors who did not receive raises. But the judges concluded that a jury should decide whether the raises were higher than necessary to make up for past inequities.

The plaintiffs, on advice from their lawyer, Jess A. Lorona, chose to have a fact-finder review and rule on the matter instead of a jury.

The fact-finder, Senior Judge Robert C. Broomfield of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, ruled that in awarding the raises, Northern Arizona had failed "to attain a balance" and "went beyond attaining a balance." He noted that university data showed that when experience, rank, discipline, and tenure status were taken into account, male professors at the time made only $750 more per year than females, on average, and white professors only $87 more than members of minority groups. Judge Broomfield also noted that in determining raises, Mr. Hughes had failed to consider doctoral status and performance.


A. Dean Pickett, general counsel for the university, said that in 1994, after Mr. Hughes left the university, a new set of raises, totaling about $700,000, was given to white male professors and female professors. Those raises, he said, made up for any discrepancies. He also noted that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined in 1995 that those raises constituted "full relief" for the alleged discriminatory practice.

The two sides will return to court on July 26 to set a date for a trial that will determine potential damages.

I wonder who could sue universities about the practice of going into the hiring process having decided only to hire women?

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September 17, 2004

College Admissions; Hormesis-- A Little Poison Strengthens You

At the Law and Econ Lunch yesterday, we were discussing how hard it is to get data. I'd asked if anybody knew of evidence as to how whether if two college applicants appeared with identical high school records, we would expect the student from a poor family to do better in college than the one from a rich family. Admissions offices have the data to find this out, but they are secretive. Have they done the studies themselves? We speculated as to whether they had the expertise. Professor Stake is an expert on these things, having done more than anyone to figure out how US News rankings of law schools works and having authored "The Ranking Game" website. He thought it quite possible the studies hadn't been done, and knows from experience that it is hard for even quasi-insiders (e.g., the chairman of a faculty admissions committee) to get the data.

At any rate, Dr. Stephen Peck, a first-timer who is visiting SPEA for the year, brought up his difficulties in getting health data from the nuclear power industry. He'd wanted to study cancer incidence at low levels of radiation, but couldn't get the data. That made me think about hormesis-- the idea that often low levels of poison seem to increase health rather than reduce it. He would have had a good test of it, and, indeed, some studies conclude that low levels of radiation reduce cancer rates. Whether the studies are right is a different matter-- one oughtn't to trust that kind of study without seeing what they actually did, since epidemiological estimates, even ones published in reputable journals, are often quite worthless because they so often omit relevant variables....

So I googled "hormesis", mainly for future reference. "An Introduction to Radiation Hormesis", by S. M. Javad Mortazavi is poorly written but has good content:

It is a general belief that low doses of ionizing radiation produce detrimental effects proportional to the effects produced by high-level radiation. Over the past decades, however, some pioneer scientists reported that low-dose ionizing radiation is not only a harmless agent but often has a beneficial or hormetic effect. That is, low-level ionizing radiation may be an essential trace energy for life, analogous to essential trace elements. It has been even suggested that about one third of all cancer deaths are preventable by increasing our low dose radiation.


In the early 1940s C. Southam and his coworker J. Erlish found that despite the fact that high concentrations of Oak bark extract inhibited fungi growth, low doses of this agent stimulated fungi growth. They modified Starling's word "hormone to "hormesis" to describe stimulation induced by low doses of agents which are harmful or even lethal at high doses. They published their findings regarding the new term "hormesis" in 1943 (Bruce M. 1987).


In 1927 Herman J. Muller,a Nobel Prize winner, found that X-rays are mutagen and there is a linear relationship between mutation rate and dose.

According to UNSCEAR report (1994), among A-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who received doses lower than 200 mSv, there was no increase in the number of total cancer death. Mortality caused by leukemia was even lower in this population at doses below 100 mSv than age-matched control cohorts.


Although still we do not know the entire mechanisms of radiation hormesis, the following theories may explain this process:

1- D...NA repair (Mollecular level)
According to this theory, low doses of ionizing radiation induce the production of special proteins, that are involved in DNA repair processes (Ikushima 1996). ...

2- Free radical detoxification (Molecular level)
In 1987 Feinendengen and his co-workers indicated that low doses of ionizing radiation cause a temporary inhibition in DNA synthesis (the maximum inhibitionat 5 hours after irradiation). This temporary inhibition of DNA synthesis would provide a longer time for irradiated cells to recover (Feinendengen et al. 1987). This inhibition also may induce the production of free radical scavengers, so irradiated cells would be more resistant to any further exposures.

3- Stimulation of immune system (Cellular level)
Despite the fact that high doses of ionizing radiation are immunosupressive, many studies have indicated that low doses radiation may stimulate the function of the immune system. In 1909 Russ first showed that mice treated with low-level radiation were more resistant against bacterial disease (Russ VK 1909).

Another article is "Nietzsche's Toxicology: Whatever doesn't kill you might make you stronger" (Scientific American, 2003)

This idea may sound bizarre, but such adaptation to stress is common, says physiologist Suresh Rattan of rhus University in Denmark. Exercise, for instance, plays biochemical havoc with the body : starving some cells of oxygen and glucose, flooding others with oxidants, and depressing immune functions. "At first glance, there is nothing good for the body about exercise," he notes.


The definitive rat study that linked high doses of dioxin to cancer, published in 1978 by Richard Kociba of Dow Chemical and his colleagues, also found that low doses reduced the incidence of tumors.

Finally, see "Radiation Hormesis"

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September 14, 2004

The Ogletree Plagiarism at Harvard Law

Via Volokh, The Weekly Standard tells us that Prof. Charles Ogletree of
Harvard Law doesn't even read what's published under his own name, assembled by
research assistants.

Despite his very limited scholarly credentials, Charles Ogletree was granted
tenure at Harvard Law School in 1993 as an expert in race relations during the
peak of the agitation--sit-ins, marches, accusations of racism--to diversify the
school's faculty. Rumors swirled about the writing, editing, and placement of
his tenure-winning essay in the Harvard Law Review, but, by any measure,
Ogletree was hired precisely because race cases like Brown v. Board of Education
were his specialty. He's not supposed to need other sources. He's a Harvard law
professor; other sources are supposed to need him.

AN ANONYMOUS NOTE, sent to Yale's Balkin and Ogletree's dean at Harvard shortly
after All Deliberate Speed was published in April, prompted an investigation,
which the dean assigned to former Harvard president Derek Bok and former dean
Robert Clark. The only result so far is Ogletree's public explanation on the
Harvard website. In the end, Bok told the Boston Globe, the investigators
decided that though there was "a serious scholarly transgression," they found
"no deliberate wrongdoing at all." Ogletree merely "marshaled his assistants and
parceled out the work," Bok explained, "and in the process some quotation marks
got lost."

It looks like affirmative action strikes again, in this case aided perhaps by the bad influence of judges who rely on clerks. Or maybe Ogletree has spent time in government, where one of the rules for top bureaucrats is "Never write anything you sign and never sign anything you write." Academia is not like that, so Harvard should bounce him down to Washington.

Of course, the Democrats now seem to advanced the maxim a bit. "Never write anything you sign, never sign anything you write, and if it's incriminating, sign it using the name of a dead National Guard officer."

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September 08, 2004

Should Poverty Be a Plus in College Admissions?

Should Poverty Be a Plus in College Admissions? I'm thinking about writing an op-ed on that subject, and would be interested in anybody's response.

More precisely: If a college has two applicants with identical test scores, extracurriculars, and so forth, but one boy's family earns $30,000/year and the other's earns $300,000, should it choose the poor boy or the rich boy, or be indifferent? If it should choose the poor boy, why-- and should this consideration make much difference (that is, if the poor boy's SAT is the 80'th percentile, below the college's average, while the rich boy's is 90th percentile, average, should the poor boy still be admitted?)

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August 23, 2004

Public Posting of Grades; Buckley Act, Cambridge, Accountants

I've long thought that it's foolish to keep university grades secret with the hypersecurity of the Buckley Act. Why not post student names and grades, so the students can find them out easily? (especially before email made this less important) Why should a slacker be entitled to keep his D a secret? Why shouldn't the top student get public recognition? Isn't it good for students and professors to be able to find out that a particular professor gives all A's?

England is more sensible, as this BBC report explains:

For 300 years students at Cambridge University have learned their exam results from public notice boards.


Until recently, the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) published all interim and final results in a Saturday edition of the Times newspaper.

This led to many anxious students cutting short their Friday evening fun to seek out an early edition of the paper at a late-opening corner shop. Saturday's hangover was either tinged with relief or despair.

The institute still publishes its results in the Times, but now also offers text message and e-mail.

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July 09, 2004

Student Evaluations and Grade Inflation

From a Management study of professors that I saw recently:

75% of our faculty is recognized by teaching awards. This is very positive. It says we have a great many excellent teaching faculty. It also says we are not stingy in our reward system.

This reminds me of a self-congratulatory remark I heard at a recent faculty meeting, in which someone said that our business school had made great progress because the student evaluations of professors had increased so much. Nobody else commented, so I interjected that our students had done even better--- their grades had increased remarkably over the past 20 years, and it was just wonderful that they were so much smarter than earlier generations of college students.

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