Americans Want to Help Immigrants, Up to a Point

In 1982, the Supreme Court decided that K-12 education could not be denied to illegal immigrants. Symbolically speaking, these children have now grown up and, twenty-five years later, the issue is whether illegal immigrants should be denied a college education at public community colleges and universities.

My view is that individuals who live in the United States, even though illegally, should be allowed to attend college if they pay the full cost of their education.

Illegal immigration is an emotionally wrenching issue because most Americans believe two things that currently contradict one another. They believe that our laws should be obeyed. Yet they recognize that today’s tight immigration laws fly in the face of a major reality: millions of people live in nearby countries whose governments have ruined their economies, making their citizens desperate to leave.

Harry Potter Goes to College

Editor’s note: The latest installment in the wizarding movies, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, will likely make an appearance under many Christmas trees this year. A more important question is whether the books should make an appearance in college courses. This article was originally published in the Charlotte Observer on August 9, 2007.

Universities across the country are adding Harry Potter to the curriculum in disciplines as diverse as English, philosophy, history, Latin, and science. Edmund M. Kern, an associate professor of history at Lawrence University and author of the reader’s guide The Wisdom of Harry Potter, is teaching an entire course on Harry Potter this fall.

The generation of students entering college this year has a mania for J. K. Rowling’s seven-book series about a young boy’s adventures in a fantastic magical world. Harry Potter’s ongoing battle against evil, with its themes of choice and consequences, life and death, and love and hate, reverberates among this generation as Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five captured the students of the 1960s.

But are Harry Potter books good enough for the college curriculum?

Accountability – What Is It?

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
You can send your son to college, but you can’t make him think.”

This little ditty ran through my mind as I was trying to understand the accountability movement of colleges and universities. Under pressure from the federal government, higher education institutions are scrambling to find ways to measure and report “learning outcomes” – that is, to show that students learn something after four years at their institution. This week, at a Washington, D.C., meeting of a Department of Education accreditation advisory group, that pressure will increase.

Fifty years ago, the student was accountable for learning, not the college.

What Does Accreditation Really Mean?

Most people think that college accreditation is a procedure that ensures good educational quality. A current dispute between a small college in North Carolina and the regional accrediting association tells a different story.

On June 21, 2007, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) voted to remove the accreditation of St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg. The college quickly appealed, but was informed by SACS on August 23 that the appeal had been denied. Had St. Andrews done something educationally reprehensible?

No. In a statement issued on July 12, SACS provided the following explanation:

“The Commission voted to remove the College from membership for failure to comply with Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial Resources), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial Stability) and Comprehensive Standard 3.10.4 (Control of Finances) of the Principles of Accreditation. These standards expect an institution to provide evidence that is has (1) a sound financial base and financial stability to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs, (2) a financial history that demonstrates financial stability, and (3) control over all its financial resources.”

The problem with St. Andrews isn’t really about how it educates students, but about the school’s finances. In its public report, SACS has not specified exactly what is amiss with the school’s financial situation. The college’s president says that recently incurred debts have funded campus improvements that have led to enrollment increases and an increase in net revenues.

What Are College Administrators Afraid of?

Editor’s Note: Guest writer Evan C. Maloney is the director of a documentary film on abuses in higher education entitled “Indoctrinate U,” which will debut September 28 in Washington, D.C.

Most people wouldn’t say that having someone call the police on them was the best part of their day. But for me, it’s a sign that I’m doing my job. You see, I’m a documentary filmmaker, and I spent the last four years investigating abuses of individual rights in academia.

My documentary “Indoctrinate U” analyzes the prevailing political environment on our nation’s campuses. I looked into case after case of students and professors having their free speech and free thought rights suppressed when they failed to adhere to the campus political orthodoxy. The horror stories were so numerous that the toughest task in producing the film was figuring out what not to
include — otherwise, I could have ended up making a 100-hour film.

About half-a-dozen times, college administrators at various schools decided that I was a threat that required police intervention. And I admit, the threat I posed was grave: I was asking questions. Rather simple questions, but questions that they couldn’t answer honestly without embarrassing themselves and their institutions.

Budget a big victory for Bowles, Easley

When the North Carolina General Assembly approved the final budget for the 2008 fiscal year in July, it was clear that the state’s education sector was a big winner. Lawmakers had approved a state budget that called for $1 billion more education spending than last year.

It’s that kind of spending that makes Gov. Mike Easley and UNC President Erskine Bowles quite happy. Both came away as big beneficiaries, having shepherded their specific spending proposals and persuaded lawmakers to fund their plans. For taxpayers, of course, the spending was more of a mixed bag, and a costly one.

In all, the 2008 budget came in at $20.6 billion. UNC makes up 12 percent of the budget, receiving a $2.6 billion total appropriation. The community college system received just under $1 billion, $938 million. Total education spending, when the K-12 Department of Public Instruction is included, was $11 billion. These figures do not include significant capital expenditures that will be funded by bonds that do not need voter approval.

More teachers, less smoking

Legislators finally placed an end to the eight-month legislative session on Aug. 3 after approving the state budget and pushing through some final pieces of legislation.

In all, more than 500 bills may become law from this session. The final number depends on how many Governor Mike Easley will veto. He has 30 days from the end of the session to decide about the nearly 200 bills still on his desk. Any bill Easley does not act on in that time frame will be automatically enacted into law.

Of those bills, only a handful concern higher education in North Carolina, and those primarily focus on procedural changes to programs currently in existence. A few bills do create new programs or initiatives with the state’s higher education systems.

College Summer Reading Can Be Useful – Or Not

Many colleges and universities these days have a “summer reading” program for incoming students, which requires them to read a book and be prepared to discuss it during the first few days of class. The programs are designed to create a common ground among new students, challenge them to think critically about new ideas and introduce them to university work and intellectual life at a university.

This is a splendid idea. Done well, such reading programs can help to get college students off to a good start by concentrating their minds on the nature of and reasons for academic study.

Unfortunately, if it is done poorly this becomes at least a missed opportunity. If a school chooses a book that has no timeless message, it will fail to make any lasting impression on the students. And if a school selects a book that is faddish or polemical, it is worse than a missed opportunity. It conveys to the students the idea that college is more about what to think than about how to think. Sadly, at some institutions that happens to be the case in many of the courses taught, but still it’s best to start freshmen off with a good impression.

Lloyd Hackley is UNC’s problem solver

Lloyd Hackley is on the job again.

After serving as interim chancellor for a year at N.C. A&T, Hackley was named last week to serve in the same position at Fayetteville State University. This after Chancellor T.J. Bryan resigned under pressure due to concerns about the school’s nursing program and financial condition.

Media reports following Bryan’s resignation indicate that UNC President Erskine Bowles asked for her resignation in a meeting in Chapel Hill.

The Supreme Court and Diversity

Editor’s Note: Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which joined an amicus brief in each of the school cases decided by the Supreme Court.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the race-based assignments made by the school districts in Seattle and Louisville were unconstitutional. Five justices voted for that bottom line, and that’s good news. But the fact that parts of the opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts–and joined in its entirety by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito–were not joined by Justice Kennedy, who wrote separately, makes it necessary to do a close and careful read of the two opinions.

These cases dealt with efforts by public school officials to achieve more “diversity” by assigning students based on their race. But they may have an impact on higher education as well.